“Sethuraman Panayappan Sethuraman is an Indian born chess grandmaster. Among his many successes we remember him winning the national championship in 2014 and becoming Asian champion in 2016. For his country, he played in several team competitions achieving countless successes: Bronze Medal Chess Olympiad 2014, Gold Medal Asian Teams 2016, Gold Medal Asian Teams 2016 & Silver Medal Asian Teams 2018. He is currently one of the leading grandmasters of the new Indian chess generation and a very renowned opening specialist. This is his first book for Thinkers Publishing.”
From the publisher we have this brief blurb:
“The book you hold is the first work of GM Sethuraman and contains his efforts to find new paths and fresh perspectives on these two variations of these famous Sicilians. We hope you gain from information in this book as well as simply enjoy the games themselves.”
End of blurb…
The author is Indian Grandmaster S P Sethuraman who was born in 1993 and very much a child prodigy. In 2004 he won the under-12 Asian Championships and in 2009 the World under-16 Championship and in the same year he qualified for the Grandmaster title.
In his first book the authors starts-off by looking at the Sicilian Najdorf recommending that white should play the modest move 6.h3.
The earliest appearance for this move would appear to be in 1949 at the US Open played by Weaver Adams versus Max Pavey. 6.h3 was subsequently made popular in the 1960s by Bobby Fischer and features three times in his book My 60 Memorable Games in games 35, 40 and 43.
In 1962 Fischer used 6.h3 to first beat Julio Bolbochan at Stockholm then Miguel Najdorf at the Varna Olympiad and finally Samuel Reshevsky in the 1962 – 63 US championship.
It is worthy of note that the author has played 6.h3 himself on eleven occasions scoring an impressive 77.3%. Here is a swift example:
Amongst current elite players 6.h3 has been chosen by Hikaru Nakamura. Following 6.h3 White will put his dark square Bishop on e3 and castle Queen side. He also intends to play g4 and then g5.
Chapter 1 looks first at 6…Nc6 which was the move Bolbochan played and after 7.g4 h6 8.Be3 e6 9.f4! White intends to play Bg2, the most normal square for the bishop in this line, then Qf3 and OOO.
White will then start pushing black back with g5 when he will be very much on the offensive. Possibly a better try for black is to play 7…g6 where the GM admits that if black knows his theory then he should be able to achieve equality. 7…Qb6 (the most popular database move) is also considered but White will play Nb3 and at a later stage Be3 attacking the Queen.
In Fischer v Najdorf the move 6…b5 was played and the author suggests responding 7.a4 answering b4 with 8.Nd5 with best play White appears to retain an advantage.
7.Nd5 was played in the Fischer v Najdorf game and that also seems promising for White. Fischer reveals that Reshevsky’s choice of 6…g6, treating the game as if it were a type of dragon position, was a sensible one and since White generally follows up with Be3, Qd2 and 000 the American GM seems to make a fair point. However, there are some differences with a conventional Yugoslav Attack as white has not yet played his Bishop to c4 and in some lines he will play Bg2 followed by f4.
In Chapter 3 6…e6 is examined. After 7 g4 d5 the somewhat surprising 8.Nde2! may shock players of the black pieces.
Black can instead try 7…h6, a natural reaction to g4, but if he intends to castle king side this can be a dangerous weakening move to play. In the so-called main line of 7…Be7 we have 8.g5 and White will carry out the standard plan of Be3, Qd2, 000 and, at the right time, h4 when his attack seems more dangerous than blacks.
Interestingly, the favourite / thematic Najdorf move of 6…e5 is not as effective as it is against the English attack it would appear when
White plays Nb3, Be3 and then f4!
In summary, since 6.h3 is less often played than either 6.Be3 or 6.Bg5 it could well be a wise choice and therefore a good repertoire suggestion.
The second part of this book deals with the Sicilian Taimanov variation.
By far the most popular fifth move for white these days is 5.Nc3 which is in preference to Fischer’s 5.Nb5.
Again, the author practices what he preaches with 19 games and a hit rate of 68.4%. In this encounter from 2019 his hapless opponent tries the unpopular and offbeat 5…Be7 and gets things very wrong indeed:
After the more main stream 5…Qc7 6.Be3 a6 the author recommends 7.Qf3
and both Black responses of 7…Bb4 and 7…Nge7 are examined in detail. I was somewhat surprised that after 7…Bb4 8.000 is recommend daring black to play the “ruinous” 8…Bxc3 as White’s dark squared bishop tends to be very strong in these structures.
Black can also try 7…b5 but 8.Qg3 led to a pleasant end game for White in Motylev v Aravindh 2017 and the actual game result was not the fault of the opening:
If White prefers then 8.Nxc6 is also quite a promising line.
Black moves such as 7…Bd6 and the hedgehog-like 7…d6 where White will often respond to black castling King side with launching his g and h pawn up the board. Finally the knight moves 7…Ne5 and 7…Nf6 are analysed.
In summary, this is a new book from a new author with a generous quantity of analysis given but unlike many modern opening books it is not centered around illustrative games. It will appeal to players who are confident in their abilities to learn and recall more analysis than their opponent.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 14th 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)
“GM Pentala Harikrishna is an established elite player who has been in India’s Olympiad team for over two decades. Since November 2016 Harikrishna has often entered the top 10 of the world rankings, and has consistently stayed in the top 20.
His peak rating is 2770 and he is well known for his exceptional endgame skills as well as for the ability to convert positions with a slight or even no advantage. Harikrishna learned chess from his grandfather at the age of 4, and swiftly progressed up through age-group tournaments until he became a grandmaster at age 14.
He has been World Junior Champion (2004) and Asian Individual Champion (2011). As part of the Indian national team, he has won bronze medals at the World Team Chess Championship, gold and bronze at the Asian Games, and silver (twice) at the Asian Team Championship. He has also won many major open and invitational tournaments, including the Marx Gyorgy Memorial (2006), Tata Steel Group B (2012), Biel MTO (2013), Edmonton International (2015) and Poker Stars Isle of Man (2015).”
From the publisher we have this extensive blurb:
“The French Defence was my main opening with Black while I was striving towards the GM title at the turn of the century. Quite often, I was able to use it to drag my opponent into a complicated maze of deep analysis, so I have intimate knowledge of the tricks used on the other side of the ‘barricades’. This helped me craft a solid base for our present repertoire, and many of the ideas presented in the book have brought me fine victories against some of the strongest French exponents as well.”
“At times, this means suggesting the 2nd or 3rd choice of the engine. He builds on the material from his earlier French course (Chessable, May 2019) and has expanded it with new analysis in all the lines, especially the 3…Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 variation. Harikrishna analyses both 5.Nce2 and 5.f4, so that the reader may make an informed choice about their personal preference. The driving force throughout is to keep the book clear-cut and practical. A good example of a practical weapon is the deceptively simple 3…Bb4 4.exd5 line. There are also fresh and interesting suggestions against the side lines you are likely to encounter, especially at shorter time controls. The entire Thinkers Publishing team joins with the author in wishing you enjoyment and success from this exceptional book”
End of blurb…
It is rare that one of the World’s top ten players would write a book on opening theory but here Hari, as he is commonly called, obliges. He has had a peak rating of 2770 and has been a member of India’s very strong Olympiad team for around two decades .
So, the starting position of this rather large (456 pages) tome is
and this book is written from the perspective of the first player striving to take on the French Defence with 3.Nc3. Of course it will also be of considerable interest to the second player.
Chapter 1 is entitled “Odds and Ends” in which Hari examines unusual Black 3rd moves .
He kicks off with 3…c5 which is a good move in a Tarrasch (3.Nd2) context but a clear mistake against 3.Nc3 as White trivially wins a pawn after White takes on d5 and c5 ending up with a 4 to 2 queen side majority and the d4 square in his control with the following position after 8.Ne4:
Next comes 3…a6 where both 4.Nf3 and 4.Bd3 are discussed . The most critical line here would appear to be 4.Nf3 Nf6; 5.e5 where in the main line Whites Q eventually comes to g4 putting black under pressure on the K side.
3…h6 is a curious third move alternative, but, as Hari points out it stops Black from getting in the Nimzowitschian style …f6 break as now g6 is horribly weakened.
Finally, 3…Be7 is covered but after 4.e5 c5; 5 Qg4 then puts black under pressure.
Both Chapters 2 and 3 look at the black reply 3…Nc6 (a idea of Aron Nimzowitsch) which has always seemed an illogical move to me in the French by blocking …c5.
After 3…Nc6 Hari first looks at 4.Nf3 then in the Chapter 3 4.e5 when 4…f6 is given as the black’s main line usually followed by 5.Nf3 Bd7; 6.Bd3 fxe5; 7.dxe5 Nb4; 8.Ng5 turns out to be good for white according to the author:
In this line black can play 5…fxe5 immediately but after 6.dxe5 Nh6 7.Bg5! again leaves White with advantage.
Chapter 4 brings the reader to the Rubinstein Variation (also ECO code C10) where black plays 3…dxe4 when after 4.Nxe4 options such as 4…Nf6 4…Qd5 and 4…Bd7 attract attention.
According to the author none of these achieve equality but 4…Bd7 is given the most analysis since it is not easy to show an advantage for white. Furthermore, 5.Nf3 Bc6; 6.Bd3 alternatives such as 6…Be4; 6…Nf6 and 6…Nd7 are all interesting tries. White usually plays ideas including c3 and Ne5 to maintain an edge.
Chapter 5 continues to look at the Rubinstein when 4…Nd7 is considered to be the main line. Hari recommends an usual approach for white which we will not reveal here: buy the book!
Chapter 6 progresses to more classical territory with the hugely popular 3…Nf6 (ECO C11 – C14) when 4.e5 Nfd7 and now 5.Nce2 is analysed in considerable depth through to the end of chapter 9.
Club French players will be expecting (and hoping for no doubt) 5.f4 or 5.Nf3 and therefore 5.Nce2 could well throw them off their stride. 5.Nce2 scores well at the highest levels (56%) and is in the armoury of Carlsen, Grischuk, Anand and Nepomniachtchi and consequently deserves much respect.
In this line White intends the usual c3 following …c5 and often will relocate his N from e2 to f4.
Having said all of that 5.f4, which Hari starts to look at in Chapter 10, seems (to me at least) to be the “best” move. Clearly it is the most popular continuation.
The “main line” continues 5…c5; 6.Nf3 where 6…Be7; 7.Be3 b6; 8.Qd2 00; 9.Nd1 is given.
Although this line leads to a white advantage the more aggressive “Williamsesque” 9.h4 which features in some of the other lines should be considered by white players, especially those who love to attack.
Chapter 11 consider 6…Nc6; 7.Be3 Be7; 8.Qd2 is looked at and Black can play …a6 and …b5 here but Whites plan here is Be2 and 00 as Q side castling is somewhat playing into blacks hand.
Instead Black can try 8…00 instead when White is best capturing on c5.
The older line 5.f4 c5; 6.Nf3 Nc6; 7.Be3 Qb6 has always been regarded as slightly suspect and Hari takes a look at this in Chapter 14.
Usually White plays b4 and black sacrifices a piece and although it leads to exciting chess the verdict remains the same. A well prepared white player should be delighted to see this line. The key word in all of this is, of course, “well”
Better perhaps is 7…cxd4 and Chapter 15 examines this: probably much tougher for white to crack. After 8.Nxd4 Qb6 the author provides a large quantity of analysis in this poisoned pawn style line where White sacrifices a pawn with 9.Qd2 and black rightly accepts the challenge with 9…Qxb2.
Finally(!) Hari leads us to the Winawer Variation but here he shocks the white player with his suggestion. To find out what this is you will need to buy the book!
I generally play the Tarrasch but my next bunch of email and postal games will definitely feature 3.Nc3 ! I’m keen to try out the authors suggestions and so should you be!
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th June, 2021
“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”
From the book’s rear cover we have this extensive blurb:
“I would like to thank you for purchasing this book, I really appreciate it. It also means that you found an interest in my work of trying to crack the Ruy Lopez. As I said in the introduction to the first volume, I had no idea what I was signing up for when deciding to write a book on Ruy Lopez. This opening has such a rich history and good reputation that proving advantages in many lines is nearly impossible.
Writing the first volume on this opening was a Herculean effort and I thought “it cannot be more difficult”. After all, I was covering such solid variations as the Berlin and the Open Spanish. Well, I got surprised again! I am not exaggerating when I say that writing the second volume was at least as hard as writing the first one. This second volume on the Ruy Lopez consists of two parts. In the first part I focus on modern systems with …Bc5, attempting to dissect both the Archangelsk and Moller Variations. These two variations have quite a rich history but in 2020 there have been several developments. If I had to name one person that contributed the most to the developments in those lines it is, without a doubt, Fabiano Caruana. His encounters in the Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, then his theoretical discussion in those lines with Leinier Dominguez, revised my opinion on many of those lines and led to interesting discoveries that I analyse in this book.
In the subsequent part I discuss the Closed Ruy Lopez. It is easily one of the most popular openings throughout the history of chess with many games occurring as early as the 1800s. I suggest going for 9.h3 which usually leads to a positional battle. I present new trends and find new paths and ideas in such evergreen variations as the Zaitsev, Breyer, Chigorin and others. Additionally, I attempt to crack the Marshall Attack by suggesting the Anti-Marshall lines with 8.a4. I must admit that I thought that it would be a pretty easy task to analyse those openings having some prior analysis and experience with both colours. However, time after time I was encountering new challenges and new ideas from both sides that I had to resolve. My conclusions, based on careful analysis with the most powerful engines currently available is presented in this book.
This book completes my series on the Ruy Lopez. I would like to take a moment and recall what I said in the introduction to the first volume. When both sides play very good and sound chess, it is normal that games end in a draw. It is especially true for such sound openings as Ruy Lopez. I do not attempt to dismiss one line or another because somewhere with best play Black can make a draw by force on move number 30, playing sometimes ridiculous moves that are only found during the analytical work. Over the board the reality is way different – practical aspect plays an important role in chess. Some positions are easier to play, some harder. Similarly to what I did in the first volume, I try to offer the most playable positions.
I do not mind if the positions are equal, provided it is easier to play with White or the chance of an error by Black is quite large. Sometimes I go into forced variations (e.g. in Moller Defense or Archangelsk Defense), sometimes into more positional battles (like in the Zaitsev) but I truly believe that the positions I aim to reach have potential and are tricky for Black. With proper knowledge I think White can put pressure on Black in the Ruy Lopez. I hope that you will find my approach to tackling the Ruy Lopez interesting. I am aware that there is only so much I can analyse and someone may say that I did not analyse some positions deeply enough but that is the nature of chess – possibilities are pretty much unlimited and there will always be theoretical debate!
Finally, I wish you, dear Reader, good luck and I hope you can successfully use the ideas that I present in this book in your games. Dariusz Swiercz February 2021.”
In Volume 2 the author looks at the major lines against the Lopez and he breaks the content down into three parts.
Before continuing it would be worth looking at this 19 page excerpt from the book.
Part 1 starts with systems with …Bc5 including the Møller defence.
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 Bc5 a move played by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a few games but more regularly championed by Alexander Onischuk. White continues with 6.c3 which is the most popular move according to my database.
In the game Nepomniachtchi v Caruana the game went 6…0-0 7.d4 Ba7 8.Re1
and White plans to bring his bishop to e3. He can also try 8.Bg5 as Lev Aronian did in a game vs Magnus. White is trying to pressurise e5 and get black to exchange on d4. After 8…d6 9 h3 b5 10 Bc2 when Be3 is coming and White usually tries to play his Knight to f5 with king side pressure.
On 6…b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.a4 will surprise black players. After 8…Rb8 9.ab5 ab5 10.d4 de4 11.dc5 Qd1 12.Bd1 ef3 13.Bf3 e4 14.Be2 when Stockfish gives White as much better since he retains the bishop pair.
Black can try 8…de4 9.ab5 00 but 10 Ng5 ! seems to leave White better. As in many lines analysis is given up to move 25 !
This whole line is very tricky and both players need to know it well. The Archangelsk with 5…b5 6 Bb3 completes Part 1 with the older move 6…Bb7 being looked at first and then 7 Re1 is given first. Having played this in many online games I as black I believe this is Whites best move now and ….Be7 is rather condemned. White can just play as he does against the Closed but he can save a tempo on h3 as there is no Bg4 move.
The modern 6…Bc5 played by Fabio Caruana and Gata Kamsky is given when 7 a4 should set black thinking. First 7…b4 is dismissed as an error as 8 Ne5! Ne5 9 d4 is good for White. Better are both 7…Bb7 and …Rb8 though White will continue his plan of building a big pawn centre with c3 and d4. In many of these lines white follows up with Bg5 when h6 Bh4 g5 can often be met with Nxg5 ideas.
Part 2 comprises the so-called main line of 5…Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 00 9 h3
when 9…a5 is the Keres variation, 9…Be6 the Kholmov variation, 9…Nd7 the Karpov and both 9…Qd7 and 9…h6 credited to Smyslov.
For the first three variations 10.d4 followed by d5 attempting to cramp black are investigated but 9…Qd7 10 d4 Re8 11 Bg5 and 9…h6 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2 Bf8 12 Nf1 are both given as gaining an advantage for White .
Against the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7) white has a plan of d4 combined with a3 and Bc2 followed by b3. He must be well prepared for black to play d5 here .
The Chigorin variation (9…Na5) was a favourite of Paul Keres and following 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4
both …Qc7 and …Nd7 are looked at in detail with 12 d5 recommended against both, again trying to cramp black.
12.d5 seems better than 12 Nbd2 when black can exchange on d4 and play for pressure on e4.
The Breyer variation (9…Nb8 ) as essayed by Anatoly Karpov sees 10 d4 Nbd7 11 c4 !? a move that will probably surprise Black.
For recommendations to deal with the Marshall Attack you will need to buy the book!
The book winds up in Part 3 by looking at 5…Be7 6.d3 for players who don’t want to get involved in too much opening theory.
Generally this is a book for those who take chess very seriously and are not frightened of learning large quantities of opening theory. The book is written from White’s perspective and therefore does not include a treatment of the exchange variation.
It is also good for postal /correspondence chess as White usually ends up with an edge so can torture his opponent for some time.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 26th May, 2021
Book Details :
Paperback : 336 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
“In his first book (we anticipate many more), the young Hungarian author makes a worthy attempt to walk his readers through a complete 1.d4 opening repertoire. Yet while he is taking you thru the opening he never forgets the other phases of the game. As a result, the subsequent middlegame and endgame elements are remarkably well organized benefiting both beginner and advanced players to acquire powerful skills with 1.d4!”
“Europe’s youngest FIDE accredited trainer, IM Armin Juhasz, is an active player and a successful coach living in Budapest, Hungary. Born in 1998 he is currently 22 years of age and earned the IM title when 17. In 2016 he achieved his highest Elo of 2424. Armin has twice won the Hungarian Youth Championship. He was a member of the Hungarian U18 team which won the silver medal at the European Youth Team Championship in 2016. In addition to being an active competitor he is also the owner and CEO of Center Chess School. This thriving start up effort in Budapest has seen outstanding results. Several of his students have won numerous medals on both the world and national stage. Included in this list of success are two Hungarian Championships, on in the U16 and the other in the U14 division. He has also coached a World U12 Champion from the United States.”
End of blurb.
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.
With a small amount of persuasion the book can 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 and a “position after: x move” type caption.
There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward.
The main content is divided into six chapters :
The King’s Indian Defense
The Grünfeld Defense
The Benoni Defense
The Slav Defense
The Catalan Opening
Frequent Endgame Types
Pedant warning: before we look at the important stuff you might have noticed above the above use of “defense” rather than “defence”. This is the spelling used throughout which we are surprised that the editor/proof readers/typesetter allowed through. We will shall not dwell further on this. The rear cover (but the not the preface) introduction by GM Horvath uses the horrible “thru” instead of “through”. Moving on…
Our first attempt at reviewing was to hit the buffers and this was caused by wording within the Preface (and rear cover text) from GM Horvath. He writes
the young Hungarian author makes a worthy attempt to talk his readers through a complete 1.d4 opening repertoire,
Complete? This did not fit with the above chapter listing (unless the definition of “complete” has recently been updated. Seeking clarification we consulted Thinker’s Publishing and they confirmed that the word “complete” was indeed employed erroneously by Horvath. In fact, the sub-title (which does not appear on the front or rear covers) of “Understanding Queen’s Pawn Structures” we were informed should have been given greater prominence. Moving on…
So what we actually have here is a partial repertoire for White against the five Black defences listed above plus an intriguing sixth bonus chapter. Each of the five chapters selects a line for White and proceeds to help you understand that recommendation using the same methodology (which appears to be both novel and sensible) as follows:
For each of chapters 1-5 we have sections:
Model Games (I)
Model Games (II)
Interestingly Model Games (I) provides annotated games that are not in the line for White suggested but important stem games for the Black defence providing extra background about the typical plans and structures for Black that you should be aware of.
Theoretical Section gets down to the nitty gritty of detailed variations and analysis. Model Games (II) is not more of the same of (I) but model games that are directly from the recommendations contained in the Theoretical Section. Thinking back over the history of opening books for many of them this would have been the only style of content. Things have evolved for the better.
Typical Tactics is a collection often repeating tactical ideas and themes directly arising from these variations and therefore very relevant.
Homework sounded a little weird (to us at least) since surely all of the above are examples of homework? However the point of these sections is interesting. The book provides the reader / student with half a dozen or so high quality games that are devoid of any notes or annotations. The student is invited to play through these games on a real chessboard (!), make notes, identify critical moments and find potential improvements for both sides. Finally, the student should check their work with an engine.
Finally, each chapter ends with Concluding Tips which is a series of bullet points that should be taken away.
We could end this review here and now but perhaps mention of some chess would be welcome?
Rather than tediously listing all of the recommendations of each chapter the BCN office staff chose the Slav chapter to dip into.
The author’s fourth move recommendation for White is perhaps not one you would have even considered. This is good since it means almost certainly neither will have your opponent!
Yes, 4.g3 which is an unpretentious little move but appears 4527 times in Megabase 2020 compared with 83884 times for the more familiar 4.Nc3.
4.g3 scores a decent 57.5% at all levels at 56.5% with the Top Games option enabled.
By comparison 4.Nc3 scores 57% and 58.6% respectively.
If you would like to know all of the other recommendations then you will have to buy the book!
Possibly, the most interesting and novel chapter of all is the final one, Frequent Endgame Types. Nine games are provided starting as the middlegame ends and annotated in detail. Strong players will select openings based on a structure they like and understand and potentially because of the endgame it is likely to provide.
Here is an example of a provided game (the book annotations start at move 33):
In summary, if you play 1.d4 then this book will provide a unique insight into many typical structures and plans and if you play the King’s Indian, Grünfeld, Benoni, Slav or the black side of the Catalan then this book will be beneficial.
In many ways this book has provided a fresh approach to teaching openings and, tells us a great deal about the author in the process.
It is clear as daylight that IM Armin Juhasz is a talented trainer and author with a great passion for teaching. We are convinced that his time must be in high demand!
We think you will enjoy this book and derive benefit from it.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 27th April, 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 280 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (12 April 2021)
“When should we exchange a piece in the endgame and when should we keep it? Why is it so important? How to make a right choice? Different types of endings and guidance on how to make the correct decision were the subject of my book The Correct Exchange in the Endgame. Two editions were very well accepted by chess players of different levels. I am especially happy that many chess coaches and teachers found it useful for their training programs.
The book was announced as a silver winner of the Boleslavsky Award 2016 by the FIDE Trainer’s Commission. Many readers and coaches expressed a wish to see more instructive exercises, so together with Thinkers Publishing we decided to make an exercise book. It can be widely used by chess teachers in schools, coaches in chess clubs and all chess players.
Trying to solve 120 instructive exercises and then going through the correct solutions, you will certainly improve your decision-making ability and analysing skills, as well as enrich your knowledge and understanding of the final stage of the chess game.”
From the publisher:
“Lithuanian Grandmaster Rozentalis lifetimes achievements in chess are enormous. We mostly remember him being champion of Lithuania in 1981 and 2002, 3 times champion of the Young Masters of the USSR, 1984-85-87, World Youth Team champion in 1985 and World Senior Team champion in 2014. In between 1985 until now, he won 85 international tournaments, played for many European different club teams and in 10 Chess Olympiads for Lithuania. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing. His first, ‘The Correct Exchange in the Endgame’, became a great success and was nominated as ‘FIDE CHESS BOOK 2016’.”
End of blurb…
There are two short introductory sections: a preface and an introduction that clarify the purpose of the book as an exercise book with 120 endgame positions to solve. The problems are all concerned with exchanging issues: exchange a piece or not; which piece to exchange; when and where to exchange.
The main workbook is divided up into six chapters based on three increasing levels of difficulty for the problems:
Warm Up Solutions
There are forty exercises from real games at each complexity level, presented as four problems per page. Many of the positions are from Rozentalis’ own games. Each solution chapter demonstrates the answers with typically one to two pages of analysis for each solution accompanied by two to three diagrams.
The problems cover all types of piece configurations in endgames from single piece endgames through to complex multi piece endgames. The problems vary in their nature with these typical example themes:
Calculation (for example pawn races in king and pawn endgames)
Knowledge of basic endgames
Exploitation of weaknesses
Suppression of counterplay
The reviewer will show some positions from each problem chapter to give a flavour of the coverage.
Here is the first position in the book demonstrating an exchange to exploit pawn weaknesses and suppress counterplay:
The problem posed is should white exchange rooks or not?
General positional considerations say that a rook and bishop are slightly better than a rook and knight in an endgame: this advantage is regarded as a “grindable” endgame advantage by good endgame players. However, in this position black has numerous pawn weaknesses on both sides of the board, that can be exploited by the active bishop in an open position: namely a fixed g4 pawn and a vulnerable pawn chain on a6/b7. Black’s rook is also active on the c-file, if white moves his rook along the d-file to say 41.Rd5 Rc1+ is annoying for white.
41.Rd7+! exchanging rooks to exploit black pawn weaknesses and prevent counterplay by black with his rook.
41…Rxd7 42.Bxd7 Nd6 This loses the pawn on g4, but 42…Kf6 43.Bc8 wins either the b7 pawn or the g4 with a technically winning endgame
43. Bxg4 fxg3 44. fxg3! Capturing with the f-pawn, not the h-pawn to eventually make a distant passed pawn on the h-file which makes black’s defence even more difficult. White now has a straightforward technical win.
44…a5 45.Kf2 Nc4 46. b3 Ne5 47. 47.Be2 Kf6 48. Ke3 Kf5 49. Kd4 g4 Black tries to block the white pawns, and hopes for Nf3 as some point, but the g4 will just become another target.
50.Kd5 b6 After 50…Nf3, white wins with 51.h3!
51.a4 Zugzwang, if 51…Nf3 52.h3! wins, if the knight moves to say d7 or f7, white’s king penetrates decisively on the queen side.
51…Kf6 52.Ke4 1-0 (The g-pawn drops after Kf4 and Bxg4)
The second example shows a common tactical theme to simplify to a winning king and pawn endgame.
Black has achieved a lot in this endgame with the better placed pieces and a far more potent pawn majority, plus the white knight is utterly dominated. Black’s next move achieves a transformation that quickly decides the game.
44…Bxb2! 45.Nxb2 (45.axb4+ makes no difference: 45…Kxb4 46.Nxb2 c3+ wins)
45…c3+ 46.Kc2 axb2 47.axb4+ Kxb4
The white king has to deal with the black’s passed a-pawn, while the black king goes to the kingside for a delicious meal of white pawns.
Here is another position showing that exchanging the opponent’s most active piece is always an important consideration.
White has a very active rook which holds his position together. If white was to move, he would play Rf4 collecting black’s dangerous passed pawn.
But it black to move and he played 44…Rf8! (44…h3 allows 45.Rf2 and white fights on) and white resigned 0-1. Why did he resign?
If the white rook avoids the exchange, for example 45.Rd5, then after 45…h3 the black cannot be stopped.
Exchanging rooks is hopeless as the black knight dominates the bad bishop. Black’s passed pawn will distract the white king, while the black king mops up the weak white g-pawns:
Here is a cautionary tale regarding transitioning into a king and pawn ending. White had been pressing for a while, playing on for the win with an outside passed pawn and the better minor piece. It did not occur to him that he could lose, but just watch, enjoy and learn!
46.Kd4? (A poor move, over pressing, but white can still draw. Safer was 46. Bc2 b3 47.axb3 cxb3 48.Bd1 Na4 with a simple draw)
46…Nxe4 47. Kxe4?? (The losing move as white’s king is too far away to prevent a classic pawn breakthrough which is covered in all good endgame primer manuals. White must have lost his sense of danger. 47. Kxc4! Kg6 48.Kb5 with a quick draw as the knight cannot prevent the exchange of both queenside pawns.)
47…a4 48.Ke3 Only now did white realise that after 48.Kd4
one of the black pawns queens in a well known and instructive motif: 48…c3! 49.bxc3 b3 50. axb3 a3! winning.
After the game move of 48.Ke3 black played 48…c3 which wins. The players agreed a draw in this position! An amazing escape for white, particularly as both players were at least IM strength (2400+).
To see why black is winning, analyse on.
49.b3 (Forced as 49.bxc3 allows 49…b3! queening a pawn as in the variation above) 49…axb3 50.axb3 Kg6
Black wins using a well known technique covered in Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals.
The key idea breaking into white’s position: black’s king seizes the critical squares and wins the b3 pawn by force.
56.Kxc2 Ke2 winning easily.
Now, the reviewer will showcase three positions from the intermediate problems chapter.
Here is a transitioning problem.
Black played the very poor 75…Qxh4?? throwing away a win. Was this bad evaluation or a lack of knowledge? If black hadn’t played so quickly, he would have easily found the win by retaining his much more active queen: 75…Qe3+ 76.Kf1 (76.Kh1 Qe2 mates, exploiting white’s passive queen) 76…Qe4 77.Qh2 Bd5! bringing the bishop into the attack and either mates or wins both g-pawns with check.
The game continued: 76.gxh4 g3 77.h5+ Kxh5 78.Kh1 Kg5 79. Kg1 Kf4 80. Kh1 0.5-0.5
This is a well known fortress draw, once again covered in Fine’s BCE and other good endgame books. Black can collect the a-pawn and bring his king over the kingside but the white fortress cannot be breached. A decent effort is put the black king on e1, e2 or e3 and wait for the white king to move into the corner and try the poisoned offer of the bishop on f3 viz 89…Bf3!?
If white rids himself of the turbulent priest, then 90…Kf2 wins for black. However, the calm 91. Kg1! from white, ignoring the proferred prelate, draws for white. Note that with a knight instead of a bishop, this would be winning for black as white must capture!
The next position shows a complex position with two rooks and a minor piece each. The attacking power and mating potential of two rooks is well known, particularly in conjunction with the absolute seventh. The example aptly demonstrates this.
White has a massive passed a-pawn and is winning. White continued with 33.Be7 and did win pretty quickly. There is however, a simpler and cleaner win:
33.Bxe5! Rxe5 34. Rb7 Rxg5+ (34…Re8 35.a7 Rcc8 36.Rxb6 Ra8 37.Rb7 followed by Rfb1 & Rb8 wins) 35.Kh1 Ra5 (black does not have time to attack white’s king as the a-pawn is too fast) 36.a7 Rca3 (Stopping the pawn, but…)
37.Rd1 mating after Rxa7 38.Rd8# (Pretty)
Here is a really educational ending about hidden dangers in so called drawn endings. Here white has an extra pawn in a Q+4 v Q+3 with all the pawns on one side. This is a drawn ending, but the stronger side can torture the opponent for a long time. To put this position into context, the last two moves were 81.Qd8+ Kg7?
White played an unexpected, but amazing move, which is not obvious unless you have seen similar ideas before.
82.Qf6+!! (Giving up the extra pawn to force a pawn ending with a better king.) Qxf6 83. exf6+ Kxf6 84.Kf4
Zugzwang! Black is totally lost. Black’s king must move one way and white’s king goes the other way. White exploits the weakness on h5 and his reserve tempi with the f-pawn.
86…Ke6 87.f4! The black king must retreat and white plays f5 destroying the pawn structure and wins the h-pawn with a simple technical win. 1-0
To finish, the reviewer will demonstrate one of the advanced problems. This is an exchanging problem in a Q+B ending.
The ending is complex with both sides having a spoiled pawn majority. White has the better bishop as black has many pawns fixed on black squares. White may have difficulty getting into black’s position as the position is fairly blocked. Black can hold but must be careful. Black forced the play with 25…Qd2? which was the wrong decision as white can win with a clever bishop manoeuvre, ruining black’s potential fortress, clearly overlooked by black.
25…Bf4+! was the correct move which looks like a pointless check but is extremely subtle. White must reply 26.g3 to make progress which restricts white’s own bishop: a quick h5 and Bh4 is no longer available. If 26.Kh3 Kf7 27.Qf3 Kg8 and black simply waits. 26…Bd2
If white goes for a queen exchange hoping to the win the better bishop ending, black is safe after 27.Qd3 (27.Qc4+ Kf8 is ok) 27…Qxd3 28.cxd3 c5 followed by c6 and white can never break through and it is a fortress.
In the game, white took the queens off with 26.Qxd2 Bxd2 27.Bg3! (Black probably expected 27.h5 Kf7 28.Bh4 Bg5 with a clear draw.) 27…Bc3 (The bishop is distracted to defend the e-pawn) 28.h5! Opening the way for the white bishop. Black has a nightmare bishop ending which cannot be saved as he has far too many weaknesses.
28…Kf7 29.Bh4 (Threatening the Bd8) Ke6 30. g5 Bd2 31.gxh6 was played which wins easily as white has undoubled his pawn and black still has the weak h6 pawn. However 31.g6! wins more quickly fixing the g7 pawn. The main point is that Kd7 from black allows Bf6! in reply.
If black plays 31…Bb4, 32.Bd8 Bd6 (32…Kd7 33.Bf6) 33. Kh3 Zugzwang, eventually black will have to lose a pawn and the game.
All in all, this is an very good endgame puzzle book to work through. Players of all standards will learn a lot from attempting to solve the positions followed by studying the solutions which are well structured and easy to follow.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 26th April 2021
“This book is partly designed as an autobiographical experience focusing on the processes that arise in the life of a chess player that have be translated into everyday life. In part, the book incorporates psychological theories that generally explain these processes, but overall it can be seen as a guide on how to use any activity to learn skills that will enrich your life. There are several activities in life which can be seen in the same way if we know where and how to exploit the opportunities. The truth is that all aspirations are interconnected when we keep an eye on the thematic links. I believe that this book will give you a new insight into how any ability can be transferred from a particular activity to the universal wisdom of life. It will awaken your networking skills and teach you how to turn life activities into lifelong skills that will improve your well-being. The course of the book follows the typical process of playing chess, starting with training, followed by the tournament situation, the course of the game, the time after the game and the tournament. Since I am not a poet, I have often borrowed some quotations from famous, imaginative and clever people from all over the world. I believe that these valuable thoughts have enriched the book. One thing I ask you to do while reading this book is to open your mind and enjoy the inner journey. So let us go and try to become aware of the processes behind our life activities. Let us find out what and why we do what we do in our daily lives.”
“Jana Krivec graduated from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Ljubljana in 2004, where she successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Cognitive Information Processing: the Case of Chess” in 2011. In 2004 she worked with the Faculty of Computer and Information Science on a project in which researchers developed a program for automatic annotation of a chess game. She was a researcher at the Department of Intelligent Systems at Jozef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana in the field of artificial intelligence. Her work was presented at several international conferences and published in scientific publications. She is a university professor of Psychology at the School of Advanced Social Studies in Nova Gorica. Jana Krivec is a Women’s Chess Grandmaster with a ELO rating peak of 2362 in 2008. She has been the Slovenian Women’s Champion seven times as well as a member of the Slovenian women’s chess team at eleven Chess Olympiads. At the 2006 Turin Olympics she and her teammates reached ninth place. She has won several international tournaments. Chess has been her passion and will probably remain explicitly or implicitly present throughout her life.”
The well deserved success of Barry Hymer and Peter Wells’ recent book Chess Improvement: it’s all in the Mindset, as well as The Moves that Matter, by Jonathan Rowson, two books which take very different, but essentially ‘serious’ approaches, suggests that there may be a hitherto untapped market for chess self-help books. A book which takes a more populist approach, then, should be welcomed.
What we have here is a book which can be read on two levels: as a self-help book for chess players, and as a book for general readers using chess as a metaphor. But the title: Improve your Life by Playing a Game: what exactly does this mean? By playing one game, by playing chess generally, by playing any game? Bridge? Noughts and crosses? Snakes and ladders?
First impressions are good: a colourful book using nice shiny paper, with copious photographs, illustrations and cartoons as well as callouts in tasteful pastel-shaded boxes. Green for ‘key takeaways’, pink for ‘a minute of self-reflection, and so on.
The chapters take us through a chess tournament. In Chapter 1 we have to train for the tournament. Chapter sections look at goal setting, motivation, self-examination and improvement, discipline, hard work and persistence, learning from the masters, memorization techniques, working with modern technology, delayed reward … and never stop exploring.
In Chapter 2 we’re playing a game. First, we have to prepare for our opponent, then, during the game, we have ‘Always find a meaning’, ‘Focus and concentration’, ‘Systematic thinking, problem solving and decision making’, ‘Activation, patience and responsibility’, Courage and optimistic thinking’, Creative thinking and flexibility’, ‘Being in control of your feelings’, ‘Never stop fighting’ and ‘Ethics’.
After the game, in Chapter 3, we might have to cope with stress and losses, using cognitive techniques, behavioural techniques and understanding that if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.
Chapter 4 suggests what we might do after the tournament. We’re offered ‘A will to change’, ‘Who are you?’, ‘Mind and body work together’, ‘Positivity’, ‘Do what you like’ and ‘Gens una sumus’.
Chapter 5 warns us about the potential negative aspects of chess. Only two pages here, so clearly there’s not much worth talking about.
Chapter 6, Theories and Studies on Benefits of Chess’, moves into rather different territory. We learn about chess and education, and about chess and health problems, though I for one would raise a very strong objection to describing ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder as health problems.
Sadly, it’s not the only issue I have with the book. It starts right at the beginning, with the author’s introduction. We start with a quote, ‘Chess is life in miniature’, from ‘Gary’ Kasparov, but in the third line of text underneath he’s granted the preferred spelling of his first name: Garry. Gary and Garry seem to appear fairly randomly throughout the book, as do, for example, Bobby Fisher and Bobby Fischer.
Then we come to the inspirational quotations. You may well find many of them valuable, but there are attribution problems.
Page 37, for instance tells us ‘The only way to get smarter is by playing a smarter opponent’, attributed to a book entitled Fundamentals of Chess, published in 1885, with www.reddit.com as the source. The use of the word ‘smarter’ didn’t sound like 1885 to me, and a quick google located a Kingpin article by Justin Horton, which explained that this was a fictional book mentioned in the Guy Ritchie movie Revolver, where, however, it was given a publication date of 1883.
Page 66 offers ‘One bad move nullifies 40 good ones’, attributed to Vladimir Horowitz, an outstanding pianist, but not noted for his chess mastery. A search revealed that my guess was correct: it was actually written by the chess master and prolific author IA Horowitz, although it has also been misattributed to Bernhard Horwitz. Horwitz, Harrwitz or Horowitz? Vlad, Al, or even Anthony? If you’re looking for inspiration or self-help you might not care, but some of us do.
The advice, while no doubt invaluable to many readers, incorporates a ragbag of ideas familiar to any reader of pop psychology books. We have the Big Five personality traits and de Bono’s Thinking Hats. There’s Kahneman’s Fast and Slow Thinking as well as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. All of which is fine and understandable, as they’ll be new to some readers, but they are often presented without criticism or adequate source references. Ericsson’s 10,000 hours is, of course, there, also quoting Malcolm Gladwell, but failing to mention any possible reservations (there are many) or that Gladwell failed to understand Ericsson’s research. Flow is also there, but mysteriously attributed to Alan Watts (or possibly Wats: both spellings appear at the top of page 68): Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the originator of the concept, doesn’t get mentioned at all. Sometimes, but not always, sources are quoted. Page 25, for instance, offers us ‘Some studies have shown…’ and ‘In one study…’, without any further information. (This is about the possible dangers of external rewards, and I’m sure they’re all quoted by Alfie Kohn, so I can look them up myself, but not all readers will have this knowledge.)
The text is enlivened by many photographs, colourful illustrations and cartoons, taken, with brief acknowledgements, from online sources, but not always either relevant or fully explained.
There is a bit of chess here as well, although, bizarrely, the author uses long algebraic notation but without capture and check symbols.
While talking about marshmallows and instant gratification, Krivec presents us with this position which I’m sure you’ll recognise.
Coincidentally, this is something Joel Benjamin also mentions: “I believe that 8. Qxb7 is the best move. Bobby Fischer would have played it. Or, as you kids would say, Magnus would play it.” Krivec takes a different view: “(Qxb7) is not a good move because it follows the urge for immediate gratification and not the rules of good chess playing.” Far be it from me to argue with a WGM about the best move, but this seems a rather silly thing to say. My view is that both authors missed the opportunity to explain that both Qxb7 and Nc3 are excellent moves: your choice will be a matter of style.
If you want a chess example of the disadvantages of immediate gratification there are thousands of better examples to choose from, including one or two later in this book.
In some of the other chess ‘minutes for self-reflection’ you’re not told whose move it is: not very helpful, I think.
On page 110 we’re learning about creative thinking: thinking outside the box. An important topic, in life as well as in chess. To exemplify this we’re invited to solve the 9 dot puzzle.
A good example, I think, because you literally have to think outside the box to solve it. However, the ‘solution’ on the following page only connects seven of the nine dots and doesn’t go outside the box at all. Again, like so much of this book, unsatisfactory.
It’s all a great pity. I’m sure there’s a demand for a book of this nature, which should appeal to many players at all levels. Taking some well known ideas from psychology and applying them to both studying and playing chess is a great concept which will be inspirational to many readers. Jana Krivec’s passion both for chess and for helping people improve their lives comes through very well. If you can forgive the problems, you’ll probably enjoy and benefit from this book. It certainly contains a lot of valuable, although not especially original, advice about many aspects of both chess and life, as well as exercises in, for example, mindfulness, which many will find helpful.
However, the typos, errors, inadequate referencing and sourcing, amongst other reasons, preclude a general recommendation. It really needed a lot more editorial input, preferably from someone with specific subject knowledge, as well as better proof-reading.
Thinkers Publishing are well known for their high production qualities and excellent books, mostly on advanced chess subjects. It looks to me like, in a praiseworthy attempt to broaden their appeal, they stepped out of their comfort zone.
“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”
From the book’s rear cover we have :
“The Ruy Lopez is one of the most popular openings of all time. It is a frequent guest in the games of players around the world from novice to Grandmaster. As a result of the increased power of analysis engines the theory of the Ruy Lopez has greatly expanded. Lines that did not exist years ago have been fully developed, supported with extensive analysis, and incorporated into the repertories of top players. Despite this exponential growth in theory, I believe that when armed with sound knowledge it is possible to pose certain practical problems for Black. The purpose of this book is to provide you with detailed and clear explanations of the intricacies of the Ruy Lopez.”
In this series (this is Volume 1) the author takes an in-depth look via 513 pages of how to play the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening) from Whites perspective giving many lines that he believes will leave White with some advantage after the opening .
Part 1 looks at opening lines that are slightly unusual and “off-beat” such as the Bird’s defence;
the Schliemann defence;
the Cozio defence;
the Smyslov defence;
the Classical defence;
the Steinitz defence;
the Norwegian defence (ed. the Taimanov defence for those with long memories!);
and Averbakh variations;
Unlike many recent opening books, unusually Dariusz does not analyse complete games but does provide copious amounts of analysis as to how to play against many different tries by black.
Having played the Schliemann a great deal both OTB and online I was interested to see what his recommendation was:
and 4. d3 fe4; 5. de4 Nf6; 6. 00 was his choice here
with both 6…d6 and the main line 6…Bc5 discussed in detail.
Against 6…Bc5 it is recommended that White goes pawn grabbing with 7.Bxc6 bxc6; 8.Ne5 00 9 Nc3 d6 10 Na4 with analysis that goes as far as move 25 showing that White has a clear advantage.
The delayed Schliemann 3…a6; 4. Ba4 f5 is also discussed but this has, for many years, been regarded as suspect concluding that 5.d4! is considered the “refutation”.
Part 2 deals solely with Kramnik’s favourite (and Kasparov’s anti-favourite!) the Berlin Defence 3…Nf6 which has caused even some of the top players in the world to switch (albeit temporarily) further south from the Spanish Opening to the Italian Game, 3.Bc4.
Both 4.00 and 4.d3 are examined closely and in the castles line he prefers variations for White that keep the Queens on: after 4…Ne4; 5.Re1 Nd6; 6.Ne5 Be7; 7.Bf1 Nf5; 8.Nf3 d5
both 9.d4 00; 10.c3 and 9 Nc3 are considered as alternatives.
The depth of Berlin analysis runs to nearly 100 pages and is aimed at players who are willing to look at openings well over 20 moves deep.
4.d3 is also studied when both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are looked at with much analysis again going to over 20 moves and showing that usually white has an advantage and can continue putting pressure on black .
Part 3 features the Open 5…Ne4 line when after 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 now both 8 Ne5 and the more popular 8 de5 Be6 9 Nbd2 the move that Karpov employed in his games against Korchnoi is discussed:
I played this variation for at least 30 years and came to the conclusion that White is always a bit better.
Essentially this is the coverage of Volume 1. To learn about the Closed Ruy Lopez we will be looking at Volume 2 in a future review.
In summary, this book is for players who are not frightened of looking at an opening in considerable depth that is sure to happen in a significant number of their games. It is a handy tool for “correspondence” players and I will, no doubt, be consulting it for good use in my future games!
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 9th April, 2021
According to the author : “I am a 21-year-old FIDE Master from Ukraine with two IM norms and a peak rating of 2382 currently residing in Saint Louis, USA. During my youth chess career, I won more than ten medals in Ukrainian Youth Championships, having become Ukrainian champion – both individually, in rapid U-20 in 2018 and as a team member during the Ukrainian Team Championship in 2016. I represented the Ukrainian National Team at the U-18 European Team Championship in 2016 where Ukraine earned a bronze medal; I also won an individual board bronze medal.
I have participated in European and World Junior Championships, representing Ukraine. Presently, my focus is teaching, and I have already acquired great experience working to improve my student’s chess skills. I currently share my knowledge and understanding of the game by writing books, articles for the Yearbook and other sources while creating opening and video courses. I have a bachelor’s degree in Translation, and I am currently pursuing my master’s in Finance at Webster University where I am attending on a chess scholarship. Webster is also acknowledged for having the one of best collegiate chess teams in the United States.”
From the book’s rear cover we have :
“One of the important issues players face – both relatively inexperienced ones at the beginning of their career as well as seasoned ones as they realize their chess craves change – is choosing an opening repertoire. As a player and a coach, I have seen many approaches to this question, both remarkable and mistaken. Some players believe that the opening is something to ignore, that everything is decided in the middlegame. Others think that studying opening traps is what wins games. Some tend to follow their favourite world-class player’s recommendations, while others like to sidestep well-known opening theory early on, preferring unpopular side-lines. To me, opening choice is about all those decisions. I think that many openings are good; there are some dubious ones, but they can also yield formidable results overall or in specific situations if chosen and handled carefully.
I firmly believe that your opening repertoire should mostly be based on your playing style and other personal traits, such as memory and work ethic. It is important to evaluate yourself as well as your strengths and weaknesses properly in order to be able to build the right repertoire that would not only suit you well, but also improve your overall chess. The little detail, though, is in the word “mostly”. Namely, I firmly believe that there are a few classical, rock-solid openings with an impeccable reputation, such as 1.e4 e5 as a response to 1.e4 or the Queen’s Gambit and Nimzo as an answer to 1.d4 that players of all styles and standards should try, no matter what their style is. This will enable players to learn, appreciate and practice some of the key chess values, such as the importance of space, lack of weaknesses, bad pieces, and comfortable development and so on – you name it. I, myself, started out as a keen Sicilian player.
Just like all youngsters, I cheerfully enjoyed complications, tactical massacres and everything else that the Sicilian is all about. However, as I was developing as a player, my style was changing also. Eventually, I realized I was much more successful with positional play, so it was time to change the outfit – and 1.e4 e5 suited me well. I have used this move as a response to 1.e4 nearly exclusively in recent years, both versus weaker and stronger opposition, with fantastic results. If only other openings would grant me such results as well! I have not only studied these variations myself but have also shown them to numerous private students. To be frank, we have almost always concentrated on White’s most dangerous possibilities, such as the Ruy Lopez, Italian and Scotch. Occasionally, we have also analysed the side-lines – either as a part of preparation for specific opponents or to make sure my students become more universal players and gain more all-round knowledge.
Eventually, I realized that the knowledge I gained from 1.e4 e5 can and should be shared with more players, and this is how my book came to life. Of course, the readers will differ, so there is a no “one-size-fits-all” solution. But, I have carefully and diligently tried to achieve the same goal I used when working with my students: to keep my recommendations both theoretically sound as well as practical and accessible.
I expect not only titled players but club players and the less experienced readers to equally benefit from this book. So, sometimes you will find razor-sharp novelties, but in many cases, we will rely on positional understanding, typical structures and standard ideas. I believe the opening is not all about memorization, so I have taken a different approach from many authors by keeping the balance between recommending objectively good variations as well as making sure an adequate amount of work will suffice to get you started.
You won’t need to spend years studying the material, fearing there is still much more to learn. 1.e4 e5! is not just an opening. It is repertoire that represents our game as a whole. It is something players of all styles will enjoy due to the countless possibilities 1…e5 provides. Hopefully, learning 1…e5 will also make you a better player. And, finally, I hope the book you are now holding in your hands will not only give you joy but illustrate a passion for chess with the variations presented in this work.”
Having spent almost all of my chess life (both OTB and postally) playing 1…e5 I was very much looking to examining the author’s detailed recommendations.
For many years during the eras of both Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov the Sicilian Defence was easily the most popular reply to 1.e4 but now with players like Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian often adopting open (1…e5) defences preference have greatly changed.
The author starts by looking at odd openings such as Nakamura’s “Whimsy” 2.Qh5 (perhaps this should be called the school chess club opening?): Not surprisingly he gives a line that shows Black can readily get the upper hand.
He then goes on to look at the Centre Game 2 d4 ed4 3 Qd4 !? this is an odd opening that will catch many Black players by surprise.
I always feel uncomfortable when I face this on the Internet . Yuriy gives some good analysis showing that Black can quickly turn the tables on White.
The following chapters examine the Scotch Game and the King’s Gambit. These openings appear straightforward for Black to equalise against. I was surprised to find that in the King’s Gambit after 2.f4 ef4 3.Nf3 Ne7 was recommended!
It turns out that this idea has been played by the French GM Etienne Bacrot, the idea being to play a quick d5.
The author often offers some unusual lines which seem designed to surprise the opponent . He provides analysis of a game up to move 18 concluding that Black is better and shows how to continue the middle game plan from there.
The Vienna Game is also looked at in some depth . After 2 Nc3 Nf6 both 3.Bc4 and 3.f4 are seen . Against the former he recommends 3…Ne4!?
and against the latter 3…d5 4.fe5 Ne4 5.Nf3 Be7 a solid choice which I have played myself.
After recommending 3…d5 versus the Ponziani Opening
the author looks at the Scotch Game (which is very popular at club level) and recommends 4…Bc5 :
Peter Leko selected this line against Magnus Carlsen a few years ago and despite losing the game it was not because of this opening choice which was quite sound. From here 5.Nc6: and 5.Nb3 are both analysed along with the “traditional move” 5.Be3 .
The author now suggests two alternatives for Black: 5…Bd4 which is an unusual line that could well be a good choice against a higher graded player as after 6.Bd4 Nd4 7.Qd4 Qf6 White will have to work hard to win.
Yuriy then looks at the main line with 5…Qf6 but after 6.c3 he suggests the unusual 6…Qg6 :
Once again this suggestion is move which will set White players thinking early in the game whilst remaining a sound choice.
In The Four Knights Game after 4.Bb5 (the Spanish Four Knights) Yuriy gives Rubinstein’s aggressive 4…Nd4 which Kramnik used successfully to defeat Nigel Short.
A small, but not terrible omission, is the lack of coverage of the dangerous Halloween Gambit: something for the second edition!
We now move on to the Evans Gambit, and side-lines of the Guioco Piano are examined before giving detailed analysis of the quiet Italian . This opening 4 c3 Nf6 5 d3 is very popular at world class level and, currently Jan-Krzysztof Duda being the latest high profile player to adopt it .
The plan (which I adopt) of d6 and a6 is recommended when Black again achieves equal play .
Finally (and most fittingly) we come to the Ruy Lopez usually regarded as the ultimate test for 1…e5 players .
In the Exchange Lopez, Barendregt Variation after 5.00 Qf6 a line advocated by Michael Adams is suggested and you’ll need to buy the book to find out what it is!
In the main line Lopez the Open is the weapon of choice with the somewhat unusual 5…Ne4 6 d4 Be7 !? recommended.
This, perhaps is the one recommendation I might not agree with 100%.
Yuriy then goes onto examine some rather unusual lines in the Lopez giving comprehensive coverage.
In summary this book gives a lot of interesting and thought provoking lines that may surprise the player of the White pieces and push them into waters that they are not familiar with.
Black players may do well to try these ideas on-line first and if they work for them then use them in more “serious” games .
The author claims to have checked all of his ideas with an engine and therefore (hopefully) none are unsound !
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th February, 2021
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