Dealing with 1.d4?

This review has been printed in the December 2015 issue of Chess Life.  A penultimate (and unedited) version of the review is reproduced here.  My thanks to the good folks at Chess Life for allowing me to do so.


Schandorff, Lars. Grandmaster Repertoire 20: The Semi-Slav. Glasgow: Quality Chess, 2015. ISBN 978-1907982941. PB 264pp. List 29.95.

Sielecki, Christof. Opening Repertoire: Nimzo and Bogo Indian. London: Everyman Chess, 2015. ISBN 978-1781941096. PB 440pp. List $29.95.

Svidler, Peter. The Grünfeld According to Svidler (ebook). Available for $19.99 as a standalone product at or as part of their Premium membership package.

In May I reviewed six books on the Sicilian, thus helping to put 1.e4 effectively out of business. (Ha.) But what about 1.d4? How can Black hope to respond to such a move? Fear not, dear reader: this month I look at three recent books which aim to help us with that very problem.

Grandmaster Repertoire 20: The Semi-Slav is Lars Schandorff’s latest book with Quality Chess. Taking the position after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 as a starting point, Schandorff offers a complete repertoire in just 264 pages. This is no mean feat, as he covers both the Botvinnik and Moscow variations along with the 8…Bb7 Meran and assorted sidelines.

Strong players are increasingly turning to correspondence games in their opening research. Schandorff’s coverage of the Botvinnik variation is inspired, at least in part, by the games of the ICCF GM Alexandr Efremov, and he uses some of Efremov’s innovations in blazing a path to safety for Black. His analysis runs well past move thirty in key lines. While he does not skirt the need for memory work, Schandorff offers readers sufficient and welcome signposts to assist in the task.

Because Schandorff is so concise in his analysis, a few details are missing. Some move order technicalities in the Botvinnik are glossed over, and readers must supplement the book with study of the Exchange Slav, Queen’s Gambit Exchange variation, or the Marshall Gambit depending on how they choose to get to his tabiya. Neither issue detracts greatly from the book, which lives up to the heady promise of its title.

Christof Sielecki is new to the chess publishing world, but he’s very well known to his twenty thousand subscribers on YouTube as ‘chessexplained.’ With his new book from Everyman, titled Opening Repertoire: Nimzo and Bogo Indian, readers are presented with a complete repertoire after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6.

In his introduction to the book, Sielecki explains his rationale for what follows. Most Nimzo repertoires have followed what he calls a ‘light-squared’ approach, where play in the center with …d7-d5 and fianchettoing the bishop with …b7-b6 are standard motifs. One might think of Karpov’s trademark approach to combatting the 4.e3 Nimzo as emblematic in this regard.

Sielecki, in contrast, tends to recommend lines that follow a ‘dark-squared’ approach, placing central pawns on dark squares. While not all of his repertoire choices follow this path to the letter – see the anti-Hübner lines (chapters 6 and 7) in the 4.e3 Nimzo as examples – many variations share strategic themes, making them easier to learn. The Bogo and ‘Catalan-Bogo’ lines share the same general philosophy.

My silicon friends and I spent some time checking Sielecki’s analysis in the two lines for White that I know best (4.Qc2 and 4.f3). I found his analysis to be comprehensive, well sourced and well explained. The variations occasionally become heavily nested, making things hard to follow, and I abhor the ‘French flaps’ that have become standard for Everyman paperbacks. Here again, the overall quality of Sielecki’s book greatly outweighs these small defects.

The final book under review this month isn’t really a book at all. For months after the 2014 appearance of Peter Svidler’s magisterial series on the Grünfeld for, anxious viewers longed for the set of analysis files promised by Svidler. They were published earlier this year as an eBook, and they were worth the wait.

The eBook version of The Grünfeld according to Svidler contains all of the analysis presented in the video series along with much, much more. Take the very sharp position after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5 Bg7 5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.cxd5 c6 7.e4, for example. In the videos Svidler proposes the novelty 7…Bg7 while also briefly analyzing three alternatives for Black. The eBook contains a dramatically fuller account of 7…Bg7 along with complete analysis of the three alternatives.

There is no better guide to the Grünfeld than Svidler, and his analysis in this eBook borders on the astounding. The eBook can only be accessed in your browser, and – perhaps due to concerns over piracy – there is no easy way to save the text other than to copy it manually into your database. The effort, however, is entirely worth it.

Of the three books reviewed this month, Sielecki’s is probably the ‘simplest,’ suitable for the ambitious club player. Schandorff and Svidler present very sophisticated repertoires that require good memories and, in the most critical lines, very strong nerves. All three can be warmly recommended, but as always, readers should heed the Delphic oracle and know themselves when buying.


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