Thursday 28 January 2010

Chess Reviews: 126

Olympiad United!
Dresden 2008
By Harald Fietz, Josip Asik and Anna Burtasova
304 pages
Verlag Schach Wissen Berlin

In these days of instant new updates and quick fixes of information, it seems a little bit strange to see a new book about an event which took place in 2008. However, once the book is seen, it becomes readily apparent that an enormous amount of work has gone into it, with more than 60 people contributing articles and analysis.

It’s much more than a book about a single event:

‘This book is designed to be in equal measure both a tournament report capturing the heat and the beat of 11 rounds of a Chess Olympiad and also a behind-the-scenes look at what is an international chess circus.’

To that end, in addition to a round-by-round report on the action at Dresden, the book is replete with games (100 have annotations), interviews, photos (over 300!), quotes and chess puzzles.

Armenia won the Olympiad, with Russia placed, disappointingly, fifth. Georgia, fronted by former World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze, won the Women's Olympiad.

Needless to say, with the Olympiad featuring so many of the world’s top players, there was plenty of excellent chess on display. Lots of the games are annotated by the players themselves and there are also some guest annotations; for example, the veteran GM Borislav Ivkov has contributed fine notes to two games by his old friend and rival, Viktor Korchnoi.

Naturally, Korchnoi is always a reliable source of anecdotes. There’s a great one here about a woman who tried to get him to sign a book. only to meet with the words ‘Don’t you have anything better do?’ And that was only the start of the trouble...

The entire book has a very upbeat ethos and the personalities of the annotators really shine through.

‘Our objective was to encourage impartiality and allow contributors complete freedom of expression in both content and style.’

This is not just a collection of games. There's a plethora of articles on general aspects of the Olympiad, such as 'Team spirit', 'The captain's role' and 'My most exciting moment'.

There are interviews will luminaries such as Ivkov, Yusupov Nona Gaprindashvili and many others.

The book concludes with a full listing of all the individual results and a final selection of great photos, this time showcasing the entire contributing team.

The whole thing represents an impressive labour of love. The fact that the Olympiad was played ‘as long ago’ as 2008 has no bearing on the amount of entertainment and chess instruction that this book contains. A triumph of style and substance.

Here's a bit of chess for you to try, from the section titled: 'In the shoes of an Olympiad player!'

Black to play

Any good ideas?

White to play

How bad is Black’s position?

No clues! Just see what you can come up with -
and check your answers when you buy the book

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Tuesday 26 January 2010

The Lion Beats The World Champion

I have written several times about The Lion, so it should be familiar to regular visitors to Marsh Towers.

I was delighted to see our favourite opening involved a game against World Champion Vishy Anand.

Follow the link to the home of The Lion and see the item dated 23/12/2009.

Saturday 23 January 2010


The latest post over at Mongoose Times shows Hikarua Nakamura in terrific form:

Chess Reviews: 125

Dismantling the Sicilian

By GM Jesus de la Villa

336 pages

New in Chess

A Complete Repertoire for White

This is a new version of a Spanish book, Desmontando la Siciliana. The author makes the point that this really is a new version of the book rather than a new edition, as there is a lots of new material.

To play successfully against the Sicilian is not an easy matter. As it is a very popular opening at all levels of play, theory advances at a terrific rate. To make the task slightly easier, the recommendation is to adopt a general plan of f3, Be3, Qd2 and 0-0-0 for White (where possible).

The material starts by analysing the minor variations and building up to the real main lines. The material is split into four main sections.

Section 1

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3

Looks at the rarer variations such as 2 …Nf6 ands 2 …a6

Section 2

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4

Covers The Accelerated Dragon, Kalashnikov and related systems.

Section 3

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4

Including the Taimanov and Paulsen systems.

Section 4

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4

Here be Dragons…plus stalwarts like the Scheveningen, Classical and Najdorf.

Each system is analysed via complete illustrative games. Alternative variations to those covered in the main games are given throughout. The format is very clear and I found it easy to navigate

There are great summaries at the end of every chapter, neatly detailing the important points.

Each Black system is rated with a number of stars. The Najdorf is a five star defence (sorry, Dragon fans...your favourite only merits three stars) and it is definitely not easy to dismantle. The book does not shy away from going into one of the most heavily analysed main lines.

‘The Najdorf Variation is acknowledged as the most important Sicilian system, and its great merit has kept this appreciation for some decades. Can we state the reasons for this? For sure, its theoretical viability is one, but also its apparently inexhaustible potential to lead to positions rich in tactical and strategic themes, which guarantee hard-fought games and chances to play for a win as Black.’

Theory has moved on somewhat since the early days of the English Attack. In particular, Black has had some success with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Ng4 This forces White into paths different from the automatic f3, Qd2 and 0-0-0 build up.7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 g5 9 Bg3 Bg7 10 h3!?

‘The most recent move and, in my opinion, the one that sets the most problems. 10 Be2 and 10 Qd2 used to be the most frequent choices.’

10 …Ne5 11 Nf5 Bxf5 12 exf5 Nbc6 13 Nd5 e6 14 fxe6 fxe6 15 Ne3 Qa5+ 16 c3

16 …Nf3?! 17 Qxf3 Bxc3+ 18 Kd1 Qa4+ 19 Nc2 Bxb2 20 Rc1!

This is Svidler’s improvement over the 20 Qb3 he tried against Topalov in 2005. And now, in the game Svidler - Grischuk (Mexico 2007), after 20 …Bxc1?! (‘20 …Ke7 is probably best…’) White interpolated 21 Qf6 and went on to win after 42 moves.

Players who like to use the Sicilian Defence as Black may have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, their opponents are encouraged to play down the main lines, giving Dragon fiends and the like something to look forward to. On the other hand, the opponents have the opportunity to arrive at the board with stronger preparation than before.

Summing up, I think Sicilian players and Sicilian slayers will find this an extremely interesting volume.

Revolutionize Your Chess

By GM Viktor Moskalenko

350 pages

New in Chess

A Brand-new System to Become a Better Player

I enjoyed GM Moskalenko's book on 'The Flexible French' (reviewed in column #54) and I have been looking forward to reading his latest work

This one is not dedicated to a particular opening, but is a guide hoping to instill into chess players a better understanding of dynamic play.

Right from the start, it is clear that this is a serious book, for serious students

Foreword: From Static to Dynamic Chess

'Once they have reached a certain level most players fail to make real progress. They focus their study on openings, a limited amount of static strategic themes and classical tactics in the middlegame, and a collection of standard endgame themes. Which means that they do not understand much of what they are doing when they are sitting behind the board themselves, facing real chess problems.

How can this be? The answer is quite simple: the general rules of the game have not yet been discovered.'

The author goes back to the start, with Steinitz and his theories, through Paul Morphy and into the early years of the 20th Century to trace the genesis of the p
rinciples of dynamic chess in relation to general strategy

There is a rallying cry

'Revolutionize your chess, and become a better player!'

Chapter 1: The Moskalenko Test of a Chess Player’s Skills

The first chapter gets straight down to work and presents several methods to determine a player's skill level. There is little room for sentiment if one wishes to become a stronger player

'I think that a true professional chess player cannot afford the luxury of having lots of friends among his colleagues.'

Chapter 2: Moskalenko’s Five Touchstones

This chapter introduces an important concept, which is pivotal to the entire book. GM Moskalenko introduces his five touchstones:

T1 Material

T2 Development

T3 Placement of Pieces and Pawns

T4 King Position

T5 Time

This is followed by a series of illustrative games to demonstrate appreciation of the touchstones in action.

One conclusion is that 'T5 - Time' is rarely considered as much as static observations, and this factor is acting to the detriment of a player's development.

With the touchstones in place, the book then considers the three main phases of the game, starting with...

The Endgame

Another original method is introduced here: one has to take into account the 'Properties of Pieces, Pawns and Squares' ('PPPS').

There are plenty of illustrative snippets for the reader to work on. Here's one to ponder, which, according to the book, famous analysts managed to get wrong.

Dreev - Moskalenko

Lvov 1985

Back to move

'Exercise: Find the best square for the black king and find out who was right: Moskalenko, Dreev or Mark Dvoretsky?'

The Middlegame

Positions featuring an Isolated Queen's Pawn are ripe with dynamic possibilities and they feature heavily in this section. Even Karpov occasionally struggled to stem the dynamic flow in this famous game, which is excellently annotated:

Smyslov - Karpov

Leningrad 1971

Instead of being a weakness, the IQP played a decisive role and only left the board when it promoted

28 Qxf8+ Qxf8 d8=Q 1-0

The Botvinnik System of the Semi-Slav is given very good coverage and it comes with a warning against relying on artificial intelligence:

'In the Botvinnik System, it is advisable to use computer analysis only with great care, as the machine tends to make wrong evaluations and misses the truth in 50% of cases. Therefore, you should analyse yourself until more stabilized positions are reached.

Some of the moves have to be seen to be believed.

'18...Rh4! is an extraordinary manoeuvre discovered by Kramnik, and the most beautiful move in the Botvinnik System. Apart from creating attacking chances along the g- and h-files, Black prepares the centralization of his rook on the d4 square.'

The Opening

In order to play more dynamically, there is little point in using the Exchange Variation against the French Defence as a main opening 'weapon'. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the author is enthusiastic about the following three openings

Saemisch Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence

The Stonewall Dutch

Four Pawns Attack against the King’s Indian Defence

Even established fans of these openings should find fresh material here.

Throughout the book, there are quotes from the greats and some very good photos too. Production values are high; it's a very good looking book.

Ultimately, it is T5 which is definitely the one we are all encouraged to embrace in order to inject more life into our game.

‘…a flexible approach to our game is necessary in 21st Century chess. Steinitz’s Elements and Nimzowitsch’s System, two milestones in chess history, have meant a lot for the understanding of thousands of chess players, but only a good understanding of the Time factor will be able to take chess players to a new dimension'.

I enjoyed this book. There is lot to read, a lot to absorb. I know it's only January but, at the end of the year, when I compile my list of the top books I have reviewed in 2010, I'll be surprised if 'Revolutionize Your Chess' isn't included.

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Thursday 21 January 2010

Mamma Mia!

Abba-mania hit Newcastle in January when 'Mamma Mia!' came to town. I was there at the Metro Radio Arena to see the show and find out how it compared to the famous film.

I think everyone knows the basic plot. A girl who is due to be married wants her Father there but she doesn't know who he is. From her Mother's (formerly) secret diary, she narrows it down to three men (as you do) and invites them all. Which one is really the Father? The story unfolds to classic Abba songs (all of which are relevant) and an amazing display of dancing.

There's never a dull moment. It's a big, confident production (and undoubtedly sexist, but in a way nobody complains about; ie: anti-men).

There was a big and noisy audience, most of whom seemed to know all of the songs word for word. I felt it was as good as film but the view wasn't always good, despite having very central seats. Methinks they forgot to add a slope when the seats were installed.

Apart from that, the venue was fine; easy enough to find with good access to refreshments and toilets.

A fun night out - made even better by the excellent Greek yoghurt & Lemon flavoured ice cream.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Ropner Park

Stockton's Ropner Park was still feeling the cold when I was there a few days ago.

The main body of water was still frozen but the underwater
pumps had been strong enough to create some holes.

The park is usually full of all sorts of birds but apart from a couple of lonely ducks it
was all down to the seagulls to make the most of the meagre food supply.

Monday 18 January 2010

Chess Reviews: 124

Open Files

By GM Wolfgang Uhlmann and Gerhard Schmidt

164 pages

Edition Olms

The first edition of this book was published in East Germany in 1981 but had a troubled history for some time after that. The reason is freely given:

‘One of its co-authors, the chess trainer Gerhard Schmidt, left for West. He this became persona non grata in East Germany and the book was banned there.’

The aim of the book is still the same, of course:

‘The book explains, clearly, systematically and comprehensively, the strategy and tactics associated with the open file.’

This new edition has been updated to include games by the likes of Kasparov, Anand and Kramnik.

The material is arranged thus:


1. Aspects of the evaluation of open files

2. The creation of the open file

3. The struggle for control of the open file

4. The dominant open file

5. Exploiting the open file

6. The connection between the open file and the 7th and 8th ranks

Appendix: Index of Players Index of Openings

There are 113 illustrative games. The vast majority are full games; only a few are given from a particular position.

The notes are brief for the first part of each game until an informative position is reached. Then there is a full explanation of what is going on in relation to the open file(s). these assessments are presented as box outs and are accompanied by a small picture of balancing scales.

Here’s an example featuring one of Uhlmann’s own games.

Uhlmann - Portisch

Skopje 1968

Assessment of the position

‘Opening the d-file by the piece exchange Nf3xe5 is the right recipe in this position. A further advantage is that the opening of the file is accompanied by Bc5 gaining a tempo. White holds the initiative on the queenside based on the levers a4 and c4. The b5 pawn is an object of attack. Black must ease the pressure by capturing in a4 or c4, but this will weaken his pawn structure.

In the evaluation of the position it is noticeable that both black bishops are passive. In contrast, the white bishops are placed extremely actively. These factors add up to a clear positional advantage for White.’

A few moves later, we see that things have indeed gone White’s way.

Uhlmann - Portisch

Skopje 1968

‘The strategic coup de grace will be dealt to Black by the rook on the open d-file. The expulsion of the knight from e6 enables the pressure on the diagonal a2-g8 to be increased. The defensive try 24 …Bf8 fails to 24 Nd7 with the twin threats of 26 Nf6+ and 26 Nxb8.’

24 …Nd4 25 Qa2! ‘Black resigned, since there is no defence against 26 Rd7’

It’s an instructional book; very readable and strong on explanations. Analytical variations are kept relatively light. It should appeal mainly to club players, although stronger players will be interested to read the assessments of the critical positions to see how they compare to their own thoughts.

The book has the typical Olms crisp, clean look about it. There is one little slip which I noticed. The Winter who played the famous game (French Defence, Exchange Variation) against Alekhine Nottingham 1936 was William and not ‘E. Winter’. That might annoy some people!

The open file in the next example was put to good use by White...

Tarrasch - NN

Simultaneous game, 1931

White to play and force checkmate in three move. See if you can find out how he did it.

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Friday 15 January 2010

Chess Reviews: 123

Chicago 1926

Lake Hopatcong 1926

Chess Tournaments

By Robert Sherwood

Edited by Dale Brandreth

197 pages

Caissa Editions

Limited Edition of 600 copies

This is the first time the Chicago tournament of 1926 has had a tournament book devoted to it. The author’s preface details the genesis of the project. The inclusion of the Lake Hopatcong games (played earlier in 1926) are given in the hope that they will ‘…more than compensate for the incomplete games from Chicago’.

'The two tournaments give us a clear idea of where chess was in 1926, and it is absorbing to dig into these events and get a sense of the styles and strengths of the players of that time’.

There is a good 'Introduction' by Dale Brandreth. Among other things, he highlights the fact that around a dozen of the Chicago game scores are incomplete. Dale Brandreth owns copies of half of the original scoresheets; presumably the other half were owned, en bloc, by another collector at some point. If anyone knows of their whereabouts then please do get in touch.

Chicago was won by Frank James Marshall, narrowly ahead of Geza Maroczy and Carlos Torre. The final scores show how close it was at the top.

8.5: Marshall

8: Maroczy, Torre

7.5: Jaffe, Kupchik

7: Kashdan

6.5: Factor

6: Ed lasker

5: Fink

4.5: Banks

4: Chajes

3: Showalter

2.5: Isaacs

Some of the names will be much more familiar to readers than others. The majority of the games will be fresh too, as they are not fully reproduced on databases. There is plenty of sparkling play, such as in this example...

Chajes - Showalter

Round 7

Here, databases give 36 …Rb8 for Black but this book shows 36 …Re5 as being played. It doesn’t matter either way in terms of the finish, because against either move White to play and force mate in three moves. See if you can find it.

American Champion Frank James Marshall was always good value for money in terms of entertaining games. He was happy to sacrifice his way through the tournament, even when a lot depended on it. In this game, he needed to beat Maroczy to catch him up.

Marshall - Maroczy

Round 12

29 Ne6+ fxe6 30 Bxe4+ Kg8 31 Rxd6 with a superior ending. 1-0 (44)

The three-horse race to the finishing line culminated in a stormy last round, with Marshall taking risks on his way to beating Showalter, Maroczy drawing with Isaacs and Torre losing to Edward Lasker when a draw would have secured a share of first place.

Maroczy - Isaacs

Round 13

One of the leaders cashed in his chips for the win of the Queen with 29 Nxe6? 'An uncharacteristic miscalculation that costs Maroczy a share of first prize.' 29 …Qxe6 30 Bd5 Qxd5 31 Rxd5 cxd5...

By move 38, it is clear that the Black pieces outgun the Queen but Maroczy managed to draw by perpetual check on move 45.

Meanwhile, Marshall had survived some very tricky moments to reach this position, which should be drawn. However...

Showalter - Marshall

Round 13

44 Ba8? A blunder. 44 Ra6 draws comfortably, however Black replies.’ 44 …f4+ 45 Kh4? Rb5 0-1

The Lake Hopatcong section of the book covers the last quarter of the book and features contemporary introductions by Herman Helms and Norbert Lederer.

Today's players may become jealous when they read about the time limit:

‘For the first time in the history of chess a tournament was held under world championship rules, adopted in London, 1922. The hours of play were from 2 to 7 p.m., the time limit being 40 moves in two and a half hours. This time limit gave complete satisfaction and received the full endorsement of all participating masters.’

World Champion Capablanca dominated the five-player field in an all-play-all twice format.

6: Capablanca

5: Kupchik

4.5: Maroczy

3: Marshall

1: Ed Lasker

Capablanca pushed hard in the first part of the tournament and scored a notable victory against a dangerous rival in round 6.

Maroczy - Capablanca

Round 6

'34 …Rxg3! A risk-free attempt to break the position open and play for a win. On any other move White could maintain the drawish status quo.35 Qxg3 White misses the clear draw to be had with 35 Kxg3 Rg8+ 36 Kh3! Rg4 37 Kh2! Qxh4+ (not 37 …Rh4+? 38 Kg1 and the King escapes) 38 Qh3 Qf6 39 Qf3, when Black, a rook down, has to take the perpetual. (Analysis by Maroczy)’

Analysis position after Maroczy’s 39 Qf3

After 35 Qxg3, Capablanca eventually won the game (0-1, 49) and coasted with draws towards the end of the tournament.

Marshall wasn't on his best form but he never stopped trying, even playing the Danish Gambit against Capablanca to try and change his luck.

It's great to see these lost and forgotten games being treated with the respect they deserve, although the book is primarily for those interested in chess history rather than practical play.

Production standards are high, as one would expect from Caissa Editions. There are some very nice photos of the players and the customary red hardback and gold lettering make this a handsome tome. A row of Caissa books looks fabulous on the shelf.

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