Book review: Attacking Repertoire - Gufeld

[This review first appeared in Westward Ho!]

An Opening Repertoire for the Attacking Player by Edward Gufeld, trans. Ken Neat. Pub. Cadogan 1996. 160pp. Index of variations and of complete games. [[sterling]]? ISBN 1 85744 196 6

A good old-fashioned opening repertoire book, with thoroughly modern lines. I think this book would be very useful for a strongish player with an attacking bent who struggles to get the sort of position they like - you may recall Spielmann's lament that "I can see the combinations as well as Alekhin, but I cannot get into the same positions".

  The central planks of this repertoire are the Vienna Game with White, and the Sicilian Dragon and Leningrad Dutch for Black. Against the Caro-Kann and French you are offered the respective Advance variations, and against the Pirc and Sicilian systems with f4 are chosen - the Austrian Attack and and the Grand Prix Attack. These are all unquestionably attacking lines, and each has a strong GM pedigree.

  The variations given are dense - for example, at one critical juncture at move 16 of the Dragon (p.116) he analyses 10 (!) continuations for White - but are clearly laid-out and it was easy to find my way around. Explanatory comments are rather few but are concise and to the point, and there are a few illustrative games. The variations seem to me to be very thorough - I couldn't rumble them with Batsford Chess Openings 2, which is perhaps only to be expected, but I couldn't find a hole at all quickly with my specialist openings books (e.g. The Complete Pirc) either.

  Side-lines are mostly given proper attention: there are three pages on Owen's Defence, two on the St.George, and two on the Nimzovitch - rather more than comparable books might have bothered with.

  So far, so good, but I wonder just who will find this volume useful, and how. Gufeld talks about "mixed tournaments" i.e. ones not composed wholly of Grandmasters(!), and suggests (p.79) that 90% of 1. e4 players reply to the Sicilian with 2. Nf3. Maybe in GM Gufeld's world they do, but Exeter Club boasts a motley crew of Morra Gambiteers and Close Variationers, which has been enough to put some folk off the Sicilian entirely.

  Moreover, a player strong enough to handle these heavyweight variations but with too few opening books to support their own opening repertoire is probably less likely a species than a player with more books but less talent. I do wonder how the average player with an grade of, say, 125 will cope with the 17 pages of notes designed to unlock the secrets of the Dragon - for example, the standard exchange sacrifice ...Rxc3 is mentioned but not illustrated. Perhaps none of us will stick rigidly to a book's repertoire, or have the time to learn them all, but we may take up one or two of its recommended lines, and we will all find it interesting to check out our favourite lines against the ones in this book.

  Although, if you do check, cracks may appear around the edges. This is probably inevitable, but does put into question the usefulness of such a book as a stand-alone solution to the problems of deciding on a repertoire. For example, after 1. e4 c5 2. f4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. c3 Nc6 5. d4 Gufeld gives a game (p.10) Sveshnikov-Ree 1992 which continued 5...d5. But as any Modernist knows, after 5...cxd4 6. cxd4 Qb6 we are in a position considered favourable to Black by Hort and by Botterill and Keene. Moreover, I wasn't convinced by the assumption that the repertoire avoided the Gurgenidze variation, as recommended by Norwood and Soltis. In fact, almost every line recommended by Gufeld is dismissed in some other repertoire book, and lines he gives as favourable to, say, White, form the basis of someone else's Black repertoire. Maybe these are nitpicks, but I couldn't use this book without also having several others to check against .

  The title naturally prompts comparison with Batsford's An Opening Repertoire for the Attacking Club Player by Keene and Levy (1976), recently completely rewritten and re-issued under the same title as the Gufeld book (1996).

  The revised Batsford title offers a similar selection of active lines, but concentrates more on relatively obscure, recently developed and fashionable lines, and illustrates them with fewer variations and more verbal descriptions and complete games. It looks suitable for weaker players with less time to absorb variations, and may be a better buy for the majority of players; on the downside, it gives only one page on the Nimzo and other odd defences, no indices, and is inclined to quote the whole games when just a few moves of an alternative lline would have been adequate.

  The two books cross theoretical swords at a couple of points: they both give as crucial a game Lanka-Hauchard which Gufeld gives as +/- after White's 10th move (p.42), and which Keene and Levy give (p.94) as offering Black good compensation for the Pawn after 10...O-O-O...

  The shelf-life of both books may be short - antidotes to the new lines in the Batsford book may be found rather soon, while the more mainstream Gufeld repertoire is at a cutting edge which is constantly on the move.

Lanka Z F - Hauchard A/It open, Torcy 1991 [B01] 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.f3 Bf5 5.Bb5+ Nbd7 6.c4 a6 7.Bxd7+ Qxd7 8.Ne2 e6 9.dxe6 Qxe6 10.b3


10...0-0-0 11.0-0 Bc5 12.Kh1 Bxd4 13.Nxd4 Qd7 14.Bb2 c5 15.b4 cxd4 16.b5 axb5? 17.Na3 bxc4 18.Nxc4 Kb8 19.Ba3 Qd5 20.Rc1 Rhe8 21.Qd2 Re6 22.Na5 Qb5 23.Bc5 Ka8 24.a4 Qa6 25.Nb3 Bd3 26.Rg1 Re2 27.Qb4 Nh5 28.Bb6 Rde8 29.Nc5 R8e5 30.Rgd1 1-0