The Scotch Game for White

The Scotch Game for White

By Vladimir Barsky

Chess Stars, 2009

ISBN: 978-9548782739

The Scotch Game for White

Those who don’t have the time or the energy to learn all there is to know about the Ruy Lopez (and, quite frankly, who does?) might wish to turn their attention toward the Scotch Game.

The Scotch Game (arising after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4) offers White many advantages: a natural development of his forces, an early spatial superiority and greater central control. Before Kasparov employed the opening, most opening authorities (such as, for example, Paul Keres) held that 3.d4 opened up the position too early, needlessly dissipating the tension; 3.Bb5 was much the preferred move. But take a look at some of the players who have adopted the Scotch in recent years: Ivanchuk, Radjabov, Morozevich and Carlsen. They’re not the kind of customers who’d readily seek out a simple position, gladly settle for a draw or play an innocuous opening. It is only because the Scotch, while solid, has a real drop of poison that such super-GMs choose to play it.

Just study Vladimir Barsky’s excellent book and you will be sure to agree with this assessment. There is full, comprehensive coverage of all Black’s options and against the main one, 4 … Nf6, the author gives three lines:

  • Mieses’ 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5, very much favoured by Kasparov
  • 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d5 7.e5, a sharp line involving a pawn sacrifice
  • And finally 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d5 7.0-0, with a slightly better endgame for White in prospect

Don’t be surprised, incidentally, if Soloviov’s 12.Nxg7! (on page 68) leads to the permanent abandonment of Steinitz’s 4 … Qh4. Gutman’s magisterial 4 … Qh4 in the
Scotch (2001) makes no mention of this move (see page 239 of that book), and it seems a genuinely significant discovery.

The publisher’s description of The Scotch Game for White, a solid survey of an opening that has been played at the highest level but is still underestimated, can be read here.


My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black

My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black

By Vincent Moret

New in Chess, 2017

ISBN: 9789056917463
 My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black

This thoroughly thought-out book presents a black opening repertoire for novice chessplayers keen to chalk up attacking victories.

When meeting 1.e4, the author’s recommendation is that you should play the Scandinavian with 2…Nf6 (so 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6), leading in due course to the Icelandic Gambit (3.c4 e6) or the Portuguese Variation (3.d4 Bg4), which can become a gambit too, of course, after say 4.f3 Bf5 5.c4 e6.

The Albin Counter-gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5), a line played on occasion by the young Boris Spassky, is the author’s remedy to the Queen’s Gambit. Against the other queen’s pawn games (all of them!), as well as against the Reti (1.Nf3 d5), the author recommends a Stonewall set-up (pawns at …d5, …f5, …c6, …e6; knight at …f6 and bishop at …d6: you castle, play …Ne4, …Rf6-h6, …Qh4 and mate! Simple as.).

On 1.c4, the English Opening, Black plays 1…e5 and a sort of Grand Prix Counter-attack (…f5, Nf6, Nc6, Bc5 or …b4 or …e7, etc.). Offbeat and irregular openings are well covered too (e.g. From’s Gambit against Bird’s Opening, naturally enough) and I particularly liked one of the author’s three (!) sensible suggestions against the Sokolsky: 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Qd6!? 3.a3 (3.b5 Qb4 picks up a pawn) e5: Black develops his pieces on sensible squares while supporting his pawn centre. Uhlmann essayed these moves in a game played in 1980; Black can hardly fail to get a playable game.

All in all, this ‘ready-to-go package for ambitious beginners’ creates a positive impression. Take up the gambit lines and you will have active piece play for the price of a pawn, while the attacking set-ups (the Stonewall and the Grand Prix) are aggressive and not at all easy to defend against. These openings are principled and lively and exciting to play, requiring also that you learn how to develop an initiative and plan an attack, how to spot a combination and calculate accurately. So they will develop you as a players too. They will yield victories against lower-rated players and valuable learning experiences against higher-rated players as well – because to win your opponent will, equally, need to show imagination, positional play, strategic skills and accuracy.

One could quibble and say that, objectively, the Scandinavian with 2…Nf6 is probably less good than 2…Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6, a line made fashionable by Tiviakov. Indeed, Sergey Kasparov in his recent Understanding the Scandinavian (2015) states that ‘2…Nf6 definitely doesn’t lead to equality’. But this is beside the point: the openings that strong grandmasters play are sometimes not appropriate for beginners, and vice versa. This is a terrific repertoire book for beginners.

The publisher’s description of My First Chess Opening Repertoire for Black by Vincent Moret can be read here.

The Colle-Koltanowski System

The Colle-Koltanowski System: Deceptive Peace behind the Stonework

This book is an essential reference work if you play the Colle-Koltanowski System.

To be clear, it is a monograph on the Colle-Koltanowski System (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3), which should not, of course, be confused with the Colle-Zukertort System (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3) – as though anyone would be silly enough to do that.  The very idea is absurd! The Colle-Koltanowski is a ‘plain bloke speaking on a radio phone-in’ kind of opening: it makes a sensible argument, initially at any rate. White plumbs for quiet, straightforward development and will only later turn his (or her) attention to active operations in the centre, typically with e3-e4 or Nf3-e5. Even so, the opening has more than a drop of poison and has produced its fair share of sparkling miniatures.

There are five chapters in total and the format is to present most of the detailed analysis within a series of annotated games, and then to end with a summary of variations, findings and evaluations.  In chapter 1, Bronznik devotes close to 100 pages to lines involving …Nbd7.  Play goes 5…Nbd7 6.Nbd2 and now the king’s bishop can go to …d6 (which is covered in games 1-14) or …e7 (games 15-21), or Black can take a different tack entirely and play 6…Qc7 in order to forestall Nf3-e5 at the earliest opportunity.  If Black goes 6…Be7, White will have quite a difficult job to get an advantage out of the opening.

Bronznik considers the other knight development, 5…Nc6, in the second chapter.  Against this, White usually takes on c5 and pushes e3-e4, so it seems immaterial whether the bishop is developed on …d6 or …e7 initially (for example: 6.0-0 Bd6 [or 6…Be7] 7.Nbd2 0-0 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.e4, etc.).  Yet 6…Be7 would allow an early Nf3-e5, while 6…Bd6 may well leave the bishop exposed to 7.Nbd2 0-0 8.Qe2!? and an immediate e3-e4 advance; without an exchange on c5 first, that is.  As with the more mainstream openings, there are subtleties here too: there always are.

These first two chapters are quite substantial, clocking in at 93 pages and 73 pages respectively, and the theory of both lines seems to be well-developed.  Later chapters, however, are slighter. Chapter 3 (13 pages) examines lines where Black plays an early …b6, followed by …Bb7 or perhaps …Ba6, the latter move made possible with the queen’s knight on its home square.  Chapter 4 (8 pages) looks at an early …c4 for Black, including the line 5.0-0 c4 6.Be2.  An important variation, for it raises the question of whether White can defer the choice of c3 or b3 for a further move.  Finally, Chapter 5 (17 pages) considers several ways by which Black can avoid the Colle (of either variety).  Let us be clear: it is not advisable to play the Colle-Koltanowski against all set-ups (such as the KID or the QID); you need more than one gun in your arsenal.

Bronznik provides plenty of original analysis and suggested improvements throughout in his notes to the games.  He also discusses certain common strategic and tactical motifs arising out of the opening, such as the queenside pawn majority, the isolated queen’s pawn, the Pillsbury Attack and the Bxh7+ sacrifice.  It is all very interesting, useful and insightful.  His book ends with a bibliography and a comprehensive index of variations: efficient organisation, you’d expect no less from a German publisher.

Speaking of which, the Schachverlag Kania website seems to be down at moment, but a description of The Colle-Koltanowski System: Deceptive Peace behind the Stonework can be found at the New in Chess website here.

Book Details

The Colle-Koltanowski System: Deceptive Peace behind the Stonework

By Valerij Bronznik

Schachverlag Kania, 2004

ISBN: 3931192253

The English: Move by Move

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Just because you may have been raised on 1.e4 (or 1.P-K4), it doesn’t mean that other openings must remain forever foreign to you.

Rather than offer a detailed repertoire based around 1.c4, Steve Giddins aims instead to explain the most important positional and strategic ideas underpinning the English Opening: the key one being to pressurize the central light squares, in particular d5. And in this respect he succeeds admirably.

Like other books in the Move by Move series, this one uses a Question and Answer format. The register of the prose is more conversational than usual, I’d say, in keeping with the author’s style.  Yet even so, it’s a concentrated conversation: the discussion is always pertinent and to the point. You learn a lot.

All the main variations are covered in a mere five chapters and, although not a necessary component of Giddins’ remit, there’s plenty of detailed and up-to-date theory, notably in chapter 3, whose topic is the Mikenas System (1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4).  There are 26 illustrative games in total, with a fair few more in the notes.

At the end, in a final sixth chapter, Giddins gives some advice about constructing an English Opening repertoire.  Here, it is undoubtedly useful to be familiar with some 1.d4 lines, to use 1.c4 in part as a transpositional tool: purely English lines are not especially effective against e.g. a King’s Indian set-up.  Quite a dilemma apparently arises after 1.c4 e5 (or 1…Nf6): should White play 2.Nc3 or 2.g3?  Giddins explores this question in some (some might say unhealthy) detail, without coming to any definite conclusion.  OK, it’s not a moral dilemma along the lines discussed by Julian Nida-Rumelin at a recent Wittgenstein conference, but it is important if you intend to take up 1.c4.

Those for whom English is not their native tongue will find in Giddins’ book an accessible and indeed quite excellent introduction to the opening. It is an ESOL primer par excellence, and will set you on the road to fluency in no time at all.

The publisher’s description of the book can be read here.

Book Details

The English: Move by Move

By Steve Giddins

Everyman Chess, 2012

ISBN: 9781857446999

The Modern Philidor Defence

The Modern Philidor Defence

Barsky’s book is an excellent study of the Hanham Variation of the Philidor Defence in its modern guise.

When it is reached, in other words, via the Pirc move order: 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 (the author considers other moves as well, such as 3.Bd3 and 3.f3) e5. Although the opening is sound and easy to learn, it gives rise to a fair range of complicated and interesting positions.

There is the queenless middlegame that occurs after 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8; both players are still able to set problems for their opponent here. There are the various double-edged options for White, such as Shirov’s bayonet thrust (4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.g4!?) and the lines involving a bishop sacrifice on f7 and the king’s knight landing on e6 (two ways in which this can happen are 5.Bc4 Be7 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Ng5+ and 6.Ng5 0-0 7.Bxf7+ Rxf7 8.Ne6). Black can equalise here, rest assured, but only if he defends (and in time counterattacks) accurately. Finally, there is the complex and strategically rich middlegame that arises in the mainline of the opening (that is, after 5.Bc4 Be7 6.0-0 0-0 7.Re1 or 7.Qe2, etc.). The best player, assuming preparations are equal, is certain to come out on top.

Alekhine used to play the Hanham Philidor in his early days and some grandmasters who essay the opening now are Ivanchuk, Morozevich and in particular Bologan: 6 of the 50 illustrative games in this book see Bologan taking the black pieces.

To end, it might be helpful to compare The Modern Philidor Defence to The Black Lion, a book which I will review shortly on this site. Naturally, there is some overlap of material between the two books and in many key lines (involving Bxf7+, say) similar conclusions are reached. The Black Lion gives Black the further option of 3…Nbd7, so avoiding the exchange of queens after 3…e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8; however, Black need not fear this simplifying line. But The Black Lion focuses on Marco’s antiquated and, to my mind, not very sensible plan of …Nd7-f8-g6–f4, whereas The Modern Philidor Defence presents mainlines that are more positionally based, sounder and (in my view) more mature. On a bare body count, the Hanham lines in Barsky’s book have more grandmaster adherents. And the ubiquitous ‘branding’ of The Black Lion (it is the Philidor!), an irritating feature of the book, is wholly absent from The Modern Philidor Defence.

Barsky’s fine study ably allows you to add the Hanham Philidor to your repertoire of defences against 1.e4.

You can read a pdf sample from the book here.

Book Details

The Modern Philidor Defence

By Vladimir Barsky

Chess Stars, 2010

ISBN: 9789548782777

The Complete Hedgehog, Volume 1

The Complete Hedgehog, Volume 1

In this book, the first of two volumes, Sergey Shipov examines the Hedgehog when it is used as a defence against the English Opening.

On 1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 c5 3.g3 e6 4.Nf3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 Be7, he mainly looks at 7.d4 cxd4 8.Qxd4 (8.Nxd4 gives Black a comfortable position and easy equality after 8…Bxg2) and 7.Re1 (with the plan of playing e4 and only then d4 and of meeting …cxd4 with Nxd4: the pawn on e4 making it impossible for Black to now exchange bishops); and he touches very briefly on 7.b3. His coverage can fairly be described as exhaustive, for over 250 pages are devoted to 7.d4 (which is Part 1 of the book) and just a little less than that number is allocated to 7.Re1 (Part 2).

It is clear that Shipov is an advocate, or perhaps more accurately still a zealot, when it comes to the Hedgehog; but he gives White a fair shout. His analyses and evaluations have integrity and approach objectivity. As he writes, ‘I love the Hedgehog dearly, but the truth means more to me.’ The story is told through a slue of deeply annotated games, where he looks at the genesis and history of each variation and not just its current theoretical status. This approach aids strategic understanding and it adds as well an intellectual excitement to the work, as though one were alongside these pioneers (Uhlmann, Andersson, Ljubojevic and others) as they grappled with the problems of playing the opening as White and/or Black.

Shipov demands much of his readers. He doesn’t simplify matters unnecessarily, and in fact he seems sometimes to delight in making things even more problematical than they need to be. You’d like to urge, on occasion: Give it a rest, Sergey lad, don’t think too deeply! But he gives a lot to the reader. His writing has wit and candour, and he clearly has a deep understanding of the opening and an enthusiasm for it. Along the way, Shipov acquaints us with the philosophy behind the Hedgehog, an inkling of which can be garnered from Sergey Makarichev’s musings on the origin of the opening, as quoted on page 39 of Revolution in the ‘70s by Garry Kasparov:

There is also another version of how the legendary system [the Hedgehog] was born. Long, long ago, back in the 1960s, one of the future grandmasters – perhaps the young Ljubomir Ljubojevic – was so captivated by the play of Inter Milan under the management of Helenio Hererra, that he firmly decided: ‘When I grow up, I will think up something similar in chess. My pieces, just like the Italian footballers, will completely concede space, but at the same time, when standing in defence, they will be constantly pressing, and when my opponent hesitates, even for an instant, they will punish him with a deadly counterattack.’

Shipov makes the point that, to play the Hedgehog well, you need to play purposefully and accurately, paying close attention to the smallest detail. You need always to be aware of your opponent’s possibilities as well as your own. Of course, you need to do this anyway in chess, but with the Hedgehog these qualities are accentuated because there is such constricted space in which to operate and manoeuvre. He concludes that the opening breeds good habits and makes you a better chess player and, no doubt, a nobler person.

As a final comment, let me praise the terrific translation by James Marfia; he has done much to make this such a lively and vibrant book and to give Sergey Shipov an English, albeit an American English, voice. It is impossible to recommend the book too highly.

If the Hedgehog has a poster boy, it is the game Polugaevsky-Ftacnik, Lucerne 1982. It is the subject of a lecture by Mato Jelic which can be seen here.

Book Details

The Complete Hedgehog, Volume 1

By Sergey Shipov

Mongoose Press, 2009

ISBN: 9780979148217

Play 1.b3!

Play 1.b3!

Ilya Odessky’s book is an ode to the Nimzo-Larsen Attack, an opening that he calls ‘a Friend for Life’.

Mind you, the book is also something of a lament; a tone of playful pessimism pervades much of it. Odessky seems to regard an opening (or 1.b3 in particular) as akin to a football team you’ve followed all your life, or an unfaithful wife that you love and cannot divorce. You are honour-bound to give your support. You absorb the small hurts because, just occasionally, there are resplendent moments of joy.

This is not a typical opening book, as the chapter titles alone make clear. Just to give three examples: ‘Wanderer, There is No Path Through’ is chapter 2 and it is concerned with a promising variation which, apparently, leads only to equality; ‘Don’t Interfere’, chapter 7, is a rubbishing of the Dutch: the title is a riff on Petrosian’s remark that ‘if your opponent wants to play the Dutch Defence, you shouldn’t try to prevent him’; and the 14th chapter is entitled ‘Casus’, a Latin term which refers to ‘an action, outwardly appearing criminal, but which is free of any element of blame’. It is about a principled yet trappy variation where Black often comes to harm.

Rather than presenting an exhaustive survey of Black’s possible responses to 1.b3, Odessky examines closely a number of key variations and positions. One chapter looks at the fashionable line 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bd6!? (intending …0-0, …Re8 and …Bf8); another explores the curious Litus Gambit (1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Bg4 3.f3 Bh5 4.e4!?). Two chapters provide a substantial examination of the Nimzowitsch Attack (1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 c5 3.e3 Nc6 4.Bb5). Three chapters focus on Petrosian’s experiences with 1.b3, and these are undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the book.

Odessky is a genuinely engaging and entertaining writer and Steve Giddins’ smooth translation ably captures his mock-melancholic voice. As an introduction to the Nimzo-Larsen Attack, this book cannot be bettered, and the author has many interesting things to say about positional play, chess strategy and the difficulty of playing good chess. Ultimately, the book is as much about these matters as an opening which, we are made to understand, has been the bane and joy of the author’s chess career (‘Don’t Grieve!’ is the title of the last chapter, incidentally: No, don’t!).

Book Details

Play 1.b3!

By Ilya Odessky

New in Chess , 2008

ISBN: 9789056912567

You can read a description of Play 1.b3! by Ilya Odessky at Amazon here.

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

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

The Petrosian System Against the QID

an excellent monograph on the Petrosian system, still reckoned to be White’s best response to the Queen’s Indian Defence.

The Petrosian system is introduced by White’s distinctive fourth move in the sequence: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3. Part 1 of the book covers the consequences of 4 … c5 and 4 … Ba6, but the main focus is on 4 … Bb7 (Parts 2-11). A final section (Part 12) focuses on gambit lines. Surprisingly perhaps, the purpose of 4.a3 is to fight for the e4 square. White spends a tempo to prevent … Bb4 in response to Nc3, which enables the knight to support e2-e4.

After the usual 4 … Bb7 5.Nc3 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5, the first player has three options. The older 7.e3 generally leads to quiet positional play; the e-pawn will reach e4 in two moves, not one. The modern 7.Qc2, aiming for an immediate e2-e4, is much sharper. White will meet … Nxc3 with bxc3, capturing toward the centre, and castle kingside after Bd3. Sharpest of all, mind, is the Dementiev system, characterised by 7.Bd2. White aims to play Qc2, 0-0-0 and a later e2-e4, recapturing on c3 with the bishop. If Black responds with … c5 at some point, as he really should, the situation can get very dicey for both sides. Whatever option he chooses, White can usually count on a smooth harmonious development.

Each section has the same format: ‘Main Ideas’ to give the gist – a general overview – of a particular variation or system; ‘Move by Move’ to present the analytical nitty-gritty. This format strikes me as an effective, user-friendly way to set out the theoretical material, though some complete illustrative games would have been welcome. The prose is fine overall, though the translation does read peculiarly in a few places: ‘that’ where ‘this’ would be appropriate, the omission of an indefinite article here and there. There is plenty of helpful explanatory text alongside the often heavy-weight analysis and a conclusion ends each section.

That Beliavsky is the co-author is a virtual guarantee of quality, and so it turns out. All in all, this is a balanced and authoritative examination of the Petrosian system.

You can view a pdf extract (contents page and foreword) from The Petrosian System Against the QID here.

Book Details

The Petrosian System Against the QID

By Alexander Beliavsky and Adrian Mikhalchishin

Chess Stars, 2008

ISBN: 9789548782685