Saturday, September 28, 2013

"English Defence" by Ilia Odessky, Chess University

I have a big respect for Ilia Odessky as it is clear that this person works very hard on his books, not just quickly publishing something for the sake of the money. As far as I know, this is the first book published by this author, at least in English. Here is my review of this book.

General Presentation

Hard cover, black and white, 270 pages, "English Defence" is an opening book mostly for Black to play the English Defence (1. d4 e6 2. c4 b6). It can also be used for white players who play 1. d4 to avoid being surprised with this opening.
2 quick words about the opening itself: it is an interesting opening as it is less well-known than the Slav or the Queen Gambit, gives you some initiative and is not just a crazy opening where you sacrifice everything.

Structure and Presentation

I like the font used in this book and I find it easy to read. The structure is well defined by the author (we will look at this variant, then that one, then this other one and finally that one over there) but the structure could have been better highlighted. For example, when switching from one variation to another, a subtitle would have been appreciated.

Otherwise, the book is divided in 5 chapters, each with a nice title which seems to be the signature of Ilia Odessky (ever seen a chapter called "A Simple Way for a Simpleton" in another chess book?).

The Content

Some authors like to tell you how Black is winning in an opening by showing you what to play against poor play by White. Ilia Odessky is not one of them. The lines analyzed in this book are looked at thoroughly and many White alternatives had not been analyzed before.

However, as a player of moderate skills myself (international rating about 19xx), I sometimes feel hungry for more information. For example, what to do if white plays Nf3 early in the game (instead of e4)? Or what to do if White deviates very early. I wouldn't expect a full answer to every possible White moves.

But a few more words about positions that could arise outside the books would have been nice to have. Or maybe more general directions: what is Black trying to achieve? By what means?

My Conclusion

This book is an important resource for people playing this opening but if you are new to this opening, you may want a more general introductory book about this opening in addition to this book.

To buy this book at Amazon, click here.

"Play the Open Games as Black" by John Emms, Gambit

I am happy to start this blog with a review of "Play the Open Games as Black" because it is a good one. It was recommended to me when I was looking for an overall book about e4 - e5 in a chess store and I am glad I trusted the salesman as this was good find. Let's have a look at it in more details.

General Presentation

Soft cover, black and white, 224 pages, "Play the Open Games as Black" is an opening book about the open games (1 e4 e5) seen on the black pieces point of view.
This book gives you everything you need to know to play the open games with the black pieces except against the Spanish opening (just the four knights version of it is covered). Why? The author probably thinks that you already have a weapon against the Spanish or that you will want a book entirely dedicated to the Spanish variant you want to play.

On the cover of the book, you can see: "What to do when White avoids the Ruy Lopez".

Structure and Presentation

This book is well structured overall. It is separated in clever chapters, for example one chapter with an introduction to the King's Gambit and its rare variation, then the bishop version of it and finally the knight version of it.
The presentation, though simple is easy to follow. The main lines are clear, generally divided in two (main line A and main line B) with small characters for the variations. So, no fancy symbols, no colors, no intricate diagrams but straight to the point.
I wish all the chess books (at least the opening ones) were that clear and well presented.

The Content

The content of this book is also very good for three reasons:
  • most openings are presented (even things like 2. a3 or 2. Bb5)
  • the more common the opening the deeper the analysis. The Italian/four knights and scotch games are for example better dealt with than the Danish gambit
  • for most opening, the author gives the option to go for a safe line or a more ambitious one. It then depends on your style of play to decide which to choose
Among the openings looked at, you will find: the two knights, the four knights, the king's gambit, the Scotch game, the Vienna, the Centre, the Danish and the Gøring gambits, the Belgrade gambit, the Ponziani and there is a first chapter about other rare second moves for White.

My Conclusion

This book is nice to build an overall repertoire against e4 (by playing e5), or as a reference book (to check what you were supposed to play in that particular opening line you just played). You need however a separate book to deal with the Spanish.

To buy, this book at Amazon, click here.