Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Sales text and the literal unbending truth

April 10th, 2014 53 comments

A repertoire to last a lifetime

Karpov’s Strategic Wins

Tired of Bad Positions – Try the Main Lines

A review of GM Repertoire 17: The Classical Slav got me thinking. The review had a highly favourable conclusion but mentioned that GM 17 improved against the repertoire Avrukh recommended years ago in GM Repertoire 1. “So much for the ‘repertoire to last a lifetime’” as we had written on the cover of GM 1. The reviewer’s comment is half-joking (at least that is my interpretation), but it caused me to look again at some of the sales text listed above.

(I have not linked to the review as I am perfectly happy with it, and I do not wish to start another “Quality Chess disagrees with reviewer” extravaganza. The review is excellent – no complaints here.)

So is ‘A repertoire to last a lifetime’ misleading? Well, the GM1 repertoire could last a lifetime. You could play the variations it recommends forever, and with success (4.e3 against the Slav, Fianchetto against KID, Catalan against QGD, etc.). But that does not mean the details will never need updating. Did anyone seriously believe that Boris Avrukh had ‘solved chess’ and found the strongest possible move in every position? People rightly have a lot of faith in Boris, but that would be too much.

Karpov’s Strategic Wins? Are all the wins in those books ‘strategic’? Whatever that means. Still, great books, in my opinion.

Tired of Bad Positions – Try the Main Lines. A tagline on our GM Repertoire books. What is a main line? And not every sideline automatically leads to a bad position.

As an example, 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 against the Slav was not, I think, a hugely popular line at GM level before Avrukh recommended it in GM1. Was it really a main line? It certainly is now.

So here are my questions: how do you feel about such sales text? Do you ignore them as pointless sales waffle? Take them literally and absolutely, then search for loopholes to prove us wrong? Any other examples of our sales text you wish to debate?

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Yusupov success

February 17th, 2014 4 comments

My good friend, Danish Women’s Team Coach Thomas Schou-Moldt has written an article in Danish on the benefits of training. In this case based on the Yusupov books and a recent game he won in the Danish league. I am not sure how many will benefit from this, as it is written in Danish but I found it fun. Not sure how Google translate will work, but at least the chess moves will be easy to understand.

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The King’s Gambit – Wagenbach Variation

February 13th, 2014 17 comments

In The King’s Gambit I mentioned that the Wagenbach Variation – 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 h5 – was first played by Jonathan Tait and that Mr Wagenbach was mainly a correspondence player. I have since learned (from Mr János Wagenbach) that neither of these things are true. Mr Wagenbach played it first – in blitz games in his club – and he is primarily an over-the-board player. I am happy to correct the record. When re-printing the book (perhaps soon) I shall also correct the relevant page.

The game below shows the Wagenbach working well for Wagenbach – but note the line I recommend for White is 4.d4 (with 4.Nc3 as another option) not 4.h4.

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The difficulty of being Black

December 29th, 2013 57 comments

In a recent review of Nikos’s and my book Playing the French (on ChessVibes and, the reviewer Arne Moll expresses some doubt about our understanding of practical chess. You can read the review if you are interested in the detail of the argument and in my reply (given below). But I wanted to give a little thought to the difficulty of being Black in general.

As most of you will have noticed, playing an inferior position is perilous. A mistake in a slightly better position can be annoying, but a mistake in an inferior position can land you in trouble you cannot solve. I will write more about this in the near future, but for now let us just continue as if this hypothesis is indeed a fact.

When you are Black your games will in general fall into two categories. Either your opponents will play sidelines or mainlines. This leads to two different challenges.

Mainlines have a tendency to lead to positions where accuracy is important. New ideas will exist in most positions, but mainlines are popular because of the pressure they put on Black (and Black’s success in neutralizing it). For this reason we often need a lot of theoretical knowledge to defend the black side. It is either this or risk your life in variations where you are worse and the problems you have to solve are harder to solve (because deciding between two inferior positions is harder than deciding between a decent and an inferior position).

Sidelines tend to offer you a number of decent options, all of them leading to decent positions. Unless White has played something problematic, he will not be worse either. In such situations exact knowledge usually decreases in value. Unless we play correspondence chess, it is almost impossible to anticipate what sidelines you will face in your next few tournaments, so extensive knowledge has a tendency to be overkill. Working on your problem solving abilities will be more likely to help you once you end in a respectable sideline.

This is the approach Nikos and I chose for our book. This is the philosophy behind it. It is absolutely up for debate, but our approach is not random.

For the full review of Playing the French, go to: review

Reading this review, I felt it was one long question, asking: why did they offer this line? This post below is my answer, not meant as a criticism of the reviewer. Read more…

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In depth review of the King’s Gambit by Smerdon

September 26th, 2013 45 comments

ChessVibes have an interesting review of The King’s Gambit by John Shaw.

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Different approaches to the same material

September 11th, 2013 No comments

When I sat down to write the Attacking Manual 1 the main goal for me was to make the book very readable. It later made me very happy when Slovakian GM Jan Markos (author of the underrated and generally excellent Beat the KID) said that he had read the book like if it had been a novel. This was exactly the flow I wanted to achieve; the focus being on recurring strategic themes, rather than on calculation.

This does not mean that the material could not have been used in a different way. Chess is a complex game and our minds are complex tools. Obviously they will offer different ways to achieve the same goals.

In his latest post on Mark Dvoretsky uses one of the positions from the book to look into calculation. His goal is quite different from mine and the end result is therefore quite different as well. Not better or worse, just different. To my relief the analysis I did six years ago have not been spanked by today’s much faster computers and Mark talks very nicely of my writing, which shows that he is a good friend, as well as awfully kind to youthful amateurs like myself.

If you at all feel inspired to do some heavy calculation, then you should check out his article here.

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“Playing the Trompowsky” – IM Richard Pert responds to a critical review

August 5th, 2013 105 comments


In comments to this blog, a review critical of “Playing the Trompowsky” was linked. IM Richard Pert asked for the right to respond. If “everyone is entitled to an opinion” then that must include the author, so I will let Richard take it from here:


Firstly I want to say “thank you” to the many readers who have shown support for my first book, which I have written on the Trompowsky. I put a lot of time into my analysis, and my efforts combined with the hard work of the Quality Chess team has, in my opinion, produced a book to be proud of.


Unfortunately there will always be people who like to criticize, and this time it’s the turn of Mr Martin Rieger. I don’t know who Mr Rieger is; I’ve never heard of him before, but since he has criticized my work I am keen to respond.


My book aims to provide a practical repertoire. Deep analysis is mostly saved for the critical lines, while new positions with a small advantage for White are talked about in more general terms. There will come a point in every game where you have to think for yourself, and my book focuses on what you need to know to get an advantage/promising position, rather than producing a 1000-page manual which is impossible to memorize.


I will, in passing, point out that Mr Rieger makes no mention whatsoever of the numerous improvements I provided for White in several of the critical main lines. Instead he has picked out a handful of mostly non-critical lines, then added some of his own non-critical analysis and proceeded to rubbish my book. I don’t want to get into a slanging match with Mr Rieger and I can’t speak German, so I don’t know exactly what he is saying, although I can get the gist of it with an online translator.


I will respond to the two examples that Mr Rieger emphasizes the most in his analysis. His opening point concerns the following line:
Read more…

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April 16th, 2013 43 comments

Calculation won the ACP book of the year prize with one vote ahead of How I Beat Fischer’s Record. Sort of random and a bit undeserved, as Judit’s book is far richer than mine. But obviously people care most about improvement, so a training book always has an advantage.

This is not said to be ungrateful. I am terribly chuffed and proud and want to thank everyone who voted for me. I only say that it is a shame John and I did not vote, as we would have voted for Judit!

At the same time congratulations to Ruslan Sherbakov, who won the Chess Publishing members vote for the best opening book of 2012. Previously this was won by Avrukh and Marin. We are big fans of Sherbakov and think he is a worthy successor. If I am a worthy successor to last year’s winners of the ACP award, Nunn and Dvoretsky, I am less sure.

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