Friday, 1 May 2009

Chess Reviews: 91

Chess Secrets: Great Attackers
By IM Colin Crouch
269 pages

‘Crouch examines phases of these players’ careers, compares their differing approaches and styles, and highlights key attacking themes.’

It’s good to see Dr Crouch back in print following his recent health problems. His new book takes a look at three of the best attacking players chess has ever had to offer, namely Kasparov, Stein and Tal.

There is a twist; the Kasparov on show here is the younger version and the Tal he places under the microscope isn’t the dashing young cavalier with the swagger and pomp of his World Championship phase, but rather the more mature gladiator from 1978-9.

The specific eras covered are:

Garry Kasparov: 1975-78

Leonid Stein: 1972-73

Mikhail Tal: 1978-79

Garry Kasparov: 1978-82

The players are introduced with a few pages of biographical information and then it’s straight on to a serious analysis of some great attacking games by the three heroes. Supplementary games, often featuring other players, are included too for further study (possibly as an homage to early editions of Tal’s own book on his 1960 match with Botvinnik).

To some, Stein may appear a surprising choice to complete the triumvirate of tacticians. However, he won the USSR championship three times and, as IM Crouch shows, he enjoyed generally excellent results against world champions and title challengers. For example, his score against the combined might of Tal, Spassky and Petrosian is an amazing + 6, = 29, -0.

Readers may find the Stein material the freshest; his games have rarely enjoyed a high profile. Ray Keene’s classic description of Stein’s attacking prowess resembling ‘the Hammer of Thor’ sticks in the mind and is demonstrated by these two snippets:

Stein - Smyslov
USSR 1972

29 Rh8! 1-0 (35)

Ljubojevic - Stein
Las Palmas 1973

11...Nxf2! 0- (25)

With its thought-provoking annotations and intriguing selection of material, I’d say this was the most interesting book of the four reviewed here.

Dangerous Weapons: The King’s Indian
By GM Emms, IM Palliser & IM Yelena Dembo
272 pages

‘Are you tired of playing the same old openings again and again? Perhaps it’s time for a change: choose Dangerous Weapons and amaze your opponents with new and exciting opening ideas!’

The King’s Indian is surely one of the ripest openings for a set of ‘Dangerous Weapons’ for both colours.

The format is identical to the other books in the same series, with the authors taking turns to present original analysis on new and/or forgotten lines. Naturally, dangerous weapons are difficult and tricky items, whether in chess or real life. An element of risk is always present.

Black gets a line against the Fianchetto Variation and against the Four Pawns Attack, Saemisch, Nge2 systems and Classical.

For White, there are some ideas in the Four Pawn’s Attack and Averbakh Variation.

I can well imagine these lines being extremely successful for chess assassins at club level.

Of particular interest for risky players are the chapters on the Four Pawns Attack.

Black is encouraged by IM Palliser to break immediately with 6...e5

White can have a fair share of the fun, again with the move e5, but this time in the hands of the first player:

Some of the suggestions will definitely appear to be too risky for a lot of players but for those with good nerves who want to play more exciting chess, then this volume is well worth a look. It would be worth a player’s while secreting a couple of these dangerous weapons up their sleeves for those ‘must win’ encounters.

Play the Queen’s Indian
By GM Andrew Greet
256 pages

‘Such is the high regard for the Queen’s Indian that virtually all the World’s top players have utilized it at one time or another.’

GM Greet’s new book starts off with the minor lines and moves forward through the hybrid system, through the Petrosian System and ultimately on to the Fianchetto Variation.

The Queen’s Indian has a dull reputation, partly based on the number of short, mutually convenient draws at Grandmaster level. It is a challenge for any author to change readers’ opinions:

‘Therefore one of my primary goals in writing this book was to present a repertoire which would enable Black to unbalance the game in order to play for a win, without compromising on soundness’.

To this end, the Fianchetto Variation is met by 4...Ba6 rather than the potentially soporific 4...Bb7 and furthermore, after 5 b3, Black’s recommended recipe is to lash out with 5...b5

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 b5

‘So what are the ideas behind moving the b-pawn for the second time? Primarily Black wishes to exchange a wing pawn for a central one, which makes extremely good sense from a strategic point of view.’

It used to be considered a rather eccentric way for Black to behave but the growing trend of acceptance is amply demonstrated by the fact that six responses by White are analysed in the book.

The Petrosian Variation - featuring the prophylactic a2-a3 on move four or five, was a great favourite of Kasparov. GM Greet rightly comments that the former World Champion ‘…went on to mould 4 a3 into a potent attacking weapon, blazing a trail throughout the 1980s…’ However, it’s not correct to say that he suffered a defeat with it only to Petrosian; Korchnoy’s famous victory in game 1 of their 1983 Candidates Match is of historical importance and at that time it represented a rare chink in Kasparov’s armour.

The point appears to be that in the move-order given in this repertoire, after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Nc3 is met by 4...Bb4, taking away the fifth move version of the Petrosian Variation.

Against 4 a3, 4...Ba6 is again the recommendation, immediately trying to unsettle White.

The author is not afraid to give variations a rest and present several consecutive paragraphs of prose explanations; this is the sign of a book from which one should be able to learn quickly.

As this is a repertoire book and not a complete survey on the whole of the Queen’s Indian, readers should be able to have the opening up and running in a relatively short period of time

All in all, I think this book presents a challenging repertoire and one which should produce interesting middlegames over the board.

Starting Out: The Sicilian
Second Edition
By GM John Emms
303 pages

‘It’s probably safe to say that the Sicilian Defence is the most famous chess opening of all time. It’s certainly the most popular almost a quarter of all games in chess are Sicilian Defences.’

It makes sense for all chess players to have some knowledge of the main ideas behind 1 e4 c5. However, it is not so easy to know where to start, given the huge amount of theory.

This book ‘…aims to be an introduction to the main lines and ideas of the Sicilian, and to help readers choose variations they think will suit their style’.

The variations in question are broken down into the following chapters:

The Dragon Variation

The Najdorf Variation

The Scheveningen Variation

The Sveshnikov Variation

The Classical Variation

Other Open Sicilians

Bb5 Systems

The c3 Sicilian

Other Lines

Each one typically starts with a basic explanation of the opening moves, followed by notes on the relevant strategies, advice on just how theoretical they can be and then some illustrative games.

Readers should ask what is new for this second edition. According to the introduction, it has almost twice as many words as the first edition and over 20 new illustrative games. Some lines have grown in popularity since 2002, including the ‘Dragadorf’ Variation, in which Black combines ...a6 with …g6, thus crossing a Najdorf and a Dragon.

As is the norm with ‘Starting Out’ books, the whole work is peppered with general advice, including ‘hints’, ‘tips’, ‘warnings’ and exercise, such as this one:

Ivanchuk - Kramnik
Dos Hermanas 1996

What should Black play after 23 c3?

In the game, Ivanchuk tried 23 Rhe1 and lost after 32 moves.

GM Emms is keen to point out that this is essentially only the tip of the Sicilian iceberg. In this opening, more than most, the student really does have to put in some extra study time and effort. However, the lines most likely to occur over the board are covered in sufficient depth to enable club players to quickly get to grips with this universally popular opening.

It will also be useful for those who already play one or two Sicilian lines but would like to expand their repertoires.

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