Saturday, March 29, 2008
The cover illustration is nice but otherwise the book's lay-out appears rather amateurish: the pages look a lot like ChessBase print-outs; all variations are in square brackets; there are no chapter headings (except for the headers - together with the page numbers) and frequently there are no introductions to the chapters (at first you have to wonder why the right-hand side columns on pages 44 and 95 are empty; then you discover that there actually start new chapters on the next pages).
There seem to have crept in some typos - a rather visible one is diagram 174 which shows the initial position whereas the text indicates that it should show the position after 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 Bf5 4.c4 c6. There also are a few misspelled names. More importantly I wouldn't expect there to be any illegal or very poor moves as ChessBase would prevent this.
The main question of course is the quality of the chess content; the analysis, the research work and the textual explanations. I cannot really say much about his analysis yet, but it seems he has caught at least one serious omission in our London book. Except for a 2007 game by the author I couldn't find many recent (2005-2007) game references. I saw a 2006 reference and I probably have missed some more. Nevertheless my guess it that the manuscript were mostly done in 2005 and after that has only been spot wise updated. Schmücker's textual explanations appear sufficient and generally clear enough even though he hasn't bothered much with making complete sentences.
A main point of divergence between ours and Schmücker's recommended repertoire seems to be the line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qb3 c4, where we suggests 7.Qc2 (or avoiding the line completely with the 2.Bf4 move-order) whereas Schmücker recommends 7.Qxb6 axb6 8.Na3 (Dia)
For our London book we too had originally planned a chapter on this line. However, when space limitations became an issue it was among the first lines we sacrificed - mainly because we were unable to demonstrate any advantage after 8...e6 9.Nb5. When 8...Ra5 too proved a tough obstacle, and 8...e5!?, 8...Rxa3!? 8...Na7 and 8...Ne4 each required rather deep analysis and corresponding space, simply skipping the line seemed an obvious decision. Schmücker provides extensive analysis of 8...e5, 8...Rxa3, 8...Bg4, 8...Na7 and 8...Ra5. I don't now why he doesn't mention 8...Ne4?! as the refutation is rather instructive. As for the quality of his analysis I can only guess but he obviously must have put a lot of work into it so probably it's quite good.
The big surprise is that Schmücker proposes to meet 8...e6 with the untested and modest looking 9.Nc2!?. Can this really be sufficient to fight for an advantage? I will not completely rule it out; Black has as Schmücker points out locked in his light-squared bishop and White can fairly easily neutralize Black's play in the a-file. Pure analysis isn't likely to reveal much in this quiet position so I hope to see some practical examples soon.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Today I found a tragicomic finish at Streatham & Brixton Chess Club involving Leif Johannessen, my co-author for 'The Ruy Lopez - A Guide for Black'. Actually it's really strange I haven't seen it before. Had I had the black pieces I know I would have shown it to everybody willing to waste a moment. But Leif is a sympathetic young man who may have found the episode more tragic than comic.
It's Beliavsky-L.Johannessen, Linares open 2002:
White to move is trying to win a drawish queen endgame. Can
you find the losing move?
For a variation over the theme, have a look at Tim Krabbe's collection of players resigning in won positions.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The natural context for an examination of this line is this classical radio game:
Z.Nilsson-Hoen, Radio game Norway-Sweden 1970
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5
When this game was played I believe the radio games attracted a little less attention than they did in the 1950s and 1960s. But still a game against our neighboring country held a lot of prestige.
5.Bb3 Na5 6.Bxf7+!?
Interestingly this brutal attempt at refuting the Norwegian variation is called the Swedish variation (even before this game, I think). For his bishop White gets two central pawns, two checks and a lead in development.
6...Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Ke7 (Dia)
Obviously Black's king will be stranded in the centre for some time. In addition Black's knight on a5 is out of play and somewhat vulnerable as is his rook on a8. Is this sufficient compensation for the bishop? Only analysis and practical experience can tell. For the moment few players seem willing to take the White pieces but it's really hard to tell as there aren't many advocates for 5...Na5 either.
This is White's most direct attacking attempt. Also 8.Qf3 and 8.d4 are dangerous moves which Black must be prepared for. In addition there is also the surprising 8.Nf7?! with the point 8...Kxf7 9.Qh5+ g6 10.Qd5+ Kg7 11.Qxa8. Fortunately for Black it seems that the queen is completely out of play after 11...Nc6. There appears to have been a postal theme tournament with this variation in 2003. As could be expected White scored badly but the games seem to have been of a rather low standard and may not prove much.
Hoen is armed with Norwegian preparations. The next few moves are according to analysis by Zwaig. At the time when the game was played 8...Nf6?! was considered to be the main variation (8...Bb7?! appears to be untested and after 9.Nd5+ Bxd5 10.exd5 White seems to have reasonable compensation) 9.Nd5+ Nxd5 (9...Ke8!) 10.exd5 Qe8 and now the Swedes had improvements over Schlechter's old analysis which started with the moves 11.d4 Kd8 12.0–0 d6 13.Bg5+ Be7. I am not sure exactly what the Swede's were planning but have been told that the line probably can be found in 'Collijn's Lärobok'. It may well have started 11.0–0 Kd8 12.Re1 Be7 when quite remarkably all the three d-pawn moves 13.d4 (which is likely to transpose to the 11.d4 line), 13.d6 (with the tactical point 13...cxd6 14.Qf3) or even the modest 13.d3 (which takes away a square from the knight on a5) make sense and give White reasonable chances.
It's worth noting that a few years later Hoen played 9.d4 as White against Zwaig: 9...Kd8 10.Qf3 Nf6 11.Nd5 (11.Bg5 Be7 12.Nd5 Rf8 13.Nxe7 Qxe7 14.0–0–0 Bb7 15.Rhe1 Kc8 16.Qh3 Qe6 =+ Hoen-Zwaig, Oslo 1973) 11...Be7 12.Bd2 Nc6 13.0–0–0 d6 14.Nxc6+ Qxc6 15.Nxe7 Kxe7 16.d5 Qc4 17.b3 Qc5 -/+ Kudriashov-Guseinov, Azov 1991.
9...Kd8 10.Qf3 (Dia)
Apparently this rook sacrifice was Zwaig's new idea. I don't know how bad 10...Nf6 would have been.
11.Nf7+ Kc8 12.0–0 Nf6 13.Nxh8 Nxe4 14.d3 Bxd5 15.dxe4 Be6 16.Qg3 Kb7 17.Bf4 Rc8 18.a4 b4
Around this point Fritz and Rybka start to appreciate Black's resources.
19.Be5 Qh5 20.Bxg7
20.c3 Nc6 21.Bf4 Be7 is not better.
20...Bxg7 21.Qxg7 Rg8 22.Qf6 Bh3 23.g3 Rxh8 (Dia)
Finally it's clear that Black is better. I assume the rest of the game was quite pleasant for the Norwegian audience, who must have suspected that Black was on his way to victory even if no clear variations could be calculated.
24.Rfe1 Re8 25.Qf4 Nc6 26.c3 Re7 27.Re3 Ne5 28.Qh4 Qxh4 29.gxh4 Rg7+ 30.Rg3
A bit disappointingly there will be no mating attack.
30...Nf3+ 31.Kh1 Rxg3 32.hxg3 b3
Quite frequently a rook and a pawn can be a good match for two minor pieces in a simplified endgame. But here there is no way to activate the rook and the kingside pawns can quite easily be blocked.
33.a5 d6 34.Ra3 Be6 35.Ra1 Nd2 36.Kg1 Nc4 37.Rb1 Nxa5 38.f4 Nc4 39.Kf2 a5 40.f5 Bf7 41.g4 a4 42.h5 (Dia)
I suppose most listeners had already found the decisive idea:
42...Nxb2! 43.Rxb2 a3 0–1
Addendum March 20th
A quick check in the 1903 edition of 'Collijn's Lärobok' reveals only this relatively short variation after 6.Bxf7+: 8.d4 Nf6 9.Bg5 Qe8 10.f4 Kd8 11.0-0 Be7 12.Qe1 Nc6 13.Nxc6 dxc6 14.c4 with an advantage to White according to Svenonius. Later editions may have had more detail but possibly it's Svenonius' original analysis I should try to locate.
Monday, March 17, 2008
I have never been much of a football enthusiast myself and consequently not in the best position to find out what's going on. But now maybe I will be able to read up on the subject.
There is now a new book available titled "Football & Chess". I have no idea about its content except what I can guess from its title but I suppose there at least will be a mention of a couple of Norwegian chess players.
Norway's first chess star, Simen Agdestein is well known for being a top GM (number 16 on the rating lists) at the same time as he successfully played on the Norwegian national team. Tim Krabbe has written an article on this in his Chess Curiosities.
Less well known is the fact that one of clubs in the Norwegian Youth Chess Federation used to be called "Åvangen ball og sjakk" and in fact was a combined football and chess club. The youth section of my chess club (OSSU) used to play some chess and football matches against them. The details varied but the matches always consisted of a football part where each goal scored counted for one point as did each win in the subsequent chess match (which were played over 11 boards or so). Obviously the players were the same in both matches. I seem to remember that the chess results tended to contribute more to the final result than the football goals did, so maybe the goals should have been weighted heavier - maybe two points for a goal could be worth a try.
I have never heard that Magnus Carlsen's football abilities are matching his teacher's but he is a healthy and sporty boy so I was not surprised to see in this ChessBase reportage that among the top chess players he is the football star.
Addendum March 25th:
Here is the Table of Content as found at Schachversand Niggemann:
007 Football and Chess
011 Part 1 - The Technical Elements
013 Building connections
019 Dominating the Midfield
023 Build-up Play
035 Piece Positions
038 Using Space
043 Creating Space
048 Exploiting Weaknesses
055 Stretching the Defence
068 Stretch and Compress
084 Attacking from the Back
088 The Spare Man
091 The Hole
095 Using the width
101 Part 2 - The Coach as Chess Player
103 Benitez vs Ancelotti
113 Part 3 - General Strategic Concepts for Controlling the Game
115 The Initiative
125 The Mini-Battles
129 Part 4 - Psychological Factors
143 Emotional control
147 Part 5 - General Features and Aesthetics
159 Evolution of the Games
163 The Beautiful Games
166 The Future
Friday, March 14, 2008
Judging from its title I expect the book to examine the variation 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 (Dia) which is what I call the Kan variation.
This expectation is even more reasonable because Everyman offers another older book, called 'Sicilian Kan' by Emms which I used to own and which treated this very line.
Yet I am not entirely certain as the publishers offer no moves and there is some confusion between the Sicilian lines Paulsen, Kan and Taimanov. I know for a fact that quite a few players and authors would call this 4...a6 line the Paulsen variation. And that indeed makes sense as Wilfried (not Louis as far as I know) Paulsen played the line a long time before Ilia Kan and with quite modern ideas. His stronger brother Louis probably contributed to the development of the line but himself preferred 4...Nf6 (generally followed by a quick ...Nc6) and 4...Bc5 (now known as the Basman-Sale variation).
So, what about the Taimanov variation then? Well, first of all it's worth noting that Taimanov early in his career played a lot of 4...a6 games. Then, around 1971 he started playing 4...Nc6 - usually followed by ...Nge7, ...Nxd4 and ...Nc6. This system - which now is rather rare - was what Taimanov himself called the Taimanov variation. What I don't really know is why the entire 4...Nc6 system is more and more frequently called the Taimanov system. It's a quite confusing situation and occasionally forces writers to distinguish between the Taimanov variation (where Black usually plays an early ...Qc7) and the 'pure Taimanov' (with ...Nge7).
Still not confused? Then take into account the hybrid variation below, which can equally well arise from 4...a6 5.Nc3 Nc6 and 4...Nc6 5.Nc3 a6 (Dia).
Is it a Kan, a Paulsen or a Taimanov? Well...I find 8129 games in MegaBase 2008, 1159 from the 4...a6 move-order and 6540 from the 4...Nc6 move-order (and obviously some from other move-orders too) ...so maybe it's a Taimanov.
Anyway, the move that interests me the most is 4...a6. That is also clearly the move that Hellsten has played the most, so I expect to buy the book as soon as it's available.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
The relatively recent encounter Savchenko-Firman, Dresden 2007 continued 7...Ne4!? which appears consistent. Alternatives are:
a) 7...d6 transposes to a relatively normal
b) 7...d5 8.Nbd2 dxc4 9.Nxc4 Be6 10.Nfe5 Nbd7 11.Bb2 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Bd5 13.Qc2 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 Qd5+ =+ Alexandrova-Chuprikov, Alushta 2002.
c) 7...a5 is a logical reaction: 8.b5 a4 (8...cxb5 9.cxb5 d6 10.Qb3+ e6 11.Nc3 b6 12.Ba3 Ra7 13.Ng5 Re8 14.e4 Nxe4 15.Ngxe4 fxe4 16.Nxe4 += Gabrielian-Savchenko, Sochi 2006) 9.Nc3 d6 (9...Ne4 10.Qc2 Nxc3 11.Qxc3 d6 12.Ba3 Kh8 13.Qe3 cxb5 14.cxb5 Nd7 15.Ng5 Nb6 16.Rac1 += Schandorff-Sahl, Taastrup 1998) 10.Rb1 Qa5 11.Bd2 Kh8 12.Qc2 Be6 13.bxc6 bxc6 14.Nd5 Qd8 15.Nf4 Bg8 16.Ng5 Qc8 17.Rfc1 e5 18.dxe5 dxe5 19.Nd3 Nbd7 20.Nb4 e4 21.f3 h6 22.Nh3 Re8 = Spassov-Movsziszian, Burgas 2001.
d) 7...Na6 is in my opinion the main alternative:
d1) 8.Qb3 Nc7 9.a4 a6 10.Bb2 Kh8 11.Na3 d6 12.b5 Bd7 13.b6 Ne6 14.a5 g5 15.d5 Nc5 16.Qa2 h6 17.Bd4 Nce4 18.Nd2 c5 19.Nxe4 fxe4 20.Bc3 += Rahman-Dzhumaev, Chennai 2004.
d2) 8.b5 must be the critical reply: 8...cxb5 9.cxb5 Nc7 10.Nc3 d6 11.a4 h6 (11...Rb8 12.Ba3 Kh8 13.Rc1 Ne4 14.Qc2 Nxc3 15.Qxc3 Ne6 16.Qc4 Bd7 17.d5 Rc8 18.Qd3 Nc5 19.Bxc5 dxc5 20.Qe3 += Kortschnoj-Jakubiec, Panormo 2001) 12.Qd3 Kh7 13.Ba3 Be6 14.Nd2 Ncd5 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 16.Rfc1 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 1/2–1/2 Jirovsky-Jakubiec, Czechia 2004.
This looks more challenging than 8...d5 which is quite lightly tested: 9.Nbd2 a5 (9...Be6 10.Rc1 a5 11.b5 cxb5 12.cxb5 a4 13.Ba3 Re8 14.e3 Qb6 15.Qe2 Nd7 16.Rc2 Rac8 = Matveeva-Bartel, Internet blitz 2004) 10.b5 Nd7 11.a4 Ndf6 12.Ne5 cxb5 13.cxb5 Be6 14.Nb3 Nd7 15.f3 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Ng5?! (16...Nd6 17.Nc5 Nc4 18.Nxe6 Qb6+ 19.Qd4 Qxe6 20.f4 Rfd8 =) 17.Nc5 Qb6 18.Rc1 Rac8 19.Qd4 += Lautier-E.Berg, Internet blitz 2004.
In Ovsejevitsch-Lindestrom, Esbjerg 2007 White was successful with 9.b5 cxb5 10.cxb5 a4 11.Nc3 Qa5 12.Rc1 e6 13.Nxe4 fxe4 14.Ng5 a3 15.Bc3 Qxb5 16.Nxe4 when White was clearly better. However, 9...d5! seems to secure Black at least equality.
Now the game again will take on "Leningrad Stonewall" characteristics. It’s still not too late for 9...d6 with more typical
In Postny-Kobalia, Moscow 2002 White preferred 10.cxd5 cxd5 11.Nc3 axb4 12.axb4 Rxa1 13.Bxa1 Nxc3 14.Bxc3 Bd7 15.Ne5 Bb5 16.Re1 e6 17.Qb3 Qd6 with equal chances.
10...Be6 11.Qc2 Nxd2 12.Nxd2 dxc4 13.Nxc4 axb4 14.axb4 Na6 (Dia)
White has gone slightly astray somewhere. Black has an edge also after 15.b5 cxb5 16.Ne5 Bd5 or 15.Qc3 Qxd4 16.Qxd4 Bxd4 17.Bxd4 Bxc4 18.Rfc1 Bb5.
15...Nxb4 16.Qb3 Rxa1 17.Bxa1 b5 18.Qxb4 Bxc4 19.Bxc6 Qd6 20.Qc5?
After 20.Qxd6 exd6 21.Bc3 Rc8 22.Bf3 Black is only a little more comfortable as he doesn’t achieve anything with 22...Bxe2 23.Bxe2 Rxc3 24.Bxb5 d5.
20...Qxc5 21.dxc5 Rc8 22.Bd5+ Bxd5 23.Bxg7 Bb3 24.Rb1 Kxg7 25.Rxb3 Rxc5 26.f4 Kf6 27.Kf2 Ke6 28.Ke3 Rd5 29.Ra3 Kd6 30.Ra6+ Kc5 31.Ra7 b4 32.Rxe7 b3 33.Rxh7?
This loses immediately but 33.Rb7 Kc4 only takes a little longer.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I just now noticed that Glenn Flear's review of "The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black" in New in ChessYearbook 83 is available as a pdf-file at the New in Chess Website. Flear is one of my favorite chess book reviewers and I suppose that the reviewer position in the NiC Yearbooks must be among the most prestigious there are. Only laziness has prevented me from quoting his review earlier. But with the possibility to just cut and past I have picked some of the quotes I liked the most:
"Despite being inexperienced in authorship, the young Norwegian GM (for the record, he’s 2537!) has done an excellent job of bringing the present state of theory to the public’s attention. In several lines his convincing analysis demonstrates why Khalifman and others have underestimated Black’s resources."
"The use of English is excellent, as for that matter are the style and attention to detail, even in the slower positional lines, making the whole package a pleasure to read. A nice touch is the inclusion of a number of quotations, which adds humour and a human touch that others would do well to follow.
I would advise anybody up to grandmaster to take the time to read the ‘Preface by Leif’, an object lesson in the process of preparing a repertoire. Something that is often misunderstood by lesser mortals."
"It’s fairly well documented that, as a rule, Gambit, tend to include more game references and analytic variations in the notes than Everyman do (this is immediately noticeable when you flick through this book and compare it with Andrew Greet’s). In certain Gambit books in the past there has been a tendency to go over the top, but here the complexity of the variation requires plenty of material to tell the whole story. Overall I felt that they have got the balance
about right between text, home analysis, previous experience and conclusions, and even the ubiquitous C212s are kept within bounds."
Maybe some of these quotes will soon appear at Gambit's review collection for the RL book?
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The oldest games with the opening in MegaBase 2008 are by American Theodore Dunst in the fifties but the opening is often named after the Belgian player Bernard de Bruycker who played it (and a few related lines) in the late seventies and early eighties. I wonder if he did anything to propagate the opening - published some analysis perhaps? A much more frequent practitioner is Serbian GM Miroslav Markovic who, as far as I can judge, must be the prime candidate for naming rights. MegaBase has 19 games where he plays 1.e4 c6 2.d4 Na6 with a decent score against strong opposition. I will return with a few of his efforts in the opening in later entries. Other strong players who have used the move more than once are in alphabetic order:
GM Igor Efimov
GM Lev Gutman
GM Todor Todorov
IM Juri Dovzik
IM Angus Dunnington
IM Renier Gonzalez
IM Esad Goric
IM Denis Shilin
IM Olivier Touzane
IM Dirk van Geet
IM Gerard Welling
IM Aleksandar Wohl
What I didn't fully realize in my previous post was the fact that this set-up is just as playable against 1.d4. This becomes instantly obvious once you have a serious look at it. If Black can survive 3.c4 in this line, then it's hardly likely that White can prove much after 1.d4 c6 2.c4 Na6. Actually transposition by 3.e4 (Dia) must be the only critical reply.
As a matter of fact only one of White's sensible move-orders may make it hard for Black to achieve his desired formation - namely 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3!? after which 2...Na6 can be met with 3.Bxa6!? ruining Black's queenside formation at the cost of the bishop-pair. After 3...bxa6 4.d4 we have this position: (Dia)
I am not a strong enough player to judge whether this exchange is advantageous for White or not. My feeling is that Black's chances should be OK if he makes the most out of his open b-file and his light-squared bishop.
E: 3.Nc3! Nc7 4.Bd3
F: 3.Nc3! Nc7 4.Nf3!
Quite likely I will return with some more details on these lines in later entries.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
At freechess.info there is now an interesting interview with Marcus Schmücker - the author of "Das London-System".
I for a moment considered translating it to English, as I assume that a considerable number of my readers will have problem following the interview in German language. On second thought I dropped the idea, as I assume that those who don't read German will have relatively little interest in the book as well as in the author. So I decided only to extract and translate (rather loosely) some of the points that I found interesting:
- When my book was 80% ready, the English version of GM Kovacevic' book was published. At first I was a bit unhappy about this poor luck but it soon turned out that there were not only disadvantages in this apparently unfortunate timing. It turned out that he was following other paths and that most of my work was still worth publishing.
My (SJ) comment: I am not in the publishing business but my guess is that the ideal timing for a book is 3-6 months after a good competing book is published. That allows you to list the competing book in your bibliography and include some essential analysis without allowing the first book to completely 'tap' the market.
- I consider the strongest point in my book to be that it offers the readers a simple receipt and a lot of fresh ideas. For instance I recommend the set-up with 2.Nf3 and 3.Bf4 while Kovacevic examines both 2.Nf3 and 2.Bf4 with his main emphasis on the latter. In addition there is the fact that I only consider positions arising after 1.d4 d5. Against the King's Indian or the Queen's Indian I was unable even after deep research to find a promising path to advantage. In the introduction I have given my reasons for this decision and consequently omitted the analysis of these lines. So those who would like to play the London System "against everything" will need to get Kovacevic' book in addition to mine.
My (SJ) comment: First of all I don't quite understand why he omitted the lines demonstrating that the London doesn't offer an advantage against 1...Nf6. Maybe there simply were too many lines that ultimately failed? Or maybe he didn't want to help potential black players? I have not yet seen the book and really look forward to reading the introduction.
Schmücker probably has a point that including both the 2.Bf4 and the 2.Nf3 move-orders in our book made it slightly less accessible. Organizing the material was a quite hard task and I can see that for a reader preferring the 2.Nf3 move-order it can in some cases be hard to find the relevant material.
It certainly was an interesting decision to only include 1.d4 d5 lines. I agree that the London System is more likely to achieve an edge after 1...d5. In Game 1 in our London book we write after 1.d4 d5: "The London System can be played after virtually any black set-up but is probably most effective against this classical reply." Consequently Schmücker probably has a slightly easier task to prove an edge for White. Yet I doubt it was a wise decision as I perceive the typical London player as a slightly lazy character who would very much like to play the same system against all of Black's replies to 1.d4.
- I chose to self publish this book in order to minimize the risk and see how the book was received. It will be considerably easier to contact a publishing company if I can refer to a success with this book. For my next projects I will choose the direct way.
My (SJ) comment: I don't quite understand Schmücker's reasoning here. There may well be ways to self publishing a book so that there is little or no financial risk. But with a normal contract with a publishing company you are guaranteed at least a small fee. Probably he was worried that they would turn down an untitled author but I can see no other risk than being rejected. Personally I have found it very convenient to have a professional chess publisher to rely on. Gambit Publishing provided good general advice, helped me with the English language and did a very good (semi-automated, I think) proof-reading. In addition they ensured a good technical quality (cover, paper quality, binding, printing etc.).
- My next book will examine a certain system in the Dutch Leningrad which currently hardly ever is played and therefore will be a good surprise weapon.
My (SJ) comment: This is very interesting - can he have the 6...c6 system in mind?