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.

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