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

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