The Chess.Business Blog

Reviews by IM Gary Lane

Dismantling the Sicilian by Jesus De La Villa & Max Illingworth.
368 pages published by New In Chess
Reviewed on December 2017

A repertoire book for White that tells us how to take on the Sicilian is a short cut route to victory. This is the idea that led to the enormous success of John Nunn’s book Beating the Sicilian in the 1980s which saw three different editions and helped an army of club players to success. It had the knack of suggesting neglected lines, finding improvements and make general comments on how to play the middlegame.

This recipe worked then but nowadays when everyone has a computer and an opinion on social media, authors tend to go for the soft option and choose the main lines. This policy adopted by Jesus De La Villa in the 2009 version of the book worked reasonably well but there is always a danger that the latest game played in Paris will cast doubt on a main line, just after move 26. The average player has neither the time, energy or the talent to remember huge swathes of theory but this theme is extended in the latest edition.

The Australian Max Illingworth has done a tremendous job of rewriting almost the entire book but does follow the main lines at all time. The more you read about his meticulous planning, the more you wonder why he did not write his own book rather than sharing the credit? The detail and latest games are first rate and Max’s solution to the problem of learning so many variations is to offer a number of key illustrative games. I also like the fact that he does take time out to look at the occasional weird move that is bound to be played at the local weekend tournament by opponents who don’t know all the right moves.

The Najdorf is the big beast in the Sicilian world and the suggestions of 6 h3 or 6 Be2 to confront it are the trendy solutions. This does mean having to absorb a lot of variations and keep up to date with the latest elite games. I remember the 6 h3 move from Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games but nowadays the old time American player Weaver Adams gets all the credit and the line is called the Adams Attack.

I think any serious player will improve their rating with this  book.

The variations might be tough to remember but they really will be a great guide on how to confront the Sicilian. If you want to beat the Sicilian, this is the best place to start.

Gyula Breyer: The Chess Revolutionary by Jimmy Adams
888 pages published by New in Chess
Reviewed on September 2017

I predict a trend for commuters who do not wish to chat to their fellow travellers and that is to whisper “Breyer”, which will result in an understanding nod leaving you to focus on over eight hundred fact filled pages. It is also handy at Christmas to avoid small talk with long lost relatives.

Gyula Breyer (1893-1921) was a Hungarian champion and elite player but his legacy has been largely overlooked.

England’s Jimmy Adams decided to set the record straight with this insightful biography using resources from Hungary that have been obtained or translated by Iván Bottlik and Peter Szabó. This explains why an English speaking audience are treated to over 200 interesting games that have many different commentators. These include some of the best players in the world, Lasker, Alekhine, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Schlechter  and Reti  with sometimes two or more annotating the same game, which sometimes makes the commentaries almost a debate.

The narrative presents Beyer as a brilliant player who infuses the openings of his time with modern ways to handle the position that inspire legends such as Reti and in particular Alekhine who was a big fan. Breyer was also a connoisseur of problems and managed to present one with a solution that is over 100 moves.

An important addition is the attraction of over 70 photos to shine a light on lesser known masters and a few group pictures to add life to old tournaments.

Now I am not a chess historian but I can see that an immense amount of work has gone into producing the work. I did spot an article on blindfold chess which escaped the attention of the outstanding Blindfold Chess book by Eliot Hurst and Simon Knott, which must be a good sign. Breyer comes across in his writing as a colourful character with a quick wit. He might be famous for the Breyer Defence in the Ruy Lopez but it is argued his many opening contributions should be more widely admired especially in the Budapest Defence.

The obituaries of someone who died young are painful to read because the chess world missed out on the full potential of an amazing individual. Adam’s triumph is that he makes you care about Breyer.

This book will educate, entertain and absorb any chess player who cares about the past.

Chess for Hawks by Cyrus Lakdawala
288 pages published by New In Chess
Reviewed on August 2017

The American author provokes strong reactions amongst his readers and like Marmite it seems you either love it or hate it. His brash, chatty approach is the sort of thing you will see on YouTube videos of banter blitz. For instance, introducing a classic Capablanca game he writes

“I remember surreptitiously going over this game during eighth grade Science class and then unpleasantly being busted by the teacher, who threatened to keep me after school with a detention.”

Now, this not exactly the prose you would associate with a well established writer like John Nunn but the modern player does seems to like these quirky anecdotes as Lakdawala, is a prolific author, although admittedly this is his first book for New In Chess.

The idea of this latest offering is that the majority of club players are like doves, cautious and have a positional sense at the board. In contrast, Hawks are the sort who love the games of swashbuckling players such as Kasparov and Tal, who enjoy attacking and taking risks. In his first chapter “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” he proceeds to improve the attacking style of all players by using some classic games such as Morphy versus Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard, where he points out how a player can create an initiative.

There are plenty of instructive games which will help the diligent reader. Lakawala includes plenty of his own games to illustrate various points which can be a good idea as these games are relatively unknown. The majority of these games are local rapid play encounters but help him to reveal how to thwart Hawks and the right way to imitate them.

An Englishman does appear when Nick Pert takes on Nakamura from 2005. Our hero narrowly fails to win against the Red Bull guzzling American and Lakdawala comments on Pert’s blunder with the line “This move is like the pharmaceutical ad which ends with ‘Side effects may include..”.

This style of writing is an acquired taste but amongst the waffle are some interesting insights and sensible chess lessons. A book that will help you to move up to the next level.