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.
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Let me share here how I have made my choices for this second volume. Ten years ago, I would sometimes even play the Petroff against people who had games with 3.Nd2 in the database. I actually thought that the Petroff gave me better winning chances! You might have a similar story. 3.Nd2 gives White a very nice pawn structure so it is difficult to get a grip on the position as Black. For many years I have tried moves like 3...Nf6 from the GM Repertoire book or the more drawish 3...c5 and 4...Qxd5 line. It has taken me a lot of time to find the variation against 3.Nd2 which best fits my playing style. After trying virtually every possibility, there is only one satisfactory variation for me – the isolated pawn!
The reason why I had left this option at the bottom of my list initially is because there was a firm belief at the time that Black was worse in these isolated pawn positions. On the flipside, players on the white side have usually studied the lines after 3...Nf6 or 4...Qxd5 in much greater depth. This is one reason why people often mix up their theory as White. Typically they assume they are already better, so why would they need to remember any subtle details? The whole point of 3.Nd2 is to be microscopically better. Fortunately, this can all be easily neutralized with good opening knowledge.
Whilst studying most of the existing literature, I have noticed that there is hardly any recent analysis on the systems with 3...c5 and 4...exd5. Still, many authors who have been covering them from White’s perspective have a lot of respect for the variations and hardly achieve anything against them. When I started to play with the isolated pawn myself, my results against 3.Nd2 became better. My score against 3.Nd2 is actually better than my score against 3.Nc3 now. I have noticed that in correspondence chess, these isolated pawn lines are favored by black quite often. That is when I realized that this small advantage was just a prejudice.
I have to admit, the positions are slightly harder to play for Black. However, that is probably also true for the other lines against 3.Nd2. It just takes some time to become familiar with all the possibilities and ensuing middlegames. But once you finally master the isolated pawn structure, it will serve you well and equip you with a wide selection of tools with which you can outplay your opponent. My original plan for this book was to cover 3.Nd2 as well as all the other options besides 3.Nc3, but I believe it is much more important to focus on showing as many examples as possible of how to play with different versions of the French isolated pawn. All the material in this book is designed for you to be able to pick your favorite line in the 3...c5, 4...exd5 system. Consequently there will be a third volume in this series, covering the rest of White’s options against the French.
The Modernized Grunfeld Defense will be extremely helpful for any chess player looking for a reliable lifetime repertoire against White’s 1.d4. It will benefit current Grunfeld players as Yaro unveils his analysis and numerous novelties waiting to be played over the board.
This book is about the Marshall Attack and the lines which can be grouped together under the banner of the so-called Anti-Marshall. The theory has developed so much in the last decade that there is more than enough material to be going on with just in those areas, but I also decided to include a detailed look at an important line in the Exchange Variation. Black’s key concept in the Marshall is giving up a central pawn in return for activity, and I have tried to give as many lines as possible which adhere closely to this principle. Why is this so significant? Well, for starters, usually in the Ruy Lopez Black is looking for long, slow games in solid, closed positions. The Marshall flips this on its head and Black tries to accelerate the play and radically change the character of the game at an early stage. Let’s briefly discuss the material of the book itself and the lines that I have decided to give. First of all, I started off with the standard Marshall Attack, after the initial moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5. I have given direct analysis wherever possible and I have tried to cover all the essential lines. Of course, with the passing of the years and the continual development of theory we can see how the popularity of some positions has shifted and, in some cases, how certain lines have simply been rendered obsolete. I also discovered, to my surprise, that there are still new, unexplored, and interesting paths for further analysis.
Times are changing (as even the Wild West at some point became industrialized) and theory has developed on everything. It has therefore become possible, inter alia, to try and write a rigorous opening manual on the Modern. What I mean is not that equality has been found and this should be your exclusive opening choice for all time to come (I would be lying to you if I said that) but rather that there is now a roadmap as to how you should study this opening. About time, given the number of 1.e4 repertoires that have been written and which contain anti-Modern recommendations (usually in the ‘Other’ or ‘Miscellaneous’ section towards the back!) that nobody has taken the time to combat rigorously.
Furthermore, there has been a sea change in the ethos of Modern players (and also Pirc players): we no longer wish to get something totally new, or redefine the concept of development in Hippo style, but usually these days we want to get a Sicilian structure! That is to say, a position where Black gets to play …cxd4 (or have White play dxc5) and thereby obtains a central majority that will stand him in good stead for the long term. That has now become the intellectual gold standard, a trend that has progressed in tandem with the inclusion of this opening in more players’ repertoires and its slow shift in towards the mainstream from the fringes of what is acceptable.
As artisans (for we must never forget our roots) on this moving fringe, it is important to have your bearings. Nowadays (and however much you feel like playing it freehand) if you want to include the Modern in your repertoire you should do some study. You should know, for instance, where White can get a safe plus (in my opinion, just chapter III.2), where White can get a less-safe plus (chapter IV.4), and where there are routes to equality, dynamic or otherwise (essentially the rest of the book!)
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.
The Sveshnikov is undeniably one of the most dynamic and aggressive Sicilians available these days.
Most recently, it was made popular again by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in his match against Fabiano Caruana at the end of 2018.
The main lines lead to complex positions, and a deep knowledge and understanding of the opening is a real necessity for any player who wishes to enter this battlefield.
Our author, Robert Ris, focuses on all the current developments, highlighting the most important and instructive games from recent years, using his own over-the board experiences.
Ris is well known for his theoretical knowledge and overall opening expertise. And we are quite convinced that he provides Sicilian players with an up-to date arsenal for playing the Sveshnikov.