this book examines the opening repertoire of the late Aleksander Wojtkiewicz (1963-2006), a strong and successful grandmaster.
A piece of advice one quite often hears, when presented with the problem of deciding on an opening repertoire, is to take a famous player as a model – a player whom one admires or feels an affinity towards – and to adopt his or her openings en masse. The point is that one will thereby benefit from the great player’s experience, for why reinvent the wheel when there is a perfectly acceptable wheel that you can profitably emulate?
There are 40 of Wojtkiewicz’s games here and they show a player with an attractive positional style and an emphasis on technique. He had as well an impressive feel for the coordination of his pieces. On the whole, the opening systems reflect this in that they are solid and carry very little risk for White. Barring a gross error, there is always the possibility of a draw if matters do not turn out as well as expected.
As the subtitle indicates, we are looking at matters from White’s perspective. Also, bear in mind that this is the first of a series of three volumes and it only covers the position following 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4. The lynchpin of the repertoire is the Catalan, usually reached after 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.g3, and the authors devote the bulk of the book (just short of 250 pages) to this opening system. Although the emphasis throughout is on strategical themes and ideas, there is quite a lot of detailed analysis too, spread out amongst the 75 annotated games. Wojtkiewicz’s efforts on the White side are supplemented by guest appearances by the likes of Kasparov, Kramnik, Gelfand et al in the other 35 games.
Wojtkiewicz had certain favoured ways of meeting the Slav Defence (he went with 4.Qc2 rather than the standard 4.Nc3); the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (he played 7.dxc5, a move Spassky essayed a fair few times in the 1992 match versus Fischer; and the Tarrasch Defence (where he preferred the line 9.b3). All of these lines are fully covered. I would have welcomed a consideration of 2…Bg4, Chigorin’s ‘other defence’, that’s my only slight criticism of the book. It is a curious omission, actually, since chapter 17 looks at 2…Bf5 fairly thoroughly.
Wojo’s Weapons: Winning With White, Volume 1 is a good introduction to the Catalan and the selected games are generally attractive and instructive, though unspectacular. It can be recommended for players who open 1.d4 or 1.Nf3 and who don’t mind playing a sometimes slightly boring position, so long as their opponents are bereft of counterplay. All in all, a thumbs-up.
The Wikipedia entry on Aleksander Wojtkiewicz can be read here.
The publisher’s description of Wojo’s Weapons: Winning With White, Volume 1 by Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito can be read here.
By Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito
Mongoose Press, 2010