Tuesday 31 May 2011

CSC Update

There's a little update by me on the activities and successes of the Chess in Schools and Communities project here.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Chess Reviews: 179

Here's a round-up of the latest chess products aimed at self-improvement, aimed at various levels of player from juniors to experienced tournament players.

Chess Openings For Kids
By IM John Watson and FM Graham Burgess
128 pages

Readers who are familiar with Gambit's earlier works, 'How to Beat Your Dad at Chess' and 'Chess Tactics for Kids', will recognise this as the next volume in the series. This time, IM Watson, '...arguably the world's foremost writer on chess openings', has been drafted in to assist the Gambit team.

The idea of the book is to provide basic information for juniors on 50 Mighty Openings. Six pages of introductory comments, highlighting the merits of thing such as development, King safety and pawn structure. Then it's on to the 50 Mighty Openings in question. These include all of the classics, starting with the Giuoco Piano and ending up with the Reti Opening. Each one received a double-page spread of coverage, with good notes and plenty of diagrams to explain the first few moves.

There are some test at the end of the book. Readers are first asked to identify a series of openings by the moves alone and then prompted to provide the moves relevant to a set of named openings. Finally, there are 36 test positions, based on opening traps. Here's a sample to try.

White to move

The book is augmented by illustrations from Cindy McCluskey. These add further interest for juniors and feature subjects such as The Grand Prix Attack (some chess pieces chasing the enemy King around in sporty car) and The Reversed Dragon (a mythical beast practicing what appears to be a yoga position).

The book succeeds in its aim. Juniors, familiar with the moves and basic tactics and now wanting to take the next step, should be able to strengthen their play and worry their opponents with some judicious name-dropping.

The sturdy hardback cover is not only attractive; it should extend the life of the book too (an important consideration when books are placed into the hands of juniors!).

Improve Your Chess Tactics
By Yakov Neishtadt
383 pages

Yakov Neishtadt is a very experienced author and certainly no stranger to books with a tactical flavour. Here, he offers a book which is '...aimed at a wide range of chess amateurs...' which '...may also be used by an experienced player, a master, or even a grandmaster. Even he will find many positions that are unknown to him, and which he can use to show his own pupils'.

Following a short essay on 'The Alpha and Omega of Chess' - explaining various pieces of terminology and defining the nature of a combination - it's straight into the action, with the reader invited to solve the first 380 puzzles. These are arranged by the standard themes.

The second part of the book offers the remaining positions (up to 736) in the form of an examination. Readers are given little in the way of clues in this section and must discover the relevant theme for themselves, followed (hopefully) by the solution.

I found the section of 'Miracle Saves' to be the most entertaining.

White to play
Produce a miracle save

It's a great collection, featuring positions form every phase of the game and set out very nicely by New in Chess. The main test pages typically feature six positions so the pages are never cluttered. Improving club players should have a good time testing their tactical skill.

ChessBase have started three more new series, starting with...

Chess Expertise Step by Step

Volume 1: Unexpected Tactics

Volume 2: Mastering Strategy

Both volumes by
GM Efstratios Grivas
Experienced writer, player and coach GM Grivas presents the first two DVDs.

The material on volume is arranged thus:

About the Author
Mate on the Back Rank
The Dancing Knights
Queen Sac Around the King
A King’s March
The f4 Break
Initiative Sacrifices

Although the material on these DVDs is well chosen, I am not a great fan of the presentation. I found the distinct lack of eye contact and monotone, heavily accented voice made the lectures hard going, even though the presenter goes over the examples quickly (sometimes taking just a minute or so).

Doubtless they are all very good examples of tactics but the problems with the presentation are quite important; I don't think the style of delivery brings the material to life in a significant way.

Here's a well-known sample of what to expect in terms of the actual material.

Nigel Short's famous quote: ‘Modern chess is too much concerned with things like pawn structure. Forget it – checkmate ends the game’ has rarely been better demonstrated than in his own game with Jan Timman.

Short – Timman
Tilburg 1991

I'm sure you know how the game continued (and if you don't combine the hint given in Short's quote with a little King power!).

Volume 2's material is arranged in the following order:

Strategy Mastering
The Important f5 Square
The Useless Isolani
Emptying the Queenside
The a7 Forepost
Small Advantages
The Weak d5-Square

The presentation problems remain, which is a pity, because the material is again quite interesting. For instance, in the case of 'Small Advantages', Grivas demonstrates some fine play by the King of the Candidates.

Howell – Gelfand
Amsterdam 2010

Boris Gelfand, the new challenger for the World Championship title, managed to turn the drawish position above into this:

Maybe future volumes will see an improvement in the style of presentation, otherwise the problems mentioned above will prove to be very off putting to viewers.

Tactics From Basics to Brilliance
Volume 1
By FM Valerio Lilov
5 hours and 30 minutes

The second new series concerns tactics.

In his introduction, FM Lilov encourages viewers to watch every video lecture on the DVD and take written notes on each one to assist the learning process.

He opines that there are two main ways to win a chess game, namely checkmate or by winning an important amount of material. The advice given is to create a weak point in the enemy camp and then apply '...the highest amount of pieces put against the weakness'. Lilov stresses that tactics are the final part of a successful strategic idea and should be seen in that context. There follows some advice on the nature of tactical targets, with the emphasis on forced variations.

Perhaps you can find some forced variations to help Black here.

Black to move – is he in trouble?

It looks that way, until one discovers the forced checkmate in four moves.

Then he runs through various tactical themes and ideas, such as ‘Sacrifices’, ‘Combinations’, ‘Blockade’ and ‘Interpose’.

Can you, dear reader, discover an example of the latter theme in this position?

White to play

The Outro encourages students to practice tactics ‘…working every day or every possible moment on tactical puzzles and combinations’.

I haven't always enjoyed the works of FM Lilov (I found his earlier DVDs to be very patchy). However, I think he has found his niche with this release, which is the pick of the bunch of the DVDs reviewed this time.

What Grandmasters Don't See
Volume 1: Protected Squares
By GM Maurice Ashley
4 hours and 18 minutes

Last but not least, the effervescent Grandmaster Ashley is let loose on another new series. The subject is ‘Protected Squares’. The theme is '...blunders on squares which are protected by pawns: how top players make such mistakes and how the viewer can be trained to avoid such errors'.

It’s not just a collection of Grandmaster moves that just happen to place a piece en-prise to pawn; the blunder in question could be a square which looks well protected until reality hits home. This is best demonstrated by a positon from the DVD.

Bareev – Timman
Leon Rapidplay 2008

Black has just played 29 …cxd4 which looks reasonable at first glance. However, it is a blunder; the g6 square isn’t as well defended as meets the eye. 30 Ng6+ and White wins easily (30 ...hxg6 31 Qh1+).

There are 19 video lectures followed a series of tests to enable students to test their knowledge. There’s an impressive amount of examples featuring some of the very best players in the world, such as Carlsen and Kramnik. There’s an attempt to explain how even World Champions can miss easy moves, with a discussion on the nature of blind spots.

For instance, how is it that Kramnik can head straight into the following position and miss the fairly simple twist at the end?

Kramnik – Anand
World Championship Final 2008

34 …Ne3! It turns out that the e3 square for White, and e6 for Black area particularly common ones for blind spot activity.

GM Ashley's personality is well to the fore on this DVD. Here's a typical quote which leads into a sample of play from his favourite player, Mikhail Tal.

‘The position we’re about to go over now still gives me a headache, every time I look at it. It’s like going on a rollercoaster and just being whipped left, right, up and down, underground, fifty feet in the air, back down crashing…it’s like…it just makes your head spin.’

Tal – Koblencs Riga 1957

The fun starts with 15 g6. This game requires a longer video than the average (just over 19 minutes as opposed to just over four).

The enthusiasm of the presenter makes this an engaging viewing experience. However, I still prefer the Lilov DVD as I found the majority of GM Ashley's examples a shade too much on the familiar side.

Nevertheless, club players will learn a lot from this DVD and should have fun at the same time, which is generally perceived to be a good combination.

Meanwhile, the Marsh Towers postman has been busy again and the next set of reviews is already in the pipeline, so stay tuned...

Thursday 26 May 2011

Third Middlesbrough Literary Festival

The month of June will bring with it the 2011 Middlesbrough Literary Festival, the third in the highly successful series.

According to the website, 'This the 3rd annual Literary Festival is destined to be thought provoking, funny and imaginative – full of stories, dreams, creative workshops and experiences'. If it's anything like the first two Festivals, then the description will definitely be accurate.

The Festival runs from 4-24 June and is absolutely packed with top quality talks, workshops and performances. Don't just take my word for it; for the full listings for each genre, please visit the official website (where you can even vote for the name for the Festival Owl) and/or take a look at the interactive brochure. You can also join the Festival Facebook page.

Meanwhile, whet you appetite with a quick look at what went on last year.

Marsh Towers will report on various parts of the Festival, so stay tuned. Better still, get out there, support the Festival and see for yourselves how good it is going to be.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

'Hey! Teacher...!'

I went to see Roger Waters and The Wall in Manchester last weekend. It was spectacular, with huge puppets, a crashing Stuka, various impressive set pieces and, of course, a massive wall.

Expect a full pictorial report to appear here soon.

Monday 23 May 2011

The Return of the Lion

It's quite a while since I posted an article here (and wrote a similar one for CHESS Magazine) about The Black Lion.

Kevin Winter, my long-term friend and former Guisborough Chess Club teammate (back in the 1980s), is also interested in this opening and has played it more than 20 times.

After 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3, Kevin prefers to avoid 'The Lion's Yawn' (3 ...e5 4 dxe5 dxe5 5 Qxd8+) and heads for 'The Lion's Claw' with 3 ...Nbd7 and only then 4 ...e5, preventing the exchange of Queens. The Claw's intention is to rip White to shreds with a Kingside attack (...g5, ...Rg8, ...Nf8-g6-f4 etc).

Beware! This man and his Lion want to rip you to shreds

The Lion has brought Kevin plenty of wins. He sent me a database of his games with the system so let's take a look at some highlights.

Kevin has faced six different White moves from this position, namely: Bc4, dxe5, Be2, Be3, d5 and Bg5.

6 Bc4 was the most common choice, developing a piece to a central location and eyeing up the f7 pawn. I think it's a move Black Lion players can expect to see very frequently over the board.

After 6 ...h6, White may be under the impression that Black is merely worried about Bxf7+ followed by Ng5, or even Ng5 first in some lines. However, Black can happily allow the sacrificial lines (as long he has read the analysis in The Black Lion book). Kevin prefers to cut down on the need to memorize all of those lines and as he intends to play The Lion's Claw anyway, then 6 ...h6 kills two birds with one stone.

White has a choice again. The majority of Kevin's opponents played 7 0-0, which is very sensible. He also faced 7 h3 (the sort of move Lion players love to see - the Kingside attack will have more to bite on) and once he even encountered the exotic 7 g4.

After 7 0-0, Kevin continues with... 7 ...Be7 8 h3 A surprisingly popular choice by Kevin's opponents. 8 ...c6 Now there's another big choice for White. 9 a4 9 Be3 and 9 dxe5 have also been played against Kevin. 9 ...Qc7 and now after either 10 Re1 or 10 Qe2, Kevin likes to establish the typical Lion's Claw position with 10 ...g5

Black's moves up to this point can be played instantly. The potential for a Kingside attack is obvious; Black can play one or more of ...Rg8, ...Nd7-f8-g6,...Nh5-f4, ...h5 and ...g4. White players may now be regretting playing an early h3.

Adopt The Lion - and play with pride

Let's take a look a few moves down the line to see how things have progressed.

What's not to like? Black's attack is rolling on and his own King is remarkably safe in the centre. 17 ...h5 18 f3 hxg4 19 hxg4 Bxg4!

...and Black has a terrific position, although the game was eventually drawn due to mutual time-trouble.

Kevin proving he sometimes plays with White

The ...h5 lunge proved effective in another game too:

17 ...h5! and I'd definitely prefer to be Black here.

It may appear somewhat stereotyped to keep playing the same moves and themes as Black, but when it ends up this good, who cares about that?

Here, after 15 Rb1, Kevin crashed through with 15 ...g4 16 hxg4 Bxg4 17 Be3 Rd8! and the White Queen is struggling to defend the Knight on f3. 18 Bd3 allows the crunching 18 ...Nxg2!

In the game, White played 18 Bxf4 but resigned after 18 ...Rxd1

White sometimes tries to cover all of Black's lunges with pawn moves, but it usually ends badly.

In this game, Kevin could have played the standard 'sacrifice' 14 ...Nf4! He didn't, but he went on to win anyway.

It's not only Knights who can sacrifice themselves. In the next position, a different Minor piece gets in on the act.

21 ...Bxh3! Now both 22 Kxh3 Qd7+ 23 Kh2 Qg4 and 22 gxh3 Rxg1 are clearly winning for Black. The game continued: 22 bxc6 Bxg2 23 Nb5 Rg4 24 f3 and now 24 ...Rg3 was the best continuation, forcing White to surrender the Queen.

Rooks can get in on the act too, as the following snippet demonstrates.

22 ...Rxg2+ 23 Kxg2 Qg5+ with a King hunt. Few people enjoy having their King kicked around.
24 Kh2 Qf4+ 25 Kh1 0-0-0 26 Rg1 cxd5 27 exd5 Bb5 28 Qxb5 Qxf3+ 29 Rg2 Bxf2 ...
and the White King is still uncomfortable.

Kevin in action against David Wise

Here's another position ripe for a Kingside assault.

Kevin crashed through the barriers with 20 ...fxg3 21 fxg3 Bc5+ 22 Kh1 (22 Kg2 is better, but still not very inspiring) 22 ...Ng4

It is clear that White faces great problems and it should be no surprise that Black went on to win.

Inspirational stuff! Come on folks, it's time you added The Lion to your opening repertoire.

Kevin in a good mood. He's just worked out that there isn't a single
White opening move which can prevent his favourite 1 ...d6

For more information on this fascinating opening, head for The Lion's Den.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Chess Reviews: 178

ChessBase are 25 years old! I can still remember a time when they were the new kids on the block.

To celebrate their special birthday, they are offering 25% off everything bought through their website until the end of today.

Reviews of some new ChessBase DVDs on self-improvement will appear here soon, but it seems a good day to take a look at the latest issue of one of my favourite products - ChessBase Magazine.

Issue 141 has great tournament reports from the excellent events at Wijk aan Zee (Nakamura first, ahead of Anand, Carlsen, Aronian, Kramnik...) Wijk aan Zee B (McShane and Navara shared first) and Gibraltar (won by Ivanchuk, just ahead of Short).

The opening articles cover:

Keres Defence (1 d4 e6 2 c4 Bb4+)

Scandinavian (with 3 ...Qd6)

Pirc (with an early f3 and a4 by White)

Caro-Kann (Exchange Variation and also 3 Nc3 g6)

Sicilian (Grivas Variation, 4 ...Qb6)

Two Knights Defence (5 ...Nd4 and 5 ...b5)

Slav Defence (4 ...a6)

QGD (4 Nf3 Bb4)

Semi-Slav (5 Bg5 h6 6 Bxf6 and 5 e3)

Nimzo-Induan (Rubinstein)

KID (Saemisch and Classical with 6 ...Na6)

There are several opening features in the Fritz Trainer format too, namely:

Mikhalchishin on the Sicilian Paulsen

Kritz on the French Winawer (with 7 Qg4 0-0)

Bojkov on the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation)

Lilov on the KIA

There's also an update by Nigel Davies to his 1 d4 repertoire DVD, looking at the Dutch Defence.

The annotated games from the Wijk aan Zee tournament are the undoubted highlights of the disc. There were some terrific clashes featuring the top players, including the following snippets:

Kramnik - Carlsen

80 ...f5! (0-1, 85)

Ponomariov - Anand

42 ...Qd8! and the White Queen is suddenly in big trouble (0-1, 52)

Carlsen - Giri

20 Ng5?? e3 (0-1, 22)

Incidentally, Carlsen lost two games - both with White. It seems that Black is suddenly more than OK in modern chess (the results of the current Candidates matches provide further evidence of this).

Let's leave it to the tournament victor to show how White can still win games.

Nakamura - Grischuk

The Candidates' finalist has finely coordinated pieces and his position looks strong, but Nakamura uncorked 28 Rxg7+ and after 28 ...Kxg7 29 Qg4+ Kf8 30 Rxe3 Rxe3 31 Kxe3 bxc3
32 Ke2 Qe5+ 33 Kd1 Qh2 34 Ne2 Qd6+ 35 Qd4 Qxd4 36 Nxd4...

...the extra piece finally began to influence matters (1-0, 42).

The usual magazine features are all present and correct, so there's no excuse not to work on your tactics, strategy and endgames as well as your openings.

ChessBase magazine shows no signs of resting on its laurels and continues to go from strength to strength.

Don't forget to pick up some ChessBase bargains while you can.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

CSC Training Day

Chess - An Introductory Course for Teachers

Date: Wednesday 29 June

Venue: Middlesbrough City Learning Centre, Acklam Grange School, Lodore Grove, Middlesbrough, TS5 8PB

Times: 10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m.

Cost: £50 per person (Refreshments and lunch will be provided)

Do you love playing chess and want to help others improve their game? Or do you know little about the game but want to find a new career or further your PSD? Then learn how to teach chess! There will be a great opportunity to take part in an introductory course for chess trainers in Middlesbrough.

The course is run by Chess in Schools and Communities, a registered charity that work in eight Teesside schools and were recently featured on BBC Breakfast. The course is aimed at teachers, teaching assistants, parents or anyone planning on becoming a professional chess trainer or who wants to learn how to play and teach the game.

The course will consist of the following modules:

* Benefits of chess

* A brief history of chess & chess champions

* Overview of Junior chess in the UK

* Primary school CSC chess syllabus - an overview

* Cross-curricular links

* Techniques for teaching chess

* Chess sub-games and variants

* Running a school chess club

* Resources and materials

* Pieces, moves, captures, checks and checkmates – practical

If you are interested in attending either course, please fill in the online form at www.chessinschools.co.uk or fill in the enclosed form and post to: Chess in Schools & Communities, 44 Baker Street, London, W1U 7RT.

Payment can either be made via cheque made payable to: Chess in Schools & Communities, via BACS with the following details: Bank – Natwest, Acc Name: Chess in Schools & Communities. Acc no – 39520331, Sort Code – 60-00-01, or via Paypal to chessinschools@gmail.com

Chess: An Introductory Course For Teachers

Booking Form

I would like to attend the training day at the Middlesbrough City Learning Centre on Wednesday 29 June 2011.

Name: _______________________________





Please indicate which of the following three options applies to you:

I enclose a cheque for £50

I have paid via BACS transfer

I am already involved with one of the CSC Teesside schools and claim free entry to the Training Day

Please return to Chess in Schools and Communities 44 Baker St London W1U 7RT

Sunday 15 May 2011

More Maverick

My reviews of shows by Little Miss Higgins and The Wiyos (both at The Cluny, Newcastle, on 30 March) are both included in the latest issue of Maverick Magazine (June 2011).

Little Miss Higgins

The Wiyos

Pop along to the Maverick website for ordering details.

Friday 13 May 2011

Further Reading

I've posted a new report on the Chess in Schools and Communities website regarding the latest developments in the Teesside branch of the project.

You can read it here.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Chess Reviews: 177

A new batch of opening books and DVDs recently arrived at Marsh Towers. In-depth reviews of some individual titles will follow either here or in CHESS Magazine. Meanwhile, here's a round-up of the latest titles from a number of different publishers, starting with material suitable for 1 d4 players.

Queen’s Gambit Declined
By IM Andrew Martin
4 hours and 23 minutes

IM Martin is back and this time he is advocating one of THE main lines of chess theory.
'I think the perception of the Queen's Gambit Declined as a stodgy response for Black is quite unfounded and I think the Queen's Gambit Declined for Black is about to experience a revival'.

He present a repertoire for Black based on the initial moves 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Nbd7 The intention is to head for The Cambridge Springs variation with 5 Nf3 c6 6 e3 Qa5

The first seven lectures deal with the Cambridge Springs. The Exchange Variation and 4 Nf3 Nbd7 5 Bf4 are also covered (incidentally, there is a typo on the disc menu: 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Nbd7 5 Bf4 should of course be 4 Nf3 Nbd7 5 Bf4). Indeed, some of the inspiration for the specific move order with 4 ...Nbd7 was based on a decent way to meet the latter, thus avoiding the most theoretical lines.

The Exchange Variation has more lectures than the other lines and rightly so, as it's a very popular way for White to play and there's no getting away from the fact that it will appear oveer the board with great frequency. All of White's main plans are covered here (the minority attack, central expansion and 0-0-0).

In all, there are 26 video lectures, all presented in IM Martin's customary forthright and motivational style. Often he is to be found extolling the virtues of unusual openings, some of which probably won't pass the test of time. However, the QGD is as solid as they come and will never be refuted, so the material presented here should be very useful to practical players for a long time to come.

ChessBase Tutorials
Openings 3
Queen's Gambit and Queen's Pawn Game
5 hours

This series offers broader brush strokes for a large number of 1 d4 openings, united under the umbrella of Black's reply, 1 ...d5. 24 lectures are shared by five presenters, giving the following breakdown of material:

GM Daniel King: QGD 5 Bf4; Chigorin Defence
GM Igor Stohl: Four variations of the Semi-Slav
GM Lars Schandorff: Five variations of the QGD; Open and Closed Catalan
IM Sam Collins: QGD Semi-Tarrasch and four variations of the Slav Defence.
FM Valeri Lilov: Albin Counter Gambit (and others); London System, Colle System, Veresov Attack, Blackmar-Diemer Gambit.

The level is fairly basic (fundamental tactics are habitually explained) and the emphasis is firmly based around verbal explanations rather than deep lines of analysis, making this DVD suitable for club players and juniors. Experienced players should look elsewhere, as this is really primer material.

The video lectures clock in at roughly 12 minutes on average and the presenters are good form, with GM King being the most engaging.

Fans of 1 e4 have more studying options this month...

Slay the Spanish!
By IM Timothy Taylor
288 pages

IM Taylor presents an repertoire for Black against the Spanish Game (Ruy Lopez), based on the Modern Steinitz Defence. He observes: 'Every world champion (with the sole exception of Kramnik) has either played the MS or played against it.

Indeed, the first chapter is 40+ page romp through the history of the Modern Steinitz through the experiences of the World Champions. Space is created for Keres too, who is made an honorary World Champion and hero of the book, in recognition of his 70% score with Black using the Modern Steinitz.

The author enjoys playing attacking chess and likes to suggest sharp lines. Here, alongside the solid lines, considerable space is devoted to sharper variations such as the Siesta and the Yandemirov Gambit (named this for the first time, but actually the well-known sequence 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 d6 5 0-0 Bg4 6 h3 h5!?).

He does accompany the sharp lines with a health warning and emphasises the risk factor.

There's an usual recommendation against the Exchange Variation - 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Bxc6 and now not the standard 4 ...dxc6 ‘...life is too short to play such a boring variation!’ (which nevertheless still does receive some coverage) but the oft-dismissed 4 ...bxc6. The author's logic and inspiration comes from this related line, which he assesses as fine for Black:

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 d6 5 Bxc6+ bxc6 6 d4

'...so if Black has such an easy game, might not the variation also be good with one less tempo? I say, Yes!’

As is customary with IM Taylor’s books, we don’t have to wait very long to see the arrival of exclamation marks. The title has one, as does the first sentence on the first page and the last word of the afterword. Stylistic considerations aside, I enjoyed this book more than the author's previous works. For one thing, I think the material has a better grounding than usual (possibly because the Ruy Lopez is a solid and well established starting point) and one or two of the author's previous excesses have been curtailed on this occasion.

I found it to be a very readable and instructive effort on a variation which has rarely been given serious coverage. Club players are the target audience.

Sicilian Najdorf 6. Be3
By GM Milos Pavlovic
216 pages

The Cutting Edge series continues with an in-depth study of a popular variation of the Najdorf.

After 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3, White hopes to set up the English Attack (f3, g4, 0-0-0 are all on the agenda) and Black must decide whether to adopt a Scheveningen set up (6 ...e6) or head for pure Najdorf territory with 6 ...e5. Both approaches are examined in great detail. The author does not present a repertoire for either side, but decided to ‘...approach the variations with an open mind, and I hope that all players will find the book interesting and useful’.

Topalov has been heavily involved with the development the variations from Black’s point of view for the last decade or so and his ideas are well represented in this book. Here's one of them...

Topalov likes to play 9 ...h5 Let's see White play g4 now!

It’s heavy on variations and light on prose; with novelties appearing around move 26 this not the sort of book you’d want to read on a train journey. It’s a serious chess book for very experienced players who will be able to appreciate the depth of the analysis and implement the improvements given in the razor sharp lines.
Experts on the Anti-Sicilian
Edited by GM Jacob Aagaard and GM John Shaw
440 pages

The experts in question are nine Grandmasters and an International Master (Andrew Greet, but in compensation for not yet being a Grandmaster, the editors say, '...he writes like one').

The basic division of labour looks like this:

Boris Avrukh: The Grand Prix Attack
Jacob Aagaard: 2 c3
Tiger Hillarp Persson: 3 Bb5
Andrew Greet: Moscow Variation
Christian Bauer: 3 Bc4, 3 c3, The King's Indian Attack and 2 Nf3 e6 3 c3 d5 4 e5 d4
Milos Pavlovic: Closed Sicilian
Matthieu Cornette: Grand Prix Attack
Colin McNab: 2 a3, 2 f4 and 5 f3
John Shaw: 2 d3
Peter Heine Nielson: 2 b3

Having numerous authors for a single book is an interesting idea. Each one stamps his own style onto the respective sections and it certainly keeps things fresh.

There's a lot of very interesting ideas and analysis to be found in this book. Here's a quick example, from GM Avrukh's chapter on the Grand Prix Attack.

The author recommends 7 ...f6 which he notes is only the sixth most popular move on his database and such a rarity that it escaped the analytical attention of at least two other important Sicilian books. The basic idea is to put the King on f7, sidestepping White's pins.

I like the style of the book. There is a very good balance between prose and analysis and it should appeal to a variety of different types of player, from improving club players to serious tournament competitors. Even though the bias is firmly in favour of the Black side of the board, 1 e4 players will doubtless want to see what they expect to face if they employ any of the anti-Sicilians.

Sicilian players will definitely find this volume of great interest. For me, it's the pick of the bunch of this month's opening round up.

The Rossolimo Sicilian
By GM Victor Bologan
238 pages
New in Chess

Subtitled ‘A Powerful Anti-Sicilian that Avoids Tons of Theory’, GM Bologan’s latest work is a detailed study of the variations arising from 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5.

First of all there’s a very interesting introduction, covering, among other things, the life of Nicholas Rossolimo. It contained a lot of information I wasn’t familiar with (it’s not often one hears of a chess player working for 15 years as a taxi driver).

Then there are 14 chapters on the theory of the Rossolimo, followed by a final chapter containing test positions and solutions.

Chapter 1 looks at the unusual Black responses 3 ...a6, 3 ...Na5, 3 ...Nd4, 3 ...Qc7 and 3...Qb6. After that we get one chapter on 3 ...Nf6, three on 3 ...d6, five on 3 ...e6 and four on 3 ...g6.

Part of the appeal the Rossolimo holds for White players comes from the harmonious, easy development they usually obtain together with the often compromised nature of Black's Queenside pawn structure (after a timely Bxc6). Here's a terrific example of all this in action.

Komliakov - Konovalov

White broke up the Queenisde in brilliant style with 13 b4!! axb4 14 a5!

I like the way that New in Chess have added photos of various 3 Bb5 players to the text, bringing it alive. It makes the book more attractive.

I'm not so sure I agree with the subtitle. To play most chess openings at a serious level requires a lot of study. Incidentally, the phrase '...avoids tons of theory' somehow has a slightly juvenile ring to it and isn't the only oddity I encountered. For example, on page 135 I came across ‘When I begun collecting material for this book...’ which doesn't sound right either and the occasional use of 'smilies' in the text is, in my opinion, another 'dumbing down' mistake.

These musings aside, it is clear that GM Bologan is a fine writer and this book is quite suitable for serious tournament players.

Chess Reviews 178, rounding up the recent releases focusing on self-improvment, should be available soon.