Thursday, December 03, 2009

Review of Zuke 'Em, Expanded Edition

I have been reading the new "expanded" edition of Zuke 'Em, The Colle-Zukertort Revolutionized by David Rudel, whose work has interested me since I first heard about it over a year ago. As a practitioner and fan of amateur chess analysis, I recognized in Rudel a kindred spirit and admired (in the materials I saw on the web) the evident work he put into helping amateurs to understand the positional themes and patterns of this under-appreciated opening. I was also impressed by the amount of work that he had put into making his books and promoting them, with excellent websites (at,, and -- the latter with a forum where players can share information, games, and ideas) and lots of online materials and videos (see the webliography at the end of this article for details). Now, finally reading his book, I am even more impressed by the quality of the work. His engaging "conversational" writing style, his focus on explaining themes and patterns rather than dumping a bunch of analysis on the page, and his excellent sense of design and presentation have been widely praised. But what impresses me most about Rudel's work is his desire to seek the best approach to playing the Colle-Zukertort and the way he uses the book format to teach it to others.

Rudel's quest for the "truth" about the Colle-Zukertort continues in the present edition, which breaks new ground for those who would understand the best way to play the opening. If you compare Rudel's repertoire to those of several other Colle-Zukertort books, you see right away that he has a lot of new ideas, many of the "why didn't anybody notice that before?" variety. His more interesting breakthroughs often involve adapting ideas from openings that reach similar positions to the Colle-Zukertort but with colors reversed. For example:
The book is both well-researched and full of innovative ideas. Rudel has done his homework, and the book offers a thorough bibliography of sources, suggesting that he left no stone unturned in seeking ideas. With so many books by professional players lacking any citation apparatus, it is nice to see a so-called "amateur" analyst being so careful. But while he has done good research, Rudel is not a follower of theory. In fact, he turns up so many interesting innovations because he actively searches for ideas to get White an edge instead of accepting "theory's verdict" of equality. After all, he plays the opening himself and he wants to anticipate problems before his opponents spring them on him. I was similarly driven in my analysis of the Urusov Gambit System, where I found published material blithely repeating the mistakes of previous writers or failing to pay attention to important problems in the opening. Doing that analysis made me recognize just how untrustworthy even the best players and analysts can occasionally be and how all players have to find their own path through theory, making their own decisions at each turn and trusting in themselves.

Rudel has not only done some innovative analysis, he has given a lot of thought to helping others understand what he has found. I am very impressed by his carefully structured presentation, which creates an excellent scaffolding for even developing players to master the ideas behind his system. Each chapter begins by setting forth the chief problem that White needs to solve in the line under discussion and the analysis and illustrative game that follow form a coherent piece with the idea of that chapter. Where specific lines call for deeper analysis, he has generally segregated that to the "Extra Analysis" chapter to keep from disrupting the flow of the presentation by focusing too much on specific details. And he concludes the book with a number of "Training" exercises keyed to each section and a set of diagrams to remind readers of the "New Ideas" that he has set forth in his book (especially useful for players who have studied and played the more traditional approaches).

Rudel's desire to teach his repertoire to others has led him to write two additional books of training materials that emerged from the original analysis he was doing on the Colle system. The Moment of Zuke: Critical Positions and Pivotal Decisions for Colle System Players focuses on the Colle more broadly and considers critical tactics and positional themes. Its seven modules (each consisting of "Lesson," "Exercises" and "Solutions" with explanations) are typical of his very orderly presentation and cover such critical Colle topics as how to deal with a Black Ne4, when it's safe to attack with g4, and when you can play the classic Bxh7 sacrifice -- or the double Bishop sacrifice. That last theme returns to make up a whole book in Bxh7: Master both sides of chess' most useful piece sacrifice in 5 easy lessons and 116 exercises which focuses exclusively on "The Greek Gift" (not only out of the Colle or Colle-Zukertort but a number of similar structures, including the French and other Queen Pawn openings). You can review some exercises from the book at his latest website, One of my favorite such sacs is Marshall - Stodie, Atlantic City 1920, but I could not find it in the book (an index of games and players would be a helpful addition to future editions.)

There are actually not that many books where you will find tactical and strategic patterns of a specific opening laid out so thoroughly. The only comparable examples that spring to mind are the recent Seven Ways to Smash the Sicilian (which covers seven different sacrificial themes, like its predecessor Sacrifices in the Sicilian) and New in Chess's "Tactics in the ..." series. With the power of ChessBase "position search," it is actually easier than ever to compile example games to illustrate various themes (as I found in writing Mating Patterns: Bishop and Rook and More Bishop and Rook Mates), so you would think there would be more such books.

Returning to the new edition of Zuke 'Em, I think Rudel has made significant improvements upon earlier editions (one of which I actually found at my library for comparison). He has added some sample games with significant annotations and offered some alternative lines to match player styles. But the most salient and important improvement, as he acknowledges, is at the level of proofreading, and he has done an excellent job eliminating errors in grammar, chess moves, and diagrams. I found only one bad diagram (with a Bishop accidentally substituted for a pawn on page 291) and only one error in grammar ("With this in mind, I propose a line inviting Black to take a free move he wish [sic] he did not have" [203]). And I was looking for error. [Rudel credits proofreaders Graham Stevens and John Wright for the improvements.]

The Colle-Zukertort is not in itself a complete repertoire, and Rudel recommends that readers fill out the rest by following Aaron Summerscale's cult classic A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, which is due to be re-released in "a new enlarged edition" updated by Sverre Johnsen some time in early Spring 2010. In the meantime, Richard Palliser's Starting Out: d-Pawn Attacks is not a bad substitute, covering part of Summerscale's repertoire in the Barry Attack, the 150 Attack, and the Colle-Zukertort, and only skipping coverage of the Benoni and the Dutch (which you can find material on elsewhere). And there are other 1.d4 Repertoire Books out there to tide you over until the "return of the king" (Summerscale) -- though you might look for Summerscale's video series produced by Foxy Videos and now available from various sources. For those looking for a parallel repertoire as Black, I'd recommend the Nimzo- and Queen's-Indian complex and the French Defense, in which case you might add Play the Nimzo-Indian, Play the Queen's Indian, and How to Play against 1.e4 (on the French) to fill up your chess opening bookshelf.

Selected Online Colle-Zukertort Resources
For those not yet convinced that the Colle-Zukertort is worth a go, here are some online resources to help you explore and learn more on your own before taking the plunge and buying Zuke 'Em.

Colle-Zukertort Repertoire Articles

Michael Goeller, The Hybrid Zukertort Retort at the Kenilworth Chess Club website.

_______, A Bishops of Opposite Color Endgame Lesson from Steve Stoyko at the Kenilworth Chess Club.

_______, Kupchick - Capablanca, Lake Hopatcong 1926 at Kenilworth Chess Club website
Notes on a fascinating Capablanca victory using a Queen's Indian vs. the Colle.

_______, Yaacov Norowitz Lecture on the Stonewall Attack at the Kenilworth Chess Club website
Along with the Stonewall, discusses Norowitz's "Anti-KID Zukertort System" which involves playing a Zukertort system with the idea that dark squared Bishops will eventually get exchanged after 1. d4 Nf6 2. e3 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Be2 O-O 5. b3! d6 6. Bb2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. dxe5 Ng4 9. c4 Ngxe5 10. Nxe5 etc.

_______, Barry Attack Bibliography at the Kenilworth Chess Club website
The Barry Attack is at the core of Summerscale's recommended d-pawn repertoire and is covered by Palliser's "Starting Out: d-pawn Attacks" also. I wrote this back in 2005, but helpful readers have left updates in the comments. I wrote another piece at the Kenilworth Kibitzer blog on the "Anti-Barry Attack."

Gary Lane, Opening Lanes #55 at ChessCafe
Discusses the Cvitan - Gofshtein game which was the focus of my Hybrid Zukertort Retort article. Not a very in-depth study.

_______, Opening Langes #30 at ChessCafe
Starts off with a Colle-Koltanowski game and then a Colle-Zukertort one.

_______, Opening Langes #64 at ChessCafe
Look for a short win by White near the middle of the article.

Promoted Pawn, Colle - Zukertort, Susan Polgar DVD game collection at

David Rudel, Chapter 1: Why (another book on the Colle)? at

_______, Chapter 2: Introduction: The Enigmatic Zukertort at

_______, Four Keys for the Colle-Zukertort -- A Car for the Future at
A good place to start if you are considering giving the Colle-Zukertort a "test drive" is this article by Rudel, which begins with a bit of a sales pitch and then offers four ideas in the opening, including the difficulty Black has developing his queenside, White's extra kingside space, the crucial squares for various pieces, and the possibility of exchanging pawns in the center by dxc5 to unleash the dark square Bishop.

_______. Reviving the Colle-Zukertort Main Line at Chessville
Discusses how the idea of exchanging in the center and playing a6 in the Tartakower can be adapted for use in the Colle-Zukertort to revive the main line where White is often annoyed by Nb4 attacking the Bishop at d3. Offers quite a bit of useful analysis.

_______. How the Kolt Beats a Horse: Early ...Ne4 Plans in the Colle System at Chessville
An exploration of various White ideas for dealing with Ne4 by Black in both the Colle-Zukertort and Colle-Koltanowski. Ends with training exercises.

_______, Benoni at

_______, The Phoenix Attack Quick-Start Guide at
An excellent introduction with video to Rudel's innovative approach to the regular Colle that turns it into a reverse Semi-Slav. There is also a good discussion of this idea at ChessVibes.

_______. The Moment of Zuke Introduction and First Module at

_______. The Moment of Zuke, Module 2: Slaying the b7 Monster at

Eric Schiller, The Rubinstein Attack! A Chess Opening Strategy for White (2005)
A PDF of the first 25-pages of this book, offering a useful introduction to the Colle-Zukertort and discussion of the game Blackburne - Minckwitz, Berlin 1881. See also more pages from the book on the Bogoljubow Variation (mostly focused on a Nh5-f4 idea for Black) and an extensive Preview at Google Books.

Zukertort, Quick-Start Guide to the Colle Zukertort, a Chess Opening System for Players of Any Strength at
A nice introduction to the basic tabiya and standard lines of the Colle-Zukertort in text and java replay board form.

Colle-Zukertort Repertoire Videos

Colle - Grunfeld, Berlin 1926
Just a video replay without commentary of probably the only game on record where Edgar Colle actually played the Colle-Zukertort (which bears his name), here against a Queen's Indian hedgehog. Annotated in Tartakower's 500 Master Games.

The Zukertort Variation of the Colle System Illustrated by David Rudel
A very useful introduction to the opening and its basic ideas and patterns.

The Phoenix Attack Variation of the Colle System by David Rudel
Rudel's second video, introducing a new way of playing the Colle as a reversed Semi-Slav with c3 and b4.


David Rudel said...

Thanks, Mike, for giving my book a read and review!

With regard to the proofreading, etc. the credit there really belongs squarely on the shoulders of Graham Stevens and John Wright. They have been an extremely helpful pair of extra eyes used in my most recent editions.

I recommend them (as a team) to anyone doing chess books to catch errors and places where the writing is unclear.

Michael Goeller said...

Hi David --
I don't know why your comments don't show up right away -- it just seems slow. I will have to check the settings.

I may go back and do some proofing of my review (I noticed a couple of errors myself just now), in which case I will mention your proofreaders. I may need them myself!

I think I will hold the interview until Monday since there are a number of other interesting things to post.

Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

Michael Goeller said...

For those interested, I did a lot of follow up material related to David Rudel's Colle work. Here are some links: