Review of Chess Board Options by Larry Kaufman

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Chess Board Options by Larry Kaufman, New in Chess 2021 224pp

Larry Kaufman is an interesting character in the world of chess. He’s known as someone who has long worn several hats. Player, Computer Guru, Opening Theoretician, and on top of that, a high level shogi player. In addition to his work in chess, Kaufman spent years on a career in the world of finance.

As a result of this varied life, this book takes on the task of covering these phases of his career without seeming overly disjointed. 

Kaufman manages this for the most part, using the technique of splitting the book into sections which cover his many roles. The book is split into five parts:

  1. 20th century champions I have known
  2. My non-chess career: options, shogi, and other games
  3. My chess career and my students
  4. Computer chess
  5. Various chess-related topics

One random and fun thing about this book is that both it, and the prior book I reviewed, Timman’s The Unstoppable American, contain the game Browne – Fischer from Zagreb 1970. 

Getting on to the book itself, let’s start with what I perceive and the main defect here. The final section, “various chess-related topics” struck me as mostly filler. It’s not that the chapters aren’t interesting at times, as some of them most certainly are. Rather the issue is that these are pieces that are more appropriate as stand-alone articles in magazines or blogs. They did not fit harmoniously into this book.

Topics in this part include things like Kaufman’s take on chess ratings, Armageddon games, games played at odds, etc.

As for the rest of the book, I found it to be quite interesting. 

In the first part of the book Kaufman covers champions that he knew. These range from local to national to world champions. The pen portraits delivered by Kaufman were enlightening and thoughtful. Sure, he covers famous champions he knew like Fischer, Korchnoi, Gligoric, etc., but he also has a chapter on Steve Brandwein.

Like many in the chess world, Kaufman found work in the world of finance. Specifically running an options trading company. The nice thing about the chapters on topics like this is that they’re long enough to go into relevant detail while also being short enough as to not bog the reader down. The overall effect serves to keep the narrative flowing.

As for the chess, the book contain 64 games. Naturally many involve computers. The annotations are well done, though at times I feel they’re a bit too “Informant like” in nature. I suppose that for a computer guy that makes sense, but I would have preferred a bit more prose.

In the chapter on Kaufman’s three students who became IM’s I learned that his son, Raymond, is one of them. I didn’t know that the Kaufman’s are one of the rare parent/child titled player combinations. I can’t think of another others off the top of my head, though I feel that there is at least one more. So if you know of any, please say so in the comments.

All in all, this book is a solid effort and worthy of reading. It should be pointed out that this is very much not a book on chess improvement. Yes, it contains annotations by a title player, so there are some lessons to be learned, but this book is not designed in and of itself to help you become a stronger player.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott


Review of the Unstoppable American by Jan Timman

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The Unstoppable American – Bobby Fischer’s Road to Reykjavic by Jan Timman 2021 New in Chess 256pp

Much has been written on the “Match of the Century” between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, which took place in Reykjavic, Iceland in 1972. However, much less has been detailed about how Fischer got there in the first place. At least not in English. With the 50 year anniversary coming up next year it stands to reason that this gap in chess lore stands to be filled nicely.

One entry into that cannon is this new offering by former top player turned current top writer, Jan Timman. As someone who very much watched a large part of his career unfold over the board, it’s been a great pleasure to watch this second career unfold over the page.

This effort does not disappoint. It covers the time in Fischer’s career from his return to play at the 1970 USSR vs The World event through his Candidates Final in 1971. Interestingly both his match in the first event and in the latter were against former World Champion, Tigran Petrosian.

One things that struck me immediately as I started to go through the games was the way that Timman was using a lot of prosaic analysis of positions rather than just variations. I’ve touched on this before, but I find it to be very important since overly relying on engine heavy analysis tends to mean that the book will appear “useless” and/or “refuted” when the next version of Stockfish is released. After all, that version will see that on move 27 of Game X there is an improvement of .01 for White on ply 47 of some variation, and now the move that was given as best in the previous version is no more. This leads a lot of people to discount entirely the analytical work that has come before.

This means that verbal explanations will drive the point home better since they will very likely still apply even with small variances to the deeper parts of the analysis over time due to stronger engines. Having said that, Timman does include variations as well in order to properly demonstrate the ideas he is conveying.

As an example of this type of analysis, let’s take this position from Game Two of the 1970 match against Petrosian.

Here Petrosian seals 41.Rd1

After resumption, this position is reached after White’s 43rd move.

Fischer goes on to play 43…Nf6 and Timman goes on to state:

“It looks as if Fischer hadn’t paid much attention to the sealed move in his analysis of the adjourned position; otherwise he would have surely opted for 43…Nc7! here.

analysis diagram

Just like after the text move, the d5-square is inaccessible for the white bishop, but it is even more important that White cannot place his rook behind the black a-pawn. White’s situation is hopeless; for example, 44.Rd3 a4 45.Ra3 Rc4 46.Ra1 Nb5 47.Bb7 Nb4, and the a=pawn will decide.”

What stands out to me about that type of writing is that it will be useful forever more. Even if some tiny improvements are found which change the engine choices to other moves, the educational idea of why 43…Nc7! would have been a better move will remain.

The book itself is broken out into five chapter. They are

      1. The Road to Palma
      2. Palma de Mallorca
      3. The Match Against Mark Taimanov
      4. The Match Against Bent Larsen
      5. The Match Against Tigran Petrosian

While the final four chapters need little explanation as they cover the Interzonal at Palma, along with the three Candidates Matches, the first chapter could use a bit of an introduction. Covered in it are the event mentioned prior of the USSR vs The World Match, along with some descriptions (though no games) of the famous Herceg Novi blitz event where Fischer finished 4.5 points clear of the field. From there games are given from tournaments in Rovinj/Zagreb, Yugoslavia and Buenos Aires, Argentina, which both were held in 1970. Finally, from Argentina, Fischer rushed to Siegen, Germany to play in the Olympiad.

After all of the top level chess activity it was clear that Fischer was still the strongest player in the world. Looking at the games, it seems as though he was almost predetermined to become world champion. It’s easy to forget in hindsight that a special exemption had to be granted by FIDE to even allow him to participate in the Interzonal as he had not qualified through the usual means of playing in a Zonal tournament.

Throughout the descriptions of the various events Timman does a good job of detailing some of the roadblocks that Fischer continually set for himself, such as last minute demands for more money or better conditions, without going too far down the rabbit hole. As a reader I very much appreciated this since many authors in the past have allowed these issues to almost obscure the games themselves. There are no attempts to either psychoanalyze the reasons, nor to defend Fischer for his antics. The incidents are simply presented as fact and then moved past.

It should also be noted that Timman does an excellent job of conveying a lot of information about the events themselves. There are some great descriptions of the venues, players, conditions, and overall culture of the tournaments and matches.

All in all this book was a real treat. I very much enjoyed it and think that it’s accessible to just about anyone who knows the rules and loves the game. There is no rating minimum to get something from this book. While it’s not instructional in nature, it’s very informative, and there are definitely some lessons to be learned, per the analytical example given above.

Do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of this book today.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Defend Like Petrosian by Alexey Bezgodov

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Defend Like Petrosian by Alexey Bezgodov New in Chess 2020 272pp

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’re aware of the fact that I am a big fan of the Soviet era of chess. So any time I get a chance to read a book about a Soviet World Champion I take it.

For a long time it felt to me like the ninth world champion, Tigran Petrosian, was quite overlooked by chess literature. He would often be referred to as “dry” or “boring” in conversations I’ve had with various chess players over the years. Lately, however, it seems like chess authors and publishers are giving Petrosian his due.

This book is one of many which have come out over the past few years covering the life and games of the late champion.

The book is presented in two parts. Part I is called “Descent and Evolution” and starts essentially at the beginning of Tigran’s career and runs through the end of his life. In this section you see the growth of “Iron Tigran,” a nickname which was bestowed on him due to the incredible difficulty of claiming a victory against him.

In Part I games are given headers which describe the main takeaways from the game to come. Examples include: Exchange sacrifice, the first well known example; What is meant by weak squares and diagonals?; An inappropriate pawn thrust; and A light-square thriller.

Part II is called “Tigran against the titans” and breaks down his performances against several of the all time greats from his era. This section is split into 14 chapters and covers matchup against Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Fischer, Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov, Korchnoi, Keres, Larsen, Gligoric, Geller, Bronstein, and Portisch.

Part II contains the same sort of pre-game headers mentioned above. Again these often serve as a guidepost of what’s to come.

Annotations are a very balanced combination of verbal and variation analysis.

Here is nice example of that from the first part of the book. The game is Olafsson – Petrosian Bled 1959. Here is the position after 16.a4

Here Petrosian plays 16…Nc6

“A clear tactical illusion. Only taking into account the weakening of b4, TP momentarily forgot about the centre. Black is fine after the logical 16…c5! 17.a5 c4 18.axb6 Rxb6 19.e4 Bf4 20.Rc2 Rab8=”

Another example, this time from Part II’s chapter on Petrosian vs Kasparov. This is from the game Kasparov – Petrosian Moscow 1981. Here White has just played 35.Qf6+??

“White could win after the automatic pawn push 35.f6! After at least winning the pawn on e5, White’s numerous pawns would overwhelm the enemy defences.”

As I have written about multiple times in the past, the verbal parts of game analysis are more important than the variations. Variations will change over time as computers gain strength, but the verbal explanations will always be instructional for years to come.

This book is very instructive and will make a welcome addition to the library of any player who is either looking to improve or who is a fan of Petrosian himself.

Til next time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual 5th Edition

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First let me apologize for the extremely long delay in publishing anything. While I was on a semi-sabbatical from writing, I contracted COVID which then caused me to spend almost a month getting back in the right frame of mind. 

During my illness I couldn’t even read, but leading up to that, and coming out of it I have read a lot. So expect some additional upcoming reviews in the very near future!

Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual 5th Edition Russell Enterprises 2020 440pp

Historically when an existing work has a new edition out, that hasn’t been a sign that you need to rush out to buy it. After all, the updates are normally just to a few things and due to the fact that engines are now stronger. 

However, in the Age of Leela, there are many good reasons to do so. After all, it’s one thing to say “I’ll just download the new Stockfish and do the work myself.” Neural Networks, however, are another thing entirely.

Not to mention the слон (elephant) in the room, which in this case was the untimely passing of Mark Dvoretsky in September of 2016. This means, of course, that while *some* of the revisions were overseen by the famed Russian trainer himself, the bulk of them were handled by others. In this case noted endgame experts, German GM Karsten Muller and Alex Fishbein from the USA.

Perhaps to mark the fact that there are others working on this manual, the color of the cover was changed. It now seems almost like a cross between the blue color for DEM that we’ve grown accustomed to, and the green of Dvoretsky’s Analytical Manual. I personally don’t find the color to be visually appealing, but you know what they say about judging books thusly.

So let’s open ‘er up.

Two new forwards are in this book. One by the aforementioned GM Muller, discussing many of the details as to how this volume was assembled, and one by 14th World Champion Vladimir Kramnik discussing the importance of the project since it’s inception with the first edition.

The other main visual change is that the former sections printed in blue ink have been replaced by highlighted gray text.

Perhaps this is me being overly critical, but I find that the completely filled box is much much easier to read. I do, however, seriously applaud the move away from the blue because it was certainly true that depending on which print run your copy was from, sometimes the blue would be so faint you couldn’t read it.

This addition comes with many new diagrams added, as well as some that have been omitted. For pedants like myself this is a nice feature. I don’t know why my mind works this way, but it does. I like knowing what has changed!

The content is, of course, pure gold. After hearing John Hartmann mention that he’s “woodshedding” all of the gray positions I decided to set for myself a similar goal, but I’m only focusing on the rook endgames. There are more than fifty of these, so my work is cut out for me!

One thing I have always loved about the various version of DEM is the level of detail that is covered, even on examples the reader may already be somewhat familiar with.

Take, for example, the game Gligoric – Smyslov from the Chigorin Memorial in 1947. This is often cited as an example of a how a rook can defend against rook + f&h pawns. In fact, Smyslov himself covered this ending in his book Endgame Virtuoso.

However, in DEM the level of detail show is much greater, both in analytical detail, as well as verbal explanations. So while the first instinct by many might be to think “Meh, I’ve seen this before.” the truth is that you may very well not have seen it at the level of detail you are about to.

One of my favorite chapters, in this and in preceding editions, in the one on General Endgame Ideas. While the chapters on specific material relationships, especially the parts highlighted in gray, focus on concise precision, the chapter on general ideas is more a dive into what Shereshevsky would call “schematic thinking.”

In this chapter many concepts are discussed which may be applicable to numerous situations. Here’s a quick example of what is referred to as “widening the beachhead.” This position was composed by Artur Yusupov.

The idea is that there are two main plans for White to proceed. One would involve the idea of playing f4-g5 in order to create a passer, while the other would be to “widen the beachhead” by playing a well-timed g5 which will then allow the White king more room to maneuver.

Of course there is a precise explanation that is given for this precise position, but the concept itself is one that will be applicable to many positions, pawn endgame and otherwise.

So if you own a previous edition of this book do you need the new one? if you are in any way serious about improving I would say yes since it’s been several years since the 4th edition was released, and with the advances in tablebases and pure engine and neural network power it just makes sense to stay reasonably up to date.

Let’s discuss one last thing before we go…the talk about the relationship between one’s rating and the usefulness of this book.

I have often heard it said that “Unless you are rating 2XXX you shouldn’t even bother with this book. You should focus on ____ instead.” I don’t buy that. Not for a minute. There probably is a level at which this book is not for someone, but that level is likely a mid-three digit rating.

There’s no way to pretend that a 1500 will get as much from this book as a 2500. But the idea that the 1500 who is willing and able to work diligently will absolutely learn from this book. I know that because I was one of those 1500’s. While my endgame play still needs to improve vastly from where it is in order for me to make a real run at my life goal of 2200, the truth is that I learned many concepts from this book.

The Lucena, Vancura, and Philidor positions in rook endings – all of which I have used in my own games are things I learned from earlier editions of DEM. I once drew an expert in a rapid game with knight against pawn on the 7th because I had recently read that portion of this book.

So yes, if you are serious about chess in any way, this book is for you.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Hein Donner by Alexander Munninghoff

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Hein Donner: The Biography Alexander Munninghoff New in Chess 2020 272pp

A few weeks ago I checked my mail and was quite delighted to find a copy of Alexander Munninghoff’s biography on legendary Dutch,  um, chess personality (?!) Jan Hein Donner.

I say chess personality because in many ways it’s hard to categorize the man. He was a GM, and as such in some ways was the successor to the former Dutch  world champion Max Euwe. (I qualify that with “in some ways” because for a time Lodewijk Prins was included in that discussion.) However, he wasn’t nearly as strong a GM as his predecessor Euwe, nor his successor Timman. Mostly, though, Donner was a journalist.

Like many I mostly know Donner from the amazing collection of his essays The King which were pieces written by Hein over the years. Thus, it was with great anticipation that I sat down to learn about the man himself.

Before embarking on the main journey of this review, I would like to state for the record that this biography is indeed about the man himself much more than it is about any one facet of his chess career. If you are looking for a volume on how a chess player developed his skills to the point that he was ready to earn the grandmaster title and win major events, then you will not find that which you are seeking. If you would like to know the inner workings of the day to day life of a professional chess journalist then again you may leave feeling a bit empty. However, if you want to know about Hein Donner, the man who happened to be a GM and chess journalist then you will not be disappointed.

Born in 1927 to a well-off family, Donner spent much of his youth annoying his father to no end by challenging his authority. This changed abruptly during the early part of WWII when Donner saw his father hauled off to prison by the occupying Nazi’s on more than one occasion. The final time this happened, Father Donner was in prison for well over a year.

It was during this period of his life that young Hein discovered what would become his life long obsession…chess. Like most budding chess players, the first battles fought were mainly with friends. While not much is known about how Donner was improving early on, one thing that is known is that the first book read by him was a book of Euwe’s called Uncle Jan Teaches His Nephew to Play Chess.

After the war Hein did attend university, but it seems clear that by this time he was so fully in the grip of the chess bug that there was little chance he would make a career out of anything else.

Here Munninghoff does a good job of capturing the dance between a budding Western chess professional and society as a whole. The emphasis on Western is quite important since during this time in history most chess professionals were from the USSR, where there was ample state support. There was nowhere near enough financial remuneration from someone to hope to make an honest living from the game.

Donner had the good fortune to be from a well-off family where such considerations were not needed. Thus, he was able to ignore the financial implications of choosing chess as a career.

It would be wrong to be completely dismissive of Hein as a player. Not only did he win Hoogovens (now Tata Steel) three times, he also won the Dutch Championship three times, along with playing on 11 Olympiad Teams. Munninghoff captures the essence of the player, along with the inner battle that many chess player fight to accept the limits of their own abilities.

This is done in a manner that also doesn’t fail to point out that while, yes, Donner won Hoogovens, it was at a point in time when it was not nearly so strong a tournament as we think of now.

The author also hints at the complexity  of Donner’s home life. Donner the husband. Donner the father. Donner the absent husband. Donner the absent father. Not much appears to be known about this aspect of Hein’s life, but what little there is, Munninghoff captures.

The latter part of Donner’s life was marred by ill health, eventually leading him to be moved into a nursing home. His health continued to fade until November 27th, 1988, when the staff found him dead in his bed. Munninghoff succeeds in taking the reader along for the journey of Donner’s descent from declining health to untimely death.

While reading about this portion of Donner’s life I could almost feel the walls psychologically closing around Donner. As his health worsened, his world shrunk until at the end the aftereffects of  declining health stole his ability to walk and needing to re-learn to speak. I’ve read elsewhere that towards the very end Hein could type with only one finger, and in reading Munninghoff’s pages on this period it was not difficult for me to imagine Hein fighting back the darkness with his lone finger slowly, methodically, pecking out the next word; and the next; and the next. Until finally even that lone remaining finger deserted him.

As this book is the translation of a volume that was published in Dutch in 1994 the author was able include additional material which was not in the original version of the book.

Among those inclusions is a 2008 interview between New in Chess editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam and Hein’s friend Harry Mulisch. This interview spans the time frame from the beginning of their friendship in 1957 and takes us through the end of Donner’s life and beyond.

Lastly, the games included in the “Games and Annotations” section of the book have been computer checked and a couple of additional games were added. While I wasn’t all that interested in Hein the player, I of course enjoyed to playing through his win over Fischer from the Varna 1962 Olympiad.

All in all I highly recommend this book. I found it interesting to read a book written by an author who seemed determined to uncover the man who happened to be a chess player rather than the approach many take which is to uncover the chess player who happened to be a man.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of the On the Origin of Good Moves by Willy Hendriks

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On The Origin of Good Moves by Willy Hendriks, New in Chess 2020 432 pp

Eight years ago IM Willy Hendriks released his semi-controversial book Move First, Think Later which won the ECF 2012 Book of the Year Award.  Now the long awaited follow up has arrived!

In his new work, On The Origin of Good Moves the author is once again challenging some long-held conventional wisdom.

The premise of the book is that the evolution of an individual chess player follows the evolution of the game itself. To this end we are taken on a journey through chess history, starting with Greco and ending more or less with Steinitz.

Of course there are snippets of more modern games sprinkled in here and there, including many of the author’s own, but the focus of the book is to get us from the start of recorded chess history (Greco) to the start of modern chess history (Steinitz.)

The book records the evolution of the game, from it’s earliest recorded roots, to the rise of coffeehouse chess, then on to serious matches, and finally to the origin of true chess professionals.

Each chapter is precluded by a set of exercises consisting of positions found within the chapter. With so much research showing active learning being far superior to passive learning I always find this to be a useful feature and enjoy how prevalent it is becoming in modern chess literature.

In terms of usefulness for immediate chess improvement, I think that the exercises are most of what this book offers, but I don’t see that as a negative mark. Mainly this is due to the fact that there is an acknowledged mission to familiarize the reader with chess history with the end goal of them becoming stronger through the use of these building blocks.

To put it another way, this book doesn’t set out to make you a better player by exposing you to a carefully cultivated set of exercises designed to hone a particular skill, but rather the goal seems to be to expose the reader to particular ways of thinking that evolved over the course of chess history. Essentially it’s a different approach to the proverb about teaching someone to fish versus giving them a fish.

Along this journey there are some quite interesting challenges to widely held viewpoints. For example, in Chapter 5: The Start of Serious Competition the matches between La Bourdonnais and McDonnell are discussed. The author starts out by acknowledging that there are some spectacular fragments from some of the games which are quite well known, but then quotes Harry Golombek talking about how he had analyzed all of the games with the intent of writing about them, only to be “appalled by the low quality of the play in general.”

This position is the well-known final position from the 16th game of the fourth match is the conclusion of a spectacular sacrificial idea by Black:

This position, however, is not covered in the book. Instead, Hendrik’s chooses positions such as this one:

If asked to describe White’s position here, modern players of even extremely weak strength would likely say that it looks like White has suffered a disaster in the opening and is in extreme trouble due to the lack of king safety.

Yet the standards of play were such back in that day that McDonnell repeated this opening in his next White game!

Another maxim which Hendriks challenges is the notion that Steinitz is the person who worked out the concepts of positional chess. In Chapter 19 he discusses Cecil Purdy’s theory called “The Great Steinitz Hoax.” The concept is that the theories of positional play which are generally attributed to Steinitz were in fact worked out by Lasker. That chapter, while short, is interestingly compelling.

Probably my favorite chapter of this book is Chapter 32: Study Openings. In this chapter the author states that he knows of no better way to improve at chess than to study openings. He points out that what are thought of as classic books, from Greco to Philidor to Staunton to Steinitz are essentially opening works.

Here Hendriks simply challenges the classic wisdom that openings should be studied rarely, if at all, by improving players. In fact, he calls the study of openings “one of the main motors of improvement” and backs his claim up with compelling examples.

All in all I recommend this book. Not as a textbook, but as a historical tome. The subject matter is fascinating, and IM Hendrik’s continued insistence on turning standard logic on it’s ear makes for compelling reading.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of New in Chess Yearbook 133

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Ask club players today if they subscribe to any opening periodicals or purchase opening books and you’ll often get a response from some of them that goes something like this “Why would I do that? I can just look stuff up in my database.”

Yes, this is undoubtedly true. Anyone can absolutely look up all of the games played in any line they like and get results. For titled players this may be enough. What about the rest of us though? How can we tell if the games we’re reviewing in a line are the critical last word in that line right now? The truth is, we can’t.

Sure, sure…you can run an engine to and accept it’s word full stop, but again, if you don’t understand what you’re looking at, the engine won’t help you. No less a luminary than Hikaru Nakamura said something to this effect after defeating Wesley So on the Black side of the King’s Indian in their 2015 Sinquefield Cup game. In his post game interview Naka said something along the lines of Wesley was probably too trusting of the computer eval coming out of the opening which gives White something like +1, but as Hikaru said, the computer simply doesn’t understand the position.

So again, how can WE know which games are critical to review when learning a new line or brushing up on new theory in one we already play?

Well, one way is to read the New in Chess Yearbook.

Each Yearbook comes packed with opening surveys in which strong, sometimes world class, players give their opinions on various openings. Some topical, some better used as surprises, and some that are just new takes on old ideas.

Included in Yearbook 133 are a “Trends & Opinions” section, which features vignettes of interesting games along with fascinating tidbits from within the chess world.

Next comes the heart of the book, which is the opening surveys section. Yearbook 133 sees 26 surveys including lines such as the 10.Qd3 Winawer (used a couple of weeks ago by great effect by Naka in his win over Nepo in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational), the topical 6.Nb3 Najdorf, the 5.d4 line in the Italian, the 6…dxc4 Open Catalan, several variations of the Exchange Grunfeld, and much more.

Finally the volume finishes with a section including book reviews by English GM Glenn Flear, along with solutions to the exercises presented throughout the book.

So is this worth the expense? A quick glance at my own bookshelf shows that I have 12 copies of the Yearbook which were not provided as review copies, so to me the answer is a qualified yes.

Why qualified? Well, the truth is that I generally buy them one by one and have never subscribed. The reason I don’t subscribe is that I tend to only pick up issues which have openings that are a serious part of my repertoire.

Some of the surveys included in the various Yearbooks are marked as “SOS” variations, which are the types of variations found in the Secrets of Opening Surprises series. This is to say that while they may be playable, they are neither common nor good.

An example from Yearbook 133 is the survey on 3.h4 in the KID/Grunfeld. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4, etc. While I play the KID every chance I get, and consider it my favorite opening, this is not something I’m going to book up against as I don’t consider it something I’m likely to face often, if at all.

So normally when I purchase a copy of one of the Yearbook’s it’s because there are surveys which I consider to be highly useful.

These last few paragraphs may read like I’m not overly enthusiastic about the book, but that’s not the case. I just want readers of this review to know that caveat emptor is in full effect here.

So let’s talk about the material that makes up the bulk of this periodical and why I feel like this issues is particularly worthwhile.

First of all, the survey on the 10.Qd3 Winawer was something I found to be informative. I had switched from 3.Nc3 to 3.Nd2 against the French a while back because it seemed like my results were always terrible against it. This survey, written by Robert Ris, has given me food for thought about returning to 3.Nc3.

Based on some ideas given new life by Alpha Zero, this survey includes five annotated games in various lines and concludes with three exercises.

Another survey I very much enjoyed was the one written by Mickey Adams. This one is on the 5.d4 Italian, and contains nine annotated games, again followed by three exercises.

I also very much enjoyed Glenn Flear’s review of The King’s Indian According to Petrosian, which is a book that I myself read and loved. It was clear in reading his recap that GM Flear had dove deeply into this book and his enthusiasm came shining through.

So who should read the New in Chess Yearbooks? Honestly, these books are for everyone. They’ll have something for any reader at almost any level. Whether you choose to subscribe or to purchase them ala carte is completely up to you, but whichever direction you go you will find something that you enjoy.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of the King’s Indian According to Petrosian

The King’s Indian According to Tigran Petrosian by IM Igor Yanvarjov 2019 Russell Enterprises, Inc. 424 pp

When looking at a book such as this one it’s important to understand that there are two main reasons that an author writes a book.

The first is to earn money. Many books are written by authors who are writing about an assigned topic in order to earn a payday because they are working professionals who need to pay the rent the same as the rest of us.

The second type of book is one that’s a labor of love. Any monies generated are almost secondary in nature. Rather the book represents the author’s absolute unwavering love for the topic at hand. This book is of that second type.

Why the title of the book may read as though it’s a opening manual, it is very much not. Yes, the book is themed around Petrosian’s games in the King’s Indian, and reading this book in depth will help enhance the reader’s understanding of the KID, but the real point of this book is to show the nuanced handling of positions that the ninth world champion is so known for.

Having said that, this book will be of some use in learning the opening for players who prefer to take a “deep dive” approach and look at historical games in order to build a proper foundation for an opening.

It’s important to remember that Petrosian passed away 35 years ago, and so every line in this book should be taken with a grain of salt and checked very thoroughly by players just coming to the KID.

The book is divided into three parts with each part being split into several chapters. They are:

Part 1 Tabiyas

Chapter 1 Classical Variation

Chapter 2 The Samisch System

Chapter 3 The Fianchetto Variation

Chapter 4 The Benoni

Chapter 5 Other Systems

Part 2 Elements of Success

Chapter 6 Portrait of a Chess Player

Chapter 7 Lessons from Petrosian

Chapter 8 The Problem of the Exchange

Chapter 9 “Furman’s Bishop”

Chapter 10 “Pawns are the soul of chess”

Chapter 11 Playing by Analogy

Chapter 12 Maneuvering Battle

Part III Experiments

Chapter 13 Realist or Romantic?

Chapter 14 The King’s Indian with Colors – and Flanks – Reversed

Readers who paid careful attention to the above table of contents will have picked up on the fact that with chapters such as Chapter 4 The Benoni this work isn’t strictly a King’s Indian treatise as much as it is the King’s Indian and related positions.

“What about the games themselves?” readers are hopefully asking by this point. The games are all annotated to varying degrees. Some have only light notes, whereas others have very detailed analytical variations. It is in this area that I believe that Yanvarjov does an excellent job.

Many of the games contain quoted historical analysis or comments, whether by Tigran himself or his contemporaries. In addition the author goes into great analytical detail where it makes sense.

I also thought that IM Yanvarjov did an excellent job of mixing in both prose and variations to describe the action taking place within the positions. In some cases a verbal description is given which should be helpful to players of club level in particular.

Take this position for instance, from the second game between Bisguier and Petrosian in the 1954 USA-USSR Radio Match. Here the American GM has just played 18.Nd5

“Bisguier forces the issue but achieves little. The calm 18.Rd2, with the goal of increasing the pressure in the center by doubling rooks, is more unpleasant for Black.”

This is a simple enough explanation for readers of any level to understand, and reams of variationally inclined analysis doesn’t get the point across in as clear as manner.

Here’s an excellent example where some analysis combines with a clear verbal explanation to one again convey a clear image. This is the position after move 31 in the game Borisenko-Petrosian in the 21st USSR Championship.

Here White plays 32.Kh2. Writes Yanvarjov:

“To this point, White had played very consistently, but now Borisenko’s constant companion in his tournament games, time trouble, came into play. Instead of the irresolute king move, by playing b2-b4!, White could have posed challenging problems for his opponent. However, the most principled continuation was probably not 32.b4, but 32.Bd2 and only then b2-b4. For example, 32.Bd2 Kh7 33.b4 Nd7 34.b5 Nb8 35.Qe3 Qf8 36.f4, etc.”

My assessment of this book is that it’s a book written as a labor of love designed to showcase the player who appears to have made the biggest impression on Yanvarjov, while also being very useful as a games collection.

Again, I should stress that those who want to use this book as an opening manual will have a lot of additional work to do, but for those who are looking at this as a games collection you will see a lot of practical use from this book.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this one today.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Review of Attack and Counterattack in Chess by Fred Reinfeld

Attack & Counterattack in Chess by Fred Reinfeld – 2019 Algebraic Edition by Russell Chess Enterprises, Inc. 88pp $12.95

With this volume REI continues their translation of many of the classic works of Reinfeld into algebraic notation for a new generation of readers.

While Reinfeld is often dismissed these days, it’s important to note that he is referred to by FM Alex Dunne as “The Man Who Taught America Chess” and not without good reason.

Yes, he wrote over 100 volumes on chess, and many of them are rightfully considered to be potboilers. Yet at his best he was very, very good. Even today Reinfeld often serves as one of the earliest authors introduced to young players just coming in to the game. Note for example that Chess in a Nutshell was Ray Robson’s first chess book per his dad.

Let’s also not forget that Reinfeld was immensely strong as a player. The first rating list issued by US Chess in 1950 saw Reinfeld listed with a rating of 2593, good for sixth in the nation behind only Reuben Fine, Sammy Reshevsky, Alexander Kevitz, Arthur Dake, and Albert Simonson.

Attack & Counterattack in Chess is as much a pamphlet as it is anything, which does explain the lower price, but it’s an excellent early book for those starting out. One reason for this is that the annotations are primarly verbal explanations with minimal variations. This allows for concepts to be communicated quite clearly to those players who may not yet be able to understand positions based on the variations that lie within.

This book is presented in two parts. Part One from White’s point of view, with Part Two coming from Black’s.

The Chapters in Part One are

  • How to Control the Center
  • How to Exploit Superior Mobility
  • How to Exploit Black’s Premature Opening Up of the Position
  • How to Exploit Black’s Premature Counterattack
  • How to Exploit Black’s Weakening Pawn Moves
  • How to Exploit Black’s Errors of Judgement
  • How to Exploit Irregular Defenses

The Chapter in Part Two are

  • How to Seize the Initiative
  • How to Play against Gambits
  • How to  Defend Against a Powerful Attack
  • How to Seize the Attack
  • How to Exploit Unusual Openings

Here’s an example of the kind of prosaic annotations readers will be treated to:

White has just played 16.b4!!

“With his last move White has established a lasting bind on the position. By preventing …c5 for good, he has stamped Black’s c-pawn as a backward pawn on an open file. In all the intricate maneuvering that follows, White keeps his eye on this pawn and finally piles up enough force to capture it.”

A few moves later this position is reached after 21…Nd5

“Now that White has pinpointed the weakness, he goes on to the next phase: piling up on the weakness. First comes a very fine knight maneuver aimed at transferring his knight from c3 to a5. At this latter post the White knight will bear down on the weak c-pawn.”

Here’s another excellent example.

“Black’s position looks uncomfortably cramped, but he has his compensations. By attacking White’s e-pawn, he limits White’s freedom of action. Also, Black is well posted to prevent the aggressive advance of e4-e5.

But Black has other ideas. His main idea is to free himself sometime later by …d5. First he must play …c6 to make that move possible. Second, he must play …d5 at a time when the powerful reply e4-e5 is not feasible. The later course of the game will show how Black carries out his idea.”

These types of annotations are invaluable to those who are post beginners.

My only real complaint is that the names of the players and tournament information is omitted from the games themselves. So each game is simply a list of the moves along with the opening.

This is particularly a pity in a work such as this where that could have been easily corrected in this day and age. I especially wish this was done as many of the younger players today aren’t aware of the of the all time greats who’s games appear in this book, such as Gligoric, Tarrasch, etc.

Nevertheless, this book is worth acquiring by anyone who is either just starting out in chess, coaches someone who fits that description, or who wants to relive a volume they might have lovingly perused in their salad days.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Review of 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players by FM Frank Erwich, New in Chess 2019 192pp

As many of you know, I enjoy tactics books. Solving books in general are what I enjoy the most. I am firmly from the school that books based on solving  are the closest a book can get to practical play and that’s why they are the most valuable.

Unfortunately for the past year or so I’ve been so busy that I’ve rarely had time to work deeply from books like this, and the results have shown in my games.

Lately it seems like many books of varying topics have been focused on club players. This makes a lot of sense to me as the largest potential audience for books is club players. So the idea of this book – a book revolving around solving and directed towards club players – was one I wholeheartedly embraced.

As I started glancing through the book I was struck by a couple of things.

First, I noticed that many of the diagrams have hints printed below them in the form of listing the themes. For instance, you will see “chasing” or “blocking” or “interference” below the diagrams.

For some of you those themes may sound familiar. That’s because they’re based on the Steps Method pioneered by Dutch trainers Cor van Wijgerden and Rob Brunia.

As I read the introduction it quickly became evident that was the intention of FM Erwich. It’s clear that he considers himself a product of the Steps Method, and that he wants to further their efforts.

The book consists of 12 chapters. They are:

  1. Elimination of the Defence
  2. Double Attack
  3. Discovered Attack
  4. Skewer
  5. Pin
  6. Trapping a Piece
  7. Promotion
  8. Draw
  9. Mate
  10. Defending
  11. Mix
  12. Solutions

The exercises are laid out in each chapter to become increasingly more difficult as the chapter progresses. While this is to a large degree subjective, the idea is that exercises towards the end of a chapter are noticeably harder than those near the beginning.

Here is an exercise at the beginning of the Pins chapter:

The hint here is “luring+pin”

Here is one at the end:

The hint here is simply “mix.”

In both cases the solutions are at the bottom.

For books of this nature I always recommend writing down your answers as you solve. This will force you to be both honest and accurate in your review of the puzzles as you can’t pretend that “Oh yeah, I saw that.” If you didn’t write it down, then you can’t fool yourself into believing that you’ve succeeded.

Once you have solved a series of problems you can turn to the back of the book to review. There you will find a lot of additional information such as which game a puzzle was from or alternative tries that you may be curious about.

So who benefits from this book? I’d say in this case the target audience is exactly as described in the book. Club players. Yes, many of the exercises would also be well served for many players who are 2000+. but there are books that are more targeted to those players than this one is.

Using this book for players in the 1000-2000 range should show results. Using this book as the material for the “seven circles” method would turn anyone who seriously works on that into a much stronger tactician than they are now.

If you’ve been looking for a tactics book, or are looking for a new one, then this book is for you.

Buy the book at a very affordable price here.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

If you like this blog, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter. Any money I raise will go towards lessons and stronger tournaments.

If you can spare it, please click here and become a supporter. Even $1 a month can help me achieve my dream.

Solution to Exercise One:

Solution to Exercise Two: