Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Chess Book Reviews: 29

Fighting the Anti-Sicilians
Combating 2 c3, the Closed, the Morra Gambit and other tricky ideas
By IM Richard Palliser

Everyman Chess

‘These annoying lines have become the scourge of Sicilian players, but in this book Richard Palliser, a lifelong Sicilian devotee, decides it’s time for Black players to finally fight back!’

Essentially, this book covers all of White’s options to lines with 2 Nf3.

In the 1980s it was possible to have the Sicilian as one’s main weapon to 1 e4 yet never have to face a main line; The Grand Prix Attack and 2 c3 were two of the major reasons for that.

2 c3 retains a certain degree of popularity and is covered in the first chapter of the book. Just under 60 of the 254 pages are devoted to this tricky option. IM Palliser recommends the line starting with: 1 e4 5 2 c3 d5 3 exd5 Qxd5 4 d4 and then analysis two options for Black, namely: 4...Nc6 5 Nf3 Bg4!? and 4 …Nf6 5 Nf3 e6. Interesting choices; 2 …Nf6 is more often recommended so it’s good to get a fresh look at the classical central counter-punch.

‘Once upon a time one tended to know where one stood after 2 Nc3’…is a great quote from chapter 2. It’s absolutely true, as any long-term Sicilian practitioner will readily attest. The games of Spassky showed the way, with smashing Kingside attacks (seemingly always against the luckless Geller).

The Grand Prix Attack took over in the 1980s (2 Nc3 and 3 f4). Nowadays there is greater subtlety at work and the paths of 2 Nc3 sidelines are strewn with pitfalls for the unwary. IM Palliser gives a great mini-essay covering all the move-order tricks and how to aim for your favourite main line Open Sicilian if White is heading that way.

One of the lines he advocates against 2 Nc3 sees Black adopting some move-order frolics of his own with 2...a6. This should immediately cause White to think about the impending 3...b5 thrust. Exponents of the Grand Prix Attack will be dismayed to find that 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 a6 3 f4 b5 is absent from ‘Chess Openings For White, Explained’ so they’ll have to dig a little deeper or even think for themselves over-the-board.

This illustrates another recurring theme in Richard’s books; his cross-referencing is second to none and he is never afraid to shout up if he disagrees with established sources.
One of the gambit options caught my eye as it featured a game I sat alongside in a local league match! It’s worth using this snippet as an example of the depth of the book’s analysis; this is a very rare line, don’t forget, and many authors would simply skip over the whole variation. (Besides, if I show the analysis here then Mike can save himself a few pounds.)

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 b4 is a line typical of one of our county’s top 1 e4 exponents. In the famous game (well, it is now) Mike Closs v Chris Duggan, this position was reached after Black’s 10th move…

…whereupon Mike promptly uncorked some of his home cooking with…
11.c7!? Bxd2+ 12.Qxd2 Qxd2+ 13.Kxd2 Now in the game Black tried 13 …Bd7 but after 14 Rb1 he was in trouble and went on to lose. The book has this to say:

‘This is probably White’s trickiest try…but it’s still hard to believe that Black isn’t doling well. Bringing the Knight to d5 looks like the way to handle things…’
13 …Ke7 14.Be2 (or 14 Bc4 Nf6 15 Rac1 Bd7 16 Ne5 Rhc8 17 Bb3 a5! (activating the Rook with some advantage) Nf6 15.Ne5 Nd5 16.Rac1 b6 17.Bf3 Bb7 18.Rc4 Rac8 19.Rhc1 f6 20.Nd3 Kd6 and White is struggling with …Rhe8-e7 next up.’

It will be interesting to see if Mike can come back from the chess kitchen with an improved recipe, with an extra twist on the ingredients somewhere along the line.

It’s hard to spot any ‘second moves’ not considered in this fine book. For example, 2 a3 and 2 Na3 (remember that!?) both receive analysis and it seems like only the really rare pawn lunges (a4, f3, g4,h3,h4) and 2 Nh3 escape the net of the suggested repertoire.

This book should take a lot of the mystery out of the Anti-Sicilians and must take up it’s rightful place as THE reference book on the subject. After all, Gallagher’s famous book is now 13 years old!

For further details about Everyman chess books, please visit: http://www.everymanchess.com/

Happy Reading!


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