Review: Kaufman and his Komodo

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Nowadays opening books play a different role than before the database era. There is no longer a need for a complete survey of all possibilities. Instead, opening books may have different focuses, supporting or even avoiding the database knowledge. Quite familiar is an opening book written by an expert of high level, which supplies valuable explanation on a specific variation. A recent example of this is The Strategic Nimzo Indian by Ivan Sokolov. Another kind of opening book, aiming at somewhat lower leveled players, may give a structural, general overview and basic explanation of an opening (a recent example being The Nimzo-Indian, move by move by John Emms). In my opinion this is a very useful method to become acquainted with an opening before plunging into a database. Understandably, these days especially young players are tempted to start with the latter.

Next to Arne Moll, we've added a second reviewer to our team: Dutch IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering. This is his first review for ChessVibes.

Larry Kaufman’s repertoire for Black and White has recently appeared and does not fit in either category. I was already acquainted with its predecessor The Chess Advantage in Black and White, so the concept was not new to me. Of course, this book allows you to build up a complete repertoire with the help of one single volume, which will appeal to many. But above this, the book also has a unique approach, which may contain some unavoidable flaws but certainly is revolutionary and inspiring.

For starters Kaufman is a computer expert who has done work for Rybka, and is co-creator of the strong engine Komodo. Of course nowadays every chess author uses chess engines to check or back up his own ideas (by the way, in analysis you often run into a phrase like “my computer says” which seems to me either a sloppy use of language or a clever way to avoid mentioning the name of the engine you have been using). Kaufman has gone far beyond this: he has methodically used Komodo (and also Houdini) to evaluate virtually all positions in his book. This of course leaves little room for tactical mistakes, but also provides numerous improvements on grandmaster games. Or occasionally produces a stunning novelty, like this

Chess Evolution, a completely other kind of publication on openings. Both works cover the same mainline, Kaufman supplying a compact practical advice and Chess Evolution (Predojevic) the in depth analysis.

All in all I think this is a very original opening book, making excellent use of the contemporary means. It will be extremely useful for setting up a solid repertoire in a short period of time. It is also a very authentic book. Kaufman ends with fragments of his own recent games in which he has consistently tried all his recommended lines into practice. In the end he bemuses something which may sound familiar:

Now if only I could play the whole game as well as the opening. 

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