When I set out to write this book, I was clear on certain aspects, like keeping the moves simple and giving as much explanation as possible at the critical moments, as I wanted to ensure that someone interested in learning the intricacies of the Berlin doesn’t get swamped by long theoretical lines, but acquires a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the positions. If you manage to grasp the dynamics of these lines, then you can play not just the systems recommended in the book, but also other popular Berlin variations that have not been covered in this book for the Black side.
This book is written for the Black side, though new ideas for White are suggested and old ones occasionally improved. It contains not only the author’s personal take on how to deal with all major White tries after 1.e4 c6, but also a range of alternatives for Black to cater for different types of Caro-Kann player.
The Colle-Zukertort is a deep independent opening in its own right, but is also very flexible. Transpositions to the Queen’s Indian or Slav are often possible. The simplicity of placing the bishop on d3, a knight on e5 and following up with f4 and Rf3 with checkmating prospects is very tempting. Underneath it all though, it is way more than that simplified idea. It is filled with rich positional possibilities and nuances that one should be aware of. I have tried to show as many aspects as possible, pointing out exactly the relevant details and knowledge that are normally only accessible to strong positional players, such as Kramnik.
This opening is for fans of classical chess. I wanted to present chess in the “old” style, before players had access to engines to help them with their play and understanding. Before engines, players such as Colle and Zukertort created and innovated to such an extent that we still use their ideas today. I wanted to use this approach, to remind readers that this style of chess still exists.
My aim in this book is to show that the Delayed Benoni is equally as attractive as its cousin, the Modern Benoni. For some reason – perhaps because “Modern” sounds more exciting than “Delayed”? – my favorite Benoni has been neglected for years, receiving scant coverage in chess publications.
The advantage of “our” Benoni is based on a waiting approach. Black would like to choose a perfect moment to play ...e6xd5, waiting for White to adopt some piece setup that turns out to be inconvenient for him after this exchange. At the same time, we would like to avoid some dangerous or deeply explored variations like the Flick-Knife (a.k.a Taimanov) or systems where White can place his bishop on the optimal f4-square.
A lot of variations in this book can also be useful for King’s Indian players, as a main or alternative way to play. My own journey in the world of the Delayed Benoni started when I was a King’s Indian kind of guy!
Throughout the book I have tried not only to look for variations where there is always life and winning chances for Black, but also to offer decent continuations, not just say that ‘Black has counterplay’, when he might clearly be worse, which is the case in some books. The work presented here is designed for every player willing to improve his or her general understanding of the Dutch Defense, especially of the Leningrad Variation, with both colors. It provides a full repertoire for Black not only against 1.d4, but also against 1.c4 and 1.Nf3. I believe that the material offered here can help players from club level to GM level, and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much I did writing it!
Here we are, together on this page, both interested in the French Defence with 3.Nc3 Bb4. Before telling you what you can learn from this opening, let me tell you a little story about my journey in the French. I started playing the French after reading John Watson’s Play the French, which improved my play a lot. I learned that the French is a positional yet concrete opening, and many of my young opponents couldn’t grasp its subtleties. Moreover, many opponents were far less prepared against 1...e6 than against 1...c5 or 1...e5. Unfortunately those days would end.
During the 2008 Dutch Youth Championships (U20), I understood that everyone would throw 7.Qg4 in the Winawer at me. In that respect, my opening preparation was simple: I’d study the Winawer for Black very intensively and the problem would be solved. In reality, I faced many difficulties. Novelties I’d find in the evenings were promptly refuted by the engine the next morning; I was constantly thinking about the French, but I couldn’t quite make it work. There was this strange, inexplicable feeling in my stomach, some might call “butterflies”. I had fallen in love with a chess line! Despite my two losses in the crucial games, I still believed I had a great repertoire with countless novelties to show for it.
The Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence is so popular that the total number of games played in this line exceeds the number of games played in many complete openings! It has been the favourite line of many world champions and grandmasters. Famous lines such as the Poisoned Pawn, the Polugaevsky Variation, the Sozin, the English Attack, to name just a few, are known to all chess players as belonging to the Najdorf Sicilian.
Learning the Najdorf will help all players to understand Sicilians in a better way. Different aspects of chess such as defence, attack and sacrifice, positional themes and tactical storms, can be found in this book.
The Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Gambit Declined are among Black’s soundest and most universal answers to 1.d4. In his trademark style, Milos investigates the most positional ways to proceed after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6
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Contrary to what the critical pessimists might say, the Reti opening is an ambitious weapon for White. By avoiding the main theoretical debates, White tries to reach an unbalanced position from an early stage of the game, with many different plans being available.
In spite of its long history however, for most of its life the Scotch did not enjoy great popularity. It was a recognized answer to 1...e5, for sure, but it never seriously challenged the Ruy Lopez as the most “objective” way to fight for an opening advantage. The general opinion was that Black had enough resources to achieve equality. The turning point for the fortunes of the Scotch was the world title match between Kasparov and Karpov in 1990, the first time that the opening had been tested at such an elite level. Unsurprisingly, Kasparov’s decision to employ this old opening meant that its appearances in tournaments soared. The popularity of the Scotch generated by this match remains today, and I would say it is perhaps more popular than ever before. That begs the obvious question – why? Well, due to the nature of the positions that tend to arise it is ideal for engine analysis, and so it lends itself perfectly to the tools of the current day. It is a nice paradox that the Romantic foundations of this opening merge so well with the computerized modern era. Credit can mostly be given to Kasparov for reviving this old opening, but there are many others who have contributed to exploring new ideas and forging new paths. A lot of discoveries have been made by some young grandmasters who don’t shy away from analysing deep tactical solutions with the aid of the silicon beast.
The only other book written on the Scotch that I used whilst searching for material is the excellent work by the English GM Peter Wells, The Scotch Game. Wells’ book comes from an older, classical style of opening literature which is helpful in developing the reader’s understanding and certainly still has its merits today. Since its publication in 1998, however, many new lines have been introduced and our general approach to the Scotch has changed dramatically. Nevertheless, it served me well as guidance as I wrote this work. This book is going to be a big one, so my introduction will be a little different to my usual approach. I will try to present the most important features in the book so that readers can immediately see what kind of material they will find.
The Dutch Defense is an old opening. A seriously old opening. So old, in fact, that in large part it currently has the reputation of not really causing a well-prepared White player to fear losing. That is especially the case with the variant of it I am analysing in this book: the Stonewall (in which Black continues with ...e6 and ...d5). I intend to show that that impression is mistaken.
First things first: it’s a very positional opening. In contrast to the King’s Indian (which shares the feature of having few early piece or pawn exchanges) play moves slowly and despite there obviously being some sharp lines, the absolute prerequisite for playing the Stonewall Dutch is that you understand positional chess. The first person to really understand the strategic themes at play here, and develop decent plans for Black was sixth world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik. From which it should be clear that positional doesn’t necessarily mean easy.
There have been many revolutions in how chess players view tactical play or opening strategy. However, for me it is fitting that the resurgence of the Stonewall is coming at the exact time that strategic chess is being redefined by Carlsen. It is an echo of when the opening was first introduced: Botvinnik, the ‘Patriarch’ of the Soviet chess school, with its discipline and its principles, produced a similarly seismic shift in how people viewed positional play at the time.
The positional themes in this opening are incredibly complex. We’ll get into it more later but let me just explain some of the confounding factors. From Black’s perspective, playing with a hole on e5 is very much an ‘acquired taste’, in spite of the ideas that have already been found to counterbalance it, such as a queen (or bishop) transfer to h5, or launching the f-pawn against the enemy king.
This book is a follow up of The Safest Sicilian. It offers a repertoire based on 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6. It covers both the Taimanov and the Kann