Monday 29 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 187

Chess Endgames 8 Practical Rook Endings
GM Karsten Mueller
3 hours and 41 minutes

Dr. Mueller has already produced one DVD on rook endings; it was volume two of the same series. This new volume focuses on the practical side as opposed to the theoretical aspect.

The introduction sets the scene. The presenter encourages viewers to think for themselves and to develop – and use - chess intuition rather than dogmatically accepting the ‘rules’ of rook endings.

The material is divided into seven chapters. Each one consists of a number of short lessons on tricky techniques and tricks for the both sides of the board.

The lessons never outstay their welcome; they are clear and concise. Sometimes just two minutes is enough for the salient points to be demonstrated.

Chapter 1: Rook vs. pawn

The first chapter concerns battles with a Rook against a pawn (or pawns). The subject may sound simple enough, but to show that the material on offer here is definitely not of a trivial nature, consider the very first position.

Lerner – Dorfman Tashkent 1980

According to Dr. Mueller, there is only one winning move here for White. Would you be able to find it over the board, if you didn’t already know the technique?

So right from the start it is clear that this DVD will require hard work from viewers – which is, of course, a good thing.

Chapter 2: Rook techniques

The second chapter examines topics such as ‘the king needs a place to hide’ and ‘typical winning technique against a blockading rook’. Here’s an interesting and instructive passage of play from the section called ‘The rook is in full control’.

Tondivar – Lutz

I think a lot of players would see the white c-pawn as public enemy number 1 here and focus on trying to win it by bringing the King across to the Queenside. Unfortunately, if all of the Queenside pawns are swapped off then the game will be a theoretical draw, so another plan is required.

So Black plays 45 …Kg6! 46 Rxa6 Kh5 47 Rb6 Kh4 48 Rxb5 Rc2+ (‘the c-pawn is not important’) 49 Kg1 Kxh3 and the Kingside pawns were able to roll forward, unopposed, to victory.

I found it very instructive how ineffective the c-pawn was, because the Black Rook was always in the right place to prevent it from running forward with promotion in mind.

Chapter 3: Protection against a series of checks

The most important part if this chapter concerns the creation of an umbrella, which is best demonstrated by the following position.

Huschenbeth – Buhmann

52 f5! gxf5 53 g5!!

The term ‘umbrella’ was coined (at least in the context of Rook endings) by GM Dvoretsky. The King has a shelter ‘…from the rain of checks.’

Chapter 4: The 4th phase of the game

The 4th phase comes after the opening, middlegame and endgame. It’s when both sides go on to promote a pawn. This is a shorter chapter than the rest and it examines the factors which will tip the scales in favour of one side. King safety is of paramount importance.

Chapter 5: Activity counts most

This chapter is all about active Rooks v passive Rooks and how to handle such positions.

Chapter 6: Defence

This is a long chapter, with a special emphasis placed on the art of how to ‘Be careful when simplifying into a pawn ending’. Even top players can make mistakes when it comes to this.

Van Wely – McShane

White’s best try would have been 66 gxf5+ Kxf5 and now 67 Kg3 and 67 Ra1 both draw. Van Wely tried to seek sanctuary in the King and pawn ending, but he wasn't careful enough and it merely transposed to a clear loss for him. 66 Kf3? Rxf2+ 67 Rxf2 exf2 68 gxf5+ Kxf5 69 Kxf2 Kf4 0-1

Chapter 7: Complicated cases

As if chapters 1-6 weren’t complicated enough! There’s some real heavyweight material here. The concluding part looks at a very famous ending from the titanic 1978 World Championship match, under the title of ‘Duel of the Legends.’

Korchnoi – Karpov

Black continued with 57 …a5?! (57 …Rc4! draws, according to Korchnoi) and after 58 Rg3 Korchnoi, with his superhuman understanding of endgames, went on to win and level the match score at 5-5.

Dr. Mueller provides evidence that Black could now have tried 58 …Rd4! rather than the 58 …b3? played in the game, again with good chances of a draw. The problem with 58 …b3? is that the pawn dropped off with check after 59 Kc6 Kb8 60 Rxb3+

Although the lessons on this DVD are difficult, they are very worthwhile for keen students of the endgame. The relatively short length of each one, coupled with the excellent presentation skills of Dr. Mueller (who really brings his favourite subject to life) ensures everything remains very accessible to the viewer. This is a great series and definitely one of the brightest jewels in the ChessBase crown.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 186

Following Sunday's examination of recent works on chess openings, here's a round up of chess products featuring different aspects of the game. There's a lot to look at, so it's a bumper review column this time.

The Joys of Chess
Christian Hesse
432 pages

Subtitled 'Heroes, Battles & Brilliances', this new book provides ' unforgettable intellectual expedition to the remotest corners of the Royal Game.' Or, as observed by World Champion Anand in his foreword, 'The book bridges the gap between the world of chess and the rest of the world and makes numerous connections such as to literature. arts, philosophy and other areas.'

In short, this book can't guarantee to improve your handling of the latest theory of the Sicilian Dragon, but it can offer a cornucopia of chess fun.

The chapters are short (2-4 pages is typical) with titles as diverse as 'Legal loopholes', 'Ockham's razor and chess-chindogu' and 'The conqueror of the conqueror of Fischer'. Delights await the reader on every page and I don't just mean in terms of the chess positions presented for our enjoyment; there's an abundance of fine prose here too. It must have taken the author a long time to write this terrific feel-good book. The bibliography runs to eight pages and credits an incredible range of sources from Botvinnik to Lolita.

Here are a three delightful samples, selected by randomly thumbing the pages and stopping at various points.

Przepiorka - Ahues
Kecskemet 1927

After 1 ...Rxd2, White played 2 Rxb2, whereupon Black, 'without batting an eyelid', replied with 2 ...Rxa2. 'A bitter reckoning for White: losing 3 pieces in 1.5 moves has got to be a world record, surely. Of course the arbiter intervened at this point.'

Mohring - Kaikamdzozov
Zamardi 1978

White is a Queen up, but how can he avoid the perpetual check? 86 Qh3!! - a Mitrofanov Deflection!

Marshall - MacClure
New York 1923

Frank James Marshall provided plenty of entertainment over the course of his chess career. His games are tailor made for such a collection.

'Though White was being
forced into bankruptcy, Marshall was still able to make a payment with 1 Rh6!! and all of a sudden the encounter was taking place under a whole new set of conditions. 1 ...Rxh6 2 h8=Q+! Rxh8 3 b5 and it's practically impossible to avoid stalemate.'

I hope have whetted your appetite enough for you to be inspired to buy a copy of 'The Joys of Chess'. In my opinion, it is clearly one of the best books of 2011.

Invisible Chess Moves
By FM Emmanuel Neiman and IM Yochanan Afek
240 pages

This book aims to help the reader 'Discover your blind spots and stop overlooking simple wins' and to present thoughts on why easy moves are missed over the board (sometimes by both players).

We've all missed trivial things and felt very bad about it afterwards. Apart from pride, matches and titles are often lost due to failing to spot something a total novice would see from across the road.

The authors discuss the nature of their subject in the introduction. There is a distinction to be drawn between straightforward blunders and victims of invisible moves.

Petrosian - Bronstein
Candidates 1956

36 ...Nf5 37 Ng5?? Nxd6 0-1 Petrosian's famous blunder.

Zueger - Landenbergue

36 Qxg3?? Qh1 mate! A good example of an invisible move. Zueger failed to see the effect of at least one of the pins.

The study of this phenomenon is presented in four chapters, split into two parts.

Part 1 - Objective Invisibility
Chapter 1: Hard-to-see moves
Chapter 2: Geometrically invisible moves

Part 2 - Subjective Invisibility
Chapter 3: Invisible moves for positional reasons
Chapter 4: Invisible moves for psychological reasons

There's a test at the end of the book, featuring 53 positions.

This book can indeed be used to test your powers or (more likely) as a source of entertainment. There's always something reassuring about seeing top players fall for trivial things.

The following example of an invisible move has long been one of my favourites.

Flohr - Grob

Salo Flohr resigned here, not seeing a way to stop both ...Qf1+ and ...Qxd5. However, he had an 'invisible' option.

1 Kh1!! Qf1+ 2 Bg1

As the book explains...

'Why was 1 Kh1 an invisible move?

- As there is a mating threat, it is hard to visualize the king moving

- The possibility of moving the bishop backwards is also not easy to foresee

- When defending, such cold-blooded moves are difficult to conceive of.'

It's an entertaining book on an unusual subject and a good example of the diversity currently offered by New in Chess.

By GM Glenn Flear
264 pages

'Tactimania,' explains GM Flear, in his introduction, 'simply means passion for tactics.' And with this unusual title begins a book with other unusual features. The cover will not have escaped the attention of the reader. It is indicative of what can be found throughout the book, with humorous, full colour cartoons used to liven up the text. These are all by James Flear, eldest son of the Grandmaster. The cartoons are fun but they do give the misleading impression that this is a book at a junior audience.

All of the positions used to demonstrate the various tactics are taken from Glenn Flear's own games, apart from a smaller number taken from the games of...Christine Flear! So it can be observed that 'Tactimania' is a real family effort.

Essentially, of course, this a puzzle book, with readers invited to find the winning combinations over the course of 12 main chapters and then to have a go at the final test positions.

The chapters are arranged by theme, utilising alliterative titles such as 'Deviate to Dominate' 'Punishing Precariously Place Pieces'.

Test yourself, dear reader, using these examples.

Flear - Stork
Marseille 2006
White to move

An easy one from the chapter 'Pinching Pieces and Pawns'.

Lyell - Flear
Plymouth 1989

A trickier one, from 'Blunder-bashing'.

'How many of the following four moves are playable for White: 24 Qc2, 24 Bd3, 24 Bxc6 and 24 d5?'

The major selling point of the book is the freshness of the material. Not everyone will be particularly familiar with the games of GM Flear, so the vast majority of the positions should be new to readers. So instead of solving the same old positions time and again, readers will find their skills stretched more by this book than by various others.

Know the Terrain
Vol 2: The Capablanca Structure
By IM Sam Collins
4 hours and 30 minutes

The aim of this series is to encourage and develop within practical players '...a deep understanding of the pawn structures to which their openings lead.'

The Capablanca Structure is the name given by the presenter to positions in which White has pawns on c4 and d4 and Black has pawns on c6 and e6. Here is the basic skeleton.

The structure is certainly an important one, as it crops up in numerous openings (Queen's Gambit Declined, French Defence and Caro-Kann Defence to name but three). The ideas given are for both White and Black.

White's advantage in space is obvious, but Black remains solid and the first player must try and prove that the advantage is a lasting one.

The little snippets of advice are well presented and stick in the mind. As the video lectures are genrally short, not too much time is spent on the build up to the key ideas, so the viewer should be able to focus on the relevant material.

For example, this position shows '...the master at work'.

Rothschild - Capablanca
Casual Game, 1911

Capablanca defused some of White's central control with 19 ...b5! Trying to maintain full control with 20 b3? isn't advisable ( 20 ...Bxa3) so White has to push on with 20 c5, which grants Black the important d5 square for his pieces (the game was evenutally drawn after 53 moves).

The reason that this particular point jumped out at me is that I missed a simnilar opportunity some years ago in a local league match.

C. Walton - S. Marsh

In the game, I spent rather too long looking at my opponent's pawns without taking action and when d4-d5 eventually came, it put me in great trouble and I ended up two panws down in an endgame (despite that, the game was drawn after 50 moves). With hinsight, this would have been the correct moment to emulate the great Capablanca and play 19 ...b5, prodding and puncturing the proud pawns.

IM Collins talks through the 46 illustrative games (with nearly 40 of them from 2002-2010) to explain various strategical aspects of the Capablanca Stucture, ranging from 'Meeting e4 with e5' to 'Which pieces to trade?'.

I like the style of presentation. Sam Collins has a very calm approach which is well suited to this particular material. Club and tournament players will definitely be able to increase their understanding of the Capablanca Structure after a careful study of this DVD.

First Steps in Attack
By IM Andrew Martin

Another series makes it's debut from ChessBase! Officially aimed at players rated below 2200, this new series hopes to '...provide a basic grounding on a variety of subjects, which will assist general all-round improvement.'

The lessons are presented via 16 illustrative games, each one demonstrating a key attacking idea, such as 'superior force usually decides'. They last last around 20 minutes each, on average.

After the first two games, IM Martin makes the viewer work during the third game. Hiding the forthcoming moves, he encourages viewers to guess the contuniations at key moments.

Here's your chance to see how your attacking skill measures up.

Beliavsky - Larsen
Tilburg 1981

This is a terrific game. Larsen could have taken the Knight on the previous move, but White would have gained a massive attack. So he tried defending with 15 ...Nd5, leading to the position above. Whereupon Beliavsky played...what?

IM Martin is the ideal choice as a presenter to introduce lesser-experienced players to their'first steps in attack.' His forthright, no-nonense style repeatedly gets straight the heart of the matter.

The featured games are not trivial, one-sided smashes. So the viewer will still have to work hard to find the correct moves. Possibly, this makes the material slightly harder than one would expect for the 'first steps'. However, the stated target audience of sub-2200 looks accurate.

It will be interesting to see how this new series develops.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 185

Here's the first of two columns to round up some more of the recent releases. This one looks at four products on chess openings. All are for advanced players.

The next review column - scheduled for release on Tuesday - will examine products covering all other aspects of the game and then 'Chess Reviews 187' will focus solely on Karsten Mueller's new DVD on Practical Rook Endings.

Beating the Sicilian:
A Grandmaster's Repertoire
Volumes 1 & 2
By GM Viktor Bologan
Volume 1: 6 hours
Volume 2: 5 hours and 40 minutes

It's a long time since John Nunn's famous book, 'Beating the Sicilian', changed the way people played against the popular defence. The 1980s had seen a surge in popularity of the likes of Bb5(+) and the Grand Prix Attack. Dr. Nunn showed White players there was nothing to be afraid of when entering the main lines with 1 e4 2 Nf3 and 3 d4.

Things have changed since then, of course. Computers led to analysis and preparation taking massive leaps forward and whenever a new book or DVD dealing with the White side of Sicilian battles emerges, the subject is usually some anti-Sicilian or other.

I was therefore surprised to see that the two new volumes by the hard-working Viktor Bologan not only borrow the name form Nunn's classic book, but also take the bull firmly by the horns and present a main line repertoire based on the Open Sicilians.

Volume 1 examines the lines after 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4. These include:

Maroczy Bind
The Rauzer Attack
The Lowenthal
The Sveshnikov/Cheliabinsk Variations
4 ...Qb6

The Sveshnikov is a really tough nut to crack. This DVD recommends a line to give White a slight positional edge.

This should be a familiar position to Sicilian slayers. The recommendation is to enter the variations arising from 11 c4, which leads to a big parting of ways. Bologan analyses 11 ...b4, 11 ...Nd4, 11 ...Qa5+, 11 ...0-0, 11 ...bxc4 and 11 ...Bg5. This little snippet alone brings home the difficulties facing any player who desires to be full prepared in main line openings. Nevertheless, this is a Grandmaster's repertoire, so players wishing to follow in his footsteps will definitely have to be prepared to put in a lot of work.

Volume 2 deals with the Najdorf and the Dragon (and the Dragon/Najdorf hybrid). The Dragon is met by the Yugoslav Attack, with 8 Qd2 instead of lines developing the Bishop to c4. The Najdorf occupies a lot of the space on the DVD; it's a massive subject and probably the best of all the Sicilians. 6 Be3 is the weapon of choice (although some of the illustrative games start with 6 f3 before 7 Be3).

The analysis of 7 ...e5 is very thorough and there are several lectures on the lines arising from 7 ...e6 also.

A third and final volume is in the pipeline, which will cover lines arising from 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6.

As a presenter, Bologan is very professional but his heavily accented, monotone voice can make things hard going at times.

Just as with Bologan's other ChessBase DVDs, these are not for beginners but experienced tournament players should welcome the opportunity to refresh their 1 e4 repertoires and really start to put some of the main line Sicilians under pressure.

The Grunfeld Defence
Volumes 1 & 2
By GM Boris Avrukh
349 pages and 261 pages respectively

GM Avrukh's two-volume work on 1 d4 established him as a very highly regarded author of opening books. This time, he presents a repertoire for Black against 1 d4/2 c4 in the form of the popular Grunfeld Defence.

In the introduction, Avrukh explains that his first coach, Mark Tseitlin, influenced him to take up the Grunfeld Defence.

'I was attracted by the combative and dynamic positions to which it leads, and relished the prospect of fighting for the initiative with the black pieces'.

Volume 1 impressively deals first of all with White's third move options, which goes further than the call of normal duty. The oddities include 3 Qc2 and 3 h4, among others. Thereafter, the running order is:

Fianchetto Systems
Fourth Move Options
Closed Variation (4 e3)
4 Bf4
4 Bg5
5 Bg5
The Russian System (5 Qb3)

The latter is met by 5 ...dxc4 6 Qxc4 0-0 7 e4 and now 7 ...Nc6.

The author remarks: 'This is not the most popular choice at the level, but I am convinced that this move is a viable alternative to the more common lines'.

If the books have a fault, it comes in the narrowness of the repertoire. Typically, only one variation is analysed for Black (the exception comes in volume 2, as mentioned below). I am reminded by Watson's classics on the French, where he always gave a secondary line for Black to use if the main recommendation wasn't to the taste of the player, or was in danger of being too theoretical. Possibly, the strain on the page count of each volume prohibited such an approach here.

Volume 2 is all about the wonderful Exchange Variation (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5). I was looking forward to reading about the latest developments in the famous exchange sacrifice line, but the author steers clear of it with a slippery Bishop move.

11 ...Bd7

'This move, which leads to typical Grunfeld play, has recently become quite a fashionable alternative to the well-known and exhaustively analysed 11...Na5. The resulting play is similar to that which arises after 10...Bd7, but the inclusion of f2-f3 gives Black additional resources connected with the vulnerable position of the e3-bishop.'

There's an alternative for Black in the last two chapters, with 10 ...Qc7 followed (if appropriate) by 11 ...b6.

The material is definitely up to date, with the games including the recent Candidates matches.

Anyone who enjoyed GM Avrukh's books on 1 d4 will be quite at home here. These are books for serious players; club players may find themselves a little bit out of their depth. The index of variations in volume 1 runs to no fewer than nine pages (some opening books don't even have chapters that long).

Despite the narrowness of the repertoire, readers will find more than enough top-quality material to enable them to use the Grunfeld Defence very successfully, even at very high levels.

Friday 19 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 184

Karpov's Strategic Wins 2
The Prime Years
by IM Tibor Karolyi
576 pages

My review of volume 1 is scheduled to appear in a chess magazine, so I don't want to repeat it here.

The second part of this major new work on the 12th World Champion starts with a contentious point. Was Karpov really in his prime during the period 1986-2010? Certainly, he had some fantastic results but he was no longer the world's top player. I would be inclined to believe that 1975-1984 saw the very best from Karpov, when he dominated virtually event in which he played and individual losses were very few and far between.

Furthermore, there are numerous times in the book when we read that Karpov was not at the top of game. Here are three examples (there were plenty to choose from), starting with from just three years into his 'Prime Years'.

1989: ' seems that by this stage Karpov's age may have started to become a factor. At thirty eight he was far from ancient, but he would not have had the energy reserves of a young man, which may explain why he took more quick draws than he had doe previously. During some parts of 1989 Karpov was still the same almost invincible tournament player from previous years, but during some other periods he dropped to the level of a 'mere' top grandmaster.'

1991: '...his overall results did not match the tremendous level he had achieved during the eighties. It looks like he may have once again played in too many tournaments and lacked the energy to perform at his best in all of them.'

1993: (Regarding Karpov's World Championship victory over Timman) 'Overall Karpov's play was not on the level of a world champion.'

Whether he was in his prime or not, the period in question still saw Karpov involved in tough chess battles at the highest level. His third title bout with Kasparov was in 1986 and two more would follow, in 1987 and 1990. The title seemed to have slipped from Karpov's grasp for good when he lost a Candidates semi-final to Nigel Short in the next cycle, but the split in world chess still presented him with a gift-wrapped opportunity to become the official FIDE World Champion in 1993. Successful title defences against Kamsky and Anand kept his status intact until 1999, when he refused to take part in the next FIDE event. Having gained his original title by default when Fischer abdicated in 1975, it's interesting to see the whole thing come full circle.

Karpov was still active an active tournament player too and his performance at Linares 1994 is still regarded as one of the best of all time. Later on, his tournament results show a definite decline in his powers.

This book examines 67 games in great depth; 6-7 pages is quite typical, but there are exceptions, such as the 16 pages spent explaining the finer points of a game against Curt Hansen (Groningen 1995). Not all of the games are from the Karpov - Kasparov matches, so there should be plenty of fresh games for readers to enjoy. Indeed, there are only six main games between the titans and one of those is from Belfort 1988 rather than a title match.

Each chapter covers one year. There's a brief introduction, setting the scene for the year in question. It's worth noting that coverage of political machinations is kept to a minimum; this is not a chess biography - there is very little here about Karpov's character - and the emphasis is placed very firmly on Karpov's best games. A good summary - using pie charts - is given at the end of each chapter. Karpov's rating and ranking are given at start of each chapter too. He starts the book with a 2700 - number 2 in the world - and ends up at 2619, outside of the world's top 100.

The book is not without its editorial slips. Page 11 informs us that 'Karpov's next tournament was in Bugojno, the scene of his 1978 match versus Korchnoi.' Possibly, an over-enthusiastic spell checker is to blame and hopefully the error can be changed to 'Baguio' in future editions.

An on-form Karpov was ruthless at dealing with fixed weaknesses in the opponent's position (game 32 in the book, against Miguel Illescas Cordoba's Tarrasch Defence, is a good example of this) and his endgame skill stayed at a very high level throughout his latter years.

Karpov - Cordoba
Leon 1993

There is obviously a weakness on the c5 square. Black needs to strive to achieve ...c6-c5, but Karpov is hardly likely to allow that. With his next move, he typically brings even more pressure on to the key square. 22 Qc3 and Black didn't last very much longer. (1-0, 36)

This book will suit experienced players are looking to really dig deep into the games of a World Champion. It will require some hard work on the part of the reader to get the most out of the deep notes, but there's no doubt that a careful study of games such as the ones quoted above will definitely prove beneficial to one's positional play.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 183

There will be new chess reviews here all of this week, with at least three more articles planned to arrive over the course of the next few days, so stay tuned...

ChessBase Magazine
No. 143
August 2011

The latest issue of ChessBase Magazine easily maintains the usual high standards set by this series.

As always, Rainer Knaak's editorial in the printed section of the magazine is well worth a read. This time he dwells on the Candidates matches and makes several interesting points. Firstly, he brings to the reader's attention that when the World Championship match is played next year, it will finally bring an end to the cycle which started three years ago. 2008-2012 is indeed a long time; so long, in fact, that I'm sure most readers will have completely forgotten when and how this cycle actually started.

The challenger for Anand's title will, of course, be Gelfand. At 43, it is a surprise to many that he triumphed over much younger players but as Knaak observes, '...when you get down to it, the older ones are hard to beat.'

The DVD focuses on four main chess events, namely:

The Candidates matches in Kazan
5th Kings Tournament (Carlsen, Karjakin...)
Lublin (Shirov...)
Havana (Ivanchuk, Le Quang...)

Carslen, the most notable absentee from Kazan, regained his number 1 spot in the World Rankings with his victory in the King's Tournament. Yet the highlight of the DVD must surely be the splendid coverage of the Candidates matches. Mihail Marin contributes an in-depth survey of the openings used by the Candidates and Karsten Mueller is on hand to analyse several endgames with his customary scrutiny.

Naturally, all of the games are given and most have have serious annotations. It's interesting to see that despite the extremely high level of preparation and the depth of their experiences, the best players in the world can still make seemingly trivial mistakes which prove very costly. The notes to the games point out several such cases and here are two examples.

Aronian - Grischuk

Aronian erred here with 69 Nc5? which allowed 69 ...Nxc5 70 Kxc5 Kd8 and the game was drawn. Marin analyses 69 Ne5! to a win for White.

Kramnik - Grischuk

This is just one critical position from a particularly nervy game. Grischuk played the incorrect 30 ...Rg8? It looks like a move from someone who enjoys playing a little bit too much blitz chess. Perhaps Black has hopes of a checkmate on g2...? However, Kramnik could have gained a very large advantage with the fairly obvious 31 Nf4! but instead he tried 31 Rd8 and the game was drawn after further errors.

Showing these examples is not an exercise is being overly critical of top players, but rather to highlight that a combination of tiredness, time trouble and tension can take its toll on players of all strengths, from World Champions to club players.

There was plenty of impressive chess on display in Kazan too, including the classic pawn roller by Gelfand.

Mamedyarov v Gelfand

Gelfand, who provides the notes to this encounter, has just captured another pawn with 36 ...Qxa2. That's a lot of pawns in the bag for one Rook and White couldn't cope; he lost on time after four more moves.

There is also an excellent two-part interview with Kramnik (audio only) in which the former World Champion talks frankly about his missed chances against Grischuk (amongst other things).

The opening surveys presented on the DVD in standard format are:

Leningrad Dutch
Sicilian Anti-Sveshnikov
Sicilian 4...Qb6
Sicilian Najdorf 6 Be3 e5 7 Nde2
QGA 7 Bb3
Cambridge Springs
QGD 7 Qb3
Grunfeld 5 Qa4+
Schlechter Variation
Bogo-Indian 4 Nbd2 d5
KID Fianchetto
KID 6 Be3

There are four opening presentations in the Fritz Trainer format:

French Winawer 7 Qg4 0-0
Slav Exchange
Grand Prix Attack

The usual regular features are all present and correct, including the popular 'Tactics' feature by Oliver Reeh. Here's one for you to try.

Van Wely - Sebag

Black's last move, 25 ...Nxd4, threatens both the White Queen and the King. Yet it is White who can force a win from here. Can you spot the only move to ensure that this is the case?

As always, ChessBase Magazine is highly recommended to all.

Sunday 14 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 182

Killer Grand Prix
With GM Gawain Jones
5 hours and 30 minutes
A production

Grandmaster Jones is undoubtedly one of the World's leading experts on the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian Defence. On this DVD, He '...reveals the secrets behind his success' through 26 video lectures.

The Grand Prix Attack enjoyed a spell of great popularity in the mid to late 1980s, when GMs Hebden and Hodgson were particularly successful with it in weekend Open tournaments. It was a great way to avoid the theory of the main lines, but a reversal in the tend eventually came about and players with the white pieces moved back to 2 Nf3 and 3 d4, possibly inspired by John Nunn's 'Beating the Sicilian' books. These days, the Grand Prix Attack is somewhat rarer but Gawain's games over the last few years have shown that it is definitely dangerous and not to be taken lightly.

Gawain starts off part 1 by examining the best move order, concluding that 1 e4 c5 2 f4 d5 is fine for Black (3 exd5 Nf6 is a theoretically sound pawn sacrifice) and that 2 Nc3 is the better way to go, followed by 3 f4.

The introductory game shows 'The Caveman Attack' in action, with Gawain winning quickly in a perfect demonstration of what happens when White's dreams come true ('Qd1-e1, Qe1-h4, f4-f5, Bc1-h6, Nf3-g5 and checkmate!').

The attack has clearly gone very well for White

However, White will not always be able to establish a winning position so easily. Gawain presents two other plans which the first player needs to know.

The positional plan of Bb5xKnight on c6 '...and then gang up on the c6 and c5 pawns'

The typical endgame ideas, using Gawain's victory over GM Rublevsky as an ideal illustrative game.

Parts 2-9 go into much greater detail with the specific theory of all lines relevant to Gawain's recommendations. Essentially, we learn all about:

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 (3 Bb5 is also covered) 3 ...g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bb5.

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 e6 3 f4 with Bb5+ to follow.

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 e6 3 f4 d5 4 Nf3 dxe4, when White will place his Bishops on g2 and b2.

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 a6 3 f4 b5 4 g3.

Gawain uses well-explained basic principles rather than lengthy theoretical variations and this works well. He has a confident style of presentation and the DVD enjoys high production values.

There's a trailer for the DVD here:

There are three DVD 'extras'. 'Bunratty or Bust' presents light-hearted footage from the famous Irish chess tournament. At 30 minutes and lacking a structure, this goes on for a little bit too long. It is followed by a 'live' 5-minute chess match between Gawain and Simon Williams, which should hold the viewer's interest more successfully. Finally, there's an interesting interview with Gawain (conducted by Simon) in which he chats about his chess life and career.

As usual with GingerGM DVDs, this product will play on all platforms and requires no special software.

The Grand Prix Attack is a rare sight at Grandmaster level (apart from in Gawain's own games) but there's plenty of motivation here to tempt club and tournament players into extending their anti-Sicilian repertoires.