Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Grand Prix Attack, Explained

Chess Openings for White, Explained

After updating my Grand Prix Attack Bibliography last week, I decided to take a closer look at the coverage of that line in the recent Chess Openings for White, Explained: Winning with 1.e4 by Lev Alburt, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn (CIRC 2006).

See my article "The Grand Prix Attack, Explained" for the results of that examination.

Some stronger players I know have criticized COWE, in part because it cannot compare with Pirc Alert! or Chess Openings for Black, Explained (see excerpt at ChessCafe) in the depth of its coverage. Of course, COWE is undertaking a much broader repertoire than those earlier works, so it will inevitably have to cut more corners. The repertoire it offers is also more geared toward those below ELO 2000 than either their earlier works (which even masters could rely upon) or other repertoire books, such as Larry Kaufmann's The Chess Advantage in Black and White, which is safer and more strategic. So stronger players may not find everything they'd want here. But the book is not written for masters.

The COWE repertoire is quite tactical and designed with club and class players in mind. It includes:
  • the Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 ),
  • the Two Knights Modern (4...Nf6 5.e5!),
  • Italian (4…Bc5 5.c3 Nf6 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Bd2),
  • Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3),
  • Philidor (2…d6 3.d4),
  • Latvian (2…f5 3.Nxe5),
  • Elephant (2…d5 3.d4!?),
  • Sicilian Grand Prix Attack (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4),
  • French Classical (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3),
  • Caro-Kann Exchange Variation (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3),
  • Center Counter (standard lines after 1.e4 d5 2.exd5),
  • Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf3 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h3),
  • and Alekhine Exchange Variation (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.exd6).
Most of the recommended lines would be considered “Opening Short Cuts,” which avoid the bulk of theory (for those of us "with jobs to do and lawns to cut," as they write), except perhaps the principled Classical lines against the French, which are fairly main stream theory and therefore take up the largest portion of the book (140 pages).

Among the better short cuts, I rather like their recommendation against the Pirc, playing the Classical Two Knights lines with 5.h3 sometimes followed by an early a4, working to control the game and limit Black’s counterplay. That is not something I’d enjoy playing against as Black. And against the Caro-Kann, I rather like the Exchange Variation (though I usually play it as the Apocalypse Attack), which is one of the better opening short cuts out there. This chapter was excerpted at ChessCafe, BTW, but it appears to have been taken down and I cannot find it in their archives....

Overall, I think that the majority of chessplayers would enjoy this book and get a lot out of it. And, if you are like me, you will probably want to buy it if it touches upon any of the openings you play, since they do have quite a few novelties scattered throughout the text.

After taking a closer look at the Grand Prix Attack chapter, I can also say that their analysis is generally strong and they add some interesting ideas to standard theory. But I also had a few quibbles, especially about how the authors rely mostly on their own analysis with only rare citations of specific games. Though that might be more acceptable in this age of game databases, where anyone interested in games can easily compile them, we should remember that theory relies on games because they offer a sort of proof to back up evaluations. And too often, I think, the authors evaluate a line as better for White that has proven anything but better in practice. I point out several examples of this in my analysis, but the most disappointing example is their recommendation 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. f4 e6 4. Nf3 a6 5. g3 (transposing to the Closed Variation, though 5. d4 seems better) 5... d5 6. e5!? (the text has an amusing typo, giving this "?!" instead, which seems more accurate), when White has not faired too well, e.g.: 6... Nge7 7. Bg2 Nf5 8. Ne2 h5 9. c3 d4 10. d3 h4 11. Nfg1 c4 12. cxd4 cxd3 13. Qxd3 Nb4 14. Qb3 Nxd4 15. Nxd4 Qxd4 16. Be3 Nc2+ 17. Qxc2 Qxe3+ 18. Qe2 Bb4+ 19. Kf1 Qb6 20. Bf3 Bd7 21. Kg2 Rc8 22. Nh3 Bb5 23. Qe4 Bc6 24. Qe2 Bxf3+ 25. Kxf3 Rd8 26. Rad1 Qc6+ 27. Qe4 Qxe4+ 28. Kxe4 Rxd1 29. Rxd1 hxg3 0-1 Fegebank,F-Rahls,P/Germany 1991. If they had looked at the games in this line, they would find that Black has a decided edge--hardly proof that White is doing well.

I have not looked at the other chapters with anywhere near as much care. But those on lines I know well are more than adequate for the intended audience. And the overall presentation (with loads of diagrams and memory devices, just as with their earlier works) makes this a very valuable and usable book--and one of the few books of theory that you might actually read. So while I do find fault, I must emphasize that this is a book I strongly recommend.


Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Goeller,
Excellent rewiew of Grand Prix Attack.
Thank you
Saludos from Spain

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the .pgn file wuith the analysis - very handy for going through the book (but you missed some lines I have to add).

Anonymous said...


Can you tell me more about the javascript mechanism you use to create the playable games in your
"The Grand Prix Attack, Explained" article?
Is this something you wrote yourself, or perhaps it is freely available code?

Thank you

Michael Goeller said...

There are now many ways to add java playable games to your site, some easier than others. See my post on Chess Publishing 2.o Style for the easiest way. The method I usually use involves Palmate from Chess Publishing / En Passant -- see links in my sidebar under "Blog Tools." I recommend also reading the Chess Publshing blog listed there.

Anonymous said...


Thank you very much for your informative response. I have more than enough to get started now!