Igor Lysyj and Roman Ovetchkin, The Open Games For Black (Chess Stars 2012). 244 pp.
I recently reviewed the authors' work on the Berlin Defense; this volume is a supplementary companion to that one. This book's lengthy subtitle makes their aim clear: "A complete black repertoire with 1.e4 e5 against everything except the Ruy Lopez". There are thus replies for Black to the Center Game, gambits with 2.d4 exd4 3.c3, the King's Gambit, the Bishop's Opening, the Vienna, the Ponziani, the Four Knights, the Scotch and the Italian Game. Of these, the last two are generally considered the most significant White alternatives to the Ruy, and naturally they receive the most space. I'll address their coverage of the Scotch, below.
This book, unlike their work on the Berlin, doesn't follow the typical Chess Stars format of dividing each theoretical section into three parts: a Quick Repertoire, a more detailed look in the Step by Step section, and then Illustrative Games. This is in part, I think, because many of White's tries can be dealt with very briefly, so that the quick repertoire and step-by-step material would be almost identical. It's possible that the multi-part approach could have worked for at least some of the Scotch and Italian sections, but this isn't really a criticism.
I liked the other book, and I like this one too. The authors are quite clear about what needs to be done, mixing sufficient analysis with enough prose to make the book useful to club players. (I'd normally recommend works like this to players 1800 and up, but 1.e4 e5 is so ubiquitous at all levels I think even mid-range club players from 1500 up could benefit from a lot of the book.) Navigating the book is easy, as the authors are clear in pointing out where to go in case one line transposes to one covered elsewhere, and the book's layout is serviceable too. In short, the book is well done.
Let's investigate what they have to say about one major line, the Mieses Variation in the Scotch (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4). They recommend 8...Ba6 (the most common move, though 8...Nb6 has its fans), and while they consider consider many moves their focus is on 9.Nd2 and 9.b3. As the large 2011 book on the Scotch by Yelena Dembo and Richard Palliser (henceforth D/P) focuses on the latter, we'll do likewise and see how the new book fares against D/P's suggestions.
Continuing then: after 9.b3 g6 both D/P and Lysyj and Ovetchkin (henceforth L/O) examine 10.Bb2 and 10.f4. Starting with 10.f4, D/P has long sections on 10...Bg7, 10...f6 and 10...Qb4+, but L/O suggests 10...d6!? instead. D/P mentions it (and interestingly, both sets of authors evaluate it with the interrobang) as a "surprisingly rare" idea advocated by Jan Gustafsson. Indeed, they have nothing special to say against it, giving nothing better for White than 11.Bb2 Bg7 (Ronchetti-Gustafsson, Reggio Emilia 2008) 12.Qf2 Nb6 which they label "unclear and in need of testing" (p. 73 of D/P). L/O has about three pages on 11.f4, and while their official main line for White is 11.Qd2 (11...Nb6 12.Ba3 c5 13.Nc3 Bg7!? 14.0-0-0 0-0 15.Qf2 [Kotronias-Gustafsson, Aix-les-Bains 2011] 15...Bb7! 16.Bd3 a5, "with excellent counterplay" on the soon to be opened a-file) they address 11.Bb2 as well. After 11...Bg7 12.Qf2 they propose a different knight retreat - 12...Nf6 - when after 13.Be2 dxe5 14.fxe5 Nd7 15.0-0 0-0 they consider Black's position slightly better ("Black can easily exploit the weakness of his opponent's e5-pawn, while White has difficulty in attacking Black's queenside pawns effectively") as in the 2009 email game Johansson - Do Prado, email 2009.
Turning to 10.Bb2, the books reach their moment of conflict after 10...Bg7 11.g3 0-0 12.Bg2 Rae8 13.0-0 and now while D/P's nominal main line is 13...Nb6, they spend more space on the well-known endgame that is L/O's main line. It begins with the long exchanging sequence 13...Bxe5 14.Qxe5 (14.Bxe5 comes to the same thing) 14...Qxe5 15.Bxe5 Rxe5 16.cxd5 Bxf1 17.Kxf1 cxd5. The best version of this ending comes when Black has the pawn on g5 and has castled long, but even here Black ought to be fine with best play. (I've had experience on both sides of this ending, in slightly varying forms, and my own initial evaluation was that White would have all the fun and that Black would need to suffer for a draw. Now I disagree a bit. I still don't think White ought to have much trouble in the versions with a black pawn on g6 rather than g5, but I don't think Black has to suffer too terribly much once he knows what he's doing.)
Both books consider three moves here: 18.Nd2 (a minor try), 18.f4 and 18.Nc3. (L/O also quickly considers a fourth, 18.Na3.) Neither book thinks 18.Nd2 promises much, though they look at different games. For D/P, it's Ahmad-Mahesh Chandran, Tehran 2001 where 18...c6 was played; for L/O it's Movsesian-Bacrot, Chalkidki 2002, with 18...Rfe8. Nor is either work much impressed by 18.f4 on account of 18...Re3! After 19.Bxd5 Rd3 20.Bf3 Re8 21.Kf2 c6 22.Be2 Rde3 23.Bd1 L/O cites the game Carlsen-Aronian, played in Moscow late in 2010, which ended in a draw after 23...Rd3 24.Be2 Rde3 25.Bd1 Rd3. Interestingly, D/P doesn't cite the game (it probably occurred too late to be included), but they had found most of the line on their own and suggested that after 23...Re1 "Black retains a small initiative" (D/P, p. 88).
So let's turn to the main line with 18.Nc3. After 18...c6 D/P looks at four moves: 19.Rc1, 19.Na4, 19.h4!? and 19.Rd1!? L/O also looks at four moves - but not all four are the same as D/P's! They quickly consider and dismiss 19.Re1?! and 19.Bf3, but take a more careful look at 19.Na4 and especially 19.Rd1. Neither book thinks White should obtain an advantage in this ending, but it's interesting to compare their conclusions.
D/P: "[The players reach] a typically unbalanced situation in which the better prepared player, in terms of knowing variations and understanding the key motifs, is likely to triumph" (D/P, p. 91).
L/O: [Commenting on the position after 18...c6:] "White has tried various moves here, but the essence of the position is very simple. Black needs to activate his king and this should be enough to equalize. Tournament practice has confirmed this evaluation" (L/O, p. 153).
I like L/O's way of putting it. It's a bit categorical, but the point is quite clear and you know what to do with Black. Additionally, you're given a nice shot of confidence, and the analytical support is sufficient to help fill in the other details.
So I think they've done a good job, and I can happily recommend the book to 1.e4 e5 players.