Monday, 1 December 2008

Chess Reviews: 72

Play the Sicilian Kan
By GM Johan Hellsten
Everyman Chess
320 pages

‘In this book I intend to share with the reader some of my knowledge and enthusiasm for the Kan. If that makes yet another chess player follow in Taimanov’s footsteps, or stay within them, then my efforts will not have been in vain.’

It’s not so easy to learn a new line in the Sicilian Defence. The large amount of theory associated with the Najdorf and Dragon variations can be a real deterrent; Black could do with something simpler to learn. Could the Kan be the answer?

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6

The Introduction takes a quick look at some common Kan pawn structures and gives an overview of typical characteristics.

The main material is split into the following chapters:

5 Nc3 Qc7: Introduction and 6th Move Sidelines
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 7 f4 and 7 Qe2
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 7 0-0 d6
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 7 0-0 Bc5
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be2
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 g3
5 Bd3 Bc5: Introduction and Set-ups without 6 Nc3
5 Bd3 Bc5: Classical Set-ups
5 Bd3 Bc5: Maroczy Bind
5 c4 and Other 5th Moves

The coverage is deep and there are lots of variations. This is not a ‘quick start’ to learning the Kan; the student will need to be diligent to get the most from the material.

However, those prepared to get stuck in will be rewarded by some fresh Sicilian positions which could be very interesting to try out over the board, especially as the opponents won’t be as well versed as in other main line variations.

For example, Black’s flexible structure works to his advantage when White tries to steer the game into Najdorf territory.

Sutovsky - Vasilevich
Reykjavik 2006

‘Comparing this to standard positions within the 6 Bg5 Najdorf, here White has had to spend a tempo on a2-a3, and his queen is not at its usual location on f3. Black, on the other hand, has just made natural developing moves.’

A particularly eye catching device crops up several times, including this position:

McShane - Epishin
Copenhagen 2002

Black played 13 ...h5!, apparently a recurring theme in the Kan. The author explains the reasons:

‘Apart from gaining some space, what are the ideas behind …h7-h5?

Preparing …Ng8-f6 without having to worry about the bishop move to h6, now that the rook covers that square;

Advance the pawn to h3 in order to soften up White’s kingside and enhance the counterplay along the h1-a8 diagonal;

Play …h5-h4 followed by …Nf6-h5 and/or …g6-g5, with increased dark square control;

After a future f2-f4 and …Ng8-f6, enable …Nf6-g4 as a reply to e4-e5;

After a future f2-f4 and …Ng8-f6, if White goes h2-h3, then play …h5-h4 in order to create a weak square on g3, which can be exploited by …Nh5-g3.’

The index of variations is very thorough and is granted nine pages to help guide the reader through a large body of material. Careful study of the given lines should enable Black to cause future opponents new problems.

The Greatest Ever Chess Tricks and Traps
By IM Gary Lane
Everyman Chess
235 pages

‘This collection of opening tricks and traps is designed to be a guide to winning chess. I have tried to find ways to win quickly in the opening, usually within the first ten moves to make sure that the opponent has a chance to go wrong. These will be ideal for people who wish to improve by discovering the pitfalls and traps in various opening systems.’

To that end, the material in the first five chapters is arranged according to opening rather than the theme of each trap.

Here’s a couple of typical examples…

‘A Knight to Remember’
Jahn - Kauschman
Berlin 1988

1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 h4 d5 4 Nd2 Qd6

'A sneaky move, because it seems that Black is intending to play …Qb4+ and consequently White takes evasive action.'

5 c3? Ng3! 0-1

…although White could have battled on with 6 Rh2!?

‘The Petrosian Punch’
Petrosian - Ree
Wijk aan Zee 1971
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Nd5 Nxd5 6.cxd5 e4 7.dxc6 exf3

8 Qb3! 1-0 Black loses a piece if he continues the game.

The final chapter looks at ‘Classic Attacks’, with examples of such things as the Greek Gift, Philidor’s Legacy and The Thornton Castling Trap.

The latter isn’t as well known as the rest, but this example should make things clearer:

Thornton - Boultbee
USA 1884

22 Bxd7 Kxd7 23 Bxc5 Kxd7 23 Bxc5 dxc5 24 0-0-0+ 1-0

I think I would spot that in game, but there was a time when I would have probably missed it. In fact there’s proof of that just three pages later in this very book…

S. Marsh - F.N. Stephenson
Cleveland League 1987

Oblivious to the possibility of the Thornton Trap, I played 17 Rxb7?? and had to resign after the fantastic 17 …0-0-0! 0-1

There is a scoring system, based on ‘Surprise Value’, ‘Risk’, ‘Chance of Success’ and ‘Reward’. A ‘pawnometer’ indicates marks out of ten for each trap. I don’t think the idea works any better here than it did in the previous book in the series (‘The Greatest Ever Opening Ideas’) but as IM Lane points out, ’…it is just a bit of fun and not a scientific report’.

As usual in a book by IM Lane (a specialist in writing chatty books for club players), little biographical and historical snippets are often used to add colour and background to the players and games.

For example, in his analysis of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, he relates a little surprise:

‘Did you know? It is alleged that music composed by Blackmar can be `heard in the famous Gone with the Wind.’

Having blown away numerous chess opponents with his favourite opening, it seems quite fitting.

It’s a bright and breezy read, providing lots of entertainment and some new traps for everyone.

Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings
By IM Richard Palliser
GM Tony Kosten
FM Dr. James Vigus

Everyman Chess
253 pages

The ‘Dangerous Weapons’ series moves into what some may deem unlikely territory for stunning tactical lines.

So what exactly can be done to pep up the Flank Openings?

First of all, the reader should abandon any preconceptions regarding ‘boring’ moves such as 1 c4 and 1 Nf3. It still takes two people to create a boring games and the authors of this book ably demonstrate that the English and Reti can be played dynamically and creatively.

Some of the lines are quite obscure and will be new to most readers. For example, the idea of playing the Leningrad Dutch with White has never been popular but interest may be heightened now that it has a name.

1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.0–0 0–0 6.d3 c5

The Polar Bear

Transpositions to the Polar Bear are possible after 1 g3, but Black can spoil the fun with 1 …e5. Yet playing 1 f4 invites the infamous From Gambit. Fortunately, Dr Vigus provides analysis of ‘Larsen’s Antidote’. Bent Larsen is, of course, a great expert on Bird’s Opening and has a penchant for unusual lines of play. Virtually all of the From Gambit positions analysed here were new to me. I wonder if any readers will have seen this sort of thing before?

Black to move

‘Beware! Never underestimate the From Gambit! If an opening has survived fir 150 years, it has probably done so for a good reason…’

Don’t get the wrong idea; the recommendations don’t steer the reader into such dangerously unexplored backwaters all of the time. Indeed, the Flohr-Mikenas Attack (shortened here to simply the ‘Mikenas Attack’, now apparently ‘Flohr’-less) has been played at World Championship level.

1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4

‘A 2 …e6 move order is very popular with Nimzo-Indian and even some Modern Benoni players who are hoping to transpose to positions they know well and feel comfortable with. However, 3 e4 gives them a rude awakening - White has no desire to transpose and instead selects a dangerous, aggressive system.’

GM Kosten, extending his advocacy of 1 c4 beyond his classic ‘The Dynamic English’, analysis a sharp pawn sacrifice:

3 …c5 4 e5 Ng8 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nxd4 Nxe5 8 Ndb5 a6 9 Nd6+ Bd6 10 Qxd6

‘White has gained the bishop-pair and severely weakened Black’s dark squares.’

Pawn sacrifices to achieve such advantages are clearly not the private domain of 1 e4 players.

One of the most interesting chapters covers ‘An Improved Lowenthal?’

The point is that after:

1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5!? 5 Nb5 a6!

…Black can aim for a weird position, in the spirit of the Lowenthal Sicilian, with: 6 Nd6+ Bxd6 7 Qxd6 Qf6!

The difference between this and the Sicilian is that White has a pawn on c4 rather than e4. This line is barely covered in other English Opening books. Familiarity with IM Palliser’s analysis will enable readers to spring a very nasty surprise on unsuspecting 1 c4 adherents.

IM Richard Palliser says in his introduction:

‘I certainly can’t wait to employ a number of these ideas in my own games!’

I imagine most readers will have similar thoughts. This is a very nice addition to an impressive series.

For further details of these and other Everyman products, please visit:

Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:

No comments: