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    Entries in Gruenfeld Defense (3)

    Sunday
    Jun082014

    Book Notice: Kaufman's _Sabotage the Gruenfeld_

    Larry Kaufman, Sabotage the Gruenfeld: A Cutting-Edge Repertoire for White based on 3.f3 (New in Chess, 2014). 187 pp., $24.95/19.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    The Gruenfeld Defense may be Black's #1 choice against 1.d4 at the top level, and this has been so for the last several years. Important books have been coming out defending Black's cause (not to mention Peter Svidler's video series on Chess24), so the burden on White has been growing. Larry Kaufman has stepped in to fill the gap with a book advocating (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6) 3.f3 as the solution to White's troubles. He has written some fine repertoire books over the years, and has also written some strong opening books for Rybka (in its heyday) and has more recently been heavily involved in developing Komodo. That he is a computer specialist is well-known, and this is the first book I've seen where the evaluations are given with computer numbers - e.g. White is +.79 or +.36, etc. The computer evaluations are likely to be pretty stable, too, as he checked "virtually everything" in the book for at least 15 minutes with Komodo and Houdini 3 (and later Houdini 4) on eight core and twelve core machines.

    The book has five chapters. Chapter 1 is a historical chapter, offering 24 games played from 1929 up until 1997. It serves to introduce some of the key ideas and variations. Chapter 2 presents relatively minor third move alternatives for Black, most notably Adorjan's 3...e5, 3...Nc6 (which he recommended in his most recent repertoire book), Vachier-Lagrave's 3...e6, and then attempted Benonis and Benko Gambits starting with 3...c5. I say attempted, especially in case of the Benoni, because Kaufman's proposed repertoire steers it towards a Saemisch King's Indian - about which more will be said below.

    Chapter 3 is the "official" Gruenfeld chapter, in which the principled 3...d5 is essayed. The central line arises after 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Qd6 10.Kb1 Rd8 11.Nb5 Qd7 12.d5 a6 13.Nc3. This is a hot line, and important new games are taking place here all the time (see for example Carlsen-Caruana from round 3 of the ongoing Norway Chess tournament).

    Chapters 4 and 5 look at what happens if Black decides to meet 3.f3 with a King's Indian instead. Chapter 4 looks at lines with ...c5, while chapter 5 looks at everything else. This gives the book added value: if you need a repertoire against both the Gruenfeld and the King's Indian, you can kill two birds with one stone. Interestingly, Kaufman doesn't think the Saemisch (which is what 3.f3 will turn into against the King's Indian) is the best way to meet the King's Indian, but does think that White achieves a "normal" advantage with it. It's good enough, in his view!

    Finally, the book ends with 25 exercises and their solutions. It makes for a nice pre- and post-test of some key theoretical ideas, and also serves as a fun set of tactical exercises. (It isn't all tactics, but that does make up a significant component of that material.)

    Recommended for strong club players (1800-1900) and up, at least if they are looking for something to play against the Gruenfeld and/or the King's Indian. Similarly, it is recommended to players of the same range who play those openings and want to know what they can start to expect from their opponents.

    Sunday
    Jul142013

    Getting Your RDA of Irony

    I was checking out the page for Dave Vigorito's book on the Gruenfeld in the "Chess Developments" series, and was amused by the little video introducing the series. In it, Byron Jacobs informs us that "the main point of this series...is an attempt to deal with the overwhelming mass of information that has currently become available to chess players". Well, good, that's a relief, especially since Everyman Chess seems to release a new book every other week, helping to overwhelm and bankrupt club players trying to keep up with their neighbors.*

    So how do they propose to do this, to cut us poor overwhelmed folk some slack? The answer: by presenting a series that focuses only on what has been happening over the past five years or so. That sounds pretty good, right? You get to cut out a lot of superfluous information and can really home in on a small subset of relevant theory. How bad can that be, anyway? Answer: Vigorito's book is 400 pages long. Further, this is with some ruthless cutting. Your opponents who may not have purchased this state of the art book may gauchely play some ancient theory - you know, from 2007 - and then what are you going to do? (I also notice that the book doesn't cover some of the trendy Anti-Gruenfeld lines like 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ and 5.Qb3.

    Lest someone think I'm making fun of the book, let me assure you that I'm not. I've known Dave for about 15 years and think I have all or nearly all his books. He's a solid IM whose opening works tend to be thorough and rigorous. What I am poking fun at is the ridiculous realm of publicity, especially from the the prodigious people at Everyman, who are well on their way to having written an opening book for every single man on the planet. It may be the greatest opening book in chess history for all I know, but plowing through a 400-page book on the Gruenfeld which, by the publisher's own series blurb will be half out of date in at most two and a half years (assuming the rate at which theory changes holds constant, which it certainly isn't given the increase in players and the power of computers), shouldn't make any sane consumer think he has found the secret to getting on top of opening theory. (By the way, how many of you Gruenfeld aficionados have managed to master Boris Avrukh's two-volume series from a couple of years ago?)

    So get the books if you like or don't; that's obviously your choice to make. I'm just offering a little advice: don't buy books based on a publisher's song and dance routine. Any chess book worth your time will require a real investment of time and energy on your part to get anything approaching its full value, and there are no shortcuts to really learning any decent, full-fledged opening. My expectation is that Vigorito has written another good book, but please realize that to buy it is to embrace the "mass of information", not to escape it.

     

    * This might be the best argument for Chess960: not that traditional chess is broken, but to break the absurd treadmill created by chess publishers.

    Tuesday
    Mar202012

    An Anti-Gruenfeld Line Ready For Burial

    This past weekend there was a very odd little game played in the Bundesliga between Peter-Heine Nielsen and Tomi Nyback. It was interesting and hard fought, but what made it odd was the choice of opening. Nielsen chose an anti-Gruenfeld line that led Cmilyte to a winning position against Lahno (though not a win - the game was drawn) in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year, but (a) the game was featured in Chess Today and other high-profile sites, eliminating any surprise value the line might have, and (b) was immediately "cured": a later Cmilyte - Lahno game saw Lahno improve and achieve an effortless draw.

    As it's easy to ascertain that there are no improvements or even interesting tries after Lahno's improvement, one must think that Nielsen was either bluffing or felt so good about his team's prospects that he could waste the white pieces and a rating advantage by giving his opponent an immediate draw. If so, the strategy nearly backfired. Nyback came up with a second improvement on the original Cmilyte - Lahno game, and when White missed the best option on move 30 Black could have won the game. Fortunately for Nielsen, Nyback missed his chance, and though Black retained some edge the game was soon drawn. But seriously, folks, it's time for White to bury this variation - at least for a few years until everyone forgets about it...

    You can replay the game, with my notes, here.