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Strike first with the Scandinavian

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Strike first with the Scandinavian

By Christian Bauer

ChessBase, 2017

EAN: 4027975008479

Strike first with the Scandinavian

There are a fair few reasons why the Scandinavian might serve you well as a defence to 1.e4.

First off, it is an opening that players on the White side might be inclined to underrate, not least because it breaks a cardinal rule drummed into us all as beginners: do not develop the queen at an early stage of the game (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5). White players may take the tack that simply by playing sensible developing moves they will obtain an advantage. Secondly, theoretical knowledge develops slowly in the Scandinavian and, while there are certainly some critical lines, it is a low-maintenance defence. There are not many such defences around, frankly, so when you find one, cherish it. Third, Black can create the pawn structure he wants (essentially W: d4 versus B: c6 and e6) virtually by force. Larsen somewhere characterised the Scandinavian as an improved form of the Caro-Kann, and so in a sense it is. Certainly, it is more straightforward to play. Black doesn’t have to contend with interlocking pawn chains or isolated queen’s pawn positions, as he does when playing the Caro-Kann (think of the Advance Variation, the Panov-Botvinnik Attack).

At move three (following the usual sequence 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3), Christian Bauer recommends the once standard 3…Qa5 rather than Titiakov’s new-fangled (once, at any roads, it is now quite common) 3…Qd6 (which offers ‘only distant chances to equalise’ according to Bauer) or 3…Qd8, a move essayed by the current world champion. He presents the detailed theoretical material in the form of 30 or so video tutorials, with a further 13 videos being used to test tactical skills and understanding of Scandinavian structures. There are also two accompanying databases: one is a summary of the analysis in the videos, consisting of key games and lines, the other is a collection of 78 instructive Scandinavian games, about 30 of which are annotated by Bauer. In the ‘Analysis’ database I had some difficulty locating Bauer’s fine victory over Zinchenko (played at Metz, 2010), given in video 12, but found it eventually (the complete game) in the annotations to the main game Pavasovic-Bauer. Apparently, games given in the annotations are not searchable in the database (Pavasovic delivers a search result, Zinchenko does not).

Now a confession: I am a 1.e4 player myself and only intermittently Scandinavian (I like to watch Ibsen, eat Ollebrod and drink Sloe Gin on occasion, though not all at the same time), so let me take the opportunity to suggest three options for White:

  1. The mainline pawn sacrifice of 10.Qe2!? Bxc2 is worth exploring (this following 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5 5.Nf3 c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bd2 e6 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Nxf6+ gxf6), when the most accurate continuation is 11.0-0 Bg6 12.Rfe1… with decent compensation.
  2. An interesting positional sideline involves fianchettoing the king’s bishop and then, after the …Bc8 develops, hitting the Queen with b4 and following up with a later b4-b5 to try to pry open the long diagonal. Look, for example, at this game: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.g3 c6 6.Bg2 Bf5 7.b4!? Qc7 (7…Qxb4 8.Rb1) 8. 0-0 e6 9.Rb1 Be7 10.b5, etc. (Shabalov-Minasian, New York 1998).
  3. Finally, there is 3.Nf3, a move that is still relatively unexplored. This reserves the option of kicking the Queen with c4 rather than Nc3 (there is a view that the knight is misplaced on c3, sitting as does in front of the c-pawn). And a tricky line is 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nc3 (notwithstanding the previous comment) Qa5 5.Bb5 when White’s active pieces crowd around the …Qa5 and Ne5-c4 might easily become a threat.

This is an enjoyable and useful DVD by the experienced French grandmaster. His calm and considered presentation effectively communicates the sometimes intricate theory of the Scandinavian, an opening that he clearly knows inside and out. Both methodical and perspicacious throughout, he will undoubtedly give Black players a thorough grounding in the 3…Qa5 Scandinavian. Furthermore, 1.e4 players should be able to glean several ways by which they can fight for an advantage.

The publisher’s description of Strike first with the Scandinavian is here.


Written by P.P.O. Kane

July 10, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Winning in the Chess Opening: 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent

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Winning in the Chess Opening: 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent

By Nikolay Kalinichenko, with the collaboration of Kirill Kuznetsov

New in Chess, 2018

ISBN: 9789056917623

Winning in the Chess Opening: 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent

Every chess game tells a story.

And here every one of the 753 miniature games (the subtitle is an underestimation) carries a moral too: Develop your pieces. Control the centre. Keep your king safe. Pay attention to your opponent’s threats. And so forth.

What is interesting about chess (though it is certainly true for other fields as well, as has been demonstrated by Tversky and Kahneman’s work) is that experts make the same mistakes as novices. So we have Uhlmann greedily grabbing a pawn with his queen and being punished by Tal in characteristically spectacular style: a knight sacrifice followed by a lethal switch of a bishop to its most efficacious diagonal (as it happened, a3-f8) and, well, curtains. This masterpiece being their game at Moscow 1971: a win in 19 moves.

Most world champions (though not Botvinnik, interestingly enough) and plenty of world-class players are represented, from various eras and periods. You have Anderssen, Alekhine and Anand, if I can put it like that. Steinitz has the highest number of games: 16. Surprisingly, perhaps, Glek has several games – and deservedly so. He is a sharp and alert and, on this evidence, attractive player, clearly. There is the famous game attributed to Napoleon, which I remember coming across many years ago in an old library-worn copy of Irving Chernev’s The 1000 Best Short Games of Chess.

The games are arranged by opening, but not only that: there is an introduction to each opening, outlining the ideas behind it and something of its history and background. I have used this book as a teaching resource for a couple of months now and found it be especially useful when working with junior players who know opening principles, but have a rudimentary knowledge of specific standard openings and certainly not an established repertoire. (Indeed, they may be attracted to some openings simply by the name: the Four Knights, say.) The games, as you can imagine, are often quite short and pithy, which is very welcome since juniors can sometimes have a short attention span. All that activity on electronic devices, but alas no Settings screen within their precious noggins where a coach can enable Focus.

When coaching junior players, you can use the book to practice tactics (‘What was the winning move here?’) while learning about various openings (typical piece-placements and plans) and general principles too, because Nikolay Kalinichenko’s perspicacious annotations emphasise sound play. Sometimes a premature attack is beaten back, at other times excessive passivity is at fault. A few games are decided by tricks and traps, which means what? That one player was oblivious to the other’s malign threats. You can use the book as a point of departure in various ways. By talking about chess history and past champions (a great way of engaging junior players and sparking their imagination) or by encouraging juniors to seek out other games by the many fine players featured. All in all, this fine book will help you to provide a liberal chess education to your tender charges.

In such a large, salubriously produced book (of grand dimensions, over 450 pages, a diagram to every game) it is very difficult to avoid typos and I found one, but only one. In game 693 (Kramnik-Beliavsky), in variation A in the note to Black’s thirteenth move, it should surely be …Qf8 that is meant and not …Rf8 as given.

The publisher’s description of Winning in the Chess Opening: 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent is here.



The Open Games for Black

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The Open Games for Black

By Igor Lysyj and Roman Ovetchkin

Chess Stars, 2012

ISBN: 9789548782883

The Open Games for Black

Another excellent opening book from Chess Stars, containing plenty of detailed and original analysis.

Let us say you meet 1.e4 with 1…e5 and you’ve got your defence against the Ruy Lopez sorted. Perhaps, when it comes to the Lopez, you avoid 3…a6 altogether and play one of the defences outlined by Ivan Sokolov in The Ruy Lopez Revisited. Or you might play the venerable Steinitz Defence Deferred, as advocated by Timothy Taylor in Slay the Spanish!. Then again, the sharp Marshall Attack may be more your cup of tea, for which see Milos Pavlovic’s Fighting the Ruy Lopez. Never mind, no matter: the Ruy Lopez is sussed and sorted.

There still remains, however, the question of what to do against White’s other opening systems, and there are a lot of them. How will you meet the King’s Gambit, the Bishop’s Opening, the Ponziani Opening, the Scotch Game, the Giuoco Piano… and all the rest? Think panacea (well, almost) and you’ll have a good idea of what Igor Lysyj and Roman Ovetchkin’s book is all about: they provide defences to all of the above-mentioned systems, as well as others. They seem to have overlooked Mengarini’s Opening (1.e4 e5 2.a3), but apart from that everything has been covered, even Nakamura’s ridiculous 2.Qh5 and the rarely seen Philidor Reversed (2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d3).

As for the author’s repertoire recommendations, there are some interesting choices: Falkbeer’s 2…d5 versus the King’s Gambit; 2…Nc6 (rather than a line involving …c6 and …d5) versus the Bishop’s Opening; and against the Four Knights’ Game (following 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.O-O O-O 6.d3 d6 7.Bg5) the interesting 7…Ne7, an old move revived by Ponomariov. Most attention is paid to the Scotch Game (including the Scotch and Goring Gambits) and the Giuoco Piano (Evans’ Gambit included).

The Open Games for Black is a comprehensive, one-stop shop of defences to openings other than the Ruy Lopez, for those who play 1…e5 as Black. It does a very good and useful job.

The Content’s Page of The Open Games for Black is here.

Arthur Kaufmann: A Chess Biography, 1872-1938

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Arthur Kaufmann

A Chess Biography, 1872-1938

By Olimpiu G. Urcan and Peter Michael Braunwarth

McFarland, 2012

ISBN: 9780786461455

Arthur Kaufmann: A Chess Biography, 1872-1938

While never a professional chessplayer and now little known, Arthur Kaufmann nonetheless made significant contributions to the game.

For a start, there are two important opening variations associated with his name: in the Petroff Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.c4) and the Vienna Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 d5 4.fxe5 Nxe4 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Qe2). For another thing, he was a fine analyst, frequently praised by Marco, who aided the latter in writing his several celebrated tournament books. And he was also a strong player, in his best years perhaps of grandmaster strength. One early game against Englisch, played at Vienna 1896, had a wonderful finish. His best game, though, was probably this victory over Spielmann at Vienna 1914:

1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 e6 4.d4 d5 5.exd5 exd5 6.Be3 c4 7.g3 Nf6 8. Bg2 Be6 9.O-O Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.a3 h6 12.Nf4 Qd7 13.Qd2 Rae8 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.f4 Bd8 16. Kh1 Ba5 17.Bg1 Nd8 18.b4 cxb3 19.cxb3 Nf7 20. b4 Bb6 21. Re2 Nd6 22.Rae1 Rf7 23.Qd3 Qc8 24.Bh3 Rc7 25.Nxd5 Nxd5 26.Rxe6 Rce7 27.Qb3 Rxe6 28. Qxd5 1-0

Some may also be familiar with the consultation game that he and Fahndrich played against Capablanca and Reti in the same year (1914): it is quoted in chapter 4 of Reti’s Modern Ideas in Chess.

This book covers Kaufmann’s chess career and includes over 70 of his games; in addition, there is an outline of his life outside of chess, and that’s fascinating in itself. Our main source here was the great Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler, for the two men struck up a deep friendship when young and corresponded frequently. Some of Kaufmann’s writings, notably an essay on Einstein’s theory of relativity, are alluded to and quoted from also – he had a diverse range of intellectual interests. It is puzzling, then, that he didn’t publish more or produce a substantial philosophical work. One would have thought him well capable of it.

Kaufmann died shortly after the Nazis entered Austria in 1938. He was Jewish, and the authors suggest that the most likely reason for his death was suicide. On the evidence marshalled here, they’re likely correct.

The publishers description of the book is here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

June 13, 2018 at 10:22 am

Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking

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Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking

By Neil McDonald

Batsford, 2004

ISBN: 9780713488944

Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking

Neil McDonald presents 30 modern games – all were played from 1978 to 2002 – and adds a comment to each and every move.

It is a nice idea that has been seen before: Irving Chernev wrote a book along these lines, Logical Chess: Move by Move, some time ago. He may even have created the genre, come to that. While John Nunn’s excellent Understanding Chess Move by Move took a similar tack.

The games are beautiful and instructive and have been chosen to illustrate the variegated splendours of chess. There are smooth positional victories as well as explosive attacks on the king. There are games that serve as models of their type (so: emulate and win), while others are spectacular, original and inimitable (danger: do not enter). The endgame is a prominent feature of a fair few of them. For ease and convenience, the games have been grouped according to opening and, to some extent, theme (same opening = similar middlegames = recurrent themes). Most games open with either 1.e4 or 1.d4.

A difficulty with the book – and with the whole genre – is that there are only a limited number of things that you can say about the opening moves, about 1.e4 and 1.d4, say, or about 3…cxd4 in the open Sicilian, before you begin repeating yourself. When you’ve said of 1.e4 that it frees the queen and king’s bishop, facilitating quick development and early kingside castling, and that the pawn advance occupies the centre and controls the d5 and f5 squares, you are pretty much at a loss as to what to add next.

Hence that McDonald has recourse to flights of fancy, metaphors (If White were seeking to build a house, then 1.e4 is the first stone laid at its foundation), digressions, conceits (the pieces are akin to Dracula entombed in a coffin…), historical waffle and such like rhetorical devices is hardly surprising. And that is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. His notes to 1.e4 never take the form of a haiku though, or an instance of fixed-form poetry (double sestina, anyone?), so maybe he missed a trick there.

This is an excellent collection of beautiful and interesting games and Neil McDonald does a sterling job of elucidating and explaining their finer points.

Another description of the book is here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

June 13, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Benko Gambit: Move by Move

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The Benko Gambit: Move by Move

By Junior Tay

Everyman Chess, 2014

ISBN: 9781781941577

The Benko Gambit: Move by Move

Junior Tay has written an excellent, workmanlike survey of the Benko Gambit.

In presenting the theoretical material, he poses a series of questions which proactively explore your understanding of the opening, and of chess in general. Alongside these questions, scattered throughout the book, there are 40 exercises or test positions in chapter 10 (not all tactical puzzles), which has an excellent title: ‘Benko Dojo Time’.

The fianchetto variation (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3) and the so-called ‘king walk’ variation (7.e4 Bxf1 8.Kxf1) garner most attention, and not without reason. By far, they are the most popular choices. Still, declining the gambit by 4.Nf3 or giving the pawn back by 5.b6 remain viable positional approaches, and both moves require relatively little analytical work. Tay presents a thoroughly worked out black repertoire which takes account of these moves and others.

The Benko Gambit gives Black pressure on the queenside early on, and an initiative that often persists well into the endgame. One practical advantage of the opening is that Black’s position is generally easier to play. On the whole, the investment of a pawn represents good value.

An enjoyable study of what seems (still) to be a sound, positionally-based gambit.

The publisher’s description of the book is here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

June 5, 2018 at 12:53 pm

The 3…Qd8 Scandinavian: Simple and Strong

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The 3…Qd8 Scandinavian: Simple and Strong

By Daniel Lowinger

Russell Enterprises, 2013

ISBN: 9781936490769

The 3...Qd8 Scandinavian: Simple and Strong

An improved Caro-Kann?

Daniel Lowinger makes a good case for a plain bloke-simple line of the Scandinavian (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8), a favourite of GMs Josif Dorfman, Nikola Djukic and David Garcia. He argues that White’s knight is, or may in time become, misplaced on c3 and will probably have to move later. Therefore the loss of time involved in retreating the queen to its original square will be recuperated.

There are a few reasons why this line is so little regarded. Apart from the apparent violation of principle, which applies to the Scandinavian as a whole (‘Don’t bring the queen out too early’), there’s the thought that surely there’s a more useful square for the queen than …d8. It hardly looks sensible at first sight, and one might well christen this the Yo-Yo Variation. Also, Bobby Fischer’s speedy demolition of both Robatsch at Varna in 1963 (that game lasted 20 moves) and Addison at Palma de Mallorca in 1970 (a slightly longer 24 moves) seemingly makes a convincing case for the prosecution. But improvements and resources have been found for Black since then.

Pertinent here is Bent Larsen’s interesting comment (quoted in the book) that the Scandinavian is an improved version of the Caro-Kann. Black at once exchanges d-pawn for e-pawn and so arrives at a Caro-Kann pawn structure.

It is an engagingly written monograph and Lowinger gives you a good understanding of the opening. He presents Black with at least two options against White’s main fifth move alternatives (following 4.d4 Nf6): 5.Bc4, 5.Nf3 and 5.Bg5. Other less critical moves are covered also. By the end, you’ll likely be convinced that Black’s position is solid and sound, if not always especially exciting.

The publisher’s description of the book is here.