Chess24 Jan Nimzo

John Watson Book Review (25)

Openings, High Level and Club

Grandmaster Efim Bogoljubow; Victor Charusin; CD-ROM; Pickard & Son, 2000
Easy Guide to the Najdorf; Tony Kosten; 128 pages; Everyman/Globe Pequot Press, 1999
The Najdorf (video); Nigel Davies; 75 minutes; Grandmaster Video, 1998
Smith-Morra Gambit, Finegold Defense; Bob Ciaffone & Ben Finegold; 139 pages; 2000
The Botvinnik Semi-Slav; Steffen Pedersen; 224 pages; Gambit Publications, 2000
Easy Guide to the Ruy Lopez; John Emms; 144 pages; Everyman/Globe Pequot Press, 1998
Play the Open Games; John Emms; 224 pages; Gambit Publications, 2000
The Alekhine Playbook & CD; Tim Sawyer; 157 pages; Pickard & Son, 2000
NIC Yearbook 53; New In Chess, 2000
ChessBase Magazine #75; ChessBase, 2000

Grandmaster Efim Bogoljubow; Victor Charusin; CD-ROM; Pickard & Son, 2000
Easy Guide to the Najdorf; Tony Kosten; 128 pages; Everyman/Globe Pequot Press, 1999
The Najdorf (video); Nigel Davies; 75 minutes; Grandmaster Video, 1998
Smith-Morra Gambit, Finegold Defense; Bob Ciaffone & Ben Finegold; 139 pages; 2000
The Botvinnik Semi-Slav; Steffen Pedersen; 224 pages; Gambit Publications, 2000
Easy Guide to the Ruy Lopez; John Emms; 144 pages; Everyman/Globe Pequot Press, 1998
Play the Open Games; John Emms; 224 pages; Gambit Publications, 2000
The Alekhine Playbook & CD; Tim Sawyer; 157 pages; Pickard & Son, 2000
NIC Yearbook 53; New In Chess, 2000
ChessBase Magazine #75; ChessBase, 2000

Yes, I know: the first entry above doesn't have anything to do with openings. But since it doesn't fit into any forthcoming reviews (e.g., ending books and tactics books), I wanted to briefly discuss this great new CD, which would have gone in my 'Looking Back' columns had I received it in time.

Correspondence IM Viktor Charusin has done yeoman's work in putting together a thorough and absorbing biography of Bogoljubow. There hasn't been a great deal of material devoted exclusively to Bogoljubow, one of the strongest players in the world at his peak; but the bibliography alone makes interesting reading, and Charusin quotes liberally from a wide variety of sources. 1247 of Bogo's games are included, with many photos, crosstables, and assorted information.

This work is on a CD-ROM, in ChessBase format (but also readable with a .pdf reader, which is included). I have mainly read the biographical section, pleasantly adorned with photos and liberal with links to games. It tells the story of an enormously active and successful player, and that story was so fascinating that I read it straight through. Interspersed with the biography are stories and incidents. This will certainly be a must-have for all chess historians and fans of the game's past (computer required, of course). I also recommend it for players who just want a break from heavy theory to enjoy themselves.

I found some mistakes in the analysis, but not enough to be a real problem. Some of the problem was in game entry, where someone apparently familiar with descriptive formation would mix up 4s with 5s, for example, with absurd results. I also found one 'omission': there was almost no mention of Bogoljubow's wife Frida. In the original edition of 'Modern Ideas of Chess', Reti refers mysteriously to Bogoljubow 'finding' a wife while a prisoner of war and bringing her home to Russia after the war. This might have been an interesting story to pursue in a CD full of good stories.

On to openings. I haven't read all these books in detail, so in some cases I will just describe the contents and make some general observations. Of these seven publications, I would say that three tend towards a low-level presentation, and four are more technically-advanced books, which are mainly for the advanced player.

'Easy Guide to the Najdorf' is Tony Kosten's repertoire book for players of Black who open 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6. It is published by Everyman (the U.S. representative that sells their books is Gobe-Pequot Press- www.globe-pequot.com/). Earlier relevant books on this subject include Daniel King's 'Winning with the Najdorf' and John Nunn's two 'Complete Najdorf' books for Batsford, on 6.Bg5 (1996) and 'Modern Lines' (1998), the latter updated (co-authored) by Joe Gallagher. The latter two books are the standard, but as with all openings, these lines have been changing rapidly and need updating.

I have been teaching the Najdorf recently (although I've never played it), and I was curious that Kosten suggests something different from what I had chosen versus several main lines. So I took a closer look at his recommendations, and I have to give high marks for originality, but in a few cases, low marks for quality.

Let me start with a variation that shows Kosten at his best: 6.Bc4. Here he presents a variation that he himself has contributed to the theory of (going back 20 years!): the …e6/…b5/…Bb7/…Be7 lines, which look very convincing to me. Along the way, he improves greatly upon some analysis by Nunn and Gallagher (no easy thing to do), and clearly explains the variety of move orders for both sides, something I haven't seen elsewhere.

Kosten also has original ideas about 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4, suggesting 7…Nc6, but I'm very skeptical of his choice of lines. For one thing, with Fischer and Kasparov as two exemplars, many players have given up on 6.Bg5 due to the Poisoned Pawn Variation (7…Qb6), and the traditional 7…Be7 lines still seem to work (see Nunn for a whole book on this subject). Kosten's recommendation seems unnecessary and possibly just bad. For example, in his main line with 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nc6 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.e5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.fxg5 Nd5 12.Ne4 Qb6 13.Bd3 hxg5, he is rightfully skeptical of all the previous answers to 14.Bg3! (14…dxe5, 14…Qxb2, and 14…Qb4, all of which seem to give White too much attack), and so offers 14…Qe3+ 15.Qe2 Qxe2+ as 'perfectly playable', giving 16.Bxe2 dxe5 17.Bxe5 Rh4 18.Nf6+, leading to a position 'close to equality'. But at the end of this line, 18.Bf3! is better, intending 18…g4 19.Nf6+ or 18…Be7 19.g3 Rh6 20.0-0-0 with advantage. Furthermore, 16.Kxe2 also makes Black's life difficult after either 16…dxe5 17.Bxe5 or 16…Nf4+ 17.Bxf4 exf4 18.Nd6+. Since Black's play doesn't seem to allow for earlier deviations (unless one can make something of the 14th-move options), this alone casts doubt on Kosten's 7…Nc6.

I was also suspicious of Kosten's main line against 6.Be3, i.e., 6…e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Nbd7 9.Qd2 b5 10.a4 b4 11.Nd5 Bxd5 12.exd5 Nb6 13.Bxb6 Qxb6 14.a5 Qb7 15.Bc4 Be7 16.Ra4 Rb8 17.Nc1 0-0 18.Na2 Nd7 19.b3 e4 20.fxe4 Bd8 (much of this is forced), and now I like 21.Kd1! (to threaten Rxb4) 21…Qc8 22.Rxb4 Ra8 23.Qe2 (or 23.Qf4 Nc5 24.Be2 Bxa5 25.Rd4) 23…Bxa5 24.Ra4 Qc7 25.Bd3, which looks quite good for White. At the very least, this line is not comfortable for Black, and unlike many openings, there are other, sounder options in the Najdorf.

I don't want to give the wrong impression: Kosten's 6.Be2 e5 analysis is excellent, and his analysis of 6.g3 e5 7.Nde2 Nbd7 intending …b5 (8.a4 b6) is detailed and sound. Irregular lines are all well-met, and as mentioned, the 6.Bc4 analysis is exceptional. Surely anyone playing or taking up the Najdorf will find plenty of value in this book. I just wonder why he needed to pick lines of questionable soundness (if I'm right!) versus 6.Bg5 and 6.Be3.

Another Najdorf repertoire, quite different (more …e6-based than …e5-based), is presented in Nigel Davies' 'The Najdorf'. It has far less detail, as befits a video lesson. I really enjoy these videos, and Davies is a lively and informative host. Of course, some of the lines are recommended more for surprise value than soundness. Davies' suggestion versus 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 is about as eccentric as Kosten's: 7…Bd7!ÿ. Not a bad practical choice, but a slightly unlucky, because in a game which undoubtedly appeared after the release of the video, Topalov-Salov, Wijk aan Zee 1998, the move 8.f5! led to an advantage and has perhaps discouraged Black due to 8…Be7 9.bxe6 fxe6 10.Bc4, whereas 8…b5 9.Qf3 Be7 10.0-0-0 was also very promising for White in Shabalov-Dao Thien, Amsterdam 1996.

A more serious problem arises after 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0, when Davies recommends 7…b5ÿ!. He follows White's main line, discovered by Smyslov: 8.Bf3 Ra7 9.Qe2 Be7 10.Be3 Rd7 11.e5! dxe5 12.Nc6, arguing that 12…Qc7 13.Nxb8 Qxb8 14.Bc6 b4 15.Na4 0-0 16.Bxd7 Bxd7 17.Qxa6 Bb5 is good for Black. Okay, and 15.Nb1 0-0 16.Bxd7 Bxd7 17.c4 e4 is not so clear either. But isn't 15.Nd1 just excellent for Whiteÿ Play goes 15…0-0 16.Bxd7 Bxd7 17.c4 and what does Black have for the exchangeÿ A sample line: 17…Ne4 18.f3 Nc5 19.Nf2 f5 20.Rad1. I just don't believe in Black's position at all.

Against other lines, I like what Davies says. He's not afraid of 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 etc., and suggests the very practical 6…Qb6 after 6.f3. Versus 6.Bc4, he gives Kasparov's 6…e6 7.Bb3 Nbd7 line in some detail, and versus 6.h3, he points out that 6…e6 7.g4 b5 8.g5 Nfd7 intending …Bb7 and …Nb6 is a tempo up for Black on the Keres Attack if White chooses his only dangerous line by playing h4. All fun stuff, and great learning material, highly recommended for developing players. As with all videos, one has to be careful of blind adherence to the systems offered, which can't possibly be presented in the depth offered by a book.

Another Sicilian book is Bob Ciaffone and Ben Finegold's 'Smith-Morra Gambit Finegold Defense' (where's the punctuationÿ). This is a presentation of the variation 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 d6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.0-0 a6 8.Qe2 Nbd7 (the preferred order) 9.Rd1 b5, intending …Be7 and …Qb6, …0-0 and/or …Bb7, depending how the play goes. I have great confidence that this system gives Black the advantage against the Smith-Morra. Of course, so do many other systems, and it's no coincidence that no strong player has tried the Smith-Morra for many, many years (I don't know of any such games, anyway). Having said that, Ciaffone (a genial U.S. Master who is by far the main contributor) has worked hard to prove that this rare idea works well for Black in all lines, and he has a large assortment of Internet games and analysis to prove it. If you need an anti-Smith-Morra weapon, I should say that this one is positionally extremely logical.

Specificsÿ I only looked at a couple of lines and found some odd points about both, so I'm a little skeptical about the quality of analysis. Let me rush to add that these are details, which don't remotely threaten the fundamental soundness or ultimate validity of Black's system. But let me show you what I mean, since there are some fun ideas.

My first instinct in trying to get play for White was to skip the relatively pointless Rd1 and try some Nd4, perhaps exploiting Black's knight on d7 to sacrifice on e6, and at least preparing a real attack by f4-f5 or f4 and e5. So I went to look up those lines. Under the order 6…Be7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 a6 9.Rd1(ÿ) b5 10.Bb3 Nbd7,Ciafone and Finegold answer 11.Nd4 with 11…Qb6!. Good move. After 12.Bxe6 fxe6 13.Nex6, however, they give the awful 13…Kf7ÿ (claiming a winning advantage). But this allows 14.Nd5!, with a great attack after 14…Nxd5(ÿ) 15.Qh5+ Kg8 16.Qxd5 Bb7 17.Qb3 d5 18.exd5, e.g., 18…Nc5 (18…Bd6 19.Be3 Qa5 20.Bd4!) 19.Qe3 (19.Nxc5 Bxc5 20.d6+ Kf8 21.Qg3 Rd8 22.Bg5 Rxd6 23.Be7+ seems to draw) 19…Re8 20.b4 Na4 21.Qg3 Bf6 22.Be3, winning. Probably better is 14…Qb7 15.Ng5+ Ke8 16.Ne6 (there may be something else) 16…Nxd5 17.Nxg7+ Kf7 18.Qh5+ Kg8! 19.Nf5 Ne5 20.Rxd5 Bxf5 21.Qxf5 Qc8 22.Qh5, which ultimately seems to draw (22…Qc2 23.Rxe5=). Anyway, this is all fun, but instead, 13…g6! pretty much wins immediately and avoids these problems.

The other line they give with a Nd4 theme is 6…Nf6 7.0-0 a6 8.Qe2 Nbd7 9.Nd4 (we're getting closer-no waste of time by Rd1!) 9…b5 10.Bb3 Qb6 11.Be3 Qb7 12.Bg5 Be7 13.a3 0-0 14.Kh1 Nc5 15.Bc2 Qc7 16.f4 Bb7, in which they like Black's solid position. Okay, 15…e5 16.Nf3 Be6 (or 16…Bg4!ÿ) preserves the advantage, as do other moves earlier. But in the author's order (after 15…Qc7 16.f4 Bb7). White plays 17.e5! with a dangerous attack, e.g., 17…Nd5 (one nice line after 17…dxe5 18.fxe5 Nd5 is 19.Nxd5 Bxd5 20.Bf6! Bxf6 21.exf6 g6 22.Qe3!) 18.Nxd5 Bxd5 19.Bf6! intending 19…Bxf6 20.exf6 gxf6 (20…g6 21.f5! e5 22.Qd2) 21. Qg4+ Kh8 22.Qh4 Be4! (22….f5 23.Qf6+ Kg8 24.Rf3! Bxf3 25.gxf3; 22…Ne4 23.Bxe4 Bxe4 24.f5!) 23.Qxf6+ Kg8 24.f5 Bxc2 25.Rf4 Bxf5! and somehow Black seems to hold the draw. Instead, 19…gxf6 20. Bxh7+ guarantees at least a draw after 20…Kxh7 (not 20…Kh8 21.Qh5 Kg7 22.Qg4+ Kh8 23.Rf3!!), and White can try for more with Rf3 at some point. At any rate, Black's claim to advantage in this line would be threatened after the authors' order.

Anyway, I see no serious way to equalize for White if Black plays better earlier. I feel that I should offer some hope to White. Maybe he should skip 8.Qe2 and play something like 8.a3 (a move which White probably plays anyway, and stops …b4 as well as multiple time losses by Bb3-c2). The idea is to get a Bc4 Najdorf with a convenient Ba2 retreat, looking at Nd4 and f4 later later. Then …Nbd7 is probably no longer the best plan, and Black has some problems to solve. Of course, by normal development, I'm sure that Black is still better (this IS the Smith-Morra, after all). In conclusion, I can recommend this well-reasoned book to Sicilian players, and especially those who would like to learn about the nature of gambit play. The price is excellent, by the way: I have seen it listed at only $12 and selling for less.

I can't say much about Steffen Pedersen's 'The Botvinnik Semi-Slav' because I don't know the recent ins and outs of the main Botvinnik Slav lines. I will comment briefly on two sidelines. For those who want more, there's a terrific review by Pedersen's friend Carsten Hansen on the Chess Café website (www.chesscafe.com; the review in question is already in the Archives).

My impression is that Pedersen has been analysing this system for many years. He shares a lot of new analysis, all of it computer-checked, which is a necessity for this most tactical of variations. Everything is covered in meticulous detail, and this book seems a true labour of love. As I will point out later, the extreme technicality of this material does raise questions about the breadth of its appeal.

I checked two variations I know something about and was pleased with the coverage. In the chapter on 7.a4 (after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5, I was impressed by his section on 7…Qb6 8.Bxf6 gxf6 9.Be2 a6 10.0-0 Ra7!ÿ, which includes a very critical game by Pedersen himself. In the Anti-Moscow lines with 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5, Pedersen has a very good survey of material, with intelligent analysis of the 9.Be2 lines, especially after 9…Bb7 10.h4 and 9…Nbd7 10.d5. I found his coverage of 9.Qc2 inadequate, but that is an obscure line I happen to have played a few times.

Who is this book forÿ A difficult question. It is an advanced work, full of absurdly complicated lines that most players will be horrified by, and not even try to learn. I can't say that lower players will get much out of it (unless they're willing to sacrifice massive amounts of time). So, sadly, such a brilliant work has the limited audience of tournament and very advanced club players who play the Semi-Slav. Nevertheless, I hope that the book's very existence will encourage players to take up this exciting system.

Next, we look at two books by John Emms. 'Easy Guide to the Ruy Lopez' is his 1998 repertoire book on 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 from White's point of view. As such, it is not a complement to his 'Open Games' book below, since that book recommends a repertoire for Black against all 1.e4 e5 lines played by White, but excluding the Lopez. There is some connection, however: if, as Emms tries to show, all the White systems versus 1.e4 e5 are fairly easily manageable, then White will probably want to start looking at the Lopez.

In general, it's easy to recommend this book to anyone who plays 3.Bb5. Emms is a leading author, and what other resource gives you so many up-to-date lines to playÿ The Lopez tends to be covered in bits and pieces, so this is a much-needed contribution. As I am not an expert in these lines, I will just make a few non-technical remarks. First, there are several occasions (just for example, in the Open Ruy) in which Emms, to his credit, tells of a suggested improvement for Black; but he doesn't then offer a White move in response. This leaves the repertoire-follower somewhat in the lurch. Still, it may just indicate that Black can equalize in a few Lopez lines if he plays well.

Another issue has to do with the continued viability of the Marshall Attack. Kasparov and others now tend to play to avoid the Marshall (in the last 5 years, Kasparov has 3 games with 8.h3 followed by 9.d3, 1 with 6.Bxc6, 1 with 8.d3, and none with 8.c3 and 9.h3, allowing the Marshall with 9…d5). He seems to turn to the Scotch Game (3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4) when he needs a win. Emms avoids this problem by recommending the anti-Marshall (8.a4), perhaps a necessary choice in a 144-page book. But although top players used the anti-Marshall successfully some years back, they aren't doing so much today. I believe that it now lacks the punch to do much damage. Interestingly, for example, Emms himself finds even the move 8…b4 to be 'underestimated', and doesn't really offer White a way to fight for advantage against it.

As I've indicated, this book fills a need and gives the Lopez player a head start in building a repertoire. Until something more comprehensive comes around, this is a book all 3.Bb5 players will want to own.

Emms' new book is 'Play the Open Games as Black', subtitled 'What to do when White avoids the Ruy Lopez'. It's about time that someone tackled this challenging subject, which has received even less attention in recent literature than the Lopez. 1…e5 players will rejoice that they can finally get some high-level assistance for meeting all these annoying openings in one book. Emms covers: irregular lines such as 2.Bb5 and 2.Ne2, the Centre Game, Danish Gambit, Vienna Game, Bishop's Opening, Ponziani, Goring Gambit, Scotch Game, Belgrade Gambit, Scotch Four Knights, Main Four Knights, and the Two Knights Defence. Whew! For the best-established openings, he offers two or even three choices for Black, an approach I consider the absolute best for a repertoire book, and one demanding more than twice the work from the author. The result is that one has the choice between active and solid lines, and something to fall back on if one of these lines fails.

Like many players, I have had my early experiences with many of these openings, but have only kept up with the theory of a few. From general considerations (and memory), I like Emms' 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 Bg7 and 4.h4 g5 6.Ne5 Nf6 lines against the King's Gambit, and the solid 5…Be7 versus the Belgrade Gambit. The Scotch Four Knights is thoroughly defused by Emms' main line, 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5, as I have learned from lengthy analysis with students. And Rubinstein's 4…Nd4! is still a complete answer to 4.Bb5. I don't know Two Knights theory, except that I'm sure that the Max Lange Attack is at best nothing for White, and probably less. Emms agrees.

I would take issue with only two lines. In the Goring Gambit (which I used to play for White), Emms' suggestions are good enough for equality; but in the intricacies of the main lines, I am convinced that Black actually comes out on top. In the Scotch Game, I'm not convinced that the author has found a true equalizer versus 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3, as Kasparov plays. I feel that the Scotch is the only one of these openings which is like the Ruy Lopez, offering White long-term chances which don't fizzle out after a series of forcing central breaks or exchanges, as so many of these 1.e4 e5 openings do.

Again, there are two thought-provoking reviews of this book at ChessCafe.com, by Tim Harding and Carsten Hansen. For the record, I should say that in Hansen's excellent review, I take issue with two of his disagreements with Emms. The first is basically a reading error: after 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bc5 (Emms' alternate line) 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d6 8.0-0 Ng4 9.Bf4 g5 10. Bd2 Qf6 11.Qe2 Qe5 12.g3, Hansen takes issue with 12…h5 13.Kh1 due to 13…h4!, and suggests 13.Na4 instead. But Emms' text actually reads 12…a5 (not 12…h5; 12…a5 allows …Ba7 after Na4) 13.Kh1, so the pawn is still on h7. Then, by the way, 13…h5 is still interesting, e.g., 14.f4 Qe7!ÿ 15.fxg5 h4 16.gxh4 Rxh4 17.Bf4 Bd4 with great complications.

The second position is in the Two Knights after 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Bc5 11.0-0 Qd6 12.Ng4 Bxg4 13.Bxg4 h5 14.Be2 Ng4 15.g3. Then Hansen suggests that 15…Nxh2! wins, and it does after 16.Kxh2 h4. However, 16.d4! seems to keep the balance, e.g., 16…Nxf1 (16…Bxd4ÿ 17.Kxh2; 16…exd3 17.Kxh2 dxe2 18.Qxe2+ =) 17.dxc5 Qxd1 18.Bxd1 and White even stands better.

In conclusion, even with its technicality and ambitious scope, I think that any 1…e5 player from about 1500 up will want a copy of this book.

'The Alekhine Defense Playbook and CD' is published by the independent American publisher Sid Pickard and Son (website: www.ChessCentral.com). This is the same company that produced the Bogoljubow CD at the beginning of this column. The author, Tim Sawyer, claims to have played 'more than 1100 Alekhine games', but these are mainly on the Internet against weak opposition, if the game citations are any indication. Sawyer, who has previously written about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, provides a repertoire specifically designed 'to help a player more easily prepare for his weekly battle at the chess club or for a weekend chess tournament.' The main appeal of the book is to amateur or even beginning players, e.g., there is a whole page of analysis on 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nf3ÿ Nxe4, an example with 2.d4ÿ Nxe4, and almost a full column on 2.f3. Sawyer says that 'many players' have played 1.e4 Nf6 2.d3 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.dxe4 Qxd1 5.Nxd1ÿ Nxe4, which is an indication of both the strength of Internet opposition and of the target audience. Nevertheless, he takes seriously the main lines like the Four Pawns and the Exchange Variation, and the book contains some analysis for more advanced players. I do think that the comprehensive analysis of moves which seem 'obviously' inferior to most TWIC readers means that the ideal audience is from near-beginner to about 1600. Already-committed Alekhine Defense devotees up to 2100 should be able to benefit from the more advanced lines. Sawyer writes in an easygoing style, with sufficient explanatory material to satisfy the reader who requires some strategic handholding.

I checked Sawyer's recommendation against the main line 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3, since that gave me the most trouble when I used to play the Alekhine. He chooses Bagirov's favorite 4…Bg4 5.Be2 c6. There seem to be some problems here, although to be sure, not ones which would bother players who need multiple examples to understand the drawbacks of 2.Nf3 Nxe4. For example, after 6.Ng5 Bf5, Sawyer gives 7.Bd3 Bxd3 8. Qxd3 h6 9.Nf3 e6 10.0-0 dxe5 11.dxe5 Nd7 12.c4 Ne7 13.b3 Ng6 with equality, but he doesn't consider 13.Qe2 (or first 13.Nc3) 13…Ng6 14.Nc3, intending Re1, h4-h5, probably somewhat better for White. More importantly, in the same line, after 9.Ne4 dxe5 10.dxe5 Nd7 (10…e6 is more usual), he calls 11.e6 fxe6 'a bold sacrifice which…is not fully sound', not mentioning 12.Qg3(!) Qa5+ (12…g5 13.h4) 13.Bd2 Qb6 14.Qg6+ Kd8 15.Bc3 Nxc3 16.Nbxc3 (intending 0-0-0) 16…Qxb2 17.Rd1!, pretty much winning. To me, this whole line looks good for White. Lastly, in his featured line 6.Ng5 Bf6 7.e6 fxe6 8.g4 Bg6, he gives 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Nf6 11.Nxe6 Qd7 12.Qe2 Kf7 13.Ng5+ Ke8, but fails to mention deFirmian's 14.Rg1, which has won several games for White and is probably best. This may be okay for Black, but it needs to be mentioned.

Okay, so Sawyer's work may be shaky in the area of serious analysis, but it could be a useful companion for lower-level players who want to take up or further explore 1…Nf6. The book is well-produced and comes with a CD which includes 42,000 Alekhine games in ChessBase and PGN format, an opening key, and assorted features.

Finally, I want to mention, but not review, the New In Chess (NIC) Yearbook 53 (on CD, but it also comes in hardcover) and the latest ChessBase Magazine, #75. I have discussed NIC and ChessBase products in reviews #16, #19, and #20, so here I will just describe briefly what these highly professional products contain. The NIC yearbook relates directly to our theme (openings) in that there are 36 opening surveys by titled players. 11 of these are on Sicilian Defence variations, almost all of them covering currently important and rapidly changing lines. Various Frenches, Nimzo-Indians, King's Indians, and English Openings get special attention with multiple surveys. In general, this is high-level technical material for active tournament and strong club players. ChessBase Magazine has a less intense focus on opening theory, although there are almost 500 games annotated by strong and even world-class players. But it has a broader appeal to the average player, with sections on chess strategy, middlegames, endings, computer chess, and multimedia tournament reports and interviews (in this issue, the latter come from Wijk aan Zee). Both of these products, like Informants, are the cream of the crop of publications for the devoted player and chess addict.

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