Best Books (2010)
Off The Shelf - The Best of 2010 By Sean Marsh
Sean Marsh - Monday 4th April 2011
Attacking Manuals 1 and 2 by GM Jacob Aargaard | http://www.ukgamesshop.com
Sean Marsh is a Freelance writer, specialising in interviews and reviews. He has been a professional chess coach since 1988. As he says "I have been in the fortunate position of being able to review books from all major chess publishers, plus a few who are less well known. Here's my personal choice of the top books from 2010 (in no particular order)." This article contains quotes and descriptions from the books as well as some interesting positions and analysis.
New in Chess: The First 25 Years An Anthology 1984 - 2009
Edited by FM Steve Giddins
New in Chess
New in Chess Anthology
'New in Chess' is one of the best and most popular chess magazines in the world. It is another reminder of the advancing years as one is reminded that it started over 25 years ago. I vividly remember Kevin Winter, my friend and former team mate, showing me the very first issue on the way to a match.
This book is exactly what the title suggests it is: a collection of the best bits of New in Chess over a 25 year period, collated, edited and introduced by FM Steve Giddins.
The first article is an interview with Mikhail Botvinnik, which first appeared in issue 1 of New in Chess, back in 1984. It was shortly before Kasparov's Candidates' final against Smyslov - the last step in the former's meteoric rise to challenge Karpov for the title. The collection concludes with an interview with World Champion Anand from 2008. How much had changed between those years. Computers started beating World Champions, Kasparov retired from chess, Bronstein, Miles and Fischer died...
There are plenty of interviews in this collection and rightly so; they are always one of the highlights of the magazine and they usually involve the biggest of fish. There are numerous other articles too, featuring the acerbic wit of Hans Ree, the historical memories of Genna Sosonko (his article on Tal is a particular highlight) and reports from top events.
Despite the age of some of the articles, there is no doubt at all that they have stood the test of time
The prose heavily outweighs the illustrative games, but that is a good thing. This is definitely a book to read rather than a tome for preparation. When chess moves do appear, they are of course of the highest quality and/or significance.
This one goes under the title, 'The Most Spectacular Move Ever?'...
In short, this represents the 'best of the best'. It's a fabulous collection of chess writing, presenting genuine snapshots of momentous episodes in the history of the game. Chess fans of any level will find plenty to enjoy here.
Revolutionize Your Chess By GM Viktor Moskalenko
New in Chess
Revolutionize Your Chess By GM Viktor Moskalenko
I enjoyed GM Moskalenko's book on 'The Flexible French' and I had been looking forward to reading his latest work
This one is not dedicated to a particular opening, but is a guide hoping to instill into chess players a better understanding of dynamic play.
Right from the start, it is clear that this is a serious book, for serious students
Foreword: From Static to Dynamic Chess
'Once they have reached a certain level most players fail to make real progress. They focus their study on openings, a limited amount of static strategic themes and classical tactics in the middlegame, and a collection of standard endgame themes. Which means that they do not understand much of what they are doing when they are sitting behind the board themselves, facing real chess problems.
How can this be? The answer is quite simple: the general rules of the game have not yet been discovered.'
The author goes back to the start, with Steinitz and his theories, through Paul Morphy and into the early years of the 20th Century to trace the genesis of the principles of dynamic chess in relation to general strategy
There is a rallying cry
'Revolutionize your chess, and become a better player!'
Chapter 1: The Moskalenko Test of a Chess Player's Skills
The first chapter gets straight down to work and presents several methods to determine a player's skill level. There is little room for sentiment if one wishes to become a stronger player
'I think that a true professional chess player cannot afford the luxury of having lots of friends among his colleagues.'
Chapter 2: Moskalenko's Five Touchstones
This chapter introduces an important concept, which is pivotal to the entire book. GM Moskalenko introduces his five touchstones:
- T1 Material
- T2 Development
- T3 Placement of Pieces and Pawns
- T4 King Position
- T5 Time
One conclusion is that 'T5 - Time' is rarely considered as much as static observations, and this factor is acting to the detriment of a player's development. With the touchstones in place, the book then considers the three main phases of the game, starting with...
Another original method is introduced here: one has to take into account the 'Properties of Pieces, Pawns and Squares' ('PPPS').
There are plenty of illustrative snippets for the reader to work on. Here's one to ponder, which, according to the book, famous analysts managed to get wrong.
' Exercise: Find the best square for the black king and find out who was right: Moskalenko, Dreev or Mark Dvoretsky?'
Positions featuring an Isolated Queen's Pawn are ripe with dynamic possibilities and they feature heavily in this section. Even Karpov occasionally struggled to stem the dynamic flow in this famous game, which is excellently annotated:
Instead of being a weakness, the IQP played a decisive role and only left the board when it promoted:
28 Qxf8+ Qxf8 d8=Q 1-0
The Botvinnik System of the Semi-Slav is given very good coverage and it comes with a warning against relying on artificial intelligence:
'In the Botvinnik System, it is advisable to use computer analysis only with great care, as the machine tends to make wrong evaluations and misses the truth in 50% of cases. Therefore, you should analyse yourself until more stabilized positions are reached.
Some of the moves have to be seen to be believed.
is an extraordinary manoeuvre discovered by Kramnik, and the most beautiful move in the Botvinnik System. Apart from creating attacking chances along the g- and h-files, Black prepares the centralization of his rook on the d4 square.'
In order to play more dynamically, there is little point in using the Exchange Variation against the French Defence as a main opening 'weapon'. Therefore it should come as no surprise that the author is enthusiastic about the following three openings
- Saemisch Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence
- The Stonewall Dutch
- Four Pawns Attack against the King's Indian Defence
Even established fans of these openings should find fresh material here.
Throughout the book, there are quotes from the greats and some very good photos too. Production values are high; it's a very good looking book.
Ultimately, it is T5 which is definitely the one we are all encouraged to embrace in order to inject more life into our game.
'...a flexible approach to our game is necessary in 21st Century chess. Steinitz's Elements and Nimzowitsch's System, two milestones in chess history, have meant a lot for the understanding of thousands of chess players, but only a good understanding of the Time factor will be able to take chess players to a new dimension'.
I enjoyed this book. There is lot to read, a lot to absorb.
Wojo's Weapons Winning With White Vol. 1
By IM Jonathan Hilton and NM Dean Ippolito
GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz died in 2006. This book acts as a tribute as well as being a serious opening tome. It explores and explains his favourite openings based around 1 Nf3 when Black replies with 1...d5.
Both authors are self-confessed who clearly hold their subject in high regard.
'We sincerely hope that this book proves useful to those looking to explore Wojo's white opening repertoire. We also hope that, through this project, we are able to preserve some of the vast legacy left to the chess world by the genius that was Aleksander Wojtkiewicz.'
We could argue about the use of the word 'genius' all day long (I find it a little strong for a jobbing Grandmaster) but it makes more sense to turn to the chess content of this volume.
- Introduction: The 'Wojo System'
- The Closed Catalan
- The Open Catalan
- The Slav Defense
- Black's Other Defenses
The Catalan sections are the real meat of this volume. There are copious amounts of sensible, instructive prose to be found in between the 75 illustrative games (approximately half of which feature Wojo himself). The game annotations themselves are excellent; not overdone in terms of variations, they genuinely get to the heart of the action. There are frequent summaries and conclusions after the main sections to cement the lessons in the reader's mind.
I think the authors have worked to create an original work and they have not been afraid to head away from the be aten tracks of fashion.
For instance, in this classic position of the Open Catalan, the authors eschew the common 7 Qc2 in favour of 7 Ne5.
'With this move, White opens the h1-a8 diagonal, putting a halt to Black's plan of ...a7-a6 and ...b7-b5, which would have freed his light-squared bishop after 7 Qc2 a6 8 Qxc4 b5 followed by ...Bc8-b7. Now, if White is allowed to simply recapture the pawn with Ne5xc4, he will achieve his aim of controlling the center. If Black wants to avoid getting positionally squashed, he must take advantage of the tempi `white is losing with his knight maneuver to radically open the board.'
The Catalan may not appeal to all players. Obviously, it best suits those who prefer a strategic battle, and this underpins the whole repertoire, with the first player steering the battle into territory he will know better than the opponent. Lovers of endgames will feel at home.
The other sections are less thorough. The Slav is met by
1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 Nf6 3 c4 c6 4 Qc2
, avoiding mainline theory. The 'Other Defenses' covered are the QGA, The Tarrasch, ....Bf5 systems, the Chigorin and the Austrian (1 Nf3 d5 2 d4 c5). I think the reader will have to do some extra reading to pad out the analysis in these latter sections, but experienced club and tournament players should appreciate and enjoy the Catalan chapters.
I understand that work has begun on volume 2, which will feature (at least) the King's Indian and Grunfeld defences, again featuring systems involving g3.
I believe Mongoose, with their high production values and interesting new titles, are steadily making a serious impression on the world of chess books.
Emanuel Lasker 2nd World Chess Champion
By Isaak and Vladimir Linder
Following hard on the heels of their Capablanca book comes the next volume in the World Champions series by the Linders.
Emanuel Lasker held the World Championship title for 27 years, a record unlikely to be broken. I remember a time when we all thought that Garry Kasparov would be the one to surpass Lasker in that aspect of his life, but he ended up 12 years short.
The biographical meat of the book has appeared before in 'Kings of the Chess World' , a massive Russian language tome. This new edition is a transformed version of a single part of that earlier work and it is now, of course, in the English language.
Here's a list of the main contents:
- Foreword by Andy Soltis
- Publisher's Note
- A Word About the Authors by Yuri Averbakh
- Chapter 1: Life
- Chapter 2: Matches, Tournaments and Opponents
- Chapter 3: Chess Works - His Games and Discoveries
- Chapter 4: Writer and Journalist
- Chapter 5: Impervious to Time
The authors do an admirable job of presenting the life of Lasker in words, games and pictures.
There are 82 illustrative games (some are fragments) and they have new notes, provided by Karsten Müller.
Lasker excelled at the psychological aspect of the game and seemed to know - more often than not - exactly how to play against specific opponents. Sometimes his moves were quite startling.
Here are a couple of snippets...
Harry Nelson Pillsbury
Lasker won the tournament with 13/13 (Albin was second on 8.5/13). The eighth round game with Pillsbury looked to be heading for a draw, which would have no bad thing from Lasker's tournament point of view. However, he must have assessed that the young Pillsbury would struggle to cope with an unexpected complication and he was happy enough to burn his boats with
46 Bxg5!? fxg5 47 f6+
Taking the pawn loses the Queen, so Pillsbury played on with
47 ...Kg8 48 Qh6 Qf7?
(48 ...Bb8 is better, as the book points out)
49 Qxg5+ and 1-0 in 55 moves.
34 ...Nc2! 35 Ne4 Qxe5!!
'Great strategic insight by a great master. Lasker feels that his forces will dominate the queen and the whole board.'
36 Nf6+ Qxf6 37 Rxf6 Nxf6!? and Lasker went on to win after 50 moves.
This example is '...also notable for the fact that Lasker executed this combination after a nine-year hiatus from play in international tournaments, when he was 66-years old, against an opponent half his age, who would himself become world champion a year later.'
The authors correctly put that:
'Any opponent of Lasker's found it hard going as soon as Lasker figured out all his strong and weak points'.
For instance, Showalter traded two wins, two losses and two draws in the first six games of his match against the champion in 1893. Yet once Lasker fully understood Showalter's play, he stormed through with four straight wins to wrap up the match in style.
The book is further enhanced by numerous photographs and occasional reproductions of documents and pages from works written by Lasker. Some of the photos are classics (such as the group shot of the of the 1918 Berlin tournament, showing Lasker, Rubinstein, Schlechter and Tarrasch, all showing the terrible strain of the war years) but others were new to me (for example, two from 1936; one showing Lasker and his wife, Martha, in their Moscow apartment and one showing him trying his hand at golf in England, observed by an interested crowd, including Vera Menchik).
I did spot a couple of errors. The tournament table for Nottingham 1936 has gifted Botvinnik a point advantage over Capablanca (in fact they shared first).
The diagram on page 104, showing a position form the Lasker v Marshall World Championship match, has somehow managed to miss off a White Rook from c1, which makes a big difference.
I would have liked a little more depth on one or two matters, such as the controversy regarding the Schlechter match (did Schlechter need to win the 10-game by two points, and if not, why did he play so hard a for a win in game 10, when a draw would have given him the title?), Lasker's weak play against Capablanca in their 1921 title bout, when he was generally reasonable successful against the Cuban throughout his career (was it really just the heat?) and concrete reasons behind Maroczy's aborted title challenge.
These are not idle nitpicks. The more I wanted to put the book down to start this review, the more I discovered further sections of great interest, so it received a lot more scrutiny than usual.
This fine volume concludes with Lasker's match and tournament record plus several indices.
I am really enjoying this series and am very much looking forward to reading the next volume. This is, in my opinion, definitely the best English-language book on the life of the Second World Champion.
Chess Duels My Games With The World Champions
By GM Yasser Seirawan
Chess Duels by Yasser Seirawan.
We have waited quite a long time for this book to appear. The process from the first mention on 'forthcoming' lists to publication includes plenty of tales about missed deadlines. That the fonished product was well worth the wait is beyond question. It has the look and feel of a special book, with it's sturdy hardback binding and colourful dust jacket. The page count is impressively high. There is a lot of prose and nothing by way of white space or filler material.
Essentially, this book tells the stories behind Yasser's meetings - on and off the board - with a plethora of World Champions.
The introduction covers Yasser's early life and provides a brief overview of his career. The it's straight into the main chapters, which are arranged in the following order:
- Bobby Fischer
- The Giants
- Vassily Smyslov
- Mikhail Tal
- Tigran Petrosian
- Boris Spassky
- Anatoly Karpov, 1975-1985
- Garry Kasparov, 1985-2000
- Anatoly Karpov, Post-1985
- Garry Kasparov, Post-2000
- The Future of the World Championship
The first two chapters cover his meetings with World Champions he met but never played at chess. These are Fischer, Botvinnik and Euwe. Korchnoy and Larsen are briefly covered too.
Yasser's outlook is generally very positive and his style is chatty, witty and engaging. It's a tough task to find mentions of people he doesn't like; it boils down two - Linares frontman Luis Rentero and journalist Dimitrije Bjelica.
Everybody else receives friendly treatment. There is no doubting Yasser's great respect for his chess champion rivals. He seems to have a very natural flair for simply getting along with people, despite the great range of characters and personalities involved.
There are some great games on show. As White, Yasser preferred closed games, so fans of 1 d4 will find lots of interest here. He was probably the greatest adherent of 4 Qc2 against the Nimzo-Indian Defence during the lengthy gap between the old masters losing interest and the turbo-charged preparation led by Kasparov in the 1990s.
As Black, the Caro-Kann makes the most appearances. His games against Spassky and Karpov are particularly good examples of that particular opening in action. I was surprised to see only one example of the French Defence, and that was in his famous game against Karpov.
Playing Black against Spassky at Barcelona (1989), the game began with: 1 e4 c6
' Upon seeing this move, Boris committed a wonderfully blatant rule violation and openly spoke to me: Yasser, why do you torture me with this Caro-Kann business?'
The little stories, anecdotes and other observational material act as the perfect compliment to the chess action. Smyslov was the first chronological World Champion Yasser met over the board and he was initially taken aback by the former's curiously clumsy style of moving the pieces.
'Trades were rather strange affairs: Vassily would grab my pawn or piece with his hand, lift and remove it from the board, and then grasp the capturing piece or pawn as awkwardly as possible setting it upon the captured square'.
Later, it became easier to understand; Smyslov's eyesight was very much on the decline.
Meeting Fischer - during the 1992 'World Championship' match, was made potentially difficult when it was made clear that Bobby didn't like Yasser's description of him as 'The Ghost of Pasadena'.
'I therefore resolved to apologise to him and receive his forgiveness. When we went to shake hands I held on to his while apologizing. I didn't let go until he said, ''Let's forget the whole thing''.
Being 'in the ring' with the best players in the world is one thing; to beat them is something else. This endgame, played at the 1986 Dubai Olympiad, brought down the best of the best.
Seirawan won after a tough endgame struggle.
I didn't know, until I read 'Chess Duels', the story about what happened at the start of the game. Dimitrije Bjelica attempted to present Kasparov with a set of coins an then...
'...Garry took one look at Bjelica, took a second downward look at the coins and whacked the box away with his hand. Hard! Coins started flying through the air, and Bjelica had to scramble on his knees to retrieve them all. I was absolutely elated! At times, I truly admired Garry Kasparov. I looked at him and said, ''Bravo!'' He smiled gleefully too. Apparently Bjelica had crossed him as well'.
There are numerous percipient observations on the big stage of top-level chess. For example, it is pointed out that Karpov never had to play outside of Russia on the route to his first World Championship title and the surprising note that Fischer never defeated a reigning World Champion in any encounter prior to the 1972 match with Spassky.
Every available game with the champions is included, with the annotation varying in depth. Four or five pages is quite a typical amount of space, and the game against Kasparov at Skelleftea in 1989 runs to just under 21 pages.
Each chapter concludes with a summary of Yasser's scores against the greats. Some of these are surprising, such as his mighty +4, =1, -0 against Tal. The single draw came in their last ever game together.
This is definitely one of the best chess books of 2010 and it will be enjoyed by chess fans who would like to learn a lot more about top-level chess from a player who was in the thick of the action for 25 years.
It's a simply wonderful collection of material, written in Yasser's inimitable style. When I interviewed him for CHESS, I pushed him on the question of sequel, dealing with his games against the likes of Korchnoy, Timman and Larsen. He was reluctant, but perhaps a sackful of demanding mail directed to Everyman Chess will help change his mind.
Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess Part Four Kasparov vs Karpov 1988-2009
By GM Garry Kasparov
Kasparov against Karpov 1988-2009
This is the concluding volume on the great Kasparov v Karpov saga. It covers their fifth and final match for the World Chess Championship in great depth and includes all of their tournament encounters - including Rapidplay - between the years of 1988 and 2009. The annotations are excellent.
The chess world was changing. For a while it had seemed that Kasparov and Karpov would be still be battling it out on the highest summit for many years to come, on an exclusive table set for two with little sign of anyone else being invited to the party. Kasparov acknowledges the winds of change early on in the book.
'As always, the match took a very tense course, but, for all the wealth of ideas demonstrated, its influence on the development of chess was not so significant as our previous four matches, which by the early 1990s had produced a powerful new generation: Anand, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Short, Kamsky, Shirov, Kramink, Topalov...The composition of the chess elite underwent a drastic change, and Karpov and I were no longer able to dominate unconditionally in tournaments.'
The story is told in four main sections.
This section looks at the tournament clashes between Kasparov and Karpov in the years between their fourth and fifth title bouts. Every game they played against each other is included and analysed, sometimes in great depth. There were some ferocious clashes during this period as the 12th and 13th World Champions tried to gain the upper hand.
This game was a particularly bloodthirsty encounter. Kasparov was definitely in a sacrificial mood and he looks to have a vicious attack. However, Karpov hit back strongly with
when after 25 Bc3 he could have won with 25 ...Bb2 but missed it, tried
and eventually lost on time. The analysis of the game fills nine pages.
The tournament games weren't immune from the standard politics. For example, when the two players shared first place in the extremely strong USSR Championship of 1988, there is the case of the play-off match that never was, with Mikhail Botvinnik (in his role of Chief Arbiter) making a late return to the Kasparov story.
There was also the creation of the promising Grandmasters Association ('GMA') and the fantastic series of World Cup tournaments. Meanwhile, for reasons explained in the book, Kasparov found 1990 a difficult years and Karpov found himself having to battle through some Candidates' matches to ensure he had another crack at taking the title back.
The Fifth Match: 1990
This is easily the most substantial section of the book. The match was shared between New York and Lyon and Kasparov retained his title to the tine of 12.5-11.5.
The bare scores for the New York phase - games 1-12 - make the match look dull, with only one win each and lots of draws. However, this was far from the case. Both players were striving to win with both colours (quite a rarity for Karpov) and the main battle grounds were the King's Indian Defence and the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez.
Theoretical debate in the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez
Karpov's match strategy was not expected the defending champion.
'I had not expected such an abrupt turn by opponent in the direction of maximum activity, and correspondingly, maximum risk when playing Black - this was a pleasant surprise!'
Maybe Karpov could feel that time was indeed moving on and this was his last chance to try and defeat Kasparov in a title match, which might explain why he went in with all guns blazing. If so, then he was right.
The second half of the match saw significant appearances by the Kasparov's Grunfeld - which came under severe pressure (the addition of Portisch to Karpov's team of helpers is seen as the main reason the Grunfeld and the King's Indian both felt the pressure in this match) - and the champion's surprising choice of The Scotch Game. Kasparov earned the lion's share of the five wins seen in the Lyon half of the match.
Some of the games have gone down as classics, such as this one.
Kasparov's brilliant attack concluded swiftly after
34 Qxh6+! (1-0, 41)
Passions around the Crown
This section covers the remaining tournament clashes between the Kasparov and Karpov. At time, many were played under the background of a probable sixth World Championship in 1993. However, events took a somewhat unexpected turn when Karpov was knocked out of the Candidates Cycle by Nigel Short and the latter collaborated with Kasparov to break the World Championship away from FIDE.
During this period, their game from Linares in 1993 is the most famous, due to the complete domination of the board achieved by Kasparov after just 22 moves.
The result was never in really in doubt and White lasted just five more moves.
End of the Duumvirate
The concluding part of the book rounds up the Rapidplay and Blitz games the two contestants played up to and including their 2009 match in Valencia to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their first title match. It essentially displays the dying embers of a once raging chess firestorm.
I sensed Kasparov's attitude changing towards his great rival as the book progressed. His opinion of his own powers seemed to change to. In their four-game Rapid match in New York (2002), Karpov took the lead with one game left to play. It's astonishing to read Kasparov's thoughts at this point:
'The score became 2-1. Thirty minutes later there began the 4th and final game, in which I had to try and draw level. But I no longer had the energy for a fight, and I did not greatly believe that I would win'.
That's definitely what we would have expected to hear from him just a few years earlier.
Their Rapid and Blitz match in 2009 was a distinctly one-sided affair, with Kasparov dominating. There was a whiff of Fischer - Spassky (1992 vintage) about the games, but there were occasional moments which shine brightly to remind us how things used to be.
Kasparov ripped open the Black King's defences with...
22 Nf6+! and 1-0 (28)
Further matches - at any time limit - look extremely unlikely. Yet the K-K saga continues, albeit in a different form of battle. With Karpov, backed by Kasparov, waging a strong campaign on the road to the FIDE Presidency, it is clear that the lives of the two combatants are still strongly intertwined and always will be so.
Let us hope that this series will not finish now that all of the Kasparov - Karpov games have been fully covered. It would be great to read Kasparov's own version of his other matches and the curious defeat to Kramnik in 2000.
The high standards of the previous volumes in the series have been maintained and this is definitely one of the best books of 2010.
Botvinnik - Petrosian The 1963 World Chess Championship Match
By GM Mikhail Botvinnik
New in Chess
Botvinnik vs Petrosian 1963
It may seem strange to be enthusiastic about a book covering a match played almost 50 years ago. Yet Mikhail Botvinnik's final match for the World Championship title has been somewhat overlooked in chess literature. His titanic matches with Bronstein, Smyslov and Tal all seem to be better known bouts.
Ending Botvinnik's disjointed reign at the top of the chess world was not an easy task, despite the big age gap between the participants. The challenger had to possess special qualities.
It's possible that the 1963 match suffers in the popularity stakes due to common perceptions regarding Tigran Petrosian's curious style of play. We know all about his supernaturally acute sense of danger and his habitual short draws, but there must be more to his story than that. Nobody can become a World Champion purely through negativity, so it's refreshing to be able to read this new, English-language version of 'Botvinnik- Petrosian' to try and find out how 'Iron Tigran' captured the title.
Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov provides a short Foreword , in which he mentions that he saw some of the match with his own eyes.
'How quickly time flies! Forty years ago, I, then a twelve-year old boy, was lucky enough to be a spectator at the world championship match between Botvinnik and Petrosian'
Igor Botvinnik, Mikhail Botvinnik's nephew, is next up with an essay titled Without Right of Revenge. He provides various observations, mainly from the outgoing champion's point of view.
'In my view, one of the reasons for Botvinnik's defeat was his poor realization of advantages - in a number of games in the first half of the match, having obtained asizeable advantage in the opening, he could not ''put his opponent away''. This drains one's strength, undermines one's self-confidence, and generally shows inadequate sporting form'.
From the Match Regulations comes an important piece of information, which effectively ended Botvinnik's lengthy relationship with the World Championship.
'The main difference from the rules for previous contests was that, in the event of defeat, the World Champion would not have the right to a return match.'
This is important, as Botvinnik had made the most of his return match privilege against both Smyslov and Tal. A defeat this time would have meant a choice between World Championship retirement and a gruelling trip through the Candidates' matches.
The bulk of the material quite naturally concerns the actual Games of the match. All are presented with good annotations by a variety of players, including Botvinnik and Petrosian themselves.
The match was quite dramatic. Botvinnik won the first game - with Black - but Petrosian took the lead with wins in games five and seven. Botvinnik equalised in game 14, only to lose the very next game. Further wins in games 18 and 19 essentially earned Petrosian the title. The final three games were short draws. Tigran Petrosian was the new champion of the world!
Game 5 is probably my favourite Petrosian game of all.
The position comes after 11 ...f7xe6. Petrosian comments:
'It is said that some of the more impatient members of the press corps were already starting to pack up, ready to go home. After all, those magical figures, the queens, have disappeared from the board, and how can there be any interesting play after that...?'
Petrosian went on to give a bewitching masterclass in patient endgame skill.
At this important moment, he played:
'Undoubtedly the best move, sharpening up a position which appears totally calm. I decided on the move only after considerable thought.'
This is the final position, after 48 Kg8. Petrosian has crushed Botvinnik in typical boa constrictor style and key pawns are about to drop off the board.
Botvinnik definitely missed some good chances in the match. For example, in game 16, after 38 ....Kg8xg7...
39 e6. He says:
'It is hard to explain why I refrained from the natural continuation 39 Rxd4! Rc8 40 Kh2 Rcc2 41 Kg1 with an extra pawn and good chances. It appears that in time-trouble, the advance of he passed pawn looked like a reliable answer to the threat of Re8-c8-c2, but in reality, Black is merely presented with an extra tempo to carry out this manoeuvre.'
Following the games, we are treated to ten pages of Petrosian's View of the Match . This tells mainly of the challenger's thoughts and preparation before the match began.
'Whether I was listening to music, reading a book, walking around Moscow, surrounded by friends and colleagues in Armenia, watching a football match - the whole time, I was thinking about the match with Botvinnik.'
It concludes as the first game starts.
'Well, I said to myself before the first game. I will play as quietly as possible, not objecting to a draw. It is a long match, a lot of blood will be spilled, and even the most bloodthirsty of spectators will be satisfied.'
The book concludes with several smaller articles. There's A Symbolic Game, which shows Botvinnik using some of 1963 match preparation to defeat Taimanov at the 1963 Spartakiad.
Botvinnik's musings on Why Did I LoseThe Match? are next, consisting of snippets such as these:
'So, perhaps it is true that Petrosian's rather unusual way of playing had its effect on me, and deprived me of my usual ''creative harmony''. On the other hand, maybe the answer does not lie in this, but, whatever the case, I played the match with a great deal of tension and constraint, which had gone from me when I next sat down at the board, three months later.'
'Yes, sometimes that happens to a chess master. He appears to fight for victory, but he himself does not really know beforehand whether he really wants it.'
There are still more games to come, starting with all other games between Botvinnik and Petrosian, before moving on to eight games from a Training Match Botvinnik - Furman January - February 1963. These were all new to me.
Botvinnik's Final Notebook contains some analytical snippets. There's an added twist of interest here. Botvinnik had been preparing for a match with Fischer (which, needless to say, never went ahead).
Botvinnik retired from the World Championship scene after the defeat. Petrosian went on to defend his title against Spassky in 1966, before losing to the same player in 1969. His 1966 match victory was, remarkably, the first time a reigning champion had won a World Championship match since Alekhine's victory over Bogoljubow in 1934, and the last time until Karpov beat Korchnoy in 1978.
This book fills a significant gap in chess literature. Petrosian wasn't just in the right place at the right time to take the title from an ageing champion; this was a very tough match with plenty of hard fought games and missed chances. It's high time that this intriguing match enjoyed it's fair share of scrutiny and appreciation. Reading this fine volume is a great place to start.
Attacking Manual 1 Revised and Expanded Edition By GM Jacob Aargaard
Attacking Manual Volume 1
This book introduces the author's global principles,
in all kinds of positions. A good understanding of them will
certainly improve your attacking chess' . In simple terms, they
- 1) Include all your pieces in the attack
- 2) Momentum
- 3) Colour schemes
- 4) Numbers over Size
- 5) Attack the weakest point in your opponent's position
- 6) Attack the strongest point in your opponent's position
- 7) Evolution and revolution
Each principle receives a chapter in the spotlight, augmented by colourful titles; for example, 'Include all your pieces in the attack' becomes 'Bring all your Toys to the Nursery Party'.
The chapters start with a series of preview diagrams, about which the reader is encouraged to do some initial thinking. This is an innovative idea and a very interesting one.
There follows a short discussion on the general principle of the chapter and then well-annotated examples of the principle in action.
The second half of the book features a fine selection of attacking games, annotated in depth. 50 training exercises conclude a very interesting work.
There's plenty of prose and it's in the author's punchy, pithy and direct style. Here's a little example, from the start of one of the author's games against Bo Lindberg. The opening moves were: 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 b5?!
'My opponent is a very creative young man, who in our last encounter answered 1 e4 with 1 ...Nc6. I therefore decided to prepare for the game by reading a rather colourful novel about Lucifer coming to Earth, taking human form, writing a movie-script about man's fall from grace and smoking about 60 cigarettes a day.
Having said all of this, I dislike moves that compromise the pawn structure in such a definite way.'
Interesting ideas jump off the page. This is eye-catching material at its best. The following example shows three stunning shots - all from the same game! You'll need to see the book for the annotations; here's the basic shots...
17 Rh8+!! Kg7 18.Qh1 Bxe5 19.dxe5 f5
20 Nxd5!! cxd5
The first edition of this book - which I haven't seen - was apparently somewhat flawed, with a number of mistakes, so this revised and expanded edition is obviously the one interested readers should track down.
Attacking Manual 2 By GM Jacob Aargaard
Attacking Manual Volume 2
The story continues in manual 2, which is considerably chunkier than it's brother.
'Where Volume One was about the laws of dynamics, the font of all attacks, and to some limited extent an original work, Volume Two was always meant to be a perfection of existing work on the attack.'
'This volume is intended to cover all of attacking technique, by which I mean what to do once the attack is up and running'.
- Understanding Mating Attacks
- Typical Piece Play
- Typical Pawn Play
- King Safety
- Intuitive Sacrifices and Enduring Initiative
The format is similar to that seen on volume one. It presents an extremely impressive collection of attacking power at the chess board. Despite the complex nature of some of the material on show here, the variations don't lead the reader too far up the garden path; the prose is of such quality that the truth doesn't have to be buried in endless thickets of moves.
Some of the ideas are most unusual, such as this delicate touch.
'A fantastic piece of prophylaxis in the attack'.
White was hoping for 23 ...Qh4 24 Qg2 Rh2 25 Qf3 with a draw.
This is an excellent two-volume set - and that's not just my opinion; they have recently been the joint recipients of the 'ECF Book of the Year' award. They can be rightly considered as the flagships of the Quality Chess productions.
The KGB Plays Chess The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown
By Boris Gulko, Vadimir Popov,
Yuri Felshtinsky and Viktor Kortschnoi
The KGB Plays Chess.
'The battles about which you will read in this book are not between the powerful chess masters sitting at the chessboard, but between the powerful Soviet secret police, known as the KGB, on the one hand, and several brave individuals on the other.'
This new book from Russell Enterprises contains no chess games and no diagrams. Despite the lack of those normally standard features, there is plenty of interest here for chess fans.
Here's a breakdown of what to expect...
About the Authors
Grandmasters Viktor Kortschnoi and Boris Gulko should be well known names to chess players. Both left Russia to live elsewhere. Kortschnoi claimed political asylum at the end of a tournament in Amsterdam. Gulko went on three hunger strikes and suffered a life of difficulties before finally being allowed to leave. Remarkably, Gulko's score against former World Champion Gary Kasparov is a very impressive 3-0.
The other co-authors may not be so well known in the world of chess. Vladimir Popov is a former KGB Lieutenant and Yuri Felshtinsky is a Russian historian.
Foreword by Boris Gulko
Gulko reveals a little bit about the main contents in his interesting introduction, whetting the appetite for what is to come. For example, Tal's suggestion that Kortschnoi would have been killed if he had managed to beat Karpov in a World Championship match is confirmed as a fact rather than a piece of speculation.
There's a quick run through some basics regarding Soviet World
Champions and the main characters of the book. Already there are some
startling stories. According to Gulko, even former champion Smyslov
(hardly the most political of the bunch) was involved in some less
than savoury incidents. For example, he
'...wrote letters to his fans
in the upper echelons of the government, got his rivals withdrawn
from tournaments, and took their places for himself'.
The KGB Plays Chess by Vadimir Popov and Yuri Felshtinsky
This chapter and the next one make up the bulk of the book and tell the story of KGB involvement in chess activity from both sides.
The accusations come thick and fast. Here's some samples of the content and tone:
'It should be noted that quite a number of Soviet grandmasters were state security agents. Tigran Petrosian, Lev Polugaevsky, Yuri Balashov, Rafael Vaganian, Eduard Gufeld, and Nikolai Krogius, the head of the Chess Directorate at the State Sports Committee, had extensive experience in collaborating with the KGB as covert agents'.
The book even name the individuals who recruited them.
'Like all Soviet sportsmen, chess grandmasters received only a negligible part of the payments that were due to them, since a lion's share of their winnings went to the national treasury and to sports bureaucrats.'
Some of the plots and plans would be too fantastic even for a
James Bond movie. Boris Spassky (currently very ill following a
stroke) had a particularly complex relationship with the higher
powers. His romantic involvement with a
'...female employee of the
French Embassy' may have appeared innocent enough, but her
grandfather was general in the czarist army who had fled for France
following the 1917 Revolution.
A plan was hatched. Spassky must be 'encouraged' to end the
relationship. A covert operation involved breaking in, locating
underwear belonging to the woman in question and planting pubic lice
' ...procured from one of Moscow's dermatological-venereal medical
centres'. The plan was unsuccessful.
The proposed method of Kortschnoi's assassination is revealed here too, as is the source of the Soviets' inside information from the enemy camp at the World Championship matches of 1978 and 1981. Apparently, the wife of one of Kortschnoi's 'young European' helpers had been recruited, under the codename 'Amigo'.
The case of Gulko features heavily in this chapter. Part of the problem of his desire to leave Russia was the fear that he would help Kortschnoi prepare for Karpov. Later on, when Kasparov was starting his explosive trip to the top, Karpov recognised the threat to 'his' title of World Champion, and wanted Gulko to leave after all, so he wouldn't be in a position to be able to help Kasparov.
There's considerable attention given to Karpov; his battles with Kortschnoi and Kasparov were, of course, highly political and far from being level playing fields. When it came to enjoying influential friends in high places, it was definitely a case of some players being more equal than others.
Other sports are brought into the discussion, such as the sad case of gymnast Olga Korbut. Her popularity around the world in general - and the USA in particular - led to her coach, Knysh, becoming an agent for the KGB. His repeated sexual abuse of Olga did not make it into his regular reports.
The Letter ''Lahmed'' Problem
This is Boris Gulko's story, told from his own perspective. It's his first hand account of how difficult life was for a refusenik. There's a relentless series of arrests and hunger strikes.
We get to read some stories from the opposite side to the earlier chapter. For example, Ray Keene and Larry Christiansen visited Gulko when they were in Moscow for the 1982 Interzonal. Ray encouraged Gulko to write his story (by hand - laptops, email and the like were not available then) with the idea of taking it back to England and use it in chess magazines to bring his plight to the attention of the world. Ray, a former second to Kortschnoi, suspected his luggage would be searched on departure, so the manuscript was placed inside Christiansen's luggage. Needless to say, the latter's cases were opened at the airport; Ray's room had been bugged from the start, so it was quite clear where the authorities had to look.
This is all hard hitting material, which demands the reader's attention.
Afterword by Viktor Kortschnoi
It's a pity that Kortschnoi's contribution is limited to six pages. Although it's all very interesting stuff, there's no doubt that he could fill many books with stories of his own.
Sometimes he seems to have been caught up in a real life version of the 1960s TV show, 'The Prisoner', unable to escape the all-seeing eyes of his former masters.
'...I moved into my own apartment in Wohlen, Switzerland and had a telephone line installed in it. My number was not yet listed in the telephone directory, but the first call I got was from the Soviet embassy - I was informed that I was being stripped of my Soviet citizenship'.
Letter from Vladimir Popov by Vladimir Popov
The final chapter is a reproduction of the letter sent by Popov to Felshtinsky in 2007, highlighting the danger brewing to the letter's recipient as well as to Kasparov, by now a real political thorn in the sides of some people.
The whole book is a gripping study of fear, paranoia and the struggle of the individual against the powerful system. My only complaint is that there isn't more of it, as it makes for compulsive reading and leaves some stones unturned (who was 'Amigo'? Why did Spassky allow himself to be used as such an obvious pawn in the game against Kortschnoi in the 1977/8 Candidates' cycle? What was the truth behind Dr. Zukhar's powers in 1978...?).
The world has certainly changed over the years. It's impossible to imagine that this book would have been published even just a few years ago. Some of the people named in unfavourable circumstances are still very much alive and kicking, so it will be interesting to see if there will be any sort of reaction to what has been revealed.
This is a brave release from Russell Enterprises. It's unusual to find a chess book which will appeal to non-players too. Anyone looking for a product to improve their chess skills will not find it here, but those looking to delve into the murky world of top-level chess politics will find a goldmine.
Grandmaster Repertoire 1 d4 Part 2 By GM Boris Avrukh
The Grandmaster Repertoire series from Quality Chess offers some of the best opening books around. It's all about playing the best moves.
'Grandmaster Repertoire is a new series of high quality books based on the main lines, written by strong grandmasters. The aim is to provide the reader with a compete repertoire at a level good enough for elite tournaments, and certainly also for the club championship.'
There are valid points about the role of this series in modern chess literature:
'There is a glut of opening books at the Starting Out level. These books have certainly been refreshing, but they have almost completely replaced high-level opening books. As chess fans, we felt we were missing out, and because we can, we decided to do something about it.'
'It s our conviction that you will eventually be more successful by playing the main lines, simply because they are based on better moves.'
I haven't seen the first volume of GM Avrukh's treatise on 1 d4 (which analyses the reply 1 ...d5) but I am aware that it received excellent reviews. I had been looking forward to reading one of the author's books so I was pleased to get my hands on '1 d4: Part 2'.
The main focus of attention falls on the Indian Defences, with the material split into the following sections:
- The Bogo-Indian Defence
- The Budapest Gambit
- Benoni Systems
- The Dutch Defence
- The Grunfeld Defence
- The King's Indian Defence
- The Modern Defence
- Minor Systems
The backbone of the repertoire is
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 g3
Each Black defence is covered in great depth, with a fine blend of analytical variations and prose explanations. At 616 pages, this is a real hand-filler.
This is a very impressive book and it left me feeling hungry for more from GM Avrukh.
Nunn's Chess Endings Volume 2 Volume 2
By GM John Nunn
The second of this two-volume series covers Rook endings and those with Rooks and Minor pieces. Volume 1 set a high standard; I think volume 2 is even beter.
Following a short piece explaining 'Conventions and Terminology' and an 'Introduction', it's straight into the main content. In fact, there are only two chapters in the book and they are numbered 8 and 9 to provide continuity from the first volume, but the first chapter in this volume weighs in at just under 300 pages.
The introduction sums up the point of the work very clearly:
' The main content of Nunn's Chess Endings is the careful analysis of hundreds of instructive endgames from practical play. By skipping the elementary parts, I have been able to go beyond standard endgame texts to consider more complex positions. In some cases I have been able to identify new and important motifs which occur in over-the-board play, but which are often overlooked even by very strong players due to their unfamiliarity.'
Chapter 8: Rook Endings
'It's not just the frequency of rook endings which demands such thorough coverage; it's also that rook endings are very often misplayed over the board. Even grandmasters are prone to making a mess of rook endings and, surprisingly, many of these mistakes could have been avoided had the players possessed more theoretical knowledge.'
The combination of GM Nunn, Deep Fritz and Rybka is obviously an absolutely formidable one and together they have overturned and improved plenty of older analysis.
Things start off 'simply', with a position featuring King and Rook v King and pawn.
Jens Ove Fries Nielsen
You'll have to see the book for the detailed analysis, but to cut a long story short, White only drew after
when only 1 Rg2+! would have won the game.
By the end of the chapter, the examples have worked their way up to positions with four Rooks and a number of pawns.
1 Kh2! Rgxg2+?
Black lost quickly after this obvious and very tempting capture. Gelfand thought the whole ending was lost, but Dr Nunn shows a drawing line starting with 1 ...Rcxg2+
Chapter 9: Endings with Rooks and Minor Pieces
Starting with positions in which one side enjoys the advantage of the exchange, this chapter works its way through various combinations of material, such as Rook and Bishop v Rook and Knight and Rook v two Bishops.
It's always interesting to see missed opportunities at a high level. It must be annoying and frustrating to let a big fish wriggle free from the hook when the end is in sight and the position is down to the 'matter of technique ' stage. Black should not have lost the game from here.
(1 ...Nd6! was best and should win)
2 Rh7 Nd6 3 Rg7+ Kh8?! 4 Rd7 Ra8? 5 Rxd6 Kg8 6 Rd7 1-0
John Nunn has consistently produced top quality works on the endgame. His tremendous knowledge and experience - backed up by the strongest of computers - have created a marvellous volume packed with fascinating examples of practical endgame play.
So those are the books I can wholeheartedly recommend as setting very high standards right across the board.