note: the following is a somewhat random selection of book reviews. Additional reviews are available on individual book pages, under the heading 'Reviews'.
August 14, 2009
We were delighted to receive the following excellent review from Danish GM Peter Heine Nielsen (FIDE 2680) of Attacking the Spanish by Sabino Brunello.
"Attacking the Spanish gives a repertoire for Black against the Spanish and uses the atypical concept of giving three lines instead of the usual one, a concept previously used with success in Beat the KID, (Quality Chess 2008). The three lines are: the Schliemann (3…f5), the Marshall Attack as well as the popular 'Gajewski' gambit with 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 d5!?. It is noticeable that all three lines lose a pawn, but the Marshall still has a reputation for solidity and is working quite well at the top level at the moment.
All the variations are well researched, and in the two more spectacular variations, the Schliemann and the Gajewski, the author is fully objective, pointing out why Black has had problems in these lines in the past.
The book has a lot of new analysis, but the lines are build firmly on modern grandmaster practice; for example, the Schliemann is built on Radjabov's repertoire.
A good book by an author who tells you everything he knows about the openings. A great debut."
Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen
March 25, 2009
A couple of interesting paragraphs from a great review by Arne Moll at ChessVibes:
"Sometimes the best books get the worst treatment. It took more than 25 years before an edition of Mikhail Bulgakov's great novel The Master and Margarita was first published. But this is nothing compared to the 52(!) years it took before Questions of Modern Chess Theory by Isaac Lipnitsky was translated into English. It is now published in a modern edition by Quality Chess. Without exaggeration it's fair to say that Western chess would have looked totally different, had this book been available earlier."
"Questions of Modern Chess Theory is without doubt one of the best chess books of all time. In my opinion, it calls into question the whole Western concept of ‘modern' chess developments, showing that many ideas already existed in the Soviet Union of the 1950s and before. The book is full of clear, easily understandable examples, written by someone who doesn't make a fuss of words and is able to explain chess in a crystal-clear style. If we disregard a few outdated opinions on particular opening variations, the book might as well have been written last year. Or somewhere in the future."
The whole review can be read at ChessVibes
March 17, 2009
"Going through GRANDMASTER REPERTOIRE 1.d4 Volume One, I must admit to being impressed with Boris Avrukh's work ethic. It's clear that he put his heart and soul into this book, with original analysis and a refusal to always follow well-known paths vividly standing out."
"As I continue to look over the book, I keep finding one cool line after another."
"...I could continue quoting lines like this forever, but suffice it to say that I love this book."
"Another triumph for Quality Chess."
March 11, 2009
"The United Kingdom has been an important center for chess book publishing since the early 1970s. First Batsford and later Gambit and Everyman dominated the English language market. The latter continue to do so today, but not without tough competition from a newcomer – Quality Chess (www.qualitychess.co.uk).
The Scottish firm headed by GMs Jacob Aagaard and John Shaw has made a name for itself the past few years by publishing some excellent titles, particularly by Mihail Marin. Its latest two offerings, Boris Avrukh's 1.d4 - volume one (Quality Chess 2008, 458 pages, paperback, figurine algebraic, $29.95) and Lars Schandorff's Playing the Queen's Gambit - A Grandmaster Guide ( Quality Chess 2009, 248 pages, paperback, figurine algebraic, $27.95) will only add to its reputation.
At first glance it might seem strange for a company to publish two similar books so close together and on such well covered ground. Indeed it is not hard to recall earlier works by Keene, Palliser, Cox and Berliner all advocating a repertoire based on 1.d4. None can compare with the present books by Avrukh or Schandorff.
The two books, though both devoted to 1.d4 have surprisingly little overlap. Avrukh's work, the first of a two volume series (the second devoted to 1.d4 Nf6) has the Catalan 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 at its heart while Schandorff's key is the Queen's Gambit Declined 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5. Avrukh battles the Slav/Semi-Slav structure with the move order 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 and 4…e6 5.b3 while Schandorff favors a more main line approach with 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 against the Slav, Bg5 versus the Semi-Slav leading to the Botvinnik - 4…e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 and the Moscow Gambit 4…e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4. Avrukh favors e3 setups against the 4…a6 Slav while Schandorff prefers 5.c5. The two also disagree on the Queen's Gambit Accepted with Avrukh favoring 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bxc4 e6 5.Nf3 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Bb3 and Schandorff the more direct 3.e4.
It looks like the two authors finally share common ground with their recommendation against the Chigorin – 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Bg5 is not well known and both authors feel it contains plenty of venom - but their interpretation is completely different! After 5…h6 Schandorff likes 6.Bxf6 and Avrukh recommends 6.Bh4.
Where the two really butt heads is in their approach to combating the Tarrasch -1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5. Both authors recommend the main line 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0-0 0-0. Here at the tabiya for this defense, Schandorff recommends 9.Bg5 against what he feels is a positionally unsound setup by Black, but Avrukh prefers 9.dxc5 as he cannot find an advantage for White after 9.Bg5 c4. Who is right? Typical of Avrukh he doesn't just write there is no advantage for White he shows what he feels is the critical line – 10.Ne5 Be6 11.b3 Qa5 12.Qd2 Rad8 13.Nxc6 (13.bxc4 Nxd4!) 13…bxc6 14.bxc4 dxc4 equalizing. Schandorff, whose book came out three months later, continues beyond this giving the paradoxical 14.Rfd1 Bb4 15.Rdc1 which improves over the more natural looking 15.Rac1 as 15…c5 is strongly met by 16.Bxf6 gxf6 17.bxc4 dxc4 18.d5!. A key point compared to 15.Rac1 is that with 15.Rfc1 there is never a potentially unprotected Rook on d1 to deal with.
To call Avrukh conscientious would be an understatement. Consider his handling of the Schlechter Slav line reached after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bg4 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 Nbd7 11.Rd1 e5 12.d5 e4 13.Nxe4 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Nb6.
Now Ivan Morovic - John Donaldson, Lindsborg Rapid 2003, saw
15. Bb3 cxd5 16.Bxd5 Re8 17.Qf3 Nxd5 18.Rxd5 Qc7 19.e4 Qc4 20.Rd7 b6 21.Be3 Bxb2 22.Rad1 Bg7 23.Rc1 Qxa2 24.Rcc7 Rf8 25.Bf4 Rad8 26.Rxa7 Qb1+ 27.Kh2 Rxd7 28.Rxd7 Qb5 29.Rb7 Be5 30.Bxe5 Qxe5+ 31.g3 Qe6 32.Qe3 Re8 33.Rxb6 Qxe4 34.Qxe4 ½-½ .
This all looks very nice but 19…Qc4 turns out to be insufficient as shown in later games. I assumed that this was the end of the line but Avrukh points out that after 19…Qe7! 20.Be3 Qxe4 21.Qxe4 Rxe4 22.Rad1 Bxb2 23.Rb5 Bc3 24.Rb7 Rb4 ! "White advantage is rather symbolic. Unfortunately for fans of this line of the Schlechter Slav he goes on to prove that 15.Rb1! is the way to an advantage.
Both books are nicely laid and easy to use but which is the right one to get? There is no question that Avrukh's book features an unusual level of detail, and the claim by the publisher's that it ‘'will certainly be read by grandmasters'' is right on the mark but should this be the reader's choice only because it is so much thicker (458 pages to 248)?
This really depends on whether you are a Catalan player. Avrukh devotes over half of his book (246 pages) to the Catalan. Point one is if you play the Catalan you must have his book as his coverage is fantastic.
If you don't play the Catalan the matter is a bit trickier. Take out the Catalan and Schandorff's analysis of the Queen's Gambit Declined Exchange variation (with Ne2 and not Nf3) for White and the two books offer about the same amount of coverage of the QGA, Slav/Semi-Slav and irregular choices. While Avrukh's book is billed as the main line approach Schandorff‘s is actually more principled as he combats the Semi-Slav with Bg5 facing the Botvinnik system and Moscow variation head on. Schandorff even meets the Cambridge Springs sharply with 7.cxd5, a variation he could have ducked by suggesting Exchange lines with Nf3.Those looking for a more maximalist approach may like his lines better though there is more to study. By contrast Avrukh's suggestion of 4.e3 and 5.b3 is more likely to meet one of the stated goals of his book – to hold up for a long time.
So if you play the Catalan the choice is easy - get Avrukh's book. If you like sharper theory against the Semi-Slav (Bg5) Schandorff is your man. If you already have a repertoire in place that may make the decision easier. If not also consider that Avrukh uses a traditional opening book format for the presentation of his material while Schandorff uses a model game approach. This often, but not always, means you get a little more meat on the bone with the Israeli GM. By contrast Danish GM Schandorff has the livelier writing style although I found both authors to be clear and to the point. One other thing to consider is how your answers to Indian defenses mesh with these two books. If you play 3.Nc3 after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 the Schandorff's suggestion of the Exchange Variation works very well, much less so if you play 3.Nf3.
One last and very important point is to consider your playing strength when considering whether to buy either or both of these books. They are principally aimed at players over 2200 on up (no limit!). Players from 2000-2200 will definitely have their hand full whether it is trying to learn to play the many types of middle game positions that offer White small advantages that Avrukh recommends or the main line theory of Bg5 against the Semi-Slav or 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 lines in the Slav advocated by Schandorff. Those below Expert level should concentrate on improving their overall game before taking on such demanding material.
Both books are highly recommended. I give them my strongest recommendation."
February 25, 2009
IM John Watson gave an excellent review to Boris Avrukh's 1.d4 Volume One. A few highlights:
"Avrukh's book is a repertoire laid out in an unusual level of detail, and the claim that it 'will certainly be read by grandmasters' is in my opinion true."
"Avrukh is highly qualified for the task of hard analysis, and has obviously put an enormous amount of time into the book."
"I think that Avrukh's book is one of the best opening books of the year, maybe even the best one if you're an advanced player (say, 2200 or above)."
"If you're going to get this book, be ready for long hours of difficult study; but if you can handle the challenge, you'll definitely be rewarded with greater chess understanding. In conclusion, whether or not it's appropriate for the majority of players, this is a brilliant contribution to the literature."
The whole review is well worth reading in full at The Week in Chess
January 8, 2009
True Lies in Chess received a brilliant review from Andy Ansel writing in Chess Today.
A few of the highlights from the review are:
"The further I delved into the book, the more it became apparent that the author had done a lot of original thinking and also put a lot of himself into the work. This book belongs in the Think Like a Grandmaster genre where it helps the chess student evaluate his thinking about the royal game."
"The development of opening novelties is a treat for the average player. The whole thought process, development and testing is quite interesting to read. Again this demonstrates the efforts the author puts into his chess (and this book). This quality differentiates this from almost all new books which deal more with databases and lots of games. The amount of prose and the feeling of being inside a GM's mind is quite impressive."
"...overall this book is one of the best books published in the last ten years. It is full of original thought and contains very interesting material. It is personal in nature and the concepts are sure to improve the reader's understanding of chess even if some of the analysis is above their chess IQ."
Read the full review in Chess Today 2983.
December 17, 2008
Our first review of Grandmaster Repertoire 1 - 1.d4 Volume one and it is ecstatic. A few sample quotes:
"The unusual thing about this book is the playing strength of its author.
Avrukh is a top GM, a consistent member of the Israeli team, with a rating normally around 2650. For such a player to write an opening book on his own is almost unprecedented..."
"I was extremely surprised when I heard that Avrukh had agreed to take on this project, and I view his authorship as a significant coup for the Quality Chess stable, comparable to their discovery of Mihail Marin."
"Avrukh's strength as an analyst is not in doubt, and is in fact even better than his high rating would suggest, since he has unusually good opening preparation and has been retained as the second of top players for important matches. He couples this with a very nice writing style in excellent English..."
"...but the depth to which he analysed the lines in this book is still surprising – there are literally hundreds of novelties (including some for Black!), all deeply analysed and very well explained."
"...this book is really rather special and, I would say, brings opening literature to a new level."
"Highly Recommended *****"
Read the full review in Chess Today 2962
December 15, 2008
Some highlights of the review:
"The publishing house Quality Chess is aptly named and its latest offering, The Berlin Wall by IM John Cox will only add to its reputation."
"Due to the Berlin's emphasis on understanding rather than memorization the model game treatment works especially here."
"Cox writes effectively and has a knack for clearly explaining things."
" …the Berlin is that rare opening that can be played by players spanning a wide span of playing strength. They could ask for no better guide than Cox's book."
The full review should appear at Silman Chess
September 9, 2009
For those of who who read German, a generally favourable review (I think) from Rochade by Richard Brömel of the German edition of Jacob's Excelling at Chess.
"Der erste Eindruck verwirrt etwas, ist doch die Selbstbeschreibung durch den Verlag auf dem Buchrüchen in Superlativen gehalten. Diese „ultimative Ausgabe der Excelling-serie", „das beste buch", „Superedition" – manch einer mag etwas mehr Bescheidenheit. Also schnell weiter zum zweiten Eindruck: Der Autor der Bücher Excelling At Chess und Excelling at Positional Chess sichtete beide Bande, das beste Material wurde von Guido Rothe übersetzt und im vorliegenden Titel zusammengefasst. Zum Anliengen des Buches sei eine Passage der Einleitung zitiert: „Dieses Buch ist von einer einzigen Idee dominiert, die gleich zu Beginn postuliert wird: Denke wie ein Mensch und verbessere Dein Schach! ... Das menschliche Hirn versteht Schach mit Hilfe von Mustern und Ideen; Computer hingegen sind dumm und verstehen nichts, was sie nicht berechnen können." Wenn man den Begriff des Verstehens etwas weiter fasst, durchaus eine streitbare Position. Das Inhaltsverzeichnis ist mehr dazu geeignet Neugier als eine thematische Erwartung zu wecken. Kapitelbezeichnungen wie „Echte Schachspieler", „Seien Sie pragmatisch", „Einfache Wahrheiten" sind wenig bestimmend. Verbindlicher ist da die Überschrift „Aufgaben zum Positionsspiel", deren Lösungen ausführlich analysiert und dargestellt sind. Der band erscheint dem Rezensent als eine Sammlung gelungener Aufsätze, den Diskurs mit dem Leser suchend zuweilen mit Analysen John Watsons vergleichend. Einleitung, Bibliographisches und Spielerverzeichnis erganzen den Band. Für den interessierten Nutzer, der seine Fähigkeiten zu ausgewählten Themen verbessern möchte, wäre ein Stichwortverzeichnis von großem Vorteil.