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    Wednesday
    Mar262014

    Candidates 2014, Round 11: Four Draws

    The peleton is not gaining on the leader, and with just three rounds to go Viswanathan Anand is looking pretty secure in his quest for a new match with Magnus Carlsen. Vladimir Kramnik had White against Anand today, but didn't achieve anything in a Catalan and the game was drawn after just 31 moves. (It could have been drawn even sooner - at move 23, easily - but from what I can tell based on the games there's a 30-move-rule in effect that can only be superseded by a repetition.)

    There wasn't much danger for either player in the game between Peter Svidler and Levon Aronian either, and while Dmitry Andreikin had a little pull early on against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov it never amounted to anything too worrisome.

    The game between Veselin Topalov and Sergey Karjakin was the only one with a bit of drama. Topalov enjoyed the more bishop-friendly structure, but rather than slowly milking it he went crazy before the first time control with a queenside breakthrough. Karjakin reacted extremely well, collecting the pawns and then sacrificing the exchange. After the time control it was Karjakin who had the winning chances, but it's not clear that the position was winning. That would depend on whether there was any kind of successful breakthrough operation with ...e4 followed by a king raid. In the game, Karjakin apparently didn't trust it, so Topalov held without any trouble.

    Anand thus continues to lead the Candidates over Aronian by a point (with the better tiebreaks, so Aronian must outscore him by a point and a half to win - assuming no one else in the picture) and three players by a point and a half with three rounds to go. Here, with player scores in parentheses, are the pairings for tomorrow's round 12:

    • Anand (7) - Andreikin (5)
    • Mamedyarov (5.5) - Karjakin (5.5)
    • Topalov (4.5) - Svidler (5.5)
    • Aronian (6) - Kramnik (5)
    Tuesday
    Mar252014

    Candidates 2014, Round 10: Anand Still Leads By (More Than) A Point

    Not too much happened in round 10 of the Candidates', and that's just what Viswanathan Anand wants. With a point lead that is maybe better described as a point and a quarter lead (Levon Aronian must outscore Anand on account of their head-to-head score) with just four rounds to go, the field is running out of time.

    Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has been the hottest player in the tournament, post-round 3, and he played quite well with Black against Anand today. He achieved a good, active position and even refused a draw by repetition. But despite all of that the ex-champ kept control, and by move 30 Mamedyarov had enough and offered a draw, which Anand was satisfied to accept.

    Levon Aronian had White against Veselin Topalov, who with one exception hasn't been playing well in the tournament, post-opening. Nevertheless, he couldn't get anywhere, and was if anything slightly worse at certain points. It wasn't anything serious though, and the game finished in a draw.

    Sergei Karjakin also failed to draw any closer to Anand, and with White only managed a draw against Dmitry Andreikin.

    The only real excitement in the round was seen in Vladimir Kramnik's game with Peter Svidler. Kramnik was lost in their game in the first cycle before finding a near-miraculous save. This time around, he was playing very well, milking an edge against Svidler's surprising Dutch, only to commit a simple blunder that cost him the exchange and a pawn, and of course the game. Just a couple of rounds ago Kramnik was in contention for first, and now he's just half a point out of last place.

    Here are the round 11 pairings, with player scores in parentheses:

    • Andreikin (4.5) - Mamedyarov (5)
    • Topalov (4) - Karjakin (5)
    • Svidler (5) - Aronian (5.5)
    • Kramnik (4.5) - Anand (6.5)
    Sunday
    Mar232014

    Candidates 2014, Round 9: Anand Wins; Aronian, Kramnik Lose

    It's too soon to say that the Candidates' tournament is finished and Viswanathan Anand is the winner, but round 9 was a huge step in that direction. Anand defeated Veselin Topalov, outplaying him on the white side of a Najdorf Sicilian. Meanwhile, Levon Aronian was outplayed by the resilient Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (if only he had finished off Vladimir Kramnik he'd be right there in the hunt!) while Kramnik blundered against Sergey Karjakin on move 7(!!) and lost as well. (The game between Dmitry Andreikin and Peter Svidler was a short draw.)

    So what this means is that with five rounds to go Anand leads Aronian by a point and Kramnik by a point and a half. But that's not quite right, at least with respect to Aronian. He has a point more than his rival, but in fact his lead is greater than a point and less than a point and a half. Because Anand won their head-to-head matchup, he wins the tournament if they finish with the same score and have more points than everyone else. Thus (ignoring the rest of the field for the moment) Aronian must outscore Anand by a point and a half over the last five rounds to win. Not impossible, but a difficult task - especially with Anand having three white games in the remaining five.

    I'm sorry to report that due to other responsibilities I won't have time to analyze any games until next weekend, but you can at least replay today's games here. Tomorrow is a rest day, and here are the pairings for round 10, on Tuesday (as usual, player scores are in parentheses):

    • Karjakin (4.5) - Andreikin (4)
    • Kramnik (4.5) - Svidler (4)
    • Aronian (5) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Anand (6) - Mamedyarov (4.5)

    Saturday
    Mar222014

    Carlsen on Kramnik, Revisited

    I posted about this article yesterday, noting that Google Translate didn't do a fantastic job with the text. There's a much clearer translation of some of the harsher comments over on Susan Polgar's site (HT: Nosh Minwalla), for those who want to see what Vladimir Kramnik will be posting on his bulletin board for motivation next time they play.

    Saturday
    Mar222014

    Book Review: Moskalenko on the Dutch

    Viktor Moskalenko, The Diamond Dutch: Strategic Ideas & Powerful Weapons (New in Chess, 2014). 271 pp., $29.95/ €26.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    [N.B. This review will soon be published in Chess Today as well, but as both Chess Today and the publishers independently sent me copies of the book (and I don't even play the Dutch!) it seemed appropriate to post it here as well.]

    Viktor Moskalenko has written some of the most interesting opening books over the past six years or so, and he’s showing no signs of letting up. He is a very entertaining writer, but more importantly, his creativity is not restricted to his writing; he is a creative contributor to the theory of the openings he writes about. After books on the Budapest Gambit, the French and the Pirc (plus a book on method that included some interesting opening analysis) he turns his attention to the Dutch.

    Remarkably, he covers all three major branches of the Dutch: the Stonewall (characterized by Black pawns on c6, d5, e6 and f5), the Classical (sometimes called the Ilyin-Zhenevsky, which arises with Black’s center pawns on d6 and e6), and the Leningrad (Black plays …d6 and fianchettos the king’s bishop). There is also a substantial chapter on various anti-Dutch lines like the Staunton Gambit, the Improved Lisitsyn Gambit (and its unimproved namesake) and some minor lines before paying more careful attention to 2.Nc3 and 2.Bg5.

    One really gets a bit of everything, and this benefits both sides. Dutch slayers get to see the spread of options and may find something they like, and Moskalenko offers them some specific repertoire choices as well. Those who play or adopt the Dutch benefit even more. They’ll learn the full range of options available to them, which offers them some variety. Moreover, there are possibilities for one Dutch line to transmogrify into another (in particular, the Classical structure can become either a Stonewall or a Leningrad, or at least akin to them), so they will be able to handle the transitions.

    Moskalenko makes the book as user-friendly as possible, with little stories, highlighted tactics, transpositional subtleties and other helpful tidbits that help the reader orient himself to what’s important and to interesting and original ideas. His preferred format is the complete game model, but he doesn’t waste space covering the post-theoretical part of the game in great detail. Each chapter has a substantial introduction, and Moskalenko is quite “talky” in general, which is very helpful to the reader orienting his way around this opening.

    So there is a lot to like about the book’s format. What about the content? As the author is a solid professional who plays both sides of the Dutch, one would expect good things. He doesn’t mention the recent White repertoire books by Schandorff, Kaufman or Watson, so I decided to have a look to see what he offers against their suggestions. In the interest of space I’ll only make comparisons with the last two authors’ works.

    Let’s start with Watson and his recommendation of 2.Nc3. Moskalenko examines both 2…Nf6 and 2…d5 in some detail, and seems at the end to prefer 2…Nf6. Watson meets this with 3.Bf4, which is much less usual than 3.Bg5 – so unusual, in fact, that Moskalenko doesn’t cover it. It’s an odd-looking move and seemingly out of the spirit of 2.Nc3. The point is that White meets 2…Nf6 with 3.Bg5, aiming to swap on f6 and harm Black’s pawn structure, while if 2…d5 White then plays 3.Bf4 now that the diagonal is open. So 2…Nf6 3.Bf4 seems clueless at first glance (assuming of course that Black doesn’t play 3…d5), but Watson has some interesting ideas. A small bibliographical omission here, but one that may be relevant at the club level where Watson is especially popular.

    On now to Kaufman and 2.Bg5. (This is also Schandorff’s recommendation.) Moskalenko’s chapter conclusion suggests the following: French and Stonewall players should play 1…e6, Leningrad players should use 2…g6, and the risky line 2…h6 3.Bh4 g5 4.e4 is playable for Black after 4…Bg7 and 4…Nf6, but he has his doubts about 4…Rh7. Let’s see how his conclusions about 2…h6 and 2…g6 fare against Schandorff and Kaufman. On 2…h6, Kaufman prefers 3.Bh4 g5 4.e3, and now both Kaufman and Moskalenko continue 4…Nf6 5.Bg3 d6 6.h4 Rg8 7.hxg5 hxg5 8.Nc3 e6 before their move-orders vary. Moskalenko, citing Kasparov-Illescas, Dos Hermanas 1996, continues 9.f3 Qe7 10.Qd2 Nc6 11.0-0-0 Bd7 12.e4, while Kaufman’s move order is 9.Qd2 Qe7 10.0-0-0 Nc6 11.f3 Bd7 12.e4. Kaufman stops here (without citing the game) and writes that “White’s development, pawn center, and control of the open file give him a clear advantage”. Moskalenko disagrees, continuing 12…fxe4(“!”) 13.fxe4 0-0-0 and says that while “White still has some pressure”, it can be said that “in general Black has solved his main problem (his king’s position) and he has also consolidated his troops.” Illescas had to suffer a while, but he drew his prestigious opponent.

    However, Moskalenko likes 9.Qd2, and after 9…Qe7 10.0-0-0 Nc6 suggests that White can try 11.Bc4 instead of 11.f3, threatening d5. He examines 10…a6 in some depth, suggesting that White has an edge in the game Gurevich-Illescas, Sanxeno tt 2004 although Black in turn might improve with 17…Qf7, with the idea 18.Nh3 Be7.

    Now to 2…g6. Their primary intersection point comes after 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.h4 h6 5.Bf4 Nf6 6.e3 d6 7.Qf3 0-0 8.Bc4+ e6 9.Nge2. Kaufman stops here, writing that “White has more active pieces and can choose to castle on either side with a safer king in either case”. Moskalenko appreciates the danger here and thinks 8.Bc4+ is a “weapon”, as opposed to 8.0-0-0 as he himself unsuccessfully played against Bonafede in Hoogeveen 2010. His analysis (after 9.Nge2) continues 9…Nc6 10.a3, and now he suggests 10…Qe8 as an improvement over 10…Kh7?, played in Fressinet-Kindermann, Bundesliga 2002. The problem with the latter move was 11.Bg5!, allowing the “useless” bishop to re-employ and then swap on f6.

    Another important sideline arises against the Leningrad Dutch: 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 g6 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.Bf4, used by Armenian players like Hrant Melkumyan and, most prominently, Levon Aronian. White’s best, as given by Moskalenko, is 5…d6 6.e3 Nc6 7.Be2 0-0 8.Bg3 h6 9.0-0 Nh5 (Aronian-Kamsky, St. Louis 2013) 10.Bh4! g5 11.d5! Na5 12.Nd4, with a slight advantage for White according to Alejandro Ramirez, writing on Chessbase.com. Good for White, but what is Black to do? (Perhaps play the Stonewall instead, which is Moskalenko’s preferred Dutch.)

    Anyway, the book is a fascinating collection of analyses of the Dutch Defense, and I can’t imagine why any Dutch player would want to do without it. More attention to repertoire books and the potentially important and influential line used by Aronian would have improved the work, I think, but it’s highly recommended all the same.

    Saturday
    Mar222014

    European Championship (Old News)

    I mentioned the tournament a couple of times while it was still ongoing, but lost in busyness I didn't mention the final standings. Alexander Motylev won the European Individual Championship with a record-setting score of 9/11 and a 2872 TPR. The further importance of the tournament is that the top 23 automatically qualify for the next World Cup. You can find the final standings (and thus the qualifiers) here.

    Saturday
    Mar222014

    Carlsen In Action At The Norwegian Team Championship

    It looks like Magnus Carlsen decided to have some fun in what I'm guessing was a one-off game. He played for Stavanger, aiming to help them achieve promotion to the country's top league next season. More about it here, including the world champion's victory over Vladimir Georgiev. (Replayable here, for your convenience.)

     

    Saturday
    Mar222014

    The Master's Bulletin

    Before ChessVibes was purchased by the Borg Chess.com, they published a pair of weekly newsletters: ChessVibes Openings (CVO) and ChessVibes Training (CVT). The former offered surveys of varying depths on various openings, and the latter was a hodgepodge of strategic themes, tactical puzzles, endgames and a game of the week annotated by Anish Giri (or later, some other slightly less strong but still impressive player). CVO was most suited to stronger players - 2000 and up, I'd say - while CVT was geared more to a middle to upper-middle club level - 1600 up to around 2200.

    After ChessVibes was assimilated, those newsletters were cannibalized, with some surviving features merging with new ones to form the monthly Chess.com newsletter called "The Master's Bulletin." Written in a very reader-friendly way and distributed in a PDF with an accompanying PGN file, it tries to have a bit of everything (as does Chess.com itself) aimed at a diverse audience.

    For example, here's a survey of this month's issue. After the Table of Contents Peter Doggers (who was the founder of ChessVibes, I think, and has an important role with Chess.com) introduces the issue, and then there's a page with some news reports linking to the Chess.com website. After these preliminaries the issue begins in earnest with a ten page article by IM John Watson recapping the Candidates' events from 1950 through 1965, complete with six well-annotated games.

    After that, there's some light entertainment in the form of a two-page interview with Indian GM Pentala Harikrishna, and then it's time for some opening theory. GM Emanuel Berg, who is two volumes into a three volume series on the French Defense for Quality Chess's "Grandmaster Repertoire" series, takes a look at the McCutcheon French line with 6.Be3. (In his QC books he advocates the Winawer, so there's no overlap.) It's a substantial article, running more than eight pages, and then GM Tamir Nabaty also takes more than eight pages to cover the "New Veresov" with 1.d4, 2.Nc3 and 3.Bf4. I should add that although CVO presented opening analysis, the approach taken here is very different: rather than slight-to-moderate depth with a relatively wide spread of opening lines the authors go in great depth with a smaller number of lines - just two, here.

    Next up is a set of 12 tactical positions taken from recent games, one of the standard features from the old CVT issues. Next up is IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering's column, "Middlegame Musings", and while the title is different it seems to reprise the nature of his (excellent) CVT column as well. He finds an interesting theme or themes, and after highlighting it (or them) in the main game further illustrates them with a series of helpful supplemental games.

    The CVT redux continues with IM Robert Ris's endgame column; this time Ris takes a pretty close look at three B vs. N endgames. In the first the knight was the boss, in the second the knight started out well but the bishop prevailed, and in the third the bishop again won thanks to some delicate play.

    After the solutions to the tactics, something new and challenging: the IM and great study composer Yochanan Afek presents three (challenging!) endgame studies, and unlike the tactics positions the solutions aren't given in the issue; one has to wait until next month's issue to see the answers.

    Last, there's GM Alex Yermolinsky's two-page column called "Grandmaster Tips for Beginners". It is what it sounds like, but some of those tips are pretty useful for stronger players too!

    The last page of the Bulletin is a bit of Chess.com advertising: some featured blog posts are linked and the rating leaderboards are presented.

    More about the issue here, and subscription information is here.

    Saturday
    Mar222014

    Candidates 2014, Round 8: Draws At The Top

    Three games were drawn today in round 8 of the Candidates' tournament, and drawn quickly. The game between the leaders was interesting early on, as Levon Aronian uncorked 1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Qb3!? against Viswanathan Anand, who replied with an interesting pawn sac: 3...d4 4.e3 c5 5.Qb5+ Nc6. White surrendered a lot of space and time for the material, and Anand drew by repetition after only 19 moves from a position of strength. Maybe he could have played for more, but an easy draw against his leading rival, with the black pieces, wasn't such a terrible result - especially since it means he keeps the lead on tiebreak.

    Vladimir Kramnik could have joined Anand and Aronian on +2 with a win against Dmitry Andreikin, but he wasn't able to maintain his opening edge and even had to scramble a little to get the draw.

    The third draw was Veselin Topalov - Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and was probably a missed chance for White. He had an edge in a 6.h3 Najdorf-turned-Dragon, and to avoid getting squeezed Mamedyarov played the interesting but possibly not fully sound 18...Nc4. It was a good practical choice, though, and Topalov returned the piece with 20.Bd4 (rather than 20.Qb4!), after which it was a routine draw.

    Finally, Peter Svidler's hopes for first in the tournament probably came to an end when he lost to Sergey Karjakin. Svidler had White and played very aggressively, with the King's Indian Attack, but Karjakin defended well and eventually reached a superior ending with rooks and opposite-colored bishops. With best play Svidler probably should have drawn, but it was difficult, and with the nice sequence 64...Rxd4! 65.Kxd4 b6! Karjakin proved a win.

    The tournament standings are curious now: Anand and Aronian are on +2, Kramnik is +1, and everyone else is -1.

    The games (with my comments) are here, and tomorrow's pairings (with player scores in parentheses) follow:

    • Karjakin (3.5) - Kramnik (4.5)
    • Andreikin (3.5) - Svidler (3.5)
    • Anand (5) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Mamedyarov (3.5) - Aronian (5)

    Friday
    Mar212014

    A Review of Paulsen's Book on the Semi-Slav with 5.Bg5

    Bryan Paulsen, Chess Developments: Semi-Slav 5.Bg5 (Everyman, 2013). 192 pp., $19.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Why should grandmasters have all the fun?

    Lots of amateurs stay away from theoretical lines for several reasons, including these: it’s too much work, too much memorization, and there’s no creativity. But is it really true? Learning a robust opening like the Ruy Lopez does take time and some memorization will be involved, it’s true. But one can play such an opening without memorizing everything at once. One strategy would be to learn the main lines against Black’s third move alternatives to 3…a6 while taking up either the Exchange Variation against 3…a6 or else play 4.Ba4 and then lines with a quick d3. Those are easy to learn, and once one is comfortable against the third move sidelines White can repeat the procedure for 4th move alternatives, 5th move alternatives, and so on. How does one swallow a camel? One bite at a time.

    What about the charge that it’s not a creative way to play, that one is engaged in a ton of memorization rather than a contest of skill between two individuals fighting on their own. That’s a romantic notion and has a degree of attractiveness, but some flawed thinking undermines the point. First, unless one is dead set against learning anything from one’s own games, let alone the games of others who play those same sidelines, we won’t be playing purely “on spec” against our opponents. Are we really being more creative when we follow ourselves for the 50th time instead of following something that Garry Kasparov or Vladimir Kramnik has played 10 times? Second, I think top players would be rather surprised to learn that what they’re doing isn’t creative. It seems to be the other way around: they generally play the lines they do because they think they offer the most scope for creativity and thus give their opponents the greatest chances to go astray. If you play the Koltanowski Colle or the Exchange French your opponents need to spend about 5-10 minutes with a book or a computer, and then they’re going to equalize. It’s not impossible that people will find interesting ideas and ways to tweak things, but at this point it looks like the plans there are well understood and the paths to equality are abundant and easy to find.

    My own opening preferences have generally been a mix of main lines, second-tier main lines (as an example, though not one I use, there’s 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+), and tricky sidelines. But nowadays when I play the second (and lower) tier lines I sometimes think that I’m missing out. There are so many amazingly complicated variations in chess, opening lines that some of the greatest minds our game has known have explored and enriched without reaching rock bottom, and rather than joining in that conversation and savoring the intellectual gems chess has to provide I’m spending my time in a relatively dry, dull desert. There’s nothing wrong with playing lots of different kinds of openings, just as there’s nothing terribly wrong with pop music, kitsch art, and pulp fiction. But to enjoy those forms at the expense of great music, art, and literature is to impoverish oneself. Likewise in chess: the main lines are the main lines for a reason, and generally that reason is not mere fashion.

    Further, learning and playing main lines is a good way to stretch oneself, a little like learning a new language or a musical instrument. There is always room for both research and (informed) improvisation. In sum, there are lots of good reasons to take up main lines: the problems they pose your opponents, their richness, their history, and the opportunity they offer to stretch yourself mentally. To reiterate the question I started with: why should grandmasters have all the fun?

    With this lengthy introduction and apologia behind us, let’s look at a new book discussing one of the sharpest and richest of all the opening systems in chess: the 5.Bg5 Semi-Slav. Bryan Paulsen’s new book subdivides the material into five sections, two of which are often omitted from discussions of the 5.Bg5 Semi-Slav. In chapter 1 he covers what he calls the Queen’s Gambit Declined Hybrid, wherein Black plays the rather compliant 5…Be7. That is generally omitted from Semi-Slav books, as is the Cambridge Springs Defense with 5…Nbd7 6.e3 Qa5, covered in chapter 2. Chapters 3-5 return to standard Semi-Slav fare, with chapter 3 examining the wild, wooly, and very deeply theoretical Botvinnik System, which starts with 5…dxc4. Chapters 4 and 5 cover 5…h6, with the first chapter looking at the more quiet Moscow Variation – 6.Bxf6 – while the final chapter looks at the very sharp Anti-Moscow Gambit – 6.Bh4 (with the almost automatic continuation 6…dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5).

    This wide coverage makes the book useful for players on both sides: Black has options, while White can be prepared for the whole gamut of Black’s important replies. Now, if this were a repertoire book that wouldn’t be the case: important possibilities would be missing for one side or the other. But the idea of Everyman’s “Chess Developments” series, of which this is an instance, is to provide neutral coverage of the opening in question. One caveat, though: if you want to play this way for Black you must also be prepared for the other major complex of lines starting with 5.e3. That’s not a criticism of the book, though; only a heads-up for those interested in taking up the Semi-Slav.

    Two issues then: how good is the coverage, and how well is the material presented?

    Let's start with the Queen’s Gambit Hybrid: After 5…Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.Rd1 h6 9.Bf4 he mentions 9…b6, and continues 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.0-0 and so on, finishing up with a slight edge for White. But 10…Ba6 looks very sensible, was played by the highest-rated player to man the black side of the position, and is also Komodo TCEC’s first choice. (Houdini 4, by contrast, flaps around between several moves, sometimes preferring 10…Nh5, sometimes 10…a6, occasionally 10…Bb7 and for only a moment or two 10…Ba6. At depth 24, my machine stops jumping around and prefers 10…Ba6, but at depth 25 10…Nh5 and 10…Bb7 re-take the lead, with 10…Ba6 pushed to third.) This is not a major criticism of the book, but it does show that the coverage isn’t encyclopedic and may indicate that the author is relying on Houdini as his backstop rather than another engine. I would add on a substantive note that 10…Ba6 is an interesting idea, too, aiming to liberate and swap the light-squared bishop without having to take on hanging pawns.

    While I mentioned and praised the book’s scope, I must offer a slight retraction of the comment when it comes to his coverage of 5…Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Rc1. He presents a game with 7…Nbd7 and does a good job of it, but he also says that 7…h6 would “definitely be my preference”. He notes that White can choose between 8.Bf4, 8.Bxf6, and 8.Bh4; and although he offers a brief line for 8.Bf4 he just notes that the other options transpose to different lines. (8.Bxf6 is a line of the Classical Queen’s Gambit Declined, while 8.Bh4 Ne4 is the Lasker Variation, which he seems to think is Black’s best choice under the circumstances.

    Should he cover this? Here are two arguments, one con and one pro, in that order. First, no: It’s impossible to cover everything, and if Black wants to play Lasker’s Defense he shouldn’t bother with the Semi-Slav! Second, yes: Maybe Black should transpose to Lasker’s Defense here, but that doesn’t mean he wants to play it in every case. For instance, after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 maybe Black is very happy to go into the Semi-Slav lines with 5.e3, and only wants to bail out and head for safety when White plays 5.Bg5.

    I’m more inclined towards the second argument, but the decisive consideration seems to be that Everyman has already published a book (by John Cox, in 2011) on the Queen’s Gambit Declined, and so here and elsewhere in chapter 1 Paulsen sends his readers to that work for further details. I’m not really a fan of that procedure, but then I’m not running Everyman Chess, either.

    Skipping chapter 2 on the Cambridge Springs and turning to the Botvinnik System, it looks like he has covered the key games as of the book’s completion, at least in the important line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.g3 Bb7 12.Bg2 Qb6 13.exf6 0-0-0 14.0-0 c5 15.d5 b4 16.Na4 Qb5 17.a3 Nb8. 17…exd5 is generally given by the books as the main move here, but some important correspondence and OTB games have shown that Black has ample resources after 17…Nb8, despite the glory that was Kamsky’s win over Kramnik in game 1 of their 1994 Candidates’ match. Paulsen rightly makes 17…Nb8 his main line, and covers the appropriate games and lines extant when he wrote it.

    Finally, skipping the Moscow Variation (5…h6 6.Bxf6) I checked his analysis on the Anti-Moscow Gambit (5…h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5) with two excellent recent books, Lars Schandorff’s 2012 work Playing 1.d4 The Queen’s Gambit and Konstantin Sakaev’s 2013 Complete Slav II, and his game citations and analyses seemed to hold up.

    In conclusion, his book held up pretty well, especially when it came to the sharper lines. Paulsen is a fairly low-rated player – I couldn’t find his USCF rating, and his FIDE rating is only 2186 – but he seems to have done a competent job. While I think the Queen’s Gambit Hybrid chapter is a bit of an odd man out, the remaining chapters, both those I reviewed here and those I didn’t, cover what needs to be covered well enough that just about everyone reading this review will be in good theoretical shape if they use his book. Recommended for Semi-Slav players! (Publisher page here, Amazon page here.)