Wednesday 18 October 2006

Chess Reviews: 18

Kasparov’s Fighting Chess 1993-1998
IM Tibor Karolyi & Nick Alpin

It’s strange to think that we now live in a time when Kasparov’s chess career is history. Always interesting and charismatic, he makes an ideal subject for chess book. Naturally, there have been many…so what does this latest one offer compared to the rest?

This book picks up the story directly from the end of Kasparov’s last edition of his classic ‘Fighting Chess’.

The story starts with his (in)famous 1993 World Championship Match with Nigel Short. The authors state early on that their policy is to concentrate purely on the chess and never on the politics. Although this means the reader will have to consult other books to pick up the full story, I think this policy works well here.

The 320 pages are absolutely packed as it is and the book would need to be twice as long to fit in all of the controversies.

The very first game in receives eight and a half pages of analysis and is fairly indicative of what is to follow.

Game 1 of the 1993 match with Short was dramatic to say the least. I saw this game live in the Savoy Theatre so it has special memories for me. The analysis given is an excellent mix of verbal explanations and anecdotes along with deeper variations and game references.

Kasparov - Short
World Championship 1993
Game 1

Short’s flag famously fell with only one move to go before the time-control. Did he have winning chances? The authors conclude that he had a chance to put himself in the driving seat…
After White’s best try: 40.Qe6+ fxe6 41.Rxc7 exd5 42.cxd5 Rf8 43.Kf1!? And now instead of the formerly touted 43...Rf3 the new suggestion is 43...Rf5 44.Rc6 Rxd5 45.Ke2 Kd7 46.Rxa6 Re5+ 47.Kd2

‘And Black has excellent winning chances.’ Would such an early loss - with White - have significantly changed the course of the match? I remember watching Kasparov’s post-game press conference and he was exhausted and a little depressed even though he had won (I took a couple of photos too, until a BIG security guard threatened to smash my camera unless I put it away immediately!).

Against Short, Kasparov - under Geller’s tutelage - steered well clear of the Marshall Gambit with 7 a4 in the Ruy Lopez. Indeed, the book makes the point that the Marshall has never been seen in Kasparov’s games. Later on a similar observation is made regarding the White side of the Benko Gambit and also the point that he never played 1 e4 against French Defence expert Vaganian. Clearly there were lines that Kasparov preferred to avoid which, given his depth of preparation, is an intriguing point.

Neither is this a whitewash job; Kasparov’s solitary defeat in the 1993 match is included and lots of Short’s near misses in other games are highlighted.

It is tempting to think of Kasparov’s career as one long round of matches against Karpov. Yet the years 1993-1998 brought a veritable bonanza of highly memorable events. A tough World Championship Match with Anand in 1995 (played at the top of the World Trade Centre), regular appearances at Super-tournaments such as Linares and Tilburg, a couple of Olympiads and those fabulous PCA Rapidplay Championships….it’s all here. The ghost of rivalry with Karpov still haunts the pages. Linares 1994 ( Kasparov’s first tournament after defeating Short) saw him have to settle - much to his chagrin - for shared second place, three full points behind Karpov! However, the times were certainly a-changing; only one of the 60 games features the 12th World Champion, whereas Topalov and Kramnik share six between them…

It is unusual that the book features no tournament cross tables. This must have been for reasons of space but I think they would have enhanced the work.

The book concludes with a five-page statistical survey covering various aspects of Kasparov’s play during the period in question, such as percentages with both colours, individual scores against his major opponents and that sort of thing. Three players enjoyed a plus score against him between 1993 and 1998, namely Ivanchuk, Svidler and Lautier. He had healthy plus scores against most of the rest, including a satisfying 75% against Karpov. His win rate with White - 74% - was somewhat better than with Black - 60% - but this is fairly normal for the elite level.
Here are a few random positions to whet your appetite.

Kasparov - Shirov
Horgen 1994

17 Rxb7!

Kasparov - Anand
World Championship 1995
Game 10

19 Bh6!!

Kasparov - Short
Novgorod 1997

31 Rxg6+! 1-0

For the full stories and analysis, consult the book!

Great games, great book! Take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the greatest moments of top-level chess. Keep a look out for the second volume too; on the strength of this one you could buy it on trust.

Caro-Kann Defence
Advance Variation and Gambit System
Anatoly Karpov


It is still impossible to separate the names of Karpov and Kasparov! The 12th World Champion has been in virtual semi-retirement for some time now but can still pack quite a punch when motivated.

His latest book is the first in a trilogy providing complete coverage of the solid Caro-Kann defence. The young Karpov oscillated between 1 …c5 and 1 .,..e5 as his main stay defences to 1 e4 but adopted the Caro-Kann as his main weapon to blunt Spassky’s attacks in the surprisingly one-sided 1974 Candidates Match. Eventually he settled on the Caro-Kann and Petroff as his two main repertoire choices.

In theory, having upheld the honour of 1 …c6 against the best players in the world over a considerable period of time, Karpov is the ideal candidate to write the definitive account of the defence lots of 1 e4 players hate to see.

Although GM Karpov’s name is the only one to adorn the front cover and spine, IM Mikhail Podgaets receives co-writing on the back cover and on the inside. The cynic may well think that Karpov’s involvement was minimal (as it was with a number of his previous books) but there is nothing in the current work to either confirm or deny this.

‘The Gambit System’ starts off the book and is covered in 32 pages. 3 f3 - usually known as the Fantasy Variation - is a strange beast. The authors treat it with respect, despite its lack of adherents: ‘Black, in order not to lose, has to act with great circumspection and must be accurate with hid order of moves.’

One idea is to throw the opponent out of his cosy, prepared lines. The positions can become random and disorientating; certainly not what the prospective Caro-Kanner is after.
Here’s a case in point…

Zalkind - Kudrin
Chicago 1989

20 Qxf8+ with what should be a decisive advantage for White. The book gives 1-0 at this point but in real life Black actually held on to draw in 53 moves.

The analysis looks thorough but there is a curious omission. Black’s rare rejoinder 3 …Qb6!? is mentioned in one of the illustrative games at the end of the book but is not considered in the chapter itself.

The bulk of the book is taken up with coverage of the important Advance Variation. In distant times 3 e5 seemed to let Black off lightly, enabling him to obtain a good French structure with the Bc8 liberated on f5. However, diligent efforts by some of the world’s sharpest players turned 3 e5 into one of the most combative lines available to White.The early deviations from the main line are dealt with first.
3 …Na6 is annotated ‘!?’ This weird looking move does have its points. Black is hoping to develop the Bc8 and then adopt a set-up reminiscent of the Gurgenidze System ( 1...g6, 2...Bg7, 3...c6, 4...d5). Without the light-squares Bishop, Black needs to careful about a White pawn breakthrough via f5 and e6, so the Na6 can hop back to c7 to bolster some of the central White squares. White’s tempting 4 Bxa6 is countered trivially by 4 ….Qa5+ and 5...Qxa6, preserving the pawn structure.
But at the end of the analysis the authors opine: ‘It has to be said that White can without great difficulty refute Simagin’s idea.’ So 3 …Na6 should really be given just the ‘?’ if the authors are confident of their assessment.

The book then goes thoroughly through all the main Advance lines, from Black’s 3 …c5 to White’s 4 Nf3 (what most of us would recognize as ‘The Short System’ but not called such here, despite Nigel’s games providing numerous examples).

Summing things up at the end of the final chapter, the book says: ‘The system 4 Nf3 is perhaps the only Classical system in this book. Classical system does not exactly suggest an immediate refutation of the opening variation chosen by an opponent. No way…..The Classical system might reach the peak of popularity or fall completely from fashion. But the Classical cannot die before chess itself dies. In other words, it will never die.’

Unfortunately, it reads a bit like a cross between Confucius and Yoda.

Each chapter is given its own index, which is a much appreciated feature as some of the lines can be confusing. The book concludes with 15 illustrative games.

One of the games gives a big improvement over the earlier analysis.

Volokitin - Ruck
Zele 2004

The relevant chapter considers only 10 0-0 and 10 Nb3 for White but here White’s novelty 10 b4! is given, after which Black is in trouble on the squares c7 and d6 10 …Qxb4 11 Ndb5. This important improvement should definitely have been included in the main text.

Perhaps a little dry and certainly not for beginners. As mentioned above, a few oddities seem to have slipped through during the editing stages. However, advanced players will find the encyclopaedic coverage worthy of their attention. I would strongly advise some cross-referencing though.

For details of Batsford chess books, please visit:

Happy reading!
October 2006

Tuesday 17 October 2006

Archive: UNCUT! 55

The Sean Marsh
Chess Column
*Column 55*
*December 2006* *

The Afterlife is a funny old place, and you never know who will turn up….

Tinkling away on the piano was Alexander Litvinenko, with his own rendition of ‘If you knew sushi like I knew sushi…’

Elsewhere, General Pinochet was asking after Fidel Castro and was told he had been indefinitely delayed.

There, in the corner, sat a couple a chess players, completely engrossed in a position they were analysing. The one with the aristocratic air and immaculate appearance politely beckoned me over. The second player never looked up and didn’t even seem to know I was there. ‘Senor Capablanca!’ he suddenly snapped, ‘I think I have the solution!’ A lonely-looking man at another table gave a cursory glance but made no attempt to come over and join in. Capablanca smiled at me and then looked down at the board. He then gave a rather camp giggle. ‘Sorry Dr Alekhine, but that is quite incorrect!’

Something suddenly occurred to me. ‘Just a minute…aren’t you two supposed to be mortal enemies?’

The Cuban smiled again. ‘Mortal enemies yes…but one simply has to put aside past differences at such times.’ Alekhine suddenly shot a glance upwards and I was taken aback by the ferocity of his magnificent glare. ‘Because everyone else up here is a patzer! How else can we play chess against a worthy opponent other than to play each other constantly?’

Capablanca giggled again and told the old joke about Alekhine’s first appearance in heaven…. ‘He stood at the gates but they pretended for a while that he wasn’t allowed in. Why not? Because he was a chess player! And so he peeped through the gates and saw…Bogoljubov! But there has been some mistake! How come he is allowed in when I am not? That’s different, they explained…Bogo only thinks he is a chess player!’

At this, Alekhine shot another glance upwards, betraying his annoyance at the story and of his continued frustration at the chess problem.

‘Of course, I had to wait a few years for my former foe to appear’ said Capablanca. ‘Late as always!’

‘Not my fault!’ snapped Alekhine. ‘My doctor gave me six months to live, and I told him very well but I was too poor to pay his bill. Given that he was a – ‘

‘Careful!’ interjected Capablanca, ‘Remember Deutsch Schachzeitung!’

‘ – a greedy man, he then gave me another six months….’

The lonely looking man on the nearby table made to get up, clearly intending to help with the problem, but something held him back and he sat down with a weary air of defeat.

‘What’s wrong with that man?’ I asked.

Alekhine looked up and his eyes darted across to the other table. He shrugged and simply said, ‘Ask him’, motioning towards Capablanca. The Cuban looked a little bit ill at ease for a while but politeness overtook him and his voice lowered considerably as he told me the tale…

‘It happened some time ago, in 1924 to be precise, when Dr Alekhine and I were competing in the New York tournament. That man came to my room one evening and asked to speak to me privately. I let him in and asked him to state his business. He said he had solved chess! An outrageous claim, or so I thought…at first, I laughed…and yet he seemed deadly serious. I thought I’d better humour him for a little while and then send him on his way. We found a set of pieces and he played over some moves to demonstrate his ideas.

I thought I’d lost concentration, for within 20 moves my position was absolutely lost! The man merely smiled and asked me to try again. Playing carefully, I allowed him another chance and I was again lost after 20 moves! No matter how hard I tried over the next few games, I couldn’t stave off inevitable defeat. Remarkable!

I summoned Dr Alekhine, for I could scarcely believe what I was experiencing. At first he laughed and called me a patzer. But soon he suffered the same fate! We worked together all night but would not get the better of our opponent. A crushing defeat in 20 moves, every single time! Chess had indeed been solved once and for all!’

‘Amazing! So what became of the man and his moves?’

Alekhine spoke up at last. Taking a cautionary look from side to side, he whispered ‘He was never seen again…he’s been here since that night in 1924….’

‘Anyway,’ interjected an embarrassed Capablanca, ‘Let’s try this problem again. It sound so simple; all we have to do is….’
Decide which pieces should be White and Black
and then say what the last move was!

I looked at it for a while but could not fathom the solution. ‘But this isn’t real chess! Got any other problems for the readers to solve?’

Capablanca produced a sheet of problems like a rabbit from a hat. ‘But of course! Let them try these….’

And so, dear readers, here is a little festive challenge to you all. Answers next year!

It’s White to play and checkmate in three moves!

White to play and mate in six!

Too difficult, you say?

Then try the easiest ‘White to play and mate in six’ there is!

Season’s Greetings To You All!
And, until we meet again - either in this life or the next - enjoy your chess!
Sean Marsh
11th December 2006

Archive: UNCUT! 54

The Sean Marsh
Chess Column
*Column 54*

A Return To The Bog Standard

Dear Readers,

The recent World Championship reunification match may have finally created an undisputed champion for the first time in 16 years but the fact remains that it came mighty close to setting the chess world back even more.

Believe it or not, controversy is nothing new to World Chess Championship and there have been several potential cancellations over the years.

The first of the famous Karpov - Kasparov title bouts was called off after 48 games for a number of reasons (not all of them in the public domain, methinks) but none of them concerned toilets. Korchnoy walked out midway through his 1978 match with Karpov but came back and almost won. Spassky could have easily won against Fischer in 1972 if he hadn’t been such a gentleman (or too confident…?). Before that, one has to go back to the 1921 Lasker - Capablanca match, which Lasker resigned before the regulation number of wins had been notched up. Lasker didn’t want to play anyway, and had already resigned his title to the Cuban some time before they sat down to play.

Topalov and Kramnik (or their managers and teams) fell out over the use of a private toilet. Kramnik even defaulted a game as the arguments raged. Only desperate actions and lengthy meetings saved the match.
The closest thing to this particular fiasco came at the 1977 Candidates’ Final between Spassky and Korchnoy. Spassky, the last line of Soviet defence trying to stop the dreaded defector from reaching Karpov, started the match very badly but produced a number of tricks designed to distract his opponent. Spassky created the habit of retreating to his rest room and only coming out to play his moves before dashing back again. He had sight of a demonstration board and used it to analyse as the games went on. Korchnoy promptly hit a bad run of form and to try and reverse the trend he decided to copy Spassky’s antics. The audience must have felt bemused and somewhat cheated as the only glimpse of live Candidates they witnessed was when one of them dashed in or out of his rest room. Korchnoy lost four games in a row and it was only when he reverted to normal methods that he was able to clinch the match.

Controversy and rumours are rife regarding what was said behind closed doors as the Kramnik - Topalov saga raged on.

Perhaps the discussions went along lines such as these…

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Gentleman, gentlemen…let us try and solve the problem, put all the differences behind us and continue this vital match. Vladimir, please tell me….what prompted you to resort to such childish behaviour?

Kramnik: (Points to Topalov) Ask him - he started it.

Silence for some moments. And then…

Kramnik: We are perpetually kept in the dark over the machinations FIDE. We keep hearing that the highly respected chess diplomat Bessel Kok is to be elected, or at least taken on in an advisory capacity. Yet time and again such talk comes to nothing.

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Do you really think that if Bessel was here he could solve the problem of the overabundant toilet trips?

Kramnik: But it’s confusing. It seems one minute it’s ‘Kok in’ and the next it’s ‘Kok out‘.

Topalov: That’s precisely the problem!

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Gentlemen, we must all be prepared to make concessions if the match is to continue. Vladimir, tell me…what is the main sticking point for you?

Kramnik: Without question - the matter of the defaulted game. I cannot be expected to play on this match having missed a White game.

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Would you willing to play the game in lieu?**

Topalov: Whose side are you on!?

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Wait - I have the answer! All you need to do is ensure that the match is tied after 12 games. It doesn’t matter how you do it; contrive to blunder, stick to the Slav to make rehearsals - err, I mean preparation - easier…anything you like, but just make sure we can get to the play-offs. As you know, they will be Rapidplay games. Then we can unlock the toilet door, safe in the knowledge that nobody can spend too long in there. Everyone’s happy!

Topalov: Well, I suppose we have an even chance then…

Kramnik: And I suppose I could always sue FIDE if I end up losing after all…ok, we can do this!

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Then all I can say is – take a few days off and then carry on, at your convenience!

(At this point, Kramnik stood up to leave, but appeared to be in pain as he made slowly to the door.)

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Vladimir, you seem to be in some discomfort! I think it must be your arthritic condition playing up again.

Kramnik: No, I’m afraid to say you are wrong.

Topalov: Perhaps all this sitting around has brought on that terrible curse of the chess player - the cramp?

Kramnik: No, I’m afraid to say you are wrong also.

FIDE President Ilyumzhinov: Then tell us Vladimir…what exactly is the problem?

Kramnik: Well, let’s just say…all this time and my toilet is till locked….hmmm…I thought I was going to break wind, and I’m afraid I was wrong!’

…and with that, the World Champion shuffled gingerly out of the meeting…

…But then again, perhaps it never happened like that at all…

(** In the interests of honesty, I have to say that this particular pun is courtesy of my sister. Honesty…and the fact that it’s Christmas soon…)

Sean Marsh

Wednesday 4 October 2006

Chess Reviews: 17

Starting Out:
Chess Tactics and Checkmates
by GM Chris Ward

Grandmaster Ward is a very experienced chess teacher and writer and in this bright and breezy book he takes the reader by the hand and leads him from the simple concept of ‘check’ all the way up to 100 puzzles featuring checkmates and a plethora of other tactics.

On the very first page he gives a warning: ‘Chess can be a whole lot of fun (especially when you are winning!) but it is not an easy game!’

The chapter headings give a good idea of the sort of things to expect:

The Basics
First Steps towards Checkmate
More Practical Lessons
Popular Themes and Real Life Chess
Quick-fire Puzzles
Solutions to Exercises
Solutions to Quick-fire Puzzles

Here are a few samples to give an idea of the level.

White to play and mate in three moves.

White to play and mate in three moves.

What is White’s best move?

The book is certainly very useful coaching material for junior players and I think improving club players would also benefit from trying out some of the puzzles.

Starting Out:
Sicilain Scheveningen by IM Craig Pritchett

IM Craig Pritchett wrote the best early book on the Sicilian Scheveningen nearly 30 years ago - even before Kasparov made it popular! It is great to see him writing on the subject again.
The Scheveningen doesn’t appear to be trendy at the moment, with most 1…c5 players preferring the Najdorf and Sveshnikov lines. I don’t think there was any particular line that scared people off.

This book is of course a whole new work and not just the 1977 version rehashed with a few recent games. The Scheveningen received a massive boost of interest when Gary Kasparov did the seemingly impossible and forced Karpov to give up 1 e4 over the course their epic World Championship matches from 1984 onwards. Indeed, the ghost of Kasparov’s playing career manifests itself throughout this book. Only one of the main games is his, but he is present in an abundance of alternative variations and notes.

The author points out in the introduction that it is impossible to cover such a well established opening in great detail over 192 pages and stresses that the chosen lines provide a repertoire and not encyclopaedic coverage.

One reason that a lot of players are put off entering the Scheveningen by the ‘normal’ move order is the Keres Attack…

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 g4

….which is why a popular route for Black players is via the Najdorf 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 but even here some wags have developed 6 Rg1, trying to force g2-g4 anyway. So it would seem reasonable to suppose that the Keres coverage is an important part of the suggested repertoire. IM Pritchett advocates ‘Black’s most principled response…the uncompromising counter-thrust 6 …h6’ and covers the three main White tries: 7 h3, 7 g5 and 7 h4.

A key idea for Black is identified: establish a Knight on e5 and secure it with …g7…g5 (fully justifying 6 …h6!).

10 …g5!

K. Haznedaroglu D. Navara
European Ch. 2005

11..g5! 12 fxg5 Ndxe5

M. Manik – J. Stocek
Slovakian Team Ch. 2005

Black seems to be absolutely fine in the theoretical sense and, over the board, it is easy to imagine club players finding it very difficult to hold such a committed White position together. Black’s counter-attacking chances in this line are typical of the opening as a whole.

The repertoire given here will serve the reader very well indeed. The excellent coverage lucid explanations leave one wondering why Craig Pritchett doesn’t write more books on chess as he is ideally suited to the purpose. Definitely the pick of this month’s bunch!

Starting Out: Queen’s Gambit Accepted

by GM Alex Raetsky & IM Maxim Chetverik

There was a time when the QGA was very badly served by chess literature, with the classic Hooper & Cafferty ‘A Complete Defence To 1 d4’ shining like a solitary welcoming beacon in a desolate wasteland. Now there are plenty of tomes covering Black’s attempt to refute the gambit by accepting it.

Starting with 1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 e4, the authors take the reader on a well-annotated journey through all the standard lines; 3 Nf3 and all the other third move options are given good coverage as are some – but not all – of the minor options for Black.

Black’s problem in the QGA is that he has to be prepared for just about any type of game. For example, in the key opening position:

1 d4 d5 2 c4 dxc4 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3 e6 5 Bxc4 c5 6 0-0 a6

he has to reckon with the dull 7 dxc5, the sharp gambit 7 e4 and the old Botvinnik favourite 7 a4, heading for a typical IQP attacking position for White. The authors conclude that everything should be fine for Black and provide convincing analysis to back up their claim.

Readers will be encouraged to see such luminaries as Kasparov, Topalov and Anand holding up the Black side of the argument and it is very good to see several examples featuring Raetsky himself.

The only problem the reader has is being spoiled for choice when it comes to recent QGA books. I would say that if you have any of the other recent guides then this one isn’t really necessary, but if you are looking around for an up to date book covering a very sound and reliable defence then this one is well worth your time.

For details of Everyman chess books, please visit:

Happy reading!
October 2006

Monday 2 October 2006

Archive: UNCUT! 53

The Sean Marsh
Chess Column

*Column 53*

Dear Readers,

Yarm School hosted a very special night of chess recently. In the middle of their Chess Festival (see Junior Update link to follow) former British Champion, International Master William Hartston gave a simultaneous display against 22 keen local players.

At the height of the World Championship chaos it was a welcome relief to get back to real chess!
I always enjoy simuls (whether giving or receiving) and this one was particularly memorable, against one of the all-time greats of British chess.

The circuits were quicker than normal, with the whole event lasting exactly two and a half hours.

Here are the scores…

Ernie Lazenby 0
Peter Ridsdale 0
Sean Marsh ½
Andrew Killick ½
Brian Whitaker ½
Joe Richardson 0
Philip Mitcheson ½
Harry Wang 0
Ian Wang 0
Alastair James 0
Dhruv Tapasvi 0
John Littlehailes 0
Mike Hardy 0
Gordon Middlemiss 0
Adam Stockley 0
Ahmed Saeed-Maiter 0
Alasdair Bruce 0
Matthew Puddick ½
James Xu ½
Alan Stockley 0
David Baillie 0
Dave Edmunds 0

Final Score: IM Hartston +16, =6, -0

The Chair of the Cleveland Chess Association, Mr Ernie Lazenby, very kindly donated a trophy and cash prize to be awarded to the junior who played the best game of the night (and made a considerable donation to the running costs of the event). IM Hartston chose James Xu to be the recipient. The game played by James – and other highlights - will feature in a forthcoming UNCUT!

Meanwhile, here are a few captured moments from a very enjoyable evening.

Quick - think! He's nearly here!

Maximum concentration in the middle game

Dave Edmunds, David Baillie and Joe Richardson all look for their opportunities.

James Xu and Matthew Puddick both drew.

Not many left now...but Gordon Middlemissand Alan Stockley are still battling away.

The Mighty Dhruv didn't go downwithout a long fight.

James Xu receives his 'Best Game' prizefrom Bill and Ernie

James Xu - best junior!

Sean Marsh