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.

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