I recently purchased No Passion for Chess Fashion: Fierce Openings for Your New Repertoire by GM Alex Raetsky and IM Maxim Chetverik. It resembles in some ways the Secrets of Opening Surprises series from New in Chess that I so much enjoy, and like SOS it presents some "unfashionable" lines which have nonetheless been played with success by titled players and would serve amateurs quite well. In the end I think its contents just do not measure up to the articles in SOS, which are usually much more thorough in their treatment of critical variations. But there is still some material of interest.
At first I thought the volume focused only on Black defenses, and it almost does so, with the sole exception of an odd chapter on Nimzovich's eccentric 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4, which even the authors have to admit "has turned out to be not as durable as his strategic principles." Though it might be worth a punt in blitz, I think the chapter on 4.Qg4 is unfortunate and should have been replaced with a piece on a line for Black so that the whole volume could have been subtitled "Fierce Black Counters for Your Repertoire." That said, the collection is like a typical SOS volume in that there will likely be only a couple lines you're actually going to adopt.
Here is the breakdown of the chapters:
- King's Gambit (2...exf4 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng1 f5!?), 5-14
- Petroff Defense (3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 Bc5), 15-23
- Ruy Lopez (Alapin's 3...Bb4), 24-44
- The Scandinavian (2…Nf6 3.d4 Nxd5 4.c4 Nb4), 44-56
- Alekhine's Defense (2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 g5), 57-64
- The French Defense (Nimzovich's 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4) 65-81
- The St. George (1.e4 a6) 82-129
- Sicilian Defense (The Cobra 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Ndb5 Bc5), 130-148
- The Albin Countergambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 survey), 149-194
- Chigorin Defense (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7), 195-220
- English Opening (1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bb4 3.Nd5 Ba5!?), 221-234
As a 1.e4 e5 player, I was most interested in their surprising twist on Fischer's famous "Bust to the King's Gambit" with 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d6. Here the authors recommend 4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng1 f5!? (instead of Fischer's idea of 6....Bh6, which is most popular). The 6...f5!? thrust, which seems to have been originated by Raetsky himself, is very interesting and has received some high level trials. After 7.exf5 Qe7+! 8.Qe2 I like best now 8...Bh6!? to hold onto the f-pawn, as in Metz - Held 1980, though I suppose Black is fine after their recommendation of 8...Bxf5 9.Bxf4 Nc6! (better than the time wasting 9...Bxc2?!) followed by O-O-O and rapid development for Black. This is a promising line and really worth a closer look, especially since my favorite Adelaide Counter-Gambit (which also features an early ...f5) has become boring with so many White players continuing 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 f5 4.d3! as in Ivanchuk - Nakamura.
I must say I am too prejudiced against Alapin's 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bb4 to give that a try any time soon. But I do like the Petroff line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 Bc5! which I examined in my article on an "Anti-Petroff Repertoire with 3.d4" as the chief reason White should not play 4.dxe5?! Of course, you would really need to know a lot more theory as Black in order to make use of their analysis of 4...Bc5, which White usually avoids by 4.Bd3 followed by Nxe5 or dxe5 (the latter of which is the focus of my article, albeit from the White perspective). The same is true of their analysis of specific lines in the Scandinavian and Alekhine (both good on what they cover), where it would have been nice to at least have some discussion of what a complete repertoire in these lines would look like. Perhaps if they had dropped the inconsistent chapter on the French they'd have had space to do that.
I have found Raetsky and Chetverik's 1998 book on the Albin helpful to my studies (as mentioned in my article on the Mengarini-Morozevich line), so I was most interested in seeing that chapter. I found the coverage here rdeep in some ways and shallow in others. I was impressed that Chetverik seems to repeat no games from their earlier work and focuses mostly on much more recent games. And he also offers the type of survey of the Albin that could be as useful from either side of the board, covering all of the major 5th moves for both White and Black following 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6, when most common is 5.g3 (5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 are also treated) and now 5...Nge7 has gone far to rehabilitate the Albin, but Chetverik also gives games with 5...Bc5, 5...Bg4 (the old main line), and 5...Be6. His treatment here is rather fair and balanced, but much too superficial for my tastes. For example, I was pleased to see him begin with the critical line 5.Nbd2! (where "white is guaranteed a slight advantage" he later concludes) 5...Nge7 (most everything else is nearly refuted, as covered nicely in The Albin Countergambit by Dorian Rogozenco from CBM 134, as I discuss in The Albin Counter-Gambit in Question) 6.Nb3! Nf5 and now the absolutely most critical lines receive only brief treatment in a note:
...it's worth starting to think about how to reply to 7.e4!?, and your mood immediately sours.... 7...Nh4 has been tried, with the confused knights off in the distance. An exchange of queens, 7...dxe3 8.Qxd8+ Nxd8 9.Bxe3 Nxe3 10.fxe3, was encountered back in von Bilguer's day. Later a stable advantage was held without exchanging off the bishop so soon. A fragment from Pena Riasco - Fluvia (Spain 2007) is instructive: 9. fxe3 Bb4+ 10. Kf2 O-O 11. Bd3 Nh6 12. h3 Ne6 13. Bd2 Bxd2 14. Nbxd2 Nc5 15. Bc2 Bf5 16. e4 Be6 17. b4 Na6 18. Rhb1 c5 19. a3 Rad8 20. Ke3 -- those knights wouldn't have appealed to Tarrasch!This "fragment" (which may improve slightly on Rogozenco's analysis) concluded: 20...Kh8 21. Ba4 Ng8 22. Bb5 Nb8 23. bxc5 Rc8 24. Ba4 Rc7 25. Rb2 Na6 26. c6 bxc6 27. Rab1 Nc5 28. Bc2 Ne7 29. Kd4 Nd7 30. Rb7 c5+ 31. Kc3 Rfc8 32. Nf1 Ng6 33. Ne3 Ngxe5 34. Nxe5 Nxe5 35. Nd5 Rxb7 36. Rxb7 a6 37. Ra7 h5 38. Rxa6 h4 39. a4 g5 40. a5 Kg7 41. Ba4 g4 42. hxg4 Bxg4 43. Rb6 Be2 44. Bb5 Bd3 45. Nf6 Bf1 46. Nh5+ Kh7 47. Nf4 Bxg2 48. Ba6 Ra8 49. Bb7 Rxa5 50. Nxg2 h3 51. Nf4 Ra3+ 52. Kc2 Ra2+ 53. Kc3 Ra3+ 54. Kc2 Nxc4 55. Rf6 h2 56. e5 Nxe5 57. Rf5 Nf3 58. Rh5+ Kg7 59. Kb2 Re3 60. Rh3 c4 61. Nh5+ Kf8 62. Bxf3 h1=Q 63. Rxh1 Rxf3 64. Rc1 1/2-1/2 A very difficult and interesting game for both players, though White seems to have had the better of it up until Black's interesting piece sac.
Obviously, this is nowhere near the level of analysis you can find on the web for free, and it seems almost criminal to just mention 7...Nh4 in passing when, as Rogozenco suggests, it may well be the best hope of rehabilitating this critical variation for Black. Surely Chetverik, who plays the Albin himself, has more thoughts on this critical line than he is sharing. Though most readers might find this sufficient for their needs and will be doing their own analysis for the rest.
Probably the most useful chapters to me personally are the last two. I was amused to find that just moments before the book arrived at my door, I had been playing a game with the Chigorin line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bg4 4.Bg2 Qd7 (though I have also experimented with 3...Bf5!? with some success). It is surprising how often this line seems to arise in my games of late, perhaps because so many White players are using the Catalan and other lines from "Wojo's Weapons." Meanwhile, I have long been intrigued by 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Bb4!? -- especially because I typically play 2...Nc6 here with an eventual Bb4 only later. Yet I do not care much for the looks of 3.Nd5 Be7(?) given as the main line by many books. Raetsky's 3....Ba5!? seems much more my thing, and I like the "irrational position" that arises after 4.b4 c6 5.bxa5 cxd5 6.cxd5 when Black can choose between 6...Nf6 or 6...Qxa5 with a very interesting game.
Overall, I'd say that I'd recommend this book to amateurs intrigued by any of the lines presented. While you cannot expect a complete repertoire in most cases, or deep analysis throughout, you will definitely learn something about some very interesting lines which you can then go research further with your computer or with web sources.