Monday 19 November 2012

Chess Reviews: 202

Time now to start catching up with a number of books which have fallen through the gaps between my reviews here and for CHESS magazine.

Between now and Christmas I will catch up with everything staring at me from the review pile. One or two books from each publisher will be granted greater coverage than the rest but no stone will be left completely unturned.

All of the books covered in this column are published by New in Chess and further details can be found on their website.

The Modern French
A Complete Guide for Black
By Dejan Antic and Branimir Maksimovic
365 pages
New in Chess

Anyone writing a book about the French Defence risks being lost in a crowded market. John Watson, Viktor Moskalenko and Simon Williams are among those who have produced very interesting and instructional manuals on the subject in recent times.

So, what do Antic and Maksimovic bring to the table? In a word - detail. Or, at least, detail in the lines they chose to cover, namely:

King's Indian Attack
The Exchange Variation
The Advance Variation
The Steinitz Variation
The McCutcheon Variation

One problem with this repertoire book - claiming to present 'a complete guide for Black' - is that some early deviations and (admittedly minor) sidelines are not covered at all, because they 'are of little value, and pose no threat to Black.' Theoretically, this doubtless the case, but club players walking into a rival's special preparation may have to lose first and then look elsewhere later.

However, coverage of the variations listed above is excellent. The authors clearly have a fine feel for the French and their collective 1 ...e6 style packs a lot of punch, displaying Black's desire to seize the initiative wherever possible. For example, the recommendation against the potentially soporific Exchange Variation is a very early ...c5, heralding an unbalanced position (provided Black doesn't mind playing with IQP). Elsewhere there's an early ...b6 against the KIA, 5...Bd7 against the Advance (instead of the more famous 5 ...Qb6), and 3 ...Be7 against the Tarrasch, before rounding off with very detailed coverage of both the Steinitz and McCutcheon Variations (with 8 ...Kf8 in the main line) to combat 3 Nc3.

Throughout the book, Black can be seen lunging on both sides of the board, with early an ...g5 or ...a5 and ...b5.

I would recommend this book players who already play the French and who would like to expand their repertoire withing the world of 1 e4 e6, perhaps adopting one new variation at a time. Newcomers to the French may find this book a shade on the difficult side.

The Strategic Nimzo-Indian
Volume 1:
A Complete Guide to the Rubinstein Variation
By Ivan Sokolov
411 pages
New in Chess

Ivan Sokolov's coverage of 4 e3 in the Nimzo-Indian Defence is presented with even more depth than The Modern French. He has been studying the Rubinstein Variation since the mid-1980s and the fruits of his labour are clear in this impressively thorough volume.

Special attention is given to the significance of the pawn structures arising from the various variations, making this, in some ways, a companion volume to Sokolov's earlier work on Winning Chess Middlegames.

The coverage is so deep that we even get whole chapters on obscure lines that have long been relegated to the role of sidelines, such as the Baguio Variation (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 d5!?). Therefore an enquiring mind has an excellent starting point for further investigation.

Nimzo novices will find themselves lost in a sea of variations (encountering the likes of 'B322' reminds me of some of Batsford's early, encyclopedic efforts); this is a serious book for serious players. I think even Grandmasters will find much of interest here and this is almost certainly the best coverage of the Rubinstein Variation to be found anywhere.

The second and final volume in the series will cover 4 a3.

The Kaufman Repertoire
For Black and White
By Larry Kaufman
496 pages
New in Chess

The first thing to notice about this book is the unusual format. The first half of the book, behind the white cover, focuses on the repertoire for White. Flipping the book over, one discovers a black cover, which opens up the world of the Black repertoire. It's an unusual idea and, in terms of visual impact, an effective one.

Kaufman's previous repertoire book - The Chess Advantage in Black and White - was a very impressive volume. The Kaufman Repertoire follows the same premise of 'covering the entire scope of chess openings for both White and Black, in one tome' but it is by no means a rehash of old material, merely augmented by a few recent games. Not at all; this is essentially a whole new book, with a new repertoire for both colours.

The White repertoire is based on 1 d4 2 c4 (it was based on 1 e4 in the earlier book). Black's oddball attempts, such as the Englund Gambit, are covered briskly before the main lines appear. We are given 2 Bg5 against the Dutch, the Exchange Variation against the QGD, Classical against the King's Indian, Russian System against the Grunfeld and the Classical against the Nimzo-Indian. There's a chapter on the 3 Nf3 move order too, for those who would rather face the Queen's Indian Defence. 1 ...g6 and 1 ...d6 systems are met by 2 e4, with an early Be3 on the agenda.

Black is given the Grunfeld and 1 e4 e5, with the Breyer Defence replacing Kaufman's previous recommendation of the Berlin Defence.

Of the three books covered here, this is definitely the one club players will find most accessible. Players moving up the levels will need to do some more background reading to expand on the material given (Black Lion players can give a sigh of relief).

Kaufman's repertoire is very sound and I doubt many unpleasant surprises await the diligent reader when adopting the recommendations over the board. The book represents excellent value for money and delivers on its promise of providing 'a complete, sound and user-friendly chess opening repertoire.'

No comments: