John Watson Book Review (73)
The Best on Disc, and More Recommendations
IM John Watson - Wednesday 1st November 2006
ChessBase Magazine #107-109 (DVD/Multimedia); ChessBase 2005
HiArcs 10; Playing Program/Analytical Engine; ChessBase 2005
Play 1 e4 e5!, A Complete Repertoire for Black in the Open Games; Nigel Davies; 192 pages; Everyman 2005
How to Beat 1 d4; James Rizzitano; 160 pages; Gambit 2005
My Great Predecessors, Volume 3; Garry Kasparov; 496 pages; Everyman 2004
My Great Predecessors, Volume 4; Garry Kasparov; 332 pages; Everyman 2004
Russians Versus Fischer; Dmitry Plisetsky & Sergey Voronkov; 462 pages; Everyman 2005
Garry Kasparov's Greatest Chess Games, Vol 1; Igor Stohl; 320 Pages; Gambit 2005
This column contains more recommended products, beginning with a tribute to an established publication and drifting through a number books that (Kasparov's books excepting) appeared in 2005. A mix of current books with a few must-mentions will appear in column #74.
I've never heard anyone complain about ChessBase Magazine ('CBM') and I doubt that I will. This tops than any other electronic product that is out there including even ChessBase's own expanse of CDs and DVDs. This time I've looked rather carefully at many sections of the magazine and apologize for going on at length about them. Don't forget that other books are reviewed too!
Incidentally, when discussing CBM, a subscription product, I have never mentioned the physical pamphlet that comes with each disc. It basically describes what's in each issue, and offers navigating tips for the less experienced user. To be clear, I'll be giving a review of the actual disc, which has the real content, not the pamphlet! ChessBase Magazine 107 will serve to introduce features that I haven't described before. First, however, let's find out what Peter Wells has to say in his middlegame column: 'The Pros and Cons of a Pawn Break ...d5 in the Open Sicilian - Part One'. What I like about Wells' column is how he rethinks fundamental issues that we normally wouldn't reflect upon. An example follows:
"Why should the ...d5 break be such a promising enterprise anyway? Well, to answer this, let's go back to basics and remind ourselves of the general characteristics of the average Open Sicilian. This is an opening whose 'sharpness' is defined immediately by a structural asymmetry with far-reaching implications. White tends to have more space, a lead in development and a half-open d-file. In return, Black enjoys a central majority and chances to expand on the queenside using both the half-open c-file and something resembling a 'minority attack'. In this context we can immediately point to a couple of the 'aims' of ...d5. Black is trying to seize back some space for his pieces and solve the 'problem' of the d-pawn on a half-open file. However, the questions might reasonably continue. Where is the tremendous achievement in the likely exchange of his d-pawn for White's e-pawn? The resulting structure has an air of familiarity about it. With White's two centre pawns having disappeared for Black's c- and d-pawns, leaving just a pawn on e6 or e5, haven't we merely reached something well known to us from either the Rubinstein French or the Caro-Kann? Black obtains this structure in those cases with a minimum of fuss - he can reasonably expect it and, respectable openings though they are, the claim that all the defender's troubles had been solved there would be regarded as mildly eccentric. Certainly practitioners of the Black side of the Caro-Kann would be pleased and not a little surprised to hear that they were reaching positions akin to those they could get through the travails of the Sicilian only after a medium-sized achievement! So, whatever the ...d5 breaks are about, they must look to more than just some such simplification - I will revisit this thought in Section 2 below."
...."Some pretty compelling reasons are needed to initiate an opening of the position in these circumstances as we shall see below. One further lesson we shall learn is that any increased piece activity resulting from ...d5 should be purposeful. The real point is that the Sicilian remains a 'high tension' opening - there is a complex relationship between the centre and the wings - and a probability that any action in the centre will take place in the context of ongoing mutual aggression on the respective flanks."
Examples follow, in my opinion less compelling than either the argument above or Wells' usual selection. Nevertheless, the essay above gets one to thinking about the Sicilian all over again. Who has made these fundamental points more eloquently?
Every issue of CBM has a column of selected endgames from the database of games on the disc (generally about 2000 games). These are thoroughly analysed by Karsten Müller, well-known to the world of endgames for Müller and Lamprecht's masterpiece Fundamental Chess Endings, as well as a couple of other books. Müller writes for ChessCafe, also about endgames. Joachim Hecht wrote this ChessBase Endgame column for many years (I sometimes translated the German to English). Hecht managed to find thought-provoking examples with an emphasis on instructive errors. Müller has carried on this tradition; one could learn chess endings from this column alone.
Each CBM also contains a selection of tactical positions to solve, and theoretical articles that I will discuss later. A minor complaint: after all these years ChessBase still occasionally uses the word "Patzers" in English when they mean "blunders". In English, patzers are weak players. Okay, that's understandably confusing.
A remarkably large section of each disc deals with the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF), with yet another section devoted to 'Telechess'. To explain what these are, let me quote from the ICCF section Introduction: 'The purpose of these Articles is to provide readers with a comprehensive coverage of the game of correspondence chess, whether using Post, Email, Webserver or other kinds of transmission, as organised by the International Correspondence Chess Federation and its Member Federations, which represent the correspondence chess playing countries and the CC players of the World. Over 200 games, only 13 annotated but texts with (a) Results, e.g., Ladies World Championship (b)ICCF organises the official Correspondence Chess Olympiads for countries and many other team tournaments (c) MEMBER FEDERATIONS AND INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENTS (d) we provide here a list of World CC Champions, and the leading players on the Official International CC Rating List, which is effective from 1st April 2005 until 30th September 2005.'
Then there's the 'Telechess' Introduction with this statement/explanation:
'In our column about "Telechess" , we will be publishing reports and annotated games of the main postal or e-mail tournaments around the world. All telechess organizations (both postal or e-mail) will find coverage in this column.' I'll list a few some sample articles from Telechess: (a) A tribute to Simon Webb, who recently died. The article refers back to an interview with Webb by GM Roberto Alvarez which was published in the Telechess column of CBM 73; (b) The importance of Endgame Knowledge in Tele-chess by Roberto Alvarez; (c) Taistra: a new tele-chess star by GM Juan S. Morgado. There are 7483 games, 44 annotated (mainly by Alvarez and Morgado, who are the driving forces behind the Telechess section).
Any correspondence fans and players who haven't yet seen these columns should take note!
CBM #107 also has a fascinating History column by Johannes Fischer about the Chess Olympiad in Siegen 1970. Naturally this will appeal most to older players, especially since these reports include old photographs. The Bibliography itself is short but impressive, using, for example, the source 'Raj Tischbierek, Sternstunden des Schachs. 30x Olympia. London 1927 - Manila 1992, Sportverlag Berlin 1993'. Not exactly material the average player would dig up! There are 2282 games from the tournament and texts that describe it.
The extensive Games Section ('Main Database', consisting as mentioned of around 2000 games) will normally be appended be added to your CBM or personal database. #107 has a fairly typical annotating crew of Grandmasters and other strong players. See below.
In the Openings Report Section we find D43-D49 by Christopher Lutz, which includes the broad subjects of the Anti-Moscow and Meran Slavs. As always, there are opening surveys, for example, the Benoni Fianchetto by Kapengut; Alapin Sicilian variations by Rogozenko; a survey of French Defence lines by Finkel, and articles by Ribli. Igor Stohl fully annotates a selection of games from the database.
Finally, the multimedia section contains an Indian TV report by Vijay Kumar about the Wijk aan Zee highlights (from last year). It's not the most exciting material but reached more than 34 million viewers! Be aware that you need a version of ChessBase 9 to directly play these videos; the free version of CB9 Light may also work but you should check the website to be sure. With CB9 everything went smoothly and impressively; otherwise you could use the .avi files and Windows Media 9, but in that case I wasn't able to follow analysis boards, sound, and videos at the same time.
Let's move on to ChessBase Magazine #108. This time the Games Section has about 1900 games, 497 of them annotated; although as usual this includes games with merged notes, the remaining ones are done very well by a regular staff of annotators such as Dautov, Ftacnik, Lutz, Psakhis, Ribli, and Stohl. Other strong Grandmasters annotate for different issues.
The photographs and videos seem to be more extensive every issue. Sadly, I have misplaced some of the notes I made while listening to and watching #108. The Dortmund Sparkassen 2005 tournament is featured, with surprise winner Arkdij Naiditsch. The video segments are lengthy, with players showing their games, e.g., Adams (versus Heine-Nielson) and Bacrot (versus Sutowsky). There is a 54-minute wrap-up and analysis of games by Oliver Reeh and Daniel King (assisted by Fritz), and many other brief interviews and shots. The most interesting interview for me was that of Kramnik after the tournament, looking down but reflective. He finished a disappointing 4.5-4.5 and was upset with his play, already trying to move on and already sure what he needed to work on. You sense a truly professional attitude. After his recent poor results (that followed Dortmund), one might think that other players were catching up; nevertheless, his talent is immense and it's hard to believe that he won't be at least back among the top 5, health and motivation permitting.
The history section features the 1960 Chess Olympiad in Leipzig, East Germany. You can imagine the excitement for such an event in this oppressive country, and 75,364 spectators were counted. The Soviets were heavy favourites, but not shoo-ins. For one thing the Americans had Fischer, and one forgets the impact that William Lombardy was making. He was the World Junior Champion in 1957, where he won every single game! In the Student's Team World Championship, which had just recently concluded, Lombardy won 10 games and drew two, including a win over Spassky who was already considered one of the top players in the Soviet Union.
But in the end, in spite of a good result by Fischer, the Soviets simply swept aside all opposition. They won every single match and only lost one game! That was Tal's famous defeat to Penrose. The scores: Tal, 11 points from 15 games (73%), Botvinnik, Keres and Kortchnoi all 10.5 out of 13 (81%), Smyslov with 11.5 from 13 (88%) and Petrosian with an incredible 12 from 13 (92%).
A tidbit to enjoy: The gold medal on first board was won by Austrian Karl Robatsch. Johannes Fischer, the author of the story, reports: "Robatsch also pursued other interests than chess, and later in his life he was honoured by the Austrian president with the title of "professor" for his achievements in the field of orchid breeding."
On the negative side, Euwe got another bad result playing first board for the Netherlands. He gained only 6.5 points out of 16, "the worst result a former World Champion ever achieved at a Olympiad. With this miserable result he was also the first grandmaster ever to score less than 50% in the Olympics." Of course, Euwe had became distant from the game while pursuing other interests.
ChessBase Magazine #109 has a similar set of multimedia files about the recent World Championships in San Luis. In fact the issue came out quite shortly after the event in the way that a print magazine tries to get the story out there while it's still hot. I liked the video interviews of the players, all of which I listened to. Here's a list and a few remarks:
Video1: This was of the Closing Ceremony, a bit dull but featuring Topalov giving a speech and expressing himself fluently in Spanish.
Video2: An Interview with Veselin Topalov (11:22 minutes). He calls it the "Greatest day of his life because of Bulgarian pride". He says that he's trained very professionally and for many years. As for his style, he responds to a question about his bravery over the board with "You have to be brave, yes, but you have to play good moves also, because bravery is not enough." He wants to write a book and wants it to be a good book for the simple reason that he "will not be writing many books." He doesn't agree that the title needs to be "reunified" because he has the best results, the best rating of active players, and is the winner of Championship.
Video3: An Interview with Viswanathan Anand (23:14). He lost 2 games in the first half and then "played for 2nd place". He succeeded with +3 in second half. He says that the reasons for losing are "hard to express, the sort of thing that 2700 players are interested in but [other people] would probably be bored to death by." Interestingly, his game with Adams was the same as his preparation for Kamsky in 1995; in fact, he remembers the room in which he had done that exact analysis. Anand expresses his opinion about tournament formats, saying that Double Round Robins are okay, but there are too many: Linares, Sofia, San Luis. He appreciates Wijk aan Zee for being different. He also thinks that a Knockout tournament is fairer, because everyone can play. He reminds us that "People forget the effect Topo had in 1996 – he won many tournaments but was later less stable." [that was reworded].
Video4 (19:04) is a fascinating interview with Alexander Morozevich, who turns out to be outrageously opinionated and very bitter about the chess world (apparently still, since he now says that he won't always play chess). Morozevich talks about his poor health and lack of preparation for San Luis (although he did quite respectably). Then he talks about why he plays the Albin Countergambit and other eccentric openings. He believes in them to the extent that he wants the opponent to show him what's wrong with it, he says. At that point, assuming that it happens, he'll reconsider. In San Luis, however, he says that the play was at too high a level and he played more or less normal games. But they were long games, which together with the need for preparation was too much. He has VERY strong objections to the system – he believes in a knockout. Then everyone gets a chance and if out of form you don't have to stay! He says that he has a lot of pride and won't try to qualify for a tournament when other weaker players are directly invited (e.g., Dortmund, but also most major tournaments!). His immediate example is that Nielsen was invited to the main Dortmund tournament while Ivanchuk had to try to qualify.
Video5 is a more relaxed interview with Rustam Kasimdzhanov (27:40). He talks at length about his name and its pronounciation. He likes the knockout format too. Similarly to Morozevich, he mentions the suffering of caused by a blunder in a round robin tournament versus a blunder in Knockout, when again he likes the fact that you get to go home. He's proud of his English. His favorite author used to be Joyce (he read Ulysses!), but his life and tastes are changing.
John Donaldson contributes an article about the American GM Igor Ivanov, who passed away recently. It's too long to reproduce, but I'll quote a few things and try to add a little. The article has terrific photographs from old USSR events, and traces Ivanov's path from an accomplished pianist whose mother "wished him to be a concert pianist and asked her son to emphasize his musical abilities rather than play chess." At 18 he gave up the study of mathematics to pursue a career as a chess professional. A few years later he became known in the chess world when he beat World Champion Anatoly Karpov in 1979. A few results that John cites from 1978 and 1979: "Igor not only won several important competitions but did it in such a dominating fashion that he couldn't help but be noticed: 1st in the Zaitzev Memorial in Vladivostock in 1978, 1st at Yaroslavl 1979 and again first at the Tashli Tailiev Memorial in Ashkhabad at the end of 1979. His score in the latter was 12 from 13 (!), three points ahead of second place finisher Kakageldyev."
Ivanov was granted political asylum by Canada in 1980. This political freedom unfortunately left him with the extremely difficult life of a chessplayer in those times. He won the Closed Championship of Canada four times in five tries from 1981 to 1987. Finally, after moving to the U.S., Igor was a familiar face at tournaments large and small, playing fanatically at every weekend tournament that he could get to. This is a macabre form of life that few if any others have been up to for as long as Igor was. Eventually he settled down, played less, and taught chess. In many ways he lived the typical life of a chessplayer in the United States, even a harsher one, but I think that he enjoyed most of it. He was always known as 'the strongest IM in America' and only received his GM title shortly before his death.
The history section is entitled "Mannheim 1914 - Chess and War" This was an Invitational with every prospect of being renowned. Here is a list of participants:
From the Austro-Hungarian Empire:
Dr. Milan Vidmar, Richard Reti, Dr. Savielly Tartakower, Rudolf Spielmann, Oldrich Duras, Gyula Breyer
Alexander Aljechin, Jefim D. Bogoljubow, Dawid Janowski, Alexander Flamberg
Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch (Nürnberg), Walther John (Breslau), Paul Krüger (Hamburg), Carl Carls (Bremen), Ehrhardt Post (Berlin) und Jacques Mieses (Leipzig)
From the United States (USA):Frank James Marshall
From Switzerland: Hans Fahrni
Quite a crew! Even as a non-historian, I know all of these names quite well with the exceptions of Krüger, Post, and Flamberg. The secondary 'A' Tournament was also full of strong players, and only circumstances prevented this event from becoming immortal. The problem is that as the seventh round was being played on July 28, 1914, war was declared and quickly spread to all of Europe. The rest is history and alas, the tournament was cancelled a few rounds later. The "winner" was Alekhine with 9 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw, an incredible result, with Vidmar and Spielmann in 2nd and 3rd place. One wonders how quickly Alekhine might have ascended to the throne had not the war and later events gotten in the way.
I've used a lot of space to describe ChessBase Magazine, Nevertheless, I have only partially presented the content of these three issues, for example, the theoretical and middlegame articles in #108 and #109. CBM is one of what are arguably the top four regular offerings in English for the serious chess player/fan, the others being NIC Magazine (most player's first choice, although there are other excellent print magazines that are less expensive), the Informant issues (physical or electronic), and ChessPublishing.com (a monthly Internet product devoted to openings and recent games). None of these come cheaply, but each is worth the investment. Of course we can't forget the wonderful world of chess books.
The HiArcs 10 Playing Program/Analytical Engine from ChessBase has recently come out. Although it is ranked just below the very top playing programs (do a few points really matter when you're at this level?), HiArcs is the program that I use most frequently. I can't say exactly why – I just like its recommendations, even if these engines are starting to look more alike as time passes. If you're not familiar with the playing programs that ChessBase creates and/or distributes, take a look at their home page.
Nigel Davies' Play 1 e4 e5!, A Complete Repertoire for Black in the Open Games is serving as material for my student's own unique repertoires, i.e., they are picking and choosing from it. This Everyman book tries to do a lot more than other recent ones, covering everything that one might need to play this broadest of 1.e4 defences. Davies himself has played most of the recommended variations and as in his other books he has a knack for suggesting slightly offbeat but sound lines. He begins ambitiously with a labor-intensive main line of the Ruy Lopez (/Spanish game), i.e., Keres' Variation, which has come back into fashion in a big way. That goes 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Nd7, with the particular (but not necessary) variation 12.Nbd2 exd4!? 13 cxd4 Nc6. I like this if only because Davies doesn't make a lazy choice for the sake of avoiding complications, e.g., the Berlin (3...Nf6), Smyslov (3...g6) or one of a large set of 3rd, 4th, and 5th-move options (even the Open Variation would be simpler). So Black has to get through White's options up to 11...Nd7, which means that the reader will learn a lot along the way. Davies finds a method to efficiently impart that information, usually but not always by using compact lines. Versus the Exchange Variation (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6), he wants you to answer 5.0-0 with 5...Qf6, a choice which warms my heart, having recommended it in Survive and Beat Annoying Chess Openings. This is a little-known and excellent suggestion. It is too-briefly and poorly covered in Kindermann's recent The Spanish Exchange Variation, A Fischer Favorite (Olms 2005), which is generally a conscientious and thorough book worth having. Then there are all sorts of 5th- and 6th-move options to examine, notably the Deferred Exchange Variation with 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.d3 (or 7.Qe1), the older but dangerous 6.d4, and the solid 6.Qe2, played at least twice against Davies. All of these options are convincingly dealt with. And so it goes. The most important and interesting 'sideline' (more like a main line these days) is 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.d4, to which Davies devotes 4 games and many long notes. Various a4 and d3 systems are dealt with, although there Davies falls a bit short in discussing move orders. After his move order 7.Bb3 d6 (as opposed to 7...0-0 8.a4, the anti-Marshall), White can still play 8.a4 (and a number of strong players have done so). The move isn't mentioned, probably because Davies gives 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.a4 Bd7 and apparently assumes that 8.a4 Bd7 9.c3 0-0 transposes if Black prefers 9...0-0 to the popular 9...Na5. Both of these subtleties should also be overtly mentioned, and he should also make the transpositions clear. Furthermore, he might point out the sequence 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bd7 9.a5 (which has been played by at least two strong players) and even 9.d3 (9...Na5 10.Ba2). As always, I had to struggle with Everyman's frankly stupid indexing scheme to understand what was going on. It's sad that they can't correct such an elementary deficiency by going to a serious Index of Variations, preferably at the back of the book. I know from extensive experience that lines are much easier to locate that way. Also, in some books chapters will contain move orders that could transpose from other Chapters, so that issue would be solved. But at the very least Everyman authors/editors could do a better job of breaking the material down when it is charted after the relevant chapters (which is the current system but inadequately done). I'm pretty familiar with finding my way around opening books, so if I get tired of having to hunt around I can't believe that others don't as well.
Davies goes on to recommend the Two Knights Defence versus 3.Bc4, with some slightly different move orders in the main (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6) 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 lines, and the simple 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5 Ne4, analysed at some length, with the famous 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 (8...Qh5) given a less-than-complete look. But I believe the latter is harmless anyway.
The Scotch is met by 4...Bc5 (the reason everyone gives it up, in my experience), and the Göring (3.d4 exd4 4.c3) by 4..d5 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.cxd4 Bg4 with the old 7.Be2 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4 from a Marshall-Capablanca game. [A side note: This can also arise from the Chigorin Defence to the Queen's Gambit]] That's it for the most important stuff. Oh yes: Davies declines the King's Gambit 2.f4 by 2...Bc5, and why not? No one has come close to cracking it. I'm sure there are a few misassessments and gaps in all this material but it's a great job for 192 pages.
Davies ' games are spread throughout the book, in stark contrast to many recent books in which the author is writing about something they haven't practiced. He presents a very sound repertoire with plenty of play. I don't know what's going on in the Keres Variation, which is the main line, but at least strong grandmasters are still playing it, and you can always use the earlier stepping stones he provides and then pick up another high-level Spanish Game if you like (the Zaitsev or Breyer, perhaps?). I like this book very much. It reflects the author's experience and has a fresh feel. Except for those who play the Petroff (Boooo...) or the Philidor (Elephant, Latvian etc.), all 1...e5 players should go out and acquire a copy. Gambit has put out another dense, well-produced, and first-rate opening book, this time
How to Beat 1 d4, A Sound and Ambitious Repertoire Based upon the Queen's Gambit Accepted (a qualifier for the longest subtitle prize). It is authored by James Rizzitano, who also wrote the book Understanding Your Chess that I praised in the column. I'm afraid that I won't spend much time on these remaining books, so to summarize: this new book is a repertoire for Black with the Queen's Gambit Accepted (1. d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4). The QGA is an opening that has been played a lot by Anand and even used in a few critical situations by Kasparov. It covers about 2/3 of the book, with the rest a detailed repertoire versus other White tries such as 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5, Veresov's (2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5, the Torre (2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5), the Blackmar-Diemer (2.e4) etc. I think he could also have included the version of the Barry Attack that goes 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 and if 3…c5 isn't played, then 4.Bf4. But that's hardly a common choice by White. Oddly enough, Rizzitano has been criticized for not covering 1. d4 d5 2 Bf4. This is the unusual order recommended by Kovacevic in his book with Johnsen that came out after How to Beat 1 d4. It has hardly been a frequent visitor at top tournaments. But in fact Rizzitano does mention 2.Bf4 and even quotes a game by Kovacevic! [Shameless plug: For those looking to clear up all issues with 2.Bf4, I'll have a book out within two months that solves all 1.d4 d5 sidelines from the point of view of both colours]]
How to Beat 1 d4 is extremely well organized and indexed, and Rizzitano adds mountains of original analysis that establishes the book as easily the most advanced and detailed on its topic. I also find the analysis sound and difficult to challenge. I looked up the some systems that I had played against the QGA (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4; 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Bd3!?, and 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3), and even threw in the Furman Variation with 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.Qe2. In every case I found Black's play to be satisfactory, although risky in several places. A potential drawback for the average player is that you simply have to memorize a great deal of theory to play these variations; general ideas won't save you in the complex tactics that result. The reward seems to be fully equal play, a precious commodity to be sure. Versus the Furman, by the way, he has worked his way around the problems laid forth in Palliser's Play 1.d4!, clearly delineating a choice of ways to go; although again there are some very delicate main lines requiring special preparation. I'd say the same thing for White except that in this opening he's the one who gets to choose a system. The moral here is that you would have to commit yourself to this defence. That's true of a lot of openings of course (look at the Najdorf and Dragon against 1.e4 !), yet more so in this case than for many 1.d4 defences. On the other hand, if you play it regularly you'll pick up the lines, after which 2...dxc4 can remain a lifetime weapon.
Returning to the lines that I used to play (mentioned above), some of them seem to peter out after apparently forced play to endings that are nominally or slightly better for White, at least according to the computer engines. But actually, Rizzitano's '=' sign turns out to be more accurate than the machines, as I discovered by actually playing out the positions. In fact, a few of them were flat-out drawn after just a few accurate moves by Black. I guess in these days of ICC and eternal repetition of the same lines in 100 games, however, it would worry me that so many of these end positions offer few positive chances to Black. Perhaps the average player would do well to pick and choose from the recommendations and then try to tone down some of the more forcing ones with tamer alternatives, even at the cost of a minor theoretical disadvantage.
At any rate, I'm going to recommend How to Beat 1 d4 highly to everyone who is happy with or interested in 1.d4 d5 in conjunction with the QGA, and who is willing to put some real work into their openings. You won't get a lot of commentary, and certainly no facile handholding. For Black, this will be the book that you refer to for many years into the future. I also think that regular 1.d4 players will want to own a copy. Another high quality work from this author and this company.
My Great Predecessors by Garry Kasparov is still the flagship of the Everyman line and rightfully so. Since I've reviewed Volumes 1 and 2 at extravagant lengths, using up entire columns, I'll offer up an extremely abbreviated description and random comments this time.
Volume 3 includes World Champions Petrosian and Spassky. There are fairly lengthy sections on Gligoric, Polugaevsky, Portisch and Stein (who is perhaps overrepresented with over 45 pages). Obviously other greats could have been included but this is a very good selection. I feel that Portisch's standing and influence are a little understated but that's the author's judgment. One thing that I immediately liked about this volume is his rejection of the 'universal' label that is constantly slapped on Spassky. Apart from being a rather stupid characterization in the first place, Kasparov makes the point that Spassky always aimed for the attack and initiative, in fact openly rejecting moves like 1.Nf3 that strived to be a 'half tempo' ahead. He aimed for a mobile centre and classical piece placement if possible. No other world champion in the past 90 years would even consider playing the number of gambits that Spassky did.
What interests me is that such stereotyping of players eventually becomes the fixed truth in chess literature. Steinitz the scientific, Lasker the psychologist (a really dumb one that is hardly based in reality), Capablanca the effortless but lazy, Alekhine the impatient attacker, Euwe the professor, Botvinnik the machine/scientific player, Smyslov the seeker of harmony, Petrosian the crafty defender, Tal the unsound attacker, Spassky the universal player, Fischer the perfect (or whichever Fischer myth you prefer), Karpov the cobra, Kasparov the dynamic. As well as the non-Champs (Korchnoi the Counterattacker ...Fine the Risk-averse?!). Okay, there's some truth in most of these characterizations, but countless books and articles offer nothing else when describing the greats, even using the same phrasing and showing us the same three or four examples chosen out of long careers with upwards of a thousand games. At the very least, authors could accept these as partial descriptions and then go on to describe/present the other sides of players, and especially the important ones that contradict the stereotype. I think that Kasparov has been guilty of this lack of subtlety throughout Predecessors but he is clearly changing as the series enters the modern era in which he is more familiar with the players.
As far as one can tell, Volume 4 was originally intended to be about Fischer and little else. I previously objected to the omission of Reshevsky and Fine in the preceding volumes, as did Raymond Keene before me, and probably others (to see the overwhelming statistic and logical case for Reshevsky look up my last Predecessors review #64: 'Once More Into the Breach'; this also compares his career to those of Geller and Bronstein). In response to this problem, Kasparov appropriately put together this volume on 'The Best of the West'. Such an addition is truly welcome even it does break with the historical continuity that was established in the first two volumes (Reshevsky and Fine are somehow placed after Tal, Spassky and Petrosian, among others!). Kasparov's decision shows an undogmatic willingness to broaden and improve the project. In this new volume Reshevsky receives almost 100 pages (!) and Najdorf and Larsen are deservedly well represented, the latter with about 50 pages. Fine gets relatively less attention, but his career was shorter. I have to say that Kasparov overdoes it a bit with his repeated reference to Reshevsky as 'Sammy', suddenly praising his virtues on all fronts! This the same Kasparov who was initially not concerned with slighting Reshevsky and who, according to his website manager Nigel Davies, 'questioned Reshevsky's creative achievement in chess, saying he did not think he had contributed anything notable'. Okay, it's a pet peeve of mine, but Kasparov's use of 'Sammy' for someone whom apparently met once reminds me of all the "Garry"s that I've heard from one-encounter namedroppers. Of course I wouldn't deny my own close friendships with Vishy, Vesi, Vladi, Chuckie, Mickey and the rest, but after all, I've talked with several and been within 15 feet of them all.
Other books have been of a higher priority and I haven't read enough of "Bobby"'s section of Predecessors#4. Like most readers, I skimmed through to see what Garry would say about him. His treatment has been somewhat controversial but I see it as balanced and respectful. Those expecting either worshipful praise or jealous sniping will not find it here. Fortunately, too, we all know many of the games presented and can understand Kasparov when he presents his views of Fischer's style and his ties to today's play.
Since Plisetsky has written much of the non-chess part of Predecessors, it's not surprising to see a lot of quotes from great Soviet players of the time. His other book from Everyman, also a high-quality hardback, is Russians Versus Fischer, apparently the second translation of the original work in Russian. The authors Dmitry Plisetsky and Sergey Voronkov give an account of Fischer's life with a special emphasis on documents of the USSR Chess Federation and the Soviet Sports Committee. The book discusses at length the study of Fischer's play that was assembled to enable the Soviet players (notably Petrosian and Spassky) to counter the threat that he posed to their hegemony. The participants in the study (and preparation of Fischer's opponents) included Petrosian and Spassky themselves, along with famous players such as Tal, Smyslov, Botvinnik, Keres, Taimanov, Kotov and many other familiar names. Their contributions include a full analysis of Fischer's strengths and weaknesses in every part of the game. This makes for wonderful reading. One definitely gets the impression that those who had to face Fischer would have done better had they simply ignored such an overload of material, especially the contradictory advice! Ironically, the insights and fascinating comments by these greats, whether right or wrong, have enriched the historical literature more than influenced the course of chess events. Ultimately, Fischer was unbeatable at that time of his life versus the particular opponents that he faced.
I'm not going to do more than describe some features of this book and recommend it as an entertaining read. It turns out that the authors spend much more time on Fischer himself and his odyssey from Junior to Champion than they do to plots and intrigues. The title is quite appropriate, however, in that we get 158 Fischer games versus Soviet players, most annotated in Informant style (non-verbally), but a significant portion with introductions and comments by Soviet annotators with an exception or two. These often have to do with preparation for matches and games, complaints of the players, and psychological milieu. The Bibliography is dominated by Russian books and texts, some by highly recognizable names. Thankfully, there are numerous Indices so that one can find material by player, opening, or complete game, with the Contents organized by tournament. Judging solely from Taylor Kingston's informed review of Russians Versus Fischer in ChessCafe, any chess historian or fan who has the first edition should very seriously consider buying the second, which is expanded and considerably updated. This is of course a matter of budget, but in any case I enjoyed this book.
Gambit has not been known for hardcover books but decided to go that direction for Igor Stohl's Garry Kasparov’s Greatest Chess Games, Vol. 1 , [henceforth 'KGCG'] which contains 74 deeply-annotated games from the period of Kasparov’s youth through to his 1993 World Championship match with Short. Stohl, a GM from Slovakia, is best known to Western readers for his monumental book Instructive Modern Chess Masterpieces discussed briefly in a previous column. He has for many years done annotations of top-level games regularly for ChessBase, Informant, Schach and some Czech periodicals. Many of these annotations were naturally drawn upon in this current work, although it's worth noting that Informant notes, for example, include none of the prose explanation that KGCG contains. Regarding his motivation, he specifically mentions the Slovak daily Praca as the publication for which he covered the Kasparov-Karpov 1986 World Championship, and how that job experience seems to have opened his eyes to Kasparov's greatness as a player.
Beyond the Preface we find an 8-page summary of Kasparov's career with a unique approach: Stohl concentrates not so much upon events as upon Kasparov's development as a player. He gives a description of the contours of a few great individual matches and key games, and describes Kasparov's changing style via his choice of openings through the years. In this respect KGCG will be an interesting complement to the Predecessors volume(s) that Kasparov will devote to his own play.
Stohl makes a valiant and partially successful attempt to mix explanatory material with his normally dense analysis. He includes short introductions to the games which generally describe their setting, and he retains his clarity in the opening phase of the game by consistently describing the background to theoretical moves, often with instructive comments about their purpose. Inevitably the middlegames and endgames include some very dense notes of the type most readers won't bother to go over; but you can almost hear the editor pleading for the detail-oriented Stohl to add verbiage whenever possible. The result is a less abstract and more 'readable' book than Instructive Modern Chess Masterpieces. Nevertheless, casual players or those with less experience will be intimidated by the generally high level of the discussion; this is a book for regular club players and above, and even then those should be willing to go beyond browsing, take out a board or computer, and examine the wonderful variations. After all, the latter are not only the core of the book but the essence of any great game that is worth examining. And just about all of Kasparov's games are.
Stohl neglects to accredit sources and in fact does not cite any from which analytical suggestions have come. In this day and age one can at least make an argument for that practice, because the thoroughly-researched book can become a clutter of names and brackets. Still, the credit for and continuity of an idea's historical development would be sad to lose. Of course, there's always the possibility that Stohl is operating completely independently with only a computer and acute mind to assist him, but the Bibliography strongly suggests otherwise. Whatever the case, the practice lends an austere touch that reminds me of the books that I grew up with: authoritative and readable, yet without acknowledgement of the chess community that surrounds it. Such criticism notwithstanding, KGCG's ideas and content overshadow these considerations; the bottom line is that chess lovers will want the book on their shelves.
Another tradeoff is worth noting. One gets the positive impression of an author who admires the games and has sought the truth about them. On the regrettable side, his notes are objective to a fault and have little flair to them. That probably results from the cold accuracy of computer-assisted analysis. After all, with a computer one has to criticize many moves in any complicated position, because there is so often a technically more accurate one. He certainly isn't averse to criticizing Kasparov's moves, even in his masterpieces; but the opponent (if a lesser player than Karpov) is described as making several second-best moves that a pre-computer analyst would pass by and leave the game in a more impressive light. We saw the same thing in Shirov's Fire on the Board 2. One would think that these brilliant efforts were marred by terrible mistakes when in fact Kasparov faces extremely strong resistance requiring great (but not total) accuracy on the opponent's part. Look for this general issue to change the way that chess books are written. When enjoying a beautiful game, few people are interested in some obscure move that would have led to a 15-move draw with perfect play.
After all is said and done, KGCG reminds us of Kasparov's sheer brilliance. Some of his ideas are so subtle and perfectly timed that one can only stand in admiration. No one has ever played at this level before and I'm not sure that anyone will ever do so again.