Wednesday 30 September 2009

Chess Reviews: 109

Pirc Alert! A Complete Defense Against 1 e4
Second Edition, Revised and Updated
By GM Lev Alburt & GM Alex Chernin
448 pages
Chess Information and Research Centre

Eight years have passed since the first edition of ‘Pirc Alert!’ and GM Alburt starts off by explaining the need for an updated version.

‘Referring to my co-author Alex Chernin, GM Alexander Beliavsky once said: ‘‘Alex’s files show theory as it will be in 10 years!’ ’ Indeed, Pirc Alert, based on those files, has stood the test of time. Still, eight years is eight years, and the time came to augment, and in some cases even to alter, Chernin’s 2001 recommendations.’

So what has been changed and updated?

Part one and part two of the book ‘required few changes’. Part 3, dealing with current theory, is the recipient of most of the updates and Alburt keeps the distinction between new and old material quite clear by using brackets for the updates.

With its use of colour and eye-catching design, this book is similar in style to ‘Chess Openings for Black, Explained’ (reviewed here: )

There are three main sections, namely:

About This Book, by GM Lev Alburt

General Themes and Ideas, by GM Alex Chernin

Theoretical Variations, by Chernin and Alburt

Here's an overview of what's on offer.

About This Book, by GM Lev Alburt

‘This book is intended to be different from the array of other works that give a complete repertoire against 1. e4. Our book will contain every secret the leading GM theoretician and practitioner of the Pirc has compiled over a decade of research. No theoretical novelty (TN) will be withheld from you.’

In the first part, GM Alburt tells how impressed he was with the opening erudition of GM Chernin. The latter taught the former the basics of the Pirc just before a key game in the 1990 US Championship.

Later on, when Alburt was thinking a suitable opening for a new book, his thoughts turned to Pirc and he was able to bring Chernin on board for the project. The triumvirate of authors was completed by the addition of Al Lawrence.

What does the Pirc have to offer? According to Alburt…

‘It’s completely sound, having been relied on by some of the best players in the world, including super-solid world champion Mikhail Botvinnik

It rewards ideas rather than rote memorization

It uses all the ideas so far developed in chess, from classical to modern

It’s a flexible approach that offers the second player a variety of choices

Its theory can be reduced for Black to a relatively small and completely understandable portion’.

General Themes and Ideas, by GM Alex Chernin

This section is very strong on prose explanations regarding all aspects of the Pirc. There is also a chapter on the differences and merits of the Pirc move order compared to the Modern Defence (1...g6, 2...Bg7).

There is plenty of interest here, especially in the discussions about the various pawn structures. Depending on Black’s pawn break (…e5 or …c5) and White’s subsequent reaction to it, the structure can end up virtually identical to those found in other main line openings, such as the Ruy Lopez, Philidor Defence and Sicilian Dragon. This is typical of the approach throughout the book; the authors are genuinely trying to educate the reader and encourage deeper thinking rather just provide an information dump of unmanageable variations.

Excellent use is made of ‘Memory Markers’ and ‘Some Important Points to Look For’ which neatly alert the brain to important points by using way marking diagrams. To further engage the reader, these diagrams are printed in blue so make them distinct from the main text. Good summaries round up the salient points at the end of each chapter.

Considerable attention is devoted to an early e4-e5 thrust by White and it’s clearly something not to be taken lightly.

‘Provoking e4-e5 is a bit like sending a formal invitation to a thief!’

Even strong players can err when it comes to timing.

Bareev - Norwood
Marseille 1990

Norwood played 6...Ng4 and didn’t like the position. He later gave his move a double question mark. Bareev, who won the game in crushing style, had simply forgotten to play 6 Bb5+ before 7 e5, when d7 would not have been available for the Knight to retreat. As Chernin shows, Black should have embraced the opportunity to play 7...Nfd7

Theoretical Variations, by Chernin and Alburt

Naturally, one cannot (successfully) play chess openings by general ideas alone, so the final section provides specific variations for Black against all of White’s tries.

This material is split into five parts:

White Strives for e4-e5

White Concentrates on His Center

Macho on the Kingside

White Plays a ‘Hybrid’ System

White Avoids 3. Nc3

The Austrian Attack is one of White’s most aggressive options. After 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f4 Bg7 5 Nf3 the authors focus on 5...c5 as a reply, hoping to head into Dragon-like waters after the trade of the c-pawn for the d-pawn.

After the further moves: 6 Bb5+ Bd7 7 e5 Ng4 8 e6

…we reach a key position.

8...Bxb5 and 8...fxe6 are both analysed. The former is more ambitious but the latter is useful to know too. Seirawan made a particularly important discovery some years ago to diffuse aggressive White intentions.

8...fxe6 9 Ng5 Bxb5! 10 Nxe6 Bxd4!

Sax - Seirawan
Brussels 1988

11 Nxd8 Bf2+ 12 Kd2 Be3+ draw

The universally recommended ‘150 Attack’ is another system Black must be prepared for. Here, the recommendation is to delay …Bg7 (saving a tempo in lines where White plays Bh6) and instead to adopt a multi-purpose little pawn move.

1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Be3 c6

‘Like White’s 4. Be3, Black’s pawn move has several purposes. On the one hand, it strengthens the center, specifically d5. On the other hand, it prepares …b7-b5. The move …b7-b5 is valuable by itself - as usual, it threatens …b5-b4, undermining the defense of the pawn on e4, and prepares the pawn storm that can be` useful in case White castles long.’

Player profiles pop up regularly throughout the book, providing readers with a short introduction to some of the heroes of the Pirc Defence. These include Timman, Seirawan and even Pirc himself. The photos are welcome and help to make the book even more attractive.

This thought provoking book is certainly different from the norm. It’s not a quick fix solution to one’s desire to meet 1 e4 successfully; the student will have to work hard to get the most out of the 440+ pages but there is no doubt that a greater understanding of the Pirc - and chess openings in general - await the diligent reader.

For further details of these, and other chess books by W.W. Norton & Company, please visit:

Missed a review? Please visit my archive:

Thursday 24 September 2009

Chess Reviews: 108

Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess
Part Three
: Kasparov v Karpov 1986-1987
By GM Garry Kasparov
432 pages Everyman Chess

GM Kasparov’s books are always eagerly anticipated. Having analysed and assessed the games of his great predecessors and taken a look at the development of opening theory, he finally moved on to his extraordinary World Championship matches with GM Anatoly Karpov in last year’s volume.

This new volume is the second in the proposed trilogy featuring the titanic Kasparov - Karpov clashes and features their third and fourth title bouts.

The material falls quite naturally into four chapters.

Thirsting for Revenge

The Third Match: 1986

The Year between Matches

The Fourth Match: 1987

Thirsting for Revenge

The first chapter, covering 14 pages, sees Kasparov recapturing his noble thoughts of the time. At the age of just 22 he had high hopes of better chess world.

‘Now that I’d won the world title, I was determined not to abuse my position in a way that Karpov had done for many years, which was what, strictly speaking, I had accused him of. The fact that to a significant extent his power had been directed personally against me made me indignant, of course, but I was also sickened by the thought that in chess a future dictatorship was possible! The chess world was in serious need of rebuilding on a democratic basis, and this meant that the champion himself should not exceed his powers.’

There is also considerable discussion as to whether or not Karpov should retain his right to a return match. As chess fans, we should be relieved that such a match did indeed go ahead, but it’s easy top forget the advantages enjoyed by Karpov at the time and one can sympathise with Kasparov wanting to ensure his rival didn’t retain all of his off-board power.

Kasparov briefly describes what he had prepared for the 1986, with the Grunfeld Defence all set to take its place at the cutting edge of his Black repertoire. With hindsight, Karpov’s 1 e4 was already a relic at this point in history but Kasparov still had to ensure his Najdorf Sicilian was in full working order.

Paranoia and accusations feature early on in this initial chapter, with early doubt cast on the actions and motives of Vladimirov, one of the champion’s team of helpers. This surfaces again with more force in the second chapter.

The Third Match: 1986

Pages 19 - 237 are devoted to the third match. The first half was played in London and then the action switched to Leningrad from game 13 onwards. Kasparov took the lead and seemed to be coasting, but three consecutive wins in games 17 - 19 brought Karpov level, but the World Champion managed to stabilize and eventually win one more game to win the match by the narrowest of margins and retain his title.

I have special memories of the 1986 match. It was the first time I was able to travel to watch a game of a World Championship final live. I saw game 6, in which Karpov held an advantage as Black in a Petroff Defence.

All 24 games have been deeply analysed and, as usual for books in this series, the prose annotations thankfully outweigh the variations. This is important; not only does such a format make every single page the book extremely readable, but it’s also highly relevant to point to Kasparov’s emotional side. Recording his actual thoughts and feelings is more interesting than creating long strings of chess moves which few people will ever feel the need to play through.

The first game of the match, a short draw, is given five pages of analysis. This clearly sets the scene for what is to follow. Space is not a problem and the annotations have ample page sin which to breath. For example, Game 16, one of the most complicated of the match, fills nearly 27 pages. The notes to this game alone could keep a keen student busy for weeks. Here’s just one interesting moment.

Kasparov - Karpov
Game 16

In this position, Karpov played 26...Qb6. Kasparov thinks he had a better move.

‘Thus with 26...Qf5! Karpov could have set me very serious problems. But this did not happen, and we effectively began a new game: left behind were all the opening tricks, the clash of plans and the ‘courteous’ exchange of pieces.

At this last moment of comparative calm before the brief concluding battle, let us try to assess the situation. Both sides have important trumps and the position is within the bounds of dynamic equilibrium. The time reserves are roughly equal, although not very great (what is an hour in such a tense situation?!). There is no question of relying here on a full variation analysis - the situations which can arise at literally every move are too unusual and complex. Positional guidelines are totally eroded, and the customary scale of values is displaced, since the two sides are attacking targets of different importance. Therefore the qualities that come to the fore are those such as intuition and enterprise, which means that to complain of bad luck is absurd, to say the least - everything is within one’s own grasp.’

Kasparov recalls that the Grunfeld of game one didn’t seem to surprise Karpov anywhere near as much he thought it should have done.

‘So, did my new opening come as a surprise to my opponent? Years later Sergey Makarychev, who was then one of the seconds of the 12th world champion, told me that, at any rate, several days before the match Karpov began preparing for the Grunfeld, explaining that there was a possibility it could occur.’

There is a lot of talk about traitors and spies in the camp. Of course, this is bound to be a biased account, or at least one lacking full objectivity. Nevertheless, it all makes for compulsive reading and, in a Kasparov book, the gossip is half of the fun.

The Year between Matches

This 37-page chapter describes relevant events between the third and fourth matches. This includes the ‘Birth of the GMA’, various other political episodes and an account of the over-the-board activities of Kasparov and Karpov. There are also three additional games between them, played at the Brussels tournament (two are blitz games).

Kasparov had a lot on his plate apart from yet another World Championship match and there’s no doubt his preparation lacked some focus.

‘But for me the match in Seville was psychologically the most difficult of all my five duels for the title with Karpov.’

‘On the whole, my preparations before the match were of quite an adequate standard, but, alas, my playing mood did not match them. In the end my confused condition generated a fear of defeat, which had a paralysing effect on me.’

The Fourth Match: 1987

This match did indeed prove to be a testing one. Kasparov arranged another opening surprise by using 1 c4 as his main weapon. Karpov had some ideas his own, especially against the Grunfeld.

12 Bxf7+ - the birth of the Seville Variation

More secrets are revealed here. Kasparov was prepared to play the Pirc Defence is Karpov reverted to 1 e4, partly because his Classical System - 3 Nc3 and 4 Nf3 - is relatively easy to prepare against. Another surprise he prepared but didn’t get the chance to use was in this Queen’s Gambit position.

The prepared variation started with 10 0-0-0!

Amazingly, this remained behind the scenes until 1988. I remember seeing it played in the Speelman - Short Candidates’ match of that year; another game I saw live. At the time it looked brand new but then news filtered through that it had been played a couple of times already in 1988 (chess news travelled slowly in those pre-ChessBase days).

Meanwhile, Karpov held an early lead and after many adventures he was on the brink of winning back the title following an exciting victory in the penultimate game.

Incredibly, that win levelled the scores of the ‘championship marathon’. with just one game to go in Seville, both Kasparov and Karpov had won 16 games against each in other in title matches and 87 games had ended as draws.

Kasparov goes into considerable detail about his thoughts, feelings and preparation for the final game. He famously took his last chance, winning game 24 (despite giving Karpov a golden opportunity to virtually force a draw, with the latter missed), levelling the match and retaining his title the hard way.

This is easily one of the best chess books of the year and one which should top the shopping lists of all chess fans. With all of the stories, the analysis and the history, there really is something for everyone here. It’s one of the best of the whole Kasparov series of books.

It is fitting that I have been able to enjoy reading and reviewing this book one the same week that Kasparov and Karpov have making the headlines yet again with their nostalgia match in Valencia. Paris is the next venue on the list for the old rival so lets hope that London will be given a chance to host the battle of the legends.

Presumably the next volume in this remarkable series will be published around this time next year.

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

Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:

Wednesday 23 September 2009

CLP Site Update

There's some new stuff over on my junior chess site, including the latest in Norman Stephenson's famous 'Opening Notes' series and a report on our most recent junior event, the 15th Yarm Chess Championship.

For further details, pop along to:

Friday 18 September 2009

Chess Reviews: 107

The Queen’s Gambit Declined: Exchange Variation
By GM Nigel Davies
Four Hours

As GM Davies demonstrates, White has more than one way to play the positions arising from:
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 cxd5 exd5 5 Bg5 or similar move orders. This DVD focuses on the strategical aspects of the system rather than the specific lines of theory.

He stresses that the positions arising have relevance in other openings too and highlights the fact that ‘this is such an important opening and such an important type of position that every great player in history has been involved in this kind of position at some point in his career’.

Botvinnik, Kasparov and Reshevsky are named as the biggest heroes of the White side, Spassky, Karpov and Keres singled out as particularly notable upholders of the Black position.

He goes on to highlight the difference in strategic factors for both sides. White has a half-open c-file and a central pawn majority; Black enjoys the half-open e-file and has a Queenside pawn majority. These imbalances help to create the conditions to produce the different plans available to both players.

The Minority Attack

A central advance with f2-f3 followed by e2-e4

0-0-0 and a Kingside attack

Having introduced the basic ideas, he then analyses them in turn.

It’s particularly impressive how he presents both sides of the story; the illustrative games feature plenty of Black wins in addition to White victories. For example, in the section dealing with 0-0-0 and crushing Kingside attacks against the Black monarch, he makes sure that balance is restored with some examples in which Black is more on the ball and consequently ensures an equal share of the spoils.

Kuzmin - Kerius
Harrachov 1967

Black has played too passively and White clearly has the better position. 1-0 (33)

At club level, the plan of 0-0-0 for White will harvest plenty of points. Stronger players will handle the Black position with greater skill, as this DVD shows.

Hulak - Spassky
Interzonal 1982

13...b4 looks perfectly logical but after 14 Na4 White has stopped the Queenside attack and even has extra options of playing down the c-file.

Spassky’s 13...a4! is much better and he went on to outplay Hulak after 37 moves.

The last three lectures examine the use of the QGD’s strategical ideas in other openings, such as the minority attack in the Exchange Variation of the Caro-Kann. This is typical of the approach adopted by GM Davies; he is never lazy with his material of his presentation and is genuinely in teaching as much as possible.

The Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined has been one of my favourite openings for a very long time. I think GM Davies does an excellent job of explaining everything the viewer needs to know to play these lines with either colour. This DVD is the pick of this month’s bunch.

By GM Adrian Mikhalchisin
Five Hours

In an attempt to avoid the slow, positional lines of the Ruy Lopez, GM Mikhalchisin opines: ‘Sometimes it’s possible to change the approach; it’s possible to play some sharp lines…’

This introdcues the Arkhangelsk.

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 b5 6 Bb3 Bb7

I didn't know very much about this variation so I was pleased that he included some historical background to its development.

‘It was invented in 1962 by the players from Russian port city Arkhangelsk on the north of the Russia.’

Heroes of this line include Mikhalchisin, Planinec, Mecking, Beliavsky and Malanuik. Indeed, the latter has a special connection with the opening as he was born in Arkhangelsk.

The main ideas involve the Bishops. The Bb7 increases pressure on the centre especially on White's corwn jelwel, the e4 pawn. The other Bishop wants to go to c5. After White tries to blunt it with c2-c3 and d2-d4, the Bishop can drop back to b6 to pressure the pawn on d4. So it's really a counterattacking system, all about applying pressure on White's centre and to cuase the opponent problems he wouldn't normally experience in other Lopez lines.

White has various tries from the diagram above. 7 Ng5, 7 Qe2, 7 d4, 7 c3, 7 Nc3, 7 Re1 and 7 d3 are all considered.

A good demonstration of the power of the Bishops came in this classic game, in which Black sacrificed his Queen.

Ljubojevic - Planinec
Vrsac 1971

The presenter admires the game but is not convinced Black had to be quite so aggessive. In his sometimes semi-berken English, he says: ‘So, it’s interesting Queen sacrifice I must honestly…it’s necessary for Black to play in such sharp way, but if Black enjoy it, then it’s no problem.’

As a presenter, Mikhalchisin perhaps runs through the games and variations a little too quickly. I often had to use the 'pause' and 'rewind' facilities to keep.

Black does seem to have some fun at White's expense in this system but it’s sharp stuff and not to be played without proper preparation.

The Budapest Gambit
By IM Andrew Martin
Four hours and twenty minutes

Fans of the Budapest will have enjoyed September. First they have a new book on the subject from Everyman and now a new DVD.

IM Martin brings the fighting talk out early:

‘A reliable defence to 1 d4 is a prerequisite for every chess player. On previous ChessBase DVDs I have suggested various approaches but none is as audacious or exciting as the fiery Budapest Gambit.’

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5 looks very strange at first glance but after 3 dxe5 Ng4 (The Fajarowicz Gambit - 3...Ne4 - is not considered here). Black usually manages to either recapture the pawn or force big concessions from White if the latter intends to keep it.

The material is well organised. Themes are discussed first, followed by 4 e4. Then the unusual tries are examined before we are eventually led to the main lines with 4 Bf4.

Throughout the DVD, Black is heartily encouraged to take the most active paths.
For example, when White plays a2-a3 in some of the main line positions, Black’s reflex…a7-a5 is not merely Queenside prophylaxis; he is often hoping to follow up with …Ra6 followed by swinging the Rook over to the Kingside to participate in an attack on the White King.

Genova - Listas
Greece 2000

Black’s battle plans are as direct as IM Martin‘s delivery. ‘We know what to do - …Ra6. There is an alternative here, …Re8. But why waste time with that when you can get on with the job?’

In this game, Black did indeed ‘get on with the job’. The adventurous Rook helped to force resignation 14 moves later.

If I took up the Budapest I’d still be concerned by two lines. One is the fairly modern plan of 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5 3 dxe5 Ng4 4 e3 Nxe5 4 Nh3, intending 5 Nf4 and a very firm grip on d5. I’m not entirely convinced by the treatment given on this DVD; the illustrative game Gurevich - Tisdall shows rather insipid play by White.

The other problem receives some interesting suggestions.

In the main line, reached after the moves:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.e3 Ngxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.Be2 0–0 10.0–0

…White is hoping to track down Black’s dark-squared Bishop and grind out a win with his own Bishop pair. This is essentially how Karpov best Short’s Budapest in game one of their 1992 Candidates match. Short played 10...d6 in that game. IM Martin has two different suggestions.

10...a5, to stir up trouble after 11 a3 a4 and 10...Ng6, to trade Bishops after 11 Bg3 Bd6

Black players must pay special attention to these lines.

With his direct, rallying style of presentation, IM Martin makes a good case for examining the Budapest Gambit. Yet the lack of Budapest heroes, who will play it consistently at high levels and thus continue to evolve the theory of the opening, is an indication that strong players feel it is not entirely satisfactory. Nevertheless, club players will be happy with the bloodthirsty nature of the recommended repertoire given here for Black. Just don’t forget to prepare something for 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3, which people will play to once they know you are armed to the teeth with swinging Rooks.

Finally, two older titles have just been reissued with considerable amounts of new material.

The Scandinavian - The Easy Way - 2nd Edition
By IM Andrew Martin
Four hours

Following a typically motivational introduction by IM Martin, he then moves on to point out various traps against the exposed Black Queen. The first edition of the DVD covered 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6!? when the lion’s share of the material dealt with the position after the further moves 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 a6

The presenter examines eight different sixth moves for White.

6 Be3; 6 g3; 6 Bc4; 6 Bd3; 6 Be2; 6 Ne5; 6 Bg5 and 6 h3

After analysing them all, IM Martin concludes that ‘…Black seems to be holding his own against each of them.’

Deviations from the main line received attention too, such as 3 Nf3 and 3 d4.

There are seven new video lectures, each giving a relevant recent game. All are from the years 2004 - 2009

There was a time when the Scandinavian Defence was played only by GM Bent Larsen and a few eccentric characters in chess clubs. These days it is a perfectly respectable defence to 1 e4 and one which appears easy enough to learn. Not everyone will feel comfortable with the early Queen excursions but those who like trying new things should find plenty of interest here.

The ABC of the King’s Indian - 2nd Edition
By IM Andrew Martin
Five hours

IM Martin’s coverage of the King’s Indian Defence starts with some typical motivational material in the Introduction.

This is followed by four main chapters as he works his way through all of the standard lines.

Classical Games

Four Pawns Attack

Saemisch Variation


Systems with an Early Bg5

Other White Systems

A famous five-minute game between Korchnoi and Fischer continues to inspire new generations of King’s Indian fans. It is used here as one of the illustrative games.

Korchnoi - Fischer
Herceg Novi 1970

24...Nh8! and the Knight ends up striking a devastating blow on the White King.

28...Nxh3 0-1 (31)

Nine new videos enhance the original edition of this DVD bring the King’s Indian right up to date. Two games are from the 2009 British Championship: a smashing victory by GM Williams over KID specialist Hebden and an excellent demonstration of Black’s chances in the Classical variation, showing Gawain Jones whip up a mating attack against GM Summerscale.

The attacking style is reminiscent of Fischer’s game. ‘Route one chess; zeroing in on White’s King.’

Summerscale - Jones


A few moves later, White is suffering enough to throw in the towel.

0-1 (...Rh4 is coming next)

‘The King’s Indian is one of those openings…Black’s going for the throat on the Kingside; if White makes a mistake, it’s game over. If White wins the battle of the Queenside? Ok, there will still be Kingside counter chances for Black. Many players are attracted to the King’s Indian precisely because it’s possible to put White away in the this brilliant manner.’

Mastering the King’s Indian will take a lot longer than the Scandinavian; it is extremely theory-heavy and shouldn’t really be attempted over the board without a substantial amount of homework.

Consequently, The Scandinavian DVD is the better of the two for club players to get a new opening up and running in the shortest time possible, as it will not necessarily require further research, but the King’s Indian Defence will be more rewarding as part of a long-term repertoire.

The new lectures on both of the second edition DVDs make these products even better value for money than ever. Those who already own the first editions will definitely find enough extra material to justify purchasing these updated editions.

For further details of Chessbase products, please go to:

Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Chess Reviews: 106

September brought a bumper crop of Everyman titles. The latest volume of the acclaimed Kasparov series will be examined on its own in issue 108 of these reviews. Meanwhile, here are my thoughts on six other Everyman books.

The Classical King’s Indian Uncovered
By IM Krzysztof Panczyk and Jacek Ilczuk
384 pages
Everyman Chess

The ‘Classical King’s Indian’ refers to all lines arising after 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 e4 d6 5 Nf3 0-0 6 Be2. Consequently, this new book covers The Petrosian System, The Exchange Variation, The Bayonet Attack and The Gligoric System in addition to the main lines most of associate with the Classical tag.

Prose explanations are confined almost exclusively to the chapter introductions. The bulk of the work is a dense thicket of variations, but rarely full games.

There’s a lot of material here and initially the depth looks impressive. However, club players will probably struggle to make the most of what is on offer due to the bewildering array of variations. It’s a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees.

The King’s Indian Defence is an exciting, dynamic opening yet curiously this is by no means the first time that a book on the subject has rather failed to bring it to life. From the point of view of instructing the reader, I think this book would have benefited from the ‘less is more’ principle.

Starting Out: The Trompowsky Attack
By IM Richard Palliser
269 pages
Everyman Chess

‘Few openings allow White to stamp his authority on the game as early as the Trompowsky. At a stroke Black discovers that his favourite King’s Indian, Nimzo-Indian, Modern Benoni, Grunfeld or even Benko Gambit has been side-stepped and without his obtaining easy equality in the process.’

Indeed, playing against 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 can be a frustrating experience. IM Palliser submits this intriguing opening to his usual objective scrutiny - and the results are impressive.

There are seven chapters.

The Classical 2...d5

2...g6 and Minor Lines

The Positional Choice: 2...e6

The Uncompromising 2...c5

The Popular 2...Ne4

The Modern Preference: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4

The Main Line: 2...Ne4 3 Bf4 c5

The balance between explanations and variations can be a tricky one to achieve but I think the author manages to remain objective throughout and does a very good hob in explaining the intricacies of some very mysterious moves. The Trompowsky certainly delivers some intriguing chess, as these randomly selected position show:

White plays Bc7! and the Black Queen is suddenly in trouble.

White can now play 7 g6!?

This looks like something from High Courtney's
famous Christmas CHESS problems.

This is one of the more substantial offerings in Everyman’s ‘Starting Out’ range. Naturally, as with the other books in the series, helpful ‘hints’, ‘warnings’, ‘notes’ and the like are used throughout the book, complete with their customary light bulbs, skull and crossbones and other little graphics. Most of these are relevant to chess in general rather than pertaining purely to Trompowsky positions, so the reader will absorb a lot useful snippets along the way.

Another strength of the works by IM Palliser is his ability to collate several sources in a succinct fashion, often cross-referencing major works to good effect. His bibliographies are always worth looking at; stones are rarely left unturned when he is on the case.

I certainly felt I’d learned quite a lot about an opening I’d never previously been able to fathom.

‘Happy Tromping!’

Chess For Rookies
By IM Craig Pritchett
352 pages
Everyman Chess

Similar in style to the ‘Dummies’ series of books, this beginners’ tome uses a standard play on chess words to customise the title.

With it’s friendly font it starts with the absolute basics, with a section on how the pieces move and other remedial material, before moving on to basic checkmates and tactics

Shortly after educating the reader to the level of ‘novice’ the book then jumps rather quickly into top level encounters, with ‘Rookies’ being asked to find the best continuation from positions such as this:

Averbakh - Kotov Zurich 1953

Black to move

Is the book trying to do too much in a single volume? Possibly. Novices will find much of the material daunting if they feel the expectation of having to solve and understand positions from the games of famous Grandmasters. Established players may enjoy the advanced material but will find the first section of the book superfluous.

This primer is for adult players rather than juniors, although chess coaches and trainers could easily adapt the material to provide lessons for younger players.

The New Sicilian Dragon
By GM Simon Williams
224 pages
Everyman Chess

In his ‘Introduction’ GM Williams gives an interesting insight into the level of preparation for a an important game. Knowing he is going to face GM Shirov the following morning, and fuelled by coffee and cigarettes, sets about finding something suitable on his laptop. Stumbling across a game by Dragon expert GM Ward, the author was suitably inspired by the use of a Sicilian Dragon/Najdorf hybrid. Unfortunately, the game ended in defeat, despite a promising start. However, he was sufficiently motivated to continue investigating this interesting and tricky defence.

Following a useful look at the basic ideas - from the perspective of both sides of the board - the book then plunges into the main lines.

The chapter titles provide a self-explanatory description of the given material.

The Main Line: An early Bc4

The Main Line: Queenside Castling with g4 and h4

The Main Line: Queenside Castling and a quick Bh6

The Main Line: Positional Tries and Early Deviations

The Accelerated Dragadorf

Classical Lines for White

Less Common Lines for White

The author stresses that the very analysis given here is mostly fresh territory, as the opening is still really in its infancy. ‘As far as I know, this is the only book published in the world which refers exclusively to the Dragadorf.’

Another interesting chapter concerns the Accelerated Dragadorf. This involves playing …a6 before …Bg7

Ideas include forestalling White’s natural development of Bc4 by getting …b5 in first and saving a tempo in some lines in which White automatically plays Qd2 and Bh6 (an idea borrowed from wise Modern Defence exponents).

The Levenfish, Classical and other lines are all considered in the last couple of chapters.

‘Like a lot of rare openings, the possibilities available to both sides are much greater than you might think at first, but nearly all the lines I studied led to fascinating and unique positions. When I play chess that is exactly what I want from the opening.’

Such a comment will resonate with adventurous players who are looking for something a bit different to add to their repertoires. Those who prefer to stand permanently stand on giants shoulders and follow long-established theoretical lines should look elsewhere, but free spirits unafraid of experimenting should embrace this new book and assist in the development of the infant Dragadorf.

The Budapest Gambit
By IM Timothy Taylor
239 pages
Everyman Chess

The Budapest Gambit has been around for a long time but it has never enjoyed a period of universal approval or popularity.

This new book attempts to provide a full survey of all the lines to show that it is fully playable at all levels.

There are four chapters, arranged thus:

The Alekhine Attack (4 e4)

White plays 4 Bf4

White plays 4 Nf3

Unusual Lines

The coverage does indeed take all of the major lines into account and should provide a useful volume for reference. However, the book is not without its weaknesses.

IM Taylor’s scatter gun approach with exclamation marks and his habit of using his wife’s games at key moments might be harmless enough one level but they can lead to a reduced level of seriousness and objectivity. There are some strange statements too, including a flight of fancy regarding Kramnik’s World Championship defeat against Anand.

‘Would Anand have prepared deeply for the BG? I doubt it! Imagine how a crushing victory like this would have raised Kramnik’s spirits! I think Kramnik should risked the Gambit, and maybe he still be World Champion.’

As GM Short found, playing the Budapest Gambit against a World Champion can be a risky affair, whether they are well prepared or not.

Karpov - Short

Black played 10...d6 and ended up being ground down in typical Karpovian fashion. Improvements are suggested here but they require testing at a sufficiently high level.

Nor does the author believe those lines to be the critical test of Black’s powers.

‘Objectively speaking, the Alekhine Attack must be the sternest test of the gambit.’

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5 3 dxe5 Ng4 4 e4 he recommends Reti’s 4...h5!

The Fajarowicz Gambit, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5 3 dxe5 Ne4, is covered in the short, final chapter. ‘My recommendation for Black is simple - don’t play it!’

The author clearly doesn’t believe in it and thinks 4 Nd2 is the complete answer.

Club players looking for something different should be able to put a repertoire together quite quickly from the material in this book (provided White players don’t cotton on and something else on move two; an occupational hazard for a Budapest fan). However, if you are playing Anand some time soon I’d suggest you’re probably better off preparing something else.

Play The Catalan
By GM Nigel Davies
192 pages
Everyman Chess

The Catalan has become a popular opening at the highest levels but is somewhat rarer on the club scene. GM Davies subjects it to his usual treatment, which is good news for those wanting a valuable insight into this subtle - yet highly effective - opening.

The material is broken down into three chapters.

The Main Line

The Closed Catalan

The Open Catalan

There are good explanations of the main Catalan ideas the subtleties are fully investigated rather than ignored. Some Catalan moves are mysterious at first glance and the author does well to offer no-nonsense descriptions of what is going on.

After White's 10 Bd2, Black now plays 10...Ra7

‘The main idea 10 Bd2 is that after Black’s most apparently natural reply, 10...Nbd7, White can create a most unpleasant pin on Black’s c-pawn with 11 Ba5. This has prompted a variety of waiting moves by Black instead, such as the 10...Ra7 of Kramnik - Anand…in which the heads of the White and Black schools had a memorable clash.’

Indeed, the games of GM Kramnik are well to the fore in this book and his play makes a powerful impression.
‘My approach to writing this book has been to try and give the reader a good overview of the Catalan, whilst recommending specific ways to play it. In this way I hope to give the reader a decent understanding while getting him or her up and running with it as quickly as possible. Whilst many of the games are very recent, I have not tried to produce a definitive snapshot of current theory; indeed, such a book would be outdated by the time it was published. Instead I have presented games and variations that I personally have found interesting, in the hope that my views and ideas will get the reader’s own creative juices flowing.’

I think he succeeds admirably.

With lucid explanations and well chosen illustrative games, this is currently the best place to learn all about the Catalan and start playing it with confidence

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

Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:

Saturday 12 September 2009

Chess Reviews: 105

The Sicilian With 3. Bb5
By GM Alexei Shirov
Seven Hours

The 3 Bb5 lines given here relate specifically to the move order 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5, so anyone looking for games and information relating to 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bb5+ will have to wait until another volume appears.

In former times, 3 Bb5 was a safe choice to avoid theory and create a dull game. In the hands of GM Shirov, there’s no question of heading for dull, calm waters so it was intriguing to see what he would make of this variation.

GM Shitov says that this system is specifically used as anti-Sveshnikov device, as Black appears to be holding his own in those main lines at the moment.

After 3 Bb5, Black has four reasonable replies, namely …g6, …Nf6,…e6 and …d6

Curiously, all have happened - with both colours! - in Shirov’s own games and he comments that he still does not know for sure which move is the best. Indeed, originally he was unsure whether to present the DVD from the White or Black side, ultimately choosing to treat it as instrctional material for both sides. He presents 12 main illustrative games from his own practice; six with each colour. The games range from 2002 to 2008.

He admits that there is no way for White to gain an advantage but the suggested lines should always create interesting games. The order of the day is to head for a long strategic fight, often leading to the endgame, as there is less chance of attacking the King as in Open Sicilians. Indeed, the illustrative game Morozevich - Shirov goes on for 114 moves after some very fine play in an endgame of Queen v two Rooks.

Sometimes White is able to exploit pawn weaknesses in Black's camp and the latter does well to avoid slipping into a clearly worse position. GM Shirov shows how to distract White players from their automatic plans.

Kasparov - Shirov

With 13 Na4, White is clearly limbering up for some positional play on the Queenside. GM Shirov, typically, kicks against the trend with 13...g5 14 Nf3 f6! 15 Be3 g4 and the game was eventually drawn.

Of course, the general strategic nature of the play doesn't rule out some faster attacking options, such as this one.

Shirov - Leko

White continued with the straightforward plan of 9 Qd2, 10 Bh6, 11 h4 and 12 h5 (1-0, 40)

The last three lectures might look familiar as they are taken from previous Shirov DVDs but of course they are very relevant to the Bb5 discussion.

It's all interesting stuff, told in Shirov's inimitable style. However, after all the games and analysis presented over the course of seven hours, he admits he still prefers playing 3 d4 after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6!

The f4 Sicilian
By GM Nigel Davies
Four hours

The f4 Sicilian is favoured by attacking players. White’s early f-pawn lunge is a clear sign of aggressive intentions and the first player would like nothing better than to win quickly with a classy Kingside assault.

The introduction on this DVD gives the basic themes and stresses the nuances of the early move orders. Black appears to have more to think about after1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 and only then 3 f4. The logic is that if Black prefers the Najdorf Sicilian, then after 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nf3 and 4 d4 he could easily end up in unfamiliar territory. Yet after 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 d6 3 f4 Black then loses some options of playing against the Grand Prix Attack.

The downside to White’s move order, as GM Davies ably demonstrates, is that in lines where Black plays an early …Nc6-d4 and White exchanges it, a Black pawn will end up on d4 and it will gain a tempo by attacking the Knight on c3.

In general terms, White is aiming to build up a quick Kingside attack which, as the DVD says, could be taught to a five year old thanks to the simplicity of the plan.

Hebden - Large
British Championship, 1982

Here's a typical example. White has just played 11 f5 and it's easy to see that he can face the future with confidence. 1-0 (27)

After 1 e4 c5 2 f4, Black has a gambit option with 2...d5 3 exd5 Nf6. A 30 year old game between Hartston and Tal is often quoted as a good reason for Black to play this way (even though the books usually forget to mention that the game was drawn, despite the praise heaped on Black’s play). The games presented on this DVD do seem to confirm that Black has more fun than White, with the latter unable to play for his automatic Kingside attack. Two lectures analyse 3 exd5 and one looks at 3 Nc3, both of which fail to trouble Black.

The conclusion is that White should definitely favour 2 Nc3 and 3 f4. However, fans of the Sicilian will do well to pay attention to these first few lectures so they’ll know what to do if they get the chance over the board

When White gets the initial move order right, the main line appears after:

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bb5 Nd4

This DVD examines various sixth move options for White at this point.

6 Nxd4, 6 a4, 6 Bc4, 6 0-0

Quite a few of the 23 main illustartive games are devoted to these lines. The latter is given as the most promising continuation for White.

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bc4 was popular on the weekend congress circuit in the 1980s but GM Davies believe sit be distinctly inferior to 5 Bb5. However, material is given here for Black players to defuse all of the White’s dangerous desires.

The final lecture presents a conclusion plus a round-up of recent ideas.

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 is given brief coverage. White is partly angling for an f4 Sicilian while denying Black some of his options and the second players needs to be very careful to avoid one particularly nasty trap along the way.

Secondly, the idea of playing a similar system against the English Opening is given as food for thought (1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 f5). It is not always immediately apparent to students that a system against the Sicilian can be successfully adopted to face 1 c4 so it’s with keeping in kind.

As usual, GM Davies does a sterling job of presenting to club players the plans, ideas and typical tactics of a particular opening. The Grand Prix Attack can be fatal against those who know little about it and try to get away with stereotypical Sicilian moves.

The emphasis is firmly on sensible explanations. The theory is hardly cutting edge and the analysis never approaches an intimidating depth but there is no doubt that lines with 2 or 3 f4 can be used with success over the board.

The Caro-Kann
By GM Viktor Bologan
Four hours and 40 minutes

The Caro-Kann is clearly one of the most solid defences at Black’s disposal when facing 1 e4. Grandmaster Bologan presents a very serious and hard wearing repertoire, focusing on the main lines in each variation. from Black’s point of view.

In the introduction, GM Bologan says that the lines he is going to suggest are those which he himself thinks are the best. The material is presented with sufficient depth to appeal to stronger players but the basic explanations at the start of each chapter are aimed at club players. A short conclusion follows at the end of each video lecture, neatly summarising the important points.

The minor White options are covered at the start of the DVD. Black players are shown how to play against 2 d3, the Two Knights’ Variation, 3 f3, the Exchange Variation and the Panov Attack.

The most controversial recommendation comes when analysing the Panov Attack. 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 c4, when Black is encouraged to reply with 4 …Nf6 5 Nc3 g6. The presenter stresses the logic of this approach; the position is very similar to a Grunfeld Defence so Black develops accordingly.

It has been trendy of late to recommend 3...c5 against the Advance Variation but on this DVD the long-established 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 Bf5 is the suggested line.

The Advance Variation and The Classical System (in which plays either 3 Nd2 or 3 Nc3) are given seven video lectures each. Five are devoted to the various moves and plans arising from the Main Line (starting with 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Bf5)

This is a key position for the Classical Variation. 14 Qe2 and 14 Ne4 are covered in the most depth.

Black is aiming for this sort of position

Here, GM Bologan says that Black’s good control of certain key squares makes it very difficult for White to improve his position, whereas Black still can with 21...Rd7 followed by doubling the Rooks and initiating more exchanges with …Bc5. Then White’s pawn on h5 might end up being an endgame weakness.

Black’s approach in all of the main line variations is relatively consistent. Completing development with a timely …Rhe8, he then aims for …c5, usually just after White plays c2-c4. There are some surprising rejoinders if White doesn’t quite get the move order right. For example, in this position:

…Black is encouraged to play 19...f5 and after 20 Qc2 Nf6 the Knight controls some important squares and the ‘weakness’ of the backward e6 is apparently illusory.

The coverage is nicely unbiased, with only eight of the illustrative games ending in wins for Black.

GM Bologan’s soft, Eastern European accent exudes calm and confidence. His presentation skills are solid rather spectacular, just like the Caro-Kann lines he suggests. All in all, this is a very enjoyable and instructive DVD and hopefully we will see more by the same presenter soon.

For further details of Chessbase products, please go to:

Missed a review? Pop along to my archive: