Sunday, 20 March 2011

Chess Reviews: 174

It’s a busy time for chess books, with numerous new titles from a plethora of publishers being unleashed at virtually the same time. I intend to cover all the recent releases over the course of the next two review columns. This time, opening books will the focus of attention and column 175 will take a look at instructional, self-improvement books.

As I mentioned a short time ago, individual reviews will be shorter and snappier as the column evolves. Issue 175 should be available next Sunday, after which I am intending to switch to a bi-monthly column, going into less detail but offering broader strokes on all of the recent releases. However, outstanding products will be given additional space - usually with a feature all to themselves - either here or elsewhere.

The Zukertort System:
A Guide for White and Black
By IM Grigory Bogdanovich
340 pages
Mongoose Press

White’s first few moves in the Zukertort System are fairly predictable. With a small degree of variable routes, one can expect to see 1 d4, 2 Nf3, 3 e3, 4 b3, 5 Bb2 and 6 Bd3. White’s position will be very solid but his harmonious pieces can look forward to coordinating in an attack against the enemy King.

The main battle is usually deferred until after the opening phase has been completed. As GM Artur Yusupov puts it in his foreword, ‘Readers will get the opportunity not only to familiarize themselves with the different variations and setups, but also to study many typical middlegame ideas that have universal value.’

The book is two main parts, wit chapters 1-9 focusing on ‘Play for White’ and 10-14 looking at ‘Play for Black’. IM Bogdanovich has over 25 years of experience in the Zukertort System so is perfectly qualified to present a book about it. There’s no shortage of prose explanations to guide the reader through the various plans and ideas for both sides. The index is of themes rather than the names of players and this is a smart move given the nature of the positions in question.

There are plenty of illustrative games, dating from the days of Blackburne and his contemporaries up to current times. The Zukertort System has attracted a formidable group of adherents over the years - including World Champions - albeit mainly as a surprise weapon.
At club level, where an attacking initiative is often already a point in the bag, the Zukertort can be an excellent choice. It’s certainly not easy to lose quickly with it, so it can be used against theory hounds too.

I found this to be a very well-written work with the hard-working author keen to instill in the reader a real understanding of the typical Zukertort positions. It's the pick of the bunch from column 174.

The Gambit Files
Tactical Themes to Sharpen Your Play
By Bill Harvey
156 pages
Mongoose Press

Bill Harvey is in a combative mood from his Introduction onwards. ‘Gambits are a remedy for chessplayers who have become complacent’.

'The Gambit Files’ aims to increase the reader’s knowledge of a number of sharp openings, namely:

The Lisitsin Gambit
Scandinavian Defense - Portuguese Gambit
Caro-Kann Fantasy Variation
The Wing Gambit
Grand Prix Attack - Tal Gambit
French Defense - Milner-Barry Attack
The Rosentreter Gambit
Petroff’s Defense - Cochrane’s Gambit
The Scotch Gambit
Ruy Lopez - Gajewski Gambit
The Albin Countergambit
The Winawer Countergambit
The Geller Gambit
The Blumenfeld Gambit
Queen’s Indian Defense - Polugaevsky Variation

The book adopts an unusual approach:‘...the author surveys the common tactical motifs for each variation, and then invites you to hone your cut-and-thrust skills with thematic puzzles’.
There are 237 such puzzles for the reader to try.

There is very little in the way of theory and the historical development of the gambits. Instead, the emphasis is placed firmly on positions of a tactical nature. This makes various assumptions regarding the reader’s knowledge (or library). However, gambiteers will doubtless obtain a greater understanding of their favourite openings via the method of pattern recognition. Similar positions should almost certainly appear in the reader's own games.

One can certainly read it as a tactical primer for certain openings but it can also be used as a collection of general exercises to sharpen tactical vision, whether the openings are in the reader’s repertoire or not.

As usual with books from Mongoose Press, 'The Gambit Files' is an attractive production (as is the Zukertort volume).

By the way, the author has an interesting website featuring a large array of puzzles and problems. If you like his work there, then you will like his book too.

The Mongoose Press website includes details of all of their books. It is worth noting that they also run a 'Contest of the Week' on Facebook, with a book prize for the winners.

Sicilian Attacks
Powerful Charges and Typical Attacks

By Yury Yakovich
208 pages
New in Chess

‘Sicilian Attacks’ arranges its material according to structure:

Scheveningen Structure
Taimanov Structure
Rauzer Structure
d6/e5 Structure
Dragon Structure

This is not a book which suggests a specific repertoire (for either colour) but it does offer coverage of the various plans and tactical ideas associated with positions in which castling on opposite sides has occurred.

There are 32 illustrative games. Some are very recent, but a number classics from the past are analysed anew, such as the classic Tal - Larsen encounter from their 1965 match. The game receives 10 pages of coverage and it's a good example as to the depth of analysis in the book.

Tal - Larsen
Candidates Match, 1965

Larsen played 17 ...f5!? and went on to lose the game (and the match). GM Yakovich spends nearly four pages on an analysis of the alternative 17 ...g6, giving some real brain twisting variations.

The material is quite advanced and would suit serious tournament players. The conclusions at the end of each chapter are welcome and effective.

Further details of New in Chess products can be found here.

Unorthodox Chess Openings
By GM Valeri Lilov
5 hours and 16 minutes

FM Lilov turns his attention to unusual openings on his latest DVD, aiming to ‘…provide you with more weapons for the opening stage’. I was expecting lectures on just a small number of well-known disreputable lines but I was surprised by the scope of the material. The openings he covers are:

Double Fianchetto
Richter Veresov
Anderssen, Larsen and Grob
Wing Gambit
Fantasy Varaition
Chigorin Variation
Center Game
Danish Gambit
Chicago Gambit
Blackmar Diemer and Omega Gambit
Nimzowitsch Defence
St. George
Gurgenidze Variation
Balogh and Kingston
Latvian, Elephant and Greco
Chigorin Defence
Albin’s Countergambit
Budapest Gambit
Polish Defence and Englund Gambit
Opening Formations

Some of the openings are covered from White’s point of view but the rest are intended to inspire Black. Needless to say, opening surprises often involve gambit play (usually classed as dubious by chess professors) and the reader’s own playing style will be a big factor in whether or not the unorthodox lines considered here will actually appear in your own competitive battles.

It is becoming quite trendy to head for uncharted waters in the opening, especially with club players who have realised they cannot spend the time to keep a Grandmaster’s repertoire up to date. Some of the names were new to me, such as the Omega Gambit (1 d4 Nf6 2 e4) and Chicago Gambit 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nxe5...

FM Lilov has a friendly style of delivery. I have sometimes found the material his DVDs a little too light, prone to leaving too much to the viewer’s imagination, but I think his style fits this particular presentation well, but he does somewhat over sell these unorthodox openings. Club players will have fun trying some of these lines, which will work best as surprise weapons. However, I do think he is a little overoptimistic about the validity of playing such openings at a level up to ELO 2500. The majority of them should be OK as experiments in your local club championship, but probably not much higher than that.

A Modern Way to Play the King’s Indian
By GM Dejan Bojkov
Five hours

While acknowledging the classical heritage of the King’s Indian Defence (GM David Bronstein’s annotations to the Zurich 1953 Interzonal in particular), the Bulgarian Grandmaster presents a repertoire based around a more modern interpretation, namely the development of the Queen’s Knight to a6 (as in this position from the Classical Variation).

The introduction points out that the ...Na6 can be more positional than the more cut and thrust main lines of the King's Indian. White's e-pawn can come under sustained fire once the Knight establishes itself at c5.

He presents his material in the following way:

Petrosian System
Cheparinov’s Idea 8 Be3 Ng4 9 Bg5 Qe8 10 c5
Avoiding the Exchange 10 h3/Re1
Main Line 10 dxe5 (3 parts)
8 Re1
Gligoric System 7 Be3 e5
Rare Moves
Zaemisch System 5…0-0 6 Be3 c5
Zaemisch System 5…0-0 6 Bg5 a6 7 Qd2 Nbd7 8 Nh3 c5
Four Pawns Attack: 5…0-0 5 Nf3 Na6 7 Be2 e5
Four Pawns Attack: 5…0-0 5 Nf3 Na6 7 Bd3 Bg4
The g3-System: 4…0-0 5 Bg2 d6 6 Nfr3 c6 7 0-0 Qa5 (2 parts)
Bagirov System
Averbakh System
Rare Moves

The presenter has a quiet voice but his English is perfectly good. He runs through the material quickly and it is generally of a high level. Inexperienced students will find it difficult to follow; this DVD is best suited to advanced players who already have a sound understanding of the King's Indian Defenced and are looking to expand their knowledge.

Please visit the ChessBase website for details about all of their products.

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