Thursday, 10 July 2008

Chess Reviews: 53

How to Crush Your Chess Opponents
By GM Simon Williams
Gambit Publications

GM Williams is a player who relishes a tactical battle. ‘Do we play chess to put ourselves through six hours of torture where we might end up losing as Rook ending? I do not think so, unless you’re a masochist. The most fun I get from a game is when I crush my opponent quickly.’

Given such a philosophy, it is quite clear that this new book will not contain classic positional grinds by players such as Petrosian, Karpov and Kramnik. However, it’s no surprise to see the names of Polgar, Plaskett and Topalov amongst those doing the crushing.

'I had two main aims in writing this book. One aim was to show you some fascinating games that I have enjoyed. He other ain was to help you to play attacking chess like the winners in this book. Hopefully, this book will help you understand how to hack your opponents up quickly!’

There follows a few short notes on Attack and Defence before the main action starts.
The vast majority of the 112 pages are used to cover 30 crushing games, split into the following (largely self-explanatory) chapters:

Opening to Middlegame
Keeping the Initiative
Harmonizing the Army
Locating the Weak Point
Hanging the Tempo
Playing to Your Strengths

The games are mainly from the years 2000-2007, although some older are included also.

The oldest is Short v Timman (Tilburg 1991). This is the famous game in which GM Short’s King went on a remarkable march to directly participate in the startling denouement. White played: 31 Kh2!! 32 Kg3! 33 Kf4! and 34 Kg5! Black’s moves are largely irrelevant.

‘In a position where there are many pieces still on the board, the lone White King marches bravely up the board to confront its counterpart. A unique idea!’

One has to be shade careful when applying such terms to chess moves. Curiously enough, the idea is not unique, even in the games of GM Short.

Kasparov - Short
Speed Chess Challenge 1987

Black played 45...Kg6 46 Bc1 Kh5 with the clear intention of sending the King into the heart of the White position to finish the job. Kasparov panicked and had to resign just four moves later.
Nor is the idea of a outrageous looking King journey confined to the scenario of a Kingside attack Long ago, GM Keres used one to win an endgame…

Keres - Eliskases
Prague 1937

Remarkable as it may seem, White’s King now travelled to b7 via f2,e3,d3,c2,b3,a4, b5 and c6 over the next 10 moves.

This is a very nice selection of attacking games, with the emphasis on fun rather than deep analysis and totally correct play.

The author’s ethos is demonstrated consistently throughout the book; here’s a case in point:

Gormally - Sutovsky
Gibraltar 2005

In annotating Black’s 30...dxe4?!!, GM Williams has this to say:

‘Your computer will not suggest this move, as it isn’t fact sound. Nevertheless, the human imagination produces many ideas that will remain unfathomable to computers for a long time, and in my opinion there will always be scope for the creative input that only human players can add to the game. Even if this input is not ‘correct’ in the technical sense, I would always prefer to see entertaining chess’.

It all makes for an entertaining book, too.

Gambit’s book covers continue to impress. The Black King looks helpless and very afraid as a brutal-looking spiked hammer is about to smash into him.

The Art of Attacking Chess
By GM Zenon Franco
Gambit Publications

This time, the poor King looks to be in a lot of trouble as a UFO does its best to obliterate him with a death ray. It turns out to be quite fitting, as many Kings find themselves in serious trouble throughout the book.

Studying attacking chess shouldn’t simply involve the solving of hundreds of chess puzzles (although they have their place in the grand scheme of things).

The systematic approach adopted in this book is a very good one. A short introduction sets the scene for each example and a whole game is placed under the analytical microscope. 33 games are given the full treatment. Although some of the chosen examples are very well known, the author has deliberately selected mainly lesser-known ones to keep the material fresh.

This works very well; instead of merely presenting a whole load of famous Tal games and sprinkling exclamation marks all over the place, excellent us is made of some forgotten gems. Keres, Spassky and Smyslov are well represented from one of the classic eras of chess and room is also found for the modern stars such as Anand and Judit Polgar.

The 256 pages are split into the following chapters:

The King in the Centre
Opposite-Side Castling
Attacking the King (Same-Side Castling)
Exploiting Temporary Advantages
Horwitz Bishops
Miscellaneous Themes
The Power of the f5-Knight
Manoeuvring with the Major Pieces
The Pawn-Centre
Solutions to Exercises

Each chapter includes supplementary games and a series of exercises (73 in all) relevant to the material just studied.

Some of the chapter titles are self-explanatory. For those not familiar with the term ‘Horwitz Bishops’ this should shed some light:

Lasker - Bauer
Amsterdam 1889

15 Bxh7+ Kxh7 16 Qxh5+ Kg8 17 Bxg7 and White went on to win.

The book quotes the description by Nimzowitsch: ‘Two Bishops raking two adjacent diagonals and thus together bombarding the enemy’s castled position’

Even World Champions can succumb to a devastating attack by the Horwitz Bishops.

Spassky - Tal
Montreal 1979

White’s Queen had gone out to no-man’s land and helped Black introduce another piece into the attack with gain of tempo:

19...Rd5 20 Qd2 Bxh2+ 21 Kxh2 Rh5+ 22 Kg1 Ng4 0-1

Indeed, Spassky’s compliant 0/2 score against both Tal and Karpov at Montreal was a big help on their way to sharing first place but I’m sure that’s a story for another day.

Working methodically through the material in each chapter will definitely help to build up a clearer picture of standard attacking procedures.

The exercises reach an advanced level and provide excellent study material for keen students. They would work best with a friend or trainer revealing the answers move by move.
Here’s a couple of samples:

White to move
(From the chapter ‘Exploiting Temporary Advantages’)

White to move
(From the chapter ‘Miscellaneous Themes’)

As usual, I’m not going to give you the answers in this column but some hard work on these positions will be well rewarded.

Sparkling games and amazing combinations abound in this fine work. Playing through the astonishing illustrative encounters could well inspire you, dear reader, to look a little deeper in your own tactical battles.

The exercises reach an advanced level and provide excellent study material for keen students. They would work best with a friend or trainer revealing the answers move by move.

The Easiest Sicilian
By GM Atanas Kolev & GM Trajko Nedev
Chess Stars

Over the last few years, ‘Chess Stars’ have established themselves as a publisher of highly regarded chess books and I am delighted to welcome them to Marsh Towers.

What is the ‘Easiest Sicilian’? The attractive cover makes things clear, with the proud e-pawn spinning on its head on the e5 square, dazzling friend and foe alike and leaving Knights with their mouths open in surprise at its audacity. The pride of the foot soldier is augmented by the disco mirror-ball effect. No Najdorfs today; Black not only decides not to defend b5, he also has the temerity to virtually force a Knight to that very square.

In the introduction, GM Atanas Kolev explains how the book came to be named. At first, this new work on the Sveshnikov Variation was set be called ‘The Most Controversial Sicilian’ but then ‘I realised how easy it was to include it in one’s repertoire!’

Most of his games in this opening reached the following position:

‘We are already in the Middlegame, but independent play is still far ahead. Furthermore, Black’s plan is obvious. He wants to push f5 right away or after …g6 in case White plays 17 Ne3. Strategically, the Sveshnikov is a rather simple opening. You read part 3 and 4, leaf through the Quick Repertoire chapters of the other parts of the book, and you are ready to test a whole new Sicilian!’

To further support the claims to add this sharp line to one’s repertoire, the author goes on to say:

‘Currently I do not see any serious theoretical problems for Black’.

This is a repertoire book rather than a comprehensive coverage of all Sveshnikov lines. The focus is definitely on providing a practical manual, designed to get the reader up and running with a fully workable opening as quickly as possible. To do this requires a very careful selection and presentation of material.

To provide full coverage of 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 it is essential to cover some key third move alternatives, namely:

3 Bb5
3 Nc3
3 c3

However, there is no room for the tricky gambit 3 b4

These can all be a bit of pain for Sicilian lovers. The lower the opponent’s rating is, the higher the probability of getting some Anti-Sicilian with Bb5’.

26 pages are devoted to 3 Bb5 and the system given is a combative one:

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 and Black is hoping to induce e4-e5, leading to more unbalanced positions than a lower-rated White might be hoping for.

There is a ghost from a previous book haunting the ‘Complete Games’ section for 3 Bb5; the leading diagram and header text claims to be covering a variation from the Taimanov Variation.

The majority of the 240 pages are naturally devoted to the main lines of the Sveshnikov Variation itself. Full coverage is given of all the main lines, including attempts by White to blast Black off the board after:

11 Nxb5 and 11 Bxb5 both require specialist knowledge.

To show the complexity of these lines, five other moves are given at this point, namely:

11 Qd3, 11 g3, 11 exf5, 11 c3 and 11 Bd3

All of White’s standard deviations on moves six and seven are covered in detail too; these are quite likely to appear at club level.

The Novosibirsk Variation is analysed at the end of the book:

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5 Bg7.

Black plans a quick …Ne7, to challenge the White Knight before thinking about …f7-f5.

‘The most unpleasant approach is when White calmly develops, reinforcing the key point e4 by f3, and preparing to produce a passed pawn on the Queenside by c4 at an opportunity.’ Consequently, ‘…it is very difficult for Black to obtain counterplay. That is why we do not recommend the Novosibirsk variation as a main line’.

‘I suppose that players above ELO 1900 will benefit most of this book’ says GM Kolev. I would pitch the level a little bit higher than that (with the possible exception of very keen juniors) and would dispute the claim of the Sveshnikov being ‘The Easiest Sicilian’; the lines are very complex and some of the moves look like they should be copyrighted only to GM Shirov.

However, this is a very well presented book and anyone who is prepared to put in some serious work will certainly benefit from the material produced.

The Wisest Things Ever Said About Chess
By GM Andrew Soltis

It’s been a long time since a Batsford chess book arrived at Marsh Towers

‘This fascinating book gathers together the most astute insights on chess ever uttered, culled from three centuries of the world’s greatest players.’

There are 288 such quotes, typically one per page, with a game snippet to support each maxim.
The quotes are split into 17 chapters, from ‘Attack’ to ‘Tournament Tactics’.

Here’s a couple of examples:

‘A two-move trap in the sixth hour is often more effective than a ten-move combination in the second hour.’

‘One way of looking at this remark, by Georg Marco and Carl Schlechter in the Karlsbad 1907 tournament book, is that the players are more prone to err when they get tired. Fatigue seems to effect tactical sight more than logic, intuition or one’s sense of strategy and general principles'.

'There’s an additional reason that sixth-hour traps succeed. As the game approaches an end, players become more and more convinced of its likely outcome. This can blind them to two-movers.’

Taimanov - Fischer
Candidates Match 1971

46 Rxf6?? Qd4+ and suddenly White is dead lost.

'Pawn endings are to chess what putting is to golf'

'The value of Cecil Purdy’s parallel lies in reminding us of the finality of pawn endings. It’s too late then to make up for previous sins.'
Kasparov - Anand
Amsterdam 1996

36 Rxe7+! And Black resigned before the simple ‘putting’ began.

That was not the first time Kasparov had exchanged off into a won King and pawn ending, as shown by this famous example:

Kasparov - Vukic
European Championship 1980

36 Bxf6 gxf6 37 Rd1! 1-0

Rather just being a random selection of quotes, the chosen ones all offer practical advice.
Others include:

'The older I grow, the more I value pawns'

'Defenders blunder more than attackers

'Don’t try and force the issue until you are sure of winning '

There’s an interesting postscript to Steinitz’s ‘The player with the advantage must attack’. Kramnik is quoted a saying that Karpov had the unique ability of somehow improving his position further instead of going for the attack. ‘In my opinion, there were no other players before or after him who were able to do this’.

This is very good book for browsing and is somewhat reminiscent of Fred Reinfeld on a very good day. It's well produced and easy on the eye but one curious omission, especially for a book dealing with quotes, is a bibliography.

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