“Albin Planinc was born in the middle of the Second World War, on 18th April 1944, in the little village of Briše, near the small town of Zagorje ob Savi, approximately 30 kilometers from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. He spent his childhood with his mother Ljudmila (unofficially Milka), a simple, uneducated woman who earned money from various unskilled jobs’.
This fascinating biography of over eighty-five annotated games and stories are being presented by grandmasters Georg Mohr and Adrian Mikhalchishin. It covers Planinc’ entire life and chess career, including his most fascinating games. This fitting tribute of a forgotten chess genius should be found in anyone’s chess library. Thanks to this colorful book Albin Planinc will continue to inspire us all and will keep his spirit alive.”
About the authors we have:
“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.
Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines. This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”
Albin Planinc (1944-2008), the late Slovenian grandmaster, was an extraordinary chess player and so the title ‘Forgotten Genius’ is not hyperbole.
Planinc’s games are characterised by enormous energy and by creative, daring sacrificial play. Mohr and Mikhalchishin have selected eighty-six of his best games for this volume.
They assert rightly on page 9 that ‘the reader of this book will soon discover that these games are not commonplace. They are imbued with incredible energy, interwoven with so many imaginary climaxes, with so much of what most people think of as beautiful in chess’.
It is very much a labour of love as Mohr, himself a Slovenian grandmaster, sees Planinc as the player who inspired him to dedicate his life to chess. However the book is not only games; plenty of biographical material is provided.
Indeed, the book starts with a brief synopsis of Albin’s childhood positing that Albin’s unidentified father may well have been a German soldier. Hence it is reasonable to speculate that Albin’s childhood was clouded by shame and stigma as well as being marred by the evolving mental illness of his mother, Ljudmila.
Parallels with a certain Robert James Fischer are suggested. Both players nursed their troubled childhoods with a love of chess. However the authors suggest on page 27 that ‘there was an important difference between him [Planinc] and Fischer. While the American was content with victories, Planinc was never content with victory itself. It needed an accessory, an aesthetic input, preferably one that would turn chess games into works of art’.
The next sections of the book offer a year by year selection of games from 1961-1979 interspersed with further biographical material. All the classics are there (v Bogdanovic 1965, v Matulovic 1965, v Ljubojevic 1971,
and Minic 1975)
and most notably his game with Vaganian from Hastings 1974/75 which involves the charming manoeuvre Na1 followed by a crisp Queen sacrifice.
The games are annotated with plenty of explanation. It should also be noted that the book is sumptuously produced with plenty of photographs and a typeface and layout pleasing to the eye. However more diagrams would have been appreciated. Furthermore an index of players would have been most useful.
The book ends with the revelation that Albin spent the last 20 years of his life in and out of institutions playing very little chess. This part of the book is handled sensitively and compels me to dig deeper into the creative genius of Albin Planinc. This tome is hence a welcome addition to chess literature.
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players : GM Fabiano Caruana
From the book’s rear cover :
“The Ruy Lopez is arguably the most classic of chess openings. White immediately starts the battle for the centre, fighting for the initiative. This strategic clarity has made the Ruy Lopez, or Spanish Opening, an eternal favourite with chess players at all levels.
Inevitably, this popularity has also led to a wealth of opening theory. In this book, Fabiano Caruana takes you by the hand and lays out a complete and practical White repertoire for club players. He avoids complicated chaotic lines, but doesn’t shy away from sharp battles. Caruana loves to find and use the tactics to punish Black for risky choices.
This one-volume and crystal-clear repertoire covers fifteen main variations, from the classical lines to the anti-Marshall (8.a4), and from the Schliemann (3…f5) to the Modern Steinitz. In an easy-to-grasp manner Caruana explains general characteristics, such as permanent weaknesses long-term goals, and is always looking for an advantage for White. The insights of the World #2 in this classic opening, will not only greatly improve your results in the Ruy Lopez, but also sharpen your general chess knowledge.”
“Fabiano Caruana became a grandmaster at the age of 14. Ever since his majestic tournament win at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, he has been the undisputed #2 in the Chess world. In 2018 he earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match for the World Championship and only narrowly lost in the play-off.”
Before we proceed further it is worth inspecting the sample pages in pdf format provided by the publisher.
Fabiano Caruana became a Grandmaster aged 14 and challenged Magnus Carlsen for the World title in 2018.
and here we have the Table of Contents:
Caruana kicks-off by looking at the Anti-Marshall line which starts with the closed Lopez 5…Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 00. Now fearing the Marshall Gambit, which has scored very highly for black, he avoids it with 8.a4.
This was Gary Kasparov’s choice in Game 1 of his 1993 match with Nigel Short and it would seem to be a sensible choice.
The two Black main replies discussed are 8…Bb7
In similar vein Chapter 2 covers Black playing 7…d6 instead of 7…00 and interestingly 8 a4 is again recommended as opposed to the vastly more popular 8.c3 thus:
Black has to be careful in these lines not to lose his b pawn!
The next few chapters look at the so-called main line of 7…d6 8.c3
giving White another choice than 8 a4. After 8…00 9.h3 Na5 we have the Chigorin variation which is covered in Chapter 3. After 10. Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.d5 ! is a move the computers like and does seem to give white a space advantage.
Now White plans a Kingside attack with g4 and moving his f3 knight to f5. This line does not seem to be much fun for black.
Chapter 4 covers the Breyer variation, 9…Nb8
planning to reposition a knight to d7. White combines a plan of a4 attacking the Black’s Queen-side along with a King-side attack.
Chapter 5 examines Karpov’s favourite of the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7). White will almost always play 10.d4 Re8 followed a knight coming round from b1 to f5 ensures an advantage. Black will need to get in f5 in to avoid being crushed.
Often more than one line is given for white as this book is written from a white perspective.
Chapter 6 switches tack to the Open variation where Black plays 5…Ne4
which was a favourite with Viktor Korchnoi who employed in his various matches with Anatoly Karpov. The main line is 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 when the dubious 7…ed4? (7…is much better) played in Fischer – Trjfunovic (Bled, 1961) is analysed.
Better is the main line of 6…b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.de5 Be6 when White has several decent moves. Both Karpov and Kasparov have played 9.Nbd2 which is the move I always considered strongest in this line.
Surprisingly, the move given by Caruana is 9.Qe2 planning Rd1 and c4.
Black can play 9…Nc5 but the main line is 9…Be7 10.Rd1 00 11.c4 bc4 12.Bc4 Bc5 which seems to me to give clear equality . However both Caruana and Giri have played the white side of this position so maybe this line needs looking at more carefully.
Possibly the chapter many will turn to first is Chapter 7 covering the Berlin defence of 3…Nf6 which seems to have taken the terror out of the Lopez is discussed. Caruana prefers 4.00 leading to a middlegame without queens.
Players who, perhaps, have more confidence in their middle game abilities (with queens) than the previous line should probably try 4.d3 and I am surprised that Kasparov never tried this in his match with Vladimir Kramnik. Fabiano believes that this queenless middlegame is still more pleasant in practical play for White and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave regularly plays it with white.
Ian Nepomniachtchi won a miniature against Hikaru Nakamura quite recently as follows:
Chapter 8 discusses the Modern Archangelsk which is 3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5
which is really rather popular at present. Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Gata Kamsky and Alexei Shirov all seem to like this line.
Following this we have 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Be3
when the consequences of white next playing 9… 10.de5 need to be carefully considered. Black players playing for a win should consider this line seriously as it is a lot more interesting than the Berlin!
It is surprising that the old move 6…Bb7 (the Archangelsk of old) is not covered by the author as I have played many internet games with this line.
The last few chapters cover a collection rarely played moves such as 3…Bc5 (the Classical defence). White should play 4 c3 and d4 but black has the interesting f5 on move 4 mixing things up somewhat.
Other unusual moves are the Smyslov variation, 3…g6, the Bird’s defence, 3…Nd4 and the Cozio defence, 3…Nge7 which is aimed against Lopez exchange advocates.
However, two of the most interesting chapters look at the Schliemann defence (3…f5) and the Steinitz defence of 3…d6.
Caruana recommends 4.d3 against the Schliemann and only this or 4.Nc3 can give white a plus. After 4.d3 fe4 5.de4 Nf6 6.00 now black normally plays 6…Bc5 when white can win a pawn with 7.Bc6 and 8 Ne5.
Black can, of course, avoid this with 6…d6 but suffers the same problem as in the closed variation, that is a passive dark square bishop.
Finally, the Steinitz and Steinitz deferred are looked at in the last two chapters. After 3…d6 the line 4.d4 ed4 5.Nd4 Bd7 is examined. After 6.00 White has a space advantage a common feature in a number of variations chosen leaving white with the more pleasant positions to play.
Overall, from black’s point of the Modern Archangelsk seems one of the most interesting and sound lines to play if he is looking to play for a win.
There are a few omissions that are curious. As mentioned previously 6…Bb7 is not covered but most surprisingly there is no coverage of the so-called Neo-Møller which was recently covered, in depth, by FM Ioannis Simeonidis also for New in Chess in
The author has written what he believes to be an original book on the endgame, using a play on words for the title based on the historic battle of Hastings in 1066 which involved William the Conqueror. *****
Ray Cannon, a familiar frequenter of chess tournaments in London and elsewhere, has condensed his copious knowledge into an enjoyably instructive compendium of endgame positions. In tune with the Victorian notion of learning via fun, the reader cannot help but absorb the endgame stratagems that recur in the examples given and emerge as a better player without any conscious effort.
The endgame is a prime arena for the emergence of error through lack of practice, and even elite grandmasters can miss the unsuspected anti-intuitive resource that would have secured the rescue draw or shock win. I would go so far as to say this book would benefit master-standard players. Studying it has all the value of learning one’s times tables but without the repetitive drudgery! The end result is the same: increased knowledge.
My good friend Ray Cannon, who was, for many years, an invaluable part of the coaching team at Richmond Junior Club, has written a book which will be useful for all club standard players.
With faster time limits and online play now the norm, endings play a vital part in 21st century chess. A good knowledge of endgame theory and tactics is a fundamental requirement for all serious players.
From the author’s introduction:
Positions in this book have been taken from various sources including my collection of newspaper cuttings that go back to the 1970’s, books, magazines, websites and even from games I had witnessed personally at tournaments. Many have been modified for reasons of clarity and a few I have composed myself. Most of the positions have annotated solutions unless the moves are self-explanatory.
The 1066 diagram positions can be played out against a computer or an opponent but they are best solved using a chess set. You are invited to write down your choice of move for each position on the pages provided before looking up the answers. On the other hand, you may simply prefer to enjoy the instructive content of this book by dipping in and out of its pages.
Endgames may give the appearance of being easy but even the world’s best players misplay them from time to time and some of these missed opportunities from practical play are included among the 1066 stratagems.
The majority of the puzzles are elementary but there are a few that are quite difficult. When solving them, you will detect familiar methods of play. Knowledge of these is often referred to as pattern recognition and this is an important component of learning and improving at chess.
So what you get is 1066 endgame puzzles, or stratagems as Ray prefers to call them. It’s White’s move in positions 1 to 728, and Black’s move in positions 729 to 1066. In each position you’re told whether you’re trying to win or draw, and you know that there’s only one move to achieve your aim.
A few fairly random examples chosen simply by turning to a random page will show you what to expect. I’ll give the answers at the end of the review.
Q482 is a neat draw: White to play.
Q497 is of practical value. Endings with R + f&h pawns against R are very often drawn. How can White win here?
Q533, halfway through the book, has more pieces on the board (too many for an endgame?) and demonstrates the need to know your mating patterns. White to play and win again.
If you enjoyed these puzzles, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the book. If you think your students will enjoy these puzzles, you’ll also want to buy this book.
It’s self-published via Amazon so the production qualities are not quite up to the standard you’d expect from leading chess book publishers. However, the diagrams and text are both clear.
Ray has chosen to print the ‘Black to play’ puzzles with the 8th rank at the bottom of the board: not what I or most authors would have chosen but I can see why he did it. There’s a slight problem, though, in that the diagrams are without coordinates, which can make things slightly confusing in positions with few pawns on the board. (The diagrams in the answers to the ‘Black to play’ do have coordinates, though.) I understand the next edition will use diagrams with coordinates throughout.
You might also prefer to write your answers under the diagrams rather than in the pages provided for this purpose at the beginning of the book. I’d also have welcomed an index by material so that I could quickly locate, for example, pawn endings or rook endings.
These are just personal preferences, though. The quality of material is excellent (all positions have been thoroughly engine checked) and Ray Cannon should be congratulated for his efforts in producing a highly instructive puzzle book.
A basic knowledge of endgame theory is assumed, so I would consider the book ideal for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2000, although some of the puzzles will be challenging for stronger players.
Richard James, Twickenham, 17th September 2021
Q482: 1. f7+ Qxf7 2. Bb3 Qxb3 is stalemate. Or 1… Kxf7 2. Bh5+. In just two moves we have a fork, a skewer, a pin and a stalemate.
Q497: 1. Rg5+ Kxg5 (or 1… Kxh6 2. Rg8) 2. h7 Re1+ 3. Kd6 Rd1+ 4. Ke7 Rh1 5. f8Q wins (as long as you know how to win with queen against rook!)
Q533: 1. Re8+ Rxe8 2. Nf6 Ra7 3. Rxa7 Re7 4. Rxe7 a1Q 5. Rh7# – an Arabian Mate!
“The Modern Benoni is one of the most controversial but also dynamic answers to 1.d4. This opening remained the favourite of famous attacking players as Tal, Kasparov, Gashimov and Topalov. From the outset, Black creates a new pawn structure and deploying his active piece play against White’s central majority.
In his book Alexey Kovalchuk focuses on a set of new ideas and deep analyses supported by his silicon friends. His book supplies all Black needs to know to fight for the initiative from move two!”
“Alexey Kovalchuk was born in 1994 in Russia and learned to play chess at the “late” age of 12. In November of 2017 he reached his highest Elo yet of 2445 and is considered an IM without the norms. Alexey has never had a coach having studied with the aid of books and other materials.
His tournament successes include winning the Rostov Championship in both classical and rapid. He is a three-time winner of the Taganrog Championship and has won prizes in many events including Taganrog, Togliatti, Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Kharkov and Donetsk. His reputation as a theoretician is well known and he has previously published a book on the Grünfeld Defense. Currently Alexey serves as a second for several grandmasters as well as coach for several aspiring students.”
End of blurb.
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.
Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.
There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.
This is the author’s second book, we reviewed Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire previously.
Here is the detailed Table of Contents:
Classical Main Line
Knight’s Tour Variation
Modern Main Line
Bg5 & Bb5 Systems
Before we continue we will declare an interest. We only play a couple of these positions from the White side and none from the Black side.
The Preface provides a couple of tremendous Tal games in which White is crushed in short order. The Introduction nicely provides an overview of the coverage of each of the main chapters.
Chapter 1 kicks-off with the so-called “Classical Main Line” which is initially reached via:
ending up at
as the tabiya position for this chapter. The author looks at various move 11 alternatives for White concluding that 11. Bf4 is the most troublesome for Black which scores 56.4% for White and features in 260 MegaBase 2020 games.
The approach is typically that of working through the moves of a variation in detail making reference to played games which is a Thinker’s Publishing “house style”.
Chapter 2 examines a favourite idea of Vladimir Kramnik for White namely the, at one time, incredibly popular 7.Nd2 i.e.
ending up at
which is discussed in detail.
The third chapter is dubbed the Modern Main Line (as labelled by Richard Palliser in his excellent Modern Benoni tome) and has White playing h3 instead of Be2 and placing the f1 bishop on d3 instead leading to
which may be arrived at in several different ways at which point Kovalchuk strong advocates the immediate 9…b5!? instead of the more familiar and less violent 9…a6.
Clearly this is a critical line for the Benoni and is given much detailed analysis. 9…b5!? has featured in 2123 MegaBase 2020 games and of these 727 are designated as “Top Games”.
Chapter Four brings the joys of the Kapengut Variation which was analysed in detail by Albert Kapengut in 1996:
and appears 1037 times in MegaBase 2020 with a white success rate of 57%.
After 7…Bg7 various ideas for White are examined.
As the Chapter Five’s title suggests various move orders are covered in which develops the King’s knight to e2 rather than f3 without playing f3 quickly.
Chapter 6 covers ideas for white involving an early pin with Bg5 or an early check with Bb5+ (but without f4) . The author considers neither of these to be dangerous for Black and provides analysis of his antidotes.
However, much more exacting is the daunting Taimanov Attack (dubbed by David Norwood as the Flick-Knife Attack such was its ferocity) which is examined in Chapter 7.
This famous line made popular in the 1980s begins
and there are 38 pages on this line alone. 9.a4 is given detailed treatment with the main line reaching:
which is then analysed thoroughly.
In the same chapter is the more modern treatment of 9.Nf3 (omitting a4) continuing to
where both 14.f5 and 14.Qe1 are looked at in considerable detail with the latter having the highest database hit rate.
Chapter 8 explores the somewhat innocuous Fianchetto Variation of 7.g3:
and this is given 19 pages of discussion.
The somewhat rare 7.Bf4 system is covered in Chapter 9 with 15 pages of text.
Chapter 10 “tidies up” with coverage of some rarer third and fourth move sidelines which as 3.dxc5 and 4.dxe6 whilst the final Chapter (11) looks at some White Anti-Benoni systems including where c4 is omitted or delayed.
All in all the author provides comprehensive coverage of all of White’s reasonable tries focusing on the critical main lines such as the fearsome Flick-Knife and Modern Main Lines.
This book surely is a must for any player of the Modern Benoni with the black pieces and will be invaluable for the White player who wishes to take Black on in the main lines.
It might have been helpful to sequence the chapters in some kind of order of precedence with perhaps the least significant ones first and then build-up to the most important ones. It is not clear to us that the sequence chosen has any significance since Chapters 1, 3 and 7 perhaps are the most critical variations and 8, 10 and 11 the least.
Any tournament player that either plays the Benoni or who faces it will benefit from this modernised approach.
“Larry Kaufman can safely be called an exceptional chess grandmaster
Larry Kaufman started out as a prodigy, however not in chess but as a whizz kid in science and math. He excels at shogi (Japanese chess) and Go, and is also a world-famous computer programmer and a highly successful option trader. Remarkably, as a chess player he only peaked at the weirdly late age of fifty.
Yet his victories in the chess arena are considerable. Over a career span of nearly sixty years Kaufman won the state championships of Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, D.C. and Pennsylvania. He was an American Open Champion and won the U.S. Senior Championship as well as the World Senior Championship.
‘Never a great chess player’ himself (his words), he met or played chess greats such as Bobby Fischer, Bent Larsen, Walter Browne, Boris Spassky, Viktor Kortchnoi and many others. He worked as a second to legendary grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili, and coached three talented youngsters to become International Master, one of them his son Raymond.
This engrossing memoir is rife with stories and anecdotes about dozens of famous and not-so-famous chess players. In one of the most remarkable chapters Larry Kaufman reveals that the American woman chess player that inspired Walter Tevis to create the Beth Harmon character of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit fame, is his former girlfriend. You will learn about neural networks, material values and how being a chess master helps when trading options. And find lots of memorable but little-known annotated games.
Larry Kaufman is an American Grandmaster. He has been involved in computer chess since 1967, when he worked on ‘MacHack’, the first computer that competed in tournaments with human players. More recently he has been working on the programs Rybka and Komodo.
Praise for the best-selling opening manual Kaufman’s New Repertoire for Black and White:
“Kaufman’s book is a pleasure to read.” — Miguel Ararat, Florida Chess Magazine
“Kaufman does an outstanding job.” — IM Gary Lane, Chess Moves Magazine”
The memoirs of a relatively obscure grandmaster might not be at the top of your wish list, I guess.
The title might be considered slightly odd as well, referring in part to his career as an options trader, with perhaps also some reflections on options for the further development of chess.
Nevertheless, Larry Kaufman has some interesting stories to tell, and much to say about the future of our favourite game. You’ll also find, appropriately enough, 64 games, some played by the author, some by players he knew, and some by computers against grandmasters, all with brief but pertinent annotations. I’d urge you to stop and take a look inside rather than just pass it by.
The introduction provides some background biographical information concerning his 60 year chess career.
Here’s an early game: the book provides annotations as far as move 20.
In Part 1, Kaufman introduces us to some of the 20th century champions he has known, with plenty of anecdotes and a few games along the way. We meet Fischer, Spassky and Kasparov, Korchnoi, Larsen, Gligoric and others. For me, though, the most interesting chapters here are about the lesser known players. We go all the way back to Harold Phillips (1874-1967), a family friend, who had played Steinitz in simuls back in 1894. I guess this must make Kaufman one of the youngest players to have a shared opponent with Steinitz. In 1961 or 1962 there was a kindly old man who ‘gave generous and valuable free chess lessons to the kids’. This was the notorious Norman Whitaker: of course they knew nothing of his background at the time.
Then there was Steve Brandwein (1942-2015), a new name to me. ‘Although he retired from tournament play at only 22 years of age, … he … was a very strong player … and probably taught me more about the finer points of chess than any other individual.’ Kaufman compares him to Bernie Sanders, and describes him as ‘perhaps the best-liked chess master I’ve ever known’, who could, if he’d wanted have become a grandmaster, or perhaps, had he been prepared to compromise, a US President.
Even more interesting (although readers of New in Chess might have read about this before), is Diana Lanni, who, according to Kaufman, may have been the major inspiration behind the character of Beth Harmon in The Queens Gambit. He also sees himself as the closest match to Harry Beltik, and Walter Browne as Benny Watts.
Part 2 looks at Larry Kaufman’s life outside chess: his time as an options trader and his interest in Shogi, Go and other games.
In Part 3, he shows us some of his most memorable games and talks about his chess students, including his son Ray.
This was his first win against a grandmaster, and helped him towards his first IM norm.
This game helped propel him to a shared first place and the grandmaster title in the 2008 World Seniors.
Part 4 is about computer chess. Kaufman has been involved in this since 1967, when, as a student at MIT, he had a part-time job working on MacHack. Today, he’s part of the Komodo team. After a brief résumé of his career in computer chess, we see some recent games between engines and grandmasters. These days, the engines give the GMs considerable odds.
Particularly interesting here is a 2020 16-game match (15’+10″) between Komodo and GM Alex Lenderman. In every game, Komodo played White without a knight. In half the games, Lenderman played without a pawn, in four games he had all his pieces but without castling rights, and four games were played using Fischerrandom rules, but with kings and rooks on their usual squares. On the first day, using its standard version, Komodo lost three games, with just one draw. It then switched to the Monte Carlo Tree Search version, which seeks the best practical chances rather than the objectively best moves. In the remaining twelve games, all of which are published here, Komodo scored three wins, seven draws and only two losses.
Here’s a Komodo win. Kaufman’s brief annotations don’t mention a significant improvement for Komodo pointed out by Stockfish 14.
Part 5 comprises short essays on various topics such as: ratings, openings and piece values, along with suggestions for the reform of competitive chess and thoughts about the future.
Kaufman is perhaps best known, at least in the USA, for a 1999 Chess Life article about the values of the pieces. As someone involved in teaching beginners, this is of considerable interest to me. I’d really like to stop my pupils trading BN for RP on f7 and thinking they have an advantage because points are equal and they’ve exposed the enemy king. He suggests that, while the traditional values (1, 3, 3+, 5) are reasonable for positions without queens, in the presence of queens we should teach 1, 4, 4+, 6, 11. That will resolve my problem: the trade on f7 will now win 7 points but lose 8+ points.
I found this book a riveting read, especially parts 4 and 5, but then it covers a number of topics which are of particular interest to me. If the topics appeal to you too, or if you have a general love of chess culture, I’d give it a very strong recommendation. Fascinating, well written, and, as usual with New in Chess, well produced.
The Daunting Domain of Queen Endgames Explained! Knowing the abilities and limitations of the powerful queen is very valuable for mastering the secrets of the royal game, and this can be studied best in the endgame.
Queen endgames are very difficult, if only for purely mathematical reasons the queen is the most mobile piece in chess, and the amount of possible options is incomparably higher than in any other type of endgames.
This book follows a dual philosophy as in the three previous works by the same authors: Understanding Rook Endgames, Understanding Minor Piece Endgames and Understanding Rook vs. Minor Piece Endgames. The 7-piece endings are dealt with in great detail. They are often so complex that pre-tablebase analysis almost always contains errors. Many new discoveries are revealed here. But to really understand the fight of a queen against a queen or minor pieces with rooks, these theoretical positions are of course not enough. So subchapters on the principles of each material configuration have been added.
All in all, this fantastic book is already on my (very short) “must study” list for chessplayers of different levels, including the top ten! I want to thank the authors for the courage which is required just to start working on such a complex topic, as well as for the very high quality of their work, which will endure for decades to come and will be very useful for many future generations of chessplayers. The foreword is by Vladimir Kramnik,14th World Chess Champion”
This titanic technical endgame tome is a Magnum Opus with a forward by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. The complexity of queen endings is obvious as the queen is the most mobile piece and the number of variations becomes vast after only a few ply. This is probably the reason that this is the first work to cover queen endings in great depth. The complexity of these endgames is shown by a famous game from Vladimir Kramnik’s World Championship match versus Peter Leko in 2004. The first game of that match reached this position:
White played 44.Qf4?? which loses as demonstrated by Kramnik in the game and is covered in this book 44…g5! 45.Qf6 h6! winning, the point being that 46.Qxh6 loses the queen to 46…R8a6! After 45…h6 White cannot prevent Black from manoeuvring his rooks to win the kingside pawns. The natural move is 44.hxg6 exchanging pawns to reduce material which was thought, at the time, to draw. In fact Black stills retains winning chances. As the position has eight men the result is still not known definitively – this shows the richness of such endgames.
This publication also covers endgames that have had little coverage in the past such as Two Rooks + Pawn v Queen.
Most first quick skim of the book did concern me slightly as I noticed some diagrams followed by 100+ moves with no annotations. On a deeper perusal, I realised that these examples are included as “longest wins” for certain material combinations. This emulates John Nunn’s longest wins in “Secrets of Pawnless Endings”. There is plenty of well annotated material within practical games to bring out key ideas, for example the techniques to break down fortresses are examined in detail.
The book has ten main chapters traditionally based on piece configuration:
Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
Chapter 2 Queen vs. Queen
Chapter 3 Queen vs. Rook
Chapter 4 Queen vs. Rook and Knight
Chapter 5 Queen vs. Rook and Bishop
Chapter 6 Queen vs. Two Rooks
Chapter 7 Queen vs. Rook and Two Minor Pieces
Chapter 8 Queen and Minor Piece vs. Queen (and Minor Piece)
Chapter 9 Queen and Rook vs. Queen and Rook
Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor Pieces
Each chapter ends with some fruitful exercises to check if you were paying attention. The solutions are given near the end of the book.
Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
This chapter obviously concentrates on the cases where the pawn is on the seventh rank. Here is the end of a Troitzky study:
1.Ke6!! and whichever way Black’s king goes, White moves into his shadow drawing: 1…Kf4+ 2.Kf7! draws or 1…Kd4+ 2.Kd7 draws
This next position looks arcane but the reviewer has has this position twice in blitz, once as the attacking side and once as the defending side: in both cases the defence was accurate to hold the draw.
White cannot win despite the proximity of his king. White can try 1.Qd5+ 1…Ke1!! is the only move to draw, 1…Ke2 loses to 2.Qa2! Kd1 3.Kd4! c1Q 4.Kd3 mating. White can also try 1.Qa2 Kc3!! is the only move to draw, 1…Kd1 2.Kd4! c1=Q 3.Kd3 mating.
This chapter goes on to cover many types of position with far advanced pawns against a queen.
Chapter 2 Queen versus Queen
Naturally the authors start with the notoriously difficult ending Queen and Pawn vs. Queen: their comment is “This can be very deep and tricky if the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn.” Certainly an understatement as many strong GMs have gone down in drawn endings. A whole volume could be dedicated to this fascinating endgame.
The authors systematically cover the rook’s pawn, knight’s pawn, bishop’s pawn and centre pawns. Some useful general rules are given for each pawn:
“Rook Pawn – In this case, the drawing zone for the defending king is usually quite large when the pawn is not far advanced, as the rook pawn does not provide good shelter. But the zone gets smaller as the pawn advances, and the main drawing zone is in the corner farthest from the queening square.”
A didactic example from Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 is given:
Black’s king is badly placed restricting his own queen, so he should run to the a1-corner as fast as he can. 59…Kc5!? 60.h5 Qe8+ 61.Kh6 Kd5?! 61…Kb4 going closer to the drawing zone is more logical 62.Kg5 Qg8+ 63.Kf4 Qb8+ 64.Kg4
64…Qb4+! An excellent move preserving the draw., 64…Qa7? loses to 65.Qf4!! cutting the Black king off from the a1-drawing zone and winning in the long run. It looks as though Black’s king might get near the pawn, but that is an illusion: he just restricts his own queen’s movements. 65.Kg5 Qd2+ 66.Kg6 Kc4 67.h6 Qg2+ 68.Kf7 Qb7+ 69.Kg8 Qb8+ 70.Qf8 Qg3+ 71.Kh8 Qe5+ 72.Qg7 Qe4 73.h7
This a typical position from this ending, white has pushed the pawn to the seventh rank with his king hiding in the corner in front of the pawn. This is a tablebase draw but this has been known for many decades before the advent of tablebases.
73…Kd3?? loses, a bad mistake from a 2700 GM. 73…Kb3! draws but accuracy is still required. 74.Qf7+ (74.Kg8 Qe8+ 75. Qf8 Qg6+ 76.Kh8 Kc2=) 74…Kb2
This is the type of position that Black is aiming for. The authors explain why it is drawn with a pithy comment: “and White can’t win as the king must move too far from the pawn to move into a countercheck position.” For example: 75.Kg7 Qg4+ 76.Qg6 Qd7+ 77.Kh6 Qd2+ 78.Qg5 Qd6+ 79.Kh5
Another excellent explanation from the authors: “White’s king wants to go to h1 or h2 to make counterchecks possible, but the pieces are then too far apart” (and un-coordinated) e.g. 79…Qd1+ 80.Qg4 Qh1+ 81.Kg6 Qc6+ 82.Kg5 Qd5+ 83.Qf5 Qg2+ 84.Kh4
74.Qd7+ Ke2?! (74…Kc2 lasts longer but does not save the game anymore: buy the book to find out how White wins) 75.Kg8 White is going to shuffle his king along to the adjacent file to Black’s king to setup a crosscheck: 75…Qg6+ 76.Kf8 Qh6+ 77.Qg7 Qf4+ 78.Qf7
78…Qh6+ Notice how Black’s choice of checks are severely restricted because of his king’s placement 79.Ke7 Qh4+ 80.Ke8 Qa4+ 81.Kf8! Now we can see again why Black’s king is badly placed: Black has no good checks.
A very important ending to study and learn from a World Champion.
Muller & Konoval give an example of good defence with the king in the drawing zone where the defending side does not let the draw slip at any point:
Piket played 57.Qe8+ and drew: buy the book to see the excellent defensive effort.
Here is an old game where modern tablebases really show how difficult these endgames are:
White played 80.Qc1? The amazing 80.Qh1!! is the only move to draw, for example 80…Qd7 81.Qf3+ Ke8 82.Qa8+ Ke7 83.Qh8! Qd6+ 84.Ka7!
Drawing, a beautiful geometric display of the queen’s power with the white queen moving around all the corners in a few moves. 80…Qe5! 81. Qb1
81…Qf6+? (A mistake improving White’s king for free particularly as White’s checks are restricted because of potential cross checks, the natural 81…h2! wins, e.g.: 82.Qb7+ Kf6 83.Qf3+ Ke7 84.Qb7+ Kd8 85.Qa8+ Kd7 86.Qb7+? Qc7 and white has no good check, so he loses) 82.Ka7! and white drew with excellent defence 82…Kg7 83.Qg1+ Kh7 84.Qe3 Qa1+ 85.Kb8 Qb2+ 86.Ka7 Qg2 87.Qd3+ 87…Kh8 Although White’s king is in the drawing zone, Black’s king is on a neighbouring rank making counterchecks possible, so white played 88.Ka6! (88.Qe3 also draws)
88…h2 89.Qd8+ Kh7 90.Qc7+! Staying on the h2-pawn so Black cannot interpose the queen, and White drew 14 moves later by repetition.
If the defending king can get in front or very near the pawn, it should do so:
63.Kd3! h5 64.Ke2! now the draw is easy as white does not fear a queen exchange.
Sometimes the defending king has to keep both options open: here is a brilliant example:
Black looks to be in trouble as his king is a long way from the drawing zone and will interfere with his queen. However Nakamura found 60…Ke5!! 61.Kg7 Qc6! Keeping Black’s options open 62.h6
After 62.Qg6 Qb7+ 63.Kh8 Qa8+ 64.Qg8 Qc6 65.Qg5+ Black changes plans and runs to the drawing zone as White’s king is badly placed in front of the pawn, he just has time to do this 65…Kd4!! 66.Qg7+ Kc4 67.h6 Kb3 68.h7 Ka2=
67.Qg6 (67.h7 Qh5 68.Qg7+ Ke6! draws as Black’s king cramps White’s pieces.) 67…Qf8+ 68.Kh7 Qf3 69.Qg7+ Ke6 70.Kg8 Qh5 71.h7 Qe8+ 72.Qf8 Qg6+ 73.Kh8 Qf7 drawn
Knight Pawn – “With a knight pawn, play is similar to a rook pawn, but the winning chances are better as the pawn provides better shelter. There is still a drawing zone in the far corner.”
The play is complex and there are many subtleties with slight differences being crucial as we shall see below.
Here is a superb example of drawing technique from Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009:
Where does Black put his king? 63…Kf1! (63…Kd2? loses in 91 moves as the king is cut off from the drawing zone!) 64.b5 Qc7+ 65.Kd5 Qb7+ 66.Qc6 Qf7+ 67.Kd6 Qf4+ 68.Kd7 Qf7+ 69.Kc8 Qf8+ 70.Kb7 Qe7+ 71.Qc7 Qe4+ 72.Ka6 Qa4+ 73.Qa5 Qc4 74.Qa1+ Kg2
Black’s king has reached the drawing zone. It is still very easy to go wrong.
75.Qb2+ Kh1 76.Qh8+ Kg1 77.Qg7+ Kh1 78.Qb7+ Kh2 79.Qc6 Qa2+ 80.Kb7 Kg1 81.Qc1+ Kf2 82.Qc5+ Kf1 83.b6 Postny comments :The pawn has reached the 6th rank already, although it is still a draw theoretically. For the defensive side it’s very easy to go astray, but, somehow I managed to give the right checks. 83…Qg2+ 84.Ka6 Qa8+ 85.Kb5 A crucial position, Black’s king is temporarily out of the drawing zone and cannot go back immediately.
85…Qe8+! The only move to draw 86.Ka5 Qe1+ 87.Ka6 Qa1+ 88.Qa5
Postny comments again: For a moment I thought that I was losing. The queen covered the a3 square, and Kb7-a7 followed by the pawn advance just one move before the fifty move rule seems inevitable. But… 129…Kh1! 130.Ka7 Qf2!! This stalemate trick saves the game. 131.Qe4+ Kg1 132.Kb7 Qf7+ 133.Kc6 Draw due to the fifty move rule. ½-½
The next example shows how difficult this ending really is:
Black’s king is not yet in the drawing zone. Black played the obvious check 77…Qe7+? which loses 77…Qe3! (77..Qc5? loses to 78.Qd3!) does draw, e.g. 78.Ka8 Kh3 79.b7 Qe4 80.Ka7 Qd4+ 81.Qb6 Qa1+ 82.Qa6 Qd4+ 83.Ka8 Qe4
This is drawn despite Black’s king not being in the drawing zone but it is close enough! 84.Qa2!? cutting the Black king off from the drawing zone (by analogy with the line below) does not win here.
Back to the game 78.b7 Qe3+ 79.Ka8 Qe4
80.Qb5? 80.Qa3!! cutting the king off from the drawing zone wins, followed by moving White’s king down to the same rank as Black’s king which is similar to the line below 80…Qf3? (80…Kg3! draws) 81.Qb4+ Kh3 82.Qc5?! Qe4
83.Qc3+? Sloppy, improving Black’s king for free and the queen is much better placed on c5; it was time to move the White king down to the rank that Black’s king is on: 83.Ka7! wins, e.g. 83…Qa4+ 84.Kb6 Qb3+ 85.Ka6 Qa4+ 86.Qa5 Qc4+ 87.Qb5 Qe6+ 88.Ka5 Qa2+ 89.Kb6 Qf2+ 90.Qc5 Qb2+ 91.Ka6 Qe2+ 92.Ka5 Qa2+ 93.Kb5 Qe2+ 94.Qc4 Qb2+ 95.Qb4 Qe5+ 96.Ka4 Qe8+ 97.Ka3
A key position and a common problem for the defending side, which check should I make? Black choose the wrong check and lost. 89…Qg6+? The authors offer some general advice here: “As Black’s king is on a light square, it was better to operate on dark squares”: 89…Qf6+! Drawing 90.Qd6 Qc3+ 91.Kd7 Qg7+ 92.Qe7 Qd4+ 93.Ke8 White is trying to bring his king across to the same file as Black’s king. Qh8+ 94.Qf8 Qe5+
95.Kf7 loses the pawn to a fork 95…Qd5+ drawing instantly
Back to the game, after 89…Qg6+? 90.Qd6 Qe8+?!
91.Qd7?! (91. Kb6! Qe3+ 92. Kc7 Qa7 Kc8 wins quickly, now we see why Black’s queen should operate on the dark squares) 91…Qg6+
92. Kd5? White could have centralised the queen and effected a memorable manoeuvre to win 92.Qd6! Qc2+ 93.Kd7 Qh7+ 94.Qe7 Qd3+ 95.Ke8 Qg6+ 96. Kf8 Qf5+ 97.Kg8 Qd5+ 98.Kh8 Qh5+ 99.Qh7 winning
Notice that this winning motif is effectively the same idea as the king manoeuvre down the a-file and b-files rotated ninety degrees!
In the game: 92…Qd3+ 93.Ke6 Qg6+ 94.Ke5 Qg5+ 95.Ke4 Qg6+! 96.Ke5 Qg5+ 97.Kd6
97…Qf6+? The final mistake allowing White to improve his queen. 97…Qf4+ 98.Kc6 Qa4+ 99.Kc7 Qa5+ 100.Kc8 Qc5+ draws 98.Qe6! 98…Qd8+?! 99.Kc6 Qh8 100.Qa2+ Kf1 101.Qb1+ and queens the pawn, White won 4 moves later.
Here is a pretty study showing a neat idea:
How does White break the pin to get his pawn home?
Amazingly this idea occurred in a game and White missed the neat win, but won anyway.
This is completely different. If the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn or at least very near the pawn, the attacker usually wins as there is no drawing zone in the far corner. This is best pawn for the superior side.
White played 65.Qe5+? (A bad mistake from a 2500 player, 65.Qc3+ draws as Black’s queen is poorly placed.) 65…Qe4! Black gives up his h-pawn to centralise his queen and get his f-pawn going 66.Qxh5 f5 White has restored material equality but is now lost as the centralised Black queen is dominant and the f-pawn is much more dangerous than White’s a-pawn. 67.Qh3+ Kd2 68.Qh2+ Kc3 69.Kb5 f4 70.Qh8+ Kb3 71.Qf8 f3 72.Qf7+ Kxa3 Black has eliminated the a-pawn which wasn’t strictly necessary. The win is simple from here as Black’s queen is so well placed.
73.Qf8+ Kb2 74.Qf6+ Kc2 75.Ka6?! Accelerating the loss. When the kings are close to each other on files or ranks, the stronger side should always be on the look out for a sequence to exchange queens.
75…Qd5?! (Black could have exchanged queens with 75…Qd3+! 76.Kb7 Qb3+ 77.Ka8 Qa3+ 78.Kb7 Qb2+) 76,Qf4 Kd3 77.Qg3 Qc4+ 78.Ka7 Qc5+ 79.Ka8 Qd5+ 80.Ka7 Ke2 81.Qg4 Kd3 82.Qg3
89.Kb7 Qg7+ 0-1 in view of 90.Kb8 Qf8+ 91.Kb7 Qf7+ 92.Kb6 f1Q
A central pawn
This is similar to the bishop’s pawn, but the winning chances are slightly less. There is no drawing zone for the defending king in the far corner:
There is no chance for a draw here with the central pawn as Black cannot be prevented from advancing the pawn to the queening square: it just requires patience, care and a lot of moves.
Black played 68…Qa1+ (the natural 68…Qf5 unpinning the pawn is better.)
Black played well, not letting the win slip at any point until this position at move 110:
Black played 110…Kf4?? which throws the win away as white has a brilliant draw utilising the fact that the pawn is unprotected by the queen and the star cross perpetual check. Better was 110…Qb3 protecting the pawn and preparing cover for the king on the queenside viz.: 111.Qh2+ Ke4 112.Qg2+ Kd3 113.Qg6+ Kd2 114.Qg5 Qc4 115.Ka8 Qd4 116.Kb7 Kc3 117.Qg3 Qd3 winning
The reviewer makes this observation:
Notice how Black’s king has migrated over to the file adjacent to White’s king ready to setup cross checks in a few moves. This cannot be prevented wherever White’s king is on the board with two exceptions:
The weaker side can draw if the defending king gets in front of the pawn
or reaches a small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn.
The only other drawing mechanism is to setup the star cross perpetual check or a variant of it which is shown below.
111.Qh2+! Reaching a very important position as White can draw
111…Kg4 112.Qg1+Kf4 113.Qh2+ Ke4
114.Qg2+?? [114.Qh1+!! Kd4 115.Qa1+ Kd3 116.Qd1+ Ke4 117.Qh1+ Ke5 118.Qh5+ Kf5 (118…Kd6 or Ke6 loses the pawn to 119.Qh6+) 119.Qh5+ drawing] 114…Kd4 115.Qb2+ Kd3 Black breaks the perpetual sequence and wins as White’s queen has lost her checking distance
125.Qh2+? (Centralising with 125.Qe5 was a tougher defence) 125…Kf1 126.Qc2 e2 127.Qc4 Kg2 128.Qg8+ Qg3 129.Qd5+Kg1
Exploiting White king position 0-1
The central pawn does have a small drawing zone for the defending side which is on the short side of the pawn:
This is a theoretical draw as White’s king restricts Black’s king manoeuvres, but White must defend perfectly:
91.Kb3? losing as White’s king can be kicked out of the drawing zone. 91,Qc4 holds for example 91…Qb6+ 92.Ka2 Qa5+ 93.Kb2 Qe5+ 94.Kb1 Qa1+ 95.Kb2 Qe3 96.Qc1+ Ke2 97.Qc4=
White’s king covers the queenside and the White queen can hassle Black on the kingside. If Black’s king strays too far on the kingside, Black cannot block a queen check as White will simply exchange queens drawing owing to the proximity of his king to the pawn.
The game continued 91…Qb6+ 92.Kc4 Qa6+ (92…Qc7+ is better 93.Kb3 Qc3+ 94.Ka2 Qa5+ 95.Kb2 Qb5+ 96.Ka3 Kc3 wins) 93.Kb3?! Qb5+ 94.Ka2 Kc3 95.Qe1+ Kc2 0-1 (96.Qf2 d2)
The book covers numerous positions with more pawns.
Here is a celebrated game Kasparov v The World Internet 1999.
Although Black is a pawn up, White is playing for the win as his g-pawn is the most advanced pawn. The seven piece tablebase confirms this position is a draw but Black is on the edge of losing and most defend perfectly. The game continued 51…b5?! (51,,,Ka1! holds) 52.Kf6+ Kb2? (The final mistake 52…Ka1 was necessary) 53.Qh2+ Ka1 54.Qf4! b4 55.Qxb4 Black is lost as the d-pawn is a hindrance as it obstructs Black’s queen and offers cover to White’s king. Without the d-pawn the position is drawn as show earlier in this review.
The ROW did not last much longer and resigned on move 62.
Chapter 3 Queen v Rook
The basic Queen v Rook endgame is covered sufficiently. The authors show how to break the third rank defence:
The authors observe: “The third rank defence is very difficult to break down if you do not know how, because it requires at least one counter-intuitive move to achieve that. John Nunn suggests the following method:”
1.Qf4! (1.Qg7 does not make progress because of 1…Ke8 2.Qc7 Rh6 3.Ke5 Rg6 and the starting position has been mirrored) 1…Kd7 2.Qa4+! Kc7 3.Qa7+ Forcing Black into the third rank defence 3…Rb7 4.Qc5+ Kb8 5.Kd6 Rg7 6.Qb4+ Rb7 7.Qe4 Rb6+ 8.Kc5 Ka7 9.Qd4 Rb7 10.Kc6+ Ka8 11.Qd5 Kb8 12.Qa5 and Philidor’s position is reached.
The book covers a multitude of Queen vs Rook + Pawn(s) positions where there are many fortresses worth knowing and even in the situations where the queen wins, many wins are quite long and complicated. Here is an example of a simple draw.
Here White can simply move his rook back and forth between two safe squares e3 & g3.
An additional pawn for Black on g4 makes no difference viz:
This is clearly drawn as well. However, make a subtle change to the position and place White’s king on e2, then the queen wins:
White played the incomprehensible 89.g6? allowing the simple 89…Rxg6 drawing 89.Qh1! wins as follows: 89…Rg6 90.Qa8 Re6 91.Qa3+ Ke8 92.Kg4 Rg6 93.Kh5 Re6 94.Qb4 zugzwang
Black has no good move. One key point is 94…Rg6 95.Qe4+ Kf8 (95…Re6 96.Qxe6 fxe6 97.Kh6 winning) 96.Qxg6 winning
With a further advanced bishop’s pawn, it is no longer a fortress as the attacking king can encircle the weaker side’s position:
The winning process falls into three phases and zugzwang is the main weapon to achieve these steps:
First the king has to cross the e-file
1.Kf2 Qc7 2.Kg2 Qc2+ 3.Kg1 (3.Kg3 Qd2 4.Rg4 Ke5 5.Re4+ Kd5 and the first phase is complete) 3…Qd2 4.Kf1 Qh2 5.Re2Qg3 6.Rg2 Qh3 7.Kf2 Ke5 8.Rg4 Kd5
Here the rook and knight have a temporary blockade of two passed pawns. A pawn sacrifice disrupts the coordination of Black’s pieces: 69.g5!? Nxg5?! (69…Rg6 is tougher) 70.Qg4? (A rare mistake from the former World Champion 70.Qg3! breaks the blockade 70…Rg6 71.Qe5+ Kf7 72.d6 wins; 70…Kh6 71.Qh4+ Kg6 72.d6 wins) 70…Rg6 71.Kb4 Nf7 72,Qd4+ drawn
Here a blockade could have been broken by clever manoeuvring:
This looks desperate for white who looks to be close to zugzwang. Black continued 52…Kg4? allowing White to escape
53.Re3! Qd2 54.Rg3+! Kh4 55.Rf3 mutual zugzwang and white held on for a draw
Queen vs Rook + Knight + Pawn
It is hard to believe that White can lose to here. White played 110.Qe2? which does lose and he lost quickly missing a draw when Black erred. (110.Qb7 holds along with 4 other moves) 110…Rf6+ does win for Black. Buy the book to find out how.
Chapter 5 Queen versus Rook and Bishop
It is hard to believe that White can win this position as the f7 square is covered by both rook and bishop and all Black’s pieces are safe and coordinated. White failed to win this game in practice; he tried for 16 moves and gave up. However, White can force the pawn through or win a piece in 43 moves. This is a good example where computer generation of tablebases has really enhanced the understanding of the endgame and found sophisticated winning manoeuvres in positions like these. The key piece in this type of position is the attacker’s king.
Chapter 6 Queen vs Two Rooks
The authors summarise this material imbalance thus “The rooks are slightly superior materially speaking, but this does not make them favourites automatically. It is very important, if they can get static control and their king can hide. The queen on the other hand often wants to start dynamics to overload the rooks and destroy their coordination and harmony.”
The ending of two Rooks + P v Q is covered in some depth, the theory of which is completely new to the reviewer and probably new to the reader.
The most important factor is whether the attacking king can find hiding places. This often depends on where the defending king is. It has some similarities with queen and pawn vs queen endings:
With a rook’s pawn, generally if White’s king is away from the action (near the pawn), the game is drawn, but it is not so easy to give a main drawing zone which was possible in the queen and rook’s pawn or knight’s pawn versus queen case, but d7 seems to be a a good square but it does not always draw.
Matters are very complex and the wins are often very long as this game shows:
If the reader has played through this ending, it was remarkably simple to win.
With a central pawn, there is no fortress on the short side for the defending king:
This is winning after 1.Kd7 Qg7+ 2.e7
In general, the queen can draw when the defending king is well placed and the attacker cannot coordinate and safeguard the king. This can be very complicated and not easy to calculate:
White’s king is trapped on the edge but White can just hold: 71.Qb6+ Kf7 72.Kg4 R5f4+ 73.Kg5 Rf6 74.Qb1 Rg3+ 75.Kh4 Rg2 75.Kh4 Rg2
76.Qb3+ and lost quickly 76.Qh7+! draws 76…Kf8 77.Qh8+ Rg8 78.Qh5 e5 79.Kh3 Rg7 80.Qh4 Kf7 81.Qc4+ Re6 82.Qc7+ Re7 83.Qc4+ Kf6 84.Qc6+ Re6 85.Qf3+ =
Here is a game from the early Fischer. His opponent played 90..Kd6? and Fischer defended perfectly to draw.
Black could have hunted down the White king as follows: 90…Rc3 91.Kg4 Ra4+ 92.Kh5 Rc5+ 93.Kh6 Rh4+ 94.Kg6 Rg4+ 95.Kh6 Rgg5
96.Qa2 Ke8 97.Qa8+ Kf7 98.Qa2+ Rcd5
After 99.Qf2+ Rgf5 winning as 100…Rh5+ follows
General case with more pawns
In general the rooks want static control and the queen dynamic. It is extremely important for the rooks to coordinate. Examples of positions where the two rooks are better are shown below.
The reviewer gives some typical positions with a quick assessment: buy the book to go through the analysis.
In this position below the rooks have full board control. White wins easily.
In the position below the rooks are coordinated and white’s weak isolated pawns are easy pickings for the rooks. Black won quickly.
In the next position, white has just played 43.Re1 threatening Ree7, Black has to weaken his pawns to prevent the immediate loss of the f7-pawn. This is enough for white to win.
The queen needs targets to start dynamic play. Good for the queen are weak pawns, an exposed king, uncoordinated rooks and of course dangerous friendly passed pawns.
Queen + two connected passed pawns usually beat two rooks. The defensive setup with the rooks doubled up against the more advanced pawn can be difficult to break down. The position below is winning but takes nearly 50 moves against best defence!
The position below is winning for the queen as the rooks are uncoordinated and the queen has a dangerous passed c-pawn.
In this position the passed pawn dominates the rooks but Black is still holding out. The key to winning this game is to open a second front on the queenside to widen the bridgehead for the queen. Hence 48.c4!
In the next position Black has a small material advantage with two connected passed pawns. The easiest way to win is to open a second front on the queenside and create fresh White pawn weaknesses, hence 35…a5!
In the next example, there is rough material equality but the queen is winning here as White’s rooks are uncoordinated, his king is exposed and he has lots of weak pawns.
Chapter 7 – Queen versus Rook and Two Minor Pieces
Surprisingly the author does not cover the endgame with no pawns as R+B+N v Q is drawn but is difficult to hold.
The pieces seek static control. In the position below, Black is winning but needs squares for his pieces, hence 34…g5!? After 35.fxg5 Bxg5 Black is winning as White’s pawns are going to drop off in the long run.
In the next example, the position is static with the pieces controlling everything. The queen has no targets and White’s king is safe. White will slowly and surely improve his pieces and pick off Black’s pawns.
In the next example, the queen has passed pawns, but they are all separated and effectively isolated, so Black’s well coordinated pieces can just collect the apple harvest after 34…Rb4!
The queen loves dynamic play with an exposed enemy king.
A good example is below where queen and 3 pawns fight a rook and two bishops with an exposed king. After 24.Qe6 Black is struggling to coordinate and finish development. Black put up stiff resistance but the defensive task proved too much and White won.
In the next game, a queen and two connected passed pawns supported by the king face an uncoordinated rook, bishop and knight. The queen wins effortlessly.
Chapter 8 Queen an Minor Piece vs Queen (and Minor Piece)
This topic is covered well with sections on:
Queen + Knight v Queen
Queen + Knight + Pawns v Queen + Pawns
Queen + Bishop v queen
Queen + Bishop + Pawns v Queen + pawns
Queen + Knight endings
Queen + Bishop (same colour) endings
Queen + Bishop (opposite colour) endings
Queen + Knight v Queen + bishop endings
This is particularly good chapter.
Chapter 9 Queen + Rook v Queen + Rook
This piece combination is a really a mixture of middlegame and endgame themes. King safety is paramount. In this game White’s king is safe whereas Black’s king is looking potentially vulnerable.
Fischer played the incisive 33.a4!! to open up files for his rook. If 33…b4 34.Rh5!
There is another Fischer game below. White had to play 35.Rf3. However after 35.Qf8+? Kh5 Black’s king entered the fray with decisive effect. After 36.g4+ Kh4 37.Qxf6+ Kxh3 it was all over.
Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor pieces
The interesting endgames of queen v 2 minor pieces with no pawns are covered.
The endgame of queen v two knights with pawns is covered showing typical winning methods:
Overloading the knights which can only defend a limited front
Some successful fortresses are also demonstrated.
The endgame of queen v two bishops with pawns is also covered. Positions with mutual passed pawns are shown demonstrating the power of the queen. Some fortresses are shown of course.
The endgame of queen v knight and bishop with pawns is also covered. Positions with fortresses are covered with methods of breaching them covered.
Queen versus three minor pieces is by far the most interesting endgame covered with this rough material equality.
In this sort of position where the pieces are uncoordinated, the queen wins:
If the pieces are coordinated and their king is safe, they have good winning chances.
White misfired with 53.b5? (53.Qxb7 holds a draw) 53…Nd4! wins as the pieces gain static control. Eventually all the queenside pawns were exchanged and Black won on the kingside.
If the minor pieces have control even with a pawn apiece, the pieces have winning chances:
Black played 50…Qc1+? and lost the pawn and the game. 50…Qg1 just holds!
The next position is one of dynamic equality:
30…Bc6! 31.Qxa7 Nc5=
Chapter 11 is a pot pourri of fascinating positions that do not belong elsewhere in the book.
Chapter 12 covers some endgame studies. Every endgame book should include some studies to enhance the readers’ imaginations.
The book ends with comprehensive solutions to the exercises set in each chapter.
In summary, this is an excellent book which requires a lot of time to absorb. Some sections are much easier to absorb than others, for example the sections on two rooks v queen in the general case with many pawns is excellent and would be useful for club players and above. The chapter on queen and minor piece v queen and minor piece with many pawns is also superb. The more difficult sections such as queen and pawn v queen are definitely worth studying and are fascinating in themselves.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 11th August 2021
“Initially things looked gloomy for Bobby Fischer. Because he had refused to participate in the 1969 US Championship, he had missed his chance to qualify for the 1970 Interzonal Tournament in Palma de Mallorca. Only when another American, Pal Benko, withdrew in his favour, and after the officials were willing to bend the rules, could Bobby enter the contest and begin his phenomenal run that would end with the Match of the Century in Reykjavik against World Champion Boris Spassky.
Fischer started out by sweeping the field at the 23-round Palma Interzonal to qualify for the next stage of the cycle. In the Candidates Matches he first faced Mark Taimanov, in Vancouver. Fischer trounced the Soviet ace, effectively ending Taimanov’s career. Then, a few months later in Denver, he was up against Bent Larsen, the Great Dane. Fischer annihilated him, too. The surreal score in those two matches, twice 6-0, flabbergasted chess fans all over the world. In the ensuing Candidates Final in Buenos Aires, Fischer also made short shrift of former World Champion Tigran Petrosian, beating the hyper-solid “Armenian Tiger” 6½-2½.
Altogether, Fischer had scored an incredible 36 points from 43 games against many of the world’s best players, including a streak of 19 consecutive wins. Bobby Fischer had become not just a national hero in the US, but a household name with pop-star status all over the world. Jan Timman chronicles the full story of Fischer’s sensational run and takes a fresh look at the games. The annotations are in the author’s trademark lucid style, that happy mix of colourful background information and sharp, crystal-clear explanations.”
Where does history start? I’ve always thought history is what happened before you were born. For those of us, like Jan Timman and myself, who learnt our chess in the 1960s, perhaps chess history is what happened before World War 2. The events of the late forties were full of names familiar to us from tournaments of our time.
This book covers Bobby Fischer’s career in the years 1970 and 1971. More like current affairs than history for our generation. We all remember it well: we were around at the time and some of us will be familiar with many of the games. But, for younger readers, Fischer’s games from half a century ago will be ancient history. If we turn the clock back another five decades we reach 1921 and the Lasker – Capablanca World Championship match. Now that really does feel like ancient history, even to me.
Fifty years on, it seems like a good time to revisit the games with the aid of today’s powerful engines and greater knowledge. Jan Timman is ideally qualified to do just that.
Readers of Timman’s other recent books will know what to expect: clear annotations based on explanations rather than variations, along with entertaining anecdotes and background colour to put the games into context.
We have all 43 games (44 if you include a win by default) from the 1970 Interzonal and 1971 candidates matches, along with a selection of 19 games from earlier in 1970.
After withdrawing from the 1967 Interzonal, Fischer played in two relatively minor tournaments the following year, and, in 1969, played only one serious game, in a New York league match. The chess world was uncertain whether or not he’d ever play again, let alone fulfil what appeared to be his destiny and become world champion. Exciting, but also worrying times.
After an 18 month absence, Bobby agreed to take part in the 1970 match between the USSR and the Rest of the World, even ceding top board to Larsen. Chapter 1 takes us from this event, via Rovinj/Zagreb, the Herceg Novi blitz and Buenos Aires, to the Siegen Olympiad.
In round 7 of Rovinj-Zagreb, Fischer was black against one of the tournament’s lesser lights, the Romanian master Ghitescu.
Timman informs us: It has never been brought up before, but Fischer was demonstrably lost in this game, after having taken too much risk.
Here’s the critical position with Ghitescu to play his 23rd move. Where would you move your rook?
The exchange sacrifice 23. Rf4! would have been very strong. Black cannot accept the sacrifice, because he would have been strategically losing. Also after 23… Rg8 24. Re4 Rae8 25. Rf1, White is winning.
I may be wrong but I would have thought Rf4 would be automatic for master strength players today. Wouldn’t it also have been automatic for, say, Petrosian, back in 1970?
Instead, the game continued 23. Rd3 Rad8 24. Ng3 (24. b3 would have maintained the advantage) 24… Ba6, when Fischer took control of the game, eventually bringing home the full point. If he’d lost that game, perhaps chess history would have been very different.
Here’s the complete game.
The strategic insights Timman brings to positions like this are, for me, what makes this book so instructive. Here’s another example: Gligoric – Fischer from Siegen, with Gligoric to make his 39th move.
It’s not dissimilar to the previous example, and indeed both positions arose from King’s Indian Defences. Here, a white knight is fighting against a dark-squared bishop outside the pawn chain.
White could have obtained a winning position with 39. Nb1!. The strategic plan is simple: White is going to bring his knight to c4 and install his king on g4. Black has nothing to offer in exchange; his doubled c-pawn will be blocked, and his pieces are barely able to display any activity.
Again, the complete game:
Chapter 2 covers the 1970 Interzonal at Palma, Mallorca. You won’t find very many brilliant miniatures in this book, but Fischer’s win against Rubinetti is an exception.
Chapters 3-5 offer Fischer’s 6-0 shutouts against Taimanov and Larsen, and the final match against former champion Tigran Petrosian.
This position interested me. Any well-read player from my generation will recognise this as coming from the 7th Fischer – Petrosian game, where Bobby played 22. Nxd7+, a move garlanded with various numbers of exclamation marks by many commentators both at the time and later.
Here’s what Timman has to say.
The praise with which this move has been showered is unbelievable. Byrne commented: ‘This exchange, which wins the game, was completely overlooked by the press room group of grandmasteranalysis. Najdorf, in fact, criticized it(!), suggesting the incomparably weaker 22. a4.’
Kasparov, too, was full of praise. ‘A brilliant decision, masterfully transforming one advantage into another (…) Petrosian was obviously hoping for the “obvious” 22. a4 Bc6 23. Rc1 Nd7 24. Nxd7+ Bxd7 with possibilities of a defence.
In Chess Informant 12, Petrosian himself and Suetin give two ‘!’s to the text move.
True, not all commentators were so pronounced in their praise. Spassky and Polugaevsky limited themselves to the conclusion that White exchanged one advantage for another and didn’t give an ‘!’ to the move.
However, the general drift was that Fischer had done something highly instructive, adding a new facet to strategic thinking in chess. I was very impressed at the time, but I also had doubts. There were no computers yet, and young players looked to the great players on the world stage as their examples. So, Fischer must have understood it better than I did.
Yet, I am almost certain that in this position, or a similar one, I would have opted for Najdorf’s move. And almost half a century after the event, it turned out that the Argentinian had simply been right!
Timman goes on to demonstrate that, indeed, 22. a4 is clearly winning, whereas Fischer’s 22. Nxd7+ Rxd7 23. Rc1 would have given Petrosian defensive chances if he’d chosen 23… d4 rather than the passive Rd6.
See for yourself:
What comes across from this book is the remorseless power and logic of Fischer’s play in this period, as well as his determination to play for a win in every game. Short draws were never on his agenda.
In the past, there was a tendency to annotate by result or reputation, and this seems to have been what happened here. These days, we can all switch on Stockfish and annotate by computer, while neglecting the human, the practical element.
Timman’s annotations, both here and in his previous books, strike me as getting the balance just about right. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather have verbal explanations than long engine-generated variations.
Older readers will enjoy reliving memories of the golden days of the Fischer era, while younger readers will learn a lot of chess history. Players of all levels will benefit from the annotations, which, because of their lucidity, are accessible to anyone from, say, 1500 upwards.
The many anecdotes add much to the book, although serious historians might feel frustrated that they’re not always sourced. There are also several pages of photographs: while their quality, as they’re printed on matt paper, isn’t perfect, they’re still more than welcome.
There are a few typos and mistakes regarding match scores and tournament crosstables which more careful proofing might have picked up, and the English, in one or two places (you may have noticed this from the extracts I quoted), might have been more idiomatic. Slightly annoying, perhaps, but this won’t really impede your enjoyment of the book.
In spite of these slight reservations, this is an excellent book which is warmly recommended for players of all strengths. Next year will see the 50th anniversary of Fischer – Spassky. Might we hope that Timman will cover this match in a future volume?
One last thought: I wrote at the beginning of this review about how people of different ages have different perspectives of history. If Capablanca and Alekhine had been granted long lives, they would have lived to see these games. What would they have made of them? What would they have made of Bobby Fischer?
Gawain Jones is an English grandmaster, twice British Champion and winner of the 2020 European Blitz Championship.
From the publisher:
“Coffeehouse Repertoire is a 1.e4 player’s dream: an arsenal of ideas from a world-class grandmaster to surprise and confound your opponents, combining coffeehouse trickery with complete theoretical soundness.
In Volume 1, GM Gawain Jones shows how to put pressure on the Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Scandinavian and Alekhine’s Defences, using lines which feature a potent combination of surprise value, objective soundness and practical effectiveness.
The Coffeehouse 1.e4 Repertoire will be completed in Volume 2, which covers 1…e5, plus the French, Pirc, Modern, Philidor and other miscellaneous Defences.
Gawain Jones is an English grandmaster, twice British Champion and winner of the 2020 European Blitz Championship. He has defeated some of the world’s best players using the ideas recommended in this book.”
End of blurb…
Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.
The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!
The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
A small (but insignificant) quibble: the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates). There is an Index of the Main Games section which is most welcome.
Before we take our first sip of coffee Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt.
As before, we are examining Volume 1 which provides a repertoire for White starting 1.e4 against the Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Scandinavian and Alekhine defences. Volume 2 is expected in September 2021 and will cover other replies to 1.e4
Gawain is a consistent 1.e4 player and has scored 67.1% according to MegaBase 2020. Having said that he has scored even more convincingly with other first moves!
This is his fifth book having written four previous volumes on the Sicilian Dragon and Grand Prix Attack.
The books main content is divided into two main sections, Sicilian Defence and Other Defences and these sections are further divided into eight chapters viz:
Carlsen Variation (of the Sicilian)
Move 2 Alternatives
followed by a useful Index of Variations.
Before we continue further we have a warning. If, for you, the book title suggests a feast of dodgy gambits, tricks and cheapos to take to the chess club and online platforms then look away now. You will be disappointed.
Most space in Volume 1 is dedicated to ideas for White versus the Sicilian Defence and no doubt most would predict a Grand Prix Attack based repertoire from the author. Well, not quite.
and against 2…d6 we have the interesting
as favoured by Magnus Carlsen and Chapter 1 examines the less common positions that arise from this.
Here is an example:
Should Black prefer 2…Nc6 then the author provides both the Rossolimo Variation, 3.Bb5 (also examined by IM Ravi Haria) and the clever move-order Chameleon, 3.Nge2:
3.Nge2 is also an annoying move order nuance against Najdorf and Dragon experts.
Against 2…e6 Gawain advocates the flexible 3.Nf3 followed by f1 bishop development to either b5 or g2 dependant on what Black plays. For example:
For completeness Gawain devotes Chapter 5 to second move alternatives such as 2…a6, 2…g6 and even 2…b6.
Moving on to the Caro-Kann Gawain recommends the Exchange Variation but in really quite a novel way with an early jump of the f3 knight to e5. This is quite unusual and tricky to meet and CK players almost certainly will be quite surprised. He presents two related move orders:
and the more (according to GCBJ) outlandish:
breaking the “not moving the same piece twice in the opening guideline”.
An example game presented in the book is:
Next up is the Scandinavian Defence which quickly branches into 2…Qxd5 and 2…Nf6.
Against the former the author proposes the line in which White plays 3.Nf3 instead of 3.Nc3 and, at the right time, plays c4.
Here is a tough game in this variation:
For some time Scandinavian experts have realised that the c4 idea is tough to meet and probably therefore fear 3.Nf3 more than the routine 3.Nc3 getting in the way of the c-pawn.
Against 2…Nf6 Gawain recommends the “Modern Treatment” as dubbed by 2…Nf6 expert David Smerdon in his Smerdon’s Scandinavian from 2015 and the detailed analysis commences after:
Finally, we turn to the hyper-modern Alekhine Defence in which a more conventional approach based on the Four Pawns Attack is discussed.
Here is a significant stem game that Jones considers:
For each of Black’s move one replies Gawain presents an overview of the ideas including a “What We’re Hoping for” section. This is the followed by detailed theory with a few illustrative games sprinkled in. The discussion and explanations are friendly, clear and pragmatic talking about the responses one is likely to face rather than a torrent of engine analysis and “best move” labelling.
It is not clear who chose to use the word “Coffeehouse” in the book’s title. The repertoire choices are most definitely not speculative or bordering on unsound. This is a extremely playable set of recommendations and most are used by elite players in the current decade.
Our overall impression can perhaps be best conveyed by likening the repertoire to a collection of choices from the well-known “Dangerous Weapons” series from Everyman brought together under one roof.
We are convinced that, despite the title, this book will be found to be extremely useful by the strongest and club players alike. If you are a Blackmar-Diemer or Latvian Gambit fan then this, perhaps, it not the book for you.
We look forward to Volume 2 in September 2021 when Gawain gets to grips with 1…e5, 1…e6, 1…d6, 1…g6 amongst the remainders.
“If you want to improve your middlegame play, you will have to develop a FEEL for positions.
That’s what Boris Zlotnik has been stressing during his long and rich trainers career. Clicking through concrete variations (a popular pastime in the computer era) is not enough. To guide your thinking during a game you should be able to fall back on a reservoir of typical ideas and methods.
That is exactly what this book offers you: Zlotnik’s legendary study material about the middlegame, modernized, greatly extended and published in the English language for the first time. As you familiarize yourself with the most important strategic ideas and manoeuvres in important basic opening structures, you will need less time to discover the clues in middlegame positions.
You will find it so much easier to steer your game in the right direction after the opening has ended. Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual is accessible to a wide range of post-beginners and club players. It is your passport to a body of instructive material of unparalleled quality, collected during a lifetime of training and coaching chess.
A large collection of exercises, carefully chosen and didactically tuned, will help you drill what you have learned. With a foreword by Fabiano Caruana.”
“Boris Zlotnik is an International Master from Russia and a prominent chess trainer. For many years he was the director of the legendary Chess Department of the INEF College in Moscow. In 1993 he emigrated to Spain. One of his most successful pupils is Fabiano Caruana, who in 2004, as a 12-year-old, moved to Madrid with his entire family to live near his trainer.”
From my first quick perusal through this middlegame manual, I was really impressed with the illuminative, explanatory paragraphs enumerating the possible plans of both sides particularly in Part 1 Typical structures in the middlegame. These typical schemes are demonstrated with instructive games from top players of many periods interspersed with many pithy paragraphs which effectively communicate key ideas. The reviewer will give examples as we navigate this excellent training manual for typical middlegame structures and manoeuvres.
The tome also effectively uses the analysis and evaluations of chess engines in conjunction with the excellent, explanatory passages to scrutinise games and emphasize key motifs. It is surprising how often the play and evaluations of the old masters is vindicated by the computer. (Of course there are tactical oversights, but that is to be expected.)
The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 is concerned with Typical structures in the middlegame and has three chapters:
The Isolated Queen’s Pawn
The Carlsbad Structure
Symmetrical Pawn Structures
Part 2 is titled Typical methods of play:
Restricted mobility in the King’s Indian Defence
Should we exchange the fianchettoed bishop (EFB) ?
The d5-square in the Sicilian
Part 3 has two chapters with exercises followed by solutions.
The reviewer will present a detailed report of chapters 1 and 2 to give the reader a good feel for the book. Chapter 3 will get modest coverage whilst Chapters 4-6 will get a very brief overview.
Chapter 1 The Isolated Queen’s Pawn
The author begins with an introduction with Tarrasch’s famous quote followed by showing the typical IQP pawn structures viz.:
As the author points out, these pawn structures can occur from a wide variety of openings which only makes their study more valuable for any aspiring player to improve.
As a young junior, the reviewer won a host of games against the IQP by exchanging pieces and exploiting the weak d-pawn in the endings. As a result of these comfortable victories, against mainly weaker opposition, I jumped to the false conclusion that the IQP was a “bad thing”. My poor education was soon exposed when I got crushed in games against stronger players who knew exactly how to handle the advantages of the IQP.
Zolotnik gives a quick historical survey of the IQP with a couple of games from the Victorian era including a game by the first official world champion William Steinitz.
The author explains the weakness of the IQP in the endgame with two didactic games by Sergei Tiviakov.
The first endgame starts here:
The second endgame commences here:
After the exchange of one pair of rooks, this position is reached:
The reader may well be thinking: black is slightly worse, but with opposite coloured bishops how did black lose those endgames, particularly as the white rook has no obvious entry point? Tiviakov’s second opponent was a decent GM close to 2600 and he got ground down thus displaying how difficult these type of equals minus mode endings are to defend with an inferior pawn structure and a semi-bad bishop. Stockfish helpfully indicates that the ending is drawn for many moves, but pity the mere mortals in practice with an increment finish! Buy the book to enjoy these ending masterclasses.
The author proffers some sagacious observations:
“As can be seen from these two endings, the main drawbacks of the IQP are that it cannot be defended by another pawn, and in addition the square in front of this pawn, as well as various squares to the side of the pawn, can be exploited by the opponent as strongpoints for his pieces. These disadvantages are most apparent following simplification, whereas the side with the IQP possesses several advantages which are present in the middlegame. First and foremost, the IQP confers a space advantage, which makes it easy to regroup the pieces and consequently to create threats in different areas of the board, especially on the kingside. Secondly, the IQP serves as support for the central deployment of one or two minor pieces, particularly a knight, which creates the conditions for an attack on the enemy castled king. Thirdly, the side with the isolated pawn can exert pressure along the c- and e- files.”
The author then lists the typical plans for both sides in the IQP battle of ideas:
“The side with the IQP has the following four plans available:
A) kingside attack;
B) opening the game by advancing the isolated pawn;
C) advancing the isolated in order to fix an enemy pawn on an adjacent file;
D) developing activity on the queenside
The side playing against the IQP employs basically two methods:
A) simplification of the position, aiming for an endgame;
B) transformation from an IQP structure to a structure with hanging pawns.”
The subsequent six sub-sections of the chapter analyses each of these plans in turn.
Sub-section A Kingside attack
This begins with an exemplary attacking game by Vladimir Tukmakov against Viktor Kortchnoi from the Soviet championship Riga 1960: the great defensive player Kortchnoi is smashed up. Well worth a visit: get the book to enjoy this slugfest with good notes.
The author adds this observation: “In the structure with a pawn on e6 versus a pawn on d4, the ‘hot spots’ where White often sacrifices his pieces are e6 and f7, while in the structure with pc7/c6 versus pd4, there is a typical sacrifice, as seen in the following game.”
Here is a modern game in the Petroff that shows these demolition of these ‘hotspots’.
Nils Grandelius (2653) – Anna Zatonskih (2424)
IoM Masters 2017
7…Bg4 (7…Be7 is more common and scores better, but Stockfish likes both moves) 8.c4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.h3 Be6 12.Re1 0-0 A typical IQP position
13.a3 (White employs a standard plan, preparing the well known queen on d3 and bishop on c2 battery eyeing up h7) 13…Re8 14.Bc2 (It is interesting to note that after 14.Qc2 h6 15.Rxe6!? white has sufficient compensation for the exchange)
A common sort of IQP position which contains hidden venom.
14…h6?? (This looks wrong in this type of position and is totally refuted. Black should wait for Qd3 and play g6 solidifying the b1-h7 diagonal, better is 14…Bf6, 15.Qd3 g6 16.Bh6 (or 16.Ba4!? with a tiny edge according to the iron monster) Nxc3 17.bxc3 Bf5 with equality) 15.Qd3 Nf6
The erroneous h-pawn advance is severely punished with a thematic breakthrough:
16.Bxh6! Winning by force 16…gxh6 (16…Qd7 is hopeless: 17.Bg5 g6 18.d5! Nxd5 19.Rxe6! Qxe6 20.Nxd5 crashes through) 17.Rxe6! Killing, as all the white squares collapse.
17…Qd7 (17…fxe6 leads to a typical finish: 18.Qg6+ Kh8 19.Qxh6+ Kg8 20.Ng5! bringing in the third piece for the attack and mate follows quickly, for example 20…Rf8 21.Bh7+ Kh8 22.Bf5+ Kg8 23.Bxe6+ Rf7 24.Bxf7#) 18.Rae1 fxe6 19.Qg6+ Kf8 20.Qxh6+ Kg8
21.Ne5 (White can also win in a similar manner to the line given above: 21.Qg6+ Kh8 22.Ng5 Rf8 23. Qh6+ Kg8 24.Bh7+ Kh8 25.Bf5+) Nxe5 22.dxe5 Bf8 23.Qxf6 Bg7 24.Qg6 Qd2 25.Re3 Re7 26.Ne4 Qc1+ 27.Kh2 Qxb2 28.Nf6+ Kf8 29.Nd7+ Rxd7 30.Rf3+ 1-0
A lesson in care about moving pawns in front of the king. A surprising mistake, 14…h6?? from an IM standard player.
Plan B: opening the game by advancing the IQP
Here is a superb game from the young Boris Spassky showing his brilliant tactical and positional skills:
Boris Spassky – Avtonomov
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 b5 8.Bb3 (The main line, but 8.Bd3 is also a played) 8…Nc6 (Modern theory prefers 8…Bb7! or Stockfish prefers 8…Be7) 9.Nc3
A common position from the queen’s gambit accepted. Black now plays an obvious move that is a serious mistake.
9…cxd4? (Once again 9…Bb7! is the modern main line, Stockfish, again prefers kingside development with 9…Be7) 10.Rd1!
The point, a standard resource in the QGA after a previous Qe2 10…Bb7? (10…Na5 was essential surrendering a pawn for the bishop pair: 11.Nxd4 Bd6 12.e4 Qc7 13.Nf3 Nxb3 14.axb3 Be7 15.Nxb5 Qb8 16.Nc3 0-0) 11.exd4 Nb4? (The losing move! It is hard to believe that Black will not survive ten moves from here, 11…Na5 is better, but 12.d5! anyway which is similar to the game leads to a clear advantage to white)
The d5 square is covered five times, but….
12.d5!! (Completely crushing. Now we see why Stockfish liked Be7 on moves 8 and 9) 12…Nbxd5 (12…Nfxd5 loses a piece to 13.a3!) 13.Bg5! (Developing the last minor piece with a killing pin and more pressure on d5, simply 14.Nxd5 is threatened winning a piece)
13…Be7 Forced 14.Bxf6 (Crunch!, smashing up black’s kingside, so his king will never find shelter) 14…gxf6 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 (15…exd5 is better but black is still lost) 16.Bxd5 exd5 17.Nd4
Black’s position is a sorry sight. His king has no haven: the end is swift. Notice how the white steed is the key cavalryman in the execution.
17…Kf8 (17…0-0 18.Nf5! wins a piece owing to the threat of 19.Qg4+ mating) 18.Nf5 h5 19.Rxd5! Qxd5 20.Qxe7+ Kg8 21.Qxf6 A crisp finish in a fine attacking game 1-0
An exemplary display from the future World Champion.
Subsection C: advancing the isolated pawn to fix an enemy pawn
This plan occurs most frequently in structures with a black IQP arising from the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit. There are cases with a white IQP in the Gruenfeld Defence for example.
The reviewer will show some key positions from a game Nikolay Novotelnov – Igor Bondarevsky Moscow 1951.
This is the standard tabiya from the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit.
In the position below, Bondarevsky played a memorable idea which is not obvious 12…d4!
Boris Spassky was a pupil of Bondarevsky and in the position above played 12…h6 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.Nxb6 axb6 15.Qb3 Qd8 16.a3 d4!
Spassky’s expertise in this variation played a large part in his victory over Petrosian in the World Championship match in 1969.
The Bondarevsky game reached this position after move 21:
It’s all gone horribly wrong for white who has to endure horrendous pressure down the e-file. Black duly won after several mistakes by both sides.
Here is an instructive game from another former World Champion, Vasily Smyslov.
According to modern theory, this position should hold no terrors for black.
9…Nd7 9…Bg4 is a decent move: 10. Bc4 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Bxd4 12. Rd1 Bxc3+ 13.Qxc3 Qd6 14.0-0 Nd7 15.Rfe1 Rac8 16.Qd4 Nb6 17.Bb3 with equality. This looks slightly easier to play for white who has more space and pressure on the e-pawn, Kasparov outplayed his opponent and went on to win.
Stockfish likes 9…Bg7 10.Qb3 e6!?
There are a lot of gambits in the Bg5 systems against the Gruenfeld after white has surrendered his dark squared bishop. This gambit is totally sound: after 11.dxe6 Bxe612.Qxb7 Qe8! 13.Be2 Nc6 14.0-0 Rb8 15.Qa6 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bxd4 17.Rad1 Bg7 With equality, black’s bishop pair and activity compensate for the pawn.
The Smyslov-Liberzon game continued:
10.Bc4 Nb6 11.Bb3 Bg4 12.0-0 Rc8 (12…Nc8 to blockade the d-pawn is also fine) 13.Re1 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Bxd4 15.Rad1
This position is equal and black can continue as he did in the game or retain his bishop with equality in both cases. The reviewer agrees with the author and prefers the latter course. Equal does not mean drawn and white’s space advantage makes his position somewhat easier to play.
15…Bxc3 16.bxc3 Qd6 17.h4
17…h5?! (17…a5! undermining the bishop is better: 18.a4 h5 19.g4 hxg4 20.Qxg4 Rxc3 21.Re6 fxe6 22.Qxg6+ is only a draw)18.Rd4?! (Strike while the iron is hot: 18.g4! hxg4 19.Qxg4 Rxc3 20.h5 with a strong initiative and a clear advantage, e.g. 20…g5 21.Qxg5+ Kh8 21.Qxe7 Nc8 22.Qe4)
18…Kg7 19.Rf4 Rc7? (Disconnecting the rooks with fatal consequences, once again 19…a5! is the right idea with equality)
20.Re6! Qd8 21.Re3 I’ll be back 21…Qd6
22.Rfe4?! (22.g4! sets up a winning attack: notice how the d5-pawn confers on white a space advantage which allows easy manoeuvring of his major pieces whilst black’s rook and knight are still offside) 22…a5! 23.a4 Qf6 (23…Nd7 is better) 24.Rf4 Qd6
25.Re6! (Hello again! This time the rook brings the grim reaper with a specially sharpened scythe.) 25…Qc5 26.Rxg6+! Ouch fxg6 27.Rxf8 Qxc3 28.Qf7+ Kh6 29.Qf4+ Kg7 30.Rf7+ Kg8 31.d6 Qxb3 32.Rf8+ 1-0
Plan D – developing activity on the queenside
Here is one of the author’s games:
Alexander Bitman – Boris Zlotnik Moscow 1979
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ (7.Qe2+ is the main alternative) Nbxd7 8.dxc5 (8.0-0 is more accurate) Bxc5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Nb3 Bb6
In this position, white plays a seemingly natural move that is a mistake because it allows black to gain time for activating his pieces. The reviewer has made the same mistake in a very similar position in an on-line blitz game.
11.Re1?! (11.c3! or 11.Nbd4 is better) Re8! (Preventing 12.Be3) 12.Rxe8+ Qxe8 13.Nbd4 Ne5 (13…Qe4 is interesting: Stockfish likes the game move as well)
14.Bg5?! (A definite mistake, it’s as if white thought that black’s queen was still on d8! Better is 14.Nxe5 Qxe5 15.Be3 Re8 16.c3 h5 17.h3 with equality) Ne4 15.Bh4!? (The bishop is out of play here, 15.Bf4 is better; 15.Be3 Nc4!) 15…Nxf3+ 16.Nxf3 (Strangely 16.gxf3 is better ejecting the powerful knight at the cost of a weakened kingside)
16…Qb5! (Attacking the weak queenside which is made more effective because of white’s misplaced bishop) 17.Rb1 Re8 18.a3? ( A fatal weakening: better was 18.Qd3 or 18.c3 with the idea of 19.Nd4) 18…h6 19.Qd3 Qxd3 (Good enough to win a pawn and the game, but 19…Qc5!? is even better 20.b4 Qc6 with a big advantage) 20.cxd3 Nc5 Winning a pawn and the full point 21.Re1 (21.d4 Nb3 wins the d4-pawn because of white’s weak back rank) 21…Rxe1+ 22.Nxe1 Nb3 23.Nc2 Nc1 24.Nb4 (24.d4 Nb3 wins a pawn) 24…Bd4! 25.b3 Bc5! 26.Nxd5 Bxa3 27.b4 a6 28.Be7 f6 29.d4 Ne2+ 30.Kf1 Nxd4 and black won the pawn up technical endgame 0-1
The last two subsections of this chapter cover the two main plans for the defending side.
1.6 Plan A: simplification of the position
Here is a smooth win from the former World Champion, Anatoly Karpov at the height of his powers, over another ex-champion Boris Spassky.
Anatoly Karpov (2705) – Boris Spassky (2640)
Montreal Montreal 1979
10…Be7 (This move is still one of the main lines today, however 10…Rd8!? is the latest theory leading to a small edge for white, one complicated line is: 11.Nd2! d4!? 12.Nb3 Qb6 13.Na4 Bb4+, 14.axb4 Qxb4+ 15.Nd2 e5 16.Bg5 Qa5 17.Qb3 Nb4 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Be2 Bd7 20.Ra1 dxe3 21.fxe5 b5 22.0-0 bxa4 23.Qc3 with a small edge. The only reason the reviewer gives this line is to demonstrate the extent of computer home preparation today: in Karjakin-Anand, Shamkir 2019, white won after playing the first 36 moves of home preparation) 11.Nd2 Bd7? (11…e5! is better and is the main line leading to rough equality) 12.Be2 Rfc8?! (Again 12…e5! is better limiting white’s edge) 13.0-0 Qd8 14.cxd5 exd5 (14…Nxd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Qb3 with a definite edge) 15.Nf3 h6
Karpov makes a pertinent note: “The exchange of at least one pair of knights favours White, as it makes it easier to control the d4-square. Furthermore the f3-square is available for the e2 bishop, exerting direct pressure on the d5-pawn.”
16.Ne5 Be6 17.Nxc6 (17…Bxc6? 18.Ba6! nets an exchange, showing the power of white’s active bishops) Rxc6 18.Bf3 Qb6 19.Be5! Threatening to win the d5-pawn forcing black’s reply
19…Ne4 20.Qe2 Nxc3 21.Bxc3
21…Rd8 (Stockfish recommends 21…Bxa3!? 22.Bxg7! Kxg7 23.bxa3 Qb3! 24.e4 Rc2 25.Qe1 d4 26.e5 d3 27.Qe4 d2 28.Qf4 Qc4 29.Be4 Rb2= Few human players would choose a line leading to a smashed up kingside with no material compensation.) 22.Rd3! Rcd6 23.Rfd1 23…R6d7
The position has clarified with a clear white advantage. Black has no compensation for the weak d-pawn. The author makes an interesting historical comment here stating that in the 1960s, many Soviet players erroneously believed that an IQP cannot be exploited without knights. This game should disabuse anyone of that myth. Karpov wins a model game with a patient build-up and some prophylactic moves: sit back and appreciate the game.
White now begins the assault to force a second weakness with a fine demonstration of a kingside initiative. The author points out that white has another good plan 31.Bd4 followed by doubling rooks on the c-file. The fact that white has two excellent plans shows how bad black’s cheerless position is.
Forced as 31…f5 allows 32.Qg6 Bf8 33.Be5 with the winning idea of …g3-g4
32.Qd1 Qb5 33.g4
33…g5? (The fatal error after defending for so long: black was probably is time trouble and lashed out wanting to do something, 33..Bf7! 34.h4 Qc6 35.Bd4 Bc5 36.Rc3 keeps white’s edge but black is still resisting) 34.Kh1 Qc6 35.f5 Bf7
36.e4! The decisive breakthrough against the IQP Kg7 37.exd5 Qc7 38.Re2 b5 39.Rxe7 Rxe7 40.d6 Qc4 41.b3 1-0
A didactic display from Karpov giving black not one iota of counterplay.
The final subsection covers:
Transformation from an IQP structure to a structure with hanging pawns
Here is an impressive blockade with an exquisite control of tactics from the former World Boss of chess, Garry Kasparov.
13.Bb2?! (A weak move as the bishop never sees the light of day. The main line is 13.Bd3, 13.Ne5 is ok as well with equality) 13… Bxf3 14.Qxf3? (The ugly 14.gxf3 had to be played, play could continue 14…Nc6 15.Bb3 Nh5 16.c4 Nf4 17.Qe3 with a definite black advantage) 14…Qxc4! A far sighted exchange sacrifice based on the weakness of the white squares and the imminent danger to white’s queen 15.Qxa8 The tempting cake is ingested but is laced with poison 15… Nc6 16.Qb7 Nd5
Black has a big advantage with a vice like grip on the white squares. The difference in activity of the respective sides’ pieces is quite striking: the only active white piece, the queen, is all alone and in dire danger of death.
17.Re1 Rb8 18.Qd7 Rd8 19.Qb7 h5?! (A rare Kasparov inaccuracy, 19…Na5! 20.Qxa7 Qc6 21.c4 Nxc4 22.Rac1 Nf4 23.f3 Nd3 24.Rxc4 Qxc4 25.Qxb6 Rc8 26.Rf1 h6 is easily winning for black. Notice how the knights stomp all over white combining threats against the queen, the kingside and white’s passively placed bishop and rooks) 20.Bc1? (The final mistake: Stockfish points out that with 20.Rac1! White can still put up a fight) 20…Na5 21.Qxa7 Qc6 22.Qa6 Nc4 23.Rb1 Nc7
After 24.Qa7 Ra8, the greedy queen meets her end on the executioner’s block 0-1
Chapter 2 – The Carlsbad structure
This is the famous Carlsbad structure, named from the great Carlsbad tournament in 1923 (in the modern day Czech Republic close to the German border), is one of the most important pawn structures in the game of chess both historically and in the modern game:
A deep understanding of how to play the positions with the Carlsbad structure is the hallmark of a very strong player and I suspect, every GM. The British GM, Keith Arkell was once asked how did you become a GM? He quipped: Carlsbad structures, and rook endings. Of course, Keith has a profound knowledge of more than just those two topics, but his pithy reply contains much more than a grain of truth. The titanic struggle between Capablanca and Alekhine for the World Championship in 1927 featured many games in the queen’s gambit including the Carlsbad structure. The reviewer’s scant knowledge of these games is a gap in his chess education. Many GMs have observed that one of their key skills over lower rated players is their superior knowledge and praxis of rook endings.
Back to the topic at hand: the author shares his knowledge of these positions with a lucid listing of both sides respective plans:
“Plan A: minority attack with b4-b5xc6;
Plan B: attack in the centre with e3-e4;
Plan C: kingside attack with both sides castled on the kingside;
Plan D: kingside attack with the kings castled on opposite sides;
Plan E: play in positions with both sides castled on the queenside.
Black in turn has the following methods of defence available:
i) Kingside counterattack with pawns;
ii) Kingside counterattack with pieces;
iii) Positional methods of defence, e.g. erecting a barrier with b7-b5 or controlling the squares c4 and b5 with the pieces;
iv) The central break c6-c5;
v) Counterattack against White’s queenside castled position.
Black’s choice of defensive method depends on which plan White adopts. For instance, method v) can only occur in the plan of Plan D or E.”
Plan A: the minority attack
This is a frequently adopted plan and is covered in great detail in this book. “The minority attack is a typical strategic method, which has the aim of creating a weak pawn in the opponent’s ranks, precisely where he has a pawn majority. The same procedure is applicable to a large number and variety of middlegame positions.”
There are many variations/lines of the Sicilian where Black launches a minority attack against white’s queenside.
This next position shows a celebrated endgame resulting from a classic minority attack: Kotov-Pachman from Venice 1950.
Stockfish helpfully suggests 42..h5! with a microscopic edge to White. I am not disagreeing with the silicon brain, but white has a more pleasant position to play. Black only has one weakness, so he can hold with patient, careful defence looking to go active at the right time. However, a decent GM went down here.
I will not reproduce a detailed analysis of this ending here: I will give the key positions in this ending including a fascinating line showing black’s defensive resources.
42… Kf6?! (42…h5! is better preventing white’s next cramping move) 43.g4! White fixes the h7-pawn as a potential weakness 43…Ke6?!
White has made significant progress but black can still hold.
51.Nc5+ Ke7?! (51…Bxc5 giving up a pawn offers good drawing chances) 52.Rc8 Bxc5 53.dxc5 Kd7 54.Rh8 Ke6 55.Rd8
55…Ke7? (The decisive mistake: counterplay with 55…Ra4! holds. This shows that the decision on whether to stay passive or go active is not obvious even for a strong GM: White now wraps up efficiently) 56.Rd6 Ra6 57.g5 fxg5 58.hxg5 Kf7 59.Kg3 Ke7 60.f3 Ra3 61.Kf4 Ra4+ 62.Ke5 Ra3 63.Rxc6 Rxe3+ 64.Kxd5 Rd3+ 65.Ke4 Rc3 66.f4 Rc1 67.Rc7+ Kd8 68.Rxh7 Rxc5 69.Rf7 1-0
Buy the book to see this endgame analysed in more detail.
A typical double rook endgame arising from a minority attack. Black only has one weakness but he is totally passive awaiting white’s attempts to breach his fortress. Stockfish defends this ending without breaking a sweat, however for flesh and blood, down on the clock in an increment finish against a good, grinding GM, there is zero chance of a draw. Buy the book to see how Mark Hebden won this ending.
Here is a model game from another former World Champion.
A Carlsbad structure from the 5.Bg5 line against the Gruenfeld.
10.Bd3 (White can also play 10.Be2, Qb3 or even b4 straightaway, none of these moves secure an edge against accurate play) Nc6 (The more common move order is 10…c6 11.0-0 Qd6 12.Rc1 a5) 11.0-0 Ne7 (Stockfish agrees with the reviewer’s preference: 11…a5) 12.b4
Bf5? [This exchange of bishops is a poor positional error as the game is now closer to the Kotov-Pachman ending. Better is 12…c6 13.Rc1 (13.b5 c5!) 13…a6 14.a4 Qd6 15.Rb1 Be6 16.h3 Nc8 with equal chances ] 13.Bxf5 Nxf5 14.b5 (14.Qb3 c6 15.b5 was more incisive)
Occupying the obvious square for the knight, Stockfish prefers 14…a6 15.bxa6 (15.a4 axb5 16.axb5 c5 17.bxc6 bxc6 18.Na4 Nd6 19.Qc2 Nc4 20.Nd2 Nxd2 21.Qxd2 and an endgame similar to Kotov-Pachman is near which we know is tenable but unpleasant) 15.bxa6 Rxa6 16.Qb3 Ra5 17.Rac1 c5 18.dxc5 Rxc5 19.Nb5 with a small advantage to white.
15.Qb3 Ne7 16.Rfc1 Kh8? (What on earth is this move for? 16…Rfc8 looks more relevant, but white is better in any case) 17.Rc2 h6 18.Rac1 c6
19.Na4! (19.bxc6 bxc6 20.Na4 20…Rfb8 gives black some play down the b-file) 19…Rab8 20.g3 (Typical prophylaxis securing the back rank and creating a stronger barrier against f5-f4, the direct 20.Nc5 is even stronger) 20…Kh7 21.Nc5 Rfd8?! Loses the c-pawn quickly, but Stockfish already assesses black’s game as dead, 21…b6 puts up more resistance 22.bxc6 bxc6 23.Qa4!
Eyeing both weak pawns on a7 and c6; this is why black should have played a6 or a5 earlier to exchange off the a-pawn 23…Qf6 24.Kg2 (The ever cautious Petrosian improves his king before winning the c-pawn as he saw that it cannot run away. This follows the Russian rule about about improving your king before the final assault. 24.Ne5 wins the pawn more quickly: 24…Ra8 25.Nb7 Rdc8 26.Nxc6) 24…Ra8 25.Nb7 Re8 26.Na5 g5 27.h3 Qf5 28.Nxc6 With the fall of this pawn, the game is over. Petrosian gives his opponent no chance. Qe4 29.Rc5 f5 30.Qc2 Nxc6 31.Rxc6 f4 32.exf4 gxf4 33.g4 Bxd4 34.Qd2 Bg7 35.Re1 Qa4 36.Qxd5 Rxe1 37.Nxe1 Rf8 38.Nf3 Kh8 39.Rc7 a6 40.Qb7 Rg8 41.Nh4 1-0
I like the didactic commentary of the author on the strategic features following this cruising crush by Petrosian:
“1. It is essential for white to carry out the b4-b5 advance in circumstances that do not allow Black to reply with c6-c5, which means that white needs to control the c-file and in particular the c5 square.
2. It is useful for white to exchange his own dark-squared bishop for the enemy knight, since this gains several tempi (the black bishop is badly placed on f6) and he can attack the c6-pawn with his knight after the usual minority attack.
3. The move g2-g3 is also good for White, forming a ‘saw’ against the possible advance of the enemy f-pawn.
4. It is appropriate for Black to play a7-a6 (or sometimes a5), since after White advances with a2-a4 and b4-b5, Black is able to exchange his a6-pawn, leaving him with just one weakness on c6 instead of two.
5. in anticipation of White’s b4-b5 advance, Black should prepare either Kingside counterplay or the advance c5.”
The author goes on to discuss the methods of defence against the minority attack beginning with:
i) Kingside counterattack with pawns
The following modern day clash shows this theme well even though Black lost:
Lev Aronian (2777) – Vishy Anand (2797)
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.d4 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Qa4+ Nc6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.e3 0-0 10.Be2 a6 11.0-0 Be6 12.Rfc1 Bd6 13.a3 Ne7 14.b4 c6 This time we reach the Carlsbad structure from the Ragozin 15.Qb3 g5! This looks good as black has the bishop pair pointing at the kingside. After this game, the white players of this variation went back to the drawing board as black is clearly better here with an initiative.
16.Qb2 Qg7 (Stopping e4 and preparing a possible f-pawn battering ram) 17.Na4 Rae8 18.Nc5 Bc8
Too slow and stereotyped forming the Nimzowitsch saw. White had to get on with it on the queenside with 19.a4! f5 20.b5 (20.Nd3?! f4 21.exf4 Ng6 22.Re1 Nxf4 23.Nfe5 now both 23…gxf4 and 23…Nxf4 lead to a black initiative with a superior position) 20…axb5 21.axb5 21…f4 22.Nd3 fxe3 23.fxe3 Nf5 24.bxc6 Nxe3 25.cxb7 Bxb7 26.Ra7 Re7 27.Nfe5 with approximate equality!
The game continued:
19…Nf5!? (This move is good, but Stockfish, the author and the reviewer prefer the obvious 19…f5! which is clearly much better for black, e.g. 20.Kh1 Ng6 21.Nd3 Qe7 22.Re1 Qe4 23.Kg1 f4 with a dangerous attack) 20.Bd3 Qf6 21.Rf1 h5! 22.Rac1 h4! 23.Qd2
23…Nh6? (A tactical blunder retreating the knight to the wrong square, letting White off the hook, 23…Ng7 is good, after say 24.Be2 the obvious 24…hxg3! leads to a big advantage for black; 24…Re7 is even better according to Stockfish, White’s position is unappealing in both cases; 23…hxg3 is also excellent for black ) 24.e4! Clearly missed by Anand
24…Bxc5?! (24…Be7! 25.Ne5 dxe4 26.Bxe4 Rd8 is equal, Anand probably missed that 24…Qxf3 loses to 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26.e5+ Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 28.Rc3!! Nxd4 29.Qxh4+) 25.e5! A powerful Zwischenzug
25…Qg7? (The final mistake, 25…Bxb4 26.axb4 Qg7 27.Nxg5 Bf5 28.Nf3 hxg3 29.fxg3 Bh3 leads to a slight edge for white) 26.bxc5 Now black is dead 26…f6 27.exf6 Rxf6 28.Nxg5 Bf5 29.Rce1 Rff8 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.Nf3 Bxd3 32.Qxd3 Re4 33.Re1 hxg3 34.hxg3 1-0
A pity that Vishy spoiled a well played game but his approach renders this line unplayable for White.
ii) Kingside attack with pieces
Here is a game played by the brilliant attacking player Rashid Nezhmetdinov (who famously once beat Mikhail Tal in the style of Tal).
Mark Taimanov – Rashid Nezhmetdinov
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.e3 0-0 9.Bd3 Re8 10.0-0 Nf8 11.Rab1 a5 (A small refinement as the open a-file after a3 and b4 by White could be useful. However its drawback could have been exploited by White on move 14.)
12.a3 Ne4 (The standard move, but the silicon brain prefers 12…Ng6) 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.b4 (White should probably change plans here and remove black’s best minor piece and exploit the b6 square with 14.Bxe4! dxe4 15.Ne5 Bf5 16.Rfc1 Ne6 17.Nc4 Nc7 with an edge for white) axb4 15.axb4 Ng6 (The engine also likes 15…Bf5) 16.b5 Bg4
17.Nd2? (This is a definite mistake which loses, more prudent is 17.Bxe4! removing black’s most dangerous minor piece: 17…dxe4 18.Nd2 with a definite advantage to white) 17…Nxd2 18.Qxd2 Nh4! (Suddenly black has whipped up a very dangerous attack with threats of 19…Nf3+ and 19…Nh3)
19.f3!? (19.Be2 Bh3! 20.g3 wins an exchange, so Taimanov gives up a pawn) Qxe3+ 20.Qxe3 Rxe3 21.fxg4 Rxd3 22.bxc6 bxc6 23.Ne2 Rd2 24.Rf2 h6 25.Rbf1 Ng6 26.h3 f6 (This is clearly winning for black) 27.Ng3 Rxd4 winning a second pawn, but Black failed to convert and only drew!
iii) Positional methods of defence
The following game shows an important method of defence.
Pedrag Nikolic (2635) – Vladimir Kramnik (2790)
Monte Carlo Blindfold 1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 Be7 7.e3 Bf5 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 (9.Bxf6 is more accurate: 9…Bxf6 10.Qxd3, so black has to waste time getting his b8 knight to a good square like f6) 9…Nbd7 10.0-0 0-0 11.Rab1 a5
Zolotnik makes the pertinent observation that the minority attack is nothing like as effective with the white squared bishops off the board. One of the main reasons for this is that the black knights can gain a strong square on c4. White should manoeuvre patiently.
12.a3 Ne4 13.Bxe7 Qxe7
14.b4? (Too stereotyped blindly following a standard plan without considering the subtle differences with a standard minority attack when the white squared bishops are on the board. b4 had to be prepared properly, e.g. 14.Qc2 f5 15.b4 axb4 16.axb4 Ra3 17.Rb3 with equality) 14…b5! (The point, a Black knight will land on c4 blocking the c-file pressure)
15.Qc2 axb4 16.axb4 Nd6 17.Rb3 Nb6!
Let us absorb Vladimir Kramnik’s assessment of this position:
“The position has clarified. The knight goes to c4 blocking all White’s play on the queenside, after which the main events transfer to the kingside, where Black has more resources. Although in general the play seems nothing spectacular, in reality it is a classic game for the Carlsbad structure.
18.Ne5 Rfc8 19.Nd3 Nbc4! The other knight can move over to the kingside at its leisure. 20.Nc5Re8 21.h3 g6 22.Rc1
22…Ra7 (22…Nf5 is probably even better) 23.Qd1 h5 24.Kh1 Qg5 25.Rbb1 Rae7 26.Ra1
Black has skilfully moved his forces over to the new theatre of battle on the kingside: the end is close for White.
26…Nf5 Black could have sacrificed the knight on e3 now: 26…Nxe3! 27.fxe3 Rxe3 28. Ra2 Nf5 29.Rf2 Qg3 30.Re2 Rxe2 31.Nxe2 Qf2 winning
27.Ra2 Ncxe3! 28.fxe3 Rxe3 29.Rf2
29…Qg3! wins 30.Qd2Nh4! 31.Nd7 Nxg2! White’s king will die of exposure
Back to the game 30.Qd2 Amazingly 30.Kg1 holds according to our silicon friend 30… Nxd4
31.Rcf1?( Again 31.Kg1 holds) Nf5! with crushing threats 32.Rxf5 gxf5 33.Nd1 Re1 34.Kg1 R8e2 35.Qc3 Rxd1 0-1
Although Black muffed the final attack in the game allowing white a couple of chances to hold on, the really educational part of the game was from moves 14 to 26.
Another defensive method is the advance c6-c5-c4. Here is another lesson from Vlad:
Topalov (2740) – Kramnik (2790)
Linares 15th 1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 b6 8.Be2 Bb7 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.cxd5 exd5 11.b4 The bishop on b7 is misplaced compared with the Anand game above where it sits on e6 11…c6 12.0-0 a5
13.b5 (This is the most common move which scores better than the alternatives which are 13.a3 and 13.bxa5. It is interesting that Stockfish evaluates them all roughly the same) 13…c5! 14.Re1 (The modern main line is 14.Ne5 cxd4 15.exd4 Bxe5 16.dxe5 d4 17.Na4 Qg5 18.Bg4 Qxe5 19.Nxb6 Ra7 with an edge to white) 14…Re815.Rc1 Nd7 16.g3 (16.dxc5 Nxc5 17.Nd4 Qd6=) 16…Nf8 17.Na4?!
This move is controversial, probably better is 17.dxc5 bxc5 18.Na4 c4 19.Nc5 19…Qb6 (19…Bc8 is interesting) 20.Nxb7 Rxb7 21.a4 Ne6= 17…c4! Fixing the structure, so the weak spots b6,c6 will be less accessible. The bishops will enable black to position his pieces in such a way, as to enable activity on the kingside. The e4 break is hard for White to achieve. 18.Bf1 Qd6 (18…Qc7 is also good) 19.Bg2 Rad8 20.h4 Ne6 (The black squared bishop should be improved to the a3-f8 diagonal where it can influence the game more viz. 20…Qc7 21.Nc3 Be7, black is a bit better) 21.Nc3 g6 22.Nd2 Ba8 (Black has a total clamp on the position stopping e4, Stockfish assesses this position as pretty equal)
23.h5?! [This looks slightly suspect, after 23.f4!? with the idea of transferring the knight to e5, 23…Ng7 24.Bh3 (24.Nf3 Nf5!) 24…Qc7 25.Nf3 Be7 26.Ne5 Ba3 27.Rc2 Bb4 black is to be preferred]
Back to the game: 23…g5 24.Nf1 Be7 The first part of a regrouping of the black forces that improves his position considerably
25.g4?!Weakening the h2-b8 diagonal which is dangerous as Black has a dark squared bishop; white’s own bishop is becoming bad with the self induced structural changes on the kingside. 25.Nh2 is superior, e.g. 25…f5 26.g4 f4 27.e4! dxe4 28.Bxe4 Nxd4 29.Bxa8 Rxa8 30.Ne4 Qd5 31.Nf3 Nxf3+ 22.Qxf3 and the strong knight on e4 compensates for the pawn minus.
Black has a clear regrouping plan of Bc7, Qd6,Bc8,Rf8 and f5 crashing through
30.Nf5 Stopping f5 for good but at a great cost. The dark squares around White’s king look sickly and White’s light squared bishop is a bad bishop now. 30…Nxf5 31.gxf5 Bb4 32.Kg2 Qd6 33.f3 White is positionally busted and must await Black’s final assault 33…Re7 34.Re2 Rde8 35.Rce1 Qf6 36.Bg4
The once proud bishop on g2 is now choked by its own foot soldiers.
36…Bd6 37.Qd1 Bb4 38.Qc2 Rd8 39.Rd1 Bc8 40.e4? The f5-pawn is a source of great trouble for white, so he panics and defends it: but this last move before the time control is a decisive mistake. White had to sit tight and make Black find the winning breakthrough: 40.Na2 lasts longer. 40…Bxc3 41.e5 [41.Qxc3 dxe4 42.fxe4 (42.Rxe4 42…Rxe4 43.fxe4 Bb7 44.Qe3 c3 45.d5 c2 46.Rc1 Rc8 with a huge advantage) 42…Bb7 43.Bf3 g4! 44.Bxg4 Rxe4 45.Rxe4 Bxe4+ 46.Kf2 Bd3-+]
41…Rxe5!! 42.dxe5 (42.Rxe5 Bxd4! 43.Re2 Bc3 winning with the simple idea of d5-d4) 42…Bxe5 The triumph of strategical concept, despite an exchange sacrifice black controls the whole board and pawns c4-d5 will start rolling. 43.Rde1 Bc7 44.Re8+ Kg7 45.Rxd8 Bxd8 46.Rd1 Bb7 47.f4 d4+ 48.Bf3 d3 0-1 (49.Qxc4 Qb2+ 50.Kg3 Bxf3 51.Kxf3 Qe2+ wins)
Plan B: attack in the centre with e3-e4
This plan can occur in two forms depending on where White’s Ng1 is developed to e2 or f3. The first one is based on creating a pawn centre by means of f3 and e4. The second way of playing e4 is with the king’s knight on f3 leading to an IQP position.
The game below shows the first Soviet World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik at work against possibly the strongest player never to become the top dog: Paul Keres.
11.Rab1 (The author points out that Stockfish likes Botvinnik’s choice here, but modern players usually play 11.f3 immediately) 11…Bd6?! (This move is based on a tactical oversight,11…a5 is better here) 12.Kh1 Ng6?! Continuing the faulty plan
13.f3! Be7 (A loss of time, Black realised that his intended 13…h6? fails to 14.Bxf6! Qxf6 15.e4!Qh4 16.e5!) 14.Rbe1 (14.e4 dxe4 15.fxe4 Ng4 16.Bd2 c5 17.Nd5 cxd4! is unclear which was not Botvinnik’s style)
14…Nd7?! (It’s odd to waste more time simply exchanging off the dark squared bishops, 14…Be6 is better or 14…h6 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Ng3 Nf8 17.Qf2 Bh4 18.e4 with a small edge to white) 15.Bxe7 Rxe7 16.Ng3 Nf6
17.Qf2! White is clearly better now as he prepares e4 and has a lead in development 17…Be6? (A kind of pseudo development of the bishop subjecting black’s minor pieces to a potential pawn roller, better is 17…b6 but Black is struggling anyway.) 18.Nf5
Better is 18.f4! which Stockfish assesses as winning already viz: 18…Bd7 19.f5 Nf8 20.e4! dxe4 21.Ngxe4 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 f6 23.Qg3 with a very strong attack for White: look at Black’s pieces cowering waiting for the inevitable end.
18…Bxf5 19.Bxf5 Qb6 20.e4! dxe4 21.fxe4 Rd8
22.e5! (Pushing the defensive knight away and preparing Ne4-Nd6) 22…Nd5 23.Ne4 Nf8 24.Nd6 Qc7
25.Be4! Stockfish likes Botvinnik’s move 25…Ne6 26.Qh4 g6 27.Bxd5! Removing one of Black’s best pieces, it’s now close to the end for Black 27… cxd5 28.Rc1 Qd7 29.Rc3 Rf8
A crushing strategic win for Botvinnik. One of the main reasons that Keres never got to the pinnacle was Botvinnik’s continual strategic mastery over him. Keres was a brilliant theoretician and attacking player but Botvinnik had clearly worked out how to play against Keres.
Plan C: kingside attack with both sides castled on the kingside
This plan can take two forms: The first is based on the advance f4 and is sometimes accompanied with the e4 break. The second is characterised by the advances g4 and h4.
The first plan here is demonstrated by Tigran Petrosian:
11.a3!? Not the commonest move but not without bite 11…Ne4 (A common response, but 11…Bg4 is ok as well) 12.Bf4
12…Ng5 (An interesting move; 12…f5 is the main line bolstering the knight but conceding e5; the author suggests a move not in Megabase which is surprising 12…Bf5!? although it involves a pawn sacrifice) 13.Nxg5
13.Ne5 is interesting keeping all the pieces on followed by f3 and e4 securing a space advantage with a full board of pieces, e.g. 13…g6 14.Rae1 Nge6 15.Bg3 Ng7 16.f3 Nf5 17.Bf2 Be6 18.Kh1 Nd6 19.e4 with an edge
13…Bxg5 14.Bxg5 Qxg5 15.Rae1 Bd7 16.f4 Qh6 17.Qf2
17…Re7? (17…f5! had to played despite weakening the e5 square and leaving Black with a bad bishop, White would improve his worst piece with 18.Nb1! b6! 19.Nd2 c5 20. Nf3 c4 Black has got counterplay on the queenside, but White is definitely better with a tough fight ahead.) 18.f5! g6 19.e4! dxe4
20.Nxe4 (20.Qg3! is very strong as well: 20…Bxf5 21.Rxf5 Qg7 22.Rf2 Qxd4 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Nxe4 winning; 20…e3 21.Ne4 is very good, e.g. 21…Kh8 22.Qd6 Rae8 23.Qf6+ Kg8 24.Nd6 wins) 20…gxf5 21.Qg3+ Kh8 22.Nd6 f4 Trying to complicate matters
Plan D: kingside attack with opposite side castling
This game is a total annihilation of Black in an exciting good old fashioned kingside hack. Black had his chances but finding the accurate moves when subjected to such a brutal direct attack is not easy.
9.Ng3!? (This move was played in the 32nd game of the Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship match)9…h6 (Capablanca responded rather ineptly 9…Ne8 10.h4!? Ndf6 11.Qc3 Be6 12.Nf5 Bxf5 13.Bxf5 Nd6 14,Bd3 h6 15.Bf4 Rc8 16.g4!? Nfe4? 17,g5 h5 18.Bxe4 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 dx34 20.Qxe4 and white won with his extra pawn.) 10.h4 Nb6! (10…hxg5? is asking for a kicking 11. hxg5 g6 12.gxf6 Nxf6 13.Qd2 Re8 14.0-0-0 and white has a pleasant initiative) 11.Qc2 (11.Nh5!? leads to a perpetual: 11…Nbd7 12. Qf3 Re8! 13. Nxg7! Kxg7 14.Bxh6+ Kxh6 15.Qf4+ Kg7 16.Qg5 drawn) 11…Re8 12.0-0-0 12…hxg5 (Very brave: Stockfish likes this as well as 12…Nc4) 13.hxg5 Ne4 14.Bxe4 dxe4
15.f4 Deliberately complicating the game by not playing one of the two obvious recaptures on e4, 15.Ncxe4 leads to an unbalanced ending: 15…Bxg5 16. Rh5 Bh6 17.Rdh1 f5 18.Nxf5 Bxf5 19.Qxf5 Qxd4 20.Nf6+ gxf6 21.Rxh6 Qc4 22.Qxc4 Nxc4 23.Rg6+ Kf7 24.Rgxf6+ Ke7 25.Rf7+ when white has three pawns for a knight: this looks better for Black as his pieces are very active.
15.Qxe4 Bxg5 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Nce4 Be6 18.Nh5 Bh6 19.Nhf6 Ke7 20.Nxe8 Qxe8 is unclear but probably better for Black
15…Nd5 16.Ngxe4 (16.Rh2 is interesting when 16…f5! is the best reply which may well refute the attack)
16…Nxe3 (Greedy but sufficient to draw at least! The engine likes 16…f5! or 16…Bb4 which seem to be good for Black) 17.Qf2 Nxd1? (17…f5 definitely holds, I will leave the reader to spend some time with the silicon brain) 18.Qh4 f5! 19.Qh5
Kf8?? The losing mistake, taking yet more material leads to a probable draw viz.: 19…fxe4 20.g6 Bh4 21.Rxh4 Qxh4 22.Qxh4 Nxc3 23.bxc3 e3 White is left with a queen and pawns against a host of pieces but can probably draw as Black’s king is horribly exposed. 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Kd1! Using the king to stop the dangerous e-pawn25… Bf5 26.Ke1 e2 27.g4 Bxg4 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.Qh4+ Kd6 30.Qxg4 Re7 31.f5 Rf8 with a black edge 20.Qg6 Kg8 21.Rh7 Qxd4
22.Qh5! Probably the move Black overlooked Qe3+ 23.Kc2 1-0
Plan E: play in positions with both sides castled on the queenside
Here is an impressive game from the World Championship candidate.
12.Nf3!? (White decides to save a tempo by omitting the customary h3 )12…Nf6 (12…Be6 13.Kb1 Nf6 14.Ne5 Ng4 15.Nxg4 Bxg4 16.Rde1 0-0-0 with equality; 12…Bg4 13.Kb1 Nf6 14.Rc1 Bxf3 15.gxf3 0-0-0 16.Qb3 Kb8 17.a4 with a slight edge to White) 13.Kb1 Be6 14.Ka1 (Preparing the minority attack, 14.Rc1 is another idea) 14…0-0-0 15.Na4
Kb8?! (14…Nxa4 removing the potentially annoying knight is better) 16.Rc1 Rhe8 (16…Nxa4 17.Qxa4 Ne4 18.Rc2 Rhe8 19.Rhc1 f6 20.Ne1 Bf5 with a slight edge for White) 17.Nc5 Bc8 18.b4 (Hasty, 18.Nd2 stops Black’s next move) 18…Ne4
19.a4 (The minority attack continues even though the kings are on the queenside, 19.b5! cxb5 20.Bxb5 Rg8 21.Qb2 Be6 leads to a slight edge for White) 19…Nd6! (Fighting for c4) 20.Nd2 (20…h5 21.Rhd1 g6 22.a5 Nd7 23.Nf3 a6 is roughly equal) 20…Qf6 21.Rhf1
21…Bf5?! (This is a typical move in the Carlsbad structure, but the bishop is a good defensive piece here holding black’s structure together) 22.Bxf5 Qxf5 23.Qxf5 Nxf5 24.a5
Possibly the decisive mistake, the retreat into the corner is better 24…Na8! 25.a6 b6 26.Nd3 Ne7 27.Ne5 f6 28.Nxc6+ Nxc6 29.Rxc6 Nc7 white has a slight edge
25.a6! Undermining the c6-pawn with a definite White edge
Black’s two weaknesses on a7 and c6 are covered. To win the game, White must open the position to increase the bridgehead for his more active rooks. This can be achieved by arranging the opening of the centre/kingside.
39…f6 40.f3 f5 Hindering e4 but White can break with g4 instead 41.Nd3 Ke6 42.Ne5 Rc7 43.g4 fxg4 44.fxg4 h5 45.h3 hxg4 46.hxg4 Kf6 47.Rf1+ Ke6 48.Rf7 Rg8 49.g5 Rb7
50.g6 Zugzwang 1-0
Chapter 3 – Symmetrical pawn structures
The introduction to this section contains some insightful observations about symmetrical positions. This paragraph stood out: “In modern chess, a tiny advantage, evaluated by the engine at 0.20, is already sufficient reason for the player with white to analyse the corresponding continuation in depth.” The reviewer wonders whether this approach is linked to the impressive technique of Magnus Carlsen in grinding out wins from positions with small edges: an impressive example is Carlsen’s win over Nakamura in the Airthings Masters rapid in December 2020 in the anti-Berlin line: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.Rxe5 0-0 8.Bf1. This game is not covered in this book but is instructive nevertheless.
In section 3.2, Zlotnik enumerates the possible advantages for the side to move in a symmetrical pawn structure situation:
Control of an open file;
Establishment of an outpost;
Active deployment of the pieces.
Control of an open file is such a fundamental concept of chess that this factor alone can win a game. The celebrated game Botvinnik-Alekhine from AVRO 1938 is a superb example of this. Alekhine gets a lousy opening but resists well forcing Botvinnik to show exemplary technique in the endgame. The reviewer will give this game with key positions and a few notes to remind the reviewer of this historic tussle.
Mikhail Botvinnik-Alexander Alekhine AVRO 1938
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e3 Nc6 7.Bc4 cxd4 8.exd4 Be7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1 b6?! Possibly the losing move 11.Nxd5! exd5 12.Bb5 Despite the symmetrical pawn structure Black is now doomed to a passive defence. Weaknesses on the c-file and a slight discoordination of the black pieces give White an easy game in which he can develop his initiative.
12…Bd7? Now after the inevitable exchange of the light-squared bishops the black position becomes even more vulnerable. 13.Qa4 Nb8 Forced 14.Bf4 Bxb5 15.Qxb5 a6 16.Qa4 Keeping the horse on b8 in its stable. 16…Bd6 In order to relieve pressure. 17.Bxd6 Qxd6 18.Rac1 Ra7 19.Qc2! c-file domination
19…Re7 20.Rxe7 Qxe7 21.Qc7 Qxc7 22.Rxc7 After these exchanges the white rook invades the seventh rank. This rook cannot win the game alone, as White must bring in the cavalry. 22…f6! 23.Kf1 23…Rf7 24.Rc8+ Rf8 25.Rc3! g5 A good idea: by pushing his pawns on the kingside, Black reduces the importance of the seventh rank. 26.Ne1 h5
27.h4!! Forcing new weaknesses on the kingside. 27…Nd728.Rc7 28…Rf7 29.Nf3! g4 30.Ne1 Aiming for f4 via d3 30…f5 31.Nd3 f4 The key square is temporarily under control, but the pawn on f4 is another weakness.
32.f3 (32.Nb4 wins a pawn, but Botvinnik doesn’t want to allow any counterplay) 32…gxf3 33.gxf3 a5 34.a4 Kf8 35.Rc6 Ke7 36.Kf2 Rf5 37.b3 37…Kd8 38.Ke2 Nb8
39.Rg6! (39.Rxb6? Kc7 and 40…Nc6 gives Black counter-chances.) 39…Kc7 40.Ne5 Keeping the steed tied up 40…Na6 41.Rg7+ Kc8 42.Nc6 Rf6 43.Ne7+ Kb8 44.Nxd5 Caching in 44…Rd6 45.Rg5 Nb4 46.Nxb4 axb4 47.Rxh5 Rc6 48.Rb5 Kc7 49.Rxb4 Rh6 50.Rb5 Rxh4 51.Kd3 1-0
Alekhine said after the tournament: “Of the 14 games I played in this tournament only once did I feel that my opponent outplayed me – it was the game with Botvinnik in round seven”. Praise indeed.
3.2.2 Establishment of an outpost
“Sometimes it happens that control of an open file is not in itself enough to ensure immediate superiority, in that case the best measure is to establish an output on that file.”
Here is a game from Botvinnik who loved playing positions with isolated pawns.
13.Bh3! Rb8 14.Re1 cxd4 15.exd4 Bb4 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.a3 Bf8 (Better was 17…Bxc3 or 17…Bc8) 18.Qd3 g6 19.Re1 Qd8 20.Ne5 White has a slight pull
21…Bg7 21.f3 Na5 22.Qd1 a6 23.Na2 Nc6 24.Bc3 Qc7 25.Qd2 a5 26.Bb2 Qd6 27.Nc1 Bc8 28.Bf1!? Avoiding exchanging as White has more space 28…Be6 29.Ncd3 Ne7 (A definite error, 29…Nd7 is better)
30.b4! (Squeezing Black) axb4 31.axb4 Ne8 (31…Nd7 is better) 32.b5 f6 33.Ng4 Bd7? The fatal mistake, 33…Nf5 was ok
34.Bc3! (winning the d5-pawn) 34…Nf5 35.Nf4 Qf8?! (35…Qa3 is tougher) 36.Nxd5 Kh8 37.Bb4 Qf7 38.Ne7! Ned6 39.Nxf5 Nxf5 40.d5 Re8
And white won on move 62.
3.2.3 Active deployment of the pieces
Gulko – Radjabov
1.g3 g6 2.Bg2 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.e4 e5?! A poor move allowing White a definite advantage. Stockfish does not rate this move at all. 5.dxe5
5…dxe5 (Stockfish prefers 5…Bxe5 6.Nf3 but white has a pleasant advantage in both cases] 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8
But the book to see how White exploited his lead in development and more active pieces.
3.3 Breaking the symmetry as a method of defence
Robert Byrne – Bobby Fischer New York 1963 began with a symmetrical structure.
This game looks pretty even. Bobby played the enterprising 12…e5!? to break the symmetry. Eleven moves later the game was over.
This celebrated game had to be included. Black has just played 21…Qd7!
The story goes that the grandmasters watching the game failed to understand what was happening.
Section 3.4 A clash of pawns covers some interesting symmetrical opening sequences such as:
The book contains the antidotes to these lines.
The last subsection is 3.5 Symmetrical structures from various openings.
Here are a couple of positions that are covered in depth:
Carlsen won an impressive game versus Nisipeanu at Medias in 2011.
White has just played 6.dxc3 which looks harmless, however in Radjabov-Svidler Geneva 2017, Black responded with some inaccurate moves and was lost at move 19! Book the book to find out how.
Part 2 of this publication covers Typical methods of play in three chapters.
Chapter 4 Restricted Mobility in the KID covers typical methods of play, particularly for White, but also for Black whrn the centre is blocked.
Two cautionary tales for White are given early on in the chapter showing White being blown away on the kingside. Here is one of them:
This position is pretty standard fare in the KID. White has just played 18.Nb5 and Black boots the knight with 18…a6. This manoeuvre by White looks odd to lose time, but b6 has been weakened and this is significant. White should play 19.Nc3! g4 20.Na4 g3 21.Nb6 Rb8 22.Bg1 gxh2 23.Bf2 Bd7 24.Nxd7! removing the dangerous bishop and White is slightly better.
So tried 19.Na3? and got stuffed.
The author discusses the main White methods to counter Black’s expansion with f7-f5:
The manoeuvre Nf3-h4
Pinning the Nf6 with Bc1-g5
Playing an early g2-g4
Exchanging pawns with exf5 gxf5, followed by f2-f4/f3
The reviewer will show a couple of typical positions involving each idea and leave the reader to get the book to study further.
White has just played 8.Bg5 which is named after Petrosian.
White played 17.g4!
Black has just played 14…f5. White played 15.exf5 gxf5 16,f4
Chapter 5 Should we exchange the fianchettoed bishop (EFB)?
This considers the matter of exchanging Black’s fianchettoed bishop in the KID, Sicilian Dragon and the Sicilian Accelerated Dragon. As the author points out, sometimes White seeks the exchange for attacking reasons but Black will also seek to exchange his bishop for positional reasons in say the Maroczy Bind.
The position below shows a common idea in the KID:
12… Bxh6! 13.Qxh6 Kg8! 14.h5 Ng8! 15.Qe3 g5! and the kingside remains closed.
Here is a mainline Dragon position from a game Geller-Kortchnoi Moscow 1971.
In this Dragon tabiya, Geller played 12.Bh6? which looks logical to exchange the bishop. Timing is everything and in this position Black has a well known riposte 12…Bxh6 13.Qxh6 Rxc3! 14.bxc3 a5!? (14…Qa5 and 14…Qc7 are also both good enough for equality)
Black achieved an excellent position but muffed the attack allowing Geller off the hook. The players agreed a draw when Geller was much better.
Here is a standard Maroczy Bind position in the Accelerated Dragon.
Black has just played 12…Nd7 offering an exchange of dark squared prelates. White has two plans here:
Gain space on the queenside with 13.b4 allowing the bishop exchange or retain the dark squared bishop 13.Be3 keeping it to guard the dark squares and avoiding exchanges as White has more spaces.
White played the inaccurate 13.Kh1?! after 13…Bxd4 14.Qxd4 Qb6 and black is equal.
The author gives a good introduction to the Maroczy style positions.
Chapter 6 – the d5-square in the Sicilian.
The chapter covers what is says in the title. The typical strategic manoeuvres for both White and Black are covered in the Boleslavsky’s Variation of the Najdorf, the Sveshnikov and related systems.
Topics covered are:
The power of Nd5
Bishops of opposite colours
Chapter 7 is an excellent set of exercises followed by Chapter 8 Solutions.
This publication is one of the best middlegames I have read and the reviewer definitely recommends this book for all club players and above.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st August 2021
“Robert Ris (1988) is an International Master from Amsterdam. He has represented The Netherlands in various international youth events, but lately his playing activities are limited to league games.
Nowadays he is a full-time chess professional, focusing on teaching in primary schools, coaching talented youngsters and giving online lessons to students all around the world. He has recorded several well received DVDs for ChessBase.
Since 2015 he has been the organizer of the Dutch Rapid Championships. This is his third book for Thinkers Publishing, his first two on general chess improvement ‘Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player‘, being widely appraised by the press and his audience.”
From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:
“The Sveshnikov is undeniably one of the most dynamic and aggressive Sicilians available these days. Most recently, it was made popular again by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in his match against Fabiano Caruana at the end of 2018.
The main lines lead to complex positions, and a deep knowledge and understanding of the opening is a real necessity for any player who wishes to enter this battlefield. Our author, Robert Ris, focuses on all the current developments, highlighting the most important and instructive games from recent years, using his own over-the board experiences.
Ris is well known for his theoretical knowledge and overall opening expertise. And we are quite convinced that he provides Sicilian players with an up-to date arsenal for playing the Sveshnikov. ”
End of blurb…
The author has had considerable experience with 5…e5 and here is one of his wins:
The Sveshnikov variation is described as one of the most aggressive and dynamic openings in the Sicilian defence.
The traditional “Lasker-Pelikan” starting position is:
and it does not seem that long ago that
was published followed by
Of the modern, elite players both Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik (to name but a few) have played the black side.
One of the consistent themes of the Sveshnikov is that White often doubles black’s pawns on the f-file and then tries to control d5 and make use of his queenside pawn majority. Also, Black often pushes his pawn to e4 and then uses the e5 square for a minor piece.
Following substantial work by Evgenny Sveshnikov and Gennadi Timoschenko we start the bulk of the analysis from the usual tabiya position:
In Part 1, Chapter 1 the author examines the dynamic line 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.Qh5
and this is looked at via a series of games where the players are generally very highly rated. Ris suggests that the queen move is probably premature and after 12…Rg8! black has a comfortable enough game. This judgement is demonstrated in the example email game Kele vs Fritsche, 2011 where black eventually wins:
The stronger 12.00 (the move I play) is given in Chapter 2 where play centers on 12…Bxd5 which in recent times have proved more popular than 12…Bg7 after which 13.exd5 Ne7 14.Nxb5!? winning a pawn is given. I played this line in a game vs Nigel Povah in 2015 which ended in a draw. Black plays 14…Bg7! and in the game we had 15.Nc3 e4 16.Bc4 00 when black has sufficient compensation for the pawn.
On move 14.c4 was played against Michael Krasenkow in his 2004 game v Gilberto Milos:
Again, Black is willing to sacrifice a queenside pawn but obtained strong play on the kingside.
However, 14.c3 remains the most popular move and White choses a more positional approach where his queen goes to h5 and his knight comes to c2. Alex Shirov chose this method in a game with Alexander Grischuk from Wijk aan Zee, 2003.
Since this book is written from Black’s point of view Black again wins.
Currently 14.Re1 is gaining in popularity and this is examined in Chapter 3.
The idea is to drop the bishop back to f1 and take some of the sting out of Black’s attack.
Part 2 discusses lines where White does not play 11.Bd3.
The famous knight sacrifice 11.Nxb5 is given as dubious whilst in the alternative bishop sacrifice 11.Bxb5 Black can play 11…axb5 12.Nb5 Bb7 sacrificing the exchange. This line is not for the faint hearted and they may prefer the older Ra4 treatment.
In chapter 7 the calmer 11.g3 is discussed: an interesting idea that is worth exploring and yet another approach in Chapter 8 is 11.exf5 Bf5 12.c3 and the knight will escape via c2.
Part 2 investigates 9.Nd5 the move Gary Kasparov preferred liked. After 9…Be7 and Black does not end up with doubled pawns.
Chapter 9 looks at 9…Be7 10.Nxe7 and the next chapter gives 10.Bxf6 which was the move Gary selected.
After 10…gxf6 11.c3 then Ne7 can be played followed by either 12.Nc2 or 12.Nf6+.
Chapter 12 looks at the earlier alternatives and the move 7.Nd5 is examined which is a line that has been far less popular than 7.Bg5 but with recent outings from Fabiano Caruana playing it several times against Magnus Carlsen I expect it to gain in popularity.
In Van Foreest v Carlsen the aggressive line 7 Nd5 8 ed5 Ne7 9 c4 Ng6 10 Qa4 Bd7 11 Qb4 Qb8 12 h4 black played 12…h5 and eventually won:
The book ends with some White choice oddities such as 6.Nf5 when 6…d5 is a strong reply and also 7.a4 but these moves do not seem to be a serious test of 5…e5.
I expect the Sveshnikov to increase in popularity in the next few years and this book should be a serious read for both White and Black players of the interesting positions.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 29th July, 2021
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