“This book marks the start of a series of four on 1.d4 in which Ivan will share the secrets from two decades spent analyzing and playing it at the pinnacle of world chess. This volume in particular deals with two of the most popular replies Black can play after 1.d4: the King’s Indian Defense and Grünfeld Defense. Ivan presents the cutting-edge theory with his personal refinements as well as explanations of the deep strategical nuances that arise after his recommendations.”
The author has divided the content into four chapters as follows :
The King’s Indian Sämisch
As mentioned previously, this book is Volume 1 of a four volume series for White to play 1.d4 and 2.c4. Volume 1 presents a repertoire for White to play against the Kings’s Indian, Grünfeld and Benoni defences based around 3.f3, building (or attempting to) a strong centre as follows
The Early Sidelines chapter covers reasonable third move alternatives for Black such as a Benko Gambit style attempt, 3…e6, 3…Nc6 and some lesser alternatives. The author then spends some time on Benoni (but not Benko) type structures suggesting that this approach is one of the best for Black.
The main meat and potatoes of this book is naturally taken up with the Grünfeld and King’s Indian type responses from Black. Each of these are analysed exhaustively using a discursive style that compels the reader to look further into these interesting ideas.
This book will be of considerable interest not only to the White player but also to Grünfeld and King’s Indian players who are keen to stay on top of attempts to stop them doing their thing.
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used 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 diagram has a “to move” indicator.
There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing, as usual, is a bibliography.
However, despite these shortcomings this is an excellent addition to White’s armoury and Black players should take note. We look forward to volumes 2,3 and 4 in this series from Cheparinov !
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 4th April, 2020
Book Details :
Hardcover : 192 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 Mar. 2020)
James Mason in America : The Early Chess Career, 1867-1878 : Joost van Winsen
Journalist Joost van Winsen lives in the Netherlands. He has previously written about American chess history of the Nineteenth century, and has contributed articles to ChessCafe.com and ChessArcheology.com.
James Mason was one of the mystery men of chess. We don’t even know for certain what his real name was. We know he was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1849, his family emigrated to the United States in 1861, and, somewhere round about the end of 1867, he turned up playing chess in New York.
Over the next decade he established himself as one of the strongest players in his adopted country before moving to England, where he died in 1905. His best result was at Vienna 1882, where he finished 3rd behind Steinitz and Zukertort in a field including most of the world’s strongest players, but, at least in part because of a fondness for drink, he never quite fulfilled his promise. In the 1890s he wrote several books, notably The Principles of Chess and The Art of Chess.
This book, a paperback reprint of a 2011 hardback, covers Mason’s early career.
The first four chapters provide a chronological account of Mason’s life in chess, enhanced with contemporary pen and ink drawings of many of his opponents and acquaintances. We then have a chapter about his writings and another about his style of play.
The second part of the book gives details of his match and tournament results, and, by the third part, we reach his games, about 200 of them (some sort of game numbering system would have been helpful). While Mason’s later style could sometimes be turgid, in his American years he favoured gambit play with the white pieces. Although the standard of play was, by today’s standards, not very high, there’s still plenty of entertainment value. His regular opponents included the British master Henry Bird, who was living in the United States at the time, along with many of the leading New York players of that era.
Van Winsen took the, perhaps controversial, decision only to use contemporary annotations rather than incorporate modern computer analysis. As he explained, “The author preferred the antique human judgment to the modern ‘truth’ of computer software.” The opening assessments make amusing reading. In 1873, for example, Orestes P Brownson considered 3. Nc3 in the French Defence a mistake, recommending 3. exd5 instead. In 1876, Zukertort, quoting Max Lange, criticized the Winawer variation of the French, preferring 3… Nf3 (sic: a rare notation error) because White is better after 3… Bb4 4. exd5.
How strong was Mason at this time? Jeff Sonas and Rod Edwards disagree by about 200 points: Sonas has him at 2700 strength and one of the best in the world, while Edwards has him some way down the list at 2500 strength. My money’s on Edwards, who includes casual as well as formal games in his calculations. Buy the book, play through the games yourself and see what you think.
The book then concludes with some appendices covering a variety of topics, a list of sources and six indexes.
As is to be expected with books from this publisher, James Mason in America is well researched, well written, well illustrated and well produced. I might have preferred it if the games and tournament results were included in the narrative rather than in separate chapters, but you may well disagree.
This book probably won’t improve your rating, but if you’re at all interested in 19th century American chess history, and, like me, you missed the original hardback edition, you’ll want to add this to your collection.
I’d certainly be interested in a book covering the rest of Mason’s life and career: James Mason in England?
Here’s a game to whet your appetite.
James Mason – Frederick Perrin New York (casual game) June 1873
John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess and many of these are some of the finest chess books published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) easily is a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.
This workbook is a follow-up to the original (2015) and much liked Chess Endgames for Kids by Karsten Müller :
From the rear cover :
“This is a book for those who have started to play chess and want to know how to win from good positions and survive bad ones.
The endgame is where most games are decided, and knowing all the tricks will dramatically improve your results. Endgame specialist John Nunn has drawn upon his decades of experience to present the ideas that are most important in real games. Step by step he helps you uncover the key points and then add further vital knowledge.
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is the third in a new series of books that help players gain chess skills by solving hundreds of carefully chosen exercises. The themes are similar to those in Gambit’s best-selling ‘Chess for Kids’ series, but the focus is on getting hands-on experience. Many positions build on ones given earlier, showing how advanced ideas are normally made up of simpler ones that we can all grasp.
Each chapter deals with a particular type of endgame and features dozens of exercises, with solutions that highlight the key points. For each endgame we are given tips on the themes that are most important and the strategies for both sides. The book ends with a series of test papers that enable you to assess your progress and identify the areas that need further work.
Dr John Nunn is one of the best-respected figures in world chess. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years and won four gold medals in chess Olympiads. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion, ahead of many former champions.”
To get some idea Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition.
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN and most chess teachers and coaches would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a symbolic “whose move it is” indicator. Each diagram does have coordinates which are very welcome for the younger junior reader.
The book is divided into 8 chapters as follows :
The Lone King
King and Pawn Endings
Minor Piece Endings
Rook and Minor Piece Endings
Each chapter has an introduction to the type of ending examined, followed by a good number (at least 20 – 40 ) of exercises followed by “Tougher Exercises”. Each chapter concludes with Solutions (and excellent explanations) to each exercise.
Here is an example (#39) from Chapter 2 :
“Should White play 1 a5 or 1 Kc6, and what is the result ?”
The solution is at the foot of this review.
Just as for Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids, it was clear when working through the easier set of exercises that the author had thought carefully about their sequence since the reader should (we did for sure !) notice the level of difficulty increasing slowly but surely. The solutions are remote from the puzzles nicely avoiding the “accidentally seeing the solution” issue one gets with lesser books. The solutions themselves are clear and concise and instructional in their own right.
We found chapters 7 & 8 particularly rewarding and Test Papers puts the previous chapters into context. Precise calculation is order of the day rather then intuition.
One negative comment we would make (and we are struggling to make any!) concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. We would say not but we would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. We would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.
As we previously mentioned in our review of Chess Opening Traps for Kids, The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.
In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their core endgame skills and results. It makes an excellent book for the new year for young players and the young at heart !
39) At the moment White’s g-pawn holds back all three enemy pawns. The winning idea is to stalemate Black’s kings and use zugzwang to force Black to push a pawn : 1 a5! (1 Kc6? Ka7 2 Kd6 doesn’t work because White will not promote with check if Black’s king is not on the back rank; then 2…h5! 3 gxh5 g4 4 h6 g3 5 h7 g2 h8Q g1Q leads to a drawn ending with equal material) 1…Kc8 2 a6 Kb8 3 a7+ Ka8 4 Ka6 (forcing Black to self-destruct on the kingside) 4…h5 5 gxh5 f5 6 h6 f4 7 h7 f3 8 h8Q#.
“Grandmaster Gata Kamsky, five times US champion, has one of the most extraordinary career trajectories of any chess player. In 1989 he arrived in New York, at the age of 15, with his father from his home country Russia. Just two years later he became for the first time US champion. He reached the top 10 at the very young age of 16 and played a World Championship match at the age of 22, losing to the reigning World Champion Anatoli Karpov. He then decided to stop playing chess for 8 years, studying Medicine and Law. In 2004 he reappeared as a full-time player, became again a world-elite player winning many international tournaments and supporting the US team for many successes.”
What we have here is 22 annotated games (mostly wins, but there are a few draws as well) played by Gata Kamsky between 2004 and 2013, during which period he harboured aspirations towards the world championship.
Kamsky had White in 18 of the 22 games: perhaps it would have been good to learn more about his approach to playing the black pieces. His opponents included the likes of Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Topalov, Karjakin and Grischuk.
22 games in 450 pages? Yes, that’s an average of about 20 pages per game, often with two or three pages devoted to just one move. There are annotations almost every move: lots of words, and lots of variations as well. Bobby Fischer managed to cram 60 Memorable Games into a lot less space, but then he didn’t have computers to help him.
To give you some idea of what to expect, let’s take a fairly random example: this is Kamsky-Carlsen from the 2007 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.
In this position Carlsen played 17… Re6?
“Probably Black’s only big mistake, but one that costs him the game. The rook is not the best blockader, and once I have figured out how to remove it (by re-routing the knight from g3 to h5, it will only help White accelerate his initiative on the kingside.
“17… Qb3! was perhaps the only move to stop White’s ambitious plans. Black gives up his weak d-pawn in order to open up the position for the rest of his pieces, especially the blocked-in f8-bishop, thus making the rest of his pieces much more effective.”
He then goes on to explain that he was planning to meet 17… Qb3! with 18. Qd2! We then have three pages of notes on this position, with one line ending up with White a pawn ahead on move 42 and another where White wins with a queen sacrifice on move 33.
Eventually returning to the game, we reach this position.
Carlsen has just given up the exchange hoping to set up a fortress. Kamsky explains:
“Black is down a whole exchange, but his structure looks very solid, and if he somehow manages to re-route his knight to f5, while building a strong pawn blockade on the queenside, he might stand a chance. However, White is an exchange up, which means he only needs to open one file for his rooks to infiltrate to win the game. And that is something that Black cannot prevent.”
Kamsky eventually managed, with some help from his opponent, to open the h-file for his rooks, winning on move 46.
The verbal explanations of positions and plans are, as you can tell, models of clarity but you might well think there are too many variations. You’re going to need at least two, more likely three chess sets to find your way through some of the thickets.
The games are not all you get for your money, though. Each game is put into context, and, Kamsky warns us in the introduction: “I must also caution that some of the views and comments expressed on subjects other than chess will sometimes be found to be quite controversial and not ‘correct’, in which case I would invite the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.”.
We are, perhaps fortunately, spared Kamsky’s views on Donald Trump and Brexit, but we do get his opinions of his opponents along with some flashbacks to his childhood.
You may well be aware of the reputation of his father, Rustam Kamsky. Gata’s descriptions of their relationship doesn’t make comfortable reading:
“… I had no education and was under the complete domination, in both body and soul, of my father. He literally threatened to kill me many times, including chasing me with a knife on numerous occasions after a terrible tournament…
“When I came home from the one and only occasion I went to the authorities for help, my father burned my hand to the bone and told me that if I told the authorities about him again, he would kill me. Being physically beaten was an everyday occurrence; it was the psychological attack with his words that made me feel very old and not want to live.”
Given this background it’s perhaps understandable that he has a jaundiced view of some of his fellow grandmasters, even including the universally respected Vishy Anand. He has the rather strange habit of referring to some of them, particularly, it seems, those with whom he has come into conflict in the past, as, for example, Mr Topalov.
In some respects, then, this is a very personal book: much more than just a games collection.
Every one of the games is fascinating, the annotations are superb, but you probably need to be round about 2200 strength to gain full benefit from following all the variations. Below that level, you might find yourself shouting “too much information, Mr Kamsky” and perhaps prefer to spend your money on something with more games and fewer variations.
The production standards, as usual from this publisher, are excellent. I noticed very few typos (a redundant check sign and Jeffrey rather than Jeffery Xiong). If you’re looking for a collection of grandmaster games with exceptionally detailed annotations, along with some very personal insights into the world of top level chess, this is the book for you.
“Mark Dvoretsky (1947-2016) is considered one of the greatest chess instructors in the modern era. He left behind a great legacy of many books and publications. At the time of his passing, there were two unpublished manuscripts he had finished (and one other co-authored with study composer Oleg Pervakov).”
And from the Foreword by Artur Yusupov :
“Chess Tests offers chess players material of very high quality for working on various themes, from training combinative vision to techniques of realizing advantages. I recommend using those materials for in-depth work in the directions mentioned in the book. If you follow this advice, then this volume will become a valuable addition to your chess studies and will help you reinforce skills and knowledge you have already obtained. “And here is probably the most important point. Dvoretsky wanted to write a book that would not only teach some intricacies of chess, but would also be simply a pleasure to read for aficionados of the game, so he tried to amass the ‘tastiest’ of examples here. I hope that this last book by him is going to achieve this, presenting its readers with many chess discoveries and joy of communication with the great coach and author.”
This book (also available as an eBook) is divided into seven chapters as follows :
Training Combinational Vision, 32 tests
Candidate Moves, 38 tests
Calculating Variations, 18 tests
Attack and Defense, 28 tests
Positional Play, 52 tests
Realizing an Advantage, 24 tests
Endgame Tests, 35 tests
and each of these is further sub-divided. Above we have indicated a number of tests for each chapter. Each of these tests comprises a position diagram with a whose move it is indicator.
Unusually, the tests sections comprise the first 62 pages and pages 63 – 206 are the solutions. So, this book is a little unusual for a standard “tactics” book in that the bulk of the text is in form of solutions and explanations.
So, this is much, much more than a routine tactics book. As you might expect from Dvoretsky the bonuses come from the solutions. It is clear that Dvoretsky had gone to great lengths to collect the test positions, and, as we found (in the BCN office), they were an absolute delight to work on. To whet your appetite here is a pleasing example from “Tasty Tactics #2 :
And here is the solution that you may wish to cover up for now :
6. Stern-Sanakoev, corr wch 1994-99
A fine queen deflection that prepares a mating attack.
The same combination leads to a won endgame : 52…Qxh2+ 53.Rxh2 Ng3+ 54. Kg1 Bb6+ 55.Qd4 Bxd4+ 56.cd Rxe1+ 57.Kf2 Nf1 (57…Re3!?;57…Rh1!?), but a quicker way to finish the game is 52…Qf4! (there is a threat of both 53…Qxe4 and 53…Qf1+) 53.Qe8+ Kg7 54.Rxa1 Qxh2+! 55.Rxh2 Ng3+ 56.Kg1 Bb6+.
and here is a beautiful example from Tasty Tactics #4 :
but we won’t give the solution here : you will either have to solve this yourself or buy the book or both !
The general standard of these tests is high : even the tests labelled as “not very difficult” are challenging to say the least. Particularly instructive was the “Realizing an Advantage” section which includes subsections labelled “Technique”. Here is an example :
and here is a particularly tricky example :
In summary, this is a wonderful book and a great testament to the legend that is Mark Dvoretsky. We cannot recommend this book highly enough and claim that is it one of the best chess books of 2019. Please get it and enjoy it !
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.
“One of the most challenging tasks in a chess game is to find the correct strategy. It is far easy to attack too randomly, to miss a vital opportunity, or even choose the wrong plan altogether. These are all mistakes frequently seen by even quite strong players.
Your Chess Battle Plan focuses on how Magnus Carlsen and other great masters decide on the best strategy in a position and then find the right ways to implement it. Clear advice shows you how to hone in on the most relevant features of a position in order to decide what your general plan needs to be. Factors that are addressed include when to exchange pieces, when to make long-range manoeuvres, when to offer sacrifices and how to identify and focus on key squares. Your Chess Battle Plan will get you thinking along the right strategic lines and using your pieces and pawns in a much more efficient and skilful manner.
A complete self-improvement programme.
Advice to evaluate the current level of planning in your own games.
Utilizes a structured approach, making the most of your study time.”
The content is divided into ten chapters as follows :
Improving the Activity of your Pieces
Stopping the Opponent Playing Good Moves
Full Grovel Mode
Punishing Faulty Freeing Moves
Exploiting a Hole
Manoeuvring Against Pawns
Promoting a Pawn
Using a Pawn as a Battering Ram
Sacrificing to Gain the Initiative
Deciding the Character of the Game in the Opening
For each of these themes the author selects a dozen or so games between high quality opponents. He fast forwards to the key moment, sets the scene and then analyses the play from this moment onwards.
Each of the game fragments is analysed with a friendly and candid style emphasizing the key elements not only in the position but, more importantly, in the tactics and strategy implied by the chosen plan. To get most benefit from the authors text it would be best to set-up the start position of the fragment on the board and cover the following text. Spend some time getting “into the zone” of the position and try and decide the best plan for yourself. Having done that then reveal the authors notes and see how much you have predicted. Do this time and time again in a give chapter / theme then the ideas should start occurring to yourself with less prompting.
For a little context here is the full game (up to White 46th) that is discussed below :
From the Promoting a Pawn chapter there is the game (49) Demchenko – Gukesh, 2019 that reached this position after white’s 46th move :
and this is the instructional text from the author :
“Question : Can you see killer blow White had missed?
it looks as if Black is going to have to resign in view of the unstoppable mate, but :
Answer : 46…Qxf5+!
A horrible surprise for White. If he takes the queen it is mate on h1.
47 Kh2 Qc2+ 0-1
It will be mate on g2.
It feels as white was somewhat unlucky in that the logical course of his plan required him to find the ‘only’ move 45.Rf3!, without which he was lost. When the opponent queens first, the stakes on he accuracy of your moves become very high. Meanwhile, Black had to find the tricky 44…Qb7+! and hope that White would overlook the deadly idea behind it. Gukesh was a 12-year old Grandmaster at the time of this game, and not likely to miss such a tactical chance!”
In total 76 games are examined either in full or partly. This book provides a rich pot pourri of well selected examples that demonstrate the ideas of the chapter / theme.
We think this that book will get the student thinking about his or her own potential plans for a position hopefully adding dimensions that would not normally have been considered. The rewards from studying this book are likely to be much greater confidence in middle game positions and perhaps even less fear of murky or unclear positions. Many previous middle game books examine superb examples of play from Capablanca and others where perhaps the positions are less “messy” and not as “lifelike”. These 76 examples from the author are very down to earth and will benefit the student from study.
A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. Secondly, some Everyman books (but not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !
In conclusion we like this book a great deal and hope to find the time to study all of it in depth : highly recommended !
“Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half..” – Jan Timman
The value for any practising chess player of a coherent opening repertoire when playing with the white pieces is key to success, enjoyment and efficient use of study time. Books with “Opening Repertoire” in the title are many and varied and we were intrigued to what the emphasis in this latest book from New in Chess would be.
From the books rear cover :
After the success of his award-winning book ‘Keep it Simple 1.e4’ International Master Christof Sielecki is back. His new repertoire based on 1.d4 has a similar profile: variations that are straightforward and easy to remember, and require little or no maintenance.
Sielecki has created a reliable set of opening lines for chess players of almost all levels. The major objective is to dominate Black from the opening, by simple means. You don’t need to sacrifice anything or memorize long tactical lines.
His main concept is for White to play 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.g3, 4.Bg2, 5.0-0 and in most cases 6.c4. Sielecki developed this repertoire while working with students who were looking for something that was easy to understand and easy to learn.
This new 1.d4 repertoire may be even easier to master than his 1.e4 recommendations, because it is such a coherent system. Sielecki always clearly explains the plans and counterplans and keeps you focused on what the position requires. Ambitious players rated 1500 or higher will get great value out of studying this extremely accessible book.
So, what is Keep it Simple 1.d4 about ?
This is a weighty (427 pages) tome advocating a repertoire for white based on a “delayed Catalan” development approach against almost any line that black chooses.
Originally the content was provided on the popular training site Chessable. Its popularity caused New in Chess to publish in paper format. See Chessable version
From the successful series by Boris Avrukh (and many others) we know that the conventional Catalan System (1.d4, 2.c4, 3.g3) is a highly respected opening system played at the very highest levels by the worlds top players. So, a normal Catalan would see
appear fairly promptly allowing Black various options that White might like to avoid.
By delaying c4 to say move 6 then White is denying Black some of these sharper continuations and maybe allowing White to focus more on middlegame plans rather than engaging in theoretical skirmishes at move 2, 3, 4, 5 or even.
This is the kind of opening philosophy that has encouraged the London System (and the Colle System before that) “pandemic” to dominate club chess : “We show a system that allows you to get your pieces onto sensible squares without allowing your opponent to distract you”. Of course this is a gross over simplification but many club players want an easy life !
So, something typical might be :
where White’s last move was 6.c4
which is covered in chapter 8 and 9 depending if Black captures on c4.
There is one major difference with the approach Sielecki suggests in that we get to a principled set-up via a slower move order.
The book is divided into four main parts as follows :
Black’s …g7-g6 based set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf5 g6 3.g3
Black’s flexible set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3
Black’s sharp and offbeat defences
The author states he has three “KIS” guidelines :
The chosen lines are simple to learn;
It must be possible to find your way if you forget your lines;
Choose lines that may not be most critical, but uncomfortable for the opponent
All the usual (and many unusual) structures from Black are given a detailed treatment :
Chigorin, Tarrasch, Grunfeld, King’s Indian, various forms of Benoni, Modern, Queen’s Indian, Benko b5 ideas, Dutch, Old Indian, Wade Defence and other odds and ends.
An interesting comment we noted elsewhere was from IM John Donaldson : “A worthy follow-up with the author achieving the near impossible in carving out a cohesive repertoire based on 1.d4 2.Nf3 and 3.g3 against all but a handful of Black replies. The most amazing magic trick is how the author makes the Slav and Queens Gambit Accepted disappear – namely by adopting the sequence 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3. This reviewer gives two thumbs up for for Keep It Simple 1.d4. It is full of interesting variations and ideas for players rated 2200 on up who are looking for a positionally oriented repertoire that is not overly theoretical.”
and “As promised, the repertoire is simple, but not so simple that it is not of practical value. IM Sielecki has taken great pains to research the material carefully and package it into a repertoire that is relatively consistent throughout.”–Carsten Hansen “American Chess Magazine ”
and “I like this particular repertoire very much as it’s one which could probably hold the reader in good stead for many years to come. His introductions, conclusions and textual explanations are instructive and ones that a human can readily appreciate, learn from and understand. As I think that I should keep my advice ‘simple’, then I would say ‘just get it’!”–Glenn Flear, Grandmaster “Yearbook 134”
So, who what is the most suitable audience for this book ? We would say that a club player of 2000 plus who wishes to upgrade their white opening into a Queen’s Gambit style structure would enjoy the content. Maybe they have been playing the London, Colle, Stonewall or Veresov systems and want to progress their chess : this book is ideal for that upgrade. It is also good for those who play a conventional move order looking for a more positional repertoire.
As a bonus for the observant, this book provides material for those wishing to kick-off with 1.Nf3 although you will need to deal with 1.Nf3 c5 of course !
As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used 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 (mostly !) 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.
At the rear is the customary detailed Index of Variations and following that there is an Index of Players where the numbers refer to pages.
In summary this book provides a pragmatic and positional repertoire for White against most of the all the commonly encountered responses to 1.d4 and 2.Nf3, 3.g3 and an eventual c4. There is a host of interesting new and dangerous ideas that help you fight for the whole point with the white pieces : recommended !
“Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren (1956 ), was one of the strongest chess players of the Netherlands. He became twice national champion and represented his country eight times during the Chess Olympiads. In 2001 he retired from being an active player and focused on writing books drawn from his rich chess experience. This is his first English chess book written for Thinkers Publishing.”
Many chess players are strikingly ignorant of their game’s heritage, so there’s always a place for a new book offering readers a quick spin through chess history.
There are, broadly speaking, several ways this could be approached: a selection of Famous Games for those who haven’t seen them before, a history of the world championship itself, or an essay on the development of chess style and opening theory over the centuries.
Van der Sterren’s book seems to combine all three approaches. How does it fare?
As I have a particular interest in pre-20th century chess history I decided to dive in at the beginning.
We start, not unreasonably, with Philidor. After some biographical information we might be looking forward to seeing how he played.
Alas, not. The author makes the extraordinary claim that “It is true that some fragments of his games have made it into today’s databases, but their authenticity is doubtful and it is likely that these are mostly fictitious games invented by him for the purpose of teaching or demonstrating a particular point he wanted to make.”.
Really? Is van der Sterren confusing Philidor with Greco, perhaps? While it’s true that the games in his books, and there were only a few, were fictitious, my database has one piece of analysis from 1749 along with 60 complete and 5 partial games against named and known opponents from between 1780 and 1795, all but the first played in London. They were collected by Philidor’s friend George Atwood and many of them were published by George Walker in 1835. There is no doubt at all of their authenticity.
We then move onto the match(es) between La Bourdonnais and McDonnell in 1834. A complete game would have been good but all we get is the Famous Position where the Frenchman forced resignation with three pawns on the seventh rank, without any explanation as to how the position arose.
Then comes the first international tournament: London 1851. We meet Staunton and Anderssen, and, guess what, we see the finales of the Evergreen and Immortal Games. Again, if you really want to publish them because your readers might not have seen them before, why not give the complete games?
According to van der Sterren, “Now Black has to play the defensive move 20… Na6.”. Historians disagree about whether or not Kieseritzky resigned before playing this move (he claimed he did), or whether he played the move and Anderssen announced mate, but why not mention the much better, but still insufficient, defence 20… Ba6?
Come to think of it, why not mention that both the Immortal and Evergreen games were casual encounters in which Anderssen could afford to take risks?
Moving on, inevitably, to Morphy, by this point I started to play a game with myself, guessing what I’d find in each chapter. Opera House game? Tick! Queen sac v Paulsen? Surprisingly not.
On to Steinitz. Bardeleben at Hastings? Tick! Van der Sterren talks about Steinitz’s advocacy of positional chess, and then aims to justify the inclusion of this tactical game atypical of his late style by incorporating some callout boxes labelled ‘Misunderstandings’ in a rather ugly childish font: something not repeated elsewhere in the book.
Lasker? Exchange Lopez ending v Capa? Tick! Then, on p49, in a moment of carelessness, we meet ‘Dawid Janowksi’,
On the same page we see a Famous Pawn Ending between Lasker and Tarrasch:
We’re told that “By looking at the position in a concrete way instead of relying on general considerations, it is possible to find a concrete path to salvation for Black.”. It’s White, not Black, who finds a concrete path to salvation by playing, after 40. h4 Kg4, 41. Kg6 rather than the losing Kf6. Although the annotations throughout the book are mostly verbal we do get a variation which demonstrates why Kf6 loses.
Capablanca? Qb2 v Bernstein? Tick! Rook ending v Tartakower? Tick! But not full games.
Alekhine? v Réti in 1925? Tick! Bogo in 1922? Tick! Again, only the closing stages so we don’t get to see how he reached those positions.
To be fair, the book improves as it approaches the 21st century, and we start meeting players the author knew or knows well.
Here, for instance, is a position from a game I must have seen at the time, but had forgotten about.
This is Anand-Karpov Las Palmas 1996. Here, Vishy played Bxh7+!.
“Anand must have felt there is bigger game to be hunted than just a pawn. Still, to forego a perfectly reasonable option with an extra pawn and a draw in the bag, in favour of a piece sacrifice with unpredictable consequences, is not a decision many players would have made. It is a sign of self-confidence, great powers of calculation and bravery; in other words the hallmark of the most pure, sparkling talent.”
This is typical of van der Sterren’s style of annotation: words rather than variations and a tendency towards hero-worship.
Anand himself is, typically, more modest: “Here, I spent a few seconds checking 21. Rxd5 which leaves White with an extra pawn, but as I mentioned earlier I couldn’t be bothered. I saw Bxh7+ and didn’t waste any more time on Rxd5. I then spent some time analysing Bxh7+, and didn’t see a defence for Black. I then realized that I was too excited to analyse and decided to get it over with. He had hardly any time left already and I was sure that he wouldn’t find a defence.”
Does the book succeed? Although I don’t like being negative in my reviews, I’m afraid not. It suffers from trying to do too much in too short a space, and from a lack of historical knowledge and awareness. If you know anything at all about the history of our beautiful games you’ll have seen almost everything before, and you’ll be frustrated by the broad brushstrokes.
Back in 1987, Mike Fox and I were criticised by some reviewers for including a chapter of Greatest Games in The Complete Chess Addict, but they failed to understand that our target market was social players who wouldn’t have seen them before. By the same token, there may still be a market for a collection of Famous Games, Famous Combinations and Famous Endgame Studies. There are several other histories of the world championship, and treatises on the development of chess style and opening theory, but books that are up to date and whose authors have something new to say are always welcome. This book doesn’t really do any of these things very well, and there is very little original content or thought. If you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to nobody.
However, the book is, for the most part, nicely produced, with a lot of attractive photographs. For someone just starting out in competitive chess who would like to know more about the game’s history, this could be just what they want to pique their interest and encourage them to study this fascinating aspect of chess in more detail.
Richard James, Twickenham, 18th February 2020
Book Details :
Paperback : 264 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (20 May 2019)
Joshua Doknjas is a FIDE Master from Canada who has enjoyed success competing internationally. He has won seven national titles for his age and tied for 1st in the 2019 U18 North American Youth Chess Championship. This is his second book for Everyman Chess.
From the book’s rear cover we have :
“The Ruy Lopez is perhaps the most classical of all chess openings. It dates back to the 16th century and has featured in the opening repertoire of every modern world champion. It is a highly flexible variation: Bobby Fischer used it to create numerous powerful strategic masterpieces. In the hands of Anatoly Karpov it led to many of his trademark positional squeezes, whereas Garry Kasparov often used it as a springboard for his typically powerful attacks.
Opening Repertoire: The Ruy Lopez is a modern examination of this perennial favourite. Joshua Doknjas has put together a repertoire for White based firmly around contemporary trends in the Lopez. He examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans.
A complete repertoire for White in the Ruy Lopez
A question and answer approach provides an excellent study method
Everyman Chess have already produced several books of high quality on chess openings and have now added another one.
The book is divided into ten main chapters as follows :
The Zaitsev : 9…Bb7 and Sidelines
The Chigorin : 9…Na5
The Breyer : 9…Nb8
The Anti-Berlin : 4.d3
The Open Variation
The Anti-Marshall : 8.a4
Systems with 5…b5 and 5…Bc5
Systems with …g6 and …Nge7
The Ruy Lopez has been called the mother of chess openings and is undoubtedly the most challenging for anyone who plays the open game with the black pieces.
The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 is solely dedicated to the closed Lopez : a great favourite of Lev Aronian. Three main variations are looked at after 5…Be7 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 00 9.h3 when 9…Bb7; the Zaitzev 9…Na5 the Chigorin; a great favourite of Paul Keres and 9…Nb8 favoured by Anatoly Karpov are each considered in detail.
The lines are investigated by examining games played by those of at least 2500 Elo with lots of discussion of other possibilities and questions giving the reader the chance to see if they can work out the correct path.
A Grischuk win against the Ziatzev is analysed, Alexei Shirov shows us how to face the Chigorin with nice wins by Ray Robson with Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Legarve dismanting the Breyer Variation.
Part2 starts by looking at the notorious Berlin Defence and recommends that White plays 4.d3 which has been the move favoured By Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in recent years.
Both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are studied the latter in some depth.
The Open variation with 5…Nxe4 by black is analysed in Chapter 5.
The main line 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.d4xe5 Be6 9.c3 is chosen as surprise recommendation as I have played the Open Variation for about 30 years and always thought 9.Nbd2 chosen by Karpov in many games to be the strongest continuation. After 9…Bc5 10 Qd3 is Doknjas suggestion probably chosen to avoid the dangerous Dilworth Attack.
The top game here is a rapid game between heavyweight giants Anish Giri and Vishy Anand and, as usual, White wins.
There is no analysis of the Marshall Defence as 8.a4 avoiding it is the repertoire recommendation.
This was Kasparov’s choice in game 1 of his 1993 PCA world championship match versus Nigel Short. Again, games by Giri and Vachier-Legarve are given as examples for White players. Unusually there is a draw for Black when Ding Liren defends the black side : unusual for this book which has a heavy white bias.
The Arkhangelsk with both 6…Bb7 and the very modern 6…Bc5 often favoured by Shirov is discussed with 7.d3 recommended against the former and 7.c3 against the latter.
The closing chapters in Part 3 look at the rarer moves 3…Nge7 3…g6 3…Nd4 and 3..d6 lines are covered next.
For completeness, there is a chapter on the 3…f5 Schliemann and 4.d3 is the recommended way forward when white intends to snatch a pawn and challenge black to prove he has compensation.
This book is aimed at players from about 120 ECF and upwards though promising juniors who play 1.e4 and are wondering what to choose against the open game are likely to benefit.
The book is nicely presented with good clear print and many diagrams as well as lots of good games.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 8th February, 2020
This is the Modern Defence, which has been described both as a fighting opening, based on counterattack and a masochistic paradise, where Black has to sit with less space for the whole game and then loses.
Having played the Modern for some 40 years now, I can testify that the truth is somewhere between the two views.
You either like the Modern or you don’t and you have to get into the right frame of mind in order to play it properly. Black has to suck up early pressure and time his counterattack to perfection to break up the enemy position. If this is your thing and you have an independent character, you will find what you want after 1…g6.
I think I have most of the Modern Defence books in my library, stretching back to Keene and Botterill, through Norwood and Tiger Hillarp Persson and now complimented by the latest work from Cyrus Lakdawala : ‘ Opening Repertoire’ The Modern Defence.
Lakdawala’s book is comprehensive, brimming with ideas and gives lines for Black after all sensible opening first moves, based on complete games.
His suggestions differ from Hillarp Persson, in that whereas the Swedish GM recommends that Black plays an early …-a7-a6 in most lines, Lakdawala goes back to the Norwood repertoire of old, where 1 e4 g6 2 d4 d6 3 Nc3 c6!? was one of the key pillars of the Black counterattacking reply.
It’s an approach which seems to stand up in the present day.
Let’s dive in and take a look at a few recent games that are not in the book, but which align with the recommendations therein.
I enjoyed the book and I think you will too. Focus on the ideas and the originality of Lakdawala’s thought and you will get a lot from it. I guess the book could have been shortened by 20/30 pages with a more economical writing style, but that is the way he does things and you like it or lump it.
Lakdawala’s book is an important addition to the available chess literature on the Modern. As such, it comes with my strong recommendation.
Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey, 6th February, 2020
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