I have made no secret in these pages that I am a big fan of the "Secrets of Opening Surprises" series from New in Chess, edited by Jeroen Bosch. I own every volume and expect I'll be adding many more to my collection in the years to come. Its short article format has a strong appeal, since it allows you with relatively little effort to pick up an unusual opening line to try out in blitz or in a critical game situation. Only Everyman's "Dangerous Weapons" series comes close to offering such an interesting collection of offbeat opening lines. But even Everyman doesn't offer such a variety of authors and openings. I recently picked up "SOS #10" and thought it was about time I wrote a review.
Recent SOS volumes have featured 17 articles, and this one is no exception. Here are its contents:
- Jeroen Bosch, "The SOS Files" (offering recent games with lines discussed in previous editions), pp. 8-21
- Dorian Rogozenco, "The Blumenfeld Gambit" (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 b5 5.Bg5 b4), pp. 22-28.
- Jeroen Bosch, "The Lewis Gambit" (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4), pp. 29-33.
- Dimitri Reinderman, "The Retreat Variation" (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8), pp. 34-40.
- Adrian Mikhalchishin, "Steinitz’s Anti-French" (1.e4 e6 2.e5), pp. 41-43.
- Arthur Kogan, "Slav: the Bellon-Murey Variation" (1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.c4 c6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 a5), pp. 44-53.
- Jeroen Bosch, "Slav: a Marshall Gambit of Sorts" (1.d4 d5 2.c3 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4 Bb4 5.Bd2), pp. 54-59
- Alexander Finkel, "Queen’s Fianchetto in the Alekhine" (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.b3), pp. 60-65.
- Igor Lysyj, "Grünfeld Indian: Kruppa Variation" (1.d4 d5 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bg5), pp. 66-72.
- Igor Khenkin, "SOS in a Flexible Caro-Kann" (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e5 Ne4), pp. 73-78.
- Sergey Tiviakov, "Queen’s Indian: Double Fianchetto" (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Bb7 5.Nc3 g6), pp. 79-88.
- Adrian Mikhalchishin, "Sicilian: Romanishin Variation" (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4), pp. 89-92.
- Jeroen Bosch, "Modern Provocation" (1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 Nc6), pp. 93-99.
- David Navara, "Tricky Line vs the Slav" (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5.Qd3), pp. 100-115.
- Alexander Finkel, "Taking Chances in the Volga" (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb4 e6), pp. 116-122.
- Or Cohen, "Petroff for Beginners" (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4), pp. 123-134.
- Jeroen Bosch, "Winning Ugly in the Tarrasch" (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bg6 f6), pp. 135-143.
I was especially pleased to see Bosch's article on the surprisingly good Lewis Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4!?) which fits perfectly with my interest in the revived Max Lange Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d4 Bxd4 6.Nxd4 Nxd4 7.f4 d6 8.fxe5 dxe5 9.Bg5). In my view, the Lewis Gambit is playable precisely because it offers some tricky transpositions, chiefly to the Max Lange Gambit itself following 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4 Bxd4 4.Nf3 Nc6 (probably best as 4...Nf6 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5! d5 7.Bb5+ favors White, while 4...Qf6?! was convincingly refuted in Cochrane - Staunton, London 1841) 5.Nxd4 Nxd4 6.O-O and it's not clear that Black can avoid getting into known lines. Meanwhile, I think White can also transpose to familiar territory following 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.d4 exd4 with 4.Nf3!? (4.Bxf7+ is Bosch's only recommendation) when 4...Nc6 5.c3 transposes to the Scotch Gambit or Giuoco Piano while 4...Nf6 gives us a line from the Urusov Gambit which is quite good for White after 5.e5. A perfect fit with my repertoire! And very little effort to adopt.
I also appreciate that Bosch offers a long aside regarding MacDonnell's 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.b4!? Bxb4 4.c3 which I have analyzed at some length as part of my Bishop's Opening site. I had concluded that White generally does best to transpose to the Evans Gambit after 4...Be7 5.Nf3! or 4...Bc5 5.Nf3! while using the opportunity to get into some fascinating gambit territory following 4...Ba5 5.f4! In my view, the only reason to play 3.b4!? is if you want to transpose to the Evans Gambit while side-stepping the more difficult 4...Ba5 lines; otherwise you might as well play 3.Nf3 when the natural 3...Nc6 4.b4!? gets you where you want to go anyway. Here I have to say I am a little disappointed with Bosch's discussion, which adds only two recent games (Heil - Podolnyy and Kurenkov - Tishin) to my analysis from seven years ago. In fact, he even makes an error in suggesting that White can reach the Evans Gambit via 4...Bc5 5.d4!? exd4 6.Nf3?! when I show that 6...Nf6! throws a monkey wrench in that plan. Similarly, White cannot reach standard Evans lines after 4...Ba5 5.Nf3?! due to 5...Nf6! 6.d4 0-0 7.0-0 d6 8.Ba3 Nxe4 9.dxe5 Nxc3 10.Qd3 Nxb1 11.Raxb1 Nc6 12.exd6 cxd6 13.Bxd6 Re8 =+ Paulsen--Asbeck, Dusseldorf 1863. I think Bosch would have been aided by a little more research here (or just a look at my analysis, which any Google search would have turned up). Nevertheless, I do appreciate that he offered this little extra idea for fans of the Evans Gambit.
The next chapter by Dimitri Reinderman on "The Retreat Variation" (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8!?) went well beyond an article I had written that called this line The Brooklyn Defense. In the key recent game Kotronias - Sandipan, Gausdal 2008, White improved on the Gruchacz - Benjamin game of my article with 8.Ng5!? Qd7 9.Qe2 e5 10.d5! (I gave only 10.dxe5 dxe5 as playable for Black) 10...Nf6 11.Bg2 when Black had real problems to solve. Reinderman suggests that Black try 11...c6!? to weaken White's grip on e6 or to develop interesting counterplay following 12.c4 cxd5 13.cxd5 Na6! heading for the weak d3 square. He also does not sidestep the toughest line: 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 Bh5 6. g4 Bg6 7. e6 fxe6 8. Bc4! when Black's position starts to look ugly to me. However, Reinderman convinces me that Black might survive following 8...Bf7N 9. Ng5 d5 10. Bb5+! c6 though I still prefer White after 11.Bd3 or 11. Nxf7!? Kxf7 12. Bd3.
The annoying line with 8.Bc4! is the main reason I had looked closely at 3....d5!? --which Reinderman dismisses. As he notes, 3...d5 simply does not compare well to the Advance Variation of the Caro-Kann that arises after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Be3. He writes: "The same position would arrive after 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8 3.d4 d5 4.Be3 Bf5 (what else?), but then with a pawn on c7 and White to move! Surely this must be good for White. Therefore in this article I will stick with 3...d6" (34). I'm still not convinced that 3...d5 is not playable, and the recent game Bajt - Guid, Murska Sobota 2008 suggests Black can hold his own here, even with some highly unusual play.
Looking through the lines on offer in "SOS #10" you would be convinced of the modern theory that playing by principle is not as correct as assessing specific positions. This is especially the case with Steinitz's Anti-French 1.e4 e6 2.e5, which is exactly the kind of move we are apt to reject "on principle." But White reaches some interesting positions, and at least avoids those annoying closed French lines, forcing play instead toward more semi-open channels that might not be to Black's liking. Similarly, you would not expect Black to do so well after 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6! 4.e5 Ne4!? (author Igor Khenkin also suggests 4...Ng8!?) when White is hard pressed to find an advantage. I had similar trouble meeting 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Nf3 d4 4. Ne2 c5 5. Ng3 (perhaps 5. c3!?) 5...Nc6 6. Bc4 Nf6! (see Goeller - Brandreth, USATE 2009), and Khenkin's article combined with my own experience is putting me off the Two Knights Caro-Kann lately. Finally, there is a wonderful article on the "Petroff for Beginners," focusing on the popular line at club level 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe4 Nxe5!?/?! which is one of those lines that is "supposed to be refuted" but is not quite so "refuted" as it should be, as I discussed in my article on the "Symmetrical Petroff."
All in all, another wonderful volume from Jeroen Bosch -- and I've only touched on the small portion that interested me most.