Sunday, 1 March 2009

Chess Reviews: 82

World Chess Championship 2008
Anand v Kramnik

The Battle of Bonn

By GM Raymond Keene
112 pages Impala Press

‘Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik astonished the world by defeating Garry Kasparov in London in 2000. Seven years later he lost the championship title to the Indian Grandmaster Vishy Anand. Now the final shoot-out in Bonn determined the planet’s top chess brain.’

‘Instant’ match books have fallen out of fashion. The trend was set in 1972, with authors and publishers scrambling to storm the public with rapidly issued tomes on the great Fischer - Spassky match. 1978 was another great year for such books, especially as the off-board drama of the Karpov - Korchnoy match caught the public imagination even more than the actual games.

The Karpov - Kasparov saga seemed to herald a general move away from match books, although GM Keene continued to keep the flag flying.

The internet has made the world much smaller and people can watch World Championship games live from their own armchairs and download all the games instantly and free of charge.

Yet despite the changing times I still believe there is a place for match books and nobody is better equipped to fulfil the task than GM Keene, whose experience in such matters goes all the way back to 1974 (the Karpov - Korchnoy Candidates’ Final; essentially a World Championship match due to Fischer’s subsequent refusal to play the his challenger).

Here's an annotated run through the contents:

Mexico City 2007

Briefly comparing the Mexico World Championship tournament with that of 1948.

The World Champions

A controversial chapter, pushing a claim for Labourdonnais, Staunton, Anderssen and Morphy to be included in the official list of World Champions.

Roll of Honour

This chapter takes a brief look at the World Champions, including those mentioned above. The detail is finer for Kramnik and Anand, providing further background to their match.

Technical Details

A useful account of the official match details, including the names of the seconds, time controls and playing schedule.

Previous Encounters

The decisive games between Anand and Kramnik prior to the Battle of Bonn reveal an edge for the latter, to the tune of 6-4. The chapter includes a selection of their more interesting encounters with very light notes.

Checking the Greats

Highlighting ‘…a fresh and fascinating evaluation method for champions’, to be found at: This is well worth a look as it shows some surprising statistics. Tigran Petrosian’s best year comes out as 1973 - a decade after he became he World Champion.

Before the Storm

A last look at Anand in action before analysis of the Bonn games begins.

Let Battle Commence

It is indicative of the state of the highest level of chess when this statement can be true:
‘Paradoxically Anand is world champion, having never won a World Championship match, while Kramnik is the former world champion, having never lost a World Championship match.’

This is a fact that generated optimism for Kramnik fans, who reckoned he was better in matches than tournaments and Anand was the opposite.

Games 1 - 11

The game commentaries consist of two aspects. FIDE Organiser Julian Simpole provides on the spot accounts giving a general impression of the big match atmosphere and GM Keene is responsible for the annotations of the actual moves.

The decisive games receive the lion’s share of annotations; some of the draws have much lighter notes.

As a typical sample of the style, here’s a key moment from the match, with notes from the book.

Kramnik - Anand
Game 5

‘Doubtless Kramnik had calculated thus far and believed he had an easy win. Black appears to have no threats, his knight seems impotent, and the path is clear for White’s passed and connected pawns to thunder forwards. Black even appears to have lost his own trump card, the passed d-pawn. However, appearances are deceptive and Anand’s coming thunderbolt will certainly go down in the history of World Championship coups.’

34...Ne3!! 35 fxe3 fxe3 0-1

‘White is suddenly helpless against …e2 with imminent and deadly coronation of the phoenix-like reincarnation of the black passed pawn. A tragically unnecessary loss for Kramnik, redeemed as a game through profound and infernal tactical cleverness from Anand’

The eye-witness accounts of Julian Simpole provide a welcome splash of local colour, often giving snippets from the press conferences. From his notes I discovered that Anatoly Karpov officially opened game six and several other bits and pieces.


The conclusion is that Anand is now the absolutely undisputed king of the chess world. The last lingering doubts revolved around the fact that Kramnik, who ended Kasparov’s reign over the course of a proper match, had thus far been undefeated in match play. Bonn changed all that.

GM Keene then discusses the ideal number of games for a World Championship match. He concludes that 12 games is not enough and that 16 would be better.

Opening Choices

The book concludes with a little bit more analysis on three key opening lines from the match, namely: The Exchange Slav, The Semi-Slav and the Nimzo-Indian Defence.

‘Instant’ books run the risk of containing more errors than usual and in this case I think one more stint of proofreading would have been useful, as there are a number of typos which could have been eradicated. In particular, page 12 suffers and the final crosstable shows Kramnik emerging victorious over Topalov, rather than being on the receiving end to Anand. I understand these mistakes have been ironed out for the second edition of the book.

Typos aside, this book makes for a fine souvenir of an important match in a format more convenient than having to search through various chess magazines.

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Batsford’s Modern Chess Openings Fifteenth Edition
By GM Nick de Firmian
748 pages

‘This massive stand-alone work covers every principle line of play in every opening variation, thereby providing the distilled essence of contemporary chess theory. This latest updated edition - more comprehensive than ever - is an indispensable companion for club and tournament players.’

Here’s a real blast from the past.

There was a time when Modern Chess Openings (‘MCO’) was the best single-volume reference book for chess openings in the world. It was easier to carry around than the multi-volume Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings (‘ECO’) and it was a standard piece of tournament luggage in the pre-ChessBase era.

MCO lost its place in the pecking order when Batsford Chess Openings (‘BCO’) took the world by storm in the early 1980s. Such tomes fell completely out of favour once every player had the potential for quick and easy access to massive databases.

Yet the unsinkable MCO is back again, this time celebrating its fifteenth edition.

There’s a touch of the ‘comfy old slippers’ syndrome about MCO. The format is the same as it ever was, with a short essay introducing each main opening, followed by columns of variations. Small letters intersperse the columns; these refer the reader to further variations over the course of the next couple of pages. The notes typically feature a line of play followed by the names of the players and the event. Occasionally there’s an additional piece of prose for further elucidation. There are references all the way up to 2008.

At 748 pages and an r.r.p. of £17.99, this represents excellent value for money. It is good to see that the spine of the book is fixed with a serious amount of glue (readers may remember I didn’t think the spine of Batsford’s recent reissue of Fischer’s ‘My 60 Memorable Games’ was sufficiently supported, thus leading to creasing problems). The extra strength allows the book to opened properly without causing spine damage.

‘Children of ChessBase’ will wonder what all the fuss is about but all those who started studying chess in the pre-computer database era will feel a wave of nostalgia.

It’s an optimistic release by Batsford but one which should appeal to club players seeking a single-volume distillation of current theory.

Sharpen Your Chess Tactics in Seven Days
By IM Gary Lane
224 pages Batsford

‘Packed with tips and tricks, this book’s clear, no-nonsense style makes it the ideal companion for sharpening your play - quickly.’

IM Lane’s sequel to ‘Improve Your Chess in Seven Days’ aims to develop and enhance the tactics in the arsenal of the practical player.

‘The three basic goals of this boom are: To improve your chess knowledge To increase your specific knowledge of tactical tricks and traps To learn to identify tactics when they occur in your own game’

The format of one chapter - or lesson - per day allows the material to split into the following chunks:

Day 1 - So you want to improve your tactics?

Day 2 - Understanding tactics

Day 3 - How to develop your creativity

Day 4 - Tactics in the opening

Day 5 - Tactics in the middlegame

Day 6 - Tactics in the endgame

Day 7 - Blunders and brilliancies
Moving on Glossary of chess terms

IM Lane’s is always user-friendly and it’s made even more so by the addition of amusing cartoons and entertaining snippets of chess trivia at the start of each chapter.

The former includes a picture of an overloaded Queen, with numerous wires and plugs attached to HRH. The latter showcases various chess quotes and oddities, such as this classic from Henry Bird: ‘It is bad form for spectators to remove the pieces from the board without the consent of the players’ .

The author’s chatty, witty style is demonstrated by this typical quote:

‘I remember having some success with the French Advance, 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5, and asked whether I chose it for its tactical possibilities or its extended pawn formation which promoted kingside attacking chances. However in fact my sole reason for playing this anti-French variation was because it was the shortest line published in Modern Chess Openings.’

The material is generally fresh, with plenty of recent games all the up to 2008; incidentally, this just proves that even the top players continue to overlook fairly simple tactics. All the more reason for us all to remain as tactically aware as possible.

Here’s a couple of examples of the tactics on show:

Lane - G. Xie
Oceania Zonal, Auckland 2005
White to play

Instead of moving the attacked Rook, White sacrifices the other one:

53 Rxg7+ Qxg7 …and then matters are brought to a conclusions with a good old Knight fork: 54 Nf5+ 1-0

Short - Timman
Staunton Memorial, London 2008

‘White could have forced resignation with the stunning 19 Nd6!! when the knight must be taken due to the obvious threat of Ndf7+ forking the king and rook. For instance: 19 …cxd6 (19...Qxd6 allows the fork 20 Nf7+ Kd7 21 Nxd6 cxd6 22 Bd2 winning comfortably; and 19...Rg8 20 Nxc6+ Kd7 21 Nxb8+ Kxd6 22 Qg3+ Kd5 23 Qb3+ Kd6 24 Bf4+ Qe5 25 Bxe5 is checkmate) (this fork uncovers a discovered attack on the queen, which seals Black’s fate) 20 Nxc6+!20...Nxc6 (20...Kd7 21 Nxb8+ Kc7 22 Qxe6 and Black will leave the building in a hurry) 21 Qxe6 Nxd4 22 Qe4 winning.’

GM Short went on to lose the game (on time, in the process of trying to complete his fortieth move). There are further examples of missed opportunities by top players in the book, giving the rest of us hope and inspiration.

‘Chess is fun but it is even more fun when you win!’

An admirable attitude. This a book full of fun and even though the essential building blocks of the lessons are reasonably simple, the entertaining material should put a smile on the face all club and tournament players, regardless of current playing strength.

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