Thursday, January 18, 2007

My Books

I have fairly recently co-authored two chess books for Gambit Publications. In September 2005 “Win with the London System”, written together with Croatian GM Vlatko Kovacevic, arrived from the printers. It was generally well received, although quite a few reviewers didn’t try to hide their contempt for the ‘dull’ subject. For some reason the London System isn’t considered a serious attempt for White to fight for his opening advantage. I find this attitude somewhat peculiar. It may be true that the London isn’t fighting for a structural or central advantage - rather White is relying on quick development and harmonious deployment of his forces. But that could be said about quite many 1.e4 lines too.

My next book, "The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black", which will be released in a few weeks, is based upon the Zaitsev variation in the Closed Ruy Lopez. This in most respects is an entirely different work. Actually one of my main goals when looking for a fitting subject was to find something as diametrically opposite of my previous project as possible. I believe I succeeded quite nicely:

The London book presents a repertoire for White starting 1.d4.
The Ruy Lopez book is a guide for Black against 1.e4.

The London book was on an opening that I felt was underestimated and needed a serious theoretical work in order to become a little more accepted.
This time the subject is one of the most popular mainlines among the chess elite for the last 30 years. The main challenge was not to find new ideas but to understand the ideas of the game’s greatest geniuses.

My first co-author was a Croatian veteran grandmaster who I have never met in person.
My co-author this time, Leif Johannessen, is a grandmaster too, but he is a young Norwegian player from my chess club who I have known since he was a small boy.

GM Kovacevic has been playing the London system for a life-long chess career (along with most other queen’s pawn openings without a quick c4).
GM Johannessen only recently started meeting 1.e4 with 1...e5, and took the book project as an opportunity to add a new opening to his repertoire.

For GM Kovacevic English is something like his forth language. While I could easily understand his meaning, I don’t think I left one single of his sentences unchanged in the book.
GM Johannessen’s grasp of the English language is at least as good as mine, but his prose still is quite different from mine, and only the help of Gambit’s editor made the style generally consistent.

So for my personal development, I believe I succeeded quite well - this is about as far from a ‘sequel’ as it is possible to come. But whether the buyers and reviewers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, remains to be seen.


Anonymous said...


I have been playing the London System for many years now and I was thrilled to see that somebody has finally written a good book on it. I've gone thru your Win With the London System book and I have several questions about the book. I'll ask the first question now and I will ask you the other questions soon in a later blog.
After 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 c5 3 e3 Qb6 4 Nc3 e6 you recommend 5 Bxb8 which in the main line leads to 5...Rxb8 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ Kxd7 8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.Qd2 Qxb2 10.Rb1 Qa3 11.Rb3 Qa6 12.Ne2 Nf6 13.0-0 and now I can't find how white should preceed after a move like 13... Ke7. I asked IM Jeremy Silman and he says "The position after 13...Ke7 seems to be very much in Black's favor, whose King appears safe while also retaining a solid extra pawn AND a structural edge on the queenside." He instead suggests 5 Nb5. Also, after 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 c5 3 e3 Qb6 Nc3 Nf6 you recommend 5 Nf3 which transposes to a line that is pretty good for black. So after 4...Nf6, why not 5 Nb5 again?

Sverre Johnsen said...

Dear Anonymous,

I am glad you liked the book. It certainly was an honest attempt to revive the London System.

I will comment on your questions in a new blog entry - hopefully some day this week. However, you must understand that I have to thread carefully in this matter for at least two reasons:
1) The book was a shared effort between me and my co-author Vlado Kovacevic, with him as the main analyst. I am a bit reluctant to comment upon the analysis without consulting him (which I may certainly do, but I know he is busy writing an endgame book for Quality Chess Books).
2) I have a contract with Gambit Publishing which for understandable reasons prohibits me to publish an "update" of the book of any kind. This is particularly relevant because of the German version of the book which is due for December which will be translated but not updated (except for a few very minor corrections).

Anonymous said...


In my first blog entry, I said I had several questions about your Win With the London System book and that I would ask you the first question then and ask you the other questions soon in a later blog. Now I'm back to ask you the other questions I have about the book. You haven't answered my first question yet, so I don't know if you will be able to answer these questions, but I decided to ask you them in case you are able to. I saw your blog entry saying that you have to thread carefully in this matter, so I will understand if you wont be able to answer my questions.

After 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Nf6 3 e3 c5 4 c3 Bf5 you give two moves for white, 5 Nf3 and 5 Qb3, but what's wrong with 5 dxc5?

After 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Bf5 3 c4 c6 4 e3 e6 you recommend 5 Nc3, but what's wrong with delaying Nc3, in favor of 5 Qb3 Qb6 6 c5 Qxb3 7 axb3 Nd7 8 b4 a6 9 Nd2 with the idea 9... Rc8 10 Nb3 Be7 11 Na5

After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bf4 g6 3 e3 Bg7 4 Nf3 0-0 5 Be2 d6 6 0-0 Nfd7 7 h3 e5 8 Bh2 f5 9 c4 Nc6 10 Nc3 g5 11 dxe5 now you only cover black responding with 11... Ndxe5, but what should white do against 11...dxe5?

Sverre Johnsen said...

My apologies for not following up my promise. Your first question was quite tricky and I have been busy for a week. Now, with two deadlines approaching, I will have little spare time for at least two more weeks. Therefore my blog updates in the nearest future will only be items that take little research and little analysis.

However, I appreciate your interest and will do my best to help. And - without having done any analysis at all - it seems that your last three questions will be easier for me to comment upon than your first one.

Anonymous said...


Do you know that a new book has come out on the London System? It's called Das London-System and it is by Markus Schmücker. You can find out information about it on the niggemann website.

Sverre Johnsen said...

Yes, I am aware of the book. I ordered it from my chess book dealer almost three weeks ago but there has been a delay so I have not seen it yet. It will be interesting to see what kind of book it is, and I will write some words about it as soon as I have had a look.

Carl Tillotson said...

Hi Sverre,

Having not played Chess for 5 years, and having been an avid London player - the old Soltis book - I saw your book and brought immediately.

One line I did try out, and it worked very well for me, only because Black chose the wrong continuation was the following.

It's a nice win, and I am sure plenty of mistakes (especially when I have not played for 5 years, it was also a 15blitz game) but goes to indicate it is a playable line (albeit a little scary!)

1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c5 3. e3 Nc6 4. c3 Qb6 5. Qb3 c4 6. Qc2 Bf5 7. Qxf5 Qxb2 8. Qxd5 Qxa1 9. Qb5 e5 10. Bxe5 (10. Qxb7 Nd8 (10... Nge7 11. Qxa8+ Nd8 12. Qe4) 11. Qb5+) 10... Nge7 11. Bxc4 f6 12. Bg3 b6 13. Ne2 Kd8 14. O-O Na5 15. Bd5 Rc8
16. Nd2 1-0

alainlietard said...

Congratulations for your book.
I bought it a couple of days ago and I'm very happy with it.
To study it with facility, it will be interesting to have a pgn file.
Is it possible ?

Sverre Johnsen said...

Hi Carl,

Nice game! 13...Kd8 was a mistake but according to Rybka your position may well have been winning since 10...Nge7 (10...Bb4! is apparently critical).

Sverre Johnsen said...


You don't specify which book you bought but the answer is the same for both (London and Ruy Lopez):

My contract clearly states that only Gambit may publish the electronic material on which the books are based. I don't think they are planning to publish anything but printed books.

However, the London System is a part of my current repertoire. So when I find the time, I will update my pgn-files for the London System with new games and analysis and scrutinize the lines with new software. This will eventually result in files so different from the originals that there will be no contract issues. These files I may decide to share with a very few trusted Londoners.

I don't plan to do the same for the Zaitsev mainlines as I don't have the time to maintain such a theoretical repertoire. But possibly I will update the ...Qd7 lines and White's early deviations.

alainlietard said...

Thank you for your answer.
You don't say where to find your opening repertoire (pgn file)
Thank you

Sverre Johnsen said...

I am sorry if I didn't express myself clearly: My pdf-files are only on my PC. I suppose mr. Kovacevic has an almost identical set of files on his PC. Come to think of it, he is more likely to have updated his analysis than me as he is an active tournament player.

For the moment I am not at liberty to share these files with anybody. When I have updated them so that they no longer have any resemblance with the original files for the London book, I may decide to share them with a few selected London players. In that case I suppose I will send the files by e-mail.

alainlietard said...

Thank you, I understand what you mean.
I hope to receive your file as soon as possible.
Thank you

Chuck Kinzie said...

I just received your book, "Win with the London", in the mail on Friday. I've been playing the London System in tournaments off and on for over twenty years. The book seems excellent so far, and I think that 2 Bf4 appears to be a better second move than 2 Nf3 for the die-hard London player. It seems to give White more options against certain Black responses. Thanks to you and Mr. Kovacevic for writing the book. It seems to be an improvement over Soltis' "The London System", which has long been one of my favorite opening books.

cma6 said...

I've been working my work through "The Ruy Lopez: a Guide for Black".
Do you have downloadable game files so that we can play through the games in the book with Chess Base?

Sverre Johnsen said...


No, I don't. Or rather, I have but my contract with Gambit states that I cannot share these.

On the other hand I don't think any of the games are hard to find in a standard games database (e.g. Megabase or Bigbase). Feel free to notify me if there is a game that is particularly hard to locate and I will see if I can help.

I will return with some thoughts on online products (pgn or pdf) in a blog entry.