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    Entries in Wojtkiewicz (2)

    Sunday
    May152011

    Book Notice: Wojo's Weapons: Winning With White, Volume 2

    Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito, Wojo's Weapons: Winning With White, Volume 2. (Mongoose Press, 2011). $29.95. 320 pp. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    It seems we're suffering from sequelitis here at The Chess Mind. Every day at the Candidates is Groundhog Day, and then it's volume 2 on the Hedgehog followed by more of Wojo's weapons! "Wojo", as many American readers will know and many non-Americans won't, refers to the late Polish-Latvian-American GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz. A strong though not elite GM, Wojtkiewicz (generally referred to as "Wojo") was a very successful competitors in US Swiss-system events, and authors Jonathan Hilton (a USCF national master) and Dean Ippolito (an IM) attribute a fair amount of that success to his well-worked opening repertoire. Needless to say (nothing beats an oxymoronic phrase purporting to be superfluous!), Hilton and Ippolito (if we can use "Wojo", we'll turn them into "HI") believe that their readers can adopt these weapons and enjoy comparable success at their level on the food chain.

    Volume 1 (reviewed here) covered Wojo's treatment of the Catalan; this time around it's Wojo vs. the King's Indian Defense (KID). (That leaves at least three major openings yet to come: the Gruenfeld, the Dutch and 1.Nf3 c5.) As with volume 1, they are again following in Boris Avrukh's footsteps, as both authors recommend the Fianchetto Variation against the KID. Surprisingly though, HI don't use Avrukh this time around, or at least he isn't cited in the bibliography. (Importantly, though, Bologan's pro-KID book from 2009 is mentioned, so they've done their due diligence on "enemy" material.)

    There are three parts in WWWWW II, further divided into 14 chapters. Part 1 covers ...Nbd7 lines, part 2 hits ...Nc6 lines (there's only one chapter on the critical Panno Variation, which the authors justify in part by noting that it's a rare bird at sub-master levels [it's a substantive chapter though, fear not]) and part 3 includes everything else. Together with a short intro, a very helpful index of recommended variations and a player index, there are 320 pages on the Fianchetto KID - quite a lot.

    Part of that length is accounted for by the "complete games" format, and it's not just the space taken up by the additional moves, but by the annotations that come even after anything resembling theoretical significance has passed. Another feature that adds to the book's length is their possibly excessive thoroughness. If Wojo had a game in the Fianchetto KID, HI seemingly include it no matter how dubious or theoretically irrelevant Black's play.

    I'm of two minds as to whether this is a good idea or not. The plus is that most of us aren't going to be playing GMs, so it's worth seeing these second-rate lines get busted. There are several counter-arguments to this, or rather to the amount of space these second-rate lines get, but I'll just offer one that's perhaps in keeping with the philosophy of the pro-side: the second-rate lines Wojo faced generally came from 2200-2400 players. So what most of it really need are third-rate lines, the kinds of moves 1600-2000 players are likely to put out there!

    So it's possible to quibble with some of HI's authorial decisions. I haven't had time to examine the book closely, but from browsing it and in part based on trust from volume 1, it looks as if they have done a pretty thorough job. Both Hilton and Ippolito use Wojo's lines in their own tournament play, and there's a fair combination of game citations, independent analysis and explanatory prose. It's sophisticated material, so I don't think this is a book for lower- or mid-range club players. If you're 1800, maybe 1900 and up and looking for an anti-KID line, this might be the book for you.

    Wednesday
    Mar312010

    A Short Review of Wojo's Weapons: Winning With White, Volume 1

    Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito, Wojo's Weapons: Winning With White, Volume 1 (Mongoose Press, 2010). 408 pp. $29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Most club players - and not only club players - can go a lifetime without playing or facing the Catalan, but the last two years have made that increasingly difficult. While Catalan specialists Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand haven't won too many of their fans over to that opening, recent books by Boris Avrukh, Nigel Davies, and now the duo of Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito may help change that. Avrukh's very advanced book has rightly received rave reviews, Davies' book is useful to a lower-rated audience, and the Hilton and Ippolito ouvre is worthwhile as well.

    As the title suggests, the focus is on the late Polish/Latvian/American GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz's opening repertoire with the white pieces. Wojtkiewicz ("Wojo") died in 2006 at the young age of 43, and while he wasn't an elite GM he was consistently rated between 2550 and 2595 throughout his career as a GM. That's very respectable, but more to the point of the book, he was a regular in U.S. swisses, and as such cultivated a repertoire and style designed to make him an efficient fish-killer; that is, able to consistenly beat players 2400 and below with regularity and without too much work. That's a necessity for a GM to make a living here: too many draws, or too much energy spent on relatively weak players, and they'll run out of gas when it counts in the money rounds against their fellow GMs.

    Accordingly, Hilton and Ippolito (mostly Hilton, I think, at least as far as the prose is concerned) believe that following in Wojo's footsteps is a path to opening and tournament success. The key is to offer a combination of sufficiently deep theory and an understanding of how his repertoire works in practice, in terms of typical middlegames and endings. Still further, Hilton and Ippolito succeed in selling the Catalan. The reader is made to feel that the repertoire is safe, (relatively) simple and yet surprising to most opponents while offering good winning chances. What more could anyone want?

    Note: while I keep mentioning the Catalan, which they pursue via the move order 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.g3, that's not the only opening covered in the book. It is the subject of the first 250 pages or so, but there's another 50 pages on the Slav (they recommend 4.Qc2), and then there are another 90 pages or so on various alternative Queen's Gambit lines (the QGA, the Tarrasch, 2...Bf5 lines, the Chigorin and 2...c5). (For King's Indian, Dutch and other non-...d5 replies, we'll presumably have to wait for Volume 2.) It's a pretty thorough work in its scope, and in other ways too.

    For instance, the authors are up to date with their sources, having examined Avrukh and Davies, the Informants up to 105 (106 just came out), and even cite some of my own analysis from a ChessBase presentation. Now that is thorough! The sources I mentioned are available in principle to everyone, but there's also private material from Wojo's lessons and other teaching sessions offering both specific suggestions and verbal explanation as well. Indeed, the authors do a fine job of explaining what to do, offering not only commentary within the variations but in summaries and conclusions after each game (much of the book features complete games), move order tips, "useful pointers" and so on. Finally, the authors admit when Black can equalize and don't try to spin it in a pro-White way.

    In short, it's a very useful book that I feel comfortable recommending to experienced players 1800-1900 and up. Kids should stick to more bloodthirsty openings, while lower-rated players will probably find the material too sophisticated. For those near 2000 (and up) looking to try something new, however, this is a fine place to start.