Spring Break 2018 New in Chess Reviews
This Spring Break 2018 we have a great selection of chess books to read, learn and enjoy. The first book is The Art of the Tarrasch Defense by Alexey Bezgodov, followed by The Complete French, Advance by Evgeny and Vladimir Sveshnikov and the last book is dismantling the Sicilian by Jesus De La Villa and Max Illingworth. I asked New in Chess (NIC) for the three books in this review because I was familiar either with the author’s work or the subject topic
The Art of the Tarrasch Defense
The Art of the Tarrach Defense by Alexey Bezgodov, a much needed book on this classic opening. The author really conveys the essence of this opening using a format that is both, instructive to players and coaches alike. Previous efforts on the Tarrash by Collins and Aagaard and Ntislis (both books reviewed by me) peak my interest in this defense as well as a comment by Jonathan Hilton on his book Wojo Weapons Vol 1 (Hilton states that amateurs do poorly on the black side of the Tarrasch due to their lack of knowledge in the early middle game). I jumped at the opportunity to review this book and determine its value to the improving amateur hungry to learn how to play the Tarrash Defense after 1.d4
Bezgodov command of the subject allows him to present the material in the more practical/ tournament player fashion at the same time that the historical contribution of the world best chess players is preserved. The first part of the book helps the reader to use the Tarrash Defense against 1. d4 with confidence. In other words, after mastering the first fifty two pages of this book the reader can “hit the ground running” and start using this opening in tournament games. I will recommend to the reader to do the ninety six puzzles at the end of the book before playing rated chess games. The authors wrote the book in a way that the role of past leading players in the Tarrasch Defense such as Kasparoy and Spassky among others is both, acknowledge and understood.
The Art of the Tarrasch Defense reminds me of my training with V. Akobian on this opening because both, Bezgodov and Akobian can translate their extensive experience on the Tarrash in easy to follow and ready to use lessons. Great Read!
The Complete French Advance
Writing chess books are getting more and more difficult because authors needed to add value to the already large amount of existing books on opening theory and create an engaging piece of work. The Complete French Advance Evgeny and Vladimir Sveshnikov is the right tool to understand how to play against the French as white and the audience can enjoy a book with a good blend of historical background and computer checked analysis.
Chess players that open with 1. e4 will eventually face the challenge of finding a suitable method to tackle the French Defense. This choice is not easy, but in the Complete French, Advance the authors lay out in easy terms the value of the main choices available to White at move three against the French, named 3. Nd2, 3. Nc3 and 3.e5. The authors explain why 3. e5 is the best practical choice despite 3. Nc3 being the more principle choice. Importantly, the first chapter is a mix of key historic games in the French Advance and a fine framework of key ideas and plans. In other words, the readers become familiar with both, the historical evolution of the advance variation against the French and the main ideas to understand the variation. To this effect the first model games are grouped by themes instead of variations.
The main values of this book are that E. Sveshnikov is a rare breed of trainer and practical player. For example, E. Sveshnikov works regularly with top raising starts as a trainer and he is also a long time practitioner of the French advance, who keep playing “his variation” against experts on the French defense such as Gurevich (see model game 118) with good results. Second, The Complete French Advance is a book that distills the best of both authors E. Sveshnikov as expert in the field and Vladimir Sveshnikov expertise in computer analysis and literature survey. This book is aimed at players below master candidate level and is recommended without reservations.
Dismantling the Sicilian: A Complete Modern Repertoire for White
Dismantling the Sicilian: A Complete Modern Repertoire for White by Jesus De La Villa and Max Illingworth is a revised, updated and new version of Jesus Dela Villa classic book repertoire based on the English Attack (2009). The main premise in this book is that White will fight for the advantage and will hit hard black if the second player relies on natural developing moves. The authors tackle a very difficult task building a repertoire against the Sicilian Defense, but they know their craft and make great efforts to make the material accessible to amateurs that want to take the challenge and meet the Sicilian in the main lines.
The Sicilan long with 1…e5 are the most direct approaches to stop white to achieve a e4-d4 pawn duo in the center. Over the years the Sicilian becomes more popular that 1… e5 at both, professional and amateur levels, mainly because the unbalance pawn structure and the fact that white has to take risks if he wants to win. To fight for the advantage in the open Sicilian is not an easy goal, but can White can be rewarded with victories against superior opposition at amateur and professional level alike if he spend the time on this repertoire book.
For example, The Grivas Variation 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Qb6 5. Nb3 Nf6 6. Nc3 e6 is an interesting variation and the authors explain the idea behind it (to achieve a Scheveningen set after the white dominant knight on d4 is forced to move to b3). I compared the Analysis of E. Grivas (The Complete Guide to the Grivas Sicilian, 2005) with the author’s analysis and founded that despite Grivas sound analysis the authors were able to find a dent in black’s armor. De la Villa and Illingworth suggest three different ways to fight for the advantage, named 12 Qd2, h4 and Qe2. The game Bogner (2599) – Naiditsch (2702) is a good example of the practical punch this repertoire book has a high level. Importantly, in the Grivas Sicilian one of the main claims for black was that after 7. a3 White cannot castle long, but in Dismantling the Sicilian: A Complete Modern Repertoire for White the authors (and the game above) show you that black needs to reevaluate his options because after all 0-0-0 is possible. This book injects new life to the open Sicilian as white and the ideas and methods of play are at the reach of amateur players. Recommended!
Winter Break 2019 Reviews
In my opinion, chess amateurs are equally eager than chess professionals to improve, but their efforts get diluted by the time constraints of their life (family and work commitments) and working on the wrong aspects of their chess. Many amateur chess players actively look for ways to improve their chess skills and allocate a good portion of their free time to study chess, but unfortunately the results fell short of the mark. Why? Chess improvement involves the interplay of many factors such as
1. Knowledge of typical positions
2. Calculation of variations
3. Evaluation of the variations you calculated
4. How you apply your knowledge on the heat of the battle
The following paragraphs are suggestions of how an amateur chess player can get the right information for his current level, train more efficiently and close the gap between his current level and level he/she wants to be.
To play well against your opponent, you need to combine a series of chess skills such as time management, tactical alertness and technical skill, and more importantly to use an efficient thinking process over the board. Now that the problems are outlined what can we do to solve them? I can make a suggestion of different books and resources that in my opinion will help a diligent chess player to have a chance to improve at chess.
Knowledge of typical positions
As chess players we need to choose among the several moves available to us before and after every move. Fortunately for us most chess games contain several patterns that guide our decision making process. Some patterns are tactical and other are of a strategic nature. As a chess players advance in chess there is the need to learn and refine his/her ability to recognize and evaluate strategic and tactical patterns. Significantly, this knowledge of typical positions growth along with the demands of his immediate goal (class he wants to belong). For instance, the position a 1200 rated player(Class D) are different to the positions an 1800 rated players needs to know to move to expert.
A class D player can increase his stock of typical position by studying the last book by IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering,
Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners.
The author explains a set of strategic patterns that every chess player rated over 1200 USCF needs to know. The word beginner in the title of the book does not mean the content of the book is basic or simplistic. The author defines his work as the first step every chess player must take his/her journey to progress to higher levels of chess understanding and practical play.
Vladimir Chuchelov pointed out in the foreword of Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners that advance and top players evaluate chess positions to a higher degree of complexity than less experience players. In other words, the material in Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners is the material a beginner learns as part of his/her initial chess education and will serve as scaffold to acquire more sophisticated positional knowledge in the future.
The main values that Chess Pattern Recognition for Beginners has to offer to the readers are the quality of the examples, the order the material is presented, the use of the right amount of words instead of long variations and the puzzles at the beginning of some chapters and at the end of each part. Having Puzzles at the beginning of each chapter helps the audience to get more involve with the material to be discussed in the chapter.
Better Thinking Better Chess
Better Thinking Better chess by GM and chess coach Joel Benjamin is a chess book about how to improve our chess think process over the board to boost our practical results. The author as well as New in Chess editor Rene Olthof did an outstanding job in this book incorporating the main premise of the book around a core of key chess topics in only two hundred and twenty three pages. GM Benjamin explains how we can make our thinking process more efficient when we apply our brains to solve recurrent problems for most amateurs and professionals alike named, how to learn openings, according to your skill level, the importance of planning in chess, how to improve our tactics by “aiming high”, how to calculate more efficiently, the work on tactics, the interplay between material and the initiative, winning a won game, swindling and translating your endgame knowledge into better practical results.
The author offers to players and chess coaches his experience and the how to improve your thinking processes at every stage of a chess game. For example, GM, Benjamin explains why your opening preparation should aim to get a middle game that allow you to develop a plan. Next, convert your endgame knowledge into a good decision making beacon and to play chess more efficiently. The chapter on tactics and calculation provides the reader with a method to approach tactics in your chess games. I found valuable how the author incorporates technical aspects of chess with the unique elements of every chess game. For instance. A common scenario in which a high rated player may over press an equal position because he/she feels compelled to win. In this situation the author recommends that the lower rated player must actively search for traps to take advantage of his opponent’s psychological error (lack of objectivity)
Chapter five deals with problems with calculation and cognition. This chapter was an eye opener to me, especially the explanations about why reaching a rating number in chess does not automatically translate into permanent, solid chess skills and the differences between stronger and lesser chess player when they calculate. Both concepts will be valuable to improving chess players that believe that reaching a rating in chess means durable skills and expect to make it to the next level without the necessary skills to beat the competition. The author make a good job pointing the audience to the right resources and methods to acquire durable chess skills, particularly how to become better calculators.
The last three chapters of Better Thinking Better Chess cover the relationship between material and the initiative, winning a won game and swindles. This part of the book gives the reader practical tips on how to identify and overcome the mental obstacles that prevents a player to sacrifice material when the outcome of the sacrifice is unclear. A novel idea to me was to sacrifice material not to win but to avoid landing in a strategically loss position. First and foremost, these three chapter highlights the importance of working hard at the board even when the position seems one or “easy” to play. Hard work on the board can also bring good results when defending worst or lost positions because the player defending will search for cunning traps or swindles to turn the tables on his opponent.
Finally, since GM Benjamin is also a coach the audience will find that the author completes a “review” of the material with a list of recommendations to improve your thinking process and practical results as well as a complete list of all the games used in the book classified by topic. The detailed classification of the games helps the reader to generate printouts or other review/ teaching materials using his own chess database.
Better Thinking Better Chess is one of the most complete and reader friendly guides to improve our chess thinking process. The book covers the subject of a more efficient thinking process from both, the theoretical and practical angles. This book is a must for every chess player and chess coach
Keep it Simple 1.e4
Keep it Simple 1.e4 is the new repertoire book for White by German International Master Christof Sielecki, that follows on our central theme this Winter Break 2019 of improving at chess by saving time to work on key areas of chess improvement (see the introduction of this winter break review series above)
The central premise behind Keep it Simple 1.e4 is to provide White with a solid, easy to learn and recall repertoire that sets practical problems over the board to black. The author recommends lines that are not forcing and aims to obtain a comfortable edge against black better alternatives. In contrast, Sielecki proposes sharp, forcing play to punish black weak or unsound opening play. Sielecki’s practical approach to 1.e4 gives club players a high return investment for the time they use learning the repertoire.
I find Keep it Simple 1.e4 a time saving repertoire for club players for three reasons. First, you do not have to spend tons of time learning, forcing lines to out prepare your opponent and reach a +/= evaluation. Second, the sample games in each chapter give the reader enough material to understand what he is doing in the early middle game and play the middle game with confidence. Finally, the repertoire is modular. In other words you can play the proposed lines against the Sicilian defense and keep your current lines against 1… e5 if you are happy with your results against the open games. Also, as you improve as a chess player you can retain some of your favorite lines of recommended by Sielecki and bring more complicated lines as you playing strength and level of the opposition increases.
I believe the players that use Keep it Simple 1.e4 will improve at chess because a good chunk of their chess time will be used to learn and understand critical aspects of chess such as endgames, strategy and of course tournament play! Keep it Simple 1.e4 indirectly, helps the club player to work on the right priorities and to use his time dedicate to more efficiently.
A pleasant surprise to the readers of Keep it Simple 1.e4 is that the content is also available on the Chessable platform to practice the lines and reinforce your learning process. I consider Keep it Simple 1.e4 a valuable tool for improving and practical chess players because the author does all the heavy lifting for the reader so he/she can devote his/her study time to master the game. Keep it Simple 1.e4 is a well-crafted, modular chess repertoire at a very affordable price. Recommended!