Friday, February 08, 2013

Chess openings: Two more books (Sicilian Sveshnikov and unusual Ruy Lopez lines)

Here are a couple more chess opening books.
Starting Out: Sicilian Sveshnikov”, by John Cox (Everyman Chess, 2007, ISBN 978-1857444315, 271 pages, paper) is a thorough survey of probably the most “controversial” Black system in the Sicilian Defense.  It has become “popular” particularly in the 21st Century. Old dogmatic ideas about positional weaknesses have given way to a more dynamic understanding of how chess really works in practice.  In this opening, Black gains some critical tempi for development at the expense of a “hole” on the “d5” square, and possibly a busted kingside.  In exchange, Black seems to get coordinated pieces, a mobile center, open lines (especially on the kingside around White’s king), sometimes the two bishops, or often opposite colored Kings’ bishops where Black’s is the more active.  Spectacular mating attacks, sometimes involving the bank rank, have occurred. 
Cox covers the more “amateurish” replies thoroughly for club play, and then goes into the critical lines (like the “Nivisibirsk” and the “Chelyabinsk”, with White’s spectacular piece sacrifice, where Black seems to be holding his own (although many critical lines end in draws or perpetuals) his King, appearing naked to a peeping Tom, is surprisingly hard for White to get at.

Cox gives many illustrations, clearly correlated to the variations, which makes the book easier to study without playing out every variation. 

One issue for Black would be White’s “anti-Sveshnikov” with “3 Nc3”.  It really seems to me that, objectively, Black’s life is difficult if he plays “3 ..e5”; if he delays one move with “3 …Nf6”, he may not have the best lines available to meet “4 Bb5”.  So Black can play “3 … g6”, but the proper way to avoid the Yugoslav needs more detailed explanation (I’m not sure the pawn sacrifice he gives is correct in that exact position). 
The second book  here is “Dangerous Weapons:  Ruy Lopez: Dazzle your Opponents”, also from Everyman Chess, by John Cox, John Emms, and Tony Kosten (2013, 978-1857446913, 300 pages, paper).  This book covers three less “accepted” defense for Black, and some ideas for white involving “d3”, including another anti-Marhsall.

The best Black defense presented here seems to be the Berlin Classical (Black plays  Nf6 and Bc5 without a6), which, despite its former reputation of being loose, seems to give Black straightforward piece play and counterattacking chances (appealing to “tactical” players) and allows White only a tiny edge with best play.  The lines here seem to blend a bit with the “modern Archangel” (which I wish the authors had covered with another explicit chapter, given the complexity of move order issues and the questions about the deployment of Black’s light-square Bishop, and the possibility of some major Black pawn sacrifices).  It’s easy for White to stumble (yes, to “patz”), and sometimes Black wins quickly in these lines, especially in club play. 
Another defense given is the Aronian (an early Nge7), which I personally think will have too much trouble with White ideas like “Bb3” and old fashioned fork threats.  (Isn’t that what King Pawn players want?)  

Still another is an “open Chigorin” in the Closed Defense, which looks interesting and makes a reasonably combative  alternative to Larry Kaufman’s recommendation of using the Breyer.  

Cox talks about the term "dangerous weapon" as a chess line that seems counter-intuitive and obscure and likely to surprise strong opponents.

Feb. 9

I lost with White to one of those "vicious mating attacks" by Black in the classical Kings Indian last night. Yup, I checked Kaufman and went wrong early, according to theory.  It's hard to remember all of this.  Despite its reputation at the highest levels of theory, the Kings Indian gives good practical chances in club play.  White has to be accurate.

I'm told that USCF ratings for older players are going down, because "the kids" are getting stronger playing computers and each other before entering general competition.  "1600" today is much better than it was in the 1960s.  

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