|Price: £ 14,99
||ISBN: 1 85744
|Reviewed by: Allan
||Date: 13/4 2001
This time we take a look at another book on openings from Everyman Chess. At the moment Caro-Kann and The Najdorf Sicilian seem to be among the most popular answers to 1.e4 at top level. A spot test from the Melody Amber Show in Monaco (the combination of rapid chess and blindfold chess deserves the name show!) shows that Caro-Kann is doing good and that white often avoids the main line in favour of 3.e5. In 57 games with 1.e4 black answered with the Caro-Kann in nine games. In these the main line only appeared three times.
The main line which arises after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3/Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4
is the subject for McDonalds book.
Through 49 illustrative games it aims at giving a snapshot of the theoretical state of the opening. By the way
McDonald successfully followed a corresponding aim in his book on the Winawer French. In the introduction the writer also holds that both the solid player and the
ultraaggressive player can be wellserviced by the main line Caro-Kann:
"After all, the heroes of the Caro-Kann include mavericks like Larsen and Bronstein as well as masters of Law and Order like Smyslov and Petrosian!".
A bit too categorical one might state that 4...Nd7 and 4...Bf5 is for technical players whereas
4...Nf6 is for tactical players. The potential Caro-Kann player is recommended
to go through the whole book before choosing a variation that matches his temper. However, surely the book can also be read from whites viewpoint: What to do against the Caro-Kann? Also from this perspective
McDonald has a lot to offer.
The book is structured into three parts and consists of eight chapters:
- Three chapters on the Smyslov system 4...Nd7
- Three chapters on the classical system 4...Bf5
- Two chapters on 4...Nf6
The first two parts are given clearly most space. They follow the same cheme: First the modern variation is covered, thereafter the old main variation and finally other variations. The third part of the book is divided in Larsen/Bronsteins
4...Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 and Korchnois 5...exf6. Korchnois name is attached to
5...exf6 because he played it against Karpov in the famous match for the world Championship in 1978. After each chapter there is a nice summary and an overview of the variations.
The Smyslov variation is played all the time at top level. That does not stop
McDonald from presenting a clear presentation of the development of the variation within the later years. He covers both Karpovs surprise 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 Bd6 8.Qe2 h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Qxe4 Nf6 11.Qh4 Ke7!? which Kamsky fell victim to in Dortmund 1993 and Kasparovs tragic defeat against Deep Blue in 1997 in a nice and readable way. Game 12 contains fascinating analysis of the piece sacrifice played by the IBM-machine after 5.Ng5 Ngf6 6.Bd3 e6 7.N1f3 h6 8.Nxe6. This game also shows that also in the solid versions things can quickly get extremely messy. The classical variation is also treated in a systematic way. At times one wishes a clearer
judgment of some critical positions. For example on p. 79 the sharp pawn sacrifice
4...Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 Qc7 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 e6 13.Qe2!? known from Khalifman - Hellers, New York 1990 is discussed. Unfortunately
McDonald is somewhat vague here and talks of complex play and unclear positions. One of the most inspiring parts of the book is the coverage of Keres
4...Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.Bc4 e6 7.N1e2. This variation was already discussed in the matches between Tal and Botvinnik in the sixties. I doubt that the last word has been said here!
Bobby Fischer experimented with 5.Nc5 in simuls - "at least it is something to break the
monotony"- Fischer in My 60 Memorable Games. Also against such sidelines
McDonald provides the reader with reliable methods for equalizing. In the classical variation a tendency can be traced towards choosing
7...Nf6 instead of 7...Nd7. Ivanchuks invention 8.Ne5 Bh7 9.Bd3 seems to gain recognition as an appropriate reaction to
7...Nf6. Ivanchuk is a very interesting player who has made more contributions to the theory of the Caro-Kann. Take for instance game 13 Shirov - Ivanchuk, Linares 1998, where Shirov got a rough treatment after
4...Nd7 5.Ng5 Ndf6!?
Concerning the two first parts of the book the reader is given a very solid and up to date knowledge of the development within these variations. Of course some of the variations are not important in some years. However, considering the fact that the book covers complete games and concerning typical plans and positions the book will not be outdated so easily.
to the generation of Danes who grew up with Larsens little yellow book "Solid Openings". Here he recommends The Caro-Kann with
5...gxf6. In spite of the limited material in McDonalds third part he seems to reach some reliable conclusions concerning
5...gxf6. Among other things he holds set ups with g3 as dangerous for black. Finally attention is turned to
5...exf6. Funny is the miniature 6.Bc4 Qe7+ 7.Ne2 Qb4+ (DIAGRAM).
To my surprise Qe7 does not appear that bad… In this part there are good sources for inspiration, although the third part is not as convincing as the first two concerning the systematic and thorough selection of relevant material. Since
4...Nf6 is not very fashionable this is consistent with the writers stated goal of giving an up to date snapshot of the theory.
In general McDonald is fairly optimistic for the black side with a lot of good suggestions of alternative ways of handling traditional positions. The book is enjoyable to read and with 49 complete games the reader is provided with a fair amount of study material. The reader gets a sober guide to the relevant games form the latest years in the main line Caro-Kann. The book can be
recommended for the theoretically interested player who either wants to take up the Caro-Kann or to find inspiration to the 1.e4 players nightmare question: What to do against the Caro-Kann?
I recommend this book for the theoretically interested Caro-Kann player with black and white. It contains many interesting observations and suggestions. Perhaps most important: It provides you with a solid journey through all the main lines of this classical opening.