Translate this page
We are still ironing out some wrinkles in the website redesign. In the meantime enjoy this month's Checkpoint. Please support this column with a purchase from our chess shop.
This month we will look at four recent books on openings that have a decent following at many levels, but are not currently as popular as their reputation suggests.
The Tarrasch Defence: Move by Move by Sam Collins, Everyman Chess 2014, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Paperback, 254pp. $27.95 (ChessCafe Price $23.87); Ebook $21.95
In my February 2012 column, we looked at the very advanced Grandmaster Repertoire: The Tarrasch Defence by Jacob Aagaard and Nikolaos Ntirlis, which probably is far too complicated for most players wanting to learn how to play this sharp, dynamic defense as black. A defense that was developed by Tarrasch and has since been a weapon for world champions Boris Spassky and Garry Kasparov, along with many grandmasters and international masters over the years.
For those potential Tarrasch Defense players, the present book is like an early arrival of spring after a bitter winter. Irish International Master Sam Collins has played the opening against a number of considerably stronger players and reached very playable positions, scored quite well, and could have scored better if he had not self-destructed on a couple of occasions.
The Tarrasch Defense arises upon 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5!? (3 Nf3 c5 is another, more flexible way for White to play):
Collins's initial discussion in the introduction of the use and fashion of the opening was both instructive and insightful. Some of the arguments I have had against people adopting this opening were dealt with in a very no-nonsense manner and took the sting out of some of my more informed objections.
The material is divided as follows:
The format of this series allows Collins the luxury of not having to deal with every nook and cranny of this opening, so he can stay on the instructive main paths and present the theory he deems relevant. This he has done very efficiently. He does delve into some theory, as it would be impossible not to, even in a series that is aimed at club-level players who do not necessarily need to be bombarded with reams of complicated analysis.
Collins annotates the twenty-five main games in minute detail with plenty of explanatory prose. He takes his time and really goes in-depth on occasion to explain the strategic motifs and tactical ideas by breaking them down into smaller, more digestible morsels. Collins keeps the overall tone serious, but without being boring. Unlike the comedic styling of the "grandmaster" of the move-by-move series, American International Master Lakdawala.
I have picked a game that I think you will enjoy; one where the author is playing the black pieces against former world championship challenger Viktor Korchnoi. It is a fighting contest where both sides had their chances and where the author gets an opportunity to show he can also play. The annotations are selected from those in the book.
Viktor Korchnoi - Sam Collins
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Be3
"A favourite of Korchnoi, who explains the ideas follows: ‘One of the best moves in this position is 8.Be3, and if 8...c4 9 b3 cxb3 10 Qxb3, when the d5-pawn is weak and still requires defending. In addition, White has pressure on the half-open b-file.' Korchnoi goes on to note that, while he had not won all his games with this setup, he has always had an advantage in the middlegame."
8...c4 9.b3 cxb3 10.Qxb3 0-0 11.Ne5
Here Collins offers a couple of alternatives for Black, including 11...Qb6 "has great lineage: 12.Rc1 (Kasparov gives 12.Qxb6 axb6 13.Rc1 Nb4 14.Nc3 Be6 15.a3 Nc6 16.Nb5 Rfc8 as unclear) 12...Qxb3 13.axb3 Nb4 with an endgame which Black went on to win in V.Korchnoi-G.Kasparov, Candidates (6th matchgame), London 1983 (0-1 in 78). Worth investigating if you don't like the main line, but I think White should be a bit better in this endgame (his rooks are doing a good job pounding the queenside), so I prefer 11...Na5."
12.Qd3 Be6 13.Nc3 Rc8 14.Rab1!
A strong move, preventing Black's idea of planting his knight on c4. Instead, 14.Bg5 Nc4 15.Rab1 Nd6 16.Rbc1 Qa5 17.Bd2 Qd8 18.Bg5 was drawn in Y.Kruppa-V.Potkin, Kiev 2001.
14...g6 15.Qd2 Nc4
"This is the move Blck wants to play, but I didn't assess the resulting position properly. The alternatives are sounder:
15...a6 16.Na4 (16.a4 seems more principled) 16...b5 17.Nc5 Bf5 18.Rbc1, as in L.Ftacnik-V.Vojtek, Slovakian Team Championship 2012, could be well met by 18...Nc4 19.Nxc4 when either capture on c4 is fine for Black. I prefer 19...bxc4!, keeping a stake in the centre and, provided we can prevent White from playing e2-e4, giving Black every reason to play for a win.
15...b6 is more solid. The 16.Nb5 Nc4 17.Nxc4 Rxc4 is equal, since18.Nxa7 Qd7 19.Nb5 Rfc8 gives Black full compensation for the pawn."
Exercise: How should White play?
"This move, which is based on an exchange sacrifice, was confidently cracked out by Korchnoi and Black's position immediately becomes critical."
17...Bb4 18.Rxb4! Rxb4 19.Bg5
"Now we can see White's compensation. He already has a pawn for the exchange, plus a much better structure. The dark squares around my king are just horrible, and the pin of the f6-knight is extremely annoying.
Still, we have to make a move I suppose..."
"Going for the knockout punch. This was the move I had feared but, in fact, it squanders White's advantage. The straightforward 20.Nxd5? doesn't work either: 20...Bxd5 21.Bxd5 Qxd5 22.Bxf6 Qf5! And Black defends his king while preparing his counterplay with ...Rc2.
Instead, the calm 20.Rd1 would have kept some advantage for White; for instance 20...Re8 21.Nxd5 Bxd5 22.Bxf6 Qxf6 23.Bxd5 Rc7, and White has two pawns for the exchange plus a monster bishop on d5. Black should be able to draw with careful defence (an exchange sacrifice on d5, going into a possibly tenable pawn down position with major pieces, might be a resource), but White is having all the fun."
"Exercise: Find a way for Black not to lose on the spot."
"Probably the best move I've ever played, especially considering the caliber of my opposition and how the position turns 180 degrees.
20...Qa5 21.f5! is not playable for Black: 21...Qxc3 22.Qxc3 Rxc3 23.fxe6 Ne4 24.Bxe4 dxe4 25.d5 wins for White in view of 25...fxe6 26.d6.
Partial credit for 20...Re8!?. White is better after 21.f5! (21.Bh4 is dangerous and perhaps stronger) 21...Bxf5 (21...gxf5 22.Bh4 again looks horrible for Black) 22.g4 Rxc3 23.Bxf6 Rc2 24.Qxc2 Bxc2 25.Bxd8 Rxd8 26.Kf2 is a slightly favourable endgame for White, but Black should hold."
"21.Bh4 Qa5 22.f5 Qxc3 23.Qxc3 Rxc3 24.fxe6 g5! Is the difference compared to 20...Qa5. After 25.e7 Re8 26.Bxg5 hxg5 27.Rxf6 Rxe7 28.Kf2 Rc2, Black is the one with winning chances."
"This, of course is the point (otherwise Black's last move would have been poor). The counterplay on the a7-g1 diagonal based on ...Rxd4 and, if necessary, ...Ng4 is actually quite difficult to deal with."
"Taking away the g4-square and so preparing Qe3 in response to ...Rxd4, but it wastes crucial time."
Here Collins analyzes several options for White, but concludes: "22.Bxf8! Rxd4 23.Qe1! was the only defence, which I'm pretty sure I had missed. Luckily Black has more than enough compensation after 23...Rc4+ 24.e3 Kxf8 in view of his extremely active pieces and continuing weakness of the white king, but White should have gone for this."
"Actually, 22...Rxd4 23.Qe3 Re8 was winning too, but my move is stronger."
"The computer prefers taking on c3 (or even the bizarre 23...Bf5!?!?), but I was delighted to trade into an endgame where White's queenside will be demolished by my rooks."
24.Qxd4 Rxd4 25.Nb5 Ra4 26.f5
"The only attempt at counterplay."
26...gxf5 27.Nd6 Rc2 28.Nxf5 Bxf5 29.Rxf5 Rxe2
"The threat of doubling on the seventh means that Black saves his knight."
30.Kg1 Raxa2 31.Bf1 Re6
"Now only basic care is required to bring home the full point."
32.Bf4 a5 33.Be5 Ne4 34.h4 Rg6 35.Rf3 a4 36.Rd3 Rd2 37.Ra3 Re6 38.Bf4 Rd4 39.Kg2 Rb6 40.Ra2 Rb3 41.Kh3 a3 42.Rc2 Rc3 43.Ra2 f6 44.h5 Rb4 45.Bg2 Rb2 46.Ra1 a2 47.h6 Rcc2 0-1
This is a very good book and an excellent introduction to an opening that deserves a better reputation. The target audience for this book pans from those rated 1500 to well past 2000. Those beyond that level can start exploring the work by Aagaard and Ntirlis.
The Extreme Caro-Kann: Attacking Black with 3.f3 by Alexey Bezgodov, New In Chess 2014, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Paperback, 270pp. $28.95 (ChessCafe Price $24.67)
How time flies, it has already been ten years since Bezgodov's provocative Challenging the Sicilian with 2.a3!? was published (reviewed in my October 2004 column). This time around, the Russian grandmaster has picked another provocative opening, albeit one with much more of an established following and with a considerably better reputation.
The Fantasy Variation is normally considered a minor, but rather tricky line to face, particularly when not properly prepared. Nevertheless, it still surprised me that the author could put 270 pages together on this line. 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 f3!? looks fairly ridiculous at first sight and breaks a number of elementary rules that we are taught as beginners.
The material divided as follows:
In Grandmaster Repertoire 7: The Caro-Kann, Danish grandmaster Lars Schandorff writes about this line as follows: "This somewhat bizarre move has gained considerable popularity over the last few years. A good guess is that this is mainly because White has had so many problems proving any advantage in the major variations. The line is called the Fantasy Variation, but let's keep both feet on the ground for a moment. A move like3.f3 shouldn't scare Black. On the other hand you can't ignore it, as 3.f3 isn't bad at all. Seriously, I am not kidding. White protects e4 with a pawn which means there is a good chance he will retain his two central pawns, and at the same time it won't be easy for Black to develop his light-squared bishop, which is a key element of the Caro-Kann."
It seems relevant to compare Schandorff's repertoire recommendations for Black to what is suggested for White in the present book, and it all boils down to the following game:
Hou Yifan - E. Danielian
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.f3 dxe4 4.fxe4 e5 5.Nf3 Bg4
This is the line that Schandorff recommends.
This is mentioned by Schandorff who writes, "Protecting the centre with 6 c3 makes much more sense [than 6 dxe5, whereas 6 Bc4 is his main line], but the best it will bring White is a transposition to the next note or to the mainline."
However, this observation is inaccurate: White does not need to transpose to the 6 Bc4 lines, as the Women's World Champion clearly demonstrates in this game.
In the comments to this move, Bezgodov writes, "Significantly more common is 6 Bc4. However, after the accurate 6...Nd7 7 c3 b5! (avoiding the chance tactic Qb3) Black has no problems at all." Interestingly enough, this line with 7...b5 is a suggestion by Schandorff in ChessBase Magazine; one that he describes as not the best option in his own book, to which he offers analysis and an improvement in another direction.
So with the interaction between the books played out, I will take a look at Bezgodov's analysis on my own.
At this juncture, Bezgodov analyzes 6...exd4 at length, concluding that it is dangerous for Black. I have found no reason to object to his conclusions. Though, Black may be have a playable position after 6...exd4 7 Bc4! Qe7! 8 Qxd4! Bxf3!? 9 gxf3 Nd7 as offered and analyzed by Bezgodov (punctuation to the moves, by the way, by him).
"This modest square is probably the best one for the bishop." - Bezgodov
7...Bd6 8.0-0 Ngf6
This goes without any comment; the alternative is 8...Qc7 9.h3 Bh5 (9...Bxf3 promises White the better chances 10.Qxf3 Ngf6 11.Nd2 0-0-0 12.Nc4 Kb8 13.a4+/-) 10.Nbd2 Ngf6 11.Nc4 0-0 transposes to the main game.
"A barely noticeable, but significant inaccuracy, which could have led to equality. It makes no sense for White to kick the bishop from g4. In my view, the path to an advantage was as follows: 9.Nbd2!? 0-0 [CH: 9...Qc7 10.Nc4 0-0 11.Qc2 Rad8 12.Kh1 looks very pleasant for White and along the kind of play White is aiming for in this variation. Also, 9...b5 10.a4 a6 11.axb5 axb5 12.Rxa8 Qxa8 13.h3 Bh5 is slightly better for White.] 10.Nc4 Bc7 11.Bg5 Re8 (he does not ease his problems with 11...h6 12.Bh4) 12.Qc2! Bxf3 13.Rxf3 b5 14.Ne3 Bb6 15.Ng4 exd4 16.c4!. White's initiative more than compensates for the pawn." - Bezgodov
This appears to be correct; for example, after 16 c4 bxc4 17.Qxc4 Bc7 18.Bxf6 Nxf6 19.Nxf6+ gxf6 20.Qxc6 Be5 with a better game for White. Another option is 16.Kh1 Nxg4 17.Bxd8 Raxd8 18.cxd4 Bxd4 19.h3 Nge5 20.Rff1 and although White has a fairly clear material advantage, this is not entirely unplayable for Black: 20...Bxb2 21.Rad1 Ba3 22.Qc3 Be7 23.Be2 with the better chances for White.
"The Armenian reacts somewhat stereotypically. By exchanging the active bishop, Black can escape all his [sic] problems: 9...Bxf3! 10.Qxf3 0-0 11.Be3 exd4! [CH; This is an improvement over 11...Qc7 12.Nd2 b5 13.a4 a6 14.Kh1 Rab8 15.Ra2 (or 15.axb5 axb5 16.Qf5; 15.Qf5!?) 15...c5 16.axb5 axb5 17.dxc5 Bxc5 18.Bg5 with better chances for White as in Ziaziulkina-Franciskovic, Istanbul 2012] 12.cxd4 c5!=. By taking the strategically important e5-square from his opponent, Black assures himself a comfortable game." - Bezgodov.
A possible continuation could be 13.e5 Bxe5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Bxh7+ Nxh7 16.Qxb7 Qb6 17.Qd5 Qxb2 18.Nd2 Rfd8 19.Qxc5 Rac8 20.Qa5 Qc3, and Black certainly has solved all his problems.
10.Nbd2 0-0 11.Nc4 Qc7
11...Bc7!? is suggested by Bezgodov as a possible alternative; nevertheless, this still looks pleasant for White: 12.Bg5 b5 13.Ne3 Bb6 14.g4 Bg6 15.Kg2 with a steady initiative for White, though Black's position is quite solid and White's a bit exposed.
An earlier game that goes unmentioned by Bezgodov featured 12.Be3 Rfe8 13.Qc2 Bg6 14.Rad1 (14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Nfxe5 Bxe5 16.Nxe5 Qxe5 17.Bd4 Qd6 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Rf3 Rad8 20.Raf1+=) 14...exd4 15.Nxd6 Qxd6 16.Bxd4 Nxe4 17.Bxg7 (17.Nh4 Ndc5 18.Nxg6 Nxd3 19.Nh4 Ng3 20.Rxd3 Nxf1 21.Kxf1 Qe6 22.Qd2 Rad8+=) 17...Kxg7 18.Bxe4 Qc5+ 19.Qf2 Re7 (19...Qxf2+ 20.Kxf2 Nc5 21.Bxg6 hxg6 22.g4 Re7=) 20.Bb1 Qxf2+ 21.Rxf2 Rae8 22.Nd4 Re1+ 23.Rf1 Rxd1 24.Rxd1, and a draw was agreed upon in Zvjaginsev-Bareev, St. Petersburg 2009, and Black is at least even after for example 24...Nc5 25.Kf1 Bxb1 26.Rxb1 Nd3 27.b3 Kf6 with perhaps a slight initiative for Black in the endgame, but it shouldn't be enough to cause serious concern for White.
12...Bg6 13.Bg5 Rfe8?!
"After the superior 13...Nh5!? White's position remains the more pleasant, but that is all." - Bezgodov.
But again, I find White's position considerable more tenable: 14.g4!? (14.Nxd6 Qxd6 15.Rad1 Rae8 is slightly better for White, but playable for Black) 14...Nf4 15.Bxf4 exf4 16.e5 Be7 17.Bxg6 fxg6 18.a4 with a seriously uncomfortable position for Black.
Also 14.Nh4 h6 15.Bxf6 Nxf6 16.Nxg6 fxg6 17.Kh1 is better for White.
Another option is 15.Nxd6 Qxd6 16.Kh1 Rad8 17.Rad1 exd4 18.cxd4 c5 19.d5 b5 20.b3 a6 21.a4+/-.
Bezgodov also analyzes 15...exd4 16.cxd4 Bf4 17.Nxg6 fxg6 (17...hxg6 18.e5 fxe5 19.Bxg6 Nf8 20.Bh5 Re7) 18.e5! fxe5 19.Bxg6 Re7 20.Rae1 Rf8 21.Bf5! Rff7 22 Kh1! Exd4 23 Rxe7 Rxe7 24 Qf2! "White's attack is strong". He continues his analysis a bit further.
"Also very strong is the blockading 16.Nf5 Bf8 17.Nce3+/-, which is maybe what a merciless professional from the 2750+ club would play without thinking!" - Bezgodov.
16...Rg8 17.Ne3 Rae8 18.Ng4 exd4 19.cxd4 c5 20.Nxg6+ fxg6 21.Bb5 Rgf8 22.dxc5 Be7 23.b4 a6 24.Ba4 b5 25.Bb3 Ne5 26.Ne3 Nc6 27.Nd5 Qe5 28.a4 Bd8 29.axb5 axb5 30.Qd3 Qxe4 31.Qxb5 Nd4 32.Qc4 Re5 33.Rae1 Qxe1 34.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 35.Kh2 Re4 36.Qd3 f5 37.Qc3 Bh4 38.Bc2 Be1 39.Qa1 Rh4 40.Qxe1 1-0
This book is very good. It covers the subject in detail and fairly objectively and it provides an amazing amount of new ideas and analysis for both sides.
The material is structured around main games and most, if not all, are thoroughly annotated in an instructive fashion. However, the amount of analysis included can make for heavy reading. To acquire the proper benefit from this book, the prospective reader should at least be rated 2200 or higher. White players who already employ this line will definitely want this book, even if they are not yet rated at 2200. Strong Caro-Kann players should also consider this book. It is a minor line, but one with a certain sting and it is finding a larger following than in previous years.
Playing the Trompowsky: An Attacking Repertoire by Richard Pert, Quality Chess 2013, Figurine Algebraic Notation, 264pp. Hardcover, $39.95 (ChessCafe Price $33.97); Paperback, $29.95 (ChessCafe Price $25.47)
The Trompowsky, 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5, has long been a popular weapon in English chess circles and quite a few books have been written about it over the years. Some have been dedicated monographs, but most coverage is included as part of a larger work on Queen's Pawn openings.
For English International Master Richard Pert, the Trompowsky really took off in English tournaments in the 1990s, where most of the grandmasters and international masters gave it a spin or two, some trotting it out regularly. When I lived in England I faced the Trompowsky in many local tournaments and club matches, so being well-prepared against it paid off, because you knew you would face it on occasion. Pert also notes that it will likely be a more effective weapon against players from outside Britain, as they may not have studied the opening in as much depth.
That being said, it is a playable opening, and Pert includes it as a core part of his repertoire. While he has not scored well against higher rated players, he has scored with ruthless efficiency against weaker players, and, truth be told, some of his losses against the stronger players were not because of the opening.
The material is divided as follows:
As can be seen, the book provides a very detailed repertoire for White, including lines in the Pseudo-Tromp, 1 d4 d5 2 Bg5, and against the Dutch, 1 d4 f5 2 Bg5.
While Pert does not guarantee an advantage for White in all the lines, he gives it a good shot based on his own experience and an incredible amount of analysis, much of which is revealed for the first time in this book.
I checked several of the lines and I do not disagree with his variations to any great extant, though some evaluations are definitely flavored by Pert's affinity for the white pieces. This itself is okay, as he is promoting the opening, and he is not boasting about things that are not true. He tries to stay as close as possible to being objective, but when you are writing about something you care deeply about, then you will sometimes have your hat on a little skewed.
I will have to warn potential buyers that this is a fairly advanced work, one written primarily for stronger players. Perhaps not exactly along the lines of the Grandmaster Repertoire series, but pretty close to it. I would say a rating of at least 2000 or higher should be required before contemplating buying this book. Below that level, you should probably look at Starting Out: The Trompowsky Attack by Richard Palliser (reviewed in the December 2009 column).
For the intended audience, this is a very good book on the Trompowsky and related openings. It takes the theory several steps forward and will provide the reader with many new ideas and concepts.
Play the Accelerated Dragon by Peter Lalic Everyman Chess 2014, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Paperback, 176pp. $26.95 (ChessCafe Price $23.87)
This book is a slim volume and almost puny in size compared to most chess books these days. The author, the son of grandmaster Bogdan Lalic and women's grandmaster Susan Lalic, is a regular contributor to Chess Monthly magazine and also the youngest chess player to become an English Chess Federation accredited coach.
As some may know, the subject of this book is one of my favorite topics, it being the subject of my own first book, a tightly packed 320-page volume dating back to 1998. So it is obvious that the author of this book has trimmed lots of material to fit it into this production. His main approach has been to offer a fairly narrow repertoire, but there are more serious issues as well.
The material is divided as follows:
Among the many issues I have with this book is the narrowness of the repertoire, which makes it virtually impossible for Black to deviate from the repertoire if an issue arises in the given lines. As is the case on several occasions with his recommended line in chapter two. Also, the fact that he uses more pages on the various attempts for White to reach a Yugoslav Attack (as frequently seen in the "normal" Dragon: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 f3, followed by Qd2, sometimes Bc4 and then 0-0-0) than he does on the far more critical 7 Bc4 lines.
Far more problematic are his chapters on the Maroczy Bind. The method chosen to present the material is that of main games, with some theory and annotations woven in. Therefore, it does not make a lot of sense that the author divided the coverage of the Maroczy Gurgenidze lines into two chapters. Furthermore, the coverage in the second of these chapters also includes lines where White plays an early Nc2, which prevents Black from playing the exchange ...Nxd4 (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 g6 5 c4 Nf6 6 Nc3 d6 7 Be2 Nxd4 - or 7 f3 Nxd4). This is what characterizes the Gurgenidze. Thus, by that definition, if White does not allow the exchange, then we are no longer discussing the Gurgenidze variation, and it should be a separate chapter or it should be labeled differently.
Yet the problems do not end here. In the last chapter, the author spends thirteen pages looking at two rather boring lines, one of which is important to understand, but ignores a number of significant options for White, some of which Black needs to understand well in order not to end up in serious difficulty. However, many of these lines are ignored altogether, while others are mentioned in the barest sense of the word, with nothing that truly describe the ideas and how to continue if both sides are playing accurately.
Overall, I find this book a disappointment. There is very little substance. Starting Out: The Accelerated Dragon by Andrew Greet is many times better. The majority of the main games in this book were played before the Greet volume was published, and the main games that were played after that book was released were played by Lalic himself. A little bizarre, I think.
Comment on this month's column via our official Chess Blog!
Purchases from our
Home Page] [ChessCafe
© 2014 BrainGamz, Inc. All Rights Reserved.