Grigory Bogdanovich, The Zukertort System: A Guide for White and Black (Mongoose Press, 2010). Foreword by Artur Yusupov. 340 pp. $24.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
The Zukertort System arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 d5 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3. Other move orders are possible for both sides (mainly Black, who can make his moves in practically any order), but once these nine half-moves have been executed, the Zukertort System is the result. This is not to be confused with the Colle (or the Koltanowski Colle, if one prefers), which is characterized by White's choosing c3 rather than b3.
Speaking of names and flexibility, calling this the Zukertort can be disputed, as the author, IM Grigory Bogdanovich, is wont to note. Bogdanovich notes that it was played before Zukertort, that Zukertort himself put his bishop on e2, which is alien to the system, and that it has also called the Rubinstein Attack and, at least in some Russian-speaking circles, the "Yusupovka", in honor of Artur Yusupov. Amusingly, Bogdanovich says that he won't fight the nomenclature battles of the past and will call it the Zukertort, but then he refers to it as the Yusupovka on countless occasions in the book. (No objection here!)
The author, an IM from Russia now living in Germany, has written something more like a manual on the Zukertort than a traditional opening book. The book has three parts: the first explores White's typical themes, the second examines Black's main ideas, and then there's a relatively brief selection of supplementary games. The organization of the book is interesting and probably useful to those who who want a long-term friendship with Zukertort, but to those of us who would like to dabble it's a pain in the keister. There is no index of variations in the book. Instead, what one gets are chapter titles like this:
- Part 1: Play for White
- Chapter 1: A Piece Attack
- Chapter 2: Opening Up the a1-h8 Diagonal
- Chapter 3: Transforming the Pillsbury Formation; The Marshall Plan
- Chapter 4: A "Psychological" Attack by White's Kingside Pawns
- Chapter 5: Play with Hanging c- and d-Pawns
- A. White Has Hanging c- and d-Pawns
- B. Black Has Hanging c- and d-Pawns
- Chapter 6: Play with an Isolated d-Pawn [also divided into A- and B- sections for White and Black]
- Chapter 7: A "Repulsive" Queenside Pawn Majority
- Chapter 8: A Position "Suffocated at a Distance"
- Chapter 9: White's Plan with e3-e4
There are fourteen chapters in the "Play for Black" part, with titles that are likewise sometimes fairly clear and sometimes opaque. And don't think that the chapters correspond to particular variations! Occasionally they do, but often they do not. There is an index in the back of "tactical methods and strategic themes", and it is useful, but when it comes to organizing a specific repertoire you get no structural help from the book whatsoever.
Convenience (or the lack thereof) aside, how is the book? I'm not a Zukertort specialist, but is at least seems to be a responsible book. He uses and interacts with known sources (e.g. David Rudel's Zuke 'Em, Everyman Press books by Palliser and Cox, a Susan Polgar DVD on the Zukertort and a Karpov & Kalinichenko volume called Queen Pawn's Openings, vol. 2 are the most commonly cited works). There are lots of games (complete and fragments) and plenty of independent analysis, and he notes on more than one occasion that a chess engine found this or that, so he has hopefully checked much if not all of his analysis. In short, he seems to have done a responsible job, and I have no reason to think otherwise.
Let's get to the bottom line: who should get the book? If you're looking for a one-size-fits-all 1.d4 opening, this isn' t it. The Zukertort is only effective against the Black setup with e6, d5 and c5 and the light-squared bishop stuck behind the pawns. Against a Slav setup, or when a Black bishop is on f5 or g4, or a King's Indian or some other line where Black's d-pawn has not advanced two squares, it's out. It's also inappropriate for those looking for a quick repertoire, as noted above. If, on the other hand, you already have a good idea of how the variations work and want to develop an even deeper understanding of this system and its standard themes, then this volume may well be exactly what you need. Indeed, for anyone (say, 1600 and up) interested in the Zukertort and willing to take the time to go through the book a bit at a time, I think you'll find it very useful.