“Tigran Petrosian, the ninth world chess champion, was one of the deepest thinkers the chess world has ever seen. His handling of complex positions was legendary.
With his rare strategic feeling and exceptional vision, Petrosian gradually became one of the top exponents of the art of the exchange sacrifice, and perhaps the leading protagonist for the positional exchange sacrifice.
Acclaimed author Vassilios Kotronias has assembled a splendid collection of Petrosian’s games, exemplifying the artist at work. The Greek grandmaster presents 36 games – all deeply annotated – in which he puts the Tiger’s signature sacrifice under the analytical microscope. And each game has an exceptional introduction putting it into historical perspective.
As noted by American grandmaster Alex Fishbein in the Foreword:
You will find your share of positional exchange sacrifices here. But you will also see exchanges sacrificed in the midst of a crushing attack. You will see sacrifices born of desperation, to save a bad ending. You will see correct and incorrect sacrifices. In fact, Tigran Petrosian will lose some games here. This is real life; there are mistakes, and the author explains it all to you.
Vassilios Kotronias has brought you the material in a way that will enhance your appreciation of chess as an art form. He has also offered you practical lessons you can use in your own chess endeavours.
You are already familiar with the exchange sacrifice as an art form. Now enjoy the brilliant games of its greatest artist, Tigran Petrosian.”
About the Book
This is a very interesting and enjoyable book.
It is also a very unusual, or rather original, book in that it focuses on a specific facet of one great player’s handling of chess positions. Certainly there are books dedicated, say, to Tal’s attacks or Karpov’s endgame play, but it is difficult to think of other books with such a specific subject based on a single player. All of which makes Kotronias’ book all the more enticing to look at. Plus, of course, it is a facet of the game for which Petrosian was justly famous.
As stated in the blurb above, the bulk of the book (257 of the 304 pages) is devoted to 36 annotated games, presented in chronological order spanning the years 1947-1980. Many of the games feature the strongest possible opponents from those times, eg Spassky, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Gligoric, Fischer, Hubner, Korchnoi amongst others. The book also gives the unannotated scores of a further 88 games. Kotronias does this for three reasons:
1 completeness ;
2 to give the reader food for thought (he invites readers to analyse the games without initially using computer assistance) ;
3 aesthetics! As Kotronias puts it: “Many of the examples which follow are true gems of sacrificial play and a treat for the eye”.
A nice touch is that these games, although unannotated, have a diagram near the point where the exchange sac occurs, so that readers who are too lazy for reason 2 can at least appreciate reason 3!
The book also includes:
– an Introduction by the author, which adds another annotated game (less deeply than the others) – the famous Reshevsky-Petrosian exchange sac (…Re6!)
– a nice foreword by GM Alex Fishbein ;
– an index of players ;
– an index of openings (ECO codes, not names).
Kotronias’ Style of Annotation
The annotated games, to a greater or lesser extent, follow a pattern:
– an introduction, of varying length, which puts the game into its sporting and historical context and provides an overview of the game;
– the whole game itself is analysed, especially the middlegames and most deeply around and after the exchange sac;
– a short epilogue where the author sums up the game, and often draws conclusions that can be applied more widely.
Despite his evident admiration for Petrosian, Kotronias’ annotations are objective. Indeed, some of the annotated games are losses for Petrosian, and in other games the author points out when the exchange sac was unsound (or a second-rate choice) even when Tigran prevailed.
As befits a player of Kotronias’ strength (he was regularly in the world’s top 100 players in the 2000’s, with a 2600+ rating) his analysis is sometimes very deep, but he favours explanations over lengthy variations, reserving the heavy analysis for the most complex positions. Indeed, he is a very readable annotator.
Example Game Annotation
Anyway, here is an excerpt, taken from the famous Petrosian-Spassky 1966 match, game 10:
Other quotes from the book
In the intros and epilogues to the games, Kotronias makes a number of observations, some of them quite repeatable, for example:
“Choosing the right way to attack requires perhaps a greater sense of danger than the one required to choose the best way of defence.”
“We should never forget that we are only human beings and not machines, and thus, as long as players of approximately the same level compete, psychology and energy will always play a small or bigger role for the final outcome. A trivial thought, but the exceptional depends on a number of trivial factors, do you not think?”
“I sincerely hope that you will find the games presented in this book not only enjoyable, but instructive.” writes the author in his introduction.
Well, this reviewer always enjoys well-annotated game collections of great players which are written by an engaging writer, and this book hits the mark in all these respects.
The theme is an interesting one (in both parts, Petrosian and the exchange sac) and the selected games are fascinating. The book isn’t a formal study of when/why exchange sacrifices work and when they don’t (perhaps the point is that knowing this comes from accumulated experience, calculation and judgement) but it is easy to believe that study of these games will help players improve their judgement in this area.
There is something in this book for a wide range of playing strengths and is highly recommended.
Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :
“Every chessplayer, from beginner to world champion, loves to win a game with a brilliant attacking display. However many, if not most, attacks that end in victory do so due to inaccurate defence. This may be due to simple tactical miscalculation or perhaps a more fundamental misunderstanding of the important principles of defence. Furthermore, many attacks that are launched are simply unsound but succeed because many players feel uncomfortable when forced to defend, get flustered and make mistakes.
In this book, highly experienced chess author and coach, Neil McDonald addresses these issues. Defensive skill is crucial in chess. Good, accurate defence can win a game just as well as a fine attacking display can, so expertise in this department is essential for any player wishing to improve their game. With thorough explanations, questions, and exercises, this book provides fascinating material to enable you to hone your defensive skill and not feel intimidated when your opponent hurls pieces at your king.”
About the author :
Neil McDonald is an English GM, an active player, a FIDE Trainer and a coach to the England junior teams. Neil has authored thirty-seven books for The Chess Press, Batsford and, most recently, Everyman Chess. One of his most recent works, The King’s Indian Attack : Move by Move, impressed considerably.
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.
The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.
Everyman Chess (formerly known as Cadogan Chess) is a major publisher of Chess books. Other reviews on this site have covered the production quality and typesetting so i am not going to repeat that here. Figurine algerbraic notation is used throughout although the book is laid out in a single column format, a departure from the double column format normally used for chess books. Like other Everyman books the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or caption but it is easy to work out which player is to move when going through the games. The book does contain an Index of Openings and an Index of Games at the end of the book. Virtually all the games featured in this book are recent having been played in the 21st Century. Virtually all of the games included in the book were played by strong Grandmasters with several games featuring the worlds leading players. Magnus Carlsen features in 6 of the games in the book and Anand, Aronian Caruana, Giri & Mamedyarov , are also well represented here. One notable omission is that there are no games featuring Sergi Karjakin who is considered to be one of the best defensive players in the world.
The Chapters are as follows:
1 The Power of Centralisation
2 Keeping Out the Queen and Rooks
3 Knight versus Bishop: Caution or Counterattack
4 Resisting Raking Bishops
5 Challenging a Mighty Knight
6 Opposing an Advanced Pawn
7 Using the King as Bait
8 Fighting to Survive in a Bad Endgame
The subject of defence is neglected in chess literature, there are many books filled with best games and how to attack but very few that are devoted to the topic of defence. Everyone loves to attack when they are playing chess and don’t like having to defend. The book contains 60 games all of which are analysed in depth with some games spanning 7/8 pages. The analysis mainly consists of detailed explanations by the author supported by analysis. This is not book containing lots of detailed computer analysis trying to show that there are defensive resources available to players that they would not ever find over the board. At critical points in the games the author poses questions to the reader. Each game featured in this book is a battle between elite players and offer an insight in the dynamic nature of attack and defence.
The great defensive players of the past allexcelled in holding inferior positions and then slowly outplaying their opponents. Anatoly Karpov at his best is a prime example of this, often going on to outplay and eventually beat his opponent from inferior positions. Today the game has evolved so has defensive technique and players are a lot more enterprising in how they go about defending positions. Defenders now will look at how they coordinate their pieces, cover focal squares, overprotect, and generate counterplay rather than playing passively. In this book the author takes this even further and puts forward the concept of dynamic defence as a method of stealing the initiative from the attacking player. It is still necessary to defend well by playing patiently and being aware of the tactical resources available to your opponent. The author assumes that players are familiar with the principles of static defence and are looking to improve their defensive technique.
Here is a summary of the key principles from three chapters in the book.
1 The Power of Centralisation: Triumph of centralisation against a wing attack. Good centralisation can compensate for structural weakness or a lack of defenders around the king . But if the situation in the centre is bad and the kingside is weakened in some way then the defender is in big trouble
3 Knight versus Bishop: Caution or Counterattack: When facing an attack a crucial decision in whether to play according to the dictates of dynamic defence – that is – to try an seize the initiative – or to quietly strengthen the defensive line.
7 Using the King as Bait: An extreme method of provocation whereby a player will leave his king in the centre of the board and invite his opponent to attack trusting in his skills as a defender or where a player will try and goad his opponent into sacrifice material to expose their king. In doing so you are creating complications and trying to make your opponent overpress.
It is possible just to play through and enjoy the games in this book but in doing so you would miss out on many valuable lessons from an expert coach. I think that it is much harder to defend than it is to attack. if you have the initiative you can often have any good options at your disposal and can choose which one to analyze in depth. However as a defender you do not have the luxury of that option. Often you have to analyse and assess all the options available to your opponent which takes up considerable more time and often have to play precisely and find the ‘only’ move to keep you in the game.
The concepts put forward in this book are difficult and not immediately obvious to understand. This is a book that deserves close study and will ultimately earn you a lot of points, as you will be developing the skills to save inferior and even lost positions. Also, as you gain in confidence you will be more willing to take risks knowing that you have ‘dynamic defence’ to fall back on.
Tony Williams, Newport, Isle of Wight, 20th June 2022
“Attacking your opponent’s king is not just a shortcut to victory, it’s also one of the most enjoyable and gratifying experiences in chess. If you want to win more games you should become a better attacker. Studying typical attacking motifs and ideas easily brings dividends while you are having a good time. Michael Prusikin presents the prerequisites and the rules for a King attack in a lucid and attractive manner. In 15 thematic chapters he teaches you how to assess the nature of the position, identify the appropriate offensive patterns, find the preliminary moves and conduct your attack in a clear and effective way. Battering rams, obstructive sacrifices, pawn storms, striking at the castled position, sacrificing a knight on f5, Prusikin demonstrates the most important patterns of attack with lots of clear and well chosen examples. Next, Prusikin tests your newly acquired insights and your attacking intuition with exercises covering all the themes and motifs. You will find that studying Attacking Strategies for Club Players is both entertaining and rewarding.
Michael Prusikin is an International Grandmaster and a FIDE Senior Trainer from Germany. In 2009 he was the co-winner of the German Championship. Several times he has been voted German Chess Trainer of the Year. He writes the tactics column in the German magazine SCHACH.”
In his foreword to this book, GM Alexander Khalifman explains that the subject of attack on the enemy king has been the subject of many recent books, many of which suffer from a combination of defects: lack of originality, exaggerated sensationalism, complication and subjectivity. I wouldn’t disagree in principle, but who doesn’t love any book featuring ferocious attacks, brilliant combinations and beautiful sacrifices? Khalifman believes this book is different because it explains how to set up an attack.
Here’s what Prusikin has to say in his introduction:
… the theme of this book is not basic attacking motifs. I assume you are already familiar with these or I would recommend that, if so inclined, you read the classic The Art of Attack by Vladimir Vukovic or its modern counterpart Essential Chess Sacrifices by David LeMoir. In this book we shall address the strategic requirements for a successful attack on the king and some lesser-known attacking motifs, though no less relevant in practice. I hope this will be both interesting and useful for players with an Elo rating between 1500 and 2300.
Chapter 1 is just two pages long. We learn the prerequisites for successfully attacking the king: lead in development/uncastled opposing king, space advantage in the vicinity of the opposing king, few defensive pieces near the opposing king, and weakened pawn protection. Then we have some tips for carrying out a successful attack: use all your pieces, open lines, don’t be afraid to sacrifice and don’t waste time.
Chapters 2 to 16 each feature a different attacking idea, with some brief instructions and some examples from play.
Chapter 2: King in the centre.
Here’s an extract from a game which particularly impressed Prusikin, between a 17-year-old Egyptian and a higher-rated 16-year-old Iranian (Fawzy – Maghsoodloo Abu Dhabi 2017).
An astonishing sacrifice, the idea of which doesn’t reveal itself until you have seen White’s 19th move.
16… axb5 17. axb5 Qb7 18. Rxa8+ Qxa8
And now what? Why has White actually given up the piece?
The next hammer blow, a left-right combination in boxing parlance.
A) 19… gxf5 20. Qh5 +-
B) 19… exf5 20. e6! +-
C) 19… Bxe5 20. fxe6 fxe6 21. Nf7+-
20. fxe6 f6 21. Bxe5 fxe5 22. Rf7 Bf8 23. Nxh7
23. Qf1 Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Ne7 25. b6 Qc6 26. Qf6! Rg8 27. Rxe7+ Bxe7 28. Qf7+ Kd8 29. Qxg8+ Qe8 30. Nf7++– was the alternative solution.
23… Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Ne7
Fawzy would have had to demonstrate similar, perhaps even more beautiful motifs after the defensive move 24… Be7 25. b6! Kd8 (25… Nh6 26. Nf6+ Bxf6 27. b7 Qb8 28. Qxd5 Nxf7 29. Qd7+ Kf8 30. Qxf7#) 26. Qf1 Nh6 27. Qb5 Qb7 28. Rf1!! (Wonderful geometry: the rook swings to the a-file!) 28…Rxh7 29.Ra1 Bf8 30.Ra7 Nf5 31.Rxb7 Rxb7 32.Qxd5+ Nd6 33.Qc5 and White wins.
Threatens 26. Rf8+ but at the same time ‘eyes up’ b5 – the queen in all her glory!
25… Nf5 26. b6!! Qc6 27. b7 Ba7 28. Qxf5+!
Not the only way to win, but certainly the most spectacular and at the same time the most convincing solution!#
28… gxf5 29. Nf6+ Kd8 30. e7+
What a game! The modern-day ‘Immortal’!
(A few comments on this extract: 1) I’ve omitted a couple of diagrams from the book 2) Prusikin doesn’t mention that Black could have held the position by playing 17… Rxa1, which he might have found had he foreseen 19. f5! and 3) if you have MegaBase you’ll find the same annotations (in German) there.)
Chapter 3: Obstructive sacrifice: a sacrifice to impede your opponent’s development: for instance White playing a pawn to e6.
Chapter 4: Attacking the king without the queen: attacks in queenless middlegames or even in endings.
Chapter 5: Pawn storm with opposite-side castling.
Chapter 6: Pawn storm with same-side castling.
Chapter 7: Using the h-pawn against a fianchetto.
I was very struck by this miniature: Gomez Sanchez – Otero Acosta (Santa Clara 2017). I’ll pick up the game with Black about to play his 9th move in this very typical Réti Opening.
The first game of this chapter, Steinitz – Mongredien, was probably the first time that the fianchetto, rather unusual at the time, had been attacked in such a daring way. Here too, the Steinitz attack seems to pose considerable problems for the Réti set-up.
(There’s a long note here, concluding that 9. cxd5 is probably White’s best move here, which I’ll omit from this review.)
9… h4 10. Nxh4?
The beginning of the end. Once again, the only feasible defence was to open the centre: 10. cxd5! exd5 11. e4, although even here White would have had some difficult practical problems to solve, for example: 11… hxg3 12. hxg3 d4!? 13. Ne2 Qa5! with the idea of switching to h5. Black gets a dangerous attack.
10… Rxh4! 11. gxh4 Nh5 12. Qe1?
The final mistake. 12. f4 Nxf4 13. Qe1 would still have offered resistance, although Black would have had a clear advantage.
Blocks the f-pawn; 12… Qh4? 13. f4.
13. Bc1 Qxh4 14. h3 Nf4 15. Bxf3 Qxh3 0-1
I suppose Prusikin might have mentioned that the idea behind Black’s 12th move is well known from, for example, a famous Fischer – Benko game.
Chapter 8: Using the g-pawn to destroy your opponent’s king protection.
Chapter 9: The nail in the coffin: a pawn on f6 or h6 in front of an opposing castled king.
Chapter 10: Doubled g-pawns, which can be used as an attacking weapon, or, on the other hand, can weaken the king’s defence.
Chapter 11: Using pieces to attack the castled position.
Chapter 12: The Grand Prix Attack: attacking a king behind a fianchettoed bishop with f4-f5, Qe1-h4, Bh6 etc.
Chapter 13: The knight on f5: sacrificing a knight on this square where it can be captured by a pawn on g6.
Chapter 14: Long bishop on b2: how a fianchettoed queen’s bishop can help your kingside attack.
This example is taken from Zsuzsa Polgar – Chiburdanidze (Calva Ol W 2004)
Here we join the game at its culmination: the dark-squared battery is already set up, the g-pawn has chased away the knight on f6 and with her last move … g7-g6 Black has carelessly weakened the long dark diagonal. In spite of all this, achieving the said culmination is anything but easy.
14. Nxe5!! Nxe2!
Was the Georgian former World Champion relying on this counter-attack?
Black could have resigned here but struggled on until move 39.
Chapter 15: Interference: specifically here playing a minor piece to the opponent’s back rank to block out an opposing rook.
Chapter 16: Breakthrough on the strong point: sacrificing on a square which appears to be very well defended.
At the end we have the seemingly obligatory quiz: 50 puzzles for you to solve. While some involve finishing off your attack, others require you to find a plan to put your attack in motion. You’re not told which is which.
You’ll see from the extracts above that, at one level, this is a lovely book crammed full of dashing attacks on the enemy king and beautiful sacrificial play. The expertly annotated examples are conveniently grouped by theme and with some helpful snippets of advice on how to identify when an attack of this nature would be appropriate, and how to carry it out.
As such it will, as the author suggests, appeal to anyone from, say, 1500 to 2300 strength. The themes won’t be new to stronger and more experienced players but they’ll still benefit from seeing them in action. While the author points out that the explanations at the start of each chapter are short to allow more space for games, they sometimes seemed rather perfunctory to me.
I’m also not sure that the book is entirely free from the flaws Khalifman has noted in other volumes of this nature. Yes, it’s a bit different from other books in the way it’s organised, and, while many of the games, including quite a few from Prusikin’s own games, were new to me, there were also some frequently anthologised chestnuts.
I’m also not convinced that the book is free from exaggerated sensationalism. The annotations, and sometimes the exclamation marks, perhaps tend towards the hyperbolic. As Khalifman rightly points out, ‘you don’t learn anything abut physics or chemistry by watching a fireworks display’, but the examples do tend to be firework displays rather than the more mundane attacks that are more likely to occur in your games.
It’s a large and complex subject, and, to do it full justice based on 21st century chess knowledge, you really need 400 or 500 pages rather than the 192 pages we have here.
The book was originally published in German and has been competently translated by Royce Parker, so the language problems sometimes apparent in books from this publisher don’t arise here. The production standards are high, and there’s a refreshing lack of typos.
It’s an entertaining and instructive book which will be enjoyed by a wide range of readers, but is it an essential purchase? Probably not.
“GM Jan Werle is a professional chess trainer, coach and author. In 2008 he became EU Champion in Liverpool and reached his peak rating of 2607. Afterwards he finished his law studies, obtaining Master’s degrees in Civil and Commercial Law, and embarked on a career as a lawyer. However his main passion, chess prevailed, and led to a comeback. He gives chess lessons to pupils worldwide, individually and in groups. He enjoys teaching and helping his students and watching them improve. He combines teaching with playing in tournaments, keeping up his own level. Jan likes to meet new people and see new places and has been travelling to tournaments across the globe since an early age. He has played in all age categories in the World and European Championships finishing 3rd in the U-16 Championship in 2000 and 2nd in the U-18 in 2001. In 2004 he beat FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov and has won several strong international opens such as the Essent Open in Hogeveen in 2007, the Oslo Open and 8th place in the Gibraltar Masters in 2020, the strongest open in the world, with a score of 7/10 and a tournament performance of 2743. ”
Defence is a difficult subject to write about. What do we mean by defence, anyway? We have to defend if we have the worse position, but we also have to defend if our opponent is creating threats. If our opponent has made an unsound sacrifice for an attack, we might have to defend when in a winning position.
For these reasons there have been relatively few books written about this important aspect of chess, so it’s good to be able to welcome this new volume. Let’s take a look inside.
Chapter 1 doubles as the Introduction.
In this book I try to shed light on how to put up tenacious resistance, as well as why most defenders aren’t able to do so. There are so many books written about the attack and the initiative, not to mention opening books. But isn’t the hardest discipline in chess the defense of a weak position?
Technically speaking, one of the reasons why defense is such a difficult discipline, is that the attacker has several good moves at his disposal to choose from, whereas the defender is bound to pick one single move which enables him to ‘survive’.
Werle also discusses chess psychology, and, in general, sports psychology, subjects of particular interest to him, and with which he has personal experience.
There is an increasing understanding of the role psychology plays in chess, and, when your opponent is putting you under pressure, this is especially important. As you’ll see, this is discussed at length here.
Chapter 2 is again relatively short, looking at two forms of ‘inaccurate defence’: being too passive (and gradually getting crushed) and being too active in positions where you need to sit tight. It’s no coincidence that Werle’s examples of undue passivity come from older games: we know a lot more now about the virtues of active defence and the need to create counterplay, even at the cost of material.
Chapters 3, 4 and 5 constitute the heart of the book, each providing an in-depth look at defence in very different ways.
Chapter 3 offers The rise of defense in chess history, taking us all the way from Greco to Carlsen, with many instructive examples along the way. The author is particularly interesting when writing about Steinitz and Lasker, both of whom had much to say on the subject as well as demonstrating defensive skills in many of their games.
He then moves onto Botvinnik and Smyslov, both also giants of defensive play. I was taken by this example from a fairly well known Botvinnik (black v Liublinsky Moscow 1943/44) game.
Here, Botvinnik played what has now become a stock exchange sacrifice.
Botvinnik gives this move an exclamation mark, citing the advantages of the repaired pawn chain and the passed pawn, as the closed nature of the position deprives the white Rooks of any activity. However, in the ensuing lines there occur many concrete ‘computerish’ breaks which gives the Rooks a (perhaps better than) level playing field compared to the minor pieces.
Lyubinsky (sic) prefers to take the Rook with his Knight and to retain his Bishop. A questionable decision, since the Knight would have been well placed on the blockading square d3, according to Botvinnik.
After 26… Bc8 27. Bxd4 cxd4 28. Nc1! he would have kept a large advantage, but for the same reason after keeping the Bishop instead of the Knight on the board. In essence, White has to open the files on the queenside.
26… Bc8 27. Nxd4 cxd4 28. Bf2?
When Botvinnik mentions that his opponent is saddled with a dark squared Bishop (instead of the Knight) and thus completely without counterplay, Botvinnik missed several potential interesting and dynamic ideas to open the queenside files, assuming White was just obliged to await further developments.
White could have refuted this notion by, for example, 28. Bd2! with the idea of b3-b4. 28… c5 29. Rab1 f5 30. a3 Be6 31. Rb2! Now there is no way to stop the b3-b4 pawn break, when the files and ranks are opened, and the Rooks become ‘monsters’. 31… f4 32. b4! axb4 33. axxb4 cxb4 24. Rdb1 when White has a winning advantage.
Chapter 4, Emotions in Chess, looks at defence through the lens of sports psychology. Comparisons are made with other sports, notably tennis, with players such as McEnroe, Agassi and Federer discussed. We learn about debilitating emotions: anxiety, anger, relief and pride, how emotions might be triggered and how to cope with them.
Examples demonstrate how our emotions might affect how we play: particularly being too cautious or not sufficiently decisive.
Then Werle explains how we can control emotions by relaxation or a variety of cognitive techniques.
Any serious competitive player will find this chapter, concerning an increasingly important aspect of chess, very helpful.
Chapter 5 takes us back to the chessboard, looking at Defensive Strategies. Sometimes we can use prophylaxis: preventing our opponents from carrying out their plans. Sometimes we just have to wait to see how our opponents are going to improve their position. On other occasions, though, we need to be proactive, looking for counter-attacking moves which will turn the tide.
Back in Chapter 3, Werle discussed Korchnoi’s massive plus score with the black pieces against Tal to demonstrate what can happen when a brilliant attacker comes up against a brilliant defender. There are several examples scattered throughout the book.
Here is a striking example, from Moscow 1971.
In this position Korchnoi played:
Fantastic prophylaxis against h4-h5! Black can take now on e5 as the discovered check on h7 is out of the question. Not good was 16… Rfd8?, as after 17. h5 Nf8 18. h6 g6 19. Qxc4 Black would have been left with weakened black squares around the King and an isolated c-pawn.
Werle goes on to demonstrate the remainder of the game, which Korchnoi won on move 40.
(Checking this with Stockfish 15, though, the engine claims that 16… Rfd8 17. h5 Nf8 18. h6 Ng6 19. hxg7 Bc6 is fine for Black.)
Alekhine was a pioneer of risk-taking in defence, as Werle demonstrates in this example (Lasker – Alekhine Moscow 1914).
This unexpected, brutal move must have come as a shock to Lasker. White might have expected something like 13… Ne5 instead. White keeps an advantage with 14. Qc3 protecting f3. Black faces real issues completing his development. Or 13… Qe6 for the sake of bringing the Bishop out. 14. Re1! Bxc5 Who tricks who? 15. Qxd7+! Apparently, White tricks Black. Either way, there follows a Knight fork on f6 or c5.
As storm clouds gather above Black’s position, Alekhine finds a creative solution for the problem of his king’s position. He could have played 14… Kb8 here to defend the pawn on a7, but then the game wouldn’t last for long after White plays simple developing moves: Bf4, Rd1-d3-b3/a3.
This move is not approved by the commentators, but nonetheless it achieves its intended effect in the game. The point is that Alekhine places his knight as actively as possible, directed towards the enemy’s king.
15. Kg2 Qe6
And here is the mistake: White is seduced into taking the pawn. Annotators, starting with the players’ contemporary Siegbert Tarrasch, indicated that a much safer move was 16. Bf4 initiating a strong positional idea. 16… Kb7 17. Bxe5 – after taking the strong knight on e5 White will develop a quick attack against black’s King with Re1 (threatening Nd6+) – Re3-Rb3, meanwhile Black has issues developing his bishop on f8.
The ‘standard’ 16… Qg6+ fails without a fight after 17. Bg5! White will prevent the King’s escape via d7 on the next move. 17… f6 18. Rad1 And there is not much to do against the mating threat on a8.
With this beautiful queen move, Alekhine is not only threatening to take on f3, but also at the same time vacating the escape route c8-d7-e6 for his King!
The game resulted in a draw by perpetual check a few moves later.
This extract (I’ve omitted another three diagrams) gives you some idea of the flavour of the annotations here.
Chapter 6 offers what is these days the almost obligatory quiz to test your defensive skills, with 22 questions where the defender has to make a critical decision.
All in all, this is an excellent book which will interest all serious competitive players. If you have an interest in sports psychology you may well consider it an essential read. The book is exceptionally well researched and the examples are well chosen, although, as they’re mostly taken from grandmaster practice you might consider them more suitable for stronger players. The book itself looks good. It’s illustrated with many photographs, some of only tangential relevance, and important sentences and quotes are highlighted in callout boxes.
My one problem – and this might not annoy you as it does me – is that, as with so many chess books, the proofreading is well below the standard I’d expect from books on other subjects. You can perhaps tell from some of the extracts above that the text isn’t always fluent and sometimes the meaning isn’t entirely clear at first reading. But beyond that there are many other minor issues: inconsistent spellings (Tal is Mikhail and Mihail on the same page), inconsistent use of capitalisation of names of chess pieces, even in the same sentence, and so on. I appreciate (in part from being on the other end at the moment) that this process takes time and costs money: perhaps omitting it is a necessary sacrifice to make books like this economically viable.
If you don’t find this an insurmountable problem, I’d recommend this book as a brave and original take on a complex and difficult aspect of chess.
Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :
“What exactly makes the greatest players of all time, such as Magnus Carlsen, Bobby Fischer, and Garry Kasparov stand out from the rest? The basic aspects of chess (calculation, study of opening theory, and technical endgame ability) are of course of great importance. However, the more mysterious part of chess ability lies within the thought process.”
In particular: * How does one evaluate certain moves to be better than others? * How does one improve their feel of the game? This book will tackle this woefully underexplored aspect of chess: the logic behind the game. It will explain how chess works at a fundamental level. Topics include:
What to think about when evaluating a position.
How to formulate and execute plans.
How to generate and make use of the initiative.
The reader also has plenty of opportunities to test their decision-making by attempting 270 practical exercises. These are mostly designed to develop understanding, as the justification of the moves is more important than the actual correct answer.”
and about the authors :
Guannan Song is a FIDE Master with one International Master norm from Canada. He won the 2010 Canadian Youth Chess Championship and scored bronze at the 2015 North American Junior Chess Championships. He also played for Team Canada at the 2010 World Youth Chess Championship and the 2014 World Youth U16 Chess Olympiad. He represents Western University on board 1 of its Championship team and led his team to 2nd place at the 2019 Canadian University Chess Championship.
Joshua Sheng Joshua Sheng is an International Master with one Grandmaster norm from Santa Monica, California. He tied for first in the 2016 North American Junior Chess Championships and placed third in the 2019 U.S. Junior Chess Championships. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2021. Joshua has been a serious chess coach for many years, and this is his first book.
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
The authors might not be very well known to you, so perhaps we should find out more.
The publishers tell us that ‘Joshua has been a serious chess coach for many years’ and that ‘Guannan is an experienced chess coach’. But according to FIDE Joshua was born in 2000 and Guannan in 1998. They haven’t been alive many years, let alone been serious chess coaches for many years. Some of us have been teaching chess (although in my case not very seriously) since 1972. Not only before they were born, but perhaps even before their parents were born.
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and take a look inside.
From the authors’ introduction:
This book will be arranged primarily into sections where games will be analysed and your authors will talk. The talking and exposition will predominantly be done in the first person to ease communication. The beliefs and opinions held will generally be shared by both authors, although the primary voice will be Joshua’s. At the end of each of the first four chapters, there will be 30 practical exercises intending to reinforce your understanding of the relevant topics. Chapter 5 will consist of another 150 exercises representing a more comprehensive synthesis of the explored material and are designed to test your overall knowledge and understanding. For the most part, we have intentionally avoided mentioning the end result or the game continuation after the point of interest from those exercises, as doing so might distract the reader from the primary point of them – developing your understanding. What matters is the decision-making process at the critical position shown in each puzzle.
What we have here is a book aimed mainly, I would say, at players between about 1500 and 2000 strength, although many of the puzzles demonstrate much stronger players making poor decisions.
It’s relatively easy, I suppose, to write books about openings, tactics or endings, but strategy, being a rather nebulous topic, is much harder to write about.
Other recent books, for example those by Erik Kislik, have discussed logic in chess, but these have, for the most part, been aimed at higher rated players.
There have been other books looking at strategy at this level – an excellent and much quoted example is Michael Stean’s book Simple Chess. The authors have also used Jeremy Silman’s rightly popular How to Reassess your Chess and make frequent references to imbalances in their explanatory material. These days we’re very much into interactive learning, so we expect quizzes to be incorporated so that we can test our understanding of the book’s content.
This book, then, looks like it fills a gap in the market as an interactive instructional book on logic and strategy for club standard players.
The first chapter, Building Blocks, introduces the reader to some basic concepts: material (including compensation), piece activity, piece improvement, pawn structure and space. In each case a few simple examples are provided, which are aimed more at 1500 than 2000 rated players.
Then, we move onto some quiz questions to test your understanding. All the puzzle positions in this book have been taken from games played between 2019 and 2021, so it’s very unlikely that you’ll have seen many – or any – of them before.
Here’s the first question, with Black to play (Arabidze – Jojua, Tblisi 2019). What would you recommend?
The answer (in part):
Black finds a great opportunity to force a trade of dark-squared bishops, getting rid of his weak blunted piece on g7 and its strong counterpart on e3. A lax move like 20… Ke7? would lose the opportunity to trade bishops after 21. Bf2.
Of course you also have to see that Bxc4 fails tactically. There’s an assumption throughout the book that you have a reasonable level of tactical ability.
Chapter 2, Know What You Have, looks at positional evaluations. The authors use the acronym MAPS (Material, Activity, Pawn structure and king Safety) to lead you to your desired destination. This is taught by means of four games. We have Botvinnik – Capablanca (Netherlands 1938), which, if you’ve read a lot of chess books, you’ll have seen many times before, followed by Geller – Euwe (Zurich 1953), which again you may well have seen on many previous occasions. The chapter concludes with two recent games played by Joshua Sheng.
In Q35 (Grinberg – Ipatov, chess.com 2021) it’s again Black’s move.
In this instance Black got it wrong.
Black protects his d6-pawn but gives away his two-bishop advantage. 17… Re6! was a greatly superior way to continue. A subsequent …Qe8 would place insurmountable pressure on e4. After 18. Rbd1 Qe8 19. Qb3 b5 20. Bxd6 c4 Black retains the bishop pair, recovers the pawn on the next move, and maintains pressure on White’s position.
Chapter 3, Mise En Scene, talks about identifying candidate moves, using a combination of calculation and evaluation. So they’re been reading Kotov as well as Silman, then? This time we have five example games: three from Sheng, plus Fischer – Spassky 1972 Game 6 (like Botvinnik – Capablanca, one of the most anthologised games of all time) and Tal – Rantanen from 1979.
In Chapter 4, The Big Game, we look at the initiative. The games are Kasparov – Andersson from 1981, Hydra – Ponomariov from 2005, and another three from Sheng.
Here’s one of them. (Click on any move for a pop-up window.)
Chapter 5 offers the reader 150 puzzles based on the lessons from earlier in the book.
This is yet another question to do with trading bishops. Here, Richmond top board IM Gavin Wall chose to trade off his bad bishop, but this time he was mistaken.
At a glance, White holds a space advantage and control over the c-file. However, with this move, White starts to remove important defenders from his d4-pawn, giving Black a way back into the game. Though it looks like White is trading away a bad bishop for Black’s good bishop, the white bishop on b2 is actually a strong defensive piece. Better was 19. Bd3!, preparing h3-g4 or Nc3-Bxf5-Nxd5.
There’s a lot to admire about this book. There are very few books of this nature on the market providing interactive strategic instruction for club level players. As a 1900-2000 player myself I thought it was pitched at the right level for me, and would be accessible, if challenging, for ambitious and hard-working players from, say, 1500 upwards. The positions have been expertly chosen and the solutions are well explained giving just the right level of detail.
Having said that, introducing Chapters 2-4 through a seemingly fairly random selection of games (a combination of old chestnuts which many readers will have seen before and games by one of the authors) is not the only way to approach this topic. A different approach would have been to provide more specific advice and demonstrate some worked examples with more detailed explanations of thought processes before moving onto the quiz questions.
Again, another approach to questioning which would make the book more suitable for 1500 strength players (but perhaps less suitable for 2000 strength players) would have been to ask leading questions or provide multiple choices rather than just asking you for the next move.
The authors write engagingly and annotate well: I look forward to reading more from them in the future. If the concept appeals, and you think from the examples that it’s written at the right level for you, this book can be warmly recommended. As usual from Everyman, the publishing standards are exemplary.
“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
“Improve your ability to take calculated risks! In order to win a game of chess you very often have to sacrifice material. Gathering the courage to do so while accurately assessing the potential benefits is a real challenge. The big question is always: what’s my compensation? Generations of chess players grew up with the idea that a sacrifice was correct if the material was swiftly returned, with interest.
Almost by reflex, they spent lots of time counting, quantifying the static value of their pieces. But is that really the best way to determine the correctness of a sacrifice? In this book, Grandmaster Davorin Kuljasevic teaches you how to look beyond the material balance when you evaluate positions.
With loads of instructive examples he shows how the actual value of your pieces fluctuates during the game, depending on many non-material factors. Some of those factors are space-related, such as mobility, harmony, outposts, structures, files and diagonals. Other factors are related to time, and to the way the moves unfold: tempo, initiative, a threat, an attack. Modern chess players need to be able to suppress their need for immediate gratification.
In order to gain the upper hand you often have to live with uncertain compensation. With many fascinating examples, Kuljasevic teaches you the essential skill of taking calculated risks. After studying Beyond Material, winning games by sacrificing material will become second nature to you.”
“Davorin Kuljasevic is an International Grandmaster born in Croatia. He graduated from Texas Tech University and played in USCL 2007 and 2008 for Dallas Destiny, the team that became US champion in both these years. He is an experienced coach and a winner of many tournaments.”
This entertaining book is subdivided into seven chapters:
Chapter 1 – Attachment to material
Chapter 2 – Relative value of material
Chapter 3 – Time beats material
Chapter 4 – Space beats material
Chapter 5 – Psychology of non-materialism
Chapter 6 – Is it good to be greedy in chess?
Chapter 7 – Solutions
Each of the chapters 1 to 6 begin with an introductory section which sets the scene for the chapter: sometimes an historical angle is given or a famous player’s contribution to chess understanding is referenced or some short pithy pieces of advice are given.
The examples chosen by the author are generally from top players’ games and usually begin from a critical middlegame position. However complete games are shown where the opening is relevant to the theme. A few endgame positions are demonstrated.
Each chapter has a conclusion with a set of handy bullet points summarising some main ideas of the chapter.
Chapters 2 through to 6 have ten testing exercises at the end of each chapter. These are well worth tacking and definitely add to the book’s didactic value.
Chapter 7 gives the solutions to the exercises.
Chapter 1 Attachment to Material
Chapter 1 begins with a sage quote: “You will become a strong player once you learn how to properly sacrifice a pawn.”
One of the first examples in the chapter shows an interesting rook and pawn ending:
White is three pawns up in this rook endgame. However, after 48..Rd8! it becomes clear that black’s single passed pawn is much more dangerous than white’s four passed pawns. White’s pieces are also poorly placed.
49.Rg5+ (49.a4?? trying to get white’s pawns going loses: 49…e3 50.Rg7 Kf6! 51.Rg4 e2 52.Re4 Rd1+ winning the rook and the game as white’s four pawns are no match for the rook.)
49…Kf6 50.Rc5 e3 51.Rc2 White has managed to stop the pawn but both his pieces are passive. Black advances the king to aid the pawn.
51…Kf5 52.a4 Ke4 53.Rc4+ (53. a5?? is foolish: 51…Kf3 52. a6 e2 winning) 53…Kd3 54.Rc3+ White just about grovels a draw with side checks Ke4 55.Rc4+ Kd3 56.Rc3+ Ke4 57.Rc4+ Kd3 drawn
Here is an amusing but instructive example:
White has just played 29.a6 threatening to promote the a-pawn. Black replied 29…Ra2? (To round up the terrifying a-pawn) 30.Ra1 Rc3+ 31. 30.Rxc3 Rxa1 32.Kxd2 Rxa6 33.Ke3 draw agreed
However, black failed to realise how poorly placed the white king is and missed a brilliant win.
29…Bf4!! 30.a7 Rxf2 31.a8Q+ Kg7 White is up a queen for a bishop and pawn, but white’s king is trapped in a mating net. Black is threatening mate with Rbe2 followed by Re3# and white’s three major pieces cannot do muchabout it.
White can try:
A) 32. Qc8 preparing to defend the third rank 32…Rxg2 33.Qh3 Rxh2 34.Qf3 Rbf2 and white’s queen is trapped. Best is 35.Qxf2 Rxf2 when black has a winning endgame with B+3P for a rook. 35.Qg4 is met by 35…h5! and white’s queen cannot defend the f3 and h3 squares anymore.
B) 32.Kc3 Rfc2+ 33.Kd3 Re2 threatening Re3# 34. Kc3 Be5+ 35.Kd3 Bd4 with 36…Re3# to follow
C) 32.Qa5 Rbe2 33.Re1 Rd2+ 34.Kc3 (34,Qxd2 Rxd2+ 35.Kc3 Rxg2 black has a winning ending) 34…Rc2+ 35.Kb3 Rb2+ 36.Ka4 (36.Kc3 Bd2+ 37.Kxb2 Bxa5+ followed by 38…Bxe1 wins) 36…Bd2! winning
Chapter 2 – Relative Value Of Material
Here is an interesting game illustrating the chapter’s theme well.
White is clearly better here with more active pieces; black’s Bc6 is particularly bad. Black is solid and white is yet to break through.
21.Bxf6!! Bb6?! Winning the queen but not best. 21…Bxf6 is better. 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Qxf6
White has a knight and pawn for the exchange, black has a terrible bishop, lots of weak pawns and an exposed king. However, white’s king is not totally secure.
23…Bd7! Giving up a pawn to improve the bishop and the queen 24.Qg5+ Kf8 25.Bxd5 Qb6+ 26.Nd4 Qg6 27,Qf4 Ra6 white is slightly better but black should hold with care.
22. Bxg7 Bxd4+ 23.Bxd4 White has just two pieces and a pawn for the queen but his pieces coordinate brilliantly, black has a terrible bishop and black’s kingside is fractured.
23…h6 Stopping 24.Rg5+ but creating another target
23,,,Kf8 24.Ne3 Ra2 25.Rg5! Rxe2 26.Bc5+ Ke8 27.Rg8+ Kd7 28.Bh3+ Kc7 29.Rf8! with a crushing attack
24.Rf6 Ra2 25.Rxh6 f6 26.Ne3
Better was 26…Rxe2 27.Rg6+ Kh7 28.Rxf6 Qa8! 29.Bf1 Rd2 30.Nf5 Rxd4 31.Nxd4 Be8 Black has far better chances to draw here as white’s king is more exposed than in the game. White is better but the reviewer doubts whether white can win.
27.Nf5 Rxd4 28.Nxd4 +- Black has no counterplay
28…Qe7 29.Kf2 Bb7 30,Bh3! Qc7 31.Be6+ Kf8
White finds an elegant tactical way to win the game
A tense middlegame from Petrov’s Defence is shown in the diagram. White’s next move removes one of black’s best pieces, secures a strong outpost on e5 and exposes black’s king somewhat.
24.Rxe6! fxe6 25.Re1 Bd6 26.Re3 (26.Be5 is also possible) Bxf4 27.Rf3 Ke7 28.Rxf4 Rf8 29.Rf6! Using the dark square outpost (29…Rxf6 30.gxf6+ the threats of Qd2-Qh6, Ng4-Ne5 and f6-f7 are too much to deal with)
Qd6 30.Ne5?! (30.Qe3 is better with a big advantage) 30…Ke8? (30…Rxf6! had to be played, 31.gxf6+ Kxf6 32.Qf4+ Kg7 33.Qf7+ Kh8 34.Qxb7 Qb8! 35.Qxc6 Qe8! and black may hold on )31.Qf4 Qe7 32.Ng4 Kd7 33.Ne5+ Ke8 34.Ng4?! (Queenside expansion with b4 followed by a4 was called for) Kd7 35.Qe3 Rae8 36.Ne5+ Kc8 37.Qf4 Qd6 38.a4! with the simple idea of a5 and a6
a6 (Now b6 is weakened) 39.a5 Qe7 40.b3! (Planning c4 and c5 to create a d6 outpost) Qd6 41.Kh2 Rd8 42.g3 Rde8 43.Kg1 Qe7?!
44.c4 dxc4 (44…Qd6 45. c5 Qe7 46.Nf7! followed by Nd6+ winning) 45.Nxc4 (The weakness on b6 is fatal) e5 46.dxe5 Kb8 47.e6+ Qc7 48.Rxf8 1-0
The key themes from this game are space and the weak colour complex in black’s position.
Chapter 5 Psychology of non-materialism
This is really good game which is a famous clash. Paul Keres had to win this game, hence his choice of an ultra sharp variation.
Paul Keres – Boris Spassky
Candidates Riga (10) 1965
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4 A good choice for a must win game c5 6.d5 0-0 7.Nf3 e6 8.Be2 exd5 9.cxd5 b5!? Very aggressive: Spassky goes for a slugfest.
10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Ng4 12.Bf4 Nd7 13.e6 fxe6 (13…Nde5 is a safer option, but Spassky wants a fight) 14.dxe6 Rxf4! (14…Nb6 leads to a slight edge for white)
15.Qd5 (The point of the piece sacrifice) Kh8! (15…Bb7 is playable as well) 16.Qxa8 Nb6
17.Qxa7 (17.Qb8 is probably better, 17…Ne3! 18.Rd1! unclear 18…Qe7 19.Rd2 Nxg2+ 20.Kf2 b4 and the game is wide open) Bxe6 18.0-0 Ne3
19.Rf2? (Best is 19.Bxb5 Nxf1 20.Rxf1 Rf7 when black has lots of play for a mere pawn) b4 20.Nb5 (20.Na4 or 20.Nd1 are still better for black) Rf7 21.Qa5 Qb8! (21…Bxb2 is also good)
22.Re1 Bd5 (Also good is 22…Ng4 23.Bf1 Bd5! 24.Rfe2 Rf8 and black has a decent attack) 23.Bf1 Nxf1 24.Rfxf1 Nc4 25.Qa6 Rf6 White’s queen is misplaced, tied to defending the knight 26.Qa4 Nxb2
27.Qc2? (Just blundering a piece, 27.Qa5 had to be played, after 27…Nd3 28. Re3 c4 29.Nc7 Bg8 black is clearly better) Qxb5 28.Re7 Nd3 29.Qe2 c4 30.Re8+ Rf8 31.Rxf8+ Bxf8 32.Ng5 Bc5+ 33.Kh1 Qd7 34.Qd2 Qe7 35.Nf3 Qe3 0-1
Chapter 6 Is It Good To Be Greedy In Chess?
The author generously gives a couple of his own games where early pawn hunting with the queen lead to disaster. Here is one example of greed punished.
Kozul – Kuljasevic
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Qxd5 9.Be2 (Black was out of theory here and after 40 minutes of thought tried an attractive looking move)
Bb4+? (Black thought erroneously that 10.Kf1 was forced, 9…Qa5+ 10.Nd2 Ba6 11.0-0 c5 looks ok) 10.Nd2 Qxg2?? (10…Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Qxg2 12.0-0-0 wins a pawn but white has obvious compensation) 11.Bf3 Bxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Qxf2+
13.Kc3! (13.Kc1? allows the queen to escape via f1 after black plays c6 & Ba6) c6 14.h4 1-0 The queen is trapped after 15.Rh2
In summary, this is a good book which demonstrates important themes in chess with some entertaining and instructive middlegames. It is aimed at 140+ players.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th July 2021
“After his first two most successful volumes of Chess Middlegame Strategies, Ivan Solokov explores in his final volume ideas related to the symbiosis of the strategic and dynamic elements of chess. He combined the most exceptional ideas, strategies and positional play essentials. These three volumes will give you a serious head start when studying and playing a middlegame. A book and series that cannot be missed in any serious chess library!”
“Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov is considered one of the best chess authors winning many chess tournaments and writing many bestselling chess books. At the moment he is coaching worldwide the most chess talented youngsters.”
This interesting book has seven diverse chapters on middlegame strategies:
Karpov’s king in the centre
Geller/Tolush gambit plans & ideas
Anti-Moscow Typical plans and ideas
Space versus flexibility
Positional exchange sacrifice
Chapters two and three do cover two sets of related positions and are rather specialised in terms of the opening. The other chapters are rather more generic in nature.
It is well known that opening preparation these days is very deep with the use of chess engines. Many variations of sharp openings played at the top level are effectively analysed to the end of the game now, for example resulting in a perpetual or an equal ending. Although this book does cover some games in sharp tactical openings, it does not make the mistake of providing a sea of complex variations with little explanation: Sokolov has made a good effort to extract out some of the key ideas in these dynamic battles.
Chapter 1 Karpov’s king in the centre
Karpov employed the “king in the centre” idea in his favourite Caro-Kann defence. The celebrated game Kamsky – Karpov Dortmund 1993 shows this idea.
In the position white has more space and an intention to attack on the kingside, so white played 11.Qh4?! Black looks to have a problem with his king as castling kingside will be “castling into it” with white’s bishops and queen ready for action there. Karpov came up with an ingenious solution: 11…Ke7!
Suddenly black threatens 12…g5! and the white aggressively placed queen becomes a liability.
The idea only works because white’s queen is misplaced on h4 and is vulnerable to attack. In the famous game against Kamsky, white is really forced to sacrifice a pawn with 12.Ne5! Bxe5 13.dxe5 Qa5+ 14.c3 Qxe5+ when white has sufficient compensation but no more. 12.Bf4 is pretty insipid, after 12…Bb4+ 13.Bd2 Bxd2 14.Kxd2 Qa5+ 15.c3 c5 with equal chances.
The reviewer is not going to cover this game in detail in his review as this is a well known game. If the reader is not familiar with this game, then buy the book to get good coverage of an instructive struggle.
In subsequent games in this variation, white played 10.Qe2! keeping the queen centralised.
The reviewer was particularly impressed with the following game by Vishy Anand against Vladimir Kramnik in the World Championship match in Bonn 2008. Anand’s preparation and superior play in the Meran variation effectively won him the match. The book covers one of Anand’s wins in this variation using the “king in the centre” strategy.
Kramnik, Vladimir – Anand, Viswanathan
World Championship Bonn (5) 2008
This is a key position in just one of the main lines in the Meran variation.
14…Bb7 (The main line, 14…b4 is interesting) 15.Bxb5 Rg8!? (Anand is the first to deviate from Game 3 which he won, and present Kramnik with a new surprise instead of 15…Bd6. Kramnik’s choice in the previous game was the natural 16.Rd1 Rg8 17.g3 Rg4 18.Bf4 Bxf4 19.Nxd4 At this moment Anand was an hour(!) up on the clock, but now he had his first long think 19…h5!? 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Rxd7 Kf8 22.Qd3 Rg7! 23.Rxg7 Kxg7 24.gxf4 Rd8 Kramnik – Anand WCh Bonn (3) 2008) 16.Bf4Bd6 17.Bg3 Black has good counterplay on the g-file f5 (Anand continues to harass the Bg3) 18.Rfc1!?f4 19.Bh4
19…Be7! The bishop’s role on d6 is over, so it returns to free the e7-square for Black’s king 20.a4 Bxh4 21.Nxh4
Ke7! The possible threat to g2 again enters the equation. 22.Ra3
White boosts his third rank, but on the other hand disconnects his rooks and Black can turn his attention to the c-pawn. The radical 22.g3!? should be considered. This weakens the long diagonal, but removing the pawn from g2 enables White to play more actively, a possible line is 22…fxg3 23.hxg3 Rg5 24.Bxd7
24…Rag8! 25. a5 (25.Bb5?? loses to 25…d3 followed by Rxg3+) Qd6 26.Ra3
Black will pick up the dangerous a-pawn with Qc7+ or Qg5+ leading to an unbalanced but roughly level ending.
Back to the game.
22…Rac8 23.Rxc8 Rxc8 24.Ra1 Qc5 25.Qg4
Black intuitively keeps his queen closer to his king. Another interesting computer alternative is 25…Qc2!? to support the d4-pawn 26.Qxf4 d3!
and it’s already reasonable to bail out with 27.Nf5+ exf5 28.Re1+ Kf8 (28…Be4 leads to an equal ending) 29.Bxd7 d2 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg5+ with a draw by perpetual
26.Nf3 Qf6 This move is also connected with a hidden trap.
27.Re1 [27.Nxd4? Qxd4 28.Rd1 Nf6 29.Rxd4 Nxg4 30.Rd7+ Kf6 31.Rxb7 Rc1+ 32.Bf1 Ne3!-+ Surprisingly enough, this motif occurs later in the game!; harmless is 27.Bxd7 Kxd7 28.Nxd4 Ke7 29.Rd1 Rc4= Best is 27.Ne1! improving the knight. Kramnik still wants more and keeps the tension.] 27…Rc5!? 28.b4 Rc3 Setting a beautiful trap.
29.Nxd4?? (Black’s forces already exert unpleasant pressure, but the text-move is an unforced and decisive tactical miscalculation. 29.Nd2!? still leads to a murky position and the outcome of the game remains open.) 29…Qxd4 30.Rd1 Nf6! 31.Rxd4
A previous Kasparov game went 12.Nxh7? (a well known blunder nowadays) 12…Nc6! Black leads in development and the tactics work for him as well. White is probably lost already!
13.Nxf8 Qxd4! leads to a huge advantage to black
Kasparov’s opponent missed 13…Qxd4!, played 13…Rxh5? and Kasparov went on to win
13.Nf6+? gxf6 14.Qxh8 also loses
14…Nxd4! 15.cxd4 Qxd4 16.Ra2 0-0-0 winning
Back to the main game
Nc6 (13…g6 weakens black’s kingside, after 14.Qh3 Nc6 15.Ne4 0-0-0 16.Be3! leads a white advantage)14.0-0 Nd8 Black is defending his weaknesses and avoiding the weakening g6 but his development is lacking 15.Ne4 a5
16.Bg5 (16.Qg4! was more accurate, 16…Rh7 17.Re1 and black has problems developing) Bd5 17.Rfe1 Nc6 18.Bh4 Ra7 19.Qg4
Rh7 20.Nd6+! Bxd6
21.Bxd5 (21.exd6 is very strong as well) Be7 22.Be4 g6 23.Bf6 Black’s rooks are horribly disconnected
Kf8 24.Qf3 Nd8 25.d5! Opening up files for white’s better placed rooks: black crumbles quickly exd5 26.Bxd5 Qf5 27.Qe3
White declines the exchange of queens again. Black can now force a queen exchange, but should he? White won the game without black making an obvious mistake. So this suggests that black should keep the queens on.
11…Qe4 12.Qxe4 Nxe4 13.Re1 g6 14.d4 Bg7 15.Bf3
15…Nf6 (15…Nd6 is another idea to hamper d5 from white 16.Bf4 Rd8 17.Rad1 Bf6 18.b3 Nf5 19.c3 h5 white can still play g4 with an edge)16.c4 White’s plan is straightforward, push d5
16…Rd8 17.Be3 0-0 18.Rad1 e6
19.g4! A typical space gaining move with the intention of kicking black’s knight away with g5 h6 20.h4?! (20.Kg2! was more accurate, see below) 20…Rfe8?!
20…h5!? would have given black better chances than the game, but white still retains good winning chances 21.g5 Ng4 22.Bxg4 hxg4 Black’s g-pawn will fall, but black has time to counterattack the d-pawn 23.Kg2 Rd7 24.Rd2 Rfd8 25.Red1 c5!
26.d5! (26.dxc5? leads to a clear draw Rxd2 27.Rxd2 Rxd2 28.Bxd2 Bxb2 29.Kg3 Kg7 30.Kxg4 f5+ Black draws as white’s extra doubled isolated pawn is not enough to win the bishop ending: see below)
26…exd5 27.Bxc5! b6 28.Be3 d4 29.Kg3 and white is winning the g-pawn with good winning chances, but there is work to do.
Back to the game.
21.Kg2 Do not hurry: improve the king, although 21.g5 also gains an advantage 21…Nd7 22.d5! At last the breakthrough
22…Ne5 23.dxc6 Nxf3 24.Kxf3 bxc6
White transforms his advantages: the bishop pair has gone but his better pawn structure and more active pieces prove decisive: first he grabs the d-file because of black’s weak a7-pawn
25.b3! a5 26.g5 (26.Bb6 is also good, but do not hurry: fix black’s kingside first limiting black’s kingside counterplay which is good technique) hxg5 27.hxg5 Ra8 28.Rd7 Bf8 29.Red1 a4 Hoping for play down the a-file 30.Rc7
axb3 31.axb3 Rec8 32.Rdd7 Rxc7 33.Rxc7 Rb8 34.Rxc6 Rxb3 35.Rc8 Winning a second pawn
This chapter covers positional exchange sacrifices which is one of the key chapters in this book.
The most famous positional exchange sacrifice is probably Rxc3! in the Sicilian Defence. This is not covered in this book as it is so well known.
The following game covers an interesting exchange sacrifice in one of the old main lines of the Sicilian Richter-Rauzer variation. Kramnik’s concept in this game effectively killed off this line for white.
14…Ng4!? A new move at the time, and a very interesting idea, black sacrifices an exchange in order to get a strong initiative, when white loses many tempi with his queen (14…Qa5 is a sound alternative) 15.Qf3 15…Nxe5 16.Qxa8 (16.fxe5 Bb7 is better for black) 16…Nd7
Black has plenty of compensation for the exchange: a powerful pair of bishops and white will lose time with his queen.
17.g3? (17.Qe4 is probably best 17…Bb7 18.Qd4 Nf6 when black definitely has sufficient compensation with his great bishops) 17…Nb618.Qf3 18…Bb7 19.Ne4
19…f5!! (19…0-0 is good, but the move played whips up a powerful attack even more quickly) 20.Qh5+ 20…Kf8 21.Nf2 Bf6!
White has a dearth of pieces defending his king. Black now has a typical winning Sicilian attack against the poorly defended white king. Look at white’s pieces stuck on the kingside. Regaining the exchange by 21…Bxh1 was not necessary: play for mate!
22.Bd3 Na4 23.Rhe1 23…Bxb2+!
24.Kb124…Bd5! Bringing in the other bishop into the attack with decisive effect 25.Bxb5! (25.Bxf5 25…Bxa2+! 26.Kxa2 Qc4+ 27.Kb1 Nc3+ 28.Kxb2 Qb4+ 29.Kc1 Na2#)
A superb exchange sacrifice comfortably equalising. White could have held but defending a virulent attack over the board is nigh impossible.
Chapter 6 Open File
This section covers the topic of the open file. Many different types of position are demonstrated including pure attacking chess sacrificing a pawn or two or a piece to open files against an uncastled king.
Subtle positional struggles are also covered. In this latter vein, the reviewer was particularly impressed with a smooth win by Michael Adams shown below.
This is a main line in the Petroff Defence. White now exchanges some minor pieces to gain control of the e-file. White sometimes executes this strategy in the Ruy Lopez anti-Berlin variation.
9.Re1 Nxd2 10.Qxd2 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 0-0
This position looks pretty equal which is undoubtedly the case, however, white has a slight lead in development and control of the e-file which make white’s position easier to play. Recently Carlsen and other top players have played these types of positions to win with success. Black must defend very precisely as shown by this game.
12.Bf4 White chooses a plan that involves the exchange of bishops and retaining control of the e-file. An alternative plan is 12.c3 followed by queenside expansion with b4 12…Bd6 13.Bg3 Bxg3 14.hxg3 Qd7
15.Re3 Rfe8 16.Rae1 Rxe3 17.Rxe3 h6 (17…Re8?? runs into 18.Qf5! winning a pawn and the game, exploiting the weak bank rank)
19.Ne5 White exchanges knights to dominate the e-file Qd6 20.Nxc6 Qxc6 21.c3 a5 22.Qa3 b6 23.Qe7 White now dominates the e-file. What does white do next? The logical plan is to attack on the kingside by advancing the kingside pawns to expose black’s king and use white’s more active pieces to mate black. Black decides to pre-empt this plan by correctly creating counterplay on the queenside.
b5! 24.a3 b4 25.axb4 axb4 26.cxb4
Black is closer to the draw, but must be very precise to exchange off the queenside pawns.
Qc1+? (A natural check but this probably loses, 26…Qb6! was the exact move required: 27.Rf3 f6 28.Rc3 Qxd4! 29. Rxc7 Qd1+ 30.Kh2 Qh5+ with a draw by perpetual check) 27.Kh2 Qxb2
28.Rf3? (Gifting black a chance to save the game, 28.Qxc7 Qxb4 29. Re5! wins a pawn under favourable circumstances, although white must display some technique to convert) Rf8? (28…f6! draws viz. 29. Qxc7 Qxb4 30.Rf5 Qb6! forcing a queen trade 31. Qxb6 Rxb6 32. Rxd5 Rb2 33.f3 Rd2 with a drawn rook ending but black will have to demonstrate sound technique to hold this ending a pawn down) 29.Qc5 c6 30.Qxc6
So white has won a pawn: black may be lost even with best play, but he can make things difficult for white.
Qxd4? (31…Qxb4! 32. Qxd5 offers black chances to draw but the presence of queens makes things much harder for the defending side. With the queens off and black’s rook on d2, black would be drawing) 31.b5 This pawn runs very fast, the d-pawn offers no real counterplay Qe5 32.b6 Re8 Black threatens mate in two
33.Rf4 Qe6 34.Qb7?!
blocking the passed pawn doesn’t look right. More accurate for white was 34.Qc7! After 34…Qe7 we reach:
35.Qa7! wins nicely, for example 35…Qxa7 36.bxa7 Ra8 37.Ra4 White’s king is in the square of the d-pawn, so black is totally lost.
34…g5 35.Ra4 Qe2? (35…Kg7 getting the king off the back rank was the only hope to fight on) 36.f3 d4
An instructive win with white elegantly exploiting a very small advantage. Notice how one mistake on move 26 loses black the game. It is surprising that black is already in the “zone of one mistake” from a seemingly innocuous opening.
Chapter 7 G-Pawn Strategies
This section covers the early aggressive push of the g-pawn against a castled king. This occurs in many different openings.
The Neo-Steinitz is not popular in modern GM praxis although Keres and Portisch did play this opening. Mamedyarov is a very aggressive player who plays the Neo-Steinitz. The following game is a slugfest.
Grischuk – Mamedyarov
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6
5.0-0 Bd7 6.Re1 (6.d4, c3 or c4 are more common) g5! This idea is perfectly sound, it was introduced by Portisch in 1968 against Kortschnoi.
7.Bxc6 (7.d4 is possible but will probably transpose into the game) bxc6! 8.d4 g4 9.Nfd2 exd4 10.Nb3
10…Ne7 (10…c5 is too greedy, after 11.c3 white has plenty of compensation for the pawn) 11.Nxd4 Bg7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Bg5 f6 14.Be3 Qe8
Black will move his queen over to the kingside and push his pawns for a direct attack
15.Qd3? This move and the next just lose time, clearly white was unsure of his correct plan 15…Qf7 16.Qd2 Qg6 (16…c5! 17.Nde2 Bc6 followed by f5 looks great for black) 17.Bf4 h5
18.b4 h4 19.a4 Qh5 20.Be3
h3 (20…f5! was perhaps even stronger: 21.exf5 h3! 22.Ne4 hxg2 23.Ng3 Qh3 the main threat is to move a rook to the h-file) 21.Nce2! (21.g3 fails to 21…f5 22.Bf4 fxe4 23. Rxe4 Qf7 with 24…Ng6 to follow and white crumbles) hxg2
22.Nf4 Qh7!? An exchange sacrifice, 22…Qf7 was also very good for black 23.Nfe6 Bxe6 24.Nxe6
Ng6! The knight is heading to f3 25.Nxf8 Rxf8 26.Bf4! (26.Ra3 f5! 27.Bd4 f4 and black’s attack is crashing through) f5 (26…Nh4 is answered by 27.Ra3) 27.exf5 Nh4
The final mistake, 28.Qd3! was essential and white can just save the game, one line is 28…Bxa1 29. Rxa1 Rxf5! 30.Bg3 Nf3+ 31. Kxg2 Qh3+ 32.Kh1 Rf6! Threatening Rh6
32.Qc1 (32.Qe3! gives white some hope) Bc3 33.Re3 (33.Rd1 also loses Qh5 34. Rd3 Be5 35.Qg5+ Qxg5 36.Bxg5 Rf5 37.Bh4 Kf7 winning) Bd4 34.Rd3 Re8
35.Be3 leads to a lost queen ending 35…Bxe3 36.Rxe3 Rxe3 37.fxe3 Qc4
The threat of 38…Qe2 is decisive.
35… Bxf2+ 36.Kxf2 Re2+
The checks run out after 37.Kg1 Qxd3 38.Qg5+ Kf7 39.Qg7+ Ke8 40.Qf8+ Kd7 and the black king escapes to b7 0-1
This book is aimed at grades 160+ players although aspiring players with lower ratings would benefit from reading this book.
To summarise, this is an good read with lots of educational games demonstrating the themes in each chapter. My only minor criticism is chapters 2 & 3 are very specialised handling middlegames from two particular opening systems. The other chapters handle more generic themes.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 5th July 2021
“Using carefully selected examples, the authors want to make you familiar with the strategic ideas behind the famous Maroczy bind. These plans arising from both colours, are a must for your arsenal of chess knowledge and understanding.”
“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.”
“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).”
Looking at the title of this book, Understanding Maroczy Structures, it appears to be an abstruse book on a specialised middlegame structure which many club players will know by name. They will be able to describe the tusks on c4 and e4 and probably have lost a game horribly against a stronger player who squeezed the life out of them like a hungry reticulated python. Chess like a reticulated python has beautiful patterns: this book covers all the major ideas and patterns in the Maroczy structures. The reader may be thinking: I don’t play these systems for either colour, it’s of no relevance to me. The reviewer begs to differ: many general, important middlegame themes are demonstrated in this book such as:
Avoiding exchanges to keep the opponent cramped
Exchanging pieces to relieve cramp
Use of knight outposts
Using a space advantage to attack on the queenside
Using a space advantage to attack the king
Using the bishop pair
Pawn levers to attack the opponent’s pawn structure & relieve cramp
Opening up the position to exploit a space advantage and better placed pieces
Bad bishops and weak colour complexes
This book is not a repertoire bible for playing the Maroczy bind; it is a examination of the typical middlegame strategies for both sides in these complex and interesting positions. It is definitely harder to play for the side playing against the Maroczy structures.
The book is structured into five sections and sixteen chapters.
Section 1 Introduction to the Maroczy is divided into three logical foundation chapters:
Chapter 1 What is the Maroczy Structure?
This chapter covers the typical move orders to reach Maroczy bind structures including the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English opening which is a reversed Maroczy.
Here is the most well known incarnation of the Maroczy bind arising from an Accelerated Dragon.
Here is the reversed Maroczy mentioned above:
This chapter enumerates the possible ways that a Maroczy structure can be reached which is usually through the Sicilian Defence (many different ways), English Opening and King’s Indian Defences.
Chapter 2 Typical Positions
This short chapter shows typical positions concentrating mainly on some key decisions & strategies:
White’s decision whether to defend his knight on d4 or retreat it to c2
White’s white squared bishop development to e2, d3 or more rarely g2
Defending the e-pawn with f3 or Bd3
Black’s dark square strategy
Recapturing on d5 with the e-pawn, c-pawn or a piece
The potential weakness of the d4 square
All these topics are covered in subsequent chapters.
Chapter 3 History
Akiba Rubinstein was one of the first players to master Maroczy structures; Mikhail Botvinnik stated that he learnt how to play these positions by studying Rubinstein’s games.
Here is a masterclass by the first Soviet World Champion in his younger days:
Lisitsin – Botvinnik
Leningrad Championship 1932
1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0-0 e5 reaching the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English. White now embarks on a slow development scheme which is too passive and not played by modern masters.
7.d3 Be7 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Nc4 f6 10.Be3 Be6 11.a4 The trouble with this move and white’s plan is that the b4 break is now never available. The other two possible breaks to achieve counterplay in Maroczy structures are f4 or e3/d4, both of which are impossible to achieve in a satisfactory manner with white’s slow, flawed development scheme.
11…Qd7 12.Qd2 b6 13.Rfc1 Rac8 both sides have developed their pieces but black already has a distinct edge and a far easier position to play. White’s next seven moves are pure faffing and he clearly does not know what to do.
14.Qd1 Kh8 15.Bd2 Rfd8 16.Qb3 Nc7 17.Bc3 Rb8 18.Qc2 Nd5 19.Nfd2 Rbc8 20.Nf1 After several moves of shadow boxing, black has a distinct advantage and now acts.
20…Nd4 21.Qd1 Bg4! A typical idea pressuring the e-pawn. White must remove the powerful knight or play the equally unpalatable f3
22.Bxd4 exd4 The recapture with the e-pawn exposes white’s e2- pawn to potential pressure from black’s rooks. Notice how Botvinnik skilfully manoeuvres to arrange this.
23.Qd2 Bf8 24.Re1 Re8 25.h4 Bh3 26.Bf3 Re7 27.Nh2 Rce8 28.Kh1 Be6! White has no counterplay and must simply wait for the reticulated python to tighten its coils.
29.b3 Nb4 (not 29…Nc3? when white has 30.e4!) 30.Bg2 Bd5 Attempting to exchange a key defender of the king 31.Nf3 Rf7! Further masterful manoeuvring points more black pieces at white’s kingside 32.Kh2 Bd6 33.Bh3 Qd8 34.Rab1 Rfe7 35.Ng1 Bc7 36.Na3 Bb7 Compare the respective activity of each side’s pieces. It is not surprising that white collapses quickly.
The follower encounter shows an ideal strategic white win.
Knaak – Walter
East German Championship Erfurt, 1973
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.e4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 By transposition, an Accelerated Sicilian Dragon has been reached. Black plays a popular variation to exchange a pair of knights.
Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1
9…Nc6 Black normally retreats the knight to e6 here. 9…e5 is an interesting try. 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.Rc1! (Black was threatening Bxc3, another key strategy) d6 12.Be2 Be6 13.0-0 Rc8 14.a3 0-0
15.Rc2! (White effects a smart manoeuvre to prepare b2-b4) Rfe8 16.Rb1! a6 17.b4!
Qd8 (Black cannot take the a3 pawn: after 17…Qxa3 18. Nd1! followed by 19.Ra2 wins the queen) 18.Rbc1 Ne5 Black looks to have play against the c4 pawn, but white’s next move squashes any black hopes of counterplay.
19.Nd5! Bxd5 The knight has to be removed 20.cxd5 (As white’s rooks are already doubled opening the c-file is very strong 20…Qd721.h3! (Stopping any ideas of Ng4) 21… f5 Desperately seeking some play 22.f4! A typical reaction pushing the knight back 22…Nf7 23.exf5 gxf5 24.Bb6! (Another thematic idea dominating the c7 square)
Bf6 25.Rc7 Rxc7 26.Rxc7 The rook penetrates with decisive attack. The black king is soon on the menu. Qa4 27.Qd3 Bb2 28.Qxf5 (The attack is soon decisive)
Chapter 5 covers white’s attacking options on the kingside.
The game below shows a Maroczy Bind position being reached from a transposition into a Symmetrical English with an exemplary attacking display from a former World Champion.
Smyslov – Timman
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.c4 Nc6 7.Nc3 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 0-0 9.0-0 d6 10.Qd3 This position is a well known variation of the English Symmetrical which is definitely better for white.
Bf5?! (This idea is now known to be inaccurate. Better is 10…Rb8, 10…a6 or 10…Ng4 but white retains an advantage in all cases) 11.e4 Be6 12.b312…a6 13.Bb2 Nd7 14.Qd2!14…Nc5 (14…Qa5 15.Rfd1 Rfc8 16.Nd5!±)
15.f4! Rc8? (Careless, underestimating white’s attacking chances, better is 15…f5 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Nd5 when white has a clear advantage, but black can fight on) 16.f5 Bd7 17.f6!± (Obviously missed by Timman)
exf6 (17…Bxf6 18.Rxf6! exf6 19.Nd5±) 18.Nd5 f5 19.exf5 Bxf5 (19…gxf5!? 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6±) 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6 22.g4! Be6 (22…Ne6 23.Qd1!+- as the bishop is trapped )
This chapter covers the white’s knight leap to d5 and white’s three possible responses to its capture:
Taking with a piece x d5
Lev Polugaevsky was considered an expert on the white side of the Maroczy bind. Here is a didactic game of his demonstrating the power of cxd5 and the use of the bishop pair. This is a common type of win in the Maroczy bind, so this game is worth studying carefully.
This game also demonstrates that entering a vastly inferior endgame with no chance of counterplay is poor judgement particularly against a very strong technical player: the speculative 12…Qxa2 keeping the queens on had to be tried.
12.Nd5! Qxd2+? (Black should have tried the complicated 12…Qxa2 13.Nxe7+ Kh8 14.Be2 with a white edge)13.Kxd2 Bxd5 (13…Nxd5 14. cxd5 Bd7 15.Rc7+- a decisive penetration to the seventh rank) 14.cxd5 Rfc8 15.Rxc8+ Rxc8
16.g3! (A typical move activating the white squared bishop) Rc7 (16…b6 17.Bh3 Rc7 18.Rc1 Ne8 19.b4 Rxc1 20.Kxc1 Nc7 21.Bd7! wins as in Gheorghiu – Szilagyi Varna 1971 – another game well worth studying in this book) 17.Bh3 Nd7 18.Rc1! (Exchanging rooks enables white to carve up the black queenside) Rxc1 19.Kxc1Nb6 20.Kc2 Kf8 21.b3 The simple plan of a4-a5 is unstoppable
Recapturing with exd5 is also a common strategy which has already been showcased with a Botvinnik win earlier in the review. Here is a more modern example between two 2700+ players with a crisp finish.
Notice that the white squared bishops are exchanged very early. It is not clear which side this favours. White gets rid of his potential bad bishop, but his c-pawn can be vulnerable. Black has exchanged a minor piece relieving his cramp.
Bacrot – Giri
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4!? Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 0-0 9.Bxd7 Qxd7 Reaching a standard position from the Moscow Variation.
10.b3 (10.f3 preparing Be3 allows the clever 10…Rc8 11.b3 d5!! equalising 12.exd5 Nxd5! 13.Nxd5 e6=) Nc6 11.Bb2 a6 (11…e6 followed by Rfd8 and d5 should be considered and is another standard idea to break up the Maroczy bind) 12.Nxc6
Qxc6?! (12…bxc6 13. Re1 Qc7 is better as black has a better share of the centre controlling d5 with his c-pawn) 13.Nd5! Nxd5?! (Better was 13…Rfe8 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 exf6 followed by Re6 when white has a slight edge) 14.exd5 Qc5 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Re1 With heavy pieces the pressure on e7 is very uncomfortable, Black’s play with b5 turns out to be illusory. White’s space advantage spearheaded by the d5-pawn effectively splits black’s position into two compartments, thus facilitating a direct attack on black’s king. It is very difficult for black to funnel his pieces across to defend his kingside.
Rfe8 (Black had to play 16…e5 allowing 17.dxe6 fxe6 when white has very easy play against the e6 and d6 pawns, but at least black gains breathing space, opens the f-file for his rook and he can defend his king 17.Qd2! (White has a host of ideas after this multi-purpose queen move: Rac1 & b4, c5 or Re4, Rae1 and Rh4) b5? (Again 17…e5 had to be played) 18.Rac1! (Compare the activity of each side’s rooks, white prepares b4 and c5 creating a dangerous passed pawn)
Qa7?! (18…b4 is probably better, but white will turn his attention to the kingside) 19.b4! bxc4 20.Rxc4 h5 (20…Rac8 21.Qc3+ is a neat fork) 21.Qc3+ Kg8 22.Rc7 Qb6 23.a4! (Stopping any play with a5, because white replies b5!)
Rab8 24.Re4 f6 25.g4 Rb7? Desperation
26.Qxf6! A lovely combination to finish 1-0
Taking with a piece on d5 is demonstrated with another famous Botvinnik victory.
Botvinnik to move continued 22.Rxd5! The strategical idea is simple: utilise the pawn level e4-e5 to smash up black’s pawn structure and penetrate with the more active rooks.
22…Rc6?! (Better is 22…Rc7 defending the 7th rank 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 f5 25.Red1 Rgc8 with chances to hold, but white is for choice) 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 Re6 25.Kf2 Rf8 26.Rd7! fxe5+ 27.Ke3 Rb8 28.Ke4 Kg8 29.Kd5 Kf7 30.Rxe5 White has an enormous advantage
Chapter 7 covers the retreat of the white knight from d4 to avoid freeing exchanges for black. Here is a thematic game played by Nigel Short.
Short – Felgaer
Buenos Aires 2001
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2 d6 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Nc2 (White withdraws the knight to prevent black exchanging)
a6 (10…Qa5? just encourages white expansion viz: 11. f4 Rac8 12.Rb1! a5 13.b4 Qd8 14. Qd3 and white has a big advantage) 11.f3 A typical move to shore up the e4-pawn allowing the c3-knight to eye up b5 preventing b5 by black Rc8 12.Rc1 Re8 13.Qd2 Qa5
14.Rfd1! Ne5 [14…Red8 15.b4!
A typical tactic based on the undefended e7-pawn, if 15…Nxb4? 16.Nd5! Nc6 17.Qxa5 Nxa5 18.Nxe7+ and 19.Nxc8 winning, so 15…Qh5 is forced when 16.Nd5 leaves white better.
15.b4 (15.c5! is even better: dxc5 16.f4 Neg4 17.e5 winning) 15…Qd8 16.Na3
Short enjoys a solid space advantage, but his pawns will require full piece support. 16…a5 [16…Bc6 17.b5 axb5 18.cxb5 Bd7 19.b6 white is better] 17.b5 Be6 17…b6?
9.exf5 [9.Bxh6!? is playable: 9…Bxh6 10. exf5 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 Rxf5 (11…gxf5 12.0-0 Bg7 13.Qd2 and black has problems with the c8 bishop) 12. 0-0 Bg7 13.Qd3 white has an initiative] 9…Bxd4!10. Bxd4?! (10.Bxh6 is probably better 10…Rxf5 11.0-0 d6 12.Qd2 and black again has problems with the c8 bishop) 10.Bxd4 Nxf5 11.Bc5 The bishop is driven to an awkward place d6 12.Ba3 Nfd4! (Making way for the white squared bishop) 13.0-0 Bf5 14.Rc1 Qd7 Intending to double on the f-file with his rooks
15.Nd5?! White should have improved his bishop on a3 viz: 15.b3 Rf7 16.Bb2 Raf8
17.Nb5! Exchanging off the powerful knight 17…Nxe2+ 18.Qe2 and white is slightly better owing to the great bishop on b2
Rf7 16.b3 Raf8 17.Bb2 e5! Cementing the wonderful steed
18.b4 (The prophylactic 18.f3 is better) Be6! 19.Bd3 Bg4!!
a6 The usual plan here is to exchange knights, play the bishop to c6 and attempt to exchange dark squared bishops with Nd7 11.Qd2?! (11.f3! had to be played to overprotect the e-pawn) b5! Of course 12.cxb5 Nxd4 13.Bxd4 axb5 A massive change has occurred, black has plenty of space on the queenside, he has equalised.
14.a3 Qa5 (Threatening 15…Nxe4!) 15.Rc2 Bc6
16.Qe3?! (16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 is approximately equal) Rfb8! Threatening to trap white’s bishop with e5 17.e5 dxe5 18.Bxe5 Rd8 19.Bf3 Rac8 20.Rd1 Bxf3 21.Qxf3
b4! A typical minority attack 22.Bxf6 b3! A superb Zwischenzug 23.Rcc1 Bxf6 Black has huge pressure on the white queenside with a dragon bishop breathing fire, white is busted
7.e4 (7.Bd2 is less double edged) Bxc3+ !? (The enterprising exchange of black’s fianchettoed bishop for a knight to smash up white’s queenside) 8.bxc3 Nf6 9.f3 Qa5 (Attacking the weak pawns: black’s king is safer in the middle for now. It is imperative for black to attack the weak c-pawns as soon as possible)
10.Bd2 Bd7! Getting the queenside pieces into play quickly 11.Be2 Rc8 12.Ne3 Be6! Now the bishop can safely move to e6 without being harassed by the knight 13.Nd5 Nd7! (An excellent manoeuvre to hold the c5 and e5 squares and target the c4-pawn) 14.0-0 Nce5 15.Be3 White gives up the front c-pawn hoping to benefit from increased scope for his white squared bishop. White cannot attack on the kingside as black has not put his king there.
Nxc4 16.Qd4 Nde5!
17.Bf2 (17.f4 is met by 17..Nxe3 18.Nxe3 Qxc3) g5! Blockading the dark squares 18.a4 Rc5 19.Rfd1 Rg8 20.Rdb1 b6 21.Nb4 f5 22.Qd1
f4! Black has been offering his rook for the dark squared bishop as this bishop holds white’s dark squares together 23.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 24.Qd4 Kf7 25.Nd5 Na5 26.Rb5 Qc8 Black retains the queens as 26..Qxd4 is clearly a blunder
Chapter 14 Play for the bishop pair covers white’s strategy of gaining the bishop pair by playing Nd5 forcing Bxd5. The reviewer has already covered one game demonstrating this idea Polugaevsky-Ostojic. This chapter covers further instructive examples.
Chapter 15 Playing without the light-squared bishop gives another game in the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian Variation. The reviewer has already shown some typical ideas in this line with some of Garry Kasparov’s games.
Chapter 16 shows some typical tactical strikes in the Maroczy. Buy the book to find out about these lightning strikes.
The final section 5 covers games by the world champions in the Maroczy. This is a great way to round off the book showcasing efforts by the great champions.
In summary this is an excellent book on Maroczy structures covering all the major strategies for both sides with some exemplary games showcasing the ideas.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st July 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 296 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1st July 2019)
Technical Decision Making in Chess : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“In Technical Decision Making in Chess former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames and positions where one side possesses a structural or material advantage.
This investigation into a top Grandmaster’s technical understanding will illuminate difficult parts of the game that many players find elusive. Concepts like the “Zone of one mistake” are certain to be a revelation to many.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments.”
Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing.
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Technical Decision Making In Chess uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. 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 and each major diagram at the beginning of a chapter has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are stronger than a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is about “positions where the main goal is the conversion of a static advantage. (A static or long term advantage can be anything from a weakness to better pieces to an actual material advantage.) The flip side is included in this, meaning when it is the opponent who is trying to convert an advantage and we are trying to resist.”
It is not an endgame primer or manual on basic endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence: the author’s particular favourites are named.
The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding: “I just want to say that any active work with the the engine, where you are probing, analysing, asking questions, examining and so on, is useful. Any passive submission to the engine evaluations is likely to make you a worse player.”
“The key question for us has not been which line wins. but why the line is winning.”
The chapter themes are not the usual themes that are found in other endgame books, for example arranged by material, except for the last chapter on opposite bishop endgames. Boris Gelfand shows the vast majority of the endgames in relation to the whole game including the opening and middlegame transitions. This is the modern way to study endgames and gives a much deeper understanding of chess in general and is the approach of a Grandmaster.
Chapter 1 Akiba Showing The Way
In this chapter, Boris showcases the great endgame skill of Akiba Rubinstein in his famous game versus Richard Reti at Gothenburg 1920. It is black to move in the position below which is included in Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals. Black is clearly better with multiple advantages:
Better pawn structure on the queen side, the c2 pawn needs constant vigilance. The white a2 is also a significant weakness.
Better minor piece
Better pawn structure on the kingside: the white kingside is full of holes, hence black’s best move given below
30…Bd7! was the strongest move, fixing the white pawns on the dark squares. They are not in danger from the bishop, but they are unable to prevent the black king from penetrating the position, which is the greatest problem for white.
Rubinstein made one bad move in this game: 30…Ke6? 31.g4! Now white can draw with accurate play, but in practice, he missed the drawing ideas.
31…Kd6 32.h3 g6 33.Kd2 Bd7
34.Nf3 Better is 34.Ng2! The idea is simple. White wants to play d3-d4 and Ne3, when he has managed to plug the holes on the light squares on the kingside to a significant degree. 34…d4 is critical, cutting across this idea. 35.cxd4 cxd4 36.c4 dxc3+ 37.Kxc3 This looks to be good for black as he has a potential outside passed pawn on the queenside, but white can apparently hold! 37…g5 38.f5 Bc6 39.Ne3 Bf3 40.d4 Kc6 41.a3 and white draws. This is extremely instructive and should be studied carefully.
The game continued 34…Ke7 Another idea is 34…h6 35.Ke3 g5 and Gelfand shows that white has a lot of fantastic resources to just hold the game. Buy the book to find out how! 35.Ke3 h5
Reti now placed a horridly passive move 36.Nh2? which definitely loses. His last chance was a far sighted pawn sacrifice to draw as follows: 36.Nh4! Kf7 37.gxh5! gxh5 38.f5! Ke7 39.Ng6+ Kd6 40.h4! Bxf5 41.Nf4 Bg4 42.d4! and white has created an effective fortress. Black cannot make progress as he loses a pawn.
36…Kd6 37.Ke2? (37.gxh5 gxh5 38.h4 is tougher, but does not hold. 38…Bh3! The domination theme, a sample line is 39.Nf3 Ke6! 40. Nh2 b5 41.Kf2 Kd6 42.Ke3 a5 43.Nf3 Ke6 44.Nh2 a5 45.Kf2 (45.a3? Kf5 with the idea of b4 creating an outside a-pawn wins quickly) a3! 46.Ke3 Kf5 47.Kf3 Kg6 48.Ke3 d4+ 49.cxd4 Be6 50.Kd2 Bxa2 and black wins as the blockade does not hold.
The game continued 37…d4! Fixing a2 and c2 and widening the bridgehead for the king and bishop. 38.cxd4 cxd4
White lost quickly as follows 39.Kd2 hxg4 40.hxg4 Bc6 41.Ke2 Bd5 42.a3 b5 43.Nf1 a5 44.Nd2
Now black won with the thematic 44…a4! forcing the creation of a passed a-pawn. We all know that knights are very poor at dealing with passed rook pawns. 45.Ne4+(45.Nb1 Kc5 46.c3 Ba2 wins) Bxe4 46.dxe4 b4 47.Kd2 bxa3 48.Kc1 g5 0-1
This ending is worthy of close study, not just to enjoy Rubinstein’s great technique, but also to discover hidden resources in difficult positions: a variation on the theory of infinite resistance.
Chapter 2 Turning Points
This section covers two interesting Gelfand games, one of which he wins and one he loses. As the chapter heading indicates, the key theme is recognising critical points in a game. The section culminates in the analysis of a fascinating same colour bishop endgame from the second game that was holdable by the inferior side.
This is a middlegame position from a Catalan opening. Gelfand comments along the lines of white (Ivanchuk) is a little better with a better bishop and a bit more space. The important factor is that the position is easier to play for white and white risks little by playing on. Black’s main problem is the decision about when to stay passive (waiting) or go active. This general issue is covered more in chapter 3.
It is hard to believe that a player of Ivanchuk’s standard ends up in a losing position after only six more moves!
White played 21.Nel?! (Hoping to get the knight to b4 an apply some pressure. The simple and natural 21.Bd3 was better. After 21…Qd6 white can try 22.Ne5, 21…Qc8 with the idea of a5 and Ba6 exchanging the semi-bad bishop is logical. 22.Qa3 Qf8 23.Qa4 Qc8 24.Kg2 a5 25.Bb5 Ba6 26.Bxa6 Qaa6 27.Ne5 Qc8 28.Qc6 and white is better in the inevitable double knight ending.
The game continued 21…Qc8 22.Nc2 Ne4! 23.Nxe4 dxe4
White probably mistakenly thought this pawn structure transformation was in his favour. This is incorrect. The e4-pawn is fixed on the colour of the bishop, however, the e4 pawn gives a space advantage, the d5 square and a pivot for a pawn storm on the king side.
White should probably play 24.a4 then Bd5 25.Qc3 Qxc3 26.bxc3 White is optically better but 26…Bb7! 27.Nb4 Nb8! Black is going to bring his king over and hold. White played 24.Qc3? Qxc3 25.Bxc3 b5! This looks dangerous putting another pawn on the colour of the bishop, but white’s bishop is also hemmed in by black’s pawns and black has a significant space advantage.
This is the crucial turning point of the game. White should have objectively realised that he had gone wrong and looked for way to draw. 26.c4 looks reasonable, but after bxc4 27.Bxc4 Nb6 28.Be2 a5 29.Kf1 Bd5 30.a3 Bc4!? white is a fraction worse. Black has rid himself of the semi-bad bishop and has a space advantage in a knight endgame.
White played 26.a4? (See two diagrams back above, gifting black an outside passed a-pawn) and duly lost. An horrendous positional error from a world class player. Black combined the passed a-pawn distraction with a general advance on the king side to create entry points for his king and win.
In the second game, the aforementioned bishop ending reached this critical position.
White played 44.h4? which loses. 44.Kb6! would have drawn. The analysis is complicated but black’s best try is 44…Ke6 (44…Bd1 also leads to draw by a single tempo) 45.Bg6 Kd6 46.Be4 c5 47.Kb5 Bd5 48.Bxd5 Kxd5 49.Kxa4 h5 50. Kb5 c4 51.Kb6 Ke4 52.Kxb7 Kf3 53.Kc6 Kg2 54.Kc5 Kxh2 55.Kxc4 Kxg3 56.b4 h4 57.b5 h3 58.b6 h2 59.b7 h1=Q 60.b8=Q Qe4+ 61.Kc5 Qxf4 (see below) with a theoretical draw but still a practical challenge. The companion volume Decision Making in Major Piece Endings covers this type of ending.
This whole bishop ending is worthy of close study as white has some amazing ideas to hold an ending that just looks lost.
Chapter 3 covers the important topic of active or passive defence.
Gelfand demonstrates this theme with a complex double rook and knight endgame. Here is a position a few moves before that endgame, where black missed a chance to equalise comfortably.
Gelfand points out that active defence with 23…Nd5! forces easy equality. 24.Qxe5 Nxe3! 25.Be4= (25.Qxe3? Qxe3 26.fxe3 Rxd3 27.Rxa7 Rxa7 28.Rxa7 Rxb3 and black is playing for a win)
Black played the passive 23…Qc6?! forcing a queen exchange. This is a common mistake when a (weaker) player wants a draw and exchanges pieces with small concessions 24.Qxc6 Bxc6 25.Bf1! Rdb8?! (26…Rab8! is more active when white can win a pawn but has great technical difficulties) 26.Bc4?! ( 26.Ra6! Rb6 27.Bc4 Bd5 28.Bxd5 Nxd5 29.Rxb6 Nxb6 30.Ra5! White is definitely in plus equals mode playing for two results.) 26…Bd5?! (26…Bb5 equalises) 27.Nxd5 Nxd5 28.Ne4 Rb4 29. Nd2! Rb7 Reaching the position below.
White played 30.Ra5 which sets a small trap. 30.g4! was probably better gaining space and attempting to isolate the e5 pawn from its friends. Black played the obvious 30…Rd8?! activating the rook (30…Nc3 is better). After the game move, white has an edge and it’s very instructive to see how Gelfand increases his advantage in a practical game with mistakes from both sides.
Chapter 4 covers the common idea of A Bad Plan is Better than No Plan.
Here is a complex middlegame position.
The penalties of planless play are amply demonstrated in the middlegame between moves 21-30 where planless play by black spoils an equal position resulting in a difficult heavy piece middlegame and subsequent losing king and pawn ending.
White to move on move 40. What would you play? 40.a4! springs to mind spoiling black’s majority and winning.
Chapter 5 is all about long games with an increment.
Gelfand demonstrates two games, the first is a complex rook and knight endgame; the second of which is a very long queen and minor piece ending with an extra pawn.
This queen and minor piece ending has just arisen after white forced the exchange of rooks a few moves ago.
White played 34.Qe2? which is a blunder. 34.Kg1 is obviously better, 34…Nxh4 35.Bxe5 activates the bishop increasing white’s advantage. 34…Kg8? Missing 34…Nf4! 35. Qf3 (35.Bxf4 Qxh4! threatening mate) 35.Kg1 Qd2 with loads of counterplay 35.Kg1 Nxh4 36. Bxe5 Qa5 37.Bg3 Ng6
White has increased his advantage by activating his bishop.
I shall show a couple of other positions from this instructive game with Gelfand’s pithy comments. Black sacrifices the h-pawn to open up the white king.
White played 45.Qg3?! instead of the consolidating 45.Bc3! “White consolidates and is on the way to winning the game. In these long games where it is very hard to spot the critical moments, because every moment is a mini-version of it, inaccuracies are bound to happen. This is why it is important to analyse the games and improve our feeling for how to spend our time, how to organise our pieces, how to organise our thinking and how to control the opponent’s counterplay. A lot of happens subconsciously. We analyse the games, find out what actually happened, compared to our experience during the game, and our feeling for the details will be slightly better the next time around.”
At move 49 this position was reached:
Gelfand played 50.Qe3!? a perfectly decent move. Gelfand comments that the computer suggests 50.Kf3 Qf5+ 51.Ke2 Qe5 52.Qe7 Qxb2+ 53.Ke3 reaching this position:
The knight is lost after 53…Nxf2 54.Qe6+ Kh8 55.Qc8+ Kh7 56.Qf5+ A brilliant line.
Gelfand makes a wise and honest observation: “Obviously this is the type of thing the engine does much better than a human. Finding a tactic in a position where there are a large number of possibilities. No human can go 2-3 moves deep in all lines and see these types of options. So, all in all, I pay attention to this kind of information, but I do not regret not seeing it.”
At move 101 (see position below), Boris comments: “At this point I was confident that I would win. I knew what I should do. The queen controls everything and the white king can go forward. White is also winning in this position if there are no f- or g- pawns on the board….White can also play f5-f6, creating a situation where the black king is exposed, liniting the number of checks Black is able to give. The general idea is basic: White will aim to put the queen in-between on one of these checks, spiking the black king, forcing the exchange of queens.”
Having read the relevant section in the companion volume “Decision Making In Major Piece Endings” even the reviewer would be confident of victory in this technical position.
Chapter 6 When is the Right Time to Run?
This chapter is about “situations in both the middlegame and the endgame, where both players had to make decisions about when to improve their position and target the opponent’s resources and when to roll the dice and attack the king or let passed pawns roll. This is perhaps the most essential theme in top level chess, as a good feeling for what kind of action is needed in various positions, when to calculate and when simply to improve the position, is worth many points.”
Gelfand demonstrates this with a complex rook and knight ending.
Gelfand also brings out a pertinent comment about computer evaluations in this section. This is a position from a short variation in that game:
Boris says “Stockfish helpfully tells us that the position is still equal. But is it really? Black is full control of the d-file and can penetrate to the second rank…..Black is much more comfortable….”
Objectively, a strong engine would hold as white, but who would choose white?
Chapter 7 Choosing the Right Transformations
This chapter shows a complex queen and knight ending which is really interesting considering all the transformations to knight endings.
Black played a technical, far reaching move 30…Qg5! forcing 31.e3 and the weakening of the f3 square. Gelfand stresses the point that black cannot win on the queenside alone and must create weaknesses on the kingside. Gelfand analyses the alternative 30…Qa6 to a probable win giving some superb analysis including a brilliant positional knight sacrifice creating passed a- and h-pawns which is definitely worth studying:
37…Nf1+ 38.Ke1 Nxh2 39. Kf2 Kf8! 40. Kg2 Nxf3 41.Kxf3 (41.exf3 h5 ensures a passed h-pawn) f5! Black wins by a tempo.
Chapter 8 – Karjakin
This game is a technical queenless middlegame in the Chebanenko.
This position gives a flavour of the struggle:
White is clearly better, but how does white proceed here? Buy the book to find out.
Chapters 9 and 10 are titled Stalemate and Stalemated respectively.
Here is an amusing finish:
Black is under the cosh with a killing rook discovery on the cards.
Bacrot played 34…Bd3+!! 35.Bxd3 Qd5 36.Bc4 Renewing the threats. 36…Rh1+ 37.Kg2 Qd2+! 38.Kxh1 Qg2+ stalemate
Chapter 11 The Relevance Of Endgame Studies
This chapter is good and the title is self explanatory. Solving endgame studies is useful for getting a feel for the potential of the pieces – not only in the endgame. Endgame studies are the artistic side of chess. Here is an instructive and entertaining study composed by Sergey Tkachenko & Boris Gelfand:
I will not give the solution, but there is a beautiful zugzwang, so buy the book to find out!
Chapter 12 Geometry
This chapter has an intriguing title but covers mainly R+N v R and positions with R v N or B with just a few pawns. Here is a good example:
White is in great danger here with his monarch in the corner. 65. Rxa7 loses as it unpins the knight allowing the prosaic mate 65..Rh5+ 66. Kg1 Ne2+ 67.Kf1 Rh1# The move that springs to mind is 65.Kg1. In fact this does draw as does 65.Kh2.
White actually played 65.Nd4+? to distract the black rook, so he could capture the a7-pawn. After 65…Rxd4 66.Rxa7 black has a pretty win with 66…Rd6! 67.Ra2 (67.Rf7 Kg3 68.Rg7+ Ng6! shuts out the rook and mates) 67…Rh6+ 68. Rh2 Nh3! with a beautiful zugzwang that I have not seen before.
69.Rh2 Nf2+ 70.Kg1 Rh1#
Chapter 13 – Endings with Opposite Coloured Bishops
This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it shows the immense complexity of such endgames.
White has just played 71.Bxb4 and reached the haven of an opposite coloured bishop endgame. This is quite a common type of position reached in practice. This position is a draw but it is difficult and a world class player of Peter Leko’s standard did not succeed in practice. Buy the book to find out how black won and how white could have drawn.
To summarise this is a very good technical book with many instructive games with deep analysis and didactic commentary. The book is clearly aimed at aspiring FIDE2000+ (ECF175+) players and above.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, May 12th 2021
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