Sunday, 7 April 2013

Chess Reviews: 213

It's time to take a look at the latest chess books. As usual, my more in-depth reviews will can be found in CHESS Magazine. My reviews here at Marsh Towers will be more succinct but hopefully still give a good indication of what each book has to offer.

This column will focus on books dealing with 1 e4 openings. Next time we'll look at the 1 d4 side of things and then column 215 will round up miscellaneous titles.

The Perfect Pirc-Modern
By Viktor Moskalenko
255 pages
Viktor Moskalenko's new book retains the enthusiasm of his earlier volumes. This time he has moved away from 1 ...e6 and slipped one square to the right with 1 ...d6 (and related systems with 1 ...g6).

I'm not so sure the Pirc can described as ''Perfect'' without inviting a successful contradiction. Certainly Kramnik, having lost with it in one of the most important games of his life at the recent London Candidates tournament would have every right to disagree with such a description. With great irony, the Grandmaster who provided the foreword and is quoted on the back of the book praising the work is none other than Vassily Ivanchuk - the man who beat Kramnik in London!

The book is very nicely produced. I like the historical pictures and the photos of chess players. It's good see a decent picture of Mr Pirc himself in the introduction.

Three chapters are devoted to the sharp Austrian Attack, then there's one each for 4 Be3, 4 Bg5, 4 g3, 4 Nf3 and Miscellaneous Ideas.

I'm sure Black will achieve the sort of battle he seeks after most of the White tries, but if I were a Pirc player I would be a little concerned about my winning prospects against the Classical with 4 Nf3. Here, 6 ...Nc6 is the unbalancing recommendation, but we also get a look at 6 ...Bg4.

The author's enthusiasm and sunny-side up presentation should inspire readers to give the recommended lines a go, but I think The Perfect Pirc-Modern works best as an ideas book and I feel some further reading will be required to cobble together a full and effective repertoire.

The Open Spanish
By Victor Mikhalevski
381 pages
Quality Chess
The Open Spanish (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4) isn't as popular as it used to be. Probably the inexorable rise in the popularity of the Berlin Defence (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6) since 2000 is partly to blame.

This book offers Black a full repertoire against the Ruy Lopez and it doesn't neglect White's early deviations after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6, such as 5 Bxc6, 5 Nc3 and 5 d4.

Long-term followers of the World Championship battles will remember Korchnoi using 5 ...Nxe4 against Karpov in both 1978 and 1981. Korchnoi clearly believed in the validity of the Open Spanish even at the highest level and with the might of many a top Soviet analyst working against him. However, towards the end of the 1981 title match Karpov roughed up the Open Spanish very badly and seven years later Korchnoi suffered another very important defeat in a Candidates match.

I thought I'd take a look at this book to see if - and how - the theory on those particular lines has developed over the decades. I didn't have much luck with either!

In the Candidates match against Hjartarson, after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Nbd2 Nc5 11.Bc2, Korchnoi played 11 ...Bg4. Victor Mikhalevski prefers 11 ...d4 ''to force the play.'' Although he concedes ''it may lead to positions where White has a slight endgame advantage'' he contends that ''Black is not in any real danger.'' The subsequent analysis is admirably thorough - as it is throughout the book.

On to the 1981 Karpov games. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3 and now Korchnoi liked 10 ...d4, but this book - while acknowledging that as ''the most popular theoretical line'' prefers instead to focus on the ''modest yet reliable '' 10 ...Be7.

So, Korchnoi's old lines are not considered, but this is a serious book offering a deeply analysed repertoire. Club players may be overwhelmed, but strong and experienced tournament players will welcome the depth offered here.

Dangerous Weapons:
The Ruy Lopez
By John Emms, Tony Kosten and John Cox
299 pages

The aim of the Dangerous Weapons series is ''to concentrate on variations that are ambitious, sharp, innovative, disruptive, tricky, enjoyable to analyse; ones not already weighed down by huge mountains of theory, and ones unfairly ignored or discredited.'' Usually one can find all manner of sharp, weird, wonderful and disreputable lines, some of which are undoubtedly unsound but would make excellent surprise weapons against the unwary.

There are six weapons for each colour, but this time I ended up a little underwhelmed by the suggestions. True enough, we have the obligatory g4 lunge (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 d3 b5 6 Bb3 Be7 7 g4) and even the b-file counterpart (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Bc5 4 0-0 Nd4 5 b4) but it seems to me that there is too much time (one third of the 12 chapters) spent skulking around in the Berlin Defence.

The overall impression is of a series of suggestions that are more on the safe than dangerous side. Where are the Schliemann (3 ...f5), Alapin's (3 ...Bb4) and Brentano (3 ...g5)? They would be more in keeping with the aim of the series.

More danger, please!

The French Winawer
Move by Move
By Steve Giddins
287 pages
Everyman's Move by Move series is a strong one. The books are generally very well written and they make a genuine attempt to explain things in good detail. Questions are posed throughout the text with the hope of engaging the reader and stimulating the learning experience.

Steve Giddins is a very good writer and he brings a quarter of a century of French Winawer (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4) experience to his book. Steve explains ''the key ideas and typical plans behind this inexhaustibly rich and fascinating opening'', using 25 very well annotated games to do so.

All of the classics are there: Smyslov - Botvinnik, Fischer - Uhlmann, Timman - Korchnoi. The main focus falls on the standard main lines (including, of course, the ultra-sharp 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Qxg7 line) but other variations - such as the potentially annoying fourth and fifth move deviations - are also covered.

It's quite a while since I played a French Winawer but if I felt tempted to reinstate it then I would definitely return to this book to help me prepare. The annotations are excellent and I feel they would be ideal for club players who would like to learn the Winawer from scratch and also experienced French players who would like to increase their knowledge of the wonderful world of 3 ...Bb4.

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