Friday, 17 July 2009

Chess Reviews: 100

It is quite by chance that my 100th review article should feature three particularly good books.

The Moment of Zuke
Critical Positions and Pivotal Decisions
for Colle System Players
By David Rudel
255 pages
Thinkers’ Press

This is a companion volume to David Rudel’s ‘Zuke ‘Em’. This time, the reader is presented with a series of modules, consisting of a series of lessons to provide further education for Colle players.

The author sets out a list of opening priorities for Colle players and provides a chart showing the relevance of each module in relation to Colle-Zukertort (‘C-Z’) and Colle-Koltanowski (‘C-K’) adherents.

The modules are well presented. Analytical variations are kept short and simple. Clarity is of great importance and the point of the format is to make the material as easily absorbed as possible.

Move Order Quandaries

Trying to play an opening system can lead to confusion if the opponent doesn’t always respond with the ‘correct’ move.

‘Unfortunately, chess etiquette does not smile upon counseling your opponent to take back a move and play one you’d prefer. I learned that the hard way once in New Orleans.’

In this section, advice is given on how to navigate a path through some early nuances, such as Black playing an early …c6 rather then …c5.

Slaying the b7-Monster

Posting a Bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal is a popular idea for Black and is particularly frustrating for C-K players, who like to play e3-e4 with as little trouble as possible.

Here, options are given to try to frustrate Black’s intentions at the earliest opportunity, mainly by dint of an early Bb5+

Putting Down an Errant Knight

Ambitious players sometimes play the Knight from f6 to e4 as early as possible. This chapter shows how to deal with this idea.

A Kite of Doom - Double-Barreled Fun

This time White has fun with the early Knight excursion. Here, plans with Nf3-e5, followed by a Stonewall formation with f2-f4, are considered.

There’s some impressive tactical shots to be found once White’s Bishops open up.

White wins after Bf6!! (‘Alekhine’s Block’) Bxg7 f5! isn’t good enough.

Here’s another memorable idea:

‘…And now it looks like Black is going to live.

And that’s when it’s time to show your ace in the hole:

20 Ne4!!

There are other ways to keep some advantage, but this move is the best and one you have to remember. Taking with then d-pawn allows White to first close the back door with 20. Rad1 and then run the g-pawn up Black’s gullet. If Black takes with the f-pawn, White will exchange on f8 and advance the f-pawn with power. Ignoring the Knight is practically not an option due to the threat of Nf6 after Bxf8.’

The Game-Changing Retreat

White needs to know how to handle the positions arising after Black plays ….Nf6-d7, challenging the Knight on e5.

Charge! (When to Play g4!?)

In various positions, White has the option of playing g2-g4, either to crack a Stonewall formation or to enhance a Kingside attack. Chasing the Black Knight from f6 could come into the plan.

Classic Greek Gifts

No self-respecting Colle player is without dreams of a stunning Bxh7+ denouement. This is an important chapter. The preconditions of a successful Greek Gift are expertly laid down before the reader. This chapter will make useful reading even for those who never play the Colle as the explanations are just as valid in positions from other openings.

There are plenty of exercises after each module. The reader is encouraged to write down their thoughts and analysis of each one. The Greek Gift module has no fewer than 60 such exercises. In some of them the Bishop sacrifice works; in others it doesn’t.

Here’s an example of each. Can you say which of the two Bxh7+ will work in the given positions?

The exercises do a great job to cement each lesson in the reader’s mind, especially as large format of the book allows large diagrams and notable clarity on the page.

Two bonus chapters finish off a fine work.

Bonus Tract 1: Anti-Colle Lines

This provides a short taster of the ways in which White can deal with some of Black’s annoying early options. The coverage is brief and the reader is referred to ‘Zuke ‘Em’

Bonus Tract 2: The Phoenix Attack - a New C-K line

The author identifies a problem with the standard Colle-Koltanowski lines and suggests a new way of continuing from the normal position:

He gives his reasons for thinking that the standard line 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 e4 Qc7 10 Qe2 is no longer the most potent.

‘I believe it is time for Colle Players to put 10 Qe2 on the burn pile, allowing a new Colle Attack to rise from its ashes.’

At this point The Phoenix Attack is unveiled. 9 dxc5 Bxc5 10 b4! The basic idea to head for a reversed Meran system. A book is in the pipeline.

‘The Moment of Zuke’ is a very thought-provoking book. David Rudel has certainly tried to do something different to the norm and one gains the distinct impression that the material has been very carefully chosen to aid the learning process.

The story doesn’t end with this volume; the author’s Colle work is a developing project.

The 'Phoenix Attack' has a Quick-Start guide at

There are lots of relevant games here:

Here's a direct link to a PGN viewer:

…and there is growing Colle forum here:

By GM Zenon Franco
240 pages
Gambit Publications

Knowing how to attack is a standard skill and should be found in the armouries of all chess players. The art of counterattack isn’t so easy; by definition, one must have been under pressure - some times serious - from the opponent and one must somehow gather the strength and cunning to unleash a something more powerful in return.

GM Franco endeavours to show the student how to do that and he has broken the material down into seven chapters.

Lasker, the Master of Defence and Counterattack

Refuting Premature Attacks

Fighting Blow by Blow


Prophylactic Thinking


Three Memorable Struggles

Each chapter uses fully annotated games to demonstrate a particular theme. Supplementary games are given too, to provide further lessons.

There’s plenty of prose explanations, which take priority over strings of moves. At critical moments, the reader is sometimes asked a question (an invitation to be ‘taking an active part in the lesson’)

Here’s an example from the first chapter:

Lasker - Tarrasch
Mahrisch-Ostrau 1923

'And now? What would Lasker have played if he were Black?


Perhaps he would also have chosen this good and natural move, but in all certainty he would have considered 16...Qxh4! 17 Bxh4 Rxd4 18 Qb3 Rxh4, with rook, knight and two pawns for the queen, as well as a better structure and a passed pawn, and the white pawns being weak to boot.'

The final chapter delves deeply into three tough games, in which counterattacking skills were well to the fore.

I was particularly impressed by the annotations to one of Fischer’s games in which he used the Alekhine Defence.

Browne - Fischer
Rovinj/Zagreb 1970

It is customary to show Fischer’s wins, but there were times when he fell into trouble and had to dig deep to hang on. This game has been somewhat neglected yet for complexity and entertainment I think it’s on the same level as Fischer’s Alekhine exploits two years against Spassky.

‘White has a winning position, as Fischer acknowledged: thanks to the centralization of the white king, the extra passed pawn on d4 is protected, and after a few regrouping moves, it will be ready to advance.

We are at a stage when it is not possible to find a satisfactory defence for Black, for there is none. Instead, he has to find one that provides practical chances of saving the game. How should Black create practical problems for White?


Anything other than reconciling himself to the exchange of rooks! White could then regroup in order to push the passed pawn comfortably, after first laying siege to the weak pawn on b7.

43 Bxd4 Bxd4 44 Ra8+ Kg7

Black is the exchange down and his position is still lost but it no longer is a technical task without complications, as it would be had Black played 42...Rxa1? The passed pawn has disappeared and only two pawns are left for each side. Black hopes that the weakness on c5 compensates for the one on b7.’

The game was drawn after 98 fighting moves.

Approximately 60 exercises are peppered throughout the book to test the reader’s counterattacking skill. The answers are fully annotated, covering 48 pages.

The annotations are excellent throughout the book. GM Franco has clearly worked hard; a similar effort from the student should result in a greater understanding of various types of middlegames.

Win with the Stonewall Dutch
Sverre Johnsen and Ivar Bern
With a contribution by Simen Agdestein
224 pages
Gambit Publications

I’ve been a fan of the Stonewall Dutch for some time and I have been looking forward to investigating this new book.

GM Agdestein has played some excellent games with the Stonewall. He has written some of this book: ‘Except for Lessons 1 and 2 and for his annotations of his own games, Simen’s input mostly was of a rather general character’.

He also contributed an impressive ‘Foreword’, giving an overview of his Stonewall experiences.

‘The Stonewall is an opening for players who like to fight there and then. If you want to do your fighting at home in your laboratory, play correspondence chess or the Najdorf. The best players have to handle everything, but if you’re like me, who likes to sit down and have an interesting battle, the Stonewall is great!’

The reader is soon plunged into the deep end with the main lines. The contents run in this order:

7 b3: Introduction

The Critical 7 b3 Qe7 8 Ne5!

7 Qc2, 7 Nc3 and Rare 7 Moves

7 Bf4

Lines with a Delayed Bf4

Early Deviations

4 c4 with Nh3

2 c4: Non-Fianchetto Lines

2 Nc3 and 2 Bg5

The Staunton Gambit and Rare 2 Moves

1 c4, 1 Nf3 and 1 g3

Nobody bothers with putting Black’s King’s Bishop on e7 these days; this book concentrates on the ‘modern’ development with …Bd6. Those with only superficial knowledge of the Stonewall may find it surprising that Black has more subtle plans available than merely playing the Queen to h5 and charging the Kingside pawns down the pawn as soon as possible.

Each lesson starts with an overview followed by nicely annotated illustrative games. Then the specific theory for each line is given, followed by a general conclusion.

I like the way the authors endeavour to really explain the reasons behind the moves, often using the ‘question and answer’ technique. Here’s an example:

Mikhalchishin- Dreev
Pavlodar, 1987

'Q: Are there any guidelines for how to recapture after a knight exchange on e4 or e5?

After a knight exchange on e4, Black usually responds …fxe4 vacating f5. The common follow-up from White is to play f3 and exchange this pawn for Black’s e4-pawn. In this case f5 is the ideal square for Black’s bishop.

A knight exchange on e5 can result in two different pawn structures:

a) If White recaptures with the f-pawn, Black often gets the opportunity to push …f4 immediately - sometimes temporarily sacrificing a pawn.

b) Recapturing with the d-pawn ‘Beliavsky-style’ is usually better. This vacates the d4-square for White’s remaining knight.'

A couple of lines started to bother me after a few years of playing the Stonewall.

Golod - Ulybin
Vienna 1998

I once played 11...h6 in this position but ended up with the worse of it after 12 Bxd6 Qxd6 13 Nf4, when the Knight danced into e5 via my weakened g6. That game, in a critical final round of a county championship against David Wise, ended badly and it put me off the Dutch for a while.

It didn’t take me long to find the antidote in this book:

'11...Nd7 12 Bxd6 Nxd6 13 Nf4 Qe7 14 cxd5 exd5 15 Rac1 Ne4 16 Nd3 c5 17 dxc5 bxc5 ='

So I definitely learned a thing or two.

It’s always tricky trying to cobble together a repertoire to prove a defence sea worthy against the tides of all openings. I’m not convinced that it’s necessary to try and prove the Dutch is playable against everything bar 1 e4.

There will always be doubts as to whether Black should try a Stonewall against a set up with a White pawn on d3 instead of d4 and this is highlighted in the book:

‘Q: Are you saying that Black should stay away from the lines discussed in this lesson?

We leave that decision to each player’s own judgement. Our goal is to allow you to make a well-informed decision…’

Indeed, such a goal is one of the driving forces throughout the whole book. This is definitely not a stereotypical Opening book, with lazily recycled material and a nasty habit of leaving the reader in the dark once the initial moves are over. On the contrary, the authors do an excellent job of teaching the Stonewall with down to Earth explanations.

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