Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Some More Ruy Lopez Reviews

I am afraid to bore my readers with endless reviews of my books, but I am quite busy these days, and one easy way to fill a blog entry is to comment upon what others have to say.

Today I noticed three new review extracts at Gambit's page on the Ruy Lopez book:

  • The quote from Simen Agdestein in the Norwegian newspaper VG isn't really a translation of anything Simen wrote in his column. But he was quite enthusiastic, so in a way it sums up his review quite nicely.
  • I tried for some minutes to work out what really is, but didn't come much closer. I don't know what 'NSG' is short for and I am not sure what their ambition is, but I will try again later. This may well become a good (and extensive) chess review site.
    Also their review is a bit mysterious. You can find it under 'NSG Reviews' (but seemingly not under 'chess books'). Roughly half of the text is taken from Gambit's own advertisment while the other half is positive enough but not very specific. And how does their rating system work? 9.8 out of 10 seems very close to perfect but I will have to check out how many books get low scores (are there any '2.1' or '3.4' ratings?).
  • I must also admit that I don't know anything about 'Open File' or Munroe Morrison. I assume it must be a paper based chess magazine of some kind and have found quite a few quotes from their reviews in other Gambit book advertisments. I would appreciate it very much if a reader would enlighten me.
    It is very nice to see that Leif's preface is so well received. We were a bit worried that his lack of Ruy Lopez experience would be held against him (or us). But it seems that most readers accept that a GM has valuable insights to offer even on a subject he hasn't practiced in hundreds of tournament games.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Retrogames

My first two retrograde game puzzles have already been cracked (see the comments in my entry "Something Entirely Different"), but surprisingly nobody has suggested any solution to the ChessBase nut. That may be because it is considerably harder to solve but also because I didn't really ask for solutions. Be that as it may be, I will repeat the information provided and offer what in my opinion is a related task:

1) Nunn's ChessBase puzzle 7: Construct a legal game that ends with (the black move) 5...Rh1 mate. Note that the last move is not a capture.

2) Related puzzle: Construct a legal game that opens 1.e4 and ends with (the black move) 5...NxR (knight takes rook) mate.

I like to have at least one diagram in my entries whenever natural so here is a nut where the final position is the main key:

3) Construct a legal game that ends with this position after EXACTLY four moves (that is eight half moves, four by White and four by Black).

This kind of short games where you are supposed to reconstruct the entire game by some sparse hints are often called "Shortest proof games". I am not sure that the diagram challenge really belongs in this category, as it is definitely no challenge to reach this position in three moves (six half moves) e.g.: 1.e4 e6 2.Bc4 c6 3.Bxe6 dxe6.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Book Plans and Dreams

I occasionally am questioned about my future (chess) book plans. I have even had a few quite clear recommendations about fitting themes for a next book. This interest is much appreciated, but I am not likely to become a very prolific chess writer. There is not a lot of money in chess books, and although it contributes to making chess a very affordable hobby for me, my writing mostly is about self development and fulfilling some private ambitions. Presently my plans are not at all clear, but there still are a few books that I would like to write:

  • I would like to expand and update my old booklet in Norwegian "Vinn med 1.e4" (Win with 1.e4), so that it becomes a 'real book', not just a booklet. It's a pity that the Norwegian chess market probably is too small to make it economically viable.
  • I want to write at least one more book on opening theory for Gambit Publications - preferably on a defence for Black against 1.d4, so that my books taken together would cover most of a complete opening repertoire (something for White, something against 1.e4 and something against 1.d4). The challenge will be to find a good subject and a good co-author. Some ideas are beginning to materialize, and I hope to return to this project in a week or two. As for why I would like Gambit to be my publisher, that is also a theme to which I will return in a later entry.
  • I would like to make a really nice looking hard-cover book (or even better a two-volume set) in English for beginning and inexperienced chess players. Mostly for technical reasons this kind of large format books with plenty of illustrations are often translated to many languages. I don't know the details but I assume this is because the illustrations and the text are printed separately, and the illustrations make up most of the costs. Without really knowing, I suspect that this is the only type of chess books that really could make some money for the author. I have seen a lot of very nice looking books in this category, and most of them also very adequately deliver what they promise. Still I believe there is room for improvement - not so much when it comes to chess knowledge as to presentation and didactics. The challenge will be to convince a major publisher that I am the ideal author.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Greet on the Norwegian

After having demonstrated fairly convincingly that 10...Qd7 in the main-line of the Norwegian variation (after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5 6.0-0 d6 7.d4 Nxb3 8.axb3 f6 9.Nc3 Bb7 10.Nh4) is at best difficult for Black, Greet in his "Play the Ruy Lopez" moves on to Black's other major option:
This may be Black's most natural way of facing the Qh5+ threat. However, I have always thought it inferior to 10...Qd7 as I quite early was taught that the black queen needed access to f7, and this knight move obviously interferes her direct route.
Greet recommends this move, which probably is stronger than 11.f4 b4 12.Nd5 Nxd5 13.exd5 Bxd5 when Black should be able to defend, e.g. 14.Qe2 Qd7 (14...Qe7?!) 15.fxe5 dxe5 16.dxe5 0-0-0 (16...Qb5!? 17.Qf2 fxe5 18.Nf5 g6 19.Ne3 Be7 may be best) 17.Qxa6+ Bb7 18.Qc4 fxe5 19.Be3 and White had some advantage in Vihinen-O.Moen, Gausdal 1994.
11...fxe5?! 12.f4 gives White a dangerous attack.
The somewhat less natural 12...Qc8!? may transpose and in some lines even improve: 13.Be3 (13.Rd1 h5 14.h3 Qe6 simply transposes to the 12...Qd7 line with 14.Be3) 13...h5 14.h3 Qe6
and now a split:
a) 15.Rfd1 g5 16.Nd5 0-0-0 17.Nxe7+ Bxe7 18.Qf5 Qxf5 19.Nxf5 Rxd1+ 20.Rxd1 Bf8 21.f3 h4 was better for Black in Nyysti-L.Johannessen, Gothenburg 2003.
b) After 15.Bc5!? Kf7 (Heinrich-H.Martin corr 1971) Greet gives 16.Rfd1 when Black still is far from equality.
13.Rd1 Qe6 14.Nd5
14.Be3 h5 (14...g5 15.Nxb5 axb5 16.Qh5+ Qf7 17.Rxa8+ Bxa8 18.Rd8+ Kxd8 19.Qxf7 gave White a clear advantage in Spassky-Taimanov, URS-ch Moscow 1955) 15.Bc5 Qg4 16.Qxg4 hxg4 17.Bxe7 Bxe7 18.Nf5 g6 19.Ne3 Bd6 20.Nxg4+= Langeweg-S.Johannessen, Beverwijk 1965.
14...Nxd5 15.exd5 Qf7
After 15...Qd7 16.Nf5, Greet concludes that White is slightly better. This seems to be supported by the game 16...a5 17.c4 a4 18.bxa4 bxa4 19.b3 c6 20.Rxa4 Rxa4 21.bxa4 cxd5 22.cxd5 Qxa4 23.Bb2 += Chambers-Draba, corr 2002.

So far Greet's coverage has been quite convincing, and now he just manages to get his main analytical point right as he informs the reader that Anand recommends 16.Nf5!, when e.g., 16...g6 17.Nh6 Bxh6?! 18.Bxh6 offers White the better chances.

However, for those wishing to see the conclusion of Anand-Agdestein Baguio City 1987, it now gets quite confusing as Greet claims that the game continued 16.Be3?! Be7?! 17.Nf5! Rd8 and now the impossible 18.Be3. If Greet instead had given 18.c4 g6, it would at least have been a quite reasonable transposition back to the actual game, allowing the reader to make sense of the rest of the score. However, according to BigBase2007 the game actually continued 16.c4?! Be7?! (16...g6!) 17.Nf5! Rd8 18.Be3 g6 (18...0-0 19.Bh6!) 19.Nh6 Qg7 20.Qg3 with a clear advantage to White.

So - how bad is this for the book? Well, in my opinion it mainly raises some questions about Everyman's proof-reading routines. But it isn't really an analytical problem, as it occurs after the analysis has been concluded. And a reader who tries to play through the game and gets confused should be able to find the correct gamescore in a database without too much effort. So in itself this must be classified as an ugly but still quite minor blemish in such a monumental work. The real question is how many problems of this kind will turn up after a more detailed scrutiny of the book. My preliminary guess is that there will not be too many as it appears to be quite well researched.

Friday, March 9, 2007

An Egotrip Down Memory Lane

I will not try to create an impression that I am a strong chess player. But among a huge number of tournament games there are a few I enjoy demonstrating. I hope you will bear with me.

While preparing a more substantial entry on the Norwegian variation in the Ruy Lopez, I came across some games by Bernd Stein, who specialized in his own special branch of this variation. This reminded me of a short and sweet game I won some 14 years ago. What made it extra special for me was the fact that I after this game had a score of 2/2 against two International Masters. Admittedly my opponent in this game at the time had more or less retired from tournament play, but my first round opponent was a fairly young and ambitious player. The rest of my tournament was far less spectacular, but I seem to remember that the hope of an IM-norm were still alive until round 8.

Sverre Johnsen (2215) - IM Bernd Stein (2360)
Gausdal International (2) 1993
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3
This, and the closely related 1...d5 2.Nc3, made up most of my white opening repertoire for the major part of a decade. They have some surprise value and in my opinion should be basically sound. I may take them up again if I can only find a couple of improvements in a couple of critical lines.
2...d5 3.Bg5 is the Veresov Opening. The text move hardly has a recognized name.
3.d5 is more popular.
I find it much harder to demonstrate any advantage against 3...Qa5.
4.e4 Nc6 5.f4 Qa5 6.Bd3 Bxc5 7.e5 Nd5 8.Bd2 Nxc3 9.Bxc3 Qb6 10.Nh3
I have come out of the opening with a quite clear advantage.
10...Nd4?! 11.Qg4 g6 12.0-0-0 h5?!
This weakens the kingside more than it protects it.
13.Qh4 Nb5 14.Qf6 Rf8 15.Bxb5! Qxb5?
15...Be7! was absolutely necessary in order to give Black's dark squares on the kingside some protection. After e.g. 16.Qg7 Qxb5 17.Ng5!? Bxg5 18.fxg5, the pawn on f7 is an obvious target, but it's not at all easy for White to infiltrate the dark squares.
16.Rd6! The rook obviously cannot be captured, so basically Black's dark-square defender is shut out from its defensive duties. Also Black's queen struggles to get back to d8 as both b6 and a5 are covered.
16...b6 17.Be1! 1-0
I find some kind of geometrical beauty in my two concluding moves. First Black's dark-squared bishop is locked out; then its white colleague enters the kingside via a quite rare backward manoeuvre.

What I today remember just as well as the actual moves of the game, is the gentlemanly way in which my opponent took his defeat. Rather that blaming his own poor form (which he could have done with obvious justification) he was full of praise for my play. Still appreciated!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

...and Another Two

Today I found two new reviews on the net:

Carsten Hansen's reviews at The Chess Cafe usually are very well written and thorough. Accordingly he often needs a little more time to deliver. Therefore I was somewhat surprised to see that The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black made it to the March edition of Checkpoint.

In general Hansen's review is very positive, but I am a little disappointed that he leaves out our main argument in favour of the Zaitsev: For lower and middle rated players, studying the Zaitsev mainline mainly should be considered a middlegame exercise. Seeing how modern top players handle such an exciting middlegame position and then trying to analyze it independently must be among the most useful things you can do for your chess understanding.

Although Phil Adams also seems a bit unconvinced about our choice of the Zaitsev as our main recommendation for Black, he too gives the book thumbs up. In particular I appreciate his conclusion: "A very good opening book. Readers will learn a lot about the Closed Lopez, and therefore about chess, even if they never play the Zaitsev! Highly recommended." This sums up our main message very well.

Addendum 8th March 2007
Yesterday I didn't seem to quite register Hansen's entire conclusion. Actually his "I highly recommend this book to players who are serious about their opening repertoires and about improving their overall game." is quite close to Adams' conclusion (and our main argument).

Friday, March 2, 2007

Another Review

Another review arrived today with expected regularity at the British Chess Magazine's Book Reviews of March 2007: I initially thought the 'JS' reviewer was GM Jonathan Speelman, but I was quickly informed that it actually is BCM's editor John Saunders. Thanks to Paul and Anonymous who corrected me!

As expected the review is short but well written and informative. I am also happy to note that it can only be described as very positive.

Another interesting point to note is the miniature comparision with Greet's book "Play the Ruy Lopez" in the review just below ours. I may return to that exercise in a blog entry soon. Saunders' observation is basically correct, but there is a bit more to it.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

First Review

My apologies for this delayed entry. I have had a busy week with little time for blogging, and this too will be a minor entry.

It was not unexpected that the first review of "The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black" would appear at "John's Chessbook Reviews" by John Elburg - Elburg's greatest strength is his speed, volume and regularity. Neither did it come as a shock that his review was fairly positive (they usually are).

I have also become accustomed to Elburg's fairly helpless English, but this time I struggled a bit more than usual to understand his review. What does "Johannessen & Johnsen." which is used two times mean? It obviously indicates a quotation of some kind, but where does that quotation start?

Also the expression "chess crack" was unknown to me. But actually in this case Elburg's English vocabulary may be better than mine. At least my OALD (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary) indicates that the adjective version "he's a crack chess-player" would mean "he's an excellent chess-player", so I assume it must be quite positive.

Anyway, his conclusion "A very important reference book on the Zaitsev variation!" was welcome.

When speaking about reviews, I must mention that Phil Adams' Book Reviews has been improved with four downloadable documents complete with older reviews. Excellent idea - they really were worth preserving!