Book Review November 27, 2017 10:58 am

The latest Chess Book Review from ChessHot. Our rating points are as follows

New In Chess is a first-class publisher of chess books and also at the cutting edge of innovations in chess literature. We have below a selection of recent books published by them.

The Art of the Tarrasch Defence (Strategies, Techniques and Surprising Ideas) by Alexey Bezgodov is a book of true artistry, where the "many-sidedness" of chess is explored and ideas are breathed new life. In terms of chess literature, the Tarrasch Defence has been the poor relation to the Slav and Indian defences. I know this as a student of the Tarrasch myself and my first go-to defence against 1.d4 for years. I suffered at the hands of many an experienced 1.d4 player as I just didn't have a grasp on the structures, ideas and dynamic themes This book resets the balance giving a goldmine of resource for any ambitious amateur player or curious candidate master or even interested international masters or gracious grandmaster who want to deep into the latest thoughts around one of the oldest and "most ambitious" defences to 1.d4.

When you buy a book like The Art of the Tarrasch Defence, you want several things.

1. A good overview of the opening with good practical examples. The book offers you this and more.

There is a brief introduction which explains the purpose of the book and sections of the sections of the book. These sections are brilliantly written and exactly to the point.

2.The bad lines that actually offer some hidden resources that have been overlooked. There are a lot of chess books on the opening that claim to have uncovered long-lost treasures but don't actually deliver on the promise. One such example is the almost forgotten Curt von Bardeleben System which poses new challenges to white's standard setups. As the author makes clear these lines are not just about correctness but giving black a playable game.

3. Layout of the book. The book has a great layout, with plenty of diagrams. The book has the very pleasing format of starting chapters on a new page and each chapter starts with a summary page with diagram. It is not hard to see how much this adds to the book's ease of use and readability.

4. Games, Cross-references and highlighting themes. The Art of the Tarrasch Defence features many games, these are carefully chosen and appear as complete games. There are lots of cross-reference of one variation as compared to another and strategic and tactical themes which make the book accessible to the intermediate strength players, club players, and tournament players.

5. The book has a selection of top players, "Giants of the Tarrasch Defence" (Spassky,Gligoric, Keres, and Kasparov) who are all famous for having played the Tarrasch and the book explores not only their handling of the opening but how they play against it, yes I'm not kidding. This novel approach propels this book from a very good new re-appraisal of an old opening to a classic.

6.Exercises, Solutions, Indexes are engaging, comprehensive and detailed respectively. The use of diagrams in the index of variations and the index of players

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you if you like me have struggled to find an opening which is solid, has rarely played lines and has a brilliantly written book to guide you.

Play 1...d6 Against Everything. The old saying is that "One should never judge a book by its cover" this is one exception it really is "A compact and ready-to-use black repertoire for club players". I think every amateur player has attempted to find a system for black that can beat everything white can play. These books promise the world and deliver considerably less than that. However, gadly this is not the case here. The book aims to show the reader patterns to understand as opposed to variation to memorize.

The chapter pages of the book reminded me of a more user-friendly Modern Chess Opening or Nunn's Chess Openings where all the relevant variation treated in the chapter are shown at a glance. The index of variations and the chapter summary of variations are exactly the same but this duplication helps the book feel more interactive and easier to follow.

What is surprising about this book is that it manages to cover a vast area of white first moves and transpositions into the 1...d6 system but it doesn't feel like it. We as amateurs say we want a comprehensive opening treatise but we don't want it to feel like it is otherwise we leave it to on the bookshelf to gather dust like the rest of the opening tomes we bought with such enthusiasm but later feel such regret.

The games in the book are centered on four main variations "The Endgame Variation", "The Antoshin Variation, "The Old Indian", and The English Opening". The book thankfully also covers the side variations after 1.e4 and 1.d4 and flank openings.

The editor's foreword to the book explains the book's purpose, providing a "well structured and manageable" resource for black against everything white can throw at black. 

The authors are at pains to give conclusions at each stage of the book. There are conclusions after each illustrative game (complete games) , conclusions after each chapter and there even summaries and overviews at the start of each chapter. While this is great what feels like it could have been an additional bonus is highlighting themes and patterns in the chapter itself with a bit more detail rather than waiting until the end to summarise in more general terms. It is hard to criticize the book for this since it was written as "a compact and ready-to-use black repertoire". This aim it achieves and goes far beyond.

Dismantling the Sicilian by Jesus De La Villa & Max Illingworth. This book is incredible for many reasons. Firstly is the topic feels fresh and challenging despite this being a new and updated edition of a classic. The idea that one can dismantle any opening in chess is out there and a big ask for a book which could have any of its lines refuted after it has been published. However, if  add the fact that the opening is one of the most played and highly analyzed openings for black then this is the chess opening theory equivalent of ascending Everest and yet just opening the book and seeing their handling of the various lines and novelties will at least get us to base camp if not beyond.

This book has do get extra credit for having a very generous selection of recent games at the highest level in 2017. The chapters have summaries and the themes and strategic ideas are highlighted in a very accessible and exciting format. For instance, diving into Chapter 16, The 6.Be2 Najdorf, the reader will be pleased to see sections in the chapter titled "Black doesn't touch the e-pawn", "7..Be7 without fast castling" and "Carlsen's blitz twist".

I am a 1.e4 player and also a dragon player with the black pieces, so rushed to chapter 12, "The Dragon 5...g6, and I expected perhaps inexplicably to see the Levenfish variation which I believe to be the least favourite opening for most dragon players. It wasn't there! What was there was 6.Be3 7.f3 the super solid variation, which got me thinking about how the book is about dismantling the silician and not an attempt to refute it! I thumbed through more of the book eager to learn more about my mishandling of the white pieces when playing against the Sicilian. I came across the Pin variation, "5. b4?! is the Pin variation, which relies on White showing Black's premature attack too much respect." I had smiled this book was exactly on point.

This book's new edition is so good it made me regret all the white games where I had be slaughtered by black because I did not know how to handle black's Sicilian variation. In this brand new format I would have been able look up the antidote to each variation and to play 1.e4 with confidence. No tournament player can afford not to have something against black's most aggressive of responses in 1...c5. However we must give credit to the "original 2009 edition" which the book does on the back cover and rightly so, this new edition owes a lot to the original.

Despite the book not having a separate section of exercises and solutions, it was clear from the flow of the book's discussion on novelties and specific variations and sidelines we were experiencing a more mature method of learning where the ideas are discussed and you the reader a free to literally close your eyes and come up with some original thoughts before you delve into each chapter.

I thoroughly recommend this book to all white players who will face the Sicilian and the black players who want to know how bad it could get with a well prepared white player armed with this wonderful book.

United States