Friday 24 October 2008

Chess Reviews: 68

The English Opening
By GM Nigel Davies
8 hours

I don’t know many people who actually enjoy playing against the English Opening. In my experience, club and tournament players are rarely well prepared to meet it. Thus it seems a very reasonable idea to add it to your collection of favourite openings.

The repertoire analysed on this new DVD is based around the move order 1 c4 and 2 g3.

Following a short introduction (in which he shows how beat Nigel Short in a mere five moves - albeit when the future World Championship challenger was only eight years old), GM Davies methodically works through all of Black’s reasonable options of meeting 1 c4.

He starts with 1...e5 (12 lectures) and then moves on to 1...c5 (8 lectures). Next up is 1...e6 (8 lectures), followed by 1...Nf6 (6 lectures), 1...c6 (2 lectures), before concluding with coverage of 1...Nf6 2...g6, 1...f5 and 1...b6 (one lecture each).

By advocating 2 g3, GM Davies is able to bring lines into the repertoire which may not be the top theoretical recommendations but nevertheless carry a decent sting, especially against an unwary opponent. For example, when Black is hoping for a mainline reverse Dragon in this position:

…the recommendation is that should eschew the normal development of the Knight to c3 in favour of creating different problems for Black to fathom. White can play b3 and Bb2, with early pressure on e5, and has options of heading for a quick e2-e3 followed by d2-d4. Black will probably spend extra time over the board trying to work out whether or not …e5-e4 is healthy option.

The Botvinnik System is given against lines in which Black follows up 1...e5 with a Kingside fianchetto.

1...c5 is met in an offbeat way too, with White opting for a slow build up via the route:
1 c4 c5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 e3 eventually completing development in harmonious fashion before pushing in the centre.

White’s intended set-up is nicely demonstrated in the game Filip - Uhlmann.

Filip went on to gain a solid space advantage which he definitely put to good use.

Attempts by Black to transpose into main line Queen’s Pawn openings are stubbornly declined. For example, 1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 d5 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0–0 0–0

Panchenko - Lengyel

…White declines to enter a Catalan and opts instead to keep the game ‘Retified’ with 6 b3

This is the theme throughout the presentation: White heads for positions he should understand better than his opponent and in which the real struggle comes in the middlegame.

The average length of the video clips is around the 12 minute mark. With the total running time clocking in at an astonishing eight hours, it stands to reason that it will take a number of sessions to view all of the material so the bite-sized chunks make the whole thing easily digestible.

GM Davies provides all of the strategies, plans and possible tactics necessary to turn 1 c4 into a very potent practical weapon. A big bonus is that, given the nature of the lines analysed, the viewer’s general positional understanding of chess will undoubtedly improve.

This DVD will appeal to those looking for brand new opening repertoire (and one the opponent can’t avoid). Those who already enjoy playing 1 c4 will find plenty of interest too and will be able to pick and choose which new lines to add to their existing arsenal.

The Tarrasch Defence
By GM Nigel Davies
3 hours 50 minutes

The Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit has received precious little coverage over the years. Yet it is a fighting defence and has been one of my favourites for over 20 years. I was therefore delighted to hear that GM Davies had recorded a Chessbase DVD on the subject and I have been eagerly anticipating its release ever since.

The introduction, running just under 23 minutes, provides a concise and instructive resume of the good and bad points of the Tarrasch Defence.

GM Davies shows how Black’s development is unusually good for a closed opening and the associated piece-play can be springboard for the second player to push for a win.

The Tarrasch can also be reached by transposition via a range of flank openings. The most off-putting factor remains the isolated Queen’s pawn (‘IQP’). However, at club level the chance of one’s opponents knowing exactly how to play against the target, and having the patience to do so, aren’t particularly high; tactics still decide most games and Black enjoys more than the fair share of those in the Tarrasch.

Boris Spassky famously used the Tarrasch five times against Tigran Petrosian in their 1969 World Championship match and scored a win and four draws on his way to becoming the 10th World Champion. The game he won forms the basis of the first lecture and clearly demonstrates Black’s main idea and plans.

The Introduction concludes with an examination of a typical IQP endgame in order to show that when things don’t go entirely according to plan, Black’s single weakness is often not enough to tip the scales decisively.

20 lectures follow, examining key games covering all of the main variations Black can expect to face over the board.

The illustrative games show how to play in the undisputed main line.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0–0 0–0 9.Bg5 cxd4 10.Nxd4 h6 11.Be3 Re8

Attention is given to White’s options of 12 Qa4, 12 Rc1 and 12 Nxc6 but unfortunately coverage of 12 Qb3 is absent. This is an important line as it is the one which forced Kasparov to abandon his then-favourite defence when he suffered two defeats against Karpov in their 1984 World Championship match. Prior to that, Kasparov had used the Tarrasch to blast a path through the Candidates’ matches with notable victories over Beliavsky, Korchnoy and Smyslov and it was 12 Qb3 that made the defence Kasparov’s probably least imitated successful opening.

Despite the lack of coverage for 12 Qb3, everything esle is covered in fine detail, including all the typical club player tries, such as the early Bg5 lines: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6. Bg5

...and other attempts to try and confuse Black, such as: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.dxc5 d4 after which it is White who will probably find himself in the role of the confused.

The Tarrasch Defence deserves much more recognition than it currently enjoys. Armed with the analysis and common sense advice given on this DVD, it could turn into a dynamic point-winner in your own games. Perhaps, one day, you could reach a position like this one. If you haven't seen it before try and work out how Black went on to win tactically and brilliantly.

Rotlewi - Rubinstein
Lodz 1907

The ABC of Evans Gambit
By IM Andrew Martin
4 hours 30 minutes

Following a short introduction, revealing the origins of the gambit, IM Martin introduces the plans and concepts behind the Evans Gambit with some excellent inspirational games, starting with Nigel Short’s victory over L’Ami at Wijk aan Zee earlier this year.

It is interesting to hear Short, these days a self-confessed ‘chess tourist’, compared to Bent Larsen due to his experimental opening play and general free-spirit approach to the game.
The lectures then look at each of the main variations in turn, complete with no-nonsense discussions on the merits of defects of each one.

After 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Ba5

…the ‘Main Line’ is reached and this comes in for considerable scrutiny. Black’s other playable Bishops retreats are also covered in detail, even the unlikely 5...Bf8, which is showcased in the illustrative game Andersson - Mayet from 1867.

Nigel Short has several games on display and even World Champions Fischer and Kasparov get in on the act with crushing White victories. The Fischer game is his well known casual encounter with Reuben Fine and it is comparable, in some ways, to Morphy’s famous friendly game with the Duke and Count.

It is included on this DVD mainly as a tribute to the late Fischer, although it is inaccurate to say that ‘…he used the Evans Gambit on numerous occasions, with great success’; he never used it in a serious encounter and his simultaneous games were not all one-way traffic after 4 b4.
Nevertheless, it is a good demonstration of the sort of advantages White is hoping for in compensation for the sacrificed pawns.

Fischer - Fine
16 Rfe1+ Kd8 17 Qg3 1-0

There’s no coverage of the Evan’s Gambit Declined apart from the obscure variation 5...d5.

The presentation of the material is extremely professional, with the presenter on top form. As usual, IM Martin leaves the viewer absolutely convinced that this is the right opening for them.

The emphasis throughout the lectures is on gaining a playable attacking position which should provide a lot of fun. IM Martin freely admits that Black is theoretically fine in the main lines and that the regular adoption of the Evans Gambit at a very high level would entail great risk.
However, it remains an ideal choice for club players and anyone studying this DVD will be able to enter into their Evans Gambit battles confident that they know an awful lot more about it than their opponents.

There’s an interesting ‘Bibliography’ at the end of the DVD, with IM Martin literally showing some of the books he used as source material. Some of the larger tomes, such as the relevant volume of the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, are mentioned but not shown to the camera; they were too heavy to take to Germany!

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Thursday 16 October 2008

Chess Reviews: 67

Starting Out: d-pawn Attacks
By IM Richard Palliser
Everyman Chess
272 pages

This new book is a companion volume to IM Palliser’s earlier on The Colle System.

As usual with books in the ‘Starting Out’ series, there are copious ‘Tips’, ‘Warnings’ and other bits and pieces of advice given throughout the volume. Some are `specific to the opening in question and others are general advice. All are instructive and welcome.

The first three chapters examine the Colle-Zukertort System. Chapter four covers a Queen’s Indian response by Black, then there are two chapters on The Barry Attack and one the ever-popular 150 Attack.

The Colle-Zukertort has been recommended more than once in 1 d4 repertoire books and I would say it is more popular with club players than the more classical Colle System.

The defining characteristic is the fianchetto of the Queen’s Bishop, as shown in the book’s first diagram.

White hopes the Bishops will come into their own and attack the Black King like a couple of powerful torpedoes.

The Barry Attack is lethal in the hands of GM Hebden and needless to say his games are well to the fore. I didn’t know that one line was now known as ‘The Tarzan Attack’

The 150 Attack is given detailed coverage too, with serious attention given to certain nuances which often pass by without notice, such as this:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d5!?

It is typical of IM Palliser to leave no stone unturned.

The purely Modern approach by Black, 1 d4 g6, makes it more difficult to get the 150 Attack up and running on autopilot. In particular:

1 d4 g6 2 e4 Bg7 3 Nc3 d6 4 Nf3 a6 provides extra problem for White, unless he is willing to be a shade more flexible.

The author opines that 4 Be3, retaining the possibility of a quick f2-f4, is worth a try.

IM Palliser admits that White isn’t necessarily going to gain an advantage with any of the suggested lines, especially against a booked-up Black player, but there are serious practical advantages to adding them to your repertoire. All three are relatively easy to learn, understand and play.

The index of variations includes way-marking diagrams and the index of complete games is useful too. As usual, IM Palliser’s bibliography is larger than average; this emphasises his diligent research and willingness to the extra digging around which can only be of benefit to the reader.

There is only one little production fault; some inconsistent levels of printing have resulted in several pages being considerably fainter than their fellows. By no means unreadable, they do alert the eye to something being slightly amiss.

Theory doesn’t advance particularly quickly in any of these lines, so the coverage given here should be valid for some time to come. They are certainly some of the easiest for normally non-d4 players looking to add one or two surprise weapons to their arsenals without having to learn many main lines.

Starting Out: The c3 Sicilian

By GM John Emms
Everyman Chess
207 pages

Why play c3 Sicilians? GM Emms explains:

‘I began playing the c3 Sicilian nearly 30 years ago, and I’m just as happy playing it now as I was back then. I’ve always been attracted by its solid positional foundation, and yet it’s also an active opening.’

In addition to that, ‘White’s development is straightforward and easy to understand’.

There’s also the advantage of being fully prepared to meet one of the most popular openings with a fraction of the preparation time required to sail down the main lines.

‘…I’ve not restricted the coverage to a repertoire for White. I’ve dealt with all the main lines, pointed out what I believe to be the best choices for both White and Black, and explained why I think some lines are ineffective. So I hope that those playing Black will also find the book to be useful.’

The introduction briefly mentions Black’s main options and provides basic coverage of the relevant pawn structures.

Then there are two chapters each for the main lines 2...d5 and 2...Nf6 followed by a concluding chapter to round up the odds and ends, which includes a small piece on move orders involving c3 on the third move.

A recurring theme throughout the book is that the understanding of the ideas is much more important than learning long theoretical lines. That is not to say that both sides have to exercise a modicum of caution when it comes to move orders.

After this popular sequence:
1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Be2 cxd4 7.cxd4 e6

White needs to wary of playing 8 h3. GM Emms now gives a typical ‘Starting Out’ skull and crossbones warning.

‘This move has been recommended by experts and played by quite a few grandmasters, but there’s a strong possibility that it is simply a mistake. White should instead choose 8 Nc3.’

He shows that after 8 h3 Bb4+ 9 Nc3 Bxf3! 10 Bxf3 Qc4! Black is doing well.

This book doesn’t follow a strict repertoire approach; the author covers all of the main 2 c3 variations. For example, in this key position:

…fans of 5 cxd4, 5 Qxd4 and the modern lines with 5 Nf3 will all find material of interest.

The early deviations include the odd looking 2...Qa5 (cleverly pinning the c-pawn and making 3 d2-d4 less appealing) and the interesting 2...g6. The former was once played by Tarrasch; the latter is recommended by Dzindzichasviili in various places and looks quite playable.

The index of variations includes way marking diagrams and the index of complete games is useful too.

This is a solid and reliable guide to an opening with those exact same attributes. GM Emms writes from considerable experience, making this a valuable addition to the ‘Starting Out’ series.

How to Beat the French Defence
The Essential Guide to the Tarrasch
By IM Andreas Tzermiadianos
Everyman Chess
320 pages

Beating the French is no easy matter yet this is not the first book to claim to know the secret.
The Tarrasch Variation has developed a large body of theory and anyone wishing to test the soundness of the French will have a lot to learn.

This new book systematically works it's way through all of Black's options on move three.

General Themes
3rd move alternatives after 3 Nd2
3 Nd2 c5
3 Nd2 Nf6
3 Nd2 dxe4 4 Nxe4

The ‘General Themes’ in question are:

How We Work in the Opening
Middlegame Strategy
Typical Endgames

Such themes are very important and this section provides a backbone for the repertoire, with the ideas recurring throughout.

It’s hardly possible to provide encyclopaedic coverage of all lines in 320 pages and consequently some variations are dealt with swiftly. For example, the Guimard Variation (3...Nc6) is dismissed in six pages.

Although serious modern theory is the order of the day, the suggested repertoire tends to vary from the absolute main lines.

For instance, in the popular line: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0–0 Nf6 8.Nb3 Nc6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 a6 11 Re1 Qc7

…he prefers to play 12 Qe2!? instead of the hotly disputed lines leading from 12 Bb3 Bd6 13 Nf5

It’s not so easy to vary from all of the hotbeds of theory and some have to be tackled head-on. The author has some suggestions to try and improve on established theory at the end of long lines such as this one:

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Bd3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ne2 cxd4 8.cxd4 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.0–0 Bd6 11.Nf3 0–0 12.Bf4 Bxf4 13.Nxf4 Ne4 14.g3

16...g5 Now, according to IM Tzermiadianos, the main line move 17 Nh5 is not doing too well in terms of gaining an advantage so he advocates the tricky 15 Ng2! Qf6 16 Ne5!?

Black can win a pawn in two different ways but the author claims good compensation in both cases, going on to say: ‘There is plenty of room for analysis and I suspect this will be the main line in the future’.

Of course, the title is a misnomer with sensationalist spin; there is no proven way to beat the French, so 1...e6 players should still be able to sleep at night. However, a player who has the time and energy to study and absorb the lines presented here will at least be very well prepared to face the popular defence, even if a slight edge is the most common outcome.

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Sunday 12 October 2008

Chess Reviews: 66

Dvoretsky’s Analytical Manual
By GM Mark Dvoretsky
Russell Enterprises
419 pages

GM Dvoretsky’s new book is a companion volume to his classic Endgame Manual. This time, he puts various aspects of the middlegame under the microscope but time and space is still found for endgame matters.

The target audience of a Dvoretsky book is never in doubt.

‘The book which lies before you is aimed first of all at helping strong players complete themselves. This ensures that it will overflow with exceptionally complex analysis and exercises which will be difficult for even the leading grandmasters to handle.’

The material is split into five main parts.

Immersion in the Position

The first chapter takes a look at various crucial moments, often featuring surprising twists which are only visible if one doesn’t merely scratch the surface, but actually gouges a big hole through it.

The following position, quoted by Tony Miles (players unknown), comes in for particular attention.

The analysis starts with the possibility of 1 Be4+ Nxe4 2 Rd7, and the Black Queen is in trouble. The position may seem reasonably understandable at first glance but Dvoretsky devotes the whole of an eight-page chapter to the initial investigation before following up with more advanced analysis, lasting a further 16 pages, in the very next chapter.

His concluding remarks:

‘…this chapter is filled with debatable problems. Some I do not know the answers to, and can only guess. How much effort may still be required before we can achieve a more or less accurate picture of the simple, natural position with which we stared?!’

Analyzing the Endgame

Studies are used in addition to Grandmaster positions to demonstrate various themes and to offer readers tough tests.

Dvoretsky likes to use studies as starting positions for training games, although he admits that good examples aren’t always easy to find.

Often they are used for entertainment or to train the mind to seek out the unexpected.

This is one of the simplest in the book, which is a good indication of the level:

A. Wotawa

There are lots of surprises in the solution, starting with the first move (of seven), which is the zany 1.Ra5! Over to you, dear reader! Dvoretsky claims an alternative win starting with:
1 Ra6 (Incidentally, the lines associated with this study have a couple of rare typos, with the ‘b’ - as in ‘b-pawn’ - being inadvertently converted to a figurine Bishop)

Games for Training Purposes

The depth of analysis devoted to the full games in this chapter is staggering. The most impressive part is the coverage of the classic fifth game of the Reshevsky - Fischer match of 1961. The analysis lasts for 24 pages and is packed with quotes and analytical input form a galaxy of chess stars including Fischer, Kasparov, and Hubner.

Reshevsky - Fischer

One comment struck me as a major difference between the training methods in our respective countries.

‘In May 2004, I held a training session for a group of young grandmasters in Dagomys (a Russian resort on the Black Sea), where the diagrammed position was replayed several times.’
It’s hard to believe that this sort of thing goes on in England. If it did, perhaps we would be challenging for higher honours at the top events. Some of the training games are given in the notes.

The author's concluding note demonstrates the occasionaly quaint translation:

‘Is not it true that it is just this kind of game, in which both players ‘‘go for the throat’’, that becomes the sot of event that is still interesting to look at, a half-century later!’

Practical Psychology

Some of the deepest game analysis comes in this section. Two of the heaviest pieces of work focus on two very famous games at the highest level.

There are no fewer than 33 pages on the 21st game of the Karpov - Korchnoi 1978 World Championship match and 16 pages on game 1 of Korchnoi’s 1983 Candidates’ Match with Kasparov. Excellent use is made of quote and analysis from a variety of sources, some times with completely contrary points of view.

Lasker the Great

Emanuel Lasker comes in for special treatment too. Seven of his classic games are analysed in great depth in a section that runs to just under 100 pages.

The depth and quality of Dvoretsky’s work is consistently high till the very end. The final game is a 28-page analysis of the famous encounter between namesakes, culminating in a fascinating endgame.

Emanuel Lasker - Edward Lasker
New York, 1924

This is the position after White’s 98th move. A draw was agreed on move 103 and a new chapter in endgame theory had been written. Dvoretsky’s analysis, drawing on many sources, brings the game alive for the modern audience.

Throughout the book, there appears to be bit of an analytical battle going on with Garry Kasparov, with Dvoretsky targeting - and apparently refuting - the 13th World Champion’s analysis on numerous occasions.

This is a very impressive book of extraordinary depth. Very strong players will benefit the most from the material given. Lesser mortals will still find plenty of interest; beginners should definitely look elsewhere.

Production values are up to the usual high standard set by Russell Enterprises. Despite the high page count and paperback binding, the spine shows no sign of strain despite frequent use. The layout is very clear and event though there are far more variations than the average chess book, they are reasonably easier to navigate. A bibliography would have been useful, given the number of sources used and quoted.

Established Dvoretsky fans will definitely enjoy this volume; it might even be his best to date.

St. Petersburg 1909
By GM Emanuel Lasker
Russell Enterprises
190 Pages

The great tournament at St. Petersburg in 1909 was especially noteworthy for the stunning display by Akiva Rubinstein and World Champion Lasker’s struggle to keep up with him. This he managed to do thanks to a last round victory.

Olms had a facsimile of the German edition in print a few years ago and I believe it is about to be reprinted, but this is the first time we have been treated to an English language edition in algebraic notation (a ‘New 21st Century Edition!’ says the cover).

The foreword is supplied by Tim Harding, setting the scene from a historical perspective. He makes the very interesting point that this was Lasker’s only major tournament between Cambridge Springs (1904) and St. Petersburg 1914. Lasker certainly did things differently to other players.

This is followed by a preface that is Lasker’s own. The ‘Program of the Tournament’ details the prize fund, time-controls and other such items of interest.

There’s a nice group photo of the players and the tournament crosstable, then it’s straight into the games.

It was a strong tournament. In addition to Lasker and Rubinstein, the likes of Schlecter, Tartakower, Duras and Spielmann were competing in a field of 19 well known chess stars.

Some of the 175 games from this tournament are very well known, such as this famous endgame:

Cohn - Rubinstein
Round 10

Rubinstein marched his King to h3 and gained a decisive advantage.

The big third round clash should also be very familiar to readers:

Rubinstein - Lasker
Round 3

Black’s position looks fine and he appears to have serious threats against the White King. Lasker is full of praise for Rubinstein’s subsequent play.

16 Rc1 ‘A move of extraordinary subtlety. White now retains his advantages. He threatens Rc1-c5 and d4-d5, and Black’s obvious threat of 16...Rxe3 he meets as is shown by his seventeenth move.’ 17 Rxc6+ bxc6 18 Qc1 and 1-0 (40)

The notes are quite light, but are all in keeping with Lasker’s legendary ‘common sense’ style.

Schlechter - Bernstein
Round 11

‘On one side Black attacks the king, on the other the pawns, while White’s pawns are unable to exert any counter pressure. Hence White is lost, though having three pawns for the piece, as Black’s king deprives the white pieces of their mobility whereas the white king is a mark for attack. The case would be different if no rooks were on the board.’
0-1 (52)

The most popular openings at the tournament were the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ruy Lopez and French Defence but there’s also examples of rarer openings such as the Vienna Game and Ponziani. There’s even a Modern Defence, as played by Znosko-Borovsky.

With every single game annotated by the the Second World Champion, this is a very welcome addition to one’s collection of tournament books and it comes just before the centenary of this important event.

International Chess Calendar 2009
Russell Enterprises

Forget all those dreadful calendars of soap ‘stars’ and z-list ‘celebrities’ that fill the shops. This is the ideal one for visitors to Marsh Towers.

Rare photos, historical snippets and games feature on the pages for every month.

January 2009 marks 50 years since Bobby Fischer retained his US title. Later in the year we see that it was 50 years ago that Tal qualified to play Botvinnik by winning the Candidates’ tournament.

Every day has listings of births and deaths of famous chess players and occasional historical highlights too. It is easy to tell at a glance that Alexander Alekhine was born on Halloween and that Emanuel Lasker came into the world on Christmas Eve and you can see how old your favourite Grandmasters really are. (By coincidence, I see that today's date is the birthday of Akiva Rubinstein)

This is the only calendar I’ve ever seen that features a bibliography.

Chess folk are often accused of finding it difficult to get themselves a date. Now they can have plenty, with a 12-month guarantee. This calendar belongs on the wall of every chess player.

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Friday 10 October 2008

London Tournament: News Update

Further to the earlier news regarding a new London chess tournament, as reported here:

..and here:

I have received further information from GM Keene, in the form of his follow-up letter to a meeting with Kate Hoey.


If I may--it was great to speak to you last week.

As I hoped, I have now-via the BRAIN TRUST CHARITY-of which I am director, secured significant sponsorship for a grandmaster chess tournament to run from August 8-18 in london 2009. This will include former world championship contenders, the reigning EU champion and probably the British Champion. In other words, a world class event!

What I would like to add to this would be a mass open competition in a suitable venue where anyone could play, but where we would encourage ethnic variety, the very young, the very old and the physically handicapped to compete. As you know, being deaf, blind or even seriously immobilised is no barrier to playing chess.

I would like to call this the Mayor's Trophy-as you suggested-and the next step would be to secure a suitable venue and perhaps get some help with finding a philanthropic sponsor to cover the costs and some prizes. I would suggest that the weekend of August 15 and 16 would be the right time to go for--just as the main event is reaching its climax at Simpsons in the Strand - the traditional home of London chess.

I wuld very much like to progress this idea with you and look forward to your response.'

Exciting times! More news will be reported here as soon as it is available.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Chess Reviews: 65

Grandmaster Strategy
By GM Raymond Keene OBE
Hardinge Simpole Publications
212 pages

‘Grandmaster Strategy’ was originally published as a limited edition hardback, to celebrate GM Keene’s 50th birthday. It is now readily available in paperback, thanks to Hardinge Simpole Publications.

The celebratory ethos of the book is confirmed in the preface:

‘According to my friend and colleague Dominic O’Brien, five times World Memory Champion, recollection of past triumphs is actually a positive stimulation for your brain. I have, therefore, unreservedly accepted his advice!’

Given Ray’s extraordinary success as an organiser and writer, it is easy to forget that he was a very strong player too and one of Britain’s first two Grandmasters (he received the title at the 1976 World Chess Federation Congress in Haifa, at the same time as Tony Miles).

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s he played in a plethora of important international events, including Hastings and no fewer than eight Olympiads. He won the British Championship in 1971 and the Lloyds Bank tournament in 1981.

The book presents highlights of Ray’s chess life from the years 1961-85, split into 10 chapters.

Junior Championships - Games 1961-67
Olympiad Medals - Games 1968-1970
British Champion - Games 1971
International Master - Games 1972-73
In Search of the Grandmaster Title - Games 1974-75
Grandmaster! - Games 1976
England’s Ambassador - Games 1977-79
Gold Medals - Games 1980-84
The Mind Sports - Games 1985
Live Long and Prosper

100 games are annotated; other games are included in the notes. Tournament crosstables are also included and, where appropriate, there’s brief notes on the background of the events.

The opponents include Botvinnik, Tal, Karpov, Gligoric, Timman and Miles and the quoted encounters are augmented by interesting and amusing biographical snippets.

The games come to an end less than a decade after the Grandmaster title was obtained.

'In 1985, after sharing first prize Malta, I switched from active tournament play to promotion of chess in particular and Mind Sports in general.’

Ray’s record of Mind Sports Olympiads, three London-based World Championship matches, the successful series of Staunton Memorial tournament and numerous other events is admirable to say the least. That, however, is a story for another time.

Grandmaster Tactics
By GM Raymond Keene OBE
Hardinge Simpole Publications
378 pages

This is a companion volume to ‘Grandmaster Strategy’. The approach is different.

‘Although this book is primarily a collection of my games, it is also designed as a teaching manual to demonstrate how effective examples can be translated into wins in one’s own chessboard battles. The common theme, whatever the opposition, is to explain the ideas behind the specific type of openings which I consistently favoured over a chess career of around a quarter of a century.’

To that end, the games are grouped according to opening and presented as a series of lessons.
There are 50 such lessons, featuring 240 games. The vast majority are, of course, Ray’s own but there’s a number of supplementary battles between other players.

Closed Openings naturally for the bulk of the work; indeed, Lesson 1 concerns the Reti Opening, but there are a few examples of 1 e4 e5 games in Lessons 49 and 50. One of them is the terrific clash against the 12th World Champion, Anatoly Karpov, at the height of his powers.
Ray chose the rare Larsen Variation of the Philidor Defence.

‘The reason for this was that my study of Karpov’s games revealed that, if he had any weaknesses, it was a slight hesitancy against ‘Romantic’ openings.’

Black had a decent position from the opening (a major achievement against Karpov in his prime) but Karpov slowly but surely started to gain the upper hand. GM Keene found a piece sacrifice to save the game.

Karpov - Keene
Bad Lauterberg 1977
52 …d3! and the game was drawn on move 57.

Of course, Ray’s main defence to 1 e4 never was 1 …e5 and it should come as no surprise to see that some of the best ‘lessons’ feature his prowess in the Pirc/Modern complex, at which he was an undisputed expert. Original and interseting positions await the reader, including this rarely seen game:

Ian Wells - Keene
Morecambe 1980

I remember seeing this remarkable game in CHESS magazine many years ago. Wells played 23 Nxd6! here and immense complications ensued. The game was eventually drawn on move 39.
‘After this stimulating clash I looked forward to further games with Ian, but it was not to be.’ Tragically, Ian died the following year.

On a lighter note, there’s an interesting simultaneous game against Mikhail Tal from 1964.
‘I sat down to face Tal in the general expectation of a gory
loss embellished with typical Tal sacrifices’.

There were indeed some sacrifices, but not all of them came from White. Tal has just played 30 Qa7 but Black now has a forced mate in three.

Other highlights for me are the lessons on the Bronstein-Larsen Variation of the Caro-Kann and the Saemisch Variations of the King’s Indian Defence (particularly with an early Bg5 rather than Be3) and Nimzo-Indian Defence.

The latter two formed a major part of my own repertoire for many years and it was from the writings of GM Keene that I first studied them.

There’s an excellent mix of opponents throughout the book, falling roughly into two categories:

a) Fellow Englishmen as the race for the Grandmaster title was at its height

b) Top players, including World Champions, as Ray’s position on the top boards for the English team pitted him against the best stars from all over the world.

A lot of the games were new to me and, as some are not found on the standard databases, they will be new to most readers. Some opening ideas are well worth further study too, such as this one in the Nimzo-Indian:

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3 6 Qxc3 Qe8!?

Dueball - Keene
Dortmund 1973

It's a funny looking move, but Ray's own explanation sheds considerable light on his choice:

‘What, then, are the aims of 6 …Qe8?

(i) The move of the queen disarms the pinning move Bc1-g5 and therefore threatens Nf6-e4 in some circumstances
(ii) On e8 the queen supports the advance of Black’s e-pawn
(iii) If Black can play Nf6-e4 and f7-f5, the black queen can emerge to g6 or h5 to attack White’s kingside
(iv) In some cases a path may open for the queen to travel from e8 to a4 to threaten White’s queenside pawns’

There is the occasional crossover of games between the two volumes but by no means as much as one would expect.

Here are a couple of snippets to conclude with. Ray’s style is primarily positional but tactics and sacrifices are the order of the day here…

Keene - Botvinnik
Hastings, 1966-67

Botvinnik blundered with 34...Rxe2. How did White induce instant resignation?

Keene - Robatsch
Clare Benedict 1971
Ray lit the blue touch paper with the stunning 21 Rxf7!!
A dramatic King hunt followed, leading to this impressive denouement:

26 d7+ Qxd7 27 Bh3! 1-0

Keene - Miles
Hastings 1975-76

White has already sacrificed two Minor pieces on g6. What is the best move now?

For the complete story of the games mentioned above, as well as a Grandmasterly analysis of a particularly interesting period of British chess, you really should add these two fine books to your library.

Full details of Hardinge Simpole books can be found here:

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Wednesday 1 October 2008

Chess Reviews: 64

It’s easy to forget that chess secrets from Russia were exactly that, and definitely not for Western eyes. The books of Grandmaster Mark Dvoretsky caused quite a stir when they first appeared as flagship Batsford tomes. His name and works are now well known.

Olms have recently released new editions of his classic volumes.

School of Future Champions 1:
Secrets of Chess Training

Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov
Edition Olms

The original version of this volume was the first time most of us had ever heard of the great Russian chess trainer.

This edition is a new translation by Dr Kenneth Neat and features a number of changes to the content, including new exercises.

Dvoretsky himself is, of course, the main author but GM Artur Yusupov’s credit as co-author is well deserved. There are also contributions from Mikhail Shereshevsky, Alexey Kosikov, Grigory Kaidonov and Viktor Glatman.

Chess training involves a lot of work, particularly on one’s own games, supplemented by a thorough study of the classics. There is no place for skimping here, or indeed in any of the five volumes in this series.

I don’t think Dvoretsky suffers fools gladly; at least that’s the impression given to his note after the very first position in the book.

Coull - Stanciu
Women’s Olympiad, Thessalonika 1988

‘The player from Scotland, who had White on board one, found the only way (not counting overstepping the time limit) of losing the game immediately - she simply resigned!! Incredible ignorance! Such endings are probably taught in the first class of any chess school. But, as you can see, the education of the leader of the Scottish team was at the kindergarten level.’

This example leads into a deep discussion on ‘A Chess Player’s Virtues and Deficiencies, and their Influence on the Course of a Game’. This sets the theme for the rest of the book; it’s a very deep and serious manual for chess improvement.

One stand-out chapter concerns ‘The Superfluous Piece’

Black’s best move is 10...Ne8! The logic is that White has a superfluous Knight; the one on c3 stands badly unless it replaces the captured one on d5. By refusing the exchange, Black hopes to organise an eventual …c6, after which the White Knights will continue to step, rather uncomfortably, on each other’s toes.

A complete and thorough study of whole games is advocated throughout the book. Alongside the deep analysis there’s plenty of prose advice too:

‘You cannot become a real chess player without a serious study of the chess classics’

‘Try to focus your attention on the strongest aspects of the play of that outstanding player, whose games you have chosen to study. For example, when becoming acquainted with the games of Tigran Petrosian, your main attention should be on how Petrosian prophylactically perceived a position, and how he combated his opponent’s ideas.’

There are exercises after the text of each chapter to help to consolidate the lessons. Part 8 of the book presents almost 100 test positions. There are arranged by theme but no clues are given apart from who is to move.

This one gives an indication of the level of difficulty:

White to move

Black to move

Would you be willing to work very hard on such positions? If so, then this book is definitely for you and your chess strength and understanding would both improve, without any shadow of doubt.

School of Future Champions 2:
Secrets of Opening Preparation
Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov
Edition Olms

This volume, at 277 pages, is the largest of the three reviewed here. It’s the most collaborative one too, with Dolmatov, Razuvaev, Zlotnik, Kosikov and Vulfson all commanding chapters of their own.

Topics such as ‘General Principles of Opening Play’, ‘Surprises in the Opening’ and ‘The Connection of the Opening with the Endgame’ are all covered in depth.

‘The Development of an Opening Repertoire’ explains how a keen student should go about devoting a series of reliable openings, starting with the sage advice:

‘Your choice of openings should be made primarily in accordance with your own tastes and style of play’.

Dvoretsky goes on to explain how to broaden and improve a chosen repertoire and gives advice on how best to use chess literature.

Particular attention is given to the King’s Indian Attack from White’s point of view and Kosikov’s chapter is an excellent essay on ‘The Move …g7-g5 in the French Defence’

Position after 10...g5!

As usual in Dvoretsky’s books, the classics are not neglected; here, attention is given to some of the best games from the famous La Bourbonnais - McDonnell match and their influence on modern play.

Unlike in volume 1, there’s no big test section but there are various exercises to try.

School of Future Champions 3:
Secrets of Endgame Technique

Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov
Edition Olms

In the introduction, Dvoretsky makes the perfectly valid point that adjournments are a thing of the past in chess and consequently it is much more important for a player to have a certain degree of endgame technique.

Long gone are the days when one could break after move 40 and spend some time checking the books and analysing variations with friends before resuming battle. Computers and ever-faster time limits have led to the need for games to be finished in a single sitting.

So just how does one go about improving endgame technique?

‘Many young players ‘flounder’ when it comes to playing endings. They would not be averse to improving their endgame mastery, but they don’t know exactly how to do this. In chess literature practically nothing is said about methods for the independent study of endgame theory. We will now endeavour to partly fill this gap.’

This book aims to explain how to do it in three distinct sections:

Endgame Theory
Endgame Analysis

The theory section begins with some basic examples of King and Rook versus King and pawn and steadily moves towards more complicated material. Endgame featuring Rooks, Bishops and pawns are all examined separately.

‘Endgame Analysis’ puts positions with connected passed pawns under the microscope and relates several episodes from adjournment sessions before finishing off with some extraordinary examples of Knights at their best.

‘Technique’ (incorrectly said to be ‘Part II’ instead of ‘Part III’ - a rare Olms typo), focuses on the problems of converting an advantage and other technical procedures.

There are plenty of tough exercises for the student to test out the new knowledge and study positions are used in addition to illustrative games and snippets.

N. Grigoriev

Can White save the game? Dvoretsky gives some clues…

‘A Knight can stop a Rook’s pawn, if it succeeds in ‘touching’ any square in its path (apart from the corner square h1).’

Give it a try, dear reader. After seven moves things should look a little clearer.

To finish with, here’s an endgame by the master himself for your entertainment. It's taken from the chapter 'Grandmaster Technique'. The chapter whole chapter is of particular interest as it's brand new for this edition and runs to 34 pages.

Kunitz - Dvoretsky
Bad Wiessee 1997

For the full story behind the moves, see the book. Meanwhile you could try and work out the reasons behind the exclamation marks for yourselves.

34...d3! 35 R1xc5 Rh8!! 36 Kg1 Rdd8! 37 Rc1 d2 38 Rd1 Rde8! 39 Rf1 Re1 40 Rd7 Rh1! 0-1

The reader must be prepared to work very hard to achieve the maximum from the ‘Secrets’ presented by Dvoretsky, Yusupov and co. Definitely not for beginners, but experienced players with a strong work ethic will find the lessons highly instructive and extremely useful.

As the authors say: ‘This book, like our whole series of books, is addressed to those who do not regard chess simply as an amusement, but want to understand its secrets more deeply and substantially raise their standard of play.’

Volumes 4 and 5 will cover aspects of 'Positional Play' and 'Creative Thinking' respectively.

For further details of these and all other Olms books, please go to:

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