Matthieu Cornette and Fabien Libiszewski, The Complete Kalashnikov (Chess Evolution, 2013). 262 pp. €22.99. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
First, as a matter of full disclosure, I don't play the Kalashnikov Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5) with Black, and I've only faced it in a few blitz games as White. So although I'm not completely innocent of this opening, and I have a fair degree of experience from both sides of the board with its cousin, the Sveshnikov Sicilian, I am by no means an expert on this opening. Not even close. So this review will offer general impressions rather than an evaluation of the author's choices and analyses.
Let's start with some positives. First, both authors are GMs, and although Cornette doesn't have much experience on either side of this opening, at least as far as I could tell from the TWIC database (three games, all with Black, with a win, a loss and a draw), Libiszewski plays it with some regularity and against a diverse range of opponents. His first game in the opening was with White, back in 2004, and after that he has always had the black pieces. His score with the opening is +9, -2, =5; not bad at all.
Second, the book is published by Chess Evolution, an outfit which has published some very high-level work the past three years. If their previous publications are any guide, then one can expect analysis that is deep, original, and aimed at serious players - 2000 and up. Looking through the book those factors all seem to be present, so if you're a strong player interested in this opening (or are willing to be), then you should seriously consider buying this book.
And now, two negatives. First, the English is frequently clumsy and there are plenty of usage errors. On the plus side, the meaning was never obscured beyond recognition, so this is a relatively minor point. More seriously, it can be quite difficult to navigate one's way through the analysis. Checking some analysis with a game given in the latest Informant (see below), I had an absolutely dreadful time finding my way through the book. Sometimes subvariations are given letters and numbers, sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're indented, sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're put in parentheses - and of only one type (there are no brackets or braces to keep the levels clear) - and again, sometimes they're not. Were the analysis sufficiently superficial it wouldn't matter, but they burrow to such an extent that the reader cannot easily keep track of his place in the labyrinth. Some opening books are very user-friendly: you can pick it up and read it like a "normal" book and get a lot out of it even without having a board or computer handy. This is not one of them.
So: if you're a serious and serious-minded player interested in either side of the Kalashnikov, you should probably get this book, especially considering the dearth of alternatives on the market. Everyone else, resume your daily lives with an extra 23 euros (or the equivalent thereof) in your account.
Finally, while it's not exactly an advert for the Kalashnikov, here's the beautiful game from Informant 116 alluded to above.