John Watson Book Review (39)
Noteworthy Releases, Part 3
IM John Watson - Monday 23rd April 2001
Chess Informant 80, CD;
ed by Z Krnic; Chess Informant 2001
The Chigorin Defence, CD;
Martin Breutigam; ChessBase 2001
The Meran Variation, CD;
£17.95 / $27
Alexey Dreev; ChessBase 2001
The Dragon for Experts, CD;
£17.95 / $27
Atilla Schneider; ChessBase 2001
Sicilian Dragon: Yugoslav Attack;
Atilla Schneider; 372 pages; Caissa Chess 2000
For me, the Chess Informant #80 electronic version was the most pleasant surprise in this batch of books and products. I hadn’t yet used the Chess Informant Reader (which comes with the CD or is available on the Informant website), not having received any CDs for review, and for some reason assuming that this program would be awkward to use in comparison with my favourite ChessBase. But this program is very easy to use, has a pleasant interface, and supports a large number of important functions such as filters that can find pretty much anything, e.g., it can sort by player, ECO code, year, annotator, etc., and then there is a subfilter to further search the results. ChessBase still supports more functions, for example, the invaluable ‘merge’ function, text files and editing, and various export functions; but the average user will find everything he needs with this package.
The terrific thing about issue #80 (and perhaps others as well—I don’t know) is that it includes Informants 1-79! These are unannotated games, to be sure, but one is able to access lists of games that include every one in all previous issues. To me, this makes the program much more useful. My only regret is that there is no PGN export, although there is an apparently unusable tab called ‘PGN’, presumably for future use. Players who use ChessBase would appreciate this feature, since the ChessBase versions of Informants seem to be as much as 4-5 issues late these days. I’m sure that issues of piracy are important here, and I don’t blame the company at all; it’s just too bad that we have competing formats. At any rate, those who find Informants to be the way to go in the chess world should very strongly consider the electronic version. For me, it’s easier to get around in than the hardcopy version and it allows me to find information quickly without thumbing through all those paper-based volumes that I have used up to this point.
Also available on other CDs are all the Encyclopedias, specialized opening monographs, and some other new products. And yes, the hardcopy version of #80 is also out now, with all of the outstanding features that I have discussed in previous columns. Finally, there are new hardcopy volumes of ECO ‘A’ and ‘C’ that I will talk about in a future column. But check out the Informant 80 CD and see what you think.!
‘The Chigorin Defence’ CD by Martin Breutigam is well done and of great interest for Chigorin fans like me. The disc includes 7 ‘texts’ explaining each section, 93 annotated games, and 54 training questions for self-teaching. Also, like every ChessBase opening CD, it comes with a large database of games in that opening.
I do think that it’s too bad that the author hadn’t read my (admittedly obscure) lengthy 3-part article on the Chigorin in Inside Chess, because several of my lines would have improved upon those given in the CD. Also not consulted was my old Chigorin book from 1981, however out-of-date it may be. For example, one of the first lines on this CD that really caught my interest was 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Bxf3 7.gxf3 Nxc3 8.bxc3, which has always been thought to favour White. Here 8...e5 is a new move of great interest that I hadn’t seen analysed. Breutigam follows this move with some wild analysis involving 9.Rb1 Bd6 (although here simply 10.Rxb7 isn’t mentioned) and 9.Qa4 Qf6 (not 9...exd4ÿ 10.Rb1! Qc8 11.Ba6!). So I located a copy of my old book and found that I had given simply 9.d5, not mentioned by Breutigam. Then 9...Nb8 10.Rb1! b6 11.Qa4+ Nd7 (11...c6 12.dxc6 Qc7 13.Be3! wins) 12.Bb5, etc., is awful, as is 9...Ne7 10.Rb1 Qc8 (10...Rb8 11.Be3) 11.Qb3 b6 12.Qa4+ c6 13.d6! Ng6 14.Bh3! Qb7 15.d7+ Ke7 16.Be3 etc. So Black has to try 9...Na5, but the knight isn’t even defending a pawn on c4 as in other Chigorin lines, so White can proceed calmly with something like 10.Rg1 c6 (10...g6 11.Qa4+ c6 12.c4 and Bd2) 11.Rb1 b6 12.Be3 Qc7 13.c4 with a bind (13...Rc8ÿ 14.c5!).
The specific theory isn’t that important, however, and Breutigam succeeds in compiling an easy-to-follow guide to this always-underrated opening. Anyone new to the Chigorin Defence has plenty of annotated games and training material to comfortably learn the opening, needing only a mouse and a cup of coffee.
That ChessBase opening CDs are beginning to move into the big time is illustrated by Alexey Dreev’s ‘The Meran Variation’. This has the same format as the Chigorin CD, but with Dreev annotating 116 games, GM Christopher Lutz analyzing 46 more, and several hundred more with varying degrees of annotation from sources like ChessBase Magazine.
The Meran is a variation of the Semi-Slav starting with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5. Alexey Dreev is a very strong GM who is currently ranked 19th in the world. He is also one of the world’s very top experts in this system. So this is getting a set of top-flight personal lessons for the cost of a CD! I have no arguments with the analysis that I checked (much of it seems to be Dreev’s own!) and I doubt if there are any gaps in the coverage. If you have any interest in playing this dynamic opening from either side, you might do well to grab this CD before anything else.
Atilla Schneider is a well-known author whom we last met when I was discussing his massive 3-volume set on the Modern Benoni (Review #22). I used those books extensively in writing my own recent Benoni book, and the two things that really stood out were their originality and the author’s diligence. When I was discussing Dragon books a few reviews back, several readers recommended his ‘Sicilian Dragon: Yugoslav Attack’. I just received a copy three days ago and don’t know the Dragon well enough to assess it, but I do know that Schneider has written extensively on this system for many years. He wrote, for example, two volumes in German about the Dragon between 1988 and 1990. Schneider puts enormous effort into his larger theoretical works and according to those who have written me, this book shows it.
Now Schneider has produced a ChessBase opening CD ‘The Dragon for Experts’. Typically, he exceeds the norm, giving no less than 37 texts discussing variations in words and links, and the CD has over 500 annotated games (it’s not clear how many by Schneider). It interests me to see him use this format, because heretofore I don’t think that he has used computer analysis. One of my few problems with his Benoni volumes was the number of analytical lines with inaccurate assessments; and tactics, however beautiful, that just didn’t hang together upon closer inspection. If Schneider now uses ChessBase and its analytical engines, he should considerably cut down on this kind of problem.