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    Entries in Viktor Bologan (4)

    Saturday
    Dec192015

    Book Notice: Bologan's Ruy Lopez for Black

    Victor Bologan, Bologan's Ruy Lopez for Black: How to Play for a Win against the Spanish Opening. New in Chess, 2015. 544 pp., $34.95/€29.95.

    This monster of a book is the companion to Bologan's Black Weapons, a 528-page tome that came out last year and covered all White's options after 1.e4 e5 up to but not including the Ruy Lopez (i.e. 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5). That book was well-received (by yours truly and many others), and this book is destined to receive equally effusive praise.

    A proper review would take more time than I'd care to spend over the holiday season, and in the interest of my readers having time to get or give the book as a Christmas present I'll offer this expeditious book notice instead.

    One of the book's main selling points is that it offers two main lines rather than just one. Those of you who want to breathe fire on the board (or alternatively, play for a draw against super-strong, very well-prepared opponents) can use his Marshall Gambit repertoire (3...a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5 etc.), while the more positionally-minded among you (or those who want to keep the game going, not allowing White any easy way to resolve the tension or to achieve a forced draw) will like his Breyer repertoire instead (7...d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 and so on). Of course, all the White deviations along the way are covered too, including various exchange lines, lines with a quick d3, Qe2 systems, and so on.

    Bologan is extremely thorough, and even when looking at White's sidelines he often offers Black multiple options. Against 3...a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2, for instance, Bologan has a chapter on 5...Bc5/5...b5 + 6...Bc5, a second chapter on 5...d6, and a third chapter on 5...b5 + 6...Be7. This is extremely useful, as it makes it harder for one's opponents to prepare for his readers, and it supplies them with a backup in case the main system is in need of repairs.

    The book follows the practice of its predecessor in various ways, including a long (43 page) chapter on strategic ideas and themes, broken down into several sub-chapters. Near the end of the book there's a four-page mini-chapter called "Very Fast Lane", which points readers to the sections that will give them the absolute minimum they need to be ready to play the Ruy with the black pieces. Next, there are 132 short exercises, and in addition to the solutions there's an index for the exercises as well. Finally, not counting the variation index, there's an index of games. This refers not to a list of complete games, as one comes to expect when seeing the phrase "Index of Games", but to the games referred to in the text with endnote numbers. I think this is a good innovation, making it more convenient for the research-minded reader to look the games up in the database.

    There are other interesting features in the book - upside-down diagrams, "Fast Lane" summaries in each chapter, markers for tips & tricks, and on it goes. If you want nifty bells and whistles, this is the book for you. But how is its content? As far as I can tell so far: spot on. I checked some of his main line material in the Breyer against other sources, super-recent games and with Komodo, and while I spotted some reasonable alternatives I didn't spot any errors.

    In conclusion, if you're looking for a sound, long-term main line repertoire for Black against 1.e4, this book (in conjunction with its predecessor) may very well be just what you need, especially if you're a 1.e4 e5 player. Recommended, especially to players rated 1800 and up.

    More info, and a downloadable sample, here.

    Saturday
    Dec062014

    A Review of Bologan's Black Weapons

    Victor Bologan, Bologan’s Black Weapons in the Open Games: How to Play for a Win if White Avoids the Ruy Lopez. (New In Chess, 2014.) 528 pp. $34.95/€29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Victor Bologan, occasional member of the 2700 club, has been writing opening books on a somewhat regular basis over the past six years or so, and his latest effort is the most useful one yet. Offering a repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5 against everything but the Ruy Lopez, Bologan’s Black Weapons (BBW) is in a way two books in one, as he offers two systems against practically all of White’s main options. This is a huge plus for a prospective buyer, as it takes into account different styles (one player may prefer a more aggressive option, another the more solid choice, for example) and gives one a backup in case one of the lines is “in the shop” (or worse, in the junkyard).

    To take some examples: Against the King’s Gambit, Bologan offers full repertoires with 2…exf4 3.Nf3 g5 and another with 2…d5 3.exd5 exf4. Against the Italian Game he offers full presentations of both 3…Bc5, the Giuoco Piano, and 3…Nf6, the Two Knights. And against the Scotch both 4…Nf6 and 4…Bc5 are covered in full. This is definitely a plus.

    Another nice organizational feature comes in the Introduction, when Bologan offers what he calls the Very Fast Lane. The book has 57 chapters and is well over 500 pages in length, but for those who are in a hurry and have limited time to get started he suggests a 21-chapter course to get one up and running.

    After the intro but before the analysis itself, there’s a nice 29-page chapter, “Arsenal of Strategic Ideas & Themes”. It begins with a discussion of the many different kinds of pawn structures that arise through the book, then moves on to a long discussion of the pieces. Various typical maneuvers are discussed (one well-known example would be the knight’s transfer from b1 to f1 via d2, and from there to g3 or e3), as well as the importance of this or that piece being on a particular square in a given opening. As many 1.e4 e5 openings are or include gambits, he next discusses various material imbalances, and then the chapter concludes with a look at attacking ideas, themes and motifs.

    Those who may have browsed the book in a hurry may have noticed various typographical oddities. For one thing, there are the “upside-down” diagrams, with Black on the bottom. Some like this, some don’t, but as someone whose initial inclinations tend towards dislike I must confess that after a few minutes it became a non-factor, so if you’re otherwise interested in the book please don’t let that dissuade you. Next, some move numbers are either squared or circled. A square indicates a new move, while a circle means that there are alternatives. (Example: against the Two Knights White can play both 4.Ng5 and 4.d4, so there would be a circle around the “4” preceding both moves.) Another feature: rather than incorporating game references into the text, Bologan provides superscripted numbers sending the reader near the end of the book to find the references. Using endnotes is an unusual practice, but in a way it could prove more useful, as readers can quickly produce a database of games all at once. Finally, pieces in diagrams are sometimes printed as half white and half black. This doesn’t indicate some sort of ambiguity about whose piece it is; rather, it’s intended to indicate that the particular piece is relevant to a given strategic theme. Put differently, one should pay special attention to that piece upon seeing its color divided.

    Each of the regular chapters has some nice features. First, there is the "Fast Lane", a brief discussion of the short cuts a player can take to get his repertoire up and running based on the least amount of the material. The chapter concludes with a list of traps, a summary of the most important transpositions and move order issues, and a list of "Ideas to Remember."

    Having discussed the book's format and its bells and whistles, let's dig into a bit of detail. Parimarjan Negi is a strong young Indian grandmaster who has recently released a DVD on the Scotch for ChessBase; let's see who seems to have the better of things at the point where their works intersect.

    1. Scotch with 4…Bc5, 5.Nb3.

    Our first point of intersection comes after 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2 0-0 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 a5 10.0-0-0 a4 11.Nd2. Here both authors get points. Bologan gives "11...a3 (11...Bd4 is also good) 12.e5!? axb2+ 13.Kb1, after which GM Ivan Ivanisevic suggests (in Chess Informant) the following line: 13...Bd4! 14.exf6 Bxc3 15.Ne4 Bd4 16.Qh5! Ra5! 17.Bb5 and now, instead of 17...Re8 (which is equal), the right move is 17...Qe8, with the idea 18.fxg7 Qe6! with counterplay." (And an advantage, according to the computer.) His 11...Bd4 goes to an endnote referring to the game Cornette-Tkachiev, Nancy 2013. (No moves from the game are given; it's just a reference for readers to look up on their own.)

    Negi mentions 11...Bd4 as well, and offers an important improvement over Cornette's play. After 12.Nb5 a3 Negi suggests 13.bxa3 rather than Cornette's 13.Nc4, and after 13...Re8 14.Nxd4 Nxd5 15.Qd3 c5 16.c3 Nc6 17.f4 the position is a total mess with approximately equal chances. Negi is fair to both sides.

    As for 11...a3, Negi gives 12.e5 axb2+ 13.Kb1 but now instead of Ivanisevic's/Bologan's 13...Bd4 he only offers the more obvious but inferior 13...Nd5, which is punished by 14.Nxd5 Qxh4 15.Ne4, with a clear advantage for White. (His line goes on a bit longer, but features rather cooperative play for Black on the way to a white massacre.)

    So both works have their pluses when it comes to this variation, but the player following Bologan's main line with Black will be better prepared and in better shape, theoretically speaking, than the player using Negi for White in this particular variation. Let me add that anyone who plays either side of that line without doing some computer analysis first is a bit crazy.

    Also, while it's not part of the officially "theoretical" part of Negi's DVD, he covers another sub-line that is relevant to BBW. After 9...a5, White can also play 10.a4 as in the game Carlsen-Bacrot, Nanjing 2010. Negi gives this as an illustrative game, and it continued 10...Nd4 11.Qd3 Nxb3 12.cxb3 Re8 13.0-0-0 d6 14.Qc2 and although Black is probably still okay here his position is under pressure, and White went on to win a very nice game. Bologan offers some reasonably deep coverage of ...c6 on moves 12 and 13, and makes a good case for its sufficiency.

    2. Scotch with 4...Bc5 5.Be3 and 5.Nxc6.

    There's no contest in either case, as both works look at these lines from Black's perspective and offer different repertoire suggestions. In the first case, Negi covers the main line 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7 7.Bc4 Ne5 8.Be2 Qg6 etc., while Bologan's advocates 7...0-0 8.0-0 b6 (dubbed the "Cuban Variation" in honor of GM Walter Arencibia's early adoption of the line) instead. The situation with 5.Nxc6 is reversed: this time it's Bologan who goes for the absolute main line with 5...Qf6, while Negi proposes the considerably rarer 5...bxc6. (Interestingly, both authors give their choices an exclamation point.)

    3. Scotch with 4…Nf6.

    Lots of overlap here. We start with the position after 4...Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3, and now there's material with both 9...Qe6 and 9...Bb7.

    9...Qe6 10.Qe4 d5 11.exd6 and here Bologan and Negi agree that Black is worse after 11...cxd6 12.Bd3; in fact, Bologan gives plenty of analysis in support of this conclusion. Of course, this means Bologan is going to propose something else, and he does: 11...Qxe4+. Bologan's analysis of this move looks plausible but not exhaustive, and if he's right then Black can cut out a lot of homework with the relatively minor 10...d5 line.

    9...Bb7 10.Bd2 and now there's a last division between 10...0-0-0 and 10...g6. To cut the review a bit short and to not start worrying about whether I'm violating "fair use" with respect to Negi's material, at least in spirit, I'll note that in both cases it's Negi who varies first, so his followers will have the advantage of surprise this time against the Bologanites. However, it may be a semi-Pyrrhic victory, as the computer thinks Black is at least equal throughout his analysis of 10...0-0-0 and at the end of the 10...g6 line. The latter instance was probably just a bit of carelessness on Negi's part, as White does seem to gain an advantage with his recommendation, but he goes wrong a few moves in (with 14.f3, if you have the disc).

    In sum then, I think that with the exception of very last line - one Bologan's repertoire allows one to avoid in at least three ways - BBW comes out looking at least as good and often better than Negi's DVD on lines where their repertoires compete and overlap. As I've been impressed by Negi's work in general, that's a real endorsement of Bologan's work.

    In conclusion, it's a fine book and well worth having for almost anyone who plays either side of the 1.e4 e5 openings, except when they have to explain to non-chess players that they are not holding a manual on the occult. Highly recommended to players around 1700 all the way up.

    Saturday
    Nov292014

    Qatar Masters: Giri Leads With 4/4

    So far it's a fine performance by the young Dutchman and top seed Anish Giri, who is the solo leader of the Qatar Masters Open with 4/4. Thus far he hasn't been tested, and today he crushed his opponent, Mikhailo Oleksienko, in just 18 moves on the white side of a Caro-Kann - and he was probably winning after Black's 10th move. (In case you're wondering, Oleksienko is a GM with a 2620 rating; this isn't some sort of master vs. amateur rout at the local club!) Ouch.

    Five players are just half a point behind - Evgeny Tomashevsky, Nils Grandelius, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Pavel Eljanov - and then there are a ton of players with 3/4, including Vladimir Kramnik. Kramnik started with two draws and a very shaky win in round 3, but in round 4 he finally looked more like himself and is getting back into the hunt. The top American player so far, Sam Shankland, also has 3 points, and several Americans have 2.5 points including Daniel Naroditsky, Alex Lenderman and Irina Krush. (Krush had an especially impressive victory in round 3 over Sergey Fedorchuk, and with the black pieces at that.) Another notable 2.5 pointer is Bela Khotenashvili. She defeated Baadur Jobava in round 1, and today in round 4 she defeated another super-strong GM, Gabriel Sargissian.

    It's a very strong tournament, and as you can see from the foregoing even top GMs aren't getting much "respect" from their opponents. Especially notable among the super-GM victims are Arkadij Naiditsch, whose 2719 rating still left him with an 0-2 start, and after a win in round 3 he lost to an IM in round 4 to fall to 1-3. Even worse: Viktor Bologan started 0-3 and only managed his first draw of the event today, against an FM. (Worse yet: while some might conceivably have a tough time in Qatar because they're unused to the climate, I believe Bologan has spent a lot of time working as a trainer there over the years. He's just having a very bad tournament.)

    Five rounds remain.

    Wednesday
    Apr022014

    Recent Rapid Results

    Here's a quick note about two recent rapid tournaments - there has been some high-level action outside of the Candidates. (Not much, maybe, but some.)

    First, Vassily Ivanchuk won the Latvian Railway Rapid Open with an incredible 13 out of 14. He won his first nine games, drew two, and then won his last three to win the tournament by three full points.

    Second, Alexei Shirov and Yuriy Kuzubov were leading the 5th Chebanenco Rapid Open with a round to go, but both lost and Viktor Bologan wound up the clear winner with 7/9. (Appropriately, I suppose, as he was one of Chebanenko's [sic] students.)