Mecking at Hastings 1966. By this time he was already Brazil’s Champion! Source: ChessBase
Henrique Mecking (born 1952) was the first Brazilian to become a Grandmaster (1972) and won back-to-back Interzonals at Petropolis 1973 and Manila 1976. He was ranked as high as World #3 in January 1978, behind only World Champion Anatoly Karpov and Challenger Viktor Kortschnoj!
Unfortunately, he contracted a serious illness in the late 1970s, and this robbed him of a chance to fight for the title. He was only able to return to competition more than two decades later.
Lian-Ann Tan (born 1947) is an International Master and six-time champion of Singapore.
How did Henrique Mecking (White) win material here?
This game from the London 1883 tournament is very famous, and for good reason. You won’t forget it once you’ve seen it!
Johannes Zukertort(1842-1888) was born in present-day Poland. One of the leading players of early tournament chess, he challenged Wilhelm Steinitz in the first official World Championship match in 1886, which he lost (5 wins, 5 draws, and 10 losses).
In contrast to Zukertort, Joseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1924) enjoyed a much longer chess career. “The Black Death” competed in top tournaments (and matches) from London 1862 through St. Petersburg 1914!
The Black king is clearly in distress, but how should White continue?
Arthur Bisguier was featured on the cover of the December 1997 issue of Chess Life.
Arthur Bisguier(1929-2017) was a grandmaster (1957) from New York. The 1954U.S. Champion won clear or shared first place at the U.S. Open five times between 1950 and 1969. He also represented the USA in five Olympiads between 1952 and 1972.
Bent Larsen (1935-2010) was a top player, and a famously combative one, often employing risky openings with both colors. This may have extracted more points than usual against relatively weaker opposition, but sometimes things went badly wrong, as here.
Pick Simple Chess by English Grandmaster Michael Stean. The original edition of the book was written in 1978, a few years before Stean retired from chess at the age of 29. Fred Wilson edited the book and translated it to algebraic notation for Dover Publications in 2003.
Why this book in particular? An argument could be made for the “best” book in many categories of chess: tactics, endgames, and especially openings. In each case there are a number of comparable titles, though we all have our favorites.
But I think there is no argument about the most useful strategy book for most players.
Luke McShane(born 1984) is an English Grandmaster who won the World Under-10 Championship in 1993 and Wijk aan Zee B in 2011. He reached a peak FIDE rating of 2713 in July 2012, and his peak world rank of 29 in November of that year.
He has scored victories over Michael Adams, Levon Aronian, Etienne Bacrot, Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin, Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Morozevich, Hikaru Nakamura, Ruslan Ponomariov, Nigel Short, Wesley So, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek …
…in classical chess.
McShane added another notch to his belt when he took down Ivan Cheparinov in just 20 moves during the 2009 European Team Championship.
Longtime readers of the Chess Essentials blog know I’m not fan of sidelines, espeically with White. Many are playable, some even good. But I think players sometimes get into trouble overthinking how they should play these lines. If your line calls for an all-in attack, go for it!
I don’t know how Cheparinov felt, but I would be taken aback by such shameless aggression! I don’t recommend this approach every game against strong players, but I’ve long said that simple, direct plans executed well are easier to play and very effective. Luke McShane provides a great example with this Closed Sicilian/Grand Prix Attack hybrid.
Understanding the Caro-Kann Defensewas published way back in 1981. Amazon tells me I purchased it in March 2012, but I’ve only read it recently … and regret not doing so much sooner.
I have read a lot of Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6) books over the years, as I flirted with the opening for years and have now made it my weapon of choice against 1.e4.
I’ll start with the conclusion: I don’t think any other Caro-Kann title comes close.
Keep in mind: I lack chess talent, and need things spelled out for me in a to-the-point manner. This is why I love Max Euwe and Edmar Mednis so much. Your mileage may vary. There are other choices if you want wild, entertaining stories with your chess.
More About Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense
The book has five co-authors: Raymond Keene, Andrew Soltis, Edmar Mednis, Jack Peters, and Julio Kaplan, with each writing two consecutive chapters.
All the main lines are covered, including 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6 exf6 (by Peters) which most contemporary books ignore completely. Soltis covers sidelines in the final chapter, which includes the King’s Indian Attack (2.d3), TwoKnights (2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3), and 2.c4 as expected, but I was surprised to see the Fantasy Variation (2.d4 d5 3.f3) discussed in a book from 40 years ago —and well-done, too!
The authors really take their time and discuss the ideas and key maneuvers available to both players in this opening. You really understand what both players are striving for, and their variations are helpful, not torturous.
The only place where the book really shows its age is with the Advance Variation (2.d4 d5 3.e5). It only discusses the old, not-topical line 3…Bf5 4.Bd3. Still, the coverage is helpful, as Keene explains this part very nicely, and the line still appears at lower levels!
I don’t read chess books very much any longer, but I couldn’t put this one down and finished it within a week. It was that helpful, easy-to-read, and confidence-building.
I would order a copy of Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense if you have any interest in this opening — from either side, as a player or a coach. Not only can the book be had cheaply, who knows how long copies of the old gem will be around at an affordable price?
Table of Contents
Other Images from Understanding the Caro-Kann Defense
For Reference: Other Caro-Kann Books
If you want to play the line with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5:
Grandmaster Repertoire 7: The Caro-Kannby Danish GM Lars Schandorff (2010) was widely praised, and contained the latest theory and games. Still, I felt something was missing. At least for me. It’s the type of opening book you would expect from Quality Chess.
There is also Caro-Kann: Classical 4…Bf5by Garry Kasparov and Aleksander Shakarov (1984). The coverage is thorough, as you would expect from The Beast, and I suspect it can be a useful starting point even today.
I haven’t read Play the Caro-Kann: A Complete Chess Opening Repertoire Against 1e4 by Jovanka Houska (2007), but I remember it getting good reviews. Notably, she recommends answering the Advance Variation with 3…c5, rather than the much more common 3…Bf5. This line has gained in popularity at high level, and I might change to it myself!
If you want to play the line with 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7:
I previously reviewed Opening for Black according to Karpov by former FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman. This book has been much more helpful to me, because it gives analysis and sensible reasoning for its moves and evaluations. It’s Caro-Kann coverage is not huge, because most of the book is devoted to defending 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3, etc.
More recently, there’s Caro-Kann: Move by Moveby Cyrus Lakdawala (2012). Personally, I don’t like these kinds of books that contain too many words that try to be clever and don’t get to the point. (At the other end of the spectrum, I wouldn’t bother with Eduard Gufeld and Oleg Stetsko‘s Caro-Kann: Smyslov System 4…Nd7 from 1998).
There are other books, too, of course. But these are the ones I am familiar with.
In Part 1, we discussed 1.e4. I opined that the King Pawn universe is not for everyone. That begs the question:
What About the Closed Openings?
This is a much broader topic, because it includes basically everything except 1.e4!
Still, there’s an obvious place to start.
1.d4 — Have it Your Way
Generally, you’ll prefer 1.d4 to 1.e4 if you don’t want to play directly for kingside attacks most of the time. 1.d4 tends to lead to White seeking an advantage on the queenside. That doesn’t mean you can’t play aggressively if you choose to! Far from it.
Botvinnik and Keres met in 20 tournament games. Photo: Verendel.com
White can go for the throat against even Black’s most solid options: consider the classic game Botvinnik — Keres, 1952 (given at the end of this post).
The 6th World Champion meets the Queen’s Gambit Declined with the seemingly dry Exchange Variation … and then plays directly for a central and kingside attack! He won in crushing fashion; even now this is considered a model game for the QGD Exchange.
Against the solid Nimzo-Indian(1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) White has many solid approaches, but he can also satisfy his bloodlust with the Sämisch Variation.
When Black tries more double-edged systems like the Modern Benoni Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6), Dutch Defense (1.d4 f5), King’s Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 and 3…Bg7), or Grünfeld Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 and 3…d5), White can play solidly (the first player could choose a quiet kingside fianchetto against each of these, for example) or meet fire with fire.
If you’re a 1.d4 player looking for several good recommendations against Black’s options in one place, I recommend taking a look at Beating the Fianchetto Defensesby Efstratios Grivas. The esteemed Greek trainer is not always my favorite author, but this offering is very well done.
He chooses sensible systems against the Benoni, Benko, KID, Grünfeld, and Modern Defenses, and then delves into the typical middlegames and endgames that arise from them.
I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. Below is, as I promised, Botvinnik — Keres, 1952. Note that it arises from a Nimzo-Indian move order.
The fun doesn’t stop here. In Part 3, we’ll discuss the Flank Openings — perhaps the most interesting way to open a game! Stay tuned!
I read this book when considering going back to the French Defense a couple of years ago, and found many of the recommendations intriguing. Ultimately, I recognized that this kind of play is just not my style and I didn’t adopt the book’s suggestions … but if uncompromising play with Black is your style, you will be very happy with your purchase!
Even though I haven’t “used” this book, I don’t regret buying and reading it. Good repertoire books are hard to find, but I know one when I see it.
About the Author
Simon Williams. Photo: ChessBase
Simon Williams is well-known as a chess commentator, having teamed up to cover events with Irina Krush, Jovanka Houska, Elisabeth Pähtz, and Fiona Steil-Antoni, among others. He is a mainstay of the Gibraltar Chess Festival.
He is an unabashed attacking player, and has scored wins against chess heavyweights like Ivan Sokolov, Boris Gelfand, and Radoslaw Wojtaszek in classical chess.