Theory Of Shadows: A Review

It must be extremely difficult to write a historical novel because many have tried and most have failed. Many of the historical novels I have read were of the type, “What if he had lived?” Some concerned POTUS John F. Kennedy.

The last one read was years ago and it caused me to put other books of the type on the “back burner,” where they have since continued to smolder…It may have helped if the author could write, but he had as much business writing as I have running a marathon. The book was not one of those print on demand tomes which allow anyone to publish a book nowadays but a book published by an actual publishing company, which means there was an editor who must have thought the book good enough to earn money. I found the book, a hardback, only a few weeks after it had been published and it was marked down to a price low enough for me to take a chance and fork over the cash. P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In a way the editor was right, but then, marked down enough anything will sell.

There have been notable historical novels such as Michael Shaara‘s masterpiece, The Killer Angels,
which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974.

It must be terribly difficult to write a novel about people who actually lived. A novelist invents a character. To write historical fiction about an actual living, breathing human being is another thing entirely.

Having recently returned to the city of my birth meant a visit to the local library, which happened to be selected as the 2018 Georgia Public Library of the Year. After renewing my lapsed library card I went to the catalog that very evening to check on, what else, Chess books. I had been pleasantly surprised when seeing the latest issue of Chess Life magazine in the reading room of the Decatur branch of the Dekalb county library system after obtaining my new card. While surveying the Chess books a jewel was found, a book I recalled being published years ago, but not in English. It was published at the end of the last century by the author of The Luneburg Variation,

Paolo Maurensig.

It was his first novel, published at the age of fifty, and it was a good read. The book about which I will write is, Theory Of Shadows,

published in Italy in 2015. It was published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2018 after being translated by Anne Milano Appel.

From the front inside jacket: On the morning of March 24, 1946, the world chess champion, Alexander Alekhine – “sadist of the chess world,”

renowned for his eccentric behaviour as well as the ruthlessness of his playing style – was found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal.”

There it is, a fictional account of how Alekhine died. The last paragraph on the jacket reads: “With the atmosphere of a thriller, the insight of a poem, and a profound knowledge of the world of chess (“the most violent of all sports,” according to the former world champion Garry Kasparov), Paolo Maurensig’s Theory of Shadows leads us through the glamorous life and sordid death of an infuriating and unapologetic genius: not only trying to work out “whodunit,” but using the story of Alexander Alekhine to tease out what Milan Kundera has called “that which the novel alone can discover.”

I loved everything about this book. The book begins with this quote : “If Alekhine had been a Jew hating Nazi scientist, inventor of weapons extermination and therefore protected by those in power, then that intellectual rabble would have held its breath. Instead, the victim had to drain the bitter cup to the last drop…Even the supreme act of his death was vulgarly besmirched. And we cowards stifled our feelings, remaining silent. Because the only virtue that fraternally unites us all, whites and black, Jews and Christians, is cowardice.” – Esteban Canal

After reading the above I had yet to begin the first chapter yet had been sent to the theory books…OK, the interweb, in order to learn who was Esteban Canal. “Esteban Canal (April 19, 1896 – February 14, 1981) was a leading Peruvian chess player who had his best tournament results in the 1920s and 1930s.” (

This was also found:

Who was Esteban Canal?

Writing in a 1937 edition of Chess Review, Lajos Steiner,

Lajos Steiner (1903-1975), by Len Leslie

who knew Canal when they were living in Budapest, said that Canal never reached the heights his talent deserved. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and received the honorary GM title in 1977.
Not much is known about his life and what little is known is wrapped in a cloud of mystery. Canal himself claimed to have been a cabin boy on a cargo ship carrying wheat from Australia, but it has proven to be impossible to verify dates. It is known that he had an extensive nautical knowledge and sailors.
In 1955 the South African player Wolfgang Heindenfed, writing in his book Chess Springbok, An Account of a South African Chess Player’s Experiences Overseas wrote of Canal, “The grand old man of Italian chess is Esteban Canal, originally of Peru, who at the age of 57 won the 1953 Venice tournament to which I had the good luck of being invited. He is one of the most interesting and amusing of all chess personalities. Formerly a roving reporter, he speaks six or seven languages and still treasures mementos of such VIPs as Kemal Pasha and Abd el Krim. He is an inexhaustible raconteur of chess stories.” (

About a third of the way through the one hundred seventy nine page book we read: “Though it was an essential task, armchair analysis of the matches he’s played in the past often bored him. Without the presence of the human element, the pieces on the chessboard lost their vitality. It was quite a different matter to play with an opponent in front of you: to enter his mind, predict his strategies by interpreting the slightest variations of his posture, the position of his hands, the subtle though significant contractions of his lips. During the period when he worked for the Moscow police, they had taught Alekhine how to interpret small signs such as these during interrogations, to see if their subjects were lying.”

During an interview, after discussing the murder of his brother at the hands of the Soviet communists as retribution of Alekhine leaving “Mother Russia” the interviewer asks, “And you never feared that you might suffer the same fate?”

“You mean being killed?”

The journalist nodded.

He hesitated a moment, then: “Perhaps, yes, now and then, the thought’s occurred to me.”

“After all,” Ocampo said, a little heavy-handedly, “Trotsky himself, despite taking refuge in Mexice, was ultimately hit by a hired assassin.”

“I took my precautions.”

For a time Alekhine was silent. In fact, he knew very well that it was not strictly necessary for a victim to be close to his murderer, that there was no place in the world where one could be assured of finding a completely secure refuge. A well-trained hit man could strike even in broad daylight and in the midst of a crowd.”

I’m thinking, “Just ask JFK…”

Jews and Chess:

“That was the first time he’d faced a Jewish chess player – it would certainly not be the last. He would endure a stinging defeat by Rubenstein

Akiba Rubenstein

in the first masters tournament in which he competed. He was eighteen years old then, and, encountering that young man, some years older than him, who was said to have abandoned his rabbinical studies to devote himself to chess, he’s had to swallow several bitter truths. Later on, he played against Nimzowitsch,

Aaron Nimzowitsch


Emanuel Lasker

and Reshevsky,

Sammy Reshevsky

soon realizing that, in his rise to the world title, his competitors would all be Jews.
Their faces were still sharply etched in his memory: Rubinstein, dapper, with a drew cut and an upturned mustache and the vacant gaze of a man who has peered too closely into his own madness; Lasker, with his perpetually drowsy air and spiraling, hopelessly rebellious hair; Nimzowitsch, looking like a bank clerk who, behind his pincenez, is haughtily judging the insufficiency of other people’s funds’ Reshevsky, resembling a prematurely aged child prodigy. Often he imagined them muffled up in long black cloaks, gathered in a circle like cros around a carcass, intent on captiously interpreting chess the way they did their sacred texts.”

Near the end of this magnificent book it is written, “By then, the harbingers of what in the coming decades would be called the Cold War were already looming. And if the weapons of the two blocs were to remain unused, it was essential that there be other arenas in which they could compete and excel. Chess was therefore, as ever, a symbolic substitute for war: gaining supremacy in it was a constant reminder to the enemy that you possessed greater military expertise, a more effective strategy.”

In beating the Soviet World Chess Champion Boris Spassky in 1972 Bobby Fischer won much more than a mere Chess match.

Bobby emasculated the Soviet Communist regime. Alekhine may have taken a brick out of the wall when leaving Mother Russia, but Bobby Fischer took the wall down.

Being a novel within a novel made the book was a pleasure to read and I enjoyed it immensely. I give it the maximum five stars.


Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau: A Review

Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau,

is a beautiful book written about a lifelong love between two people, one of whom, Mikhail Tal,
happened to win a World Chess Championship match against the man called “the patriarch of the Soviet School of Chess,” Mikhail Botvinnik. (

The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (, is a wonderful history of a time long gone with the wind. The author brings to life a different time and the people who lived during the Soviet Communist period. The book, like a Chess game, has only three chapters, the opening by Sally, the middle by Gera, the son of Mikhail and Sally Tal, and the end, again by Sally.

She begins the book by writing about herself. “I am an inconsistent and impulsive person, who first does and only then thinks about what I have done. I am an ordinary, vulnerable woman, in which a womanly nature lived and lives, found joy and finds joy, suffered and suffers, in the full sense of those words. The way I see it, selfishness and a desire for independence somehow manage to coexist inside me with love for the people surrounding me and a subconscious wish to be a woman protected by a man who lives for me – protected by him from all sorts of major and minor everyday troubles.”

Later she writes, “Still sharp contradictions coexisted within me: on the one hand, this immense fear of losing my personal freedom, on the other hand, this equally immense fear of solitude and a subconscious desire to have a strong man beside me with whom I wouldn’t be afraid of falling off an overturned boat in the open seas, even if I didn’t know how to swim. These contradictions played a significant role in my life with Misha…”

She writes about her impression of what it was like being a Jew in the Soviet Union. “So it wasn’t the external appearance of the Tals’ apartment that struck me that evening. Rather, it was its anti-Soviet spirit that I sensed. I immediately inhaled this pleasant middle-class air. It was apparent straight away that the people living there were not “mass-produced” but very much “hand-crafted”, and that relations between them did not fit into the usual framework of socialist society.”

“Misha was born a frail child. He had two fingers missing from his right hand. When she (Ida, Mikhail Tal’s mother) first saw her son after he was brought to her and unwrapped from his swaddling clothes she again fainted in shock at the site of his three crooked fingers. She was unable to breastfeed. Her lack of milk was perhaps due to those shocks. She was treated for a long time after that.

“When he was just six months old, Misha was struck by a nasty meningitis-like infection with a very high temperature and convulsions. The doctor said that his chances of making it were remote, but that survivors turn out to be remarkable people. Well, Misha began to read at the age of three, and by the age of five he was multiplying three-digit numbers – while adults were still struggling to solve the math with a pencil he would tell them the answer.”

“He got “infected” with chess at the age of seven and began to spend nearly all his time at the chess club, nagging adults to play him.”

Gera was a Medical Doctor and qualified to write about Tal’s well known medical problems.

“Well, the actual start of my father’s physical ailments, however banal it may sound, was the fact of his birth. Ever since then he simply collected illnesses. But the fundamental cause of course was his totally pathological, nephrotic kidney. It tortured him relentlessly. People suffering from kidney disease know that there is nothing worse in the world than pains in the kidneys. I don’t understand how such people can even exist, let alone play chess. I’m sure that it wasn’t my father who lost the return match to Botvinnik,

but his diseased kidney.”

“My father treated his life like a chess game, somewhat philosophically. There’s the opening, then the opening transposes into the middle game, and if no disaster strikes in the middle game you get into a dull, technical endgame, in which a person ultimately has no chances. As far as I know, father didn’t gain pleasure from playing endgames – he found them boring and insipid. Force him to give up smoking, brandy, partying and female admirers – basically, the source of intense experiences in the middle game of life – and he would find himself in the endgame, when he would have nothing left to do other than passively see out the rest of his life. However, that would have been a different person just resembling Tal. And what’s the difference – to die spiritually or die physically if you can no longer be Tal?”

Throughout their life, together and apart, Mikhail and Sally had other loves and lovers, yet remained friends. A love interest of his was written about but only named by the letter “L.” Research shows this was Larisa Ivanovna Kronberg,

a Soviet/Russian actress and a KGB agent. She was named Best Actress at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in A Big Family. In 1958, she was involved in the Ambassador Dejean Affair, Kronberg lured Dejean in a honey trap. She was in a long-time relationship with World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal in the 1960s, they parted in the 1970s. (

Sally had an affair with a man about whom she writes, “I won’t name him in the book. Why? Let’s say he was a high-up government official…I will call him “The Minister”…Let that be his name here.” Reading this caused me to reflect upon something IM Boris Kogan said decades ago about the KGB. “Mike, KGB like octopus with many tentacles that reach everywhere!” The relationship between Sally and “The Minister” was doomed to failure because a good Soviet communist did not consort with a Jew. Sally writes, ” Misha was such a unique person! I was living with Alnis; at the time he was effectively a common-law husband; and Misha understood that perfectly well. And yet, while he treated Alvis with respect, he continued to consider me his only woman and the most important woman in the world – his Saska. Alnis took quite a liking to Misha, saw what a remarkable person he was, and would say of him: “Tal isn’t a Jew. Tal is a chess genius.”

Tal playing the husband of his former wife Joe Kramarz, not only a Chess player but a HUGE fan of Mikhail Tal!

The book is replete with things like this from Yakov Damsky writing in Riga Chess, 1986. “He has a wonderful ability with language and always has a sharp wit. I remember, for example, after a lecture some tactless dude asked Tal: “Is it true you’re a morphinist?” to which Tal instantly replied: “No, I’m a chigorinets!”

“Petrosian once joked morbidly: “If I lived the way Tal does I would have died a long time ago. He’s just like Iron Felix.” (The nickname of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB)

Having worked at the House of Pain I got a kick out of this: “Chess players talk to each other in the language of notation. I was always amazed at this. Although I understood nothing of it, I listened to them as though they were aliens, observing their emotions. If, for example, Tal, Stein and Gufeld got together, their conversation could flow along the following lines:

Gufeld: What would you say to knightdfourfsixbishopg2?
Stein: Bishopgsevenfgknightdefivecheck!
Tal: Yes but you’ve forgotten about if knightfsixintermezzoqueenheight!
Gufeld: Pueenheightrookgeightwithcheckandrooktakesheight and you’re left without you mummy!
Tal: But after bishopeone you’re left without your daddy!
Stein: Bishopeone doesn’t work because of the obvious knighttakesoneecfourdekinggsevenrookasevencheck!

And this wonderful chitchat would continue endlessly, with people not “in-the-know” thinking they were in a madhouse.”

During tournaments at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center it could be, at times, a “Madhouse of Pain.”

A player would walk up talking about his game in these terms while having the position clearly in his mind. I, on the other hand, had no clue, but would nod in agreement, or frown when called for, while commiserating with the player, understanding, but not understanding, if you get my drift. The worst was when two players who had just finished their game would come downstairs talking in variations, bantering back and forth, then look at me asking, “What do you think, Mr. Bacon?!” To which my usual response was, “That’s a heckofaline!” Hopefully they would smile and nod in agreement before giving way to the next player or players wishing to tell me all about their game…

“A grandmaster said to me once: “When Misha finds himself in a hopeless position, his head tells him this but he doesn’t believe that he, Tal, has no chances. He starts to seek a saving combination, convinced that such a combination exists – it’s just a matter of locating it. And as a rule he finds it. However, despite all its beauty and numerous sacrifices, the combination turns out to be flawed, and then the defeat becomes for him even more painful and humiliating than if he had been physically dragged face down in the road.”

After reading the above I reflected upon a game recently played over contain in the latest issue of Chess Life magazine. In reply to a letter to the editor GM Andy Soltis writes, “Good point, Dr. Seda-Irizzary. Tal is a splendid example because he understood the principle of “Nothing Left to Lose.” That is, when you are truly lost, you should forget about finding a “best” move that merely minimizes your lost-ness.” The game follows:

Vassily Smyslov

vs Mikhail Tal

Candidates Tournament Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade 10/03/1959 round 15

B42 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Bd3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.O-O d5 8.Nd2 Nf6 9.Qe2 Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.b3 a5 12.Bb2 a4 13.a3 axb3 14.cxb3 Qb6 15.exd5 cxd5 16.b4 Nd7 17.Nb3 e5 18.Bf5 e4 19.Rec1 Qd6 20.Nd4 Bf6 21.Rc6 Qe7 22.Rac1 h6 23.Rc7 Be5 24.Nc6 Qg5 25.h4 Qxh4 26.Nxe5 Nxe5 27.Rxc8 Nf3+ 28.gxf3 Qg5+ 29.Kf1 Qxf5 30.Rxf8+ Rxf8 31.fxe4 dxe4 32.Qe3 Rd8 33.Qg3 g5 34.Rc5 Rd1+ 35.Kg2 Qe6 36.b5 Kh7 37.Rc6 Qd5

38.Qe5 Rg1+ 39.Kh2 Rh1+ 40.Kg2 Rg1+ ½-½

I conclude the review with this paragraph:

“Salo Flohr,

with whom I was great friends, once showed me around the Moscow chess club, and told me, pointing at the photos of world champions on the wall: Sallynka, look at them. They are all the most normal, mad people.” Well, I’m ever thankful that I lived my life among such “normal, mad people” as Misha,



and Tolya Karpov.

(Garry Kasparov is also a genius, but not mad – that’s my opinion, anyway.)”

I enjoyed this wonderful book immensely. Anyone with a love of the history of the Royal Game will be greatly rewarded for spending their time reading a beautifully written love story surrounded by the “mad men” who play the game of Chess. Please keep in mind I have told you not all the words.
I give it all the stars in the universe!

How The Main Stream Media Views Chess

GM Kevin Spraggett

continues to lament the fact that the “Main Street Media” does not give the Royal Game decent coverage.

“With two World Championships going on as well as a number of elite tournaments, you would think that there would be a good chance of getting some pretty decent chess coverage in MSM.

Think again. MSM is generally wary of chess and more often than not reports on it only if someone was murdered, kidnapped by aliens or when the MSM can put a useable spin on it.”

The question that should be asked is, “Why should the MSM give any coverage to Chess?” As I have written previously the general public tuned out and turned off Chess when World Human Chess Champion Garry Kasparov

Kasparov showing the blues after losing to Deep Blue

took a dive when losing to the IBM computer program known as Deep Blue. After that debacle of one small step for man and one giant leap for machine all of the news made by the Chess world continued to be negative. The president of the world Chess organization FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov,

Vladimir Putin with minion Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

was a one man wrecking crew of negative publicity for Chess for DECADES. The fact that Chess garners any publicity at all from the MSM is remarkable.

You do not get any more main stream than the media giant known as the New York Times. From todaze article:

Checkmate or Stalemate? Carlsen and Caruana Draw Again

By Victor Mather

Nov. 19, 2018

“Like tick-tack-toe, five-day cricket matches and Italian soccer in the 1980s, chess has a lot of draws. But the two grandmasters currently battling for the world title in London, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, may be taking it a little too far.

Eight of the 12 games in their world championship match are over. And every one of them, including Monday’s Game 8, has ended in a draw.”

That was how the article began. This is how it ends:

“Ah, yes, the tiebreaker. Monday’s draw leaves four games to go in this year’s match. If no one wins any of them, the players will begin an arduous run of tiebreakers on Nov. 28 in the hopes that someone will actually win a game.

First, the players will face off in four games with a rapid time limit of only 25 minutes per player.

Four more draws? They will next play up to 10 more games at the blinding pace of only five minutes per player — so-called blitz games.

Still drawing? It’s time for an Armageddon game. In it, Carlsen and Caruana would play a single game: Whoever draws white — and goes first — will get five minutes, while black will get four.

If this game, too, is a draw, then the organizers will simply throw up their hands and declare black the winner of the match.


Listen up, Chess pooh-bahs! This writer concurs with what I have written for many years. He is laughing at Chess because he knows what a JOKE is the way a CHAMPIONSHIP has been and continues to be determined. REALLY!

Plagiarizing Ltisitsin’s Gambit

While researching the Lisitsin gambit for the previous article I found an interesting article which brought back memories. The article was in the Kingpin Chess Magazine, The Satirical Chess Magazine. (

I was surprised to see it is still in existence, though it appears now to be only online. Back issues can still be purchased. If only I could recall the issue shown to me by Thad Rogers many years ago. The particular issue contained a picture of a buxom lassie, nude from the waist up. Thad snickered when showing the then risque picture, informing he had to remove it from the table when shown the page containing the bountiful boobies. Today such a picture would not even rate a second glance, but things were much different ‘back in the day’ before the internet. The magazine was definitely the Kingpin of that tournament, if you get my drift. I recall a later discussion about the picture with one player, a religious type, asking, “Wonder why Thad did not show it to me?”

The article found concerning the Litsitsin gambit is dated February 25, 2010:

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

This item deals with an accusation of plagiarism leveled against GM Raymond Keene

in the magazine Inside Chess: May 3rd, 1993, pages 24-25; June 14th 1993, page 19 and February 7th 1994, page 3. We are grateful to Inside Chess, now owned by Chess Café, for permission to reproduce this material and would refer the reader to the website where Yasser Seirawan contributes a regular Inside Chess article.

Inside Chess, May 3 1993

The Sincerest Form of Flattery?

By IM John Donaldson

Examples of plagiarism are not unknown in chess literature, but Raymond Keene has set a new standard for shamelessness in his recent work, The Complete Book of Gambits (Batsford, 1992). True, the work of completely original nature is rare in the field of opening theory. The conscientious author typically collects material from a large number of sources (in itself a time consuming but useful task) and offers some new ideas of his own. Unfortunately, Mr. Keene has done nothing less than steal another man’s work and pass it off as his own.


A glance at pages 128-132 of his recent book, The Complete Book of Gambits, and a comparison with my two-part article on Lisitsin’s Gambit, which appeared in Inside Chess, Volume 4, Issue 3, page 25-26, and Issue 4, page 26, early in 1991, reveals that not only did Mr. Keene have nothing new to say about Lisitsin’s Gambit, he could hardly be bothered to change any of the wording or analysis from the articles that appeared in Inside Chess, other than to truncate them a bit. What’s more, no mention of the original source was given in the The Complete Book of Gambits, misleading the reader as to the originality of Mr. Keene’s work.

Just how blatant was the plagiarism? Virtually every word and variation in the four-and-a-half pages devoted to Lisitsin’s Gambit in Keene’s book was stolen. Take a look at the following example: In Inside Chess, Volume 4, Issue 3, page 26 the following note is given after the sequence 1.Nf3 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Ng5 Nf6 4.d3 e5;

Accepting the gambit is foolhardy – 4…exd3 5.Bxd3 (The position is exactly the same as From’s Gambit: 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 with the exception that White’s Knight is already on g5, which spells a quick end for Black) 5…g6 (5…d5? 6.Bxh7) 6.h4 (Botvinnik gives 6.Nxh7! Rxh7 7.Bxg6+ Rf7 8.g4! [For 8.Nd2 see Supplemental Games next issue] 8…d5 9.g5 Ne4 10.Qh5 Nd6 [10…Be6 11.Bxf7+ Bxf7 12.g6] 11.Bxf7+ Nxf7 12.g6 winning) 6…d5 (6…e6 7.h5 Rg8 8.Nxh7 with a winning game Dorfman-Villareal, Mexico 1977) 7.h5 Bg4 8.f3 Bxh5 9.g4 Qd6 10.gxh5 Nxh5 11.Rxh5! Qg3+ (11…gxh5 12.f4 Qf6 13.Qxh5+ Kd7 14.Nf7 Rg8 15.Qxd5+) 12.Kf1 gxh5 13.f4 Qh4 14.Qf3 c6 15.Ne6 Kd7 16.Bf5 Bh6 17.Be3 Na6 18.Nc3 Nc7 19.Nc5+ Ke8 20.Bf2 Qf6 21.Qxh5+ Qf7 22.Bd7+ winning) – analysis by “King’s Pawn” in a 1956 issue of Chess.

Besides 4…e5 Black has two important alternatives in 4…e3 and 4…d5. For the former see issue 4. After the latter White gets the edge via 5.dxe4 h6 6.Nf3 dxe4 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.Ne5 Ke8 (8…Be6 9.Nc3 Nbd7 10.Bf4 c6 11.O-O-O Ke8 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Bc4 Bf5 14.h3 g5 15.Be5 Bg7 16.g4 Bg6 17.Rhe1 and White is better in Sergievsky-Chistyakov, USSR 1964) 9.Bc4 e6 10.Ng6 Rg8 11.Nxf8 Rxf8 12.Nc3 and White is better in Podzielny-Castro, Dortmund 1977.

In The Complete Book of Gambits the following note is given after 4…e5;

Accepting the gambit is foolhardy – 4…exd3 5.Bxd3 (The position is exactly the same as From’s Gambit: 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 with the exception that White’s Knight is already on g5, which spells a quick end for Black) 5…g6 (5…d5? 6.Bxh7) 6.h4 (Botvinnik gives 6.Nxh7! Rxh7 7.Bxg6+ Rf7 8.g4! d5 9.g5 Ne4 10.Qh5 Nd6 [10…Be6 11.Bxf7+ Bxf7 12.g6] 11.Bxf7+ Nxf7 12.g6 winning) 6…d5 (6…e6 7.h5 Rg8 8.Nxh7 with a winning game Dorfman-Villareal, Mexico 1977) 7.h5 Bg4 8.f3 Bxh5 9.g4 Qd6 10.gxh5 Nxh5 11.Rxh5! Qg3+ (11…gxh5 12.f4 Qf6 13.Qxh5+ Kd7 14.Nf7 Rg8 15.Qxd5+) 12.Kf1 gxh5 13.f4 Qh4 14.Qf3 c6 15.Ne6 Kd7 16.Bf5 Bh6 17.Be3 Na6 18.Nc3 Nc7 19.Nc5+ Ke8 20.Bf2 Qf6 21.Qxh5+ Qf7 22.Bd7+ ) – analysis by King’s Pawn in a 1956 issue of Chess.

Besides 4…e5 Black has two important alternatives in 4…e3 and 4…d5. The former is considered in the text game whilst after the latter White gets the edge via 4…d5 5.dxe4 h6 6.Nf3 dxe4 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.Ne5 Ke8 (8…Be6 9.Nc3 Nbd7 10.Bf4 c6 11.O-O-O Ke8 12.Nxd7 Bxd7 13.Bc4 Bf5 14.h3 g5 15.Be5 Bg7 16.g4 Bg6 17.Rhe1 and White is better in Sergievyky-Chistyakov, USSR 1964) 9.Bc4 e6 10.Ng6 Rg8 11.Nxf8 Rxf8 12.Nc3 as in Podzielny-Castro, Dortmund 1977.

Fairness Called For

To be fair to Mr. Keene, he did some original work on Lisitsin’s Gambit – or perhaps he just miscopied. Consider the note after the moves 5.dxe4 Bc5 6.Bc4 Qe7 7.Bf7+. The Inside Chess article gives:

“The inaugural game in this variation, Lisitsin-Botvinnik, saw 7.Nc3 Bxf2+ 8.Kxf2 Qc5+ 9.Kg3 Qxc4 10.Rf1 O-O 11.Rxf6! gxf6 12.Qh5 Rf7 13.Nxf7 Qxf7 14.Qg4+ Kh8 15.Nd5 Na6 16.Qh4 d6 17.Bh6 Be6 18.Qxf6+ with equal chances.”

Photocopy Would Be Better

The note in The Complete Book of Gambits is exactly the same except that “with equal chances” is changed to “with equal success.” A burst of originality in Mr. Keene’s part, or just Fingerfehler? More originality is seen as “Sergievsky” at Keene’s hands. Perhaps he would do better to just photocopy other people’s work and print that.

Mr. Keene’s behavior is absolutely inexcusable.

Batsford Replies

Dear Mr. Donaldson,

Thank you for your recent letter regarding The Complete Book of Gambits. I have discussed this matter with Raymond Keene who informs me that a full credit for yourself and Inside Chess was prepared with the manuscript to go into the book. However, due to an oversight on his part this became detached and failed to appear in the book. It was not his intention to publish the piece without due acknowledgement.

Mr. Keene offers his full apologies for this unfortunate oversight, which will be put right on the second edition (or the whole piece dropped if you prefer). Furthermore, he is happy to offer you, or any nominated charity of your choice, a share of the UK royalties on the book equivalent to the share that the Lisitsin section occupies in the book. We hope that such a settlement will be amenable to you.

On another matter, Mr. Keene will be the organiser of the 1993 World Championship match between Kasparov and Short and will be happy to supply your excellent magazine with full accreditation if you contact him directly. His fax number is (fax number given).

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Kinsman

Chess Editor (Batsford)

Donaldson Replies

Dear Mr. Kinsman,

Thank you for your prompt and courteous reply.

I would prefer that my work be omitted from any second edition of The Complete Book of Gambits and I suspect that if all the other victims of Mr. Keene’s “unfortunate oversights” are accorded the same privilege, it will be a slender work indeed.

(The complete lack of any bibliography for this book is typical of Keene.)

As for your generous offer of a share of the UK royalties, I would prefer a flat payment of $50 per-page ($200) be sent to me at this address.

Finally, I am afraid Inside Chess will have to cover the Kasparov-Short match without benefit of Mr. Keene’s accreditation which, no doubt, would somehow “detach” itself and “fail to appear” due to an “unfortunate oversight.”

Yours sincerely,

John Donaldson

Associate Editor, Inside Chess

There is more, much more, that can be found by clicking the link above.

As for GM Raymond Keene, the author of Chess Notes, Edward Winter, ( basically ripped Keene a new one at his website. It is sad, really, when one contemplates GM Keene authored one of the best Chess books I have ever read, and many others have had it one their list of the best Chess books of all time.

A word about Inside Chess

magazine from Dennis Monokroussos at The Chess Mind:

A Review of Inside Chess, 1988-2000

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 9:58PM

For large chunks of its history, Chess Life and Review was provincial, very slow to report on international events, and aimed at a very low readership in terms of skill. There was no internet though, and it had something pretty close to a monopoly in the United States, so strong club players (and up) were stuck. We could get the Informant twice a year (pretty late), and some lucky few of us could occasionally get photocopies of tournament bulletins Walter Browne would bring from overseas.

It was this vacuum that Yasser Seirawan’s

Inside Chess filled in a wonderful way from 1988 to 2000. For most of its run, the magazine came out every two weeks, and it included tournament reports from all over the world, with a special focus on super-tournaments. Sometimes Seirawan himself was a participant in those tournaments, but whether he was or not the reports were timely, colorful, and full of games commented on by the man himself. As an elite grandmaster, he certainly knew what he was talking about, and what was even better was his commentary style.

Seirawan could sling variations with the best of them, but his commentaries were primarily verbal. They were lively, insightful, and highly opinionated. Seirawan was no respecter of persons when it came to annotating a move, and if a move offended his aesthetic sensibilities he could award it a “??”, even if it was played (and praised!) by Garry Kasparov. One may dispute Seirawan’s judgments, but because of his forthrightness the reader is engaged and will both learn and be entertained.

The magazine wasn’t just Seirawan, though it was his baby. Many other players on both sides of the Atlantic helped out over the years, most of all American (by way of Bulgaria) IM Nikolay Minev, who wrote numerous articles from opening theory to chess history to various subtle tactical themes. (Others include GMs John Nunn, Nigel Short and Walter Browne; IMs Jeremy Silman, John Donaldson and Zoran Ilic, and there were many many more.) Nor was the magazine only games and analysis: there were tournament reports (with pictures and crosstables), interviews, discussions of chess politics, news briefs (often fascinating, as we see players who are famous today making their first tiny splashes on the world scene), and ads. (You might think of it as a sort of non-glossy, biweekly version New In Chess.)

That there were advertisements shouldn’t be surprising – bills must be paid. But one might not expect them to have survived into the current product. As an American who remembers many of the tournaments, companies and products advertised from the time, they have a small nostalgic value to me, but in all honesty a format that eliminated them wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. The format, however, gives us no choice: what we have are PDFs of scanned hard copies of the magazine’s issues.

There are three disks in the set: one for 1988-1990, a second for 1991-1995, and a third for 1996-2000. Each issue has its own PDF file, and while the issues are searchable the games can’t be successfully copied-and-pasted into ChessBase. Two handy features are a pair of PDFs: one with an index for the whole series, the other concatenating all 284 issues’ tables of contents. Not ideal, perhaps, but a decent compromise to having one gigantic PDF that would take a long time to load and search.

Maybe the product could have been better, but even so I’m very glad to own a copy, and I can heartily recommend it to chess fans everywhere and of all strengths (especially but not only to those rated over 1700-1800), and to fans of chess of history.

(Ordering information here; and many samples of Inside Chess articles can be found on the Chess Cafe website – type “Inside Chess” [without the quotation marks] in the site’s search box to find lots of sample articles.)

The Computer: A Phantom Specter Haunting Chess

Computers Are Haunting The World Chess Championship (Which, Yes, Is Still Tied)

By Oliver Roeder

Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in London, like the two games that came before it, ended in a draw — 49 moves and a touch more than four hours. The best-of-12 championship is currently level at 1.5 points apiece in a race to 6.5 points and the game’s most important prize.

On Monday, Caruana controlled the white pieces and Carlsen the black.

The pair began Game 3 with an opening called the Sicilian Defence, specifically its Rossolimo Variation. It was the same opening they played in Game 1 — which ended in an epic seven-hour draw — and the first five moves exactly matched those from that earlier game. But they deviated dramatically from this familiar ground on move 6, when Carlsen moved his queen to the c7 square. Caruana glanced around the soundproof glass room in which they played, looking slightly befuddled.

A quick word on this opening’s eponymous Rossolimo himself seems warranted, given that Monday’s game was lacking in fireworks and Rossolimo’s name has figured more prominently thus far in this world championship than any but Caruana and Carlsen. He was Nicolas Rossolimo, Renaissance man:

one of the U.S.’s 12 grandmasters at the time, fluent in Russian, Greek, French and English, and the “proprietor of a chess studio,” which became a second home to some players. He was also a judo master and a New York City cab driver and recorded an album of Russian folk songs, according to The New York Times. He died in 1975 after a fall near the storied Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.

Fabiano Caruana at the Marshall Chess Club

Magnus Carlsen at the Marshall Chess Club

There is another figure, aside from the colorful Rossolimo, casting its shadow over this championship: The Computer. Most livestreams of the match feature instant computer engine analyses, whose cold numbers instantly assess the humans’ tiniest inaccuracies down to hundredths of a pawn. Those judgments ripple through the commentary. Full disclosure, I rely heavily on a chess engine running on my laptop to aid my understanding as I watch the games. One popular site during recent world championships features live analysis showing arrows pointing out a supercomputer’s favored moves. (

The principals in the match have also commented on The Computer’s somewhat spooky influence.

“I’m facing not only Fabiano and his helpers, but also his computer help,” Carlsen said in a press conference after Game 2. (He was referring to Caruana’s deep preparation for the game, although Carlsen surely uses a computer to prep, too.)

“It’s like you’re playing against a phantom,” Judit Polgar,

a grandmaster providing official commentary on the match, said today.

The Computer can often seem like a phantom, a specter haunting the games. It can seem like an overlord that has rendered the human game obsolete and small. But it’s important to remember that man made the machines. Garry Kasparov lost to the supercomputer Deep Blue,

World Chess champion Garry Kasparov barely acknowledges the handshake from Dr. C.J. Tan head of the IBM Deep Blue computer team which defeated Kasparov in the six-game series that ended on May 11, 1997.
Credit: Roger Celestin/Newscom

but a team of humans sweated and bled to built it. In these technological gaming battles, man plays two roles: builder and performer.

At the world championship in London, we are witnessing the performance of two of the best players in the history of the game. That stronger computers exist, and have helped Caruana and Carlsen get to London, does not detract from their feat.

Game One World Chess Human Chess Championship Commentary

There is a massive amount of analysis on the games of the 2018 World Human Chess Championship which you will not find here. What you will find are comments about the commentary delivered by some of the announcers during the first game played yesterday.

I began watching the commentary of Peter Svidler

because Yaz, Maurice, and Jen only appeared a couple of hours into the match. The wife of GM Anish Giri, Sopiko Guramishvili,

was sitting beside Peter. GM Alexander Grischuk

was included via a box which was probably via Skype. When the show began Sopiko giggled often, which was disconcerting. When Grischuk appeared she, thankfully, sat there silently as the two GMs analysed. I have always enjoyed Svidler’s commentary. Some of the wrap up videos he has produced after commenting on games all day are truly amazing. Unfortunately for Sopiko, in a live broadcast one either adds to or detracts from the broadcast. She was included only because of political correctness as she is a woman and many people involved with Chess deem it necessary to include a woman, any woman, in a futile attempt to attract more women to the game.

After turning them off I waited until the “A” team appeared. GMs Yasser Seriwan

and Maurice Asheley

did not disappoint. Once again NM Jennifer Shahade

joined Yasser to deliver a female perspective. The men wore normal clothing while Jennifer wore something with a strategic split along the top which looked like someone had taken a knife and slashed the top part of her clothing. This allowed a small amount of her ample cleavage to be shown in an attempt, one assumes, at attracting more male viewers. Have you ever noticed a man wearing anything similar? In the year of the “Me Too” movement it may have been better for the only female on the broadcast to have worn something more business like and less revealing. Can you imagine Yasser or Maurice wearing a top with an open rip in order to reveal part of their breast area? Me neither…

This was heard on the broadcast: “Magnus said he did not have the energy now at 28 that he had when he won the WCC.”

The human body replaces each and every cell every seven years. This is the year in which Magnus will replace his cells. I wonder if that may have something to do with his comment? I have been researching Major League Baseball players and age recently and one thing learned thus far is that a players peak year, once thought to be thirty, is now thought to be twenty eight. The highest amount of time on the disabled list is between ages twenty nine and thirty. I cannot help but wonder if there is also a correlation between the brain and body as far as ageing goes…

Magnus beat the hell out of a dead horse for 115 moves yesterday in a futile attempt to squeeze blood out of a turnip. His attempt failed and it is possible the attempt may come back to haunt him as he could be the one weakened, not his younger opponent. Once again Magnus had a winning game he did not win. The same thing has occurred against Fabiano in their recent encounters, but Caruana has held firm, just as Sergei Karjakin did against Magnus in the last match for the World Human Chess Championship. Has Magnus, the ultimate grinder, lost his grinding machine driving wheel?

During the critical part of the game Garry Kasparov

appeared on the program as a “special” guest via Skype. As Kasparov droning on and on I thought about a quote about Bob Dylan found in the book, Another Side of Bob Dylan: A Personal History on the Road and off the Tracks by Victor Maymudes.

A party was being planned and someone mentioned inviting Bob Dylan. “Don’t do that,” someone said, “Bob sucks all the air out of the room.” Kasparov sucked all the life out of the broadcast so I had to mute the sound and head over to the ChessBomb until Garry finally exited the stage.

As Magnus continued squeezing the turnip the talk turned to the format of the World Human Chess Championship. There was total agreement speed Chess should not be used to decide a WHCC but the gang seemed to like the idea of what is now called “rapid” Chess being used after “classical” games to decide a WHCC. There is currently a tournament, the Tata Steel India Rapid, being touted as the, “The first super tournament on Indian soil.” (

I loathe and detest any kind of tiebreak, especially for a World Champioship match. To become World Human Champion a player should beat the title holder in a classical time control. Period. If the challenger cannot beat the champ then what is the purpose of playing a match? If the challenger can only tie with the champion then the champion should remain Champion. Ask David Bronstein.

The future of Chess has arrived, I am sad to report. It was inevitable because of rampant cheating. The Royal game will live or die with rapid. I cannot wait to hear Peter Svidler attempt to explain what is going on in a half dozen rapid games being played at the same time. The calm and relaxed Yasser who usually goes with a slow flow will be forced to pick up the pace considerably in the way a Major League Baseball announcer must adjust to the frenzied pace of a National Basketball Association game. Yasser is not getting any younger and it is often difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. The highly intense Maurice, on the other hand, may be able to adapt quite well. Give Jennifer a low cut blouse and with her smile she will do quite nicely at any pace.

The Najdorf in Black and White: A Review

Because of having played the Najdorf system during my formative years in the last century I was interested in learning about GM Bryan Smith’s new book on the opening (

I met Bryan

at the 2009 Kentucky Open where he took first place by a half point. There were myriad problems with the tournament, directed by Alan Priest, which included no electricity for the lighting in the first couple of rounds, so it was played in semi-darkness, which seemed to not bother Mr. Priest. After developing a splitting headache, due to the poor lighting, and losing a game, I withdrew from the tournament, but returned the following day to spectate. While Bryan was waiting on the last round games to finish a conversation developed. Bryan is a quite, taciturn young man, the kind of fellow who lets his moves do his talking. I learned he was from Anchorage Alaska, and he is now the first-ever Grandmaster from Alaska. My home state of Georgia has yet to produce a home-grown GM. I recall asking Bryan why he decided to travel to Louisville in lieu of playing in one of the other, larger, tournaments in his area. He answered in a way that said he would rather be a big fish in a small pond that weekend rather than being a smaller fish in a much larger pond. “Better odds of taking home money?” I asked, and he produced a grin. We talked for some time and I transcribed what was recalled of the conversation later that day, but never used it, much to my regret. Bryan graciously answered my questions so what I recall was an enjoyable afternoon conversation with one of the nicest GM’s with whom I have conversed.

I have replayed many Nadjorf games since moving on to playing other openings, but have not devoted time studying the Nadjorf system with the intensity shown earlier when playing the system. For some time I have wanted a book to read on the system in order to compare the way the system is played now as opposed to how it was played last century, but the books are usually dense and voluminous, with a heavy emphasis on variations. Some of the books could be used as a doorstop. When my review copy, published by Mongoose Press (, arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see it was only a small volume of 162 pages. The book is heavy on words, and ideas, rather than being yet another “data-dump.” Some have written books like the magnificent Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953,

by David Bronstein,

et al, cannot be published today because words, conveying ideas, are predominate. This book proves those writers wrong. Most of the variations included are short enough one does not need a board with which to visualize them. One of the players from my early days told me he liked to read a Chess book without using a board. There are enough diagrams for one to utilize this book in that way, which is exactly how I read the book. Then I read it again using a board and pieces because it is that good.

The book begins with an Introduction: The Cadillac of Openings.

“With this book, I present a collection of games played in the Najdorf Sicilian. The purpose of this book is not to be exhaustive – that would require at least ten times the content, and even then it would not encompass a fraction of the analysis and relevant games played in the Najdorf. This book also does not suggest a repertoire for either White or Black – although players can glean some ideas, since I have generally picked games played in the lines I favor. I think it is dishonest for a writer to try to portray an opening in only a positive light: ultimately, even the most objective writers of repertoire books have to massage the facts and minimize the problems of an opening – and every opening has them.

The purpose of this book, rather, is to show how to play the Najdorf, with White or Black, through archetypal games. I believe that by studying the games in this book, one can develop a solid general sense of the different types of game resulting from the Najdorf as played in the twenty-first century. It is my hope that readers will also gain some degree of enjoyment or entertainment from the games, which have been selected not only on their instructional merits, but also for their aesthetic value.”

The book will be judged by the criteria chosen by the author. The question is whether Bryan delivered on his promise. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” In Baseball terms this book is like hitting a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series!

Bryan continues the introduction. “Having a lifelong opening that one knows inside and out like one’s own house is a major advantage to a chess player. It means that the player can always rely on reaching position that he understands in general terms and knows something about. Perhaps more importantly, though, it gives confidence.”

Reading the above caused me to reflect upon my early days playing the Najdorf. I have never felt as confident playing any opening as I did when playing the Najdorf system. Why did I stop playing the Najdorf system? Bryan continues the introduction, “A sufficiently rich opening will provide immunity against the winds of theory – if one variation is refuted, another can be found, so long as the opening is built on proper principles. I believe the Najdorf can be such an opening. Some may imagine that is is a theoretical labyrinth, suitable only for those with an incredible memory and a willingness to play twenty or more moves of known theory before beginning the game. It is true that there are certain lines in the Najdorf where this is the norm – for instance, the Poisoned Pawn Variation (6.Bg5 e6 7,f4 Qb6). However, the reader will see in this book that these variations can be sidestepped, and that it is indeed possible to play the Najdorf “by the light of nature,” with experience providing a guide. Most of the games I have chosen feature ways of avoiding these quagmires. Despite its sharpness, the Najdorf is an opening built on solid positional principles. It is basically a positional opening.”

When first beginning the Chess road the Dragon variation was very popular. Once a strong player advocated against purchasing a book on the Dragon because “It is written in disappearing ink.” He said that because the theory was changing so fast by the time you read the book, much of it had been refuted. The same could have been said about the Najdorf system. I also recall reading something about there being players who knew the Najdorf, but did not know Chess. I was one of those people, because like others, I knew the Najdorf, but not Chess. After leaving Chess for Backgammon, upon my return to Chess I simply did not have time to keep abreast of the constantly changing theory of the Najdorf system, so decided to learn, and play, other openings. Yet what I learned about Bobby Fischer’s favorite opening has stuck with me, while the other openings never infused me with the confidence felt when playing the Najdorf system.

After the introduction, and before the first chapter, one finds, The Development Of the Najdorf Sicilian, a seven page historical perspective of the Najdorf system. It begins, “The Najdorf can trace its origins to the nineteenth-century German master Louis Paulsen.

Paulsen was an innovator of defense. In an era when 1.e4 e5 was the dominant opening and direct attacking play was the main method of winning, Paulsen understood the concept of asymmetrical play and counterattack. His openings and positional play were often a full century ahead of their time.”

Louis Paulsen was one of the most interesting, and underappreciated, players from the early days of the nineteenth century. Paulsen’s ideas influenced the development of the Royal game greatly. I played openings such as the C26 Vienna, Paulsen-Mieses variation, for example.

Bryan gives a game between Lewis Isaacs and Abraham Kupchick played at Bradley Beach in 1928, writing, “A forgotten 1928 game from a tournament in the U. S. might be the first use of the “real” Najdorf.”

Lewis Isaacs vs Abraham Kupchik

Bradley Beach 1928

ECO: B92 Sicilian, Najdorf, Opovcensky variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 b5 7. Bf3 e5 8. Nb3 Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Re1 O-O 12. Rc1 Nb6 13. Na5 Rb8 14. Nxb7 Rxb7 15. b3 Rc7 16. Qd3 Nbd7 17. Be3 Nc5 18. Qd1 Qa8 19. Bg5 Ncd7 20. Nb1 h6 21. Bd2 Rfc8 22. Ba5 Rc6 23. g3 Nc5 24. Nc3 Bd8 25. Bxd8 Rxd8 26. Nd5 Nxd5 27. Qxd5 Qc8 28. Red1 Ne6 29. Bg4 Rc5 30. Qd2 Rc3 31. Re1 Qc5 32. Re3 Rxe3 33. fxe3 Ng5 34. Qd3 d5 35. exd5 Rxd5 36. Qe2 Qc3 37. h4 Rd2 38. Qe1 Ne4 39. Bf5 Nf2 40. Bd3 Nxd3 41. cxd3 Qxd3 42. Rc8+ Kh7 43. Rc1 f5 44. a4 b4 45. g4 Re2 0-1

He culminates the chapter with, “Despite the opening’s great popularity and constant use at the top level for many decades, the Najdorf remains mysterious and has its unexplored areas, with the new ideas waiting to be born. Its attraction for the chess professional today is easy to understand, since it is an opening where it is possible to play for a win with Black, while it is also unquestionably sound. Although positionally and tactically very sharp, the Najdorf player still controls his own fate.”

Chapter one is titled, Va Banque: 6.Bg5. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 the author advocates Qc7. I never played any move other than 7…Be7 because, well, you know, that is the move played by Bobby Fischer. After studying the games, and positions, I came to understand why the author would advocate the move Qc7 for those taking their first Najdorf steps. The amount of material in the main line can be daunting for a neophyte. The fourth game of the chapter is one in which the author had white against Hristos Banikas at Retymnon in 2009. After the obligatory first five moves of the Najdorf Bryan played 6 Bg5, which was answered with Nbd7. “An old and new move – it was played frequently in the 1950s and again in the 2010s – and not so much in-between.” After 7 f4 we have Qc7.

The other chapters are:

2) The Classicist’s Preference: 6 Be2
3) Add Some English: 6 Be3
4) In Morphy’s Style: 6 Bc4
5) White to Play and Win: 6 h3
6) Systematic: g3
7) Healthy Aggression: 6 f4
8) Action-Reaction: 6 a4
9) Odds and Ends

To illustrate what I mean by the use of words, in lieu of variations, to explain what is happening on both sides of the board, look at the position from Game 11: Zaven Andriasian-Ian Nepomniachtchi, played at the 2010 Aeroflot Open in Moscow. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nf3

The reader finds, “The retreat of the knight to f3 rather than b3 changes nothing in the structure (at least not right away), but the choice of this square has a dramatic effect on the course of the game. In contrast to 7. Nb3, putting the knight on f3 leads to much quieter, more positional play, where White tries t dominate the d5 square. And why is this? Whereas 7.Nb3 allows for White to play f2-f3 with queen-side castling and a king-side pawn storm, after 7,Nf3 this is not possible. White will almost certainly castle king-side. In the meantime, b3 is left free as a retreat square for the bishop from c4. Consequently, rather than opposite-side castling and mutual attacks, you get a more positional struggle.”

Another fine example is from Game 14, Nigel Short

vs Garry Kasparov,

PCA World Championship, game 8, London 1993: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Nbd7 8. f4 Nc5 9. e5 dxe5 10. fxe5 Nfd7 11. Bf4 b5

“In this way, Black places the bishop on its best diagonal (the long diagonal) before White can prevent it by Qd1-f3. Such a position might look good for White on the surface-the e5-pawn confers some space advantage and White has rapid development, plus the f-file is open and the white pieces are placed in threatening-looking positions. But such is the poison of the Sicilian. Black too has his advantages, and they tend to be more long-lasting. The bishop which will come to b7 will be very well placed. The advanced e5-pawn is not only a strength, but a weakness. And most importantly, Black has a well placed knight on c5 and a substantial advantage in space on the queen-side – the advance…b5-b4 is constantly looming over White, and the b3-bishop, if not activated in some dramatic fashion, could turn out to be a complete dud.”

One can turn to almost any page and find nuggets of wisdom such as the above illustrating the aims of BOTH SIDES! If one wishes to play the Najdorf system, or play against it, this is the book for you.

The author has dug deep, unearthing this game, found in the notes to Game 24, Judit Polgar

vs Dariusz Swiercz,

which I was unable to locate in any database. Bryan writes, “6…e6 is likely to be met by 7.g4, which looks like a fairly promising line for White – although 7…Nc6 is another possibility for Black to look into. Instead, the originator of 6.Qf3, American master Andrew Karklins, liked to continue with 7.b3. His record against grandmasters with this line was not very good, but he did have one major scalp:

Andrew Karklins

vs Peter Svidler,

World Open 1995

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6.Qf3 e6 7. b3 Qb6 8. Nde2 Qc7 9. Bb2 b5 10. a3 Bb7 11. g4 d5 12. exd5 Nxd5 13.
Bg2 Nd7 14. O-O Bd6 15. Qh3 Nxc3 16. Nxc3 Be5 17. Bxb7 Qxb7 18. Rad1 O-O 19.Qe3 Bb8 20. Ne4 Ne5 21. Bxe5 Bxe5 22. Nc5 Qc7 23. f4 Bf6 24. Rd7 Qb6 25. Rfd1 Rfd8 26. b4 a5 27. Qf3 axb4 28. axb4 Kf8 29. Kg2 Rdc8 30. R1d6 Qb8 31. Qd3 1-0

This book achieves its aim, hitting the target with a bullseye!