Monday 28 February 2011

Chess Reviews: 173

The Sniper
By FM Charlie Storey
175 pages
Everyman Chess

I have known FIDE Master Charlie Storey for a long time. We first played each other back in 1987. I was very pleased to find out that he was writing a book on a system he had been developing over a number of years. Now the book is available and the message is loud and clear: ‘Play 1…g6, …Bg7 and …c5!’

One of the first things to note is that a new name has entered the catalogue of chess openings:

‘Incidentally, I’ve called this system ‘The Sniper’ because the f7-, g6- and h7-pawns look like the ‘V’ support for a Sniper gun as used by British and American militaries. Furthermore, the g7-bishop and its influence on the long diagonal represent the gun part, combining with the c5-pawn to attack the d4-point.’

As fans of The Lion will tell you, a catchy name can encourage a certain dedication and develop a minor cult following. Charlie has certainly been devoted to The Sniper and easily passes one of the big tests of those aspiring to create a worthy opening book – does the author practice what he preaches? Not only does Charlie habitually play the first three moves in question, he does so at all levels. Achieving 4/4 – and a rating performance of 2600 – at the 2009 British Championship was a particularly noteworthy milestone.

The material is presented over the course of seven chapters:

Main Line 1: Queenside Knight – 3 Nc3 c5!

Main Line 2: Kingside Knight – 3 Nf3 c5!

White Plays 3 c3 – The Deferred Sniper

White Grabs the Centre with 3 f4

Other 1 e4 Lines for White

White Plays d4 and c4

Miscellaneous Lines

A big shot in The Sniper comes after the Bishop on g7 gets a clear view of the Knight on c3. This is an attempt to overturn stereotypical thinking; it’s not so easy to think about trading the Bishop after it has gone to g7, as practitioners of the Sicilian Dragon and King’s Indian Defence will doubtless confirm. Yet playing the unusual, the unexpected is a trademark of Charlie’s. In the specific case of …Bxc3(+), White’s pawns are shattered and opponents, with some sort of inherent race memory flagging up that Black’s plan suffers from a bad reputation, can become confused when thrown back on their own resources.

Can White merely avoid the unknown and transpose into main line openings? Chapter 1 addresses the issue of how to avoid heading into the main line Sicilian Dragons. A key illustrative game shows one of Charlie’s junior students confusing a Grandmaster and picking up a valuable win.

S. Ter-Sahakyan – Y. Zhou
World U-16 Olympiad 2009

17 …h5!

‘17 moves in and Black has pressured the centre and expanded on the queenside. The pressure of the extra attacking move gained by not castling has actually had an exponential effect on Black’s queenside counterplay and could be held responsible for ‘wasting’ the knight’s time moving from c3-e2-g3, thus engineering a major strategical error in White’s plan which in turn brings about Black’s eventual win.’

Black did eventually castle - on move 20 – and won on move 45 with his King enjoying much more safety than is the Dragon norm.

There are a couple of other ways to avoid the pure Dragon, which can be found in the book. There’s also a special section looking at the Dragon skills of Magnus Carlsen.

There’s no doubt that the author has worked hard on his system and has shown admirable diligence to re-examine older games to unearth improvements. Watch out for a very interesting piece of analysis on the old Pterodactyl (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 g6 3 d4 Bg7 4 Nc3 Qa5), pioneered by GM Raymond Keene and IM Lawrence Day.

Readers are encouraged to appreciate the differences in two possible move-orders for Black, namely 1 …g6, 2 …Bg7, 3 …c5 and 1 …c5 2 …g6 3 …Bg7. White has extra options depending on which method is adopted by Black.

Against 1 d4 2 c4, players, there are two main ideas of interest. One recommendation is for Black to play the ‘Bermuda Triangle versus the White Arrow’.

Black has a number of plans here, including the pawn breaks …f5 and …b5 (after suitable preparation).

Another surprising line which has hitherto managed to slip between the cracks of theory is included in the Sniper’s store of ammunition.

4 …Bxc3+ ‘I love this move!’

Black will follow up with …Qa5 and …f5. Unprepared players with the White pieces will have a hard time sorting out the best way to proceed when they are caught off balance by 4 …Bxc3+. Indeed, the surprise element is a key factor for snipers. I like the unexpected pawn sacrifice which occurs in this position…

Black is now advised to break the bind with a pawn sacrifice, 8 …b6. Charlie makes a great case for this idea in the book, comparing it to the Benko Gambit. It reminds me more of a line from the Advance Caro-Kann…

…in which 11 …b6 has similar intentions.

There are 70 illustrative games, some of which have avoided being included on well-known databases. Themes and ideas are giving greater priority than the desire to detail a move-by-move repertoire. Indeed, players wanting to forge The Sniper into an all-embracing Black repertoire will still find they have some work to do. For example, coverage of the English Opening is confined to a single game snippet and there are one or two more divergences from the book’s material which will require independent analysis.

It is clear that FM Storey has worked very hard on The Sniper (both the opening and the book). It looks set to be one of the most interesting opening books of 2011.

With The Sniper currently flying high in various ‘best seller’ lists, apprentice marksmen are advised to get up and running as quickly as possible to avoid being left behind.

It’s important to remember that The Sniper as a concept is still a ‘work in progress’. The development of the system should accelerate now that Charlie’s analysis is out in the open. I was in the fortunate position of being able to ask The Sniper’s chief Commanding Officer about his manual and future plans. Tune in again tomorrow to read all about them in our exclusive interview.

Meanwhile, for further details of 'The Sniper' and all other Everyman Chess books, pop along to their official website.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Up Pompeii

Up Pompeii
Middlesbrough Theatre

As a fan of British comedy, I jumped at the chance of seeing a live version of 'Up Pompeii'. I was quite prepared to get my titters out and it's just as well, because it proved impossible to keep them in for very long at all.

The script, by Miles Tredinnick, was faithful to the style of Talbot Rothwell (the writer of the original series, plus numerous 'Carry On' films). Character names included 'Kretinous', 'Suspenda', 'Nausius' and 'Ludicrous Sextus'. 'Senna the Soothsayer' ('...a little of her goes a long way...') was another familiar character from the old series.

The plot, such as it was, revolved around the bawdy misunderstandings in a typical Roman household, all held up by an everlasting supply of double entendres.

Household slave Lurcio, the Up Pompeii linchpin, was played by Damian Williams (a familiar face from last year's tour of Hi-de-Hi, as was Ben Roddy as 'Corneous'). Instead of trying to imitate the great Frankie Howerd, Williams went his own way and this proved to be a good decision. He has enough comic personality of his own to be the front man of the show and his constant asides to the audience - often under the guise of trying to impart the prologue - kept things moving along at a terrific pace. On numerous occasions his facial expressions resulted in his fellow actors corpsing. In a show like this, it didn't spoil things at all.

The only thing missing was the occasional song, which would have been useful, at least for the start and finish of the show. (it worked for Hi-de-Hi last year).

We could all do with more laughs. Let's hope there are more of these revival plays on the way and that Damian Williams is again involved.


For further details, including tour dates, please click here.

Friday 25 February 2011

More Mongoose

I have added a small update to the Mongoose Times blog, about the forthcoming Candidates matches.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Bye, Bye Brigadier

R.I.P. Nicholas Courtney

A splendid chap - always a terrific and friendly convention guest. He will be greatly missed.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Chess Reviews: 172

Your Best Move
Per Ostman
222 pages
Everyman Chess

‘A structured approach to move selection in chess’, this book aims to provide ‘…a process to guide us in our ultimate search to find the best move’.

Chess teacher Per Ostman, influenced by GM Kotov’s classic works ‘Think Like a Grandmaster’ and ’Play Like a Grandmaster’, has spent ‘…years of searching and thinking’ on the problem and has decided ‘…it is time for me to share it with the chess community and let next runner take over the torch’.

The author defines the three essential building blocks required to find the best move, namely process, skills and knowledge. The material is presented in five main parts:

Candidate Moves

Each part is split into sub-sections, with charts sitting side by side with illustrative snippets from real games.

It’s an attempt to present an ideal template to guide one’s thinking skills into making a good decision when selecting a move. For example, when it comes to ‘Process’, the steps are given as: ‘Update’, ‘Select’, ‘Verify’, ‘Check’, ‘Execute’ and ‘Prepare’. This takes into account all of the phases which, in the author’s opinion, need to be taken into account. ‘Update’ starts with the information received from observing the opponent’s move and the steps in between are self-explanatory. ‘Prepare’ requires analysis during the opponent’s thinking time, in anticipation of the next ‘Update’.

The section on ‘Knowledge’ is the closest the book comes to being a regular primer, offering numerous instructive snippets. This part could be read as a series of mini-lessons. Here’s a simple example of ‘Knowledge’ in action:

1 h4? draws; 1 h3 reserves a pawn move in the tempo-game and White wins.

There’s also some advice on more obscure subjects, such as the physical side of things and how to approach a game against opponents rated significantly higher and lower.

It’s a ‘wordy’ book, best suited to people who are more interested in learning about the thinking process in chess than the latest developments in popular openings.

The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit
By IM Christoph Scheerer
336 pages
Everyman Chess

The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (1 d4 d5 2 e4) is an opening which enjoys a cult following but it has never been popular with the masses. Nevertheless, there has been plenty written about it, as the bibliography to this new book makes clear.

It is easy to see the appeal. White sacrifices a pawn, opens up a line or two and then seeks to deliver checkmate at the earliest opportunity. There are obviously downsides to the Blackmare-Diemer, otherwise everybody would be playing it. The author doesn’t claim that it is anything like a forced win for White (a refreshingly honest stance) but merely concludes that it is ‘….an uncompromising opening system with chances for both sides…’

At 336 pages, this is the largest of the offerings in this column. IM Sheerer leads the reader through 13 gambiteering chapters. He claims it is not a repertoire book or a complete guide, but rather it is ‘…meant as a stimulus to kindle an objective debate about the Blackmar-Diemer, and to introduce the opening to players who were previously unaware of it…’

There’s some interesting historical snippets at the start of each chapter, giving the background to the naming of variations such as The Lemberger Counter-Gambit and the Langeheinicke Defence (good names to drop down at your chess club) but the text itself is a shade variation-heavy (although there are useful, succinct summaries at the end of each chapter).

There’s no shortage of great attacking chess, but one stubborn Black defence continues to cause the biggest headaches for White.

1 d4 d5 2 e4 dxe4 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 f3 exf3 5 Nxf3 c6

The Ziegler Defence. White can continue with 6 Bc4 Bf5 7 0-0 e6 and now the older 8 Ne5 is examined, but falls short. The attention switches to 8 Ng5 – ‘The Alchemy Variation’.

Nine pages of analysis are given, with White having to accept he will remain a pawn or two down for some unclear attacking chances. As the Ziegler Defence is often quoted as being Black’s best defence, readers should be aware that they are likely to find themselves facing it on a regular basis, so this chapter requires very careful reading.

One thing to note, especially if you are considering using this book as a basis for a repertoire, is that all of the lines stem from
1 d4 d5 2 e4 dxe4 or 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 e4, so a certain amount of background reading will be required to work out what to do if Black declines the gambit (2 …e6 and 2 …c6, in particular, must be catered for).

Blackmar-Diemer players will definitely want to add this book to their chess libraries but it’s probably a little bit too densely plotted to attract casual
1 d4 players looking to pick up an occasional weapon with the minimum of study.

A Ferocious Opening Repertoire
By IM Cyrus Lakdawala
304 pages
Everyman Chess

The backbone of the repertoire is the Veresov (1 d4, 2 Nc3). It’s never been a popular way of playing, despite the occasional flurry of interest (usually following the publication of a new book). It doesn’t have the buccaneering style associated with the Blackmar-Diemer and other cult openings. Creating a 'ferocious repertoire' around 2 Nc3 is quite a task – but IM Lakdawala does have a go.

The introduction tells how the book was commissioned by dint of confusion surrounding numerous Veresov games on a database. The games were in fact played by the brother of the author (‘
I, on the other hand, had not played a single Veresov in my life’), Nevertheless, the commission went ahead and this big book is the resulting product.

The book begins with the better-known Veresov lines,
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bg5 Nbd7 4 f3 and 4 Qd3, plus other defences for Black after the initial couple of moves. To provide a full repertoire for White, chapters are included to cover transpositions to the French and Caro-Kann and the Dutch, Modern, Pirc, Philidor, various Benonis and other odds and ends.

The author makes an early apology for his
‘…occasional overly-goofy tone’.

‘It’s actually a mystery to me why most chess books are so formally written, as if the readers are Amish elders rather than the goofs and nerds most of us are! Besides, I can’t help it. The dangerous combination of Jimi Hendrix and Buddhist chants blasting away on the CD player while I write induces such outbursts!’

As promised, there is levity throughout the book. I find such an approach somewhat juvenile.

Referring to his brother Jimmy’s rise through the ranks
‘...without ever studying a single chess book!’ he claims it as ‘A feat only the young Capa matched’. This is shortly followed by a comment saying that: ‘Besides Jimmy, the other founding fathers of the opening were Savielly Tartakower…’ Elsewhere, the author’s own Internet blitz games rub shoulders with serious games played by the likes of Botvinnik.

One presumes the author’s tongue is placed firmly in his cheek, but there is a fine line which must tread extremely carefully: is the author taking his work seriously and if not, should the reader?

White’s two main options contrast in soundness.
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 d5 3 Bg5 Nbd7 4 f3 can lead to mayhem such as this:

4 Qd3, on the other hand, has a much less ferocious nature. After the logical 4 …c5 the recommendation is 5 Nf3 and after the moves 5 …cxd4 6 Qxd4 e6 7 e4 Bc5 Qa4 0-0 9 exd5

The main illustrative game features a bad blunder by Black with 9 …Bxf2+?? Two alternatives are given in the notes: one is a blitz game and the other a line of analysis. There are improvements in both lines:

9 …Qb6 10 0-0-0 Bxf2 11 dxe6 fxe6 and White’s edge comes against the weakness of e6.
11 …Qxe6 is mentioned, but the Queen apparently ‘…gets kicked around’ if she takes on e6. Is that really going to be the case, and if so, is it going to end up worse than passively watching the e6 pawn drop off?

9 …exd5 10 0-0-0 Nb6 11 Qh4 Be7 12 Bd3 h6 13 Bxh6 gxh6 14 Qxh6 Qd6 when ‘…Maybe Black survives, but I wouldn’t bet on it’. 11 …h6 improves on this line, calling White’s bluff. The compromised Kingside pawn structure after 12 Bxf6 Qxf6 13 Qxf6 gxf6 doesn’t seem fatal to me; Black’s Bishops look potent.

Trying to cover such major topics as the French Defence as part of a repertoire is always going to be tricky, especially as White is clearly committed to lines starting with
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 (by transposition). Against the Winawer, the author recommends (3 …Bb4) 4 exd5 and the Classical is met by (3 …Nf6) 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e5 Nfd7 6 h4 – the Alekhine-Chatard Attack. Minor lines are given short shrift, for example: 5 …Ne4 6 Bxe7 Qxe7 7 Nxe4 dxe4 8 Qe2 ‘…a key move which comes close to a refutation of this line…’ and now looking only at 8 …Bd7, neglecting the more common suggestion of
8 …b6.

I ended up feeling unconvinced by this book and would recommend that readers apply some judicious cross-referencing with other works to bolster and/or replace parts of the recommended repertoire before trying it out in their own games.

For further details regarding all Everyman chess books, pop along to their official website.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Chess Reviews: 171

New in Chess Magazine
2011 # 1

New in Chess Magazine has changed! Or, in the words of publisher Allard Hoogland, ‘We believe it hasn’t changed; it has just become better’.

Physically, the magazine is larger – very nearly A4 in size. Why the change, after 26 years of uniformity? ‘Printing technology, photograph quality and improved desktop publishing programs, to name just a few factors, have created so many new possibilities that, frankly, the small format started to feel as an encumbrance’.

It’s a big, colourful magazine, with 105 packed pages. The breakdown of contents generally retains a familiar feel but there are a couple of surprises.

Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam’s report on the London Chess Classic is an excellent example of how a tournament report should be presented. The top games have annotations by the players themselves and there are lots of astute observations on the behind the scenes activities. I was unable to attend the Classic this time due to heavy work commitments so I really appreciated this fine report.

The other two stand-out pieces were written by Jimmy Adams and Nigel Short respectively. Jimmy’s appreciation of Larry Evans is a beautiful balance between research and readability.

Nigel’s contribution is the first in a new series of columns from the former challenger for the World Championship. It’s everything one would expect: pointed, controversial and, above all, entertaining. Taking a swipe at ‘…every Tom, Dick or Harry’ who ‘…now feels entitled to annotate any grandmaster game’, he concludes: ‘The result, all too often, is an appalling lack of humanity that ignores or, to be more precise, is completely unaware of the very essence of chess’.

‘Just Checking’, the column that asks quick questions of chess stars, features none other than Garry Kasparov.

Question: ‘What is your greatest fear?’

Answer: ‘Irrelevance’.

It’s hard to foresee a time when such a word will be attached to the name of Kasparov or, indeed, to ‘New in Chess Magazine’.

The Modern Scandinavian
By GM Matthias Wahls, GM Karsten Mueller and IM Hannes Langrock
368 pages
New in Chess

There have been two previous books by Matthias Wahls on the Scandinavian Defence (1 e4 d5), namely Modernes Skandinavisch 1’ and Modernes Skandinavisch 2’, published in Germany in 1997 and 2006 respectively.

This new, English language edition has been augmented by additional input from co-authors GM Karsten Mueller and IM Hannes Langrock.

It’s tempting to play an opening White can’t avoid and after 1 e4 d5 Black has already achieved his liberating central break. Yet both 2 …Qxd5 and 2 …Nf6 both have their tricky moments. This book focuses firmly on the former and eschews the more eccentric variations, preferring 3 Nc3 Qa5 to other Queen moves.

There has been something of a revolution in the Scandinavian Defence in recent years, as GM Wahls correctly acknowledges: ‘When ‘Modernes Skandinavisch 1’ appeared nine years ago, on one could have guessed how popular the line with 2…Qxd5 would one day become. Moreover, at the time it was regarded to be insufficient to achieve equality, or even unsound’.

There have been a number of books on it, so what does this new one have to offer? It definitely takes a different approach. In fact, it’s much more of a middlegame textbook than an opening tome.

‘Of course, we are discussing only those typical middlegame structures which arise in the Scandinavian Defence. All the important plans, pawn structures and a multiplicity of strategic and tactical motifs will be presented through the medium of whole games’

The downside of the increased respect afforded to 1 e4 d5 is apparent too: ‘Since players with white have had to accept that the Scandinavian is an opening which must be taken seriously, they have started to work out methods to combat it. The most dangerous of these in our opinion is the Kupreichik Variation, which arises after the moves: 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 c6 Bc4 Nf6 6 Bd2. Our recommendation here is unambiguous: it is best simply to avoid it’. The advice is to change the move-order with 4 …Nf6, which grants Black some extra options.

The recommended repertoire heads for this solid position: 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Bf5 6 Bc4 e6 7 Bd2 c6

The book considers each possible central structure, depending on how White chooses to play. For example, there are lines in which White plays an early Nf3-e5 and meets Nxe5 with dxe5, changing the pawn formation. Other variations involve White playing d2-d3 instead of d2-d4.

Black sometimes has the opportunity to play very aggressively, setting up his pieces with Nc6, …Bg4 and …0-0-0. This is dubbed ‘The Viking Centre’.

‘Just like Vikings in their day, Black gets down to business and goes after his opponent at once’.

The book concludes with a series of exercises to test the reader’s Scandinavian skill, followed by a ‘Theoretical Appendix’, detailing the suggested Black repertoire. It’s an impressive work and it is clear that a lot of effort has been put in by the authors. Fans of 1 e4 d5 will find it required reading, but there is a lot more on offer than merely guiding the Scandinavian faithful through their favourite opening; the middlegame wisdom imparted should be of interest to all practical players.

Secrets of Opening Surprises
Volume 13
Editor: Jeroen Bosch
144 pages
New in Chess

The ‘Secrets of Opening Surprises’ (‘SOS’) series has proved inspirational not just in terms of giving club and tournament players some barnstorming – and sometimes dubious – weapons, but also in the chess publishing world, where collections of shocking novelties and unusual opening twists have become popular.

Right at the start, the reader is given a summary (in diagram form) of each of the SOS ideas they are about to see. This certainly whets the appetite; each SOS volume constitutes compulsive, page-turning reading.

The first chapter, ‘The SOS Files’, sees Jeroen Bosch discussing recent developments in lines given by previous volumes. Bright and breezy illustrative games are given, usually demonstrating crushing miniatures.

Volume 13 presents some real shockers and it’s amazing how many of them occur so early in the game. Arthur Kogan advocates 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Qe2 against the Sicilian Najdorf:

Simon Williams suggest an anti-Grunfeld on move 3 (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 h4), Dimitri Reinderman looks to create ‘Panic in the London’ with 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d6 3 Bf5 Nh5.

The North Sea Defence (1 e4 g6 2 d4 Nf6) has been receiving a little bit of attention since Magnus Carlsen tried it (unsuccessfully) against Michael Adams at the 2010 Olympiad. Jeroen Bosch uses that game as the focal point of his article. The final surprise comes in the Italian Game. Ian Rogers analyses 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 Bxd2 8 Qxd2 (instead of the well-known continuation 8 Nbxd2).

It’s all daring stuff, with risks for both sides. The coverage is usually short and sweet and there’s not much to learn. All in all, the SOS series continues to offer an excellent antidote to anyone suffering from the heavy burden of the modern day opening theory boom.

New in Chess Yearbook
248 pages
New in Chess

The successful Yearbook series continues to impress. Soon, if all goes well, it will celebrate its 100th issue.

The current volume includes 34 opening surveys. They are presented in the usual way, with an expert devoting a page or two to a prose introduction, followed by four or five pages of relevant, annotated games. The annotations are generally language-less but there is the occasional piece of explanatory prose.

Highlights this time include GM Sveshnikov on the Advance French, Jeroen Bosch on the somewhat neglected Tarrasch Defence and a brace of articles on the Exchange Variation of the Grunfeld Defence by Glenn Flear and A.C. van der Tack respectively. Occasionally, very unusual openings are given the survey treatment. This time, Krzysztof Panczyk and Jacek Ilczuk take a look at the North Sea Defence, which is worth reading alongside the SOS coverage mentioned above.

In addition to the surveys, there is also the Forum, which allows readers to discuss opening developments and to respond to earlier articles.Sosonko’s Corner’ is always interesting. This time, the Grandmaster focuses on the development of chess theory and the impact of the computer. With players of the calibre of GM Kamsky finding it hard work to work on openings 10-12 hours a day, there’s a temptation for club players to see chess as a game way beyond their powers. However, GM Sosonko remains optimistic and relatively upbeat about the situation:

‘…one should not forget that is only the initial stage of the game, that after the opening one must play for oneself, even if memory and home preparation play a greater role than before.’

Tucked away at the end of the book are Glenn Flear’s ‘Book Reviews’, which are generally optimistic in nature. This time he looks at ‘The Complete c3 Sicilian’ (NiC), ‘The Sicilian Defence’ (Quality Chess), ‘The Caro-Kann’ (Quality Chess) and ‘Play the London System’ (Everyman Chess).

The Yearbooks are serious works for serious players. Lesser experienced will derive have more fun from the SOS series.

Full details of New in Chess products can be found at the NiC website.

News just in...

Anand wins 2010 Opening Novelty Award

Viswanathan Anand has won the New In Chess Yearbook 2010 Opening Novelty of the Year award. Yearbook Editor Genna Sosonko presented the World Champion with his prize in Wijk aan Zee. Vishy Anand’s novelty, which he played on April 28, 2010 in the fourth game of his World Championship Match in Sofia against Veselin Topalov, was voted the Opening Novelty of the Year. The internet voting competition was created by New In Chess Yearbook, the Chess Player’s Guide to Opening News, which appears four times a year.

‘Novelty? Which novelty?’, was Anand’s first reaction when Sosonko told him at the Tata Steel Chess Tournament that he was the winner of the award. Indeed, Anand has played so many novelties in 2010.

The Yearbook readers had judged that Anand’s move 10.Na3! was the novelty with the greatest impact of 2010, as it brought Anand his first victory in his match with Topalov. 29 % of the voters favoured Anand’s move.

The game was analysed in Yearbook 95 by 16-year old Grandmaster Anish Giri, in an appendix to Evgeny Vladimirov’s Survey on the Catalan. GM Dmitry Yakovenko’s ‘torpedo move’ 12.Ncb5 in the Exchange Ruy Lopez came second with 22% of the vote. Yakovenko played this move in his game against Ernesto Inarkiev in Odessa. This line can be found in Emil Anka’s Survey in Yearbook 96.

A close and quite remarkable third place (21% of the vote) was earned by young untitled Dutch player Lars Ootes, who invented the knight move from c7 to a8 in a sacrificial line of the Sveshnikov Sicilian and was able to play it twice, as René Olthof described in the Forum of Yearbook 97.

New In Chess Yearbook, the Chess Player’s Guide to Opening News, is a quarterly publication of 250 pages covering chess opening news from all over the world. The Yearbook started in 1987 and it is proud to be the only yearbook which appears four times a year. The 2010 Opening Novelty of the Year Award included a cheque of 350 Euro ($500). Between the Anand-voters a one-year subscription to the Yearbook has been raffled. The winner is Mrs Claire Blaha of Switzerland. Last year GM Daniel Stellwagen won the 2009 Yearbook Novelty of the Year for his discovery in the Bayonet King’s Indian game against Loek van Wely in Amsterdam.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Chess Reviews: 170

Victor Korchnoi
My Best Games
Anniversary Edition

Grandmaster Victor Korchnoi will celebrate his 80th birthday on March 23rd. In Victor's honour, Olms are publishing an updated version of 'My Best Games', featuring ten newly annotated games alongside a compilation of 100 previously published efforts.

A full review of the book will naturally follow here in due course, but as a special treat I have been granted permission to publish a couple of extracts from the eagerly anticipated volume.

The first extract features a game I became aware of when I first started to study the games of GM Korchnoi, in the early 1980s. It appealed to me as I was very interested in the Dutch Defence at that time.

Of course, the Dutch didn't remain a part of Victor's repertoire - he has had some scathing words regarding it's 'merits' over the years! Nevertheless, this game is a good one for fans of 1 d4 f5 to study and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Taimanov – Korchnoi
Leningrad Championship 1950
Dutch Defence
(Notes by GM Korchnoi, © Edition Olms)

This was my first ‘adult’ tournament, played on a stage ‘for adults’. And here my opponent was Mark Taimanov, for many years the strongest player in Leningrad. He was a few years older than me, and had already taken part in top-ranking competitions for the USSR Championship. I noted that Taimanov had received a good chess education. Compared with him, I looked like a self-taught ignoramus. And that’s probably how it was. Much that a player of my class and age should have been familiar with was unknown to me, and would have to be learned in the course of independent work over the next ten to fifteen years.

1 d4 e6

Journalists used to ask me how it was that from my early years I began playing the French Defence. Obviously it was under the influence of Mikhail Botvinnik.

2 g3 f5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 Nf3 Be7 5 0–0 0–0 6 c4 d6

At one time, when I was a candidate master and even a master, in reply to 1 d4 I played only the Dutch Defence. Here too I was influenced by Botvinnik. To be honest, it is not a very logical opening, but it is an interesting and aggressive one. I tried all the branches of the Dutch, and I quite quickly realised that the ‘stonewall’ did not suit my style. Apparently I had not yet learned how to fight for the initiative, whereas I felt the weaknesses of my pawn structure like a pain in my own body. I also tried the Leningrad Variation, ascertained that few understood it, and that I myself was blundering about in the dark. As a result, I settled on the most modest variety of the Dutch with 6…d6.

7 Nc3 Qe8 8 Qc2

One of the best moves here is 8 Re1 with the aim of playing e2-e4. Then, as is well known, 8…Qg6 is insufficient – White nevertheless plays 9 e4, and if Black captures everything on e4, after 12 Nh4 he loses his queen.

8...Qh5 9 b3

9 e4 is unconvincing on account of 9…e5!. It its time this was an important discovery.

9...Nc6 10 Bb2

10 Ba3!? is also not bad. This, incidentally, was played by Botvinnik himself.


11 a3

White has also played 11 Rad1, which looks even stronger. However, the move a2-a3 contains the threat of d4-d5, which up till now Black has been ignoring, since he had the reply …Nb4 followed by …e6-e5, obtaining quite good attacking chances on the kingside. But now d4-d5 is a serious threat.

However, if Black makes the waiting, but probably useful move 11...Kh8, then if 12 d5 he can reply 12…Nd8 13 dxe6 Nxe6 with a perfectly playable position, or after 13 Nd4 he can play 13…e5, when 14 Ndb5 promises little in view of the reply 14…c6.


But this move is equivalent to a blunder: Black obviously overlooked White’s following manoeuvre.

12 d5 Nd8

This is how Black usually plays – after all, taking on d5 (whether White recaptures with knight or pawn) leads to very strong pressure for White on the queenside.

13 Nd4 e5

To avoid loss of material, Black should have played 13...c6 and in the event of 14 dxe6 recaptured on e6 with his bishop. From the strategic point of view this is not very favourable, but sometimes from two evils you have to choose the lesser.

14 Ndb5

Black is obviously losing a pawn. Will he have compensation for it?

14…Nf7 15 Nxc7 Rc8 16 Ne6

The knight cannot return to b5: after 16…a6 it will be trapped.

16...Bxe6 17 dxe6 Ng5

It has somehow turned out that Black’s position is not yet completely lost. The knight on f3, which earlier was defending the white king, has been exchanged. Now the white king has few defenders and an attack may suddenly flare up. Apparently my opponent also sensed that the victorious knight manoeuvre had led to a position where he would have to defend.

18 Nd5

Was 18 Bxb7 possible? It is clear that the black knights, approaching close to the white king, are able to create a mass of threats. Say, 18 Bxb7 Ng4 19 h4 Nh3+ 20 Kg2 Nhxf2 with the threat of …Ne3+. However, to me this attack did not seem convincing, and instead of this in analysis I tried playing differently: 18...Nh3+ 19 Kh1 Ng4. It is obvious that after 20 Bxc8? Nf4 21 h4 Bxh4 White will soon be mated. After 20 Nd5 Rc7! 21 Bc6 Nf4 22 Nxe7+ Rxe7 23 h4 Ng6 again mate is not far off. Half a century later I analysed this position with the aid of a computer, and it indicated a move with which White would have repelled the attack: 20 e3! with the idea after f2-f4 of including the queen in the defence of the kingside. Even so, in the age of ‘human’ chess 18 Nd5 would appear to be the best solution: Black’s dangerous king’s knight has to be exchanged!

18...Nxd5 19 Bxd5 f4

Of course, Black also considered …e5-e4, cutting off the bishop on d5 from the kingside, but in this case the f6-square would have been under White’s control, and Black would not have had the possibility of switching his rook to h6.

20 f3?

I remember that my opponent had run into time-trouble. And to avoid the worst he decided to run with his king away from the danger zone. But half a century later, with my ‘silicon friend’ Fritz 7, however hard I tried, after 20 Bxb7 I was unable to find sufficient compensation for the two lost pawns. After 20…f3 it is not hard to find compensation for one pawn, but not for two!

20...fxg3 21 hxg3 Qh3 22 Kf2?

22 Rf2 was more resilient. White overlooks a tactical stroke, which breaks up his position still further.

22...Nxf3! 23 Ke3

Or 23 Bxf3 Rxf3+ 24 Kxf3 Rf8+ 25 Ke4 Qg2+ 26 Kd3 Rxf1 (26...Qxg3+? 27 e3) 27 Rxf1 Qxf1. Because of the bad position of his king, White loses a pawn, and perhaps even two.

23...Nd4 24 Qd1 Qxg3+ 25 Rf3

If 25 Bf3, then 25...Bg5+ 26 Kd3 e4+!, and White is either mated, or he loses a piece.

25...Nxf3 26 exf3 b5 27 Qh1 bxc4 28 bxc4 Rb8 29 Bc3 Rb3 30 Kd3 Qf2 31 Qe1 e4+ 32 Bxe4 Rxf3+ 33 Bxf3 Qxf3+ 34 Kc2 Rxc3+ 35 Kb2 Rb3+ 0–1

White lost on time.

There will be more on this book very soon. Meanwhile, keep up to date with Olms chess books over at their official website.

Monday 14 February 2011

Chess Reviews: 169

1001 Deadly Checkmates
By GM John Nunn
304 pages
Gambit Publications

In the Preface, GM Murray Chandler (author of the classic
How to Beat Your Dad at Chess’) describes ‘1001 Deadly Checkmates’ as ‘….a sort of How to Beat Your Dad Workbook … where solving the positions reinforces and expands your checkmate pattern-recognition'.

The comment nicely sets the scene for the contents of this new puzzle book. Anyone familiar with the basic checkmate patterns is ready to start tackling the 1001 positions given by GM Nunn. Recognising the patterns can come in useful at all levels of play and a gap in one's knowledge can have fatal consequences even for those playing at the highest of levels, as the following snippet shows.

Nunn – Portisch
World Cup, Reykjavik 1988

32 …Rg8

‘Then came a shock. I crashed through with 33 Qxh7+! and for a moment Portisch looked stunned. At first he couldn’t see the point of the queen sacrifice; then he realized that is was a forced mate…’

‘If a strong Grandmaster such as Portisch can overlook a mating pattern, then anybody can’.

So it makes sense for us all to become as familiar as we possibly can with checkmate patterns.

The author spent six months working on this volume and '...two-thirds of the time spent writing the book was used on the selection of material'. Furthermore, it is ‘...based on mates that actually occur in games. Over 95% of the positions are from the year 2000 or later, so the vast majority will be new even to those who have read previous puzzle books’.

There are six positions per page, all neatly presented in chapters arranged by the following themes:

Elementary Mates
Back-Rank Mates
Mates in the Endgame
The Lethal Long Diagonal
Pawn-Promotion Mates
Mates with Rook and Minor Piece
Deadly Doubled Rooks
Destroying the Defences
Death on the Rook’s File
Queen Sacrifices
Mate by Line-Opening
Mate by Blocking Squares
Mate Involving Double or Discovered Check
Hunting the King
Miscellaneous Mates
Mate Revision Test
Extreme Mate Challenge

Here’s a randomly chosen selection for you to try.

Sedina – Tkeshelashvili
European Women’s Championship, 2003

White to play
Clue: ‘Mate by Blocking Squares’

Beeke – G.Klein
Maastricht 2008

White to play
Clue: ‘Mate in the Endgame’

Lutz - Ftacnik
Bundesliga 2001

White to play
Clue: ‘Extreme Mate Challenge’

The material is very fresh, so readers may take a little longer to solve the puzzles as opposed to those taken from classic encounters. As pleasant as it is to see the Lasker - Bauer double Bishop sacrifice in puzzle books, an influx of variety does no harm at all.

The book can be used in several ways, for example:

a) As a disciplined course of work, using a chapter each time and carefully collating the scores after each test.

b) For a quick mental warm up before a match or tournament.

c) Ideal for coaches to quickly prepare lessons by checkmate theme.

There's also a scoring system for the reader to assess his skill in a numerical way, but I suspect most people will prefer to dip in and out of the puzzles at will.

This is an excellent collection of checkmate puzzles and one which I thoroughly enjoyed trying.

For further details regarding all of the Gambit range, please visit their website.