Author Archive

Lars Schandorff’s new Semi-Slav book

July 24th, 2015 65 comments

Nikos Ntirlis writes: The Semi-Slav is one of the most fascinating openings in modern chess. It is the opening that helped Vladimir Kramnik to climb Mount Olympus as a youngster and make his appearance among the best players in the 90s and today it is Vishy Anand’s most trusted weapon. It helped him to get his first undisputed world title in 2007 and of course who can forget his amazing performance at the 2008 world championship match against Kramnik when the Indian scored two amazing wins with Black in the Meran variation! Of course Anand is still the man to watch for developments in the opening as he is still unleashing opening bombs like in his game against Aronian in Wijk aan Zee 2011!

We would expect such a popular opening complex to be well covered in modern literature, and this is the case. David Vigorito’s “Play the Semi-Slav” is still surprisingly relevant in many lines despite being now seven years old and other experts like Dreev and Sakaev have also presented well respected works on the opening. Still, the last couple of years have been outstandingly rich regarding developments of many key lines for both sides and what is worse, the Semi-Slav has become so deeply and widely analysed that the typical club player will feel lost trying to navigate himself in the complexities of this minefield of modern chess.

In my humble opinion, it is very difficult to find a better author on this subject than Lars Schandorff. His other works for Quality Chess like the two “Playing 1.d4” books as well as the slightly older “Grandmaster Repertoire 7 – The Caro Kann” have proved that he has a special talent to present complex opening lines in a very reader-friendly way. Another thing is also at least as important, Lars is a true expert on the Semi-Slav who has vast experience of defending the opening successfully against strong opposition for many years (a look at the database will convince you!) and thus he has acquired deep understanding.

So, what the reader can expect from The Semi-Slav by Lars Schandorff is fascinating chess, deep analysis and research, and a very friendly presentation of the latest developments of this very important modern opening, many of which cannot be found in other works, simply because 2-3 years back many lines were not even known! This is one such example:

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Categories: GM Repertoire Tags:

Petrosian on the Younger Generation by Danny McGowan

April 22nd, 2015 14 comments

While working on Python Strategy by Tigran Petrosian (excerpt here), I especially enjoyed reading his opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of other players. The ‘younger generation’ players alluded to in the title, namely Jan Timman, Zoltan Ribli and Ulf Andersson, were all born in 1951 and all went on to have hugely successful chess careers – and indeed all still play to a high level to this day. Petrosian made his comments in 1973 as the players were rising through the ranks. Timman was an International Master at the time, while Andersson and Ribli had been awarded the Grandmaster title in 1972 and 1973 respectively. It is interesting to compare Petrosian’s contemporary assessment of the trio with those we may hold now. So without further ado, I will hand you over to Petrosian:

I would particularly like to discuss the play of Timman, Ribli and Andersson. The Swede Andersson, the Dutchman Timman and the Hungarian Ribli are among the leading young players who will undoubtedly put pressure on the older generation in the next few years. And whenever I come together with them, there is something I would like to know. When we give up our place in the chess sun to the young talents, will it be because our play has changed for the worse on account of our age? Or will those who begin to surpass us be chessplayers who have risen to a new, higher level of mastery?

Ulf Andersson: small and slight, in outward appearance he seems more like a child who has strayed into the hall looking for a simultaneous display than a fully-fledged competitor in the main tournament. I somehow feel sorry for him. He crazily trails from tournament to tournament, and the easy opportunity to lead the life of a modern chess professional (who fortunately is not overburdened with worries about every crust of bread, unlike the professional of the not too distant past) has already left a grave imprint on his manner of play and his tournament psychology. In his games you rarely, very rarely see him aspiring to a full-blooded struggle. “Safety first” is not a motto before which chessplayers in such young years ought to bow. It leads to nothing good. And yet Andersson is capable of simply playing well. He possesses positional understanding, a keen eye for tactics, and vast theoretical knowledge to go with a well-worn tournament repertoire. In a word, all the signs of a top-class player are present. And at the same time – there are all the signs of creative stagnation.

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Chess Structures in Practice (Part Two) by Mauricio Flores Rios

April 16th, 2015 5 comments

I am back for a second and final guest blog post here on the QC blog. You will be able to see a copy of this post, and all my future posts on, my new blog.

Just like many of you, I spent a fair amount of time last week going following the US Chess Championship played in St Louis. There was plenty of excitement, the live broadcast was very good and more important than anything, the tournament featured what was arguably the strongest combination of twelve players to ever compete in the US Championship. Despite having plenty of nice games to choose from, I think that the game I will show next was the nicest illustration of concepts from Chess Structures put into practice.

Alexander Onischuk (2655) – Daniel Naroditsky (2633)

US Chess Championship 2015

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bd6 6.Bg2 c6
The move order 6…0-0 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Qc2 and only now 8…c6 seems to be more precise, making it harder for White to take control of the center.

7.Nc3 O-O 8.Bg5! Nbd7
8…dxc4 would be met by 9.Nd2 followed by 10.Nxc4.

9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Bb4+ 11.Nc3!
In case of 11.Bd2? Bxd2 12.Nexd2 e5! and Black equalizes.
We have reached the Caro-Kann Formation (Chapter 3), where White has more space and a better control of the center. The assessment of this position depends almost exclusively on whether Black can find a way to break in the center to release his spatial disadvantage. Otherwise, White will enjoy a lasting positional edge.

Getting rid of the pin, aiming to create some counterplay with …Ne4.

It seems Black did not have better options, for example 11…c5 12. 0-0 cxd4 13. Qxd4 where White has superior coordination. Also 11…Qa5 12.Bd2 e5 is met by 13.a3! Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qa6 15 0-0! with a big advantage.

12.Bf4 Ne4 13.Qc2 Nxc3 14.bxc3 Ba5 15.O-O

This is a good moment to evaluate the position. The structure has changed slightly since White now has doubled c-pawns (which also means he has a semi-open b-file). Black has been unable to release his position with either …c6-c5 or …e6-e5 and having his bishop trapped on c8 only adds to his misery. White has a very comfortable advantage.

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Chess Structures in Practice (Part One) by Mauricio Flores Rios

April 8th, 2015 28 comments

It’s been a while since I finished writing Chess Structures, but I like the topic so much that I keep coming back to it – I know how much it improved my understanding of chess. I follow games on Chessbomb pretty much daily and I really enjoy it when I see a nice ‘structure-concept’ being applied. Often these games reproduce ideas shown in the book almost identically, while sometimes there are small (yet very important!) differences. So I thought, why not start a blog in which I will, once in a while, post a game which builds upon the ideas I shared with the readers of my book. Since the hardest point of starting a blog is finding any readers at all, John offered his help, suggesting I post a couple of guest blogs here. The permanent location of my blog will be, though it will take me about 4-5 days to set it up properly, since I am a complete beginner as far as websites go.

Now let’s get started with some chess. As you may have realized, almost every game in my book was decisive (that is, not a draw) since drawn games (especially agreed draws) are like an unfinished story, and people just don’t like to read stories without an ending… Anyway, the only exception to this rule was Onischuk – Dominguez from the World Cup of 2013. This game was a Carlsbad structure (Chapter 5) which I thought was very instructive, as it shows how Black might completely neutralize White’s queenside plans. A few days ago, as I was following the Women’s World Championship in Sochi, I found a great example which pretty much takes off where Dominguez left off, and brings home the full point. The contenders: young star Guo Qi from China was White against World finalist Natalia Pogonina. Let’s see the game:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 c6 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.e3 Nh5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Be2 Nhf6  

White deviates from theory, possibly to prevent …Ne4. This is a little imprecise since quickly playing b2-b4-b5 should be the priority.
Normal was 11.0–0 to follow up with Rab1, b2-b4-b5, and if 11…Ne4 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.Nd2 Nf6 14.Rab1!? we have transposed to Chapter 20, the French Type II (with colours reversed) where White’s prospects are good, since the break b4-b5 is easy to carry out, and Black lacks material (and moves) to create serious kingside threats.

11…Nb6 12.0–0 0–0 13.Bd3
If 13.Rab1 then 13…Bg4! 14.Bd3 Bh5 is similar to the game.

13…Bg4 14.Rab1 Bh5!
Black is aiming to trade light-squared bishops, which is a good idea.

15.b4 a6
A standard reply, to trade off a-pawns, getting rid of a potential weakness.

If 15…Bg6 then 16.Bxg6 hxg6 17.b5!? would typically create problems for Black, since both the a7- and c6-pawns can become weaknesses, however White’s play has been imprecise, and after 17…Rfc8 18.bxc6 Rxc6! Black has good counterplay (but not 18…bxc6? when White is a little better).

After 16.a4 Bg6 17.Bxg6 hxg6 the standard 18.b5?! is met strongly by 18…cxb5 19.axb5 a5! with an edge. Black has a passed pawn, making White’s entire enterprise a failure.

16…Nxa4 17.Qxa4 Bg6 18.Bxg6 hxg6 19.Qc2
My favourite moment in the game; Pogonina is doing well, but now how should she stop a4 and b4-b5?

19…Ne8! 20.a4 Nd6

Black is slightly better.
The position is almost identical to the game Onischuk – Dominguez (annotated in Chapter 5). White’s queenside play is no longer dangerous. The big difference between this game and the one in the book is that here Black has a half-open h-file, creating better prospects for kingside play.

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Mating the Castled King – A review

March 23rd, 2015 3 comments

On his entertaining blog, IM Sagar Shah gives an in-depth review of Mating the Castled King by Danny Gormally, and discusses how he used the book to help prepare for the recent Indian National Team championships in Goa.


“So is going through this book going to help you to become a better player? Of course! My personal experience is that your mind will start seeing patterns much faster.

When I went to Goa, I setup my chess board on a table in my room. I kept the book of Mating the castled King next to it. Whenever I had some time, I would open a random page and setup a position from the book and solve it. After solving the position, I would just make a note with a tick mark that I had solved the position. Add a star or two next to the problem if I really liked it. In this way, I was solving almost 5-10 positions everyday. This helped me to stay in excellent tactical shape and I was able to remain unbeaten in the tournament. I continued working with the book even after the tournament and I am happy to say that I have completed the 160 positions.

Final words: A unique book which not only helps you to get acquainted with mating patterns against a castled king but also helps you to improve your art of calculation thanks to the excellent quality of analysis.”

The full review is available here.

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The Soviet Chess Primer

November 26th, 2014 14 comments

In The Soviet Chess Primer, by Ilya Maizelis, to be published on 10 December, the chapter on Combination includes a selection of little-known examples from Alekhine. You can test yourself on the following – White to play and win:

Alekhine – Amateur, Groningen (simul) 1933

White to move

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Book of the Month October/November

October 21st, 2014 2 comments

We have not worked out our automated system yet (and it will take a while). So, at the moment we will do it like this:

If you buy three books or more and live inside the European Union (defined by UPS and not by bureaucrats in Brussels!) we will send you a free book.

As a starting point this will be CHAMPIONS OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

But if you have it, or would prefer another freebie, please write an email to us with your order, asking to have it replaced with one of following five titles:


We will probably run it like this for a while, changing the freebies around a bit.

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Jacob Aagaard Interview

September 30th, 2014 43 comments

Jacob was recently interviewed for the Spanish blog Un Andaluz y el Adjedrez. Here is the English version of the interview:

GM Jacob Aagaard

GM Jacob Aagaard

1) Can any person, and I mean ANY, get better at chess studying and competing, in your opinion? Do you think there is a limit, and not everybody is born to be a FM, for instance?

I am sure that there is a limit for some people. There is such a thing as talent for sure, but how important it is, is not really clear. Some minor tests have been done, but the research looking at people over a decade or more has not been done in a way that it can be statistically significant for chess. Not to my knowledge at least.

It has been done in music and the suggestion there was that the early talents did not do that well. The main reason probably being that it was too easy for them in the beginning and they never got into the habit of working hard…

I believe that there is no reason to set barriers to yourself. In principle everyone can learn everything. The question is how long it will take! Is it worth it. And so on.

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