Review: The Tarrasch Defence

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

The Tarrasch Defence is a great opening. It is both solid and active, it has a rich history and it has been endorsed by numerous world class players, including Garry Kasparov. Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch himself gave the good example when he wrote, more than a hundred years ago, of ‘his’ 3…c5: “All along I instinctively recognized this move as the right antidote to the Queen’s Gambit.” 

I’ve played the Tarrasch myself for over 10 years, and with tremendous results. It’s fair to say that if FIDE had only counted my games with this opening for their rating calculation, I would have had 200 points more than I have now. The only reason I recently stopped playing it is because I believe (stupidly, no doubt) that it’s necessary to vary one’s openings from time to time for fear of getting utterly bored with chess. 

Another interesting fact is that despite my excellent results, I’ve never felt the slightest need to read an opening book on the Tarrasch Defence – often Black’s moves are so natural that there really seems no point. This is a huge difference with other openings, such as the King’s Indian or the Benoni Defence, where a lack of theoretical knowledge is likely to result in an endless bunch of duck-eggs.

But a new book by Jacob Aagaard and Nikolaos Ntirlis, The Tarrasch Defence, published by Quality Chess, has made me change my mind. The two authors (though I got the impression Ntirlis did most of the original work) present so many fresh and fascinating ideas in this old opening that it’s impossible to put down. It’s also a very objective and sensible book, in which the old opening is both treated with respect and is challenged to defend itself against computer-age scrutiny and rigour. 

Although The Tarrasch Defence is extremely useful for White players (I’ll tell you why further down), it is mainly aimed at players who want to employ this opening with Black. Thus, the old main line with 9…cxd4 is only mentioned as part of the introduction, and in general the authors waste no time analyzing black alternatives that they regard as inferior to the ones they’re suggesting. 

Instead, Aagaard and Ntirlis spend most of the book on what they call the ‘Modern Treatment’: 

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Nf6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Bg5 c4! 10.Ne5 Be6 

The Tarrasch Defence invites you to be scared of nothing.


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