Chess24 Jan Gustafsson on Alpha Zero

John Watson Book Review (71)

Favorites Part 1

Fire on Board II: 1997-2004; Alexei Shirov; 192 pages; Everyman Chess, 2005

Secrets of Opening Surprises 2; Jeroen Bosch, editor; 141pages; New in Chess 2005

Secrets of Opening Surprises 3; Jeroen Bosch, editor; 144pages; New in Chess 2005

Tactics in the Chess Opening #3; Friso Nijboer and Geert van der Stricht, 237 pages; New in Chess 2005

Curacao 1962, The Battle of Minds that Shook the Chess World; Jan Timman; 224 pages; New in Chess 2005

How to Play the Queen's Gambit mr. Kasparov Series No 1; DVD, 3+ hours; ChessBase 2004

Chess Informant 92; 400 pages; Chess Informant 2005

The Chigorin Defence (English translation) Valery Bronznik; 336 pages; Kania 2005

Followers of this column (and publishers) must think that that I have long since moved to some Antarctic hideaway, without access to the Internet. They are right: I did precisely that, but have returned to civilization in order to pick up some warm clothing and to report upon a selection of chess books that have appeared over the last year or so. In some cases they were published earlier and I let them slip by without comment. Postal service on ice floes being what it is, I hadn't set eyes upon a number of these until my return nor had time to adequately take them in.

How to deal with such an accumulation of material? My solution is to review books that I have spent real time on, but also fill a few columns noting features (in some cases arbitrarily-chosen) of products that caught my eye. This is patently unfair, of course, but I will try to present books that I have at least enough familiarity with to recommend, and will also try to make clear when that is not the case. So many works have come into being, especially in the last year (2005), that it isn't really necessary to dwell upon those of inferior merit, although I will allow myself some general comments that may serve as clues.

To get one such out of the way, opening books are underrepresented on these lists relative to their numbers. Having spent some time investigating recent opening books with my students (those willing to take Arctic shuttles or hitchhike on icebreakers), my opinion is that most are being produced far too rapidly and in offhand fashion. It seems as though every time that we needed to look at a specific line, openings books either skipped the important questions and/or gravely misanalysed the variations. What may initially seem like a handy way to overview an opening is too often a download of games and annotations with some verbal window dressing. More than a handful of authors are accepting their engines' verdicts without guiding them or waiting long enough for them to settle down. The main problem seems to be that some writers are simply cranking out too many books, CDs, DVDs, articles, etc. A portion of this output will still be useful, even very useful, but it's hard to guess which. So buyer/reader beware. For certain of your favourite openings, it might be more constructive and educational to form your own 'books' by manipulating databases and studying the results.

That said, there are plenty of exceptions and I will include several of them below. This column lists some personal favourites, primarily books but with a CD and DVD included. Most are from 2005, but not hot-off-the-presses. Over the next columns I will add other recommended works, with the last columns having the highest number of recently-released books. In spite of my inevitable reservations, I think that all of these products are worth having if they fit your particular tastes or needs as a player. Once in a while, I'll intersperse a few brief complaints/criticisms about books that I don't like when it seems appropriate. My choices are somewhat impressionistic and necessarily limited, such that I ignore some good works including a few that have been created by friends and colleagues. Some of these will be mentioned as we go along.

Let me begin with Fire on Board II: 1997-2004. It was in my very first column years ago that I praised Alexei Shirov's Fire on Board to the highest degree. It is still one of my favourite books. Guess what? The second volume is quite as good as the first.

At the time of this writing, Shirov has just received his worst drubbing ever in a professional tournament (although this was a Rapids Event, hardly as serious as a Linares or Corus/Wijk aan Zee). This could be for a variety of reasons, but is in any case stunning for a player who has been over 2700 for so many years. It's likely that some will be counting him out in future events. I'd gladly give odds against that. Possibly excepting Kasparov, I believe that Shirov is the greatest tactical genius of our time, at least if one speaks in the traditional sense of consistently playing ingenious moves and finding fantastic combinations in game after game. Even the ideas that he doesn't play, or the ones he sees for his opponents, are imaginative in a way that stands out above the crowd. That isn't to say that all the ideas are objectively sound, nor that every one of them is followed up with the pitiless accuracy of a Kasparov or Anand. Sometimes Shirov lets his opponent off the hook, or risks too much and has to create from an inferior position, thus opening himself up to the charge of 'swindler'. Let's face it: we don't see a lot of swindling from profound thinkers such as Adams, or Kramnik, nor from great attackers like Anand. Nevertheless, Shirov's ability to attack and defend in complex positions inevitably reminds one of the great Tal. However overused that comparison may be (they are both Latvians, which makes it more compelling), I think that it's an appropriate one.

In Fire on Board II , we see a more objective and self-critical Shirov, made perhaps too judgmental by today's powerful analytical engines. He analyses 53 games, some using his original notes that have appeared elsewhere. He also annotates a good many games from scratch solely for the book, and others are re-annotated based upon published analysis. Such reuse is true of all serious biographies of top-flight active players today, in part because they annotate so many of their best games for publication. Not surprisingly, Fritz appears throughout in Shirov's reanalysis and reassessment. At the same time he rebels against the computer engine's role and its reputation for omniscience. I wince at even the thought of reproducing the following position from Topalov-Shirov, Linares 1998 for the 2000th time but it's necessary to complement his statement about chess creativity:

Okay, only residents of my neighboring ice floe don't know that Shirov played the amazing 47...Bh3!!. He says:

'The idea of giving up the bishop in order to gain the necessary tempo seems very logical and easy to find when it has already been played, but no computer program proved competent enough to suggest it. I would like to think that no human in chess history would be able to find it under the same conditions, but who knows...? Maybe the Swedish grand-master, Ulf Andersson, would be able to rise to the challenge....' and goes on to explain that Andersson had played a similar move against Shirov 7 years before (well, similar in a limited sense of having a related idea) , which may have planted a seed, although he doesn't claim to know. He says: 'In chess, as in any other field, you need to reach beyond your knowledge (the greater the knowledge, the further you can go!). And that's when creativity begins.' By the way, Topalov-Shirov is a good example of the latter's first-rate endgame play, a feature typical of great calculators' games. In Fire on Board (1) Shirov devoted a 23-page chapter to his most interesting endgames.

Continuing with the theme of computer analysis, let's look at Shirov-Reinderman, Wijk aan Zee 1999. This is certainly not the most brilliant game in the book but illustrates typical features of Shirov's style as well as the way that computers can strip the romantic aspect from exciting contests. In the middle I have included some comments of Shirov's, which as you will see are mostly ironic ones. The game reached this position:

20.e5 This dynamic attacking move was given an "!" by annotators at the time, rightfully swept up in the game's course. But Shirov questions it and feels obliged to go into a rather lengthy computer-assisted analysis that ultimately shows that 20.f5! f6 21.Ra1! was best, leading to an apparently winning endgame. Moves like 21.Ra1 are not in Shirov's or most people's style. 20...d5? Again, we find that although most of Black' natural moves can be refuted by nice tactics, he had the strange move 20...Qd7! (obvious to the computer, I guess) since 21.Ne4 (the move that prompted 20...d5) 21...dxe5 22.Nf6+ only draws, and 21.Bxh7+ Kxh7 22.Ne4 f6 23.exf6 Kg8! ultimately draws following a forced line that ends in perpetual check on move 34! Thus Shirov assigns '?!' to 20.e5. Give me back the days of overenthusiasm! 21.Nf3! Qd7 Correct this time. 22.Bxh7+! An obvious move, right? But to the more careful observer it's not at all evident that the attack will succeed. In view of the following complications, many other masters might bank upon their positional advantage instead. 22...Kxh7 23.Qh4+ Kg8 24.Ng5 Re8! Not 24...Rd8? 25.Qh7+ Kf8 26.Qh8+ Ke7 27.Qxg7 Rf8 28.f5. 25.Rf3! Jonathan Tisdall, who was present at the game, gave this move a ''!!" and said: 'Most people would have concentrated on 25.Qh7+ Kf8 26.Qh8+ Ke7 27.Qxg7 but 27...Kd8 does not leave white with a clear continuation of the attack. Shirov prefers to keep the black king at home.' 25...Ne7 Forced. 25...Rxb3 26.Rh3! Kf8 27.Nh7+ Kg8 28.Nf6+. 26.Qh7+ 26.Rh3?? Ng6 and Black defends nicely. 26...Kf8 27.Qh8+ Ng8 Tisdall: 'It is not obvious what white has achieved by allowing Black to bring his knight into the defence. White follows through with a new series of line-opening sacrifices.'


Now let's hear from Shirov: 'Fritz claims that 28 Bf2!, strangling the king, would be more effective, but unfortunately I learned to attack with old books.'

28...exf5 29.e6!

Shirov: '29.Nh7+?! Ke7 30.Bg5+ Ke6 31.Qxg7 d4! would create some unnecessary mess, if only from a human point of view. White is winning after 31.g4! according to the silicon monster.'


Shirov: 'At least there is some solidarity in the line 29...Rxe6 30.Nh7+ Ke7 31.Bg5+ f6 32.Qxg8, which I saw during the game'.

30.Rg3! g6 31.Nh7+ Kf7 32.Bh6 .

Shirov: 'I saw this move when playing 22.Bxh7+. And you, my German friend?' [jw: a reference to Fritz, the German analytical engine; even today my own engines can't say yes to that one]


No better is 32...Nxh6 33.Qf6+. Ribli offers the pretty line 32...Bf8 33.Bxf8 Rxf8 34.Rxg6! Qa7+ 35.Kh1 Kxg6 36.Nxf8+ Kg5 37.Qxg8++- Kf6 38.Nh7+ Ke5 39.Qg3+ f4 40.Re2+ Kd6 41.Qxf4+ Kc6 42.Rc2+.

33.Bg5+ Kf7 34.Bf6

Shirov: 'Too concerned about aesthetics and a little short of time, I didn't notice 34.Nf6, after which Fritz gives an unusual evaluation of +25.52 in White's favour'.


'34...Bf8 35.Ng5 mate is how I would prefer to end the game, of course.'


Shirov: 'Not +25.52 any more, but still clearly winning for White. Not a bad end to an attack starting with 20.e5, is it?'

35...Nxf6 36.Qxf6+ Ke8 37.Qxg6+ Kd8 38.Rxd7+ Bxd7 39.Nxf8 Bxf8 40.Qf6+ Be7 41.Rg8+ Kc7 42.Qc3+ Kb7 43.Rxb8+ Kxb8 44.h4! 1-0 Tisdall called this "A textbook attacking game, with a wealth of instructive, thematic ideas."

Wandering around in the same time period, I found the brief example from Shirov-Ljubojevic, Amber-blindfold, Monte Carlo 1999. Shirov himself calls this 'a relatively easy game' that he included because it was 'nice to remember'.

White has sacrificed a pawn and has a more than enough compensation because of the d5 square. The question is how to best exploit that advantage.


Shirov calls this 'a positional approach', citing the short time control as a factor in making the decision. Indeed, it turns out that 16.Nb6? Qe6 17.Nxa8 Rxa8 gives Black compensation.

16...Bd8 17.Rhg1 Nxe3 18.Qxe3 f6 19.h4! The last force needed for the attack. 19...Qf7 20.h5! Kh8 Or 20....Qxh4 21.Rg3! with a dangerous attack. But this proves just as dangerous. 21.Rg6! Rg8 Obviously not 21...hxg6? 22.hxg6. 22.Rdg1 h6? A natural move in order to stop h6, but Shirov points out that he had to try 22...b5! 23.h6 hxg6 24.Rxg6! gxh6 25.Rxh6+ Kg7 26.Qh3 Kf8 27.Rh7! and White wins the queen but still has to find a way to win. Now White plays a relatively simple but still pretty combination: 23.Nxf6! Bxf6 24.Rxh6+ gxh6 25.Qxh6+ Qh7 26.Qxf6+ Rg7 27.h6. Not a bad combination of when you consider that it's a blindfold game, and at rapid time controls at that! 27... Rag8 28.Rg6 b5 29.hxg7+ Rxg7 30.Rh6 1-0

In general the quality of blindfold chess has risen dramatically over the last decade or so, such that top-level blindfold games, even Rapid ones, are published regularly as 'normal' examples of play. This is a fine example.

Shirov spends only 9 pages describing his life since the first book, but they are dense ones, both physically and in terms of events. He addresses with bitterness (justified in my opinion) the failure to hold the World Championship that he qualified for by defeating Kramnik. He lays forward his case briefly, then describes the simultaneous blows from a divorce and the financial disaster connected with the match that didn't take place. Remarkably, as the ignored winner of the Kramnik match he never even received the promised compensation for the match having been cancelled, much less for winning it, while Kramnik the loser was rewarded financially on the spot and later by means of his match with Kasparov. Ultimately Shirov overcomes his problems, revives his career, and mixes fatherhood with chess. He continues on with this autobiographical narrative up through early 2005, concluding on a note of optimism. At the end he promises a future Fire on Board 3 . I already look forward to that with great anticipation, since these first two books are absolute masterpieces of the games collection/autobiography genre. This is easily the first book that I would get if I had to choose amongst those of 2005.

Jeroen Bosch's Secrets of Opening Surprises 2 and 3 are quite different that the first volume that I praised highly when it first came out in 2003. In the case of the original Secrets of Opening Surprises ('SOS'), Bosch's own New In Chess Magazine columns were collected into a 204 page book. In these last two volumes he is both author and editor. Volume 2 has five articles by Bosch and 12 by other strong players, including grandmasters Beliavsky, Notkin, Krasenkow, Rogozenko, Movsesian. Glek and Rowson. Volume 3 contains five more articles by Bosch and the contributions of, for example, Romanishin, Rogers, Mikhail Gurevich (two articles), Chernikov, Flear, and more (Rogozenko and Beliavsky appear again). One thing remains constant, however: the openings discussed in the articles are all eccentric, ranging from the nearly -nonsensical to those which are more established but still part of the underground chess movement. For all except the professional player and the "irregular openings" fanatic, some if not the majority of these opening ideas will indeed be surprises.

Bosch's first chapter in both volumes is an update on the theory presented in earlier editions, 8 pages in Volume 2 and 9 pages in Volume 3. This update can be as interesting as anything else as it covers such diverse ground. In #2 we return to openings with a3 such as 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.a3 and 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.a3!?. Magnus Carlsen's miniature victory versus Dolmatov with 1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 was an inspiration not only Bosch but also Stefan Kindermann in his 2005 Leningrad System translation and rewrite (see next review column). The Volume 3 update includes four pages of developments in the Albin Countergambit, new information about 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5!?, the fairly well-known but eccentric idea 1.e4 c5 2.c3 Qa5!?, and the strange 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 Nxe4!? This is all in the first chapter. I hope that you're beginning to get the idea.

Turning to the actual articles, Volume 2 includes (by way of example) Notkin's discussion of 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 h5!?, Bosch on 3...h6 in the French (3.Nd2 h6 and 3.Nc3 h6), Movsesian on 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.h3!? and Rowson on the remarkable Gruenfeld with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Na4!?, a replacement for Nalbandian's original 5.Na4!?. Volume 3 has Gurevich discussing 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3 Nc6 4.g3 Bd6!?, Bosch on 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Na3 e5!?, Mark Bluvshtein covering 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3, Rogers 1.e4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.f3 e5!?, and so forth.

The thing that surprises me most about these articles is that however obscure an idea may be, it seems that there are always bundles of games to quote and a surprising number of IM and GM practitioners. It seems that everyone would like to escape from the exhausting task of keeping current with main-line theory.

Now for the important point: These ideas are fun! Anyone can sit back, absorb this material, daydream about playing some nutty idea, and then actually do so against that master who always beats you in the opening! As the articles demonstrate, the sheer surprise of the key moves has defeated many opponents; why not yours? Bottom line: you may have to be crazy to play these variations, but you'd definitely be crazy not to buy at least one of these titles.

I should also mention Tactics in the Chess Opening , a fairly recently-started series by New in Chess that resembles SOS in look and proportion. The latest that I have is #3, by Friso Nijboer and Geert van der Stricht; 237 pages; New in Chess 2005. The title is not misleading but the material isn't what you might expect. There are plenty of standard traps, but not many superficial ones. And mostly, the volumes consist of tactical ideas that arise in a given opening after reasonable moves for both sides, such that the combination may not appear until move 15-20 or so. Most of the time these tactics are tied to opening theory, e.g., a dynamic move that improves upon a previously established one or the punishment for an error. But sometimes the tactics are simply from a nice game in a particular opening system having little or nothing to do with theory. All in all this is a very instructive series; I wouldn't call it a personal favourite in the sense of SOS or other works on this page, but it is a high-quality product that is particularly appropriate for getting an overall grasp on the dangers and opportunities available in a given opening. To be clear, however, the material is divided by variation and thematic context of various tactics is usually not presented. I do think that it is too advanced for most young students and less experienced players. Just about everyone else can benefit from the Tactics in the Chess Opening series, especially the average club and tournament player.

Jan Timman's Curacao 1962, The Battle of Minds that Shook the Chess World is a rarity: a serious tournament book annotated by a leading player. And what a battle: Keres, Petrosian, Fischer, Tal, Korchnoi, Geller, Fischer, Benko, and Filip facing off in what turned out to be one of the most consequential events in chess history. All the games of the 28-round Candidates tournament are included, and Timman picks out many of them (perhaps about half?) to annotate. He does so for the most part in a wordy and friendly style that suits the needs of casual skimmers (me, for the time being) as well as dedicated readers.

Not surprisingly, Timman discusses at some length the tournament collaboration of Geller, Petrosian, and Keres, which consisted of taking prearranged draws with each other. Fischer famously called this "cheating". He also included Korchnoi in the group, and said that the "Russians" were conspiring to gain an advantage against him by conserving energy while he had to play tiring (real) games. Of course, an agreement to draw games and conserve energy wasn't necessarily a conspiracy to stop Fischer, who had just shown his ability to rack up win after win in Stockholm. Anyway, a Preface by Alex Roose and a chapter by Timman supply both background and surrounding material to explain the nuances of the situation. His take seems to be that eight days of relative rest are indeed a helpful factor, but that the accusations against Korchnoi (including throwing a game) are at best unproven. Actually, over the last 30 years, the clear majority of American Swiss System tournaments with the participation of strong players would have had different results if top players hadn't taken prearranged draws in some games. All the more so for Invitationals. Whether ethical or not, it's natural for friends to do so and I suspect that the practice is common worldwide. Incidentally, the only player of the three to comment upon the charge later, Keres, suggested that this was a policy that would only benefit players in the bottom half of the crosstable! That's objectively true; nevertheless, the evidence is very strong that he indeed took part. As for the idea that this scheme would cause Fischer to use up more energy then the others , no one seems to mention the fact that the younger man had his best result in the fourth and last quarter of the tournament, leading the pack with a +2 score out of 6 games! His poor finish (3.5 points behind the winner) was surely not the result of exhaustion.

The book contains 38 photographs, most of which I haven't seen before, and includes a very well-written capsule portrait of each participant. Timman points out that Fischer and Tal were considered the favourites to win Curacao. Tal fell ill early on and dropped out, whereas Fischer fell short of expectations, but not excuses. Ultimately Petrosian won the tournament and qualified for his championship match versus Botvinnik. After winning that match and becoming World Champion, Petrosian went on to defeat Spassky to hold the title for two consecutive terms. For those who place Petrosian on a lower level than other champions, the events from the time of Capablanca forward indicate how difficult his accomplishment was. Furthermore, as this book shows, qualifying was itself a great feat.

I've wandered from the subject and this has been an inadequate description of Timman's effort. But I feel that, like Bronstein's Zurich 1953 , his Curacao 1962 will be enjoyed by lovers of the game for years to come, and never grow old.

The title and cover of How to Play the Queen's Gambit mr Kasparov Series No. 1 (a multimedia product/video presentation) caught my attention right away. The title itself seems extremely odd, and on the same cover we see the name again: "mr. kasparov", with an arrow pointing to a strange picture of Kasparov, the top of his head cut off by the package! The title is repeated as a light background graphic, with the words themselves wrapping around the side of the package! Then there is another mysterious arrow pointing off the side of the package along with the standard shadow coming out of the corner of the ChessBase symbol. Finally, the tiny words "Training with Garry Kasparov" appear below the main title. ChessBase seems to have repeated this unfortunate design with Kasparov's Najdorf video: it has a different photo of Kasparov but keeps the head-cut-short motif.

Well, I have to have a little fun with these things once in a while. Seriously, my attitude going in was that we were likely to see a more-or-less conventional presentation of the Queen's Gambit with Kasparov lending his name and presence on the video. Not that he wouldn't do so genuinely enough, but I suspected that the reason for using an ultra-high-profile narrator and not another equally competent master was to ensure commercial success. Whether or not that is the case, Kasparov isn't at all content with a formal appearance. He throws himself into an involved and enthusiastic presentation that is suffused with respect for the opening's turns and twists as well as nostalgia for its history. He makes the material fun and fascinating without sacrificing too much detail. The coverage is to the point and an excellent fit for moderately experienced players who are interested in learning about the main lines of the Classical Queen's Gambit.

In this case, the variation under study encompasses only the main lines of Queen's Gambit Declined 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 . That's a vast subject, but be aware of its limited breadth. The Slav or Semi-Slav with 2...c6 or 2...e6 3.Nc3 c6 are not included, although the latter is given an overview section which describes without analysis what moves constitute a Moscow and Botvinnik Variation, for example. Along the same lines, other QGDs like 2...Nc6 and 2...Bf5 are not included. Even within the Classical move order, there is no way that a single DVD can include serious coverage of the many systems involved (e.g., the Cambridge Springs, Ragozin, and Vienna), but Kasparov does include lengthy discussion of Bf4 variations, which are often given short shrift by books. In the Exchange Variation, both major setups are thoroughly examined - the Carlsbad with Nf3 and the modern variations with f3. In the latter case he shows his own games versus Andersson and Short. All sorts of anti-Carlsbad setups are given butKasparov doesn't seem to think that any of them yield an advantage.

Be aware that Kasparov doesn't provide a complete repertoire with minute details, but you could play these lines against strong competition and be well armed.

You should know that to get the full benefit of the lectures you'll need some version of ChessBase 9. Fortunately the DVD comes with a ChessBase 9.0 Reader. I viewed the product directly from the disc on my PC; only someone who is indifferent to hard disk space would install the video files. But the accompanying database files don't use up a great deal of room. Subtitles (an option that I'm not aware was available in earlier products) are in German, Spanish, Italian, and English (the language Kasparov uses).

The format is straightforward, without sophisticated audio or visual features. In front of a bare background, Kasparov is seen explaining the material step-by-step while the relevant moves are shown in separate windows on a board and in notation. The organization of material for individual systems is outstanding. He usually begins with the play of the older masters and then moves on to modern discoveries, while giving his own assessments of various lines' playability. Kasparov enthuses over the extraordinary history of each system, respectfully detailing each master's distinctive contribution. It's an admirable performance that I feel reflects his genuine feelings. Examples of the depth of coverage (time in parentheses): Lasker's Defence (16:03); Capablanca's Variation (19:32); Exchange Variation (18:45); Alatorsev Variation (3...Be7) (13:10); Tartakower system (14:51).

These sections are full of games but they are followed by in-depth examinations of famous games in the Queen's Gambit, including Kasparov's own. . Some typical games that he covers are 3 from the Karpov-Yusupov match, tests of Lasker's Variation and the Saemisch Variation, comparing the Lasker fights with a later Kramnik-Gelfand game and Smyslov-Kasparov. Naturally he discusses classics like the Fischer-Spassky Tartakower Variation and several of the 'Capablanca Variation' QGDs from the Alekhine-Capablanca World Championship match (33 of the 34 match games were QGDs!). Generally he prefers to spend more time on individual games than breakdowns of variations.

Kasparov's offhand comments are revealing. For example, as he describes White's plans of e4-e5 and f4-f5 in the Exchange Variation with f3, he adds something to the effect of "Of course this is the real world and such things don't happen", meaning that the opponents are too strong to let White achieve that. And he dismisses many variations as being insufficient to play for advantage or essentially drawn but it's obvious that he is thinking about a something akin to a hypothetical game between himself and Kramnik or Karpov! In several of these lines White has a small advantage (with perhaps a slight nod by theory), something the average player needs to take into account when committing to play one side or the other.

I haven't room to talk enough about this multimedia publication, but I should say that it ranks way up there with the best products on CDs and DVDs. Anyone interested in this opening of the past and present is urged get it. How to Play the Queen's Gambit is a great production by both Kasparov and the ChessBase folk, although they really should think about that cover design!

I don't think there has ever been a bad Chess Informant . It's a bit arbitrary to single out Volume 92, but it's the most recent that I have (#94 just appeared, I think), and the format and quality of Informants don't change much from issue to issue. Indeed, #92 is no exception, with 522 annotated games and the usual cast of great annotators, e.g., Adams, Anand, Bologan, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Kasparov, Kramnik, Leko, Polgar, Shirov, Short, and many others. As always, this volume begins with the 10 best games and 10 most important novelties from the preceding one. There is also a theoretical survey in ECO format, and sections on combinations and endings. Robert Huebner's career is featured in a 16-page section with an excellent selection of games and positions. One can refer to previous reviews and their website below to get the flavour of what's offered. The main games are still the heart of Informants; they are brilliant and/or essential to following the latest developments in hundreds of openings. It is indicative of their quality that Chess Informants are used by every titled player that I've met over the years, and by most other serious players. They come in a softcover volume of about 400 pages or on a CD, which requires their own free Chess Reader to read. The only caveat I can think of is that the Informants are languageless and their often intricate game annotations are entirely symbolic. This may be undesirable or even intimidating for the occasional player, while such a presentation is too advanced for the inexperienced.

The company Chess Informant has also published new opening monographs annotated by experts on varations of the Caro-Kann (B12, authored by Velikovic), Sicilian (B22, authored by Sveshnikov), and Ruy Lopez (C78, authored by Belyavsky and Mikhalchishin). I may be mistaken but I think that this monograph series was suspended some years back and has just now been revived. I used to have editions on the French and Ruy Lopez by Korchnoi and Bareev, whose notes were very useful. That was before we had databases of such size and ease off manipulation: since similar material may now be collected from a database (i.e., the raw moves alone) the key here is the extent and quality of the contributions of the authors. I don't know what they consist of so I'm not sure what to recommend here except to take a flyer if it's a variation that's of special interest to you, or try to get a look at another copy before purchasing.

There are many other products that deserve note, for example, newer volumes of the famous ECO series and the Anthology of Combinations. You may want to visit to see what the Informant crew has been doing recently.

Finally, a mere mention: The German version of Valery Bronznik's The Chigorin Defence was reviewed at great length in a previous column [Review 46]. I felt that it was not only a great book but gave the Chigorin a new status of full-fledged respectability. It has now been translated and in this new English edition Bronznik has put a tremendous amount of effort into updating the material. This is no small task in view of the defence's current popularity. I strongly recommend this book and even urge you to take up the opening!

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TWIC 1215 19th February 2018 - 3658 games

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