John Watson Book Review (76)
More 2006 Opening Books and Complements
IM John Watson - Saturday 1st September 2007
In this column I'll look at two books from a new series. Following that are sets of books and disc products that complement each other, in the sense that material from one source may fill gaps in another. They also vary rather dramatically in format.
Before continuing, I should note that my book my book How to Succeed in the Queen Pawn Openings is now available at the London Chess Centre. It turns out that purchasing individual copies at Trafford.com involves a very expensive shipping fee that I was unaware of. My apologies.
Dangerous Weapons: The Nimzo-Indian; John Emms, Chris Ward & Richard Palliser, 272 pages; Everyman 2006
Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian; John Emms & Richard Palliser; 304 pages; Everyman 2006
Chess Explained: The Taimanov Sicilian; James Rizzitano; 111 pages; Gambit 2006
The Safest Sicilian: A Black Repertoire with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6; Alexander Delchev & Semko Semkov; 218 pages; Chess Stars 2006
Chess Explained: The Queen's Indian Defence; Peter Wells; 127 pages; Gambit Publications 2006
Fritz Trainer Opening - The Queen's Indian Defence The Easy Way; 3 hr, 49 min; Jacob Aagaard; ChessBase DVD 2006
How to Play the Queen's Indian Defence; Dmitri Oleinikov; CD; ChessBase 2006
Please note a potential conflict of interest in my assessment of Everyman's new (late 2006) Dangerous Weapons books. I have written a book for this series called Dangerous Weapons: The French, which is soon to be published. My general feeling is that after a few years of tippy-toeing around the issue of overlapping interests, I'm going to compliment books that are deserving unless there is some overriding reason not to do so. For example, I have been refraining from reviewing any book or product about the French Defence for years, since it might seem I'm putting others in a bad light compared to my Play the French book. While I'll still refrain from writing largely negative reviews of books about the French, I will discuss ones that I find worthy of recommendation. And if a book's content intersects with one of my books, I'm not always going to avoid a comparison between the two.
That said, I am terribly impressed by the two Dangerous Weapons books thus far released. The basic idea is a promising one: the authors present a series of opening variations, which are 'dangerous', a word which is clarified by John Emms' words from the Preface:
For the purpose of choosing opening variations for this series, usually a Dangerous Weapon fits into one or more of these overlapping categories:
1) Moves that create complex, original positions full of razor-sharp tactics and rich positional ideas where creative, attacking play is rewarded; moves which are new, rare or very fresh, leaving plenty of scope for research.
2) Moves that are highly ambitious; ones which aim for total domination.
3) Moves that have been previously ignored, discarded or discredited by theory, perhaps unfairly so or maybe for the wrongreasons.
4) Moves that are visually shocking; moves which seem to contradict the laws of the game.
The variations can be 'dangerous for both sides', says Emms, but unless an opponent has specifically prepared for them more than you have (which is unlikely in reality, since there is so much else to prepare for), he will be set serious difficulties. Obviously this is a rather broad sense of the word 'dangerous', but the direction of the project should be clear enough.
Dangerous Weapons: The Nimzo-Indian is a collaboration by Emms, Chris Ward & Richard Palliser, all strong players and prolific authors. The whole 1..Nf6/2...e6 Indian Defence complex is undergoing major challenges on every front these days, with new attacks on the Queen's Indian (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6) and the Nimzo-Indian (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4). What's more, White's newer approaches and variations are largely dynamic or at least quite unbalanced in nature. This trend is healthy for chess, since it opens up 1 d4 again at even the highest levels and therefore throughout chess practice. When both 1 e4 and 1 d4 are thriving, it is unarguably good for the game.
The material spans 17 chapters, a startling number because even strong players will probably be unaware of the viability or in some cases the existence of most of the variations covered. There are nine systems for Black and eight for White; they are distributed through sections on moves such as 4 Qc2, 4 Nf3, and 4 e3.
All this is fine, but a fairly broad list of definitions and variations doesn't constitute a book. In the end it's the content, presentation, and analysis that count. Since most of the lines presented are wonderfully interesting, I'm going to simply list them by chapter to give you a feel of what's going on:
1 A Dangerous d-pawn: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 Bg5 c5 6 d5!?
2 Seizing the Initiative with ...b5!: 4 Qc2 0-0 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 b5!?
3 Wanting it all (Part 1): 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4!? d5
4 Wanting it all (Part 2): 4 QC2 0-0 5 e4!? c5 and 5...d6
5 The Romanishin Gambit: 4 Qc2 d5 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 c5!?
6 The Topalov Gambit: 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 c5!?
7 A Modern Twist: 4 e3 c5 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nge2 cxd4 7 exd4 d5 8 cxd5 Nxd5 9 a3!?
8 Another Vitolinsh Specialty: 4 e3 0-0 5 Ne2 b5!?
9 Baguio City Revisited: 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 d5!?
10 An Idealistic Advance: 4 e3 Ne4!?
11 A Break from Kasparov: 4 Nf3 c5 5 d5!?
12 The Milov Gambit: 4 Nf3 b6 5 Bg5 Bb7 6 Nd2 h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 d5!?
13 Going Dutch: 4 Nf3 Ne4!?
14 The Undershooting Bishop: 4 a3 Bxc3+ 5 bxc3 c5 6 e3 b6!?
15A souped-up Blumenfeld!: 4 f3 c5 5 d5 0-0 6 e4 b5!?
16 Original Leningrad: 4 Bg5 h6 5 Bh4 c5 6 d5 d6 7 Nf3!?
17 Radical Queen Venture: 4 Qd3!? 264
An impressive list. The chapters are split into (a) a general introduction to the basics of the system; (b) one or more annotated games, usually relevant to the most important lines; (c) a section called 'Looking a Little Deeper, which in fact looks a lot deeper and gives as much detail as a player wants, whether just to get started or to prepare against a strong master; (d) a brief conclusion. Transpositions are treated very carefully, and questions that the average player might ask are boxed and highlighted.
I guess what's most astonishing to me is that the mighty Nimzo-Indian is subject to so many different and exciting challenges by White, none of which are subject to refutation, and most of which offer full-fledged play. Conversely, Black has a number of appealing and dynamic continuations versus standard White setups that have never been given much attention by theoreticians. At least not yet! Furthermore, as far as I can tell, the authors don't omit lines that might cast doubt upon their 'weapons', but present every logical attempt for the enemy, including ways to render the weapon less than ideal. Even in those cases, they find ways to keep play alive and truly double-edged.
I'm personally fascinated by the several variations in which White achieves d5, since Black has traditionally been thought to prevent that move. For example, the 'Milov Gambit' goes
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Nf3 b6 5 Bg5 Bb7 6 Nd2 (preparing e4) 6...h6 7 Bh4 c5 8 d5!?
Now play can go, for example, 8...exd5 9 cxd5 Qe7 (there are several options, e.g., 9...g5 10 Bg3 Nxd5 11 Nxd5 Bxd5 12 a3 Ba5 13 e4 Bb7 14 Bc4 d5 15 exd5 0–0 16 0–0 Bxd5 17 Bxd5 Qxd5 18 Nb3! exploits the poor placement of Black's bishop on a5) 10 Qc2! 0–0 11 e4!? g5 12 Bg3 Bxc3 13 bxc3 Bxd5 14 0–0–0! (White sacrifices another pawn) 14...Bxe4 15 Nxe4 Qxe4 16 Bd3 Qc6 17 h4! with a powerful attack.
An example for Black is the amazing Topalov Gambit, 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 Qc2 d5 5 cxd5 (5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 Qxc3 c5!? 7 dxc5 d4 is given its own chapter) 5...c5!?, with ideas like 6 dxe6 cxd4 (simply 6...Bxe6 also offers compensation) 7 exf7+ Kxf7 8 a3 Ba5 9 b4 dxc3 10 bxa5 Qxa5 with unclear complications, or 6 dxc6 Qxd4!? 7 Nf3 Qe4. There are 14 more such lines, some well-known but given a new twist, for example, 4 Qc2 0-0 5 e4!? gets intense analysis spanning two chapters and 37 pages. The analysis goes well beyond anything that has been played or published before, with new idea following upon new idea.
I think that every player, especially ranging from the club level through the master, will delight in these fresh ways to attack and counterattack in an opening that has always been considered the solidest of solid defences. Dynamic opportunities spring forth from both sides of the board, and even the inexperienced can take up a system for fun, whereas grandmasters will sit up and take note of some of the objectively best lines.
Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian is even longer: 304 pages for only 14 Chapters, so there is a even greater depth of treatment. The variations are as follows:
1 A Swedish Speciality: The Gå-Pa (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Qb6!?)
2 Taking a Break from Refuting the Dragon (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 Be2 0-0 8 Qd2!?)
3 Vallejo's Viable Lowenthal (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5 5 Nb5 a6!? 6 Nd6+ Bxd6 7 Qxd6 Qf6)
4 Danger in the Taimanov (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Nf6 7 f4!?)
5 Silent but Violent (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 QC7 6 Be3 a6 7 Be2 Nf6 8 a3!?)
6 The Koblencs-Goletiani Kan (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Bd6!?)
7 Take my Pawns! (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Be2 Bb4 7 O-O!?)
8 Taking the Sting out of the Open Sicilian (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 d5!?)
9 Karklins against the Najdorf (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Qf3!?)
10 Baklan and Epishin's Sozin Antidote (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 d6 6 BC4 e5!?)
11 The Prins Variation (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 f3!?)
12 The O'Kelly Variation: Not Just a One-Trick Pony (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 a6!?)
13 A Cure for Indecision? (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 a6 5 f4!?)
14 Surprising the Sveshnikov (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Nde2!?)
You can see what fun this is. Breaking the Sicilian mold by potentially dynamic and lesser-known means is a refreshing change from 2 c3 and 2 Nc3. Again, the suggested variations are not refutable; some are unquestionably equal and even the speculative ones give the opponent no obvious ways to a clear advantage.
I feel that these books are the most refreshing of recent opening products, and wonderful for anyone wishing to get off of the main theoretical paths. Dangerous Weapons: The Nimzo-Indian is to my mind the more useful for the attacking player, but both get my highest recommendation.
The first complementary set I'll discuss is a duo of books: (a) James Rizzitano's Chess Explained: The Taimanov Sicilian, and (b) The Safest Sicilian: A Black Repertoire with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6, by Alexander Delchev & Semko Semkov, [I'll refer to it as 'D&S']. Actually, the authorship of the latter isn't clear at first because the text is full of 'I's with no 'we's. But the Foreword clarifies that Delchev wrote the book and Semko checked the lines, suggested revisions and contributed to the writing.
The Taimanov begins with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6, in most cases followed by the moves ...a6 and ...Qc7 at an early stage. In fact, 5 Nc3 can be answered by 5...Qc7 or 5...a6, often transposing. The alternative 5 Nb5 d6 (usually with 6 c4 or 6 Bf4) takes Black out of that formation but is still classified as a Taimanov. D&S use about twice as many pages as Rizzitano to construct a suggested repertoire for Black, including White's alternatives to 3 d4. See the description below. Rizzitano doesn't cover such alternatives (his is not a repertoire). Remarkably, however, he manages to cover most of the same ground as D&S, with of course less detail in their specialised lines. As a general book on the Taimanov, Rizzitano also examines other major systems, for example, ...a6 with ...Nge7, and includes alternatives for Black to the particular course recommended by D&S. Both books contain a considerable number of suggested new moves.
Rizzitano's goal, as in the other 'Chess Explained' books is:
'to enable the club and tournament player to handle both the White and Black sides of the Taimanov Sicilian with confidence. The emphasis in this volume is on describing the typical plans and strategies for each side within the context of 25 high-level annotated games – there is less focus on detailed sub-variations. The games have been selected to illustrate distinctive Taimanov Sicilian middlegame and endgame themes across a wide variety of lines.'
He succeeds in this and also manages to find the space to verbally describe strategies throughout the book, while even tossing in some chess philosophy. Unlike most authors, Rizzitano indeed pays some attention to the endgame, presenting instructive and thematic examples. The Introduction to the book lays forth the structure of the book complete with move order issues, which is especially valuable in this system. Finally, the games themselves are absorbing, which will contribute towards keeping one's interest up while struggling to learn the details. Apropos of very little, here's the finish of the absolutely wild game Alonzo Zapata-Bruzon Bautista, Decameron 2003:
Even when you're tipped off in advance to look for a tactic, it's not easy to see your way through 43... Nf3+!! to the end: 44 Rfxf3 (44 Rexf3 Rb1! 45 Nxb1 Rd1 46 Qd8+ Rxd8 47 Nc3 Ra8 wins) 44...Rxf2+ 45 Rxf2 Qxf2+ 46 Kh3 Qf1+ 47 Kg4 (47 Kh4 Qh1+ 48 Kg4 Rd4+) 47...Rd4+ 48 Ne4 Rxe4+! 49 Rxe4 Qf5+ 50 Qxf5 (50 Kh4 Qxe4+) 50...gxf5+ 51 Kf4 fxe4 52 Kxe4 Kg7 53 Kd4 Kh6 0–1.
There are some limitations, of course, mostly due to the number of pages provided. First, notice that Rizzitano says 'there is less focus on detailed sub-variations'. That tends to mean that the most respected variations are the ones he looks at, skipping others, which is also indicated by his phrase 'high-level'. D&S are naturally able to provide more detail in their repertoire. Furthermore, in spite of the 'White and Black' claim, Rizzitano almost inevitably leans towards Black's point of view. After all, he has selected the Taimanov as his primary defence to 1 e4, and many variations are presented with White's moves challenging Black's variation, in the manner of a traditional advocacy book for Black. I don't mean to say that is always the case, and in fact some variations are presented in the opposite way, i.e., from White's perspective. Moreover, players of White will definitely benefit from Rizzitano's numerous suggestions for the first player. Still, my feeling is that Black gets the better press. In that context, it is not surprising that of the 25 games, 13 are wins for Black, 8 are drawn and only 4 are wins for White. On the other hand, the majority of players who will buy this book will be looking for a system with Black, so that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Safest Sicilian: A Black Repertoire with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 by is put out by the Bulgarian Company Chess Stars. It publishes of the justifiably praised 'Opening for White [or Black] According to Kramnik' and 'Opening for White [or Black] According to Anand' series. Those are multi-volume opening repertoires authored by ex-FIDE World Champion Khalifman. I will be describing one in the next columns. Chess Stars has also published a good number of books on tournaments, openings, and games collections of great players. See www.chess-stars.com for the complete list and descriptions.
Delchev and Semkov's book is organised in an unusual and I think useful way. Each chapter has a 'Quick Repertoire' Section that summarises the recommended lines with important comments about strategy. It can save the average reader a lot of trouble, in that he can play the opening for a while and come back to the details later. The latter are given in a 'Step-by-Step section. Finally, there are complete games. Remember that this is a specialised book and D&S can thus examine the recommended lines in great detail. I particularly like the 'Quick Repertoire' idea, as mentioned. It's amusing, however, that the first Quick Repertoire (Part 1) begins with a harangue against a particular 'Hedgehog' setup that is popular versus 4...Nc6 5 Nb5 d6 6 c4. Black continues with the moves, ...a6, ...b6, ...d6, ...e6, ...Be7, and ...Bb7, moves that make up the Hedgehog, while White plays Be2, f3, 0-0, Be3, Qd2, and b3 in some order or another. At that juncture, some of you will be familiar with the manoeuvre ...Bd8-c7, ...Kh8, ...Rg8, ...g5. Delchev makes it very clear that he doesn't like this plan! That is perhaps a little irrelevant given the section in which it is placed; but in general the repertoire summary and explanation is well done and a positive feature of the book.
While D&S are mainly concerned with 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4, they also have three whole chapters (34 pages) covering 3 c3 Nf6, 3 d3 Nc6 (with ...g6), and such things as 3 c4, 3 Nc3 Nc6 4 Bb5 Nd4 (twice!), 3 b4, 3 b3, 3c4, and 3 Qe2. White's second-move alternatives such as 2 c3 and 2 Nc3 are not dealt with. I suppose that's asking a bit much of the author(s) in a single volume.
In the Introduction, D&S begin: 'Could the Sicilian be a safe opening? Is there a miraculous system which guarantees Black a calm life after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3? Of course not! After all we love the Sicilian because it offers tangled play with much greater chances to score than the Ruy Lopez or the Russian Game. Yet the variations I [Delchev] analyse in the present book were in the repertoire of the World Champions Petrosian, Karpov, and Anand. They are famous for their sound strategy and practical approach to chess.'
This is a bit deceptive, since Petrosian was not great fan of the Taimanov, using it in only 9 out of his 2099 games in Megabase 2007. And Karpov didn't employ the Taimanov much in important tournament games. Barring use of systems with ...Nge7, which D&S explicitly exclude from their repertoire, he has 27 games with one in Megabase 2007, which is not insignificant but also not a favourite choice, considering his 3376 total games. An aside: both champions dabbled lightly in the Kan Variation (4...a6), again outside of the book's province. Today, in fact, the Kan is enjoying a great resurgence; it is the most flexible of all Sicilians, and deliciously complex. Of course, with a mistake or two, you can get mated more easily than in the Taimanov!
However safe the Taimanov may be (and surely the Classical Sicilian and Sicilian Four Knights are safer), Delchev and Semkov themselves present a lot of dangerous systems in their repertoire, and do a fantastic job of supporting Black's chances by means of active counterattacks and tactical methods. I think that Rizzitano's choice of exemplary games and his notes also reflects this modern reality: the Taimanov is a double-edged opening in which there are many charged and critical positions. Thus, although the Taimanov is a good choice for a Sicilian System (if nothing else, one avoids Bb5 systems), it is after all a Sicilian, and riskier than most other defences to 1 e4.
Perhaps what Rizzitano calls the 'Paulsen Main Line', beginning with 6 Be3 and 7 Be2 (or 6 Be2 and 7 Be3), has led to a perception of slow and more positional play in the Taimanov. That's fair enough, and this line is presently popular at the top levels. But there are many other equally important variations that the average player is likely to run up against on a regular basis, and it's easy to be bowled over if one is not well prepared. Anyway, it's interesting to compare the two books' coverage of that main line, one that as a youth I played with White. Later on when I played the Taimanov, I had trouble meeting it:
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be2 a6 7 0–0 Nf6 8 Be3 Bb4 9 Na4 Be7
An important alternative is 10 c4 Nxe4 11 Nxc6 (this variation doesn't appear in Rizzitano. That's the advantage of a repertoire book over a more comprehensive one; in the latter, it's simply impossible to include all the options) 11...bxc6 12 Qd4 Nf6 13 Nb6 Rb8 14 c5 d6 15 cxd6 Bxd6 16 Nc4 Bxh2+ 17 Kh1 c5 18 Qxc5
D&S: 'The forced sequence has finished and Black has an important decision to make': 18...Qxc5 19 Bxc5 Bf4 20 Bf3 Bd7 21 Rfd1 'when Black seems unable to link his rooks, e.g., 21...Rc8 22 b4 Bb5 De la Riva Aguado-Illescas Cordoba, Lleida 1991.' Here D&S suggest 23 Nd6+! Bxd6 24 Rxd6, which seems right. At any rate, I think that another problem for Black is simply 19 f4!, which seems to force the sequence 19...Qxc5 20 Bxc5 Ne4 21 Ba3 Bg3 22 Bf3 Bd5 23 Bxe4 Bxc4 24 Bc6+ Kd8 25 Rf3 and White is clearly better, or some alternative along the way that also favours White. There are problems here for Black to solve. So instead of 18...Qxc5, Delchev says: 'I propose the novelty 18...Bb7!? 19 Qa3 Qc6 20 f3 Bc7 'with hazy complications. Going further in the analysis does not clarify things: 21 Rfd1 Nd5 22 Bd4 f6 23 Rac1 Qd7 unclear'. Probably White can maintain a small advantage somewhere in this line, but not much.
10...bxc6 11 Nb6 Rb8 12 Nxc8 Qxc8 13 Bd4 c5 14 Be5
A game Bogachkov-Tunik, Minsk 2005 went 14 Bc3 Nxe4 15 Bxg7 Rg8 16 Be5 d6 17 f3 Nf2!? 18 Rxf2 dxe5 19 b3 c4 (otherwise 20 Qd3 or even 20 Bc4 is strong) 20 Kh1 Qc5 21 Qe1 c3 22 Bxa6 and White again held the advantage with his extra pawn.
14...Rb6 15 Qd3
The normal move, but again, White has good chances after 15 b3 Nxe4 (15....0–0 16 Qd3 d6 17 Bb2 with a small advantage, according to both sources and confirmed by a recent game) 16 Bxg7 Rg8 17 Bb2 Rd6 (17...Bf6 18 Bxf6 Nxf6 19 Qd2 with an edge for White-Rizzitano) 18 Bd3 c4 19 bxc4 Qc6 20 g3! Ng5 21 f3 h5. D&S like Black here, but Rizzitano correctly gives 22 h4! with analysis leading to a very large advantage for White.
15...d6 16 Bc3 0–0 17 b3 d5 18 exd5
Best, according to D&S. I think that they are right.
18...Nxd5 19 Be5 Rd8 20 Qg3
Here a game Shirov-Ljubojevic continued 20...Bf6 21 f4 (or 21 Bxf6 Nxf6 22 Rfd1 h6 23 h3 Rd5 24 Bc4 Rd7 25 Qe5 with an edge, Efimenko-Neverov, Ukraine (Rapid 2005 from Inf 95). Who says there's relatively little theory in the Taimanov?) 21...Rb4 22 Bc4 Bxe5 23 fxe5 with a large advantage. Delchev now says 'When I was exploring the current line, I discovered that Black could launch a counterattack by
20...f6 21 Bb2 Bd6 22 Qg4 Qc7!?
, which is waiting to be tested'. A strange comment in view of the earlier game G Timoshenko-Priborsky, Tatranske Zruby 2005, which went 23 g3 Be5 24 Bxe5 Qxe5 25 Rfe1 Qc3 and Black came out OK. The lack of game sources is a modest drawback to this book. Sometimes D&S say 'e.g.' or say that they are giving a 'novelty' when in fact they are quoting a game. In this line, Rizzitano suggests 23 Qxe6+! Kh8 24 Kh1 Bxh2 25 Qf5 Be5 26 Bd3 g6 27 Bxe5 Qxe5 28 Qxe5 fxe5 29 Rae1 with a fairly obvious edge. All in all, Black has some problems to solve in this system, which makes me wonder about a return to the original move 9...0-0. Unfortunately, truckloads of theory are attached to it.
And in case you were wondering: I recommend both of these books, for the club player all the way to the strong master. You may have to limit yourself to one or the other, but they fill in each other's gaps in the most important lines.
Next, we have three new products about the Queen's Indian Defence which complement each other come in very different formats: (a) Chess Explained: The Queen's Indian Defence by Peter Wells is a 127-page book in the Gambit series that I described last column (there I discussed Yermolinsky's book on the Classical Sicilian). Wells uses 25 annotated games to illustrate the opening and a good deal of prose to explain it; (b) Jacob Aagaard has put a QID repertoire on a ChessBase multimedia DVD called 'Fritz Trainer Opening - The Queen's Indian Defence The Easy Way' (these titles are so annoying!); he presents the material on a board while talking the viewer; (c) within the same year, ChessBase has also released Dmitri Oleinikov's How to Play the Queen's Indian Defence, this time a CD similar to Tony Kosten's Classical Sicilian, also described in the last column.
I won't say too much about Peter Wells' book because I haven't worked my way through enough of Peter Well's book to assess it fairly. But Wells' reputation as an author precedes him, and right away one can see his characteristically balanced and insightful treatment of the opening. Like Rizzitano's book in the previous column, he manages to squeeze a great deal of material into a small number of pages, emphasising top-level games and thus the most respectable theoretical lines. Wells not only sifts through modern theory to find the best continuations, but he makes numerous suggestions at key junctures, some based upon his own games. Reading Chess Explained:QID, you get the feeling that Wells is preparing his own repertoire and sharing important analysis. Inevitably, older variations and inferior moves are neglected; there simply isn't enough room. One could argue that the explanation for the moves actually played assists the reader in understanding why other moves aren't played. Nevertheless, the average player will have to put some work into thinking about what continuations he is likely to see over the board, realising that older lines may not always be worse than more recent ones.
Wells is more of an explanatory, verbose writer than a deeply analytical one, although naturally, as an experienced and tactically sharp GM he knows when there is no alternative but to plunge into complex variations. His is a book that takes the title word 'Explained' seriously, and this makes it fun to read through without a board. Throughout Chess Explained: The Queen's Indian Defence we find thoughts or tips of independent interest about broader chess philosophy. Every chapter begins with a lengthy introduction, not so much about typical positions or characteristic manoeuvres as about the general positional contours of the variation in question. Here are two excerpts:
[From the very first chapter, discussing 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 and 4...Bb7, as opposed to the currently more fashionable 4...Ba6:]
'Whichever way the winds of fashion may be blowing, there is something of fundamental importance about the diagram position. Both sides are developing such that their light-squared bishops will face each other in a direct contest for the key central squares - d5 and e4 - whose basic importance has already been heralded in the main introduction. For sure, we shall hear again in coming chapters of the rich strategic variety which two decades of popularity at the highest levels have injected into 4...Ba6, resulting in the subject-matter of Chapters 2 and 3 becoming the established 'main line' these days. However, for all that, it would feel like a blow to the prestige of the Queen's Indian if the unpretentious text-move were to be found wanting and fortunately it is fair to say that this, so far as I know, has never been seriously suggested. In other words, the eclipse of 4...Bb7 has been a testimony to the vitality of the Queen's Indian as a whole, not to its vulnerability. The subject matter of this chapter remains important and the black cause retains notable advocates.
Still, I am jumping ahead. What of 4 g3 itself? Why has this fianchetto retained its spot at forefront of responses to the Queen's Indian almost since its inception?
The role of g3 and Bg2 in competing for the light squares in the centre has already been alluded to. However, this is only the bare bones of the story.
Firstly, and perhaps a little negatively, there are the drawbacks, however minor, which attach to the alternatives and which were touched upon in the main introduction.
Secondly it is worth stressing that the oft-discussed unprotected status of the black bishop on b7 is by no means of academic interest only. It does playa significant role in the struggle for the diagonal- just look at the 7 d5!? of Game 3 for which it provides the tactical justification, various traps surrounding an ill-timed ...Ne4 by Black in Games 1-2, and the problems of 5...c5 in Game 1. The list could easily be expanded.
Thirdly, and perhaps crucially, when we turn to Black's development (and ignoring for the moment 4...Ba6, which I shall discuss in general terms at the start of Chapter 2) we see that the basic position arising from 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 - the principal subject-matter of this chapter - presents him with something of a conundrum...'
[Discussing the variation 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Bg5 Bb7 6 Nd2!? h6 7 Bh4:]
Of 7...c5?! , Wells comments 'The marking may seem a little ungracious', and goes on to examine the consequences. Then he turns to
'White's problem is by now becoming familiar - it is not dissimilar from that after 7....Be7. In order to make sense of 6 Nd2 he must play for e4. However, by this flexible development Black again is poised to respond in the centre as appropriate. 8 f3? d5! is out of the question since with the knight on d2 the further break ...c5 will be awkward to meet. 8 e3 is playable, but again I like the look of a 'Tartakower-type' structure with 8...d5! with a later ...Be7 still available. Just what is the knight doing on d2 in such a position? Thus again, to be consistent it seems that White must throw caution to the wind with the pawn sacrifice 8 e4!?. In turn, it is only really acceptance which makes sense for Black, who may otherwise be smothered in the centre. His problem is that the weakening of his kingside which winning the e-pawn entails carries obvious dangers with the black king already castled. After 8...g5 9 Bg3 he is faced with an interesting choice of captures.'
Here he continues to analyse, using the game Wells-Elianov, Amsterdam 2005 as a model!
If you like this sort of thing - and who wouldn't? - by all means get this wonderful book with original material. Do keep in mind, however, that while it is thorough and up-to-date in what it deals with (primarily modern variations), it is not encyclopaedic.
In The Queen's Indian Defence The Easy Way, a multimedia presentation, Jacob Aagaard presents a repertoire for Black that is practical and sound. He concentrates upon the moves and specifics, with some but not too many general explanations. As opposed to some recent purveyors of opening books, Aagaard has the right credentials; he can draw upon his experience both as a Queen's Indian player and the author of a 2002 QID book for Everyman.
Throughout the DVD, Aagaard sips from a cocktail glass with an umbrella in it! At one point he seems to identify the beverage as vodka (the word is a bit obscured), but it is in any case alcoholic. I really like this touch, which is both humorous and sly. Depending upon their intensity as students, most players will enjoy the casual atmosphere that pervades the video. I'm looking for a chance to try the same tactic using Scotch, neat and without the umbrella.
Not all lines are for use on a professional level, of course, but they will get the student to acceptable positions. For an example of the type and depth of material, let's look at the main line of Aagaard's suggested solution to 4 g3:
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 Bb7
Not the most popular move, but with a decent reputation. 5...Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Be7 is the main line, leading to many terrific struggles between the world's strongest players.
6 Bg2 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 c5
Oleinikov, whose CD is discussed below, calls this move 'a shady possibility'!
It might be fun (although probably not advantageous) to play 8 d5!? exd5 (8...Na6!?) 9 Nh4 0–0 10 0–0. One example might go 10...Bxd2 (10...Na6 11 Nc3 Nc7 12 Nxd5 Ncxd5 13 Bxb4 cxb4 14 cxd5) 11 Qxd2 Ne4! 12 Bxe4 dxe4 13 Nc3 f5 14 Rad1 with unclear prospects.
8...0–0 9 Bxb4 cxb4
10 Nbd2 d6 11 Qc2 is typical and interesting. A game of Aagaard's went 11...Qc7!? (11...Qe7 may be more accurate, even though it exposes the queen to Nf5 after ...e5; these decisions are delicate ones) 12 e4 e5 13 d5 a5 14 Kh1 (this doesn't do much and even exposes White along the long diagonal; better looks 14 Nh4 Nbd7 15 Rae1, for example, 15...Nc5 16 f4, and 16...exf4 17 gxf4 Rae8 18 Nf5 or 16...Rfe8 17 fxe5 Rxe5 18 Nf5) 14...Nbd7 15 Nh4 Nc5 (Aagaard's own suggestion. In the game he played 15...b5? 16 Rac1 Rfc8 17 Qd1 and was soon in a lost position). Perhaps best now is 16 Rae1, delaying f4 or Nf5 one more move in order to see what Black is doing.
10...d6 11 Nbd2 a5
Aagaard gives this an '!'. He prefers White after the known alternative 11....Qc7 12 Ne1 (Wells cites a Hjartarsson game with 12 e4 e5 13 Ne1 Nc6 14 Nc2 a5 15 Rfe1 Rfe8 16 Nf1 Nxd4 17 Nxd4 exd4 18 Qxd4 Qc5 19 Rad1 a4 20 f3! , with White holding a small advantage) 12...Bxg2 13 Nxg2 Nc6 (13...e5 14 e3) 14 f4 d5 and White has the ideas of Ne1–f3 as well as simply Rc1. Aagaard points out that 14...e5? runs into trouble after 15 fxe5 dxe5 16 Rxf6 gxf6 17 d5 with the ideas Qf5, Nh4-f5, Ne4, Rf1 etc. in some order.
After 11...a5, Black stays flexible and tries to scare up some counterplay based upon ...a4. It's not a major concern, but I think that Aagaard underestimates the advantage of space in this variation. Sure, after his main line 12 e4 e5, White's bishop is a very bad piece and White has to struggle to enforce an effective f4. Then the game seems about equal in a complex position. However, a more testing line is
, which gets rid of the bad bishop:
12...Bxg2 13 Nxg2
13 Kxg2 is another idea, for example, 13...Nc6 14 e4 e5 15 Nf5, intending 15...g6 16 d5! Naturally Black has options.
At this point Aagaard gives
This seems the most logical and consistent move, acquiring territory. My older source Yrölä and Tella gives only 14 Ne4 here, from a game Van Wely-Gelfand, Monaco Amber Blindfold 1999. By the way, the main moves and many alternatives have been featured in numerous high-level games, several by Korchnoi. Aagaard cites no games or sources, which is fine, since a scholastic approach would ruin the smooth and pleasant atmosphere of the video. But it emphasises the need for a database on the disc to supplement his presentation with the relevant games. Then the viewer is not just given moves in isolation, but can see top-level games and perhaps improve upon them.
Here Aagaard is satisfied with Black's position.
It's fair to say that the average player can safely play this way, secure in the fact that this position won't arise. The video isn't made for grandmasters, after all. But it's is still of interest as a more or less typical result of the opening. Let's go further. White can grab a passed pawn and space by
15 d5 (or 15 fxe5 dxe5 16 d5) 15...Nb8! (after 15...Ne7, 16 fxe5 dxe5 17 Ne3 should be advantageous, but 17 Rxf6! gxf6 18 Ne3 is even better for White, whose pieces are monsters) 16 fxe5 (the engine HiArcs throws in the odd but intriguing 16 Qf5 Nbd7 17 g4!?) 16...dxe5 17 Nh4 (I like this better than the computer move 17 Ne4!?) 17...Nbd7 18 Nf5 Nc5 19 Qf3. This sort of position seems to me to be better for White, whose pieces tie down Black's; g4-g5 is one idea. A problem for Black is that ...a4 can be met by a3! in many lines, e.g., 19...a4 20 e4 (or 20 a3 Nxb3 21 Nxb3 axb3 22 Qxb3, or 20...bxa3? 21 Rxa3 axb3?? 22 Rxa8 Qxa8 23 Nxg7) 20...Kh8 (20...axb3? 21 axb3 Rxa1 22 Rxa1) 21 a3! with a favourable liquidation.
Taken as a whole, the above shows how 5...Bb7 and 7...c5 indeed leads to double-sided positional play without entering heavily theoretical main lines. That's the real idea. I do think that in the end White stands better, and that if White plays well (or gets a little lucky), Black's chances of having fun with these positions aren't good. Of course, that may be true of the QID in general.
I think it's my leaning towards pure chess information that attracts me to the 'traditional' ChessBase CD, as opposed to the multimedia DVD. In Dmitri Oleinikov's How to Play the Queen's Indian Defence, there are no multimedia presentations, but a large amount of well-organised material is presented in an organised and efficient manner. Other CDs in this series have been centered around texts, mostly about variations, which are linked to annotated games. Oleinikov does the same, but emphasizes training, exercises, and the conceptual side of the opening.
To begin with, the history of the Queen's Indian Defence is presented in appealing fashion. Not surprisingly, neither Aagaard nor Wells do much in this respect. Oleinikov describes Nimzowitsch's early games and advocacy of the QID in the early 1910s, along with its controversial reputation and even changes of name. When one considers that by the early 1920s, the likes Alekhine, Bogoljubow, and Capablanca were playing the QID, you can see how rapid its acceptance was, the more so as chess entered the Botvinnik era. At first, Oleinikov says, the QID was considered 'tamed' by the system with 4 g3 and Bg2, and "it got the label of 'drawish' or even 'slightly better for White', and 'therefore boring'. Thus White began to play 3 Nc3, allowing 3...Bb4, in order to gain winning chances! Oleinikov quotes a Bronstein comment about the QID from his Zurich 1953 book that 'playing White he gave Black an opportunity to play QID - the opening with a "drawing" reputation. But then he added with irony: "As for "drawing" character, I realised that of 7 games played with the QID before this round Black won 4 and in the others White actually made draws..." It is interesting to add that two years before, in 1951, Bronstein won as Black the only QID which happened in his world title match against Botvinnik.'
Finally, Oleinikov cites a survey of openings by Maxim Notkin which showed that in 2005 the QID with 3 Nf3 was twice as popular in high-level chess than the Nimzo-Indian with 3 Nc3 Bb4! It should be said, however that this is largely due to the excellent reputation of the Nimzo.
Oleinikov begins with "A Dozen White Brilliancies" and "A Dozen Black Brilliancies", a sort of mini-games collection of outstanding QID games. The advantages of a CD are illustrated by fact that these are so easy to fit onto the disc and comprise only a small percentage of the material. The annotations are heavily verbal, although of course the most important variations are analysed.
Most of the CD is organised not around deeply-analysed variations with game links, but around themes and elements of the game. There are also 'theoretical overviews' covering the essential variations in limited depth. These are accompanied by quite extensive verbal notes, which are themselves informative and can be edited to form one's own repertoire. You would have to put some effort into finding the right games and notes if you go that route.
One of the most important sections is called 'Strategy: typical pawn structures' and is comprised of 14 pawn structure types illustrated by about 65 games. Few are annotated in depth but most include variations and some verbal commentary, not always by Oleinikov. The structure type divisions are as follows:
1) White: strong centre
2) QGD centre
3) Semi-Tarrasch centre
4) Grünfeld centre
5) Old Benoni closed centre
6) Modern Benoni structure
7) Dutch and Dutch Stonewall centre
8) Hedgehog structure
9) d-file vs. b-file
10) Pawn tension c4-d4 vs. c5-d5 and its resolution
11) Isolated pawn
12) Hanging pawns
13) Queenside pawn majority
14) One endgame
I find this to be the most useful section of the disc for someone who really wants to absorb the most important positional ideas of this opening from the point of view of both players. The next section is still larger but less systematic, in which strategic themes featuring a particular piece are examined and illustrated by about 80 games.
"Essential tactics through opening traps" is a large section with 60 or so game examples of typical tactics from 10 basic categories for each colour. These are fun and of course useful, and range from the simple to the complex. For example, there is the well-known 'Montecelli Trap', played in hundreds of games and illustrated by Burgos Garbin-Morcillo Ferran, Barcelona 2001:
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Bb7 5 Bg2 Be7 6 0–0 0–0 7 Nc3 Ne4 8 Qc2 Nxc3 9 Qxc3 Bf6 10 Qd3 c5
11 Ng5! Bxg5 12 Bxb7 Bxc1 13 Raxc1 1–0
And the somewhat subtler but oft-appearing idea in Rogozenko-Iordachescu, Bucharest1998:
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 Nbd2 Bb7 6 Bg2 Be7 7 e4 Nxe4 8 Ne5
8...d5 9 Qa4+ Kf8 is unclear.
9 Qh5 g6 10 Qh3, winning, in view of 10...Bxg2 11 Qxg2.
For Black, there are dozens of variants of the exchange sacrifice on a8, as in F Remman-Revil, Tromsoe 1996:
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 b6 4 g3 Ba6 5 b3 d5 6 Bg2 dxc4 7 Ne5 Bb4+ 8 Kf1
8...Bd6! 9 Bxa8 Bxe5 10 Bb2 c6 11 bxc4 Bxc4 12 Na3 Qd5 13 f3 Qxf3+ 14 Kg1 Qe3+ 15 Kf1 Ne4 16 Qe1 Nd2+ 17 Kg2 Bd5+ 0–1
I can't help but recommend both Aagaard's enjoyable DVD and Olneikov's ultra-instructive CD. Fortunately, they have quite different approaches and appeal, so I'll say this if you want to choose between the two:
Aagaard gives you a specific, pragmatic, repertoire to bring to the club or tournament, without having to sift through mounds of analysis. He does so via the comfortable medium of a video presentation. On the other hand, be aware that his repertoire has to be extracted in some form to your database, and you may also want to write down his remarks, which requires some extra work. I will discuss this problem with the Fritztrainer DVDs in the next column.
Oleinikov gives you the characteristic tactics and manoeuvres, strategies, piece behaviours, and structures in considerable detail. In other words, you get the fundamental ideas of the opening in as much depth as you could possibly want, extremely well presented. There are also training databases. He shows 24 brilliant games and provides theoretical overviews that cover the opening in a limited manner. However, there isn't much of a human element, and forming a repertoire is entirely up to you.
To make things worse, there's Wells' book to consider. As described above, it has not only excellent coverage of the variations, but brilliant writing that puts it on a level above the majority of opening books. And you might want to get away from that glowing screen once in a while.