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Since it came online in 1996, ChessCafe.com has published thousands of articles, reviews, and columns. This high quality material remains available in the ChessCafe.com Archives. However, we decided that the occasional selection from the archives might be a welcome addition to the regular fare. We hope you enjoy From the Archives...
Checkpoint by Carsten Hansen
Tales from the Crypt
With a new chess season around the corner, get the board and pieces out of the closet and down from the shelf. It's time to get prepared. After having on chess magazines the last couple of months, I'm back with a new batch of books, all published quite recently. In their format, writing style and quality they differ dramatically. Their differences are even greater in the range of topics, which covers the span from bizarre and rare to very topical and highly fashionable.
Open Ruy Lopez by Glenn Flear, 2000 Everyman Chess, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Softcover, 159pp. $19.95
This book as well as the one by Sadler below seem to have been written with the same recipe, similar to the one on the Benko Gambit by Jacobs & Kinsman and the one by McDonald on the Sveshnikov Sicilian that I reviewed back in March. The only surprise is that while the books on the Benko and Sveshnikov were published by the New Batsford, the books by Flear and Sadler were published by Everyman Chess.
The recipe is well-known: complete games, some of historical importance, others of theoretical importance, with theory in reasonable doses thrown in where appropriate. I liked the two previous efforts in this series, and from what I have seen in the latest releases, the tradition has continued.
The English grandmaster Glenn Flear (who resides in France) has in the past written a number of interesting books on various topics. But what I remember best about Flear is not his books, but a game I played against him when I was still a teenager. It was in Hastings at one of the annual congresses and it was the first time I had played a GM in a tournament game. Naturally he beat me, and convincingly at that. But afterwards he sat down with me and explained some of the typical ideas and some little extras that I could make use of on a later occasion. In the years that followed I scored plenty of points as a result of the tips he gave me, just because his explanations helped me understand what really was going on.
My point is that in the present book, as well as in some of his previous efforts, he takes the time to explain typical plans, strategies, and tactical points that you, the reader, will encounter when you start playing the particular opening. This is much like having a coach with you when you study an opening, because you get the feeling that you actually know what you are doing. This is, of course, quite different from studying bare theory, where you only hope you know what you are doing.
The book is split into three parts after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 dxe5 Be6:
Each part contains four chapters and about forty pages. A total of eighty-eight main games have been distributed throughout the book
In the preface, Flear admits that the book was primarily written from Black's point of view, but he has tried to be objective with his analysis, judgments, and recommendations. Furthermore, he mentions that "the illustrative games have been chosen for their intrinsic worth, not because Black wins every one of them." A positive feat, because many repertoire books are ridiculously one-sided and do not really look at the facts objectively.
After the preface, there is a two-page introduction to the Open Ruy Lopez. Here the typical themes for White and Black are very briefly explained, but with references to games in the book. A nice feature.
There is a little revelation at the end of the introduction: "I personally feel that 9 Nbd2 is overrated and we shall see that Black has several ways of obtaining a good game. Although 9 Qe2, intending Rd1 with an early c2-c4 pressing down the d-line, is out of fashion, personally I have found this the most difficult to meet (see Chapter 9)."
Next follow the chapters. Each has a short introduction to the particular variation that is covered. The introductions are quite brief, but enough to give you a rough idea about what is going on. Had the remainder of the chapter not had any further explanations, this approach would have been dubious, but the thematic games are well-annotated with the main focus on the first 30 moves, with the rest loosely annotated.
Let's take a closer look at Chapter One, the Dilworth Attack. The variation arises after the following moves: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 8 dxe5 Be6 9 c3 Bc5 10 Nbd2 0-0 11 Bc2 Nxf2 12 Rxf2 f6
This line has had a dubious reputation, but the efforts of Yusupov and more recently Mikhalevski have brought the line back to life. After 13 exf6 Bxf2+ 14 Kxf2 Qxf6, he gives the following line: 15 Nb3!? Ne5 16 Nc5! Bg4?! (here Flear mentions that 16...Nxf3!? has been suggested by Velickovic, but he does not analyze it any further. That is a shame, but for those who are interested, I can confirm that Black is doing fine. Another thing is that 16...Rae8 goes unmentioned, after the logical 17 Nxe6, after both 17...Qxe6! and 17...Nxf3!? 18 gxf3 Qh4+ 19 Kg1 Rxe6 20 Bd2 Qh5, Black is better) 17 Qxd5+ Kh8 18 Qe4 g6 19 Bg5 ('!!" by Flear who writes "My own clear improvement on the theoretical continuation 19 Bh6 Nxf3 20 gxf3 Bxf3 21 Qd4 Bd1+ 22 Ke3 Qxd4+ 23 cxd4 Bxc2 24 Bxf8 Rxf8 with equality according to Velickovic") and if 19...Qxg5, then 20 Qxa8.
But does 19 Bg5 win? Let's have a brief look at 19...Qxg5 20 Qxa8 and then 20...Qf4!
The white queen is threatened by the rook, so White has to do something about it: (a) 21 Qd5 Bxf3 22 Qd4 (22 gxf3 Ng4+! and it's all over) 22...Qxh2 23 Rg1 Bh5+ 24 Ke1 Qg3+ 25 Kd2 Qg5+ 26 Ke1 Rd8, and White has to give up his queen to avoid mate; (b) 21 Qe4 Qxh2 22 Rh1 (intending 22...Qxh1 23 Qxe5+) 22...Bxf3 23 Rxh2 Bxe4+ 24 Ke1 Bxc2, and Black is a piece up for nothing. Neither 22 Qa8 Qh4+ 23 Kf1 Qh6 24 Qd5 Nxf3 25 gxf3 Rxf3+ -+ nor 22 Bd1 Bxf3 23 Bxf3 Rxf3+ 24 Qxf3 Nxf3 25 Kxf3 Qh5+ -+ give White much relief.
Incidently, Velickovic's line is not error proof either; instead of 22...Qxd4+, Black should play 22...Bxc2 23 Bxf8 Rxf8 24 Ne6 Qxd4+ 25 Kxd4 Rf7, and Black has a pawn extra in the endgame, although it will not be particularly easy to convert it because of White's active king. And his conclusion after 24...Rxf8 'with equality' does not look bulletproof either: 25 Nxa6 c6 (otherwise White would pick it up with 26 Rc1 and 27 Rxc7) 26 Rc1 Re8+ 27 Kd2 Be4, and the pawn has been saved, but the pin on the e-file is a bigger problem: 28 Re1! Ra8 (28...g5? 29 Nc5 Bg6 30 Rxe8+ Bxe8 31 b3 followed by a4, and the a-pawn starts sprinting towards happier times) 29 Nb4 with a better endgame for White.
I will not blame Flear for quoting from other sources, but throughout the book, I feel that there is not enough original input from Flear, and he does not seem to have taken the necessary time to scrutinize carefully what others are writing, before he decides to quote them. Of course it is an easy way to get some pages written, but it is not what people buy the book for – they expect some original input.
That being said, the book is a good read, and for people who want a good introduction to the Open Ruy Lopez has in this book plenty of easily accessible material, good explanations, and fairly good coverage on the theoretical side. For people who know the opening well or are quite strong, I am afraid the book is likely to fall short.
Queen's Gambit Declined by Matthew Sadler, 2000 Everyman Chess, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Softcover, 176pp. $19.95
The English GM Matthew Sadler should not need any introduction. He has previously covered other lines in the Queen's Gambit, namely the Slav and the Semi-Slav; both books were also published by Everyman Chess.
I was a bit puzzled when I received this book, because last month I reviewed another book from Everyman Chess on the Queen's Gambit Declined (QGD). To me it seems very strange for a publisher to publish two books on pretty much the same topic one right after another, when they may end up competing against each other. Another thing that surprised me was that both books seem to be written mainly from Black's point of view.
The book is divided into three parts:
Each part has several chapters. As mentioned above, this book is in the series with Flear's book above, but Sadler has a very different approach. He directly aims this book at those players who do not have a lot of experience with the QGD. To that end, much of the book has been written in "dialogue" form. For example, from Chapter Three:
Epishin-Ziatdinov, World Open, Philadelphia 1997
Question 7. What is the point of 8 c5?
Answer 7. The c4-c5 advance is an extremely ambitious positional idea that cuts out all of Black's queenside plans, forcing Black to search elsewhere in order to obtain active play.
Question 8. How does it stop Black's plans?
Answer 8. Black was relying on the sequence ...d5xc4 followed by ...b7-b5 and ...c7-c5 to find a post for his light-squared Bishop and to gain space on the queenside. After 8 c5, while White increases his command of queenside space, Black can neither play ...d5xc4 nor strike at White's centre with ...c7-c5.
Question 9. Can't Black just strike back with 8...e5?
Answer 9. Here we see another drawback of 7...a6 compared to 7...c6. 7...a6 does not add protection to the d5-pawn, and thus does nothing to consolidate Black's centre. Consequently, 8 c5 e5 9 dxe5 costs Black his d5-pawn. Before he can play ...e6-e5, Black must reinforce his centre. 8...c6
Question 10. What a minute! Haven't I seen this position before?
Answer 10. Nearly! 9 Qc2 or 9 a3 would transpose into 7...c6 8 Qc2/8 a3 a6 9 c5. In this move order, however, White can play a more useful move than either Qd1-c2 or a2-a3. Instead 8...Ne4 9 Bxe7 Qxe7 10 Nxe4! dxe4 11 Nd2 Nf6 (11...f5 12 c6! breaks up Black's queenside) 12 Nc4! (preventing ...e6-e5) was very pleasant for White in Karpov-Jakobsen, Malta Olympiad 1980. 9 Bd3! This position can also be reached via 7...c6 8 Bd3 a6!? 9 c5.
Question 11. I don't understand. If ...e6-e5 is coming, isn't 9 b4 better to hold the c5-pawn after d4xe5?
Answer 11. This was also my first reaction: it is natural to wish to maintain the structure that seems to suffocate Black's position. However, White's slow development offers Black an unusual way to create counterplay and solve his opening problems: 9...a5 10 a3 axb4! (White now regrets Ra1-c1 which allows Black to take over the a-file) 11 axb4 b6 12 Bf4 (to prevent ...e6-e5; 12 Bd3 bxc5 13 bxc5 e5! 14 dxe5 Ne8 leads to the main game, except that the exchange of all the queenside pawns increases the activity of Black's pieces enormously) 12...bxc5 13 bxc5 Ra3! (threatening 14...Rxc3 15 Rxc3 Qa5 16 Qd2 Ne4! winning) 14 Qd2 Qa5 15 Be2 Ba6! (Polugaevsky) when exchanges his light-squared Bishop while at the same time developing queenside counterplay!
Question 12. 9 Bd3 is better?
Answer 12. First of all, White activates his last minor piece, and prepares to castle his King to safety; secondly, White confiscates more central territory by stopping ...Nf6-e4.
I will stop here. I am sure you get the idea. Sadler asks and answers all the questions that you are wondering about when you first learn a new opening. In my opinion, he does the job admirably well. I wish I had a book like this about all openings I had to learn by myself over the years. It would definitely have saved me a lot of trouble trying to understand everything on my own.
But the nature of the book makes it, of course, more useful for players who are not yet so strong, although it is my feeling that many players, even up to around 2200-2300, will be able to benefit from this approach.
On the theoretical side, I have a feeling that the book is not entirely current. Only one of 112 main games are from 1999 and, on my own, I have been able to find many more examples dated after 1998, which makes me think that maybe this book was intended for publication by Batsford. When Batsford then ran into financial problems, it was put aside. Then at a later stage, Everyman Chess 'inherited' this book and now it has published it, more or less as it was completed in early part of 1999. This is, of course, speculation, but to me it sounds quite likely from what I see.
As was the case with Flear's book, it does not look like there is a lot of new ideas and improvements over existing theory. But unlike Flear, Sadler does not quote other writers and analysts ad nauseum, but rather seeks out the information he deems necessary and explains things based on those bits of analysis he has picked. This makes the book more attractive and more readable.
One final thing I would like to mention is that the present book does not cover all lines of the QGD, only enough to fit a repertoire together for Black. For lesser-played lines, I suggest that you consult Lalic's new book on the same topic, ECO or NCO, which should have the desired information.
Winning Unorthodox Openings by Angus Dunnington, 2000 Everyman Chess, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Softcover, 144pp. $19.95
Winning with unorthodox openings is not exactly a new idea, but it is still an interesting one. Who would not like to win a game with an opening you can familiarize yourself with in a couple of hours? Well, of course it is not as easy as that, and usually there are good reasons why some openings remain in the 'unorthodox' territory.
For those who are not familiar with the author, I can inform you that he is an IM, has coached the English juniors at the last two world junior championships and is the author of at least three books on openings dealing with the Catalan, the King's Indian Attack, and the Reti.
My experience with the openings that are covered in this book is quite limited. Aside from a few adventures with 1 b3 and 1 Nc3, I have, as most other chess players, only some experience in playing against these openings. Therefore, I have called in the assistance of another book, Black Is O.K. in Rare Openings by former world championship candidate and second to Garry Kasparov during his early matches against Anatoly Karpov, Andras Adorjan.
The book is divided into six chapters:
This division seems reasonable; the first five chapters cover openings with which White reasonably can claim to play for a win. The other moves are played on occasion, but do not contribute positively to White's chances of winning, and therefore have been summed up in the last chapter with a brief, sometimes extremely brief, discussion of the merits of each move.
Chapter 1 covers the Sokolsky Opening, an opening I had some experience against in my early teens, because my dad played this opening. It can be used as a surprise weapon, but frequent use makes you an easy target, because, provided Black knows what he is doing, he will get at least equal chances. The first thing I looked for was what Dunnington recommends against the line I used to employ against my dad, which incidentally is the one Keres used against Sokolsky in one of their meetings (I do, however, not remember the exact move order): 1 b4 d5 2 Bb2 Nf6 3 e3 e6 4 b5 c5 5 Nf3 b6 6 Be2 Bd6, followed by ...Bb7, ...Nbd7, ...0-0 and the preparations for e5 can begin. Well, I looked in vain; it is not mentioned. Next on the agenda, Adorjan's recommendation: 1 b4 e5 2 Bb2 Bxb4 3 Bxe5 Nf6
The main-line move is 4 c4, but Dunnington offers a couple alternatives for White. One is 4 Nc3?!, another is 4 Nf3 0-0 5 e3 d5 6 Be2, after which he only mentions 6...Re8, while Adorjan's recommendation 6...c5 (incidentally the most popular continuation on my database) 7 0-0 Nc6 ('=+' Adorjan) 8 Bb2 Re8 9 d3 Ba5 10 Na3 Bc7, with a good game for Black, Mukhin-Georgadze, Simferopol 1975, goes unnoticed.
On with the main line: 4 c4, and now Dunnington gives preference to 4...Nc6, while the critical 4...0-0 (Adorjan's main line) is only given as a side line. Often 4...Nc6 is played to kick the bishop back to b2, but even if Black does not play ...Nc6, White will have to do something about his bishop on e5, which easily can become a target.
So, let's see what he says about 4...0-0. 5 Nf3 d5 (Adorjan also mentions 5...Re8 6 e3 Bf8!? 7 Be2 g6 8 0-0 Bg7 9 Bb2 c5!, which was tried out in Volke-Vaganian, Bundesliga 1994) 6 e3 Be7 (Adorjan also mentions 6..Bd6 as adequate for Black) 7 Bb2 (Adorjan thinks that 7 Nc3 is better, giving 7...Nbd7 8 Bg3 dxc4 9 Bxc4 Nh5 10 Qc2 c6!, intending ...Nxg3) 7...c5 8 Be2 Nc6 9 cxd5 Nxd5 10 0-0 Bf6 11 Qc1 (against 11 d4?!, he quotes Urzica-Adorjan, Stockholm Wch jr 1969, which continued with 11...cxd4, but Adorjan actually thinks this move is dubious and should have been substituted with 11...Bg4!, intending 12 Nbd2 cxd4 13 Nxd4 Bxd4 14 exd4 Bxe2 15 Qxe2 Nxd4! 16 Bxd4 Nf4, with an extra pawn for Black), and here Dunnington continues with 11...Ndb4, while Adorjan claims an edge for Black after 11...Bf5! 12 Na3 Bxb2 13 Qxb2 Ndb4.
Also 6...c5 is mentioned by both authors, with Dunnington quoting the game Miralles-Gulko, Marseilles 1986: 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 Be2 Nc6 9 Bb2 Bg4, while Adorjan prefers 9...Bf5, giving four examples of how to clobber White. Finally, as an alternative to 1...e5, Adorjan recommends 1...Nf6 2 Bb2 g6, this is not mentioned by Dunnington either.
Chapter 2: Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack: 1 b3. An opening that is named after the two strongest chess players that have lived in native country, Denmark. Again there are several discrepancies between the opinions of Dunnington and what Adorjan recommends. Adorjan recommends three lines: 1) 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 d5; 2) 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 g6; and 3) 1 b3 Nf6 2 Bb2 g6. 1) and 3) are covered by Dunnington but 2) is not mentioned.
After 1 b3 e5 2 Bb2 Nc6 3 e3 d5 4 Bb5 Bd6 5 f4 Dunnington writes: "The most common move is 5 f4, profiting from the fact that Black no longer defends g7. Black has 5...f6 and 5...Qe7, but throwing the check in on h4 most inconveniences White: 5...Qh4+ 6 g3 Qe7 7 Nf3. Now...". Wait a minute, on account of 5...Qh4+, he jumps over the two other moves he just mentioned, and he never returns. In fact, Adorjan gives 5...f6! as Black's best. But also after 7 Nf3, they disagree: 7...f6 8 fxe5 fxe5 9 Bxc6+ bxc6 10 Nxe5 Nf6 11 Nxc6 Qe4 12 0-0 Bh3 13 Rf2 Ng4, and here Dunnington suggests 14 Rf3, giving 14...Rf8 15 Nd4 Ne5 16 Rxf8+ Kxf8 17 Qe2 c5 18 Ba3 Qg6 19 Nb5 or 18 d3, "when it looks as though White can weather the storm and stay a pawn or two ahead". Adorjan gives 14...Nxh2 15 Kxh2 Bg4 as winning for Black, but he forgets that White can play 16 Nd4!, answering 16...c5 with 17 Nc3, and although Black still is better after 17...Qg6 18 Qe1 (getting out of the pin, and planning to answer 18...exd4 19 exd4+ and then moving the Rook) White at least is not losing.
Against Adorjan's third recommendation, Dunnington gives 3 g4 as the main line, which truly is an unorthodox choice, but he does give 3 e4 as one alternative, with the main line going as follows: 3 e4 d6 4 g3 Bg7 5 Bg2 0-0 6 Ne2 e5 7 0-0 Nc6 8 d4 exd4 9 Nxd4 Nxd4 10 Bxd4 Re8 11 Re1 Bd7 12 c4 Bc6 13 Nc3 (here AD's line ends with the evaluation 'rather cramped for Black') 13...a5 14 Qd2 Nd7 15 Bxg7 Kxg7 16 Nd5 Bxd5 17 Qxd5 Re5!, and it is evident that Black is far from worse, probably slightly better. The game, by the way, was B.Stein-Uhlmann, Bundesliga 1991/2. After 3 g4 Bg7 4 g5 Nh5 5 d4!?, it surprised me that Dunnington does not mention 5...c5!? at all, which was my first thought, and according to Adorjan also a recommendation of Krnic.
Chapter 3 covers 1 Nc3, which surprisingly is called 'Queen's Knight Opening'. More popular names are Dunst Opening or van Geet Opening. Adorjan also has some ideas in regards to this, but one that goes completely unmentioned is 1 Nc3 d5 2 e4 dxe4 3 Nxe4 Nd7 4 Bc4 Ndf6 (Dunnington only mentions 4...Ngf6 and 4...e6). The games that Adorjan quotes, Mestrovic-Sjoberg, Vienna 1990, van Geet-van Scheltinga, Amsterdam 1964 and van der Wiel-Koch, Lyon zt 1990, should be available to Dunnington and therefore should have been mentioned, particularly since Black seems to equalize comfortably.
In chapters 4 and 5, there are also a few points that Dunnington and Adorjan disagree upon, but not anything major, so I will skip to chapter 6, the miscellaneous chapter.
In the coverage of 1 g4, which is an awful-looking move, but played in the early 1980s by the Greek, later-to-be-GM, Skembris and the English wild one, IM Basman, Dunnington mentions 1 g4 d5 2 Bg2 Bxg4 3 c4 c6 4 Qb3, and offers both 4...Qb6 and 4...Qc7, which are adequate for Black (although in the case of the latter, Dunnington does not show us how), but fails to mention 4...Qd7 which is quite strong, e.g., 5 cxd5 Nf6 6 Nc3 (6 dxc6 Nxc6, intending ...Nd4 is good for Black) 6...cxd5 (Adorjan also gives 6...e5 7 dxe6 Bxe6 as better for Black) 7 Nxd5 Nc6 8 Nxf6+ (or 8 Ne3?! Be6, intending ...g6 -/+) 8...exf6 with an edge for Black according to Adorjan.
Having gone through the theoretical side of the book, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed. Dunnington should have consulted the Adorjan book (which I believe is readily available from most chess book dealers) and tried to offer something against Adorjan's recommendations. Often he has not even mentioned Adorjan's ideas and that puts his book in a bad light.
However, the book is well-written and I am sure that people who buy it will find plenty of interesting ideas that can be used in a game or two, but I strongly suggest that anyone who decides to take up an opening after reading this book should consult other works before venturing into the unorthodox.
Frankenstein-Dracula Variation in the Vienna Game by Eric Schiller, 2000 Chess Enterprises, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Softcover, 161pp. $9.95
With up to ninety titles to his name, Schiller is one of the most prolific chess authors in today's book market. While there has been much debate about the quality of the works he has in print, there is no doubt that many people buy his books. There is no other reason why so many publishers would have published his books in the past.
It is not exactly a secret that Schiller has released some works that have contained all kinds of howlers. Two of my favorites are the cover of his book on the Janowsky Indian, which gives the moves: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bf5 [sic] and, in one of his recent books 639 Essential Endgame Positions, where I found the following position on page 28:
Schiller offers us the following insights: "This is a win for White regardless of who is on the move. 14.Kd5 Kf3; 15.Kd4 would put Black in zugzwang immediately, but even when it is Black's turn, defeat cannot be avoided. This maneuver is known as triangulation. Instead of moving to a square directly, the King makes a triangular journey (here Kc4-d4 via d5). Triangulation is only possible for the King and the Queen, but the mighty Queen rarely needs to make use of it. In pawn endings, it is one of the principal weapons of combat. 13...Kg3. 13...Kf3; 14.Kd4 is the familiar zugzwang. 14.Kd5 Kf3; 15.Kd4. The goal is reached. Black loses the pawn and the game. 14...Kg4; 16.Kxe5 Kg5; 17.Ke5 with a simple win."
For those who believe in what Schiller has to say about endgames, I have a little tip: Good luck! As many scholastic players certainly will be able to point out, the above endgame is drawn, no matter who is to move. The key is another of the principal weapons of combat, the opposition. For Schiller and his followers, here is the key: move the king backwards! Let's try it out: 1...Kf5 2 Kd4(d5) Kf6 3 Kxe4 Ke6, and White cannot win. Similarly, if White is to move: 1 Kd5 Kf5 2 Kd4 (the triangulation he is babbling about) 2...Kf6 3 Kxe4 Ke6, and as the dust settles, it emerges that, yes you can open your eyes now, it is a draw. Isn't it fantastic? I could give you another handful of examples from that same book, but I will not waste your time.
The present book covers probably the sharpest and most fascinating line in the Vienna Game, namely the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation (so-named by fellow columnist Tim Harding in one of his books in the seventies). First of all, I do not like the name, which has absolutely nothing to do with the opening, but I will not hold Schiller responsible for that.
The first curious thing I came across was something I found even before the Introduction. Although the book has "Copyright 2000 by Eric Schiller," it has the following acknowledgment "The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the valuable assistance of James V. Eade in the preparation of the analysis and for reviewing the 1995 manuscript." A strange statement, I would say, unless of course the manuscript for this book has been lying around for five years, before Schiller could find someone that was willing to publish it.
There is no Table of Contents in the book, but a brief look reveals the following three sections:
The introduction starts on page three as follows: "Introduction Let me begin with the facts, bare facts, meager facts and figures, and of which there can be no doubt. I must not confuse the with experiences which will have to rest on my own observation or my memory of them. Left Munich at 8.35 pm, on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning.
"Thus begins Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is only fitting that the tale begins with Vienna, for it is the Vienna Game that is under discussion in this book. That opening begins 1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 [The book contains a diagram here.] The opening is more frequently found at amateur levels of play in modern times, but with such old stalwarts as the Four Knights Game returning to favor [CH: that was some years ago] the Vienna may be due for a revival. Our subject is the variation which begins 2...Nf6 3 Bc4 This is Hamppe's Variation. The first he tried it, back in 1846 against Staunton in a match, Black played 3...Bc5, which is hardly confrontational. [CH: Hamppe didn't play a match against Staunton in 1846. However, he did play against Lowenthal in a match, where this opening occurred!] Our attention is focused on the more aggressive continuation: 3...Nxe4".
That was page 3, page 4 is empty, maybe left open for the student to write his own analysis to the above moves? Who knows?!
On page 5, the introduction continues:
"The leader, with a quick movement of his rein, threw his horse out in the front, and pointed first to the sun, now close down on the hill tops, and then to the castle, said something which I did not understand.
[The book contains a diagram here.]
"It took some time for Black to dare this over the board. Max Lange, commenting on the game Rossy-Haing, Dosseldorf 1863, simply gave 4 Bxf7+ as correct, also noting 4 Nxe4 d5. [CH: Black in this game was not Haing, but Hoing. And the wording by Max Lange in the 1863 October-November issue of Deuthsche Schachzeitung was: "Auf 3 Sf6-e4:, um bei 4 Sc3-e4: sodann d7-d5 zu spielen, konnte zunachst 4 Lc4-f7+ geschehen."] Both of those lines have passed into oblivion. Now the most important continuation is the violent queen sortie 4 Qh5! which threatens to checkmate the enemy King at once.
[The book contains a diagram here.]
4...Nd6 5 Bb3 Nc6 6 Nb5
[The book contains a diagram here.]
This creates the indirect threat of Nxd6+ followed by Qxf7 mate. [CH: This sounds pretty direct to me!]
6...g6 7 Qf3
Once more renewing the combinational threat.
[The book contains a diagram here.]
The move 7...f6 leads to a somewhat different play, and Black does not fare well. See Mukhin-Bronstein. [CH: This, by the way, was written in a different font!]
Page 7 is more of the same, a couple of diagrams, three moves from each side, a quote from Frankenstein, and a little bit of text.
I hope you get the idea, he is trying to fill the pages with minimum effort, but I will return to that later.
Page 8 brings something interesting into the picture:
"This monograph has several goals 1) to present an historical overview of the development of the variation and to bring the existing literature up to date
It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being; all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct. [CH: ??]
2) to further investigate a variety of unclear positions, and clean up some past mistakes in the literature
It was almost impossible to believe that the things which we had seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears were living truths. [CH: ???]
3) to make the study of the variation entertaining
4) to bring to light a number if fascinating games which have been buried, often incomplete, in obscure literature."
I have to admit that the above sounds awfully promising.
In pursuit of the first goal, Schiller mentions that he has relied on literature that previously covered this variation; this helped him to locate more than 200 games.
About the second goal he writes: "The second goal was the most fun to work on, sitting in the California sun with a nice set and board and working on new ideas [CH: !]. I did use computers to check some of the lines, but found them interestingly weak in this task, because the horizon on many of the lines is just too far down the road. For example, in the key line that, in my view, resurrects the line for Black, the variation beginning on move 16 must be worked out to move 30 before the winning line is confirmed. [CH: I will look at that below]. That is still too deep a solution for most microcomputers. I will confess that the machines did find more efficient kills in a number of situations."
For the third goal, Schiller has turned to the original stories of Dracula and Frankenstein. He has sprinkled excerpts from these two classics throughout the book. I find this extremely annoying, and like the numerous unnecessary diagrams, they only serve as fillers. The same goes for the big font he uses to display the moves, with one line for each move. A more efficient way of wasting pages upon pages cannot be found in other chess books.
For the remainder of the introduction, Schiller quotes a number of books and people on the theoretical standpoint of this opening. Then we reach Overview of the Theory. This part covers sixteen pages, which again sound reasonable for a little played opening, but in a 161-page book about a single line, it is not much at all. On top of that when you consider that Schiller uses seventeen diagrams, a large font with one move per line and is scattering excerpts from Dracula and Frankenstein throughout, you are down to next to nothing.
Pages 12-15 are used to reach move ten: (1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Nxe4 4 Qh5 Nd6 5 Nb5 g6 7 Qf3 f5 8 Qd5 Qe7 9 Nxc7+ Kd8 10 Nxa8 b6). None of the alternatives are covered in any detail, mostly only referring to games in the games section.
Here Schiller gives eight alternatives for White to choose from. The coverage is typical Schiller: "11 Qd3 This is not considered dangerous, because the time taken to move the Queen to safety allows Black to grab the Bishop. See Filip-Keller."
I do not think you can call the d3-square safe and when he wrote that Black would grab the bishop, he meant of course the knight on a8, but of course you knew that.
The next six alternatives (11 a4, 11 c3, 11 d4, 11 Nf3, 11 Qf3 and 11 Nxb6) are covered with the same thoroughness.
I particularly like his comments about 11 Nxb6, which is the main line and awarded an exclamation mark in NCO: "11 Nxb6 This is the automatic choice by many players, but is deemed 'a poor transaction for White' [CH: Why?] by Harding. After 11...axb6 12 Qf3 Bb7 White gets into trouble by retreating the Queen (Chistyakov-Dzhanoyev), while after 13 d3 Black can choose 13...Bg7 (Horvath-Hardicsay) or 13...Nd4 14 Qh3 f4!, which Konstantinopolsky & Lepeshkin claim to lead to a draw by repetition [CH: How?]."
There is notoriously little back-up for these statements. Schiller has apparently judged that the reader, for whom he supplies diagrams all the time and points out simple mate threats, can work out these lines by him or herself. By the way, in regards to the draw claim, NCO gives (after 14...f4) 15 c3 N4f5 16 Bd2 with a clear edge for White.
At least Schiller found out that 11 d3 was the main line. The coverage is still as deep as in the other lines (i.e., skin deep), but I started my search for the line he mentioned earlier, the one that he had worked out in the California sun, the line that was so deep that computers could not work it out.
Well, I found it, and here it is in its entirety: the first ten moves as above and then: 11 d3 Bb7 12 h4 f4 13 Qf3 Nd4 14 Qg4 h5 [CH: It does not appear that this move has ever been played, which of course increases the importance of the line we are about to see!] 15 Qxg6 Rh7, and now there are two alternatives, the former is 16 Qg5, which K&L evaluates as better for White:
A) 16 Qg5 Rg7 17 Qxe7 Bxe7 18 c3 Bxg2 19 Rh2 Bxa8 20 cxd4 Rxg1+, and Black has a strong initiative for the exchange.
B) 16 Nxb6 axb6 17 Rh2 Rg7 18 Qxh5 Bxg2 19 c3 Be4 20 cxd4 Rxg1+ 21 Kd2 Nf5! 22 dxe4 Qb4+ 23 Kc2 Nxd4+ 24 Kd3 Nxb3 25 Qxe5 Bg7 26 Qc7+ Kxc7 27 Bxf4+ Ke5 28 Bxe5+ Kc6 29 Rxg1 Qd2+ 30 Kc4 Na5#
In line A, 20 cxd4 is of course a major blunder, 20 Kf1 should defend, e.g. 20...Rxg1+ 21 Kxg1 Nf3+ 22 Kg2 Nxh2 23 Kxh2, with a complicated game, but White does not appear to be losing.
Line B is pathetic too, after 21...Nf5 White is losing, which my computer, without difficulty, saw in a few seconds. By the way, after move twenty, in his comments, Schiller claims that this opening is "an excellent choice against computer opponents!" The reason should be that they cannot calculate the position after move sixteen all the way to move thirty. Mr. Schiller, I would be surprised if you could, given that they cannot. This, by the way, is the only lengthy analysis by Schiller in the entire book, so he probably did not get a sunburn when he was working it out.
The theory chapter ends with 13...Bh6 (deviating from above) 14 Bd2 ... and "well, if you do find games or ideas I have overlooked, I appreciate hearing from you."
The Complete Games Section is probably the biggest joke in the book. The collection is supposed to be complete, but with only 206 games (they are not numbered, so I had to count them, I hope I got it right, and by the way, one of them is there twice, with a different diagrammed position in both games!), this is hardly a "collection." In my own databases, which consists of Megabase 2000, Mega-Corr (an excellent correspondance and e-mail game collection from Chess Mail) and the TWIC updates, I found over 300 games with the position after 4 Qh5, while Schiller in his collection also covers fourth move alternatives like 4 Bxf7+ and 4 Nxe4. On the Internet I found well over 300 games on Chesslab.com and on Encyclopaedia on Chess Openings on the Internet I found over 850 games, although some were games between computers.
You may ask yourself if the games that he missed are of great importance and if they involve stronger players. I can give you some of the names, and you can decide for yourself. I will start with the correspondance players: Wibe (IM and probably one of the leading authorities on this opening), van Oosterom (one of the world's strongest CC players, and also the man behind the Amber tournaments in Monaco and Women vs Veterans), Timmerman (one of the highest rated CC players in the world) Ekebjerg (#2 in the last CC-Wch) to mention but a few. OTB players: B. Lalic, Sulskis, Szmetan, Bezgodov, Lengyel, Chabanon, Czerwonski, I. Rogers, Shirov, Basagic, Solomon, Hector, Parker, Gdanski, Raetsky, Shabalov, Hawelko, Koch, and the list goes on.
By the way, only about ten of the games in Schiller's collection were dated after 1990, while I had over 100 in my base (before going on the Internet). This is simply inexcusably poor research, but with the standard of the book already below zero, it should not come as a surprise. The games section, by the way, takes up pages 29-161! Amazing. Another count reveals that 104 of the games are without any annotations (the excerpts from Dracula and Frankenstein do not count as annotations), fifty-two games are with text annotations only (lines of two moves or less are included in this count) and finally fifty games are annotated with some analysis.
Of the 102 games that are annotated, many, and by this I mean the majority, only have one or two comments.
I will draw your attention to the following game, that can be found on page 99; the annotations are by Schiller:
Mieses-Unknown, Liverpool (simul) 1900
Nice finish, I would say. But the rest of the game is of more questionable quality. Let's see: 6...0-0 – Schiller gives this move '?!', and while it is weaker than 6...Nc6, it is nothing next to what happens later in the game. 7 Nf3 – this move deserves a '?', because he could win his pawn back and does not, and now is worse off. 8 Ng5! – I hate to say it, but 8 Nxe5 winning back the pawn is just as good. 9 h4! – This, however, is a big mistake – see next note. 9...Ne8? – '??' is what the move deserves. Not only was 9...Nd4 necessary, it was clearly better for Black. For that same reason, White should have played 9 Nce4 with some compensation for the pawn. 10 Nd5 – Well, Schiller did not give it an '!'. In fact, it is another blunder on White's part. I am sure that Mieses by now had noticed Black's lacking potential as a chess player. Otherwise, I am sure he would played the fairly obvious 10 Nxf7, which pretty much wins on the spot. But Schiller obviously did not see that. 10...Nf6 – A giant blunder, which allows White to finish the game. Correct was 10...Nd4, after which it is doubtful if White can keep the balance. 11 Qg6! This is actually not White's best. White wins after 11 Nxf6+ Bxf6 12 Bxf7+. 11...fxg6 – Another example of Black's failing abilities, 11...Kh8!, after which White should continue with 12 Nxf7+ Rxf7 13 Qxf7 Nxd5 14 Qxd5, and White has big advantage.
Given the complicated nature of the game and the high level on which the game was played, it is understandable, that Schiller could overlook the few defensive resources for Black, whose play otherwise was immaculate.
A final comment about the game section is that there is no index, so instead of arranging the games by lines, Schiller has arranged the games in alphabetical order. A novel concept.
It should be obvious to everyone that none of the goals that Schiller stated was achieved.
I have seen thousands of chess books over the years, but this book is by far the worst book I have ever seen. I do not have any words to express the degree of disgust I feel. It is sad that anyone is willing to put their name on such trash, but for some people it is only a matter of getting paid; they are willing to do anything for money.
I do not feel sorry for the publisher of this book (or for that matter those who also publish Schiller's books), because they should know better. Therefore, I will ask you to do me the favor of not supporting this particular author by buying this piece of rubbish.
© ChessCafe.com. All Rights Reserved. This article first appeared at ChessCafe.com in August 2000.
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