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Playing The Najdorf – Repertoire Overview

September 3rd, 2019 69 comments

We recently announced David Vigorito as the author of the hotly anticipated Playing the Najdorf. Since there have been lots of questions and speculation about which lines will be recommended for Black, we decided to provide blog readers with a quick summary of what you can expect from the book.

First, a brief quote from the Introduction to give an idea of how the author regards the Sicilian Najdorf:

“I have been playing the Najdorf for about twenty-five years and teaching it for about a decade. Despite the fact that it has a reputation for being fantastically complicated and theoretical, I believe that at its heart it is a strategic opening, and that players of different styles can enjoy playing it and improve their chess while doing do. I have found that positional players adopting the Najdorf improve their tactical ability and feel for the initiative. Conversely, tactical players can develop their strategic play because there are so many recurring themes that arise from the typical pawn structures that one must master in order to successfully play the Najdorf.”

Repertoire Choices

I guess this is the part that some of you have really been waiting for. Without further ado, here is a brief summary of the recommendations against White’s main options:

6.Be2 will be met by 6…e5. Sorry to the Scheveningen lovers but the author prefers the characteristic Najdorf way of playing, and he makes a convincing case for Black.

6.Be3 will also be met by 6…e5, maintaining the theme of playing …e5 whenever possible. Against the English Attack with 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3, the modern 8…h5 is our choice.

6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 is the traditional main line and Negi’s recommendation. Vigorito opines that the Poisoned Pawn with 7…Qb6 may be ‘best’, but it is not the most practical choice for most players. Therefore he prefers 7…Be7 when there is still some theory to learn of course, but it’s more digestible and generally easier to understand than the Poisoned Pawn. Naturally he has paid close attention to Negi’s ideas and found suitable answers for Black.

6.Bc4 is met by 6…e6 7.Bb3 Nc6!? which is a little unusual, but the author argues convincingly for it.

Finally, the book deals with all kinds of miscellaneous tries from White. 6.h3, 6.g3, 6.f4 and 6.a4 are all met by 6…e5, which is consistent with the author’s ethos of playing this traditional Najdorf move whenever possible. Other quirky moves such as 6.Nb3!?, 6.Rg1!? and others will all be given their due attention as well.

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Sicilian Taimanov: One Omission, One Correction

July 17th, 2019 28 comments

It has been about six weeks since the latest addition to our Grandmaster Repertoire series, The Sicilian Taimanov, by Antonios Pavlidis, was published. Since then, the great majority of feedback has been positive – but as with every book, we have become aware of a few imperfections. The purpose of this short blog post is to acknowledge those shortcomings to make readers fully aware of those areas which need patching up.

After the opening moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Qc7, there are two ‘holes’ of which we are aware:

1) Firstly in the Fianchetto Variation (Chapter 8), after 6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 Nf6 8.0–0 Nxd4 9.Qxd4 Bc5 10.Bf4 d6 11.Qd2 h6 12.Rad1 e5 13.Be3, Pavlidis offers a choice for Black:

Read more…
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Chessable – Updated ‘Woodpecking’ Functionality

March 21st, 2019 2 comments

Many of you have bought our books (and no doubt some other publications) on the Chessable platform. We like what Chessable are doing and we plan to make more books available on their format. Considering that the concept of “spaced repetition” is central to their approach, it is no surprise that The Woodpecker Method has been an especially big hit with the Chessable audience.

Yesterday, Chessable informed us of an important new technical feature which will enhance the user experience, especially with the Woodpecker and other exercise books. See their blog post for a full explanation. To summarize it briefly, you can now customize the number of days and intervals between solving cycles in a way that was not possible before. This obviously fits perfectly with the method advocated by Smith and Tikkanen, but it’s a useful feature for other books too, and we applaud them for continually improving their product. Once again, we encourage anyone interested in Chessable to check out their blog post for a more technical description of the recent upgrade.

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Pawn Play in Wijk aan Zee

January 16th, 2019 53 comments

Jorden van Foreest – Viswanathan Anand
Tata Steel Masters, 12.01.2019

With Sam Shankland playing in the elite Tata Steel event (and currently sitting on a respectable 2/4 with four draws), we can’t help but pay attention to some of the pivotal pawn moves being made in the tournament. When you see games at this level being won and lost due to good and bad pawn play, it makes you appreciate even more what a vital topic this is. Take the following example:

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nf6 5.c3 Qc7 6.h3 g6 7.Nf3 Bf5 8.Ne5 Nc6 9.Bf4 Qb6 10.Bxf5 gxf5 11.Nd3 e6 12.Nd2 Rg8 13.0–0 0–0–0 14.a4 Ne4 15.Rc1 Bd6 16.Bxd6 Nxd6 17.b4 Kb8 18.Qe2 Qc7 19.Qe3 Ne7
Black has a comfortable game but there was no need for White to self-destruct with his next move:

20.f3??
Van Foreest must have thought he could withstand the pressure along the g-file, but in reality this is much too weakening, as Anand expertly shows.

Read more…
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The Electrifying Elephant Gambit

December 10th, 2018 125 comments

First of all, check out the fantastic cover design for this book!

We have received a number of draft chapters from our Danish friends Michael Agermose Jensen and Jakob Aabling-Thomsen, the Elephant enthusiasts – that is, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5. They are doing excellent work and I can see the finished book having a ‘Mayhem-in-the-Morra-esque’ effect, whereby people realize the gambit is much better than its reputation.

Having seen snippets of the work, I have not been able to resist experimenting with the Elephant every now and then. I tried it in two rapid games against lower-rated opponents, both of whom accepted the gambit. I went slightly astray in the opening (the relevant chapters have not been delivered yet, so I had to rely on my own guesswork rather than the authors’ expertise) but won both games after some adventures. Perhaps more significantly, I played the Elephant in two local league games against guys in the 2250-2300 range. Both of them were too fearful of the Elephant’s tusks to accept the gambit pawn, and opted for a more timid line involving an early queen exchange. In both cases I equalized quickly and pressed for an advantage, eventually eking out a win in one game and settling for a draw in the other.

Obviously I won’t be playing the Elephant in every game, but so far it has been a delight to get it on the board and force my opponents to think hard at such an early stage. What do our blog readers think? Can you see yourself adding the Elephant to your repertoire as a 6,000 kg surprise weapon?

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Avrukh’s final 1.d4 volume: 2B

November 23rd, 2018 104 comments

 

Any 1.d4 players in the house? If so, you may be interested to know that I am currently editing the final volume from the Doctor of d4 himself, and our original Grandmaster Repertoire author, Boris Avrukh!

As most of you know, the original volumes 1&2 (published in 2008 & 2010 respectively – how time flies…) have been revamped into the newer and upgraded volumes: 1A The Catalan, 1B The Queen’s Gambit, 2A King’s Indian & Grünfeld and finally volume 2B will complete the series. This final volume is subtitled “Dynamic Systems” (though I want to rename it “Dynamic Defences” – any opinions?) and will cover the Dutch, various Benoni systems not already covered in the series, the Benko & Budapest Gambits, and anything else which did not feature in the previous volumes.

So far, I am impressed by the vast number of improvements Avrukh has made over his previous work. This is not the time to give away any big novelties, but I can tell you there’s a useful change of direction in an important Dutch line, which I was able to use to good effect in a recent tournament game. I was also surprised when I started working on the Benko Gambit chapters and saw that the Fianchetto (which I have never been a great fan of against the Benko) has been replaced by the traditional main line of 6.Nc3 followed by e2-e4, Kxf1 and so on. After a panic-stricken few minutes of scouring the previous volumes for unwanted Fianchetto Benko transpositions (of which there are none, thankfully!), I am convinced that this is another excellent change.

To sum up, if you are a fan of Avrukh’s existing 1.d4 works, you will love this one too. With that being said, I will get back to editing it…

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Axel’s e3: Still Poisonous…

November 5th, 2018 13 comments

Since e3 Poison was published, I have incorporated some of Axel’s ideas into my repertoire from time to time. Yesterday was one such occasion; I thought it could make for a worthwhile blog post, as it is a good example of how a reasonable player (2100 strength) may quickly go wrong when confronted with an unfamiliar set-up.

Andrew Greet – Patrick Coffey
SNCL, 04.11.2018

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 c5 3.e3
Pat Coffey has been known to play all kinds of weird openings. I had already suffered a bad defeat in the morning round against IM Bryson, so for this game I was happy to keep things solid.

3…Nf6 4.c4 d5 5.Nc3
One of my early games with the e3 Poison continued 5.a3 cxd4 6.exd4 Be7 7.Nc3 0–0 8.c5 Ne4 9.Bd3 Nxc3 10.bxc3 b6 11.h4!? and, though I got into some trouble in the early middlegame, I eventually won in Greet – Williams, Dundee 2017.

5…a6
An important alternative is 5…cxd4 6.exd4 when White will most likely have to play with an IQP.

6.cxd5 exd5 7.Be2 Nc6 8.0–0
It’s Greet – Williams in reverse, with an extra tempo for White. There is a lot to be said for playing IQP positions from both sides, as this is one of the most fundamental pawn structures which can arise from many different openings.

Read more…

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Woodpecker Wednesday (Week 8 recap)

September 19th, 2018 32 comments

Welcome to my eighth and final Woodpecker Method training blog. It was the 25th of July when I started on this journey, with the initial aim of solving 984 exercises (comprising all 222 Easy and 762 Medium exercises in the book) over a 28-day period, followed by repeated cycles with the final goal of solving all 984 within a single day.

As usual, I’ll start by recapping my results from previous cycles.

1st cycle: 1033 minutes; 88.9% accuracy

2nd cycle: 663 minutes; 93.7% accuracy

3rd cycle: 366 minutes; 98.7% accuracy

As I explained in last week’s blog post, I decided to adapt the schedule in order to finish early and give myself time to recover before the Batumi Olympiad. So, rather than three more cycles lasting 4 days, 2 days and 1 day, I went for two more cycles, lasting 3 days and 1 day respectively.

Cycle 4

I solved all exercises in a combined 267 minutes. I was happy with this time, which knocked 27% off my time from the previous cycle. I didn’t write down my answers or keep score this time, for a couple of reasons:

* In my third cycle I was already close to 99% accuracy, so there didn’t seem much point in tracking what could only have been a small improvement.

* I already knew most of the solutions quite thoroughly, so it seemed logical to skip writing/checking answers in order to save time.

There were still a few positions where certain details of the solutions remained unclear in my head. Whenever that happened, I noted the number of the exercise and my answer, then checked the solution at the end of the session.

Cycle 5

The big one! Solving 984 exercises in one day sounded daunting at the beginning, especially after reading Axel’s story on page 9 of the book about spending 22 hours in a basement! Read more…

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