Monday, 9 September 2013

Chess Reviews: 218

Other writing projects have kept me away from the blog of late, but now it's time to catch up with a few chess reviews. I hope to present one review per day for the rest of the week.

The Scandinavian
Move by Move

By IM Cyrus Lakdawala
400 pages
Everyman Chess
I can remember a time when the Scandinavian Defence was copyrighted property of the club eccentric. There was one in every club, sitting there just waiting for an opportunity to meet 1 e4 with 1 ...d5. Everyone else felt the opening was useless but there was a reluctance to step into the eccentric expert's back yard, so most of us temporarily switched to Colle Systems and the like on such occasions.

Players of a certain age may also remember CHESS magazine (in the B.H. Wood era) devoting an considerable of space each month to a series of articles on the defence. Since those dark and distant days there has been a steady increase of interest in 1 e4 d5 and Cyrus Lakdawala's book is the latest in a number of Scandinavian volumes to hit the shelves.

Following an entertaining introduction which sees Emanuel Lasker come to grief after 1 e4 d5 (albeit in  a simultaneous exhibition) it's straight into chapters dealing with the main lines. This book focuses on 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 ''a safer, more logical choice'' than 3 ...Qa5.

I used to be baffled by the idea of placing the queen on d6, where it seems to be a relatively easy target for White and appears to impede some of Black's own developing moves. Then I attended three simultaneous displays conducted by former title challenger David Bronstein and saw for myself some of Black's ideas and plans unfold before my eyes as he won game after game with this variation.

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 6 Ne5 is given as the critical test of the whole line.

After 6 ...Nbd7, there is analysis on 7 Nc4, 7 Bf4 and 7 f4. Black certainly needs to know his stuff in those lines, but Lakdawala seems confident in his analysis, claiming Black's ''resources are more than adequate against White's coming assault.''

Early deviations are all covered, but fans of the former main line - 3 ...Qa5 - will have to find another book to use. The author would have covered it in addition to 3 ...Qd6 but claims it wasn't possible because ''Everyman remains irrational in its insistence that my books remain under 1,000 pages.'' He is such a prolific author that I don't think he's joking.

Written in his usual chatty style, this ''move by move'' offers down to earth explanations on a complete repertoire for Black against 1 e4. It is an accessible and engaging presentation, although in truth 1 ...d5 and 3 ...Qd6 will probably remain an opening line that appeals mainly to club eccentrics rather than the rest of the clientele.

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