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

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