Thursday, 16 April 2009

Chess Reviews: 90

The Black Lion
The Chess Predator’s Choice Against Both 1 e4 and 1 d4

Second, fully revised & updated edition

By Jerry van Rekom & Leo Jansen
280 pages
New in Chess

‘This robust, multipurpose opening system looks quiet, like a sleeping lion - hence the name. But when this predator is provoked, and the game heats up, Black eats his prey in an extremely swift and efficient way.’

First of all, a disclaimer; it’s difficult to provide a completely objective review of this book, as I was in contact with one of the authors during the writing of it and several of my own games are included. I have also had an article published in CHESS Magazine all about my experiences with the opening.

Therefore, I am obviously a fan of The Lion and am very enthusiastic about this new edition.

The introduction traces the history of The Lion and gives details of the previous editions of the book. Then it's on to the six main chapters:

Chapter 1 - The Cub

This chapter introduces the basics of the system and put more flesh on the bones as regards the historical development of The Lion. The focus is mainly on co-author Leo Jansen and includes a game of his in a 1976 simultaneous display against GM Anatoly Karpov. It is easy to dismiss simul games as unimportant, but in fact they can be very instructive. It’s intriguing to see how Karpov, World Champion at the time, couldn’t gain a significant edge against The Lion’s Claw and actually stood worse when the draw was agreed.

Chapter 2 - The Lion’s Den: 3...Nbd7 4 f4 e5

This variation is probably the sharpest and I think Black will need to analyse the lines very carefully to get the most out of the tactical opportunities and nuances. Those with more limni9ted study time can head for ‘The Lion’s Yawn’ instead with the 3...e5 move order.

Chapter 3 - The Lion’s Claw: 3...Nbd7 4 Nf3 e5

‘…the black player, like a hungry lion, embarks on a hunt for the white king with his sharp claws ’

This is the sort of thing Black is hoping for. His moves flow more or less automatically and White has to be very careful indeed not to be ripped up by the sharp claw.

Chapter 4 - The Lion’s Roar: 3...Nbd7 4 Nf3 e5 5 Bc4

The need for a roar is because:

‘…The Black Lion is being hunted and hit, and, as a result, it is bent on revenge.’

This chapter analyses the tempting early hits on the f7 square. One typical example comes after the following sequence:

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.Nf3 e5 5.Bc4 Be7 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Ng5+ Kg8 8.Ne6 Qe8 9.Nxc7 Qg6

White has two main options here, namely 10 Nxa8 and 10 0-0. Various minor alternatives are analysed as good for Black.

One can easily picture the scene, over the board, with White players believing they have produced a classical sacrifice and placed Black in a perilous situation. However, if Black has studied this book then he should head for such a position with great confidence, whether or not White snaffles the Rook or tries to run for safety.

Chapter 5 - The Lion’s Yawn: 3...e5

This is the line I have had the most experience with and I can recommend it as a very reliable and relatively easy to learn system.

Black offers an early trade of Queens and often follows up with an offer to accept doubled pawns.

It looks odd and somewhat grim for Black at first glance; however, students of The Lion will discover that appearances can be very deceptive and that a Lion’s Yawn shouldn’t be seen as an invitation to place one’s head inside the mouth.

Chapter 6 - The Lion’s Mouth: 3...Nbd7 Anti-Lion Systems

The onset of the Anti-Lions must be taken seriously by players of the Black pieces.

3 f3, 4 Be3 and g4 on move 4 or 5 are all given serious consideration.

The Shirov Gambit must be taken seriously and the new analysis given is a major addition since the last edition.

Another major change concerns the Lion’s Head complex, (essentially the main lines of the Philidor Defence). Covered in depth in the previous edition, they are not considered here as the authors believe that the classical Philidor positions have been given good enough coverage in other books of late.

The cover is striking and the layout is crisp and clean. Navigation of the various lines is easily done.

I’m sure club players will find plenty of interest in this impressive book. The Lion is an absolutely ideal weapon and this is the ultimate guide to its intricacies.

For existing Lion supporters, this new edition is an absolute ‘must buy’.

The Lion has its own website here:

There's more on the opening, plus pictures from the launch of the new edition, here:

For further details of these and other New in Chess products, please visit:

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