Thursday, 6 May 2010

Chess Reviews: 139

Play Chess Like The PROs

By GM Danny Gormally

208 pages

Everyman Chess

'What separates the greatest chess players from mere mortals? Grandmaster Danny Gormally believes that understanding, preparation and will to win are three crucial factors.'

GM Gormally has arranged his book in seven chapters:

South London's Finest

Morphy v Carlsen

Taking on Transwarp

The Gamblers and the Grinders

Solving Problems in the Opening

Practical Play


Over the course of the chapters the author presents his thoughts on topics such as his early chess career, chess heroes, computers and preparation. There are 37 main games, 12 of which feature GM Gormally himself.

According to the blurb, the author is '....ideally placed to tell the stories, not just behind the moves but also the characters who play them, offering the reader an insider's candid view of professional chess in the modern age'.

However, instead of blowing the lid off the contemporary Grandmaster chess scene, it reveals a rather insular and lonely life, where £15,000 is a realistic assessment of annual income and self-confessed laziness holds back further development. It's a story which tells of chess players addicted to gambling and who prefer sitting around in pubs rather than preparing properly for games, but the book is not as honest as it perhaps like to think it is. No doubt readers will eagerly scan the pages for a full and frank account of GM Gormally's irrational Olympiad shenanigans, but a brief and breezy mention is all that awaits.

Instead we get to read about GM Keith Arkell's apparently successful gambling life before he returned to the chess board and a swipe or two at the perceived poor preparation of another fellow chess professional. I think in the case of this book 'warts and all' would have been a much more interesting read than 'kiss and tell'.

It does seem that the author accepts his limitations as a player; it is not unusual to come across a comment such as this: '…lowly rated (i.e. weak!) grandmasters such as myself'

When praising former British Champion Jonathan Rowson, he says: 'He seems to have a serious approach to chess preparation that is generally lacking in players from these shores'. Given the tales about chess players in pubs, that wouldn't be too difficult.

I think the book lacks focus and consequently it falls between two stools. There are certainly some interesting ideas on how to improve at chess and there are snippets of intriguing chess gossip also, but I'm not so sure they knit together well in the same volume.

One hears tales of Grandmasters losing a lot more at gambling than is generally admitted to and of serious depression, computer screens smashed in frustration and even late night trips to lap-dancing clubs during important tournaments. Will we ever see a really honest account of life as a UK professional?

Meanwhile, here's a good test position from the section on 'Combinations'.

Yahya - Gormally
Turin Olympiad 2006

Black to play

Can you see what Nigel Short spotted from the adjacent board?

Starting Out: Open Games

By GM Glenn Flear

318 pages

Everyman Chess

This new introduction to 1 e4 e5 is the latest addition to Everyman's strong 'Starting Out' series.

GM Glenn Flear, a very experienced 1 e4 e5 player from the Black side of the board, explains his aims for the book: 'My idea has been to introduce people to the types of position that occur, and to offer them a few ideas that should enable them to venture the Open Games, for either colour, with a certain degree of confidence.'

He then takes the reader on journey through the following chapters:

The Quiet Italian

To Knights Defence

Evans Gambit and Giuoco Piano

Four Knights Game

Scotch Game

Central Gambits

King's Gambit

Vienna Game

Other White Systems

Black Avoids 2…Nc6 - Introduction

Philidor's Defence

Petroff's Defence

Virtually everything after the initial move by both sides is considered. Even 2 Qh5 gets a mention, but the Portuguese Opening (1 e4 e5 2 Bb5) escapes the author's attention (unless it's buried in a note I haven't yet seen).

The Spanish is not considered:

'1 e4 e5 is a very big topic, After the moves 1 e4 e5, a certain number of encounters featuring top Grandmasters will continue 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 (which is known as the 'Spanish' or, in certain quarters, the 'Ruy Lopez'), but most club players, and vitally all beginners, will vary on moves two or three'.

Despite that, the book still runs to an impressive 318 pages.

I think the author has done well to provide as much coverage as he has, albeit in broad strokes. Here's a sample snippet to show the sort of explanation a relative sideline receives:

'...the odd-looking 4 ...Bc5!? isn't an oversight at all, but introduces the wild Wilkes-Barre (or Traxler) variation. Although the Wilkes-Barre is occasionally played by strong players it is a rare visitor to over-the-board tournaments.

White can capture on f7 either way, winning material and disrupting Black's development, but in return Black gets a lead in development and serious counter-play against White's own soft spot on f2. For example, 5 Nxf7 Bxf2+! isn't clear at all.

The most challenging response is 5 Bxf7+ Ke7 6 Bd5...' followed by a few more moves of the Anand - Beliavsky game from Linares, 1991.

Essentially, the book delivers exactly what the title suggests it should and 1 e4 e5 novices will find the sensible suggestions and no-nonsense prose very helpful. Those already experienced in the Open Games will require more specialist tomes to help them advance their understanding of the openings in question.

For further details of these and other Everyman products, pop along to:

A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire

By GM Aaron Summerscale & Sverre Johnsen

192 pages

Gambit Publications

The repertoire in question starts with 1 d4. 1 e4 fans may scoff, but 'left-handed' players can have fun too and the Colle System is no longer the sole property of 'the old man in the corner of the chess club'.

The first edition of this book was very influential on club players. Learning lines against the Colle-Zukertort suddenly became an essential part of one's preparation back in 1998.

The book retains the feel and general layout of the first edition and the original introduction is intact.

Sverre's introduction to the new edition makes it quite clear what changes have been made. One of the original main games has been relegated to a side note and six new games have been added. Numerous notes have been expanded and recent games have been added to the notes. Finally, a Rybka 3 'blundercheck' was employed to weed out mistakes.

Opening the book at random, I discovered an average of five post-1998 game references per double-page spread. Despite the outward appearance, showing (at first glance) the book to be more or less the same as the old edition, it is clear that Sverre has put a lot of work into creating this new edition, while keeping his footsteps very discrete.

The aim of the book is to show how to become a killer against all of Black's opening options and the material is covered in eight chapters:

Barry Attack

150 Attack

Colle-Zukertort System

1 d4 d5 2 Nf3: Beating the Anti-Colle Systems

Classical Queen's Indian


Anti-Dutch 2 Bg5

Odds and Ends

Game 1 sees Hebden losing on the Black side of a Barry Attack to Pira. Presumably the game made a serious impression, as Hebden went on to home the Barry Attack into one of his specialist weapons.

The Colle-Zukertort sees White building up slowly at first and then hoping to unleash something serious against the Black King. Even in lines where Black appears to be doing theoretically well, White's rapid development can make a big difference. Here's a snippet from one of the newly added games.

Khenkin - L. Milov

Bad Homburg 2006

White now played 12 Ne5!

As far as the repertoire as a whole is concerned, I was never too happy with 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 Bg4 4 c4, when Black can play 4 …dxc4 and transpose to a Queen's Gambit Accepted. Indeed, I often kept that line ready specifically to play against C-Z devotees. Nor am I keen on the anti-Dutch lines: 1 d4 f5 2 Bg5 and 1 d4 e6 2 Nf3 f5 3 d5, but that is probably more down to personal choice than anything else.

Theory has, naturally, advanced in virtually all of the lines in this book, but I agree that: 'Most lines can still be played with very little memorization.'

This is a neat little book which can provide serious ammunition for keen club players.

Understanding the Marshall Attack

by IM David Vigorito

192 pages

Gambit Publications

The Marshall Attack continues to be popular with top-flight Grandmasters. This book's introduction name-checks a plethora of very strong players including Anand, Kramnik, Adams and Aronian. It's easy to see the appeal; Black sacrifices a pawn in the opening and gets to throw numerous pieces towards the enemy King. Club players often like to emulate their chess heroes when it comes to opening choices. But is the Marshall too complicated and theory-bound to be accessible to players who lack the time and skill to become professionals?

'The Marshall student should worry less about memorizing variations and focus on learning ideas. By using this method there is a much better chance of success, because if one's memory fails, the problems can still be solved if one has a good understanding of the positions that arise.'

I found the chapter
'Typical Ideas in the Marshall Attack' to be very useful. I have no experience on either side of this opening and I felt my knowledge of it expand substantially after reading about the 20 little tricks and traps.

Renet - Nunn

Haifa 1989

22 ...Qe8! 0-1

Onto the meat of the book. After: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 0-0 the main chapters take over.

Part 1: Main Lines with 8 c3 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Rxe5 c6 12 d4 Bd6 13 Re1 Qh4 14 g3 Qh3

Part 2: Other Lines after 8 c3 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Rxe5 c6

Part 3: Anti-Marshall

Given the nature of the opening, the main chapters are heavy on variations. A lot of the theoretical lines stretch well beyond move 20.

The Anti-Marshall systems went through a spell of popularity when Garry Kasparov proved their worth against Nigel Short in their 1993 World Championship match, but IM Vigorito believes Black is fine these days.

The coverage is deep in all of this book's lines and the analysis, to my unMarshalled eyes, appears to be up to date.

You will need a very good memory and lots of spare time to learn the intricacies of The Marshall Attack. This book is a worthy guide.

For further details regarding the Gambit books, please visit their website:

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