I review "Beating Unusual Chess Openings"

Dec 24, 2008, 6:11 PM |

In OTB tournaments I'd often see kids playing stuff like the grob, secretly hoping no one ever plays stuff like that against me...because I'd have no idea what to do!

Those fearful days and nights are gone thanks to IM Richard Palliser's fantastic book! In it he deals with all the weird and wonderful openings you're liable to run into, providing a sound repertoire against everything under the sun. He uses a variation-tree method of explaining variations as opposed to illustrative games, something I'm a big fan of. Also, he gives multiple repertoire options whenever possible, to better suit our taste for positional and theoretical requirements. This book was mentioned in Yelena Dembo's excellent "Fighting the Anti-King's Indians" (previously reviewed) where she called it a "very useful book". This recommendation peaked my interest and Yelena couldn't have been more right.

The book is sorted into chapters based on openings, it's coverage is as such:

Chapter 1: The Symmetrical English, White Fiancetto's and Plays Nf3

-Palliser's recommendation against the English is to play the symmetrical variation and adopt a botvinnik setup against several of white's setups. I've adopted this approach myself as even though I play the english as white I've never been able to find anything I liked against it as black. I can say that the repertoire he provides is very effective as I scored some nice wins my first few times trying this variation.

Chapter 2: The Symmetrical English, White Fiancetto's without Nf3

-The coverage continues! By the way Palliser's coverage of the English opening takes up about half of the whole book, such is his depth of analysis concerning this remarkable opening! Tongue out I was especially interested in this section as this variation is what I play myself as white. He references "the dynamic english" by tony kosten (my white repertoire book) quite a bit and offers some new analysis of the recommended lines.

Chapter 3: The Three Knights Variation

-Palliser advocates a botvinnik system against this approach as well. These variations usually transpose to one of the preceeding chapters, although he covers variations when it does not.

Chapter 4: White plays an early d4

-This is the last of the English opening coverage. This line with an early d4 has been very popular at grandmaster level lately. I see Aronian playing it quite a bit with success.

Chapter 5: Two advances of the G-Pawn

-Here he covers both 1.g3 and 1.g4(the grob). While 1.g3 usually transposes to a reti or KIA, the grob is very much it's own animal with much crazyness to be had. Against the grob he recommends you march straight down the mainline with an early d5 and e5. At the end of it all black has a nice plus, though the position is rather confusing and very interesting...just what a grob player wants. Oh well, black has nothing to worry about theoretically.

Chapter 6: Bird's Opening

-I have played against the bird OTB and won, though I would've liked to have read this chapter beforehand just for some peace of mind. Palliser recommends a reverse dutch (1...d5) setup with a very interesting gambit that looks very nice for black with best play. If gambits aren't your thing he has a solid alternative suggestion as well.

Chapter 7: The Nimzo-Larsen Attack (1.b3)

-Here palliser suggests we go for the mainline (1...e5) and attempt to build a nice centre against the fiancettoed bishop.

Chapter 8: Der Linksspringer (1.Nc3)

-Since this move can transpose into a million different things, Palliser suggests the player try to steer the opening into something more familiar to himself. For example, play 1...e6 (or 1...d5 followed by e6) for french players, or c5 for sicilian players etc...He does give some suggestions of his own though in case the usual openings are avoided.

Chapter 9: The Sokolsky

-Palliser suggests the 1...e5 followed by Bxb4 line, which is nowadays considered to be most critical to the whole variation. For some reason I've had quite a few people play the Sokolsky against me recently and I've been more than happy with my position after following Palliser's suggestions. No need to fear the Orangutan!

Chapter 10: Meeting 1.Nf3 with c5

-In this chapter Palliser goes over the many problems associated with playing against Nf3, it's no wonder Kramnik and many other GMs have taken it up. For those who play the sicilian he advocated playing c5, and gives a repertoire in case a sicilian does not emerge.

Chapter 11: Meeting 1.Nf3 with d5

-Playing c5 is not to everyone's taste so the classical d5 is also examined. This would appeal more to those who enjoy playing slav or queen's gambit structures, as these can arise after white plays 2.d4.

Chapter 12: Meeting 1.Nf3 with Nf6

-This is the most flexible response of course, and the one I played until I bought this book (I've since switched to c5). Play can transpose to a KIA or enter the very popular 2.c4 variations favored by Kramnik and others.

All in all this is an excellent new addition to my library that will fill out the cracks in almost anyone's repertoire very nicely. Good job IM Palliser!