1.d4 – Ratgeber gegen Unorthodoxe Verteidigungen

1.d4 - Ratgeber gegen Unorthodoxe Verteidigungen

This is an excellent opening book by an experienced author.

Valeri Bronznik looks at various unorthodox lines that might be tried against 1.d4 and recommends a particular response to each one. A circumspect response is usually the order of the day, not an overtly aggressive one.

The book will be of great practical value to players who open with 1.d4 as White: they are its main, intended readership. Still, those who play the odd offbeat line against 1.d4, or would like to investigate a few: say the Polish (1…b5), the Albin (1…d5 2.c4 e5) or the Black Knights’ Tango (1…Nf6 2.c4 Nc6), will find the book to be interesting and suggestive as well, a useful source of ideas. Bronznik provides a sober examination of opening systems that some other analysts have dismissed as dubious or downright bad, whereas many (though not all, in my humble opinion!) have merit. Often, you end up with positions where both sides have problems to solve – even though White is allegedly ‘better’.

The material is set out in three parts and 19 chapters. Part 1 (chapters 1-8) covers various first moves for Black other than 1…d5 or 1…Nf6. Among the lines looked at are the Polish, the Englund Gambit (1…e5) and the Dutch Benoni (1…c5 2.d5 f5), which Jonathan Levitt has christened the Clarendon Court Defence; the German author prefers a more descriptive or literal moniker. As for Part 2 (chapters 9-14), there Bronznik examines a number of lines arising after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 and you will find chapters devoted to the Albin, Marshall’s move 2…Nf6, the Schara-Hennig Gambit (2…e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4) and various Stonewall setups (e.g. 2…e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e3 Bd6, as Ivanchuk played against Carlsen in 2009). Not the Noteboom though, which is a pity: one would like to have learned Bronznik’s thoughts on this double-edged variation. In the final part, Part 3 (chapters 15-19), Bronznik provides coverage of some systems following on from 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4; systems such as the Black Knights’ Tango, the Budapest Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 and now either the usual 3…Ng4 or Fajarowicz’s 3…Ne4; both moves are discussed) and the so-called Snake Benoni (e.g. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 Bd6).

Several original analyses are presented throughout the book, 58 to be exact, and there are about that many complete games, their annotations laden with theoretical references and astute judgements. Above all, it is the spirit of serious enquiry that impresses one most about Valeri Bronznik’s book; there is much food for thought.

Just one slight fault, which I can’t help but mention: the apostrophe in the title of chapter 19 comes before rather than after the ‘s’ (i.e. it is ‘Black Knight’s Tango’ rather than the correct ‘Black Knights’ Tango’). English grammar always has the last laugh, even when a book is written in German, as here.

The publisher’s description of 1.d4 – Ratgeber gegen Unorthodoxe Verteidigungen can be read here. And a pdf extract from the book is here.

Book Details

1.d4 – Ratgeber gegen Unorthodoxe Verteidigungen

By Valeri Bronznik

Schachverlag Kania, 2010

ISBN: 39783931192372

Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929

Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929

Nimzowitsch took first place at Carlsbad 1929, ahead of a strong field that included Capablanca and Rubinstein, but it did not earn him a shot at the World Championship.

Instead, Alekhine’s challenger later that year was Bogoljubow, who came eighth at Carlsbad, some 3.5 points behind the winner. This clearly rankled with Nimzowitsch, and undoubtedly provided one of the motives for writing the book, which was originally published in Russia in 1931. In it, he makes a forceful pitch for being the most deserving challenger to Alekhine’s crown.

It should be noted also that Nimzowitsch beat Bogoljubow at Carlsbad, their encounter yielding a fine strategic victory that shared the prize for the best played game (Euwe’s flawed win against Thomas was the other game, incidentally: about which, see below). If anything, this must have added petrol to the fire, rubbed salt into the wounds… choose your metaphor. He was not a happy bunny.

Of the 231 games played at Carlsbad , Nimzowitsch has selected 30 and arranged them by player. One would have liked to see more, but the games as given are top-notch. Nimzowitsch, as the winner, has 7 games; Capablanca and Spielmann, equal second, have 5 games apiece; Rubinstein, who finished in fourth place, has been given 3  games; the other prizewinners have 6 games between them; and, to end, there are 4 games to represent the non-prizewinners (those placed ninth to twenty-second). Among this last quartet of games is a win by Samisch (against Grunfeld) which picked up the First Brilliancy Prize.

Nimzowitsch’s annotations are lively and entertaining, appreciative and instructive; yet also abrasive at times. And it seems appropriate at this point to praise Jim Marfia’s terrific translation, which manages to bring the author’s personality fully to life.

One especially fascinating feature of the book lies in Nimzowitsch’s impressions of his contemporaries. His introductory remarks in the chapter on Rubinstein are heartfelt and genuinely moving, and bear comparison with Reti’s portrait of the same player in Modern Ideas in Chess. While his description of Vidmar’s style, a player for whom he apparently had a high regard, is insightful and eye-opening (see pages 108 and 111-112). He describes Vidmar’s chess as a blend of method and naiveté. Spielmann had publicly expressed his admiration for My System and Nimzowitsch writes of this established master and colleague almost as though he were his student. That is to say, he is just a little bit patronising. There is a sense, also, in which Nimzowitsch seems to feel as though he can appropriate some of Spielmann’s victories as his own, because they were achieved using his ideas (prophylaxis, blockade, centralization). Granted, the man wanted to promote his strategic vision of chess, but this was maybe the wrong way to go about it. Anyway, it is easy to see how Nimzowitsch could rub people the wrong way!

In his notes to the aforementioned Thomas–Euwe game, Nimzowitsch overlooks that after 22.Qxa2 axb3 White has the resource 23.Rxc5! turning the tables (see page 123). But this looks to be his only error in analysis. The move is mentioned by Euwe himself, incidentally, in From My Games 1920-1937 and so is not a ‘find’. Few would consider Euwe’s effort one of the two best played games in the tournament, anyway: Capablanca-Treybal, for one, was a much better game, pretty much a masterpiece.

Anything by Nimzowitsch is worth reading and, as I hope I have made plain, this is a fascinating book for all sorts of reasons.

The publisher’s description of Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929 can be read here.

Book Details

Carlsbad International Chess Tournament 1929

By Aron Nimzovich

Translated by Jim Marfia

Dover Publications, 2009

ISBN: 9780486439426

Fighting the Ruy Lopez

Fighting the Ruy Lopez

Fighting the Ruy Lopez is what the author had hoped it would be: a serious book.

The tone is set early on, on page 5 in fact, where we are told that one should not ‘expect to find instant solutions inside a book – amongst other things chess is a process of continual learning.’ A good sign, for it indicates that there won’t be any easy answers here, or any simplistic remedies. Pavlovic has written a repertoire book which provides a complete Black response to the Ruy Lopez. As such, it does not present a total solution to the perennial problem of how to meet 1.e4, but it takes you a long way down that road.

The centrepiece of the proposed repertoire is the Marshall Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5), thoroughly covered in Part 1 (chapters 1-7). It should be pointed out that, in the main line of the Marshall, theory often extends past move 20, so you must be prepared to follow another player’s moves for quite a long while. The second part (chapters 8-11) covers various Anti-Marshall lines, and it is interesting to note that Kasparov never allowed Black to play the Marshall; he always avoided it with 8.a4 or 8.h3. One curious omission here is 8.a3, Suetin’s move; it is a minor option, but still… Together, these first two sections make up the bulk of the book, while part three (chapters 12-15) covers early white deviations. These include the Exchange Variation (4.Bxc6), the Worrall and Centre Attacks (6.Qe2 and 6.d4), 6.Nc3 (a move which Keres had an inexplicable fondness for) and the rather dreary DERLD (6.Bxc6). Against each White system, Pavlovic gives just one Black choice (e.g. 5 … Bd6 versus the Exchange Variation after 4 … dxc6 5.0-0), generally an active line, principled and sound, and therefore in keeping with the overall character and tenor of the Marshall Attack.

Milos Pavlovic plays the Marshall himself and has contributed to its theory. In each chapter, he sets out the material well, highlighting the strategic themes and outlining the various typical plans and schemes of development for each side, before examining the theory in depth. Although an advocate for the Black side, his appraisals and evaluations strike one as being honest and objective.

There are pros and cons to adopting any mainstream opening line. To play it well, you need to make a substantial investment of time and effort. It is likely to be time well spent in this case, mind, for the Marshall gives good winning chances and is generally reliable, being the choice of many elite players. This book is an excellent place to start if you are thinking of taking up the Marshall Attack, though while bearing in mind the author’s words of caution about not expecting ‘instant solutions’.

The publisher’s description of Fighting the Ruy Lopez can be read here.

Book Details

Fighting the Ruy Lopez

By Milos Pavlovic

Everyman Chess, 2009

ISBN: 9781857445909