Original Review by Larry Cohen
This is another book in the Starting Out series from Everyman Chess, 180 pages (plus indexes, table of contents, & bibliography) on 9&1/2 by 7 paper. The author for this offering is IM Neil McDonald. Like all of the books in this series you are given complete games with annotations and highlights. The highlights are a feature of the Starting Out series that draw the reader’s attention to significant salient points of play. These are a deaths head for Warnings, a light bulb for Tips, and a clipboard for Notes. IM McDonald does a good job in the material covered. Although it is not all inclusive, it does cover more material than most opening survey books would. I personally have played the English for the past 15 years, and I found many new and interesting ideas in this book. The index is nice, but I prefer the tree of moves to also be included as part of the table of contents. I am disappointed in the proof readers. The game Korchnoi-Polugaevsky is given with: 1 c4 c6 2 g3 d5 3 Bg2 Nf6 4 Bg2 Bf5 5 0-0 h6 6 d3 e6 7 Be3 Be7?! with the comment “As indicated in the discussion above the exchange of queens with 7…dxc4 8 dxc4 Qxd1 9 Rxd1 eases Black’s defensive task.” Now it is obvious that Bg2 did not occur 2 moves in a row, but was Nf3 played on move 3 or 4? And would the move order make a difference? This is not the only such error by the proofreader, and although they are few like most readers I find this to be annoying.
A good contrast would be the lines revolving around 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4. In the 1987 book Winning With The English Opening by GM Andy Soltis [which the Starting Out book did not use as reference material] it gives 5 Nd5! Followed by the analysis of “Now 6…Nxd5 7 cxd5 gives Black two misplaced pieces (the Bishop on b4 and the Knight, wherever it ends up) while enabling White to attack along the half-open c-file.” It analyzes no other possible moves for Black in that position. IM McDonald has a full chapter of 24 pages devoted to the possible lines. A good example is Game 28: Topalov-Gelfand, Novgorov 1987. 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Bg2 0-0 6 0-0 e4 7 Ng5 Bxc3 8 bxc3 Re8 9 f3 e3!?
Karpov used this surprising pawn sacrifice to win a game against Kasparov in their World Championship Match in 1987. Compared to the previous game we see the following:
1. Black succeeds in keeping the f-file closed so his king is safe from attack.
2. Instead of getting back to a good square on f3, White’s knight is left in limbo on g5.
3. White’s centre becomes disjointed, being impressive on the kingside but ragged on the queenside.
In the original game Kasparov declined the pawn offer with 10 d3, when there followed 10…d5 1 Qb3 Na5 12 Qa3 c6 13 cxd5 cxd5 14 f4, and now 14…Bg4 was the most active.
Evidently Black plans to attack the c4-pawn with …Ba6, combined if necessary with …Na5 in good old Nimzo-Indian style. Fourteen years after his World Championship match debacle mentioned above, Kasparov changed his mind and took the pawn on e3, when there followed 10…Qe7 11 Nh3 Qc5 12 Nf4 Qxc4 13 e4 d6 14 Qd3 Ne5 15 Qxc4 Nxc4 16 g4 and White had an initiative on the kingside to compensate for his queenside weaknesses in Kasparov-Sadvakasov, Astana 2001.
11 e4 h6 12 Nxf7!?
This is one way to solve the problem of the what to do with the knight! Topalov clears the way for his kingside pawns to advance and seize key points. The modest course was 12 Nh3, when Black looks comfortable after 12…Ba6.
12…Kxf7 13 f4 Kg8 14 e5 [a diagram is given with the caption: Onward!] Nh7 15 Ba3?
White had to keep the pawns rolling with 15 f5!, exploiting the weakness caused by 10…b6 as 15…Rxe5? Drops a piece to 16 Bxc6. Instead Gelfand gives 16…Qe7 [should be 15…] 16 f6 gxf6 17 Bd5+ Kg7 18 Qd2! Qxe5 19 Qxh6+ Kh8 with an unclear position. [Personally I wonder if it would make a difference if you played 16 Bd5+ and then 17 f6, but I will leave that to the reader to investigate]
15…Bb7 16 Be4 Kh8 17 Bc2
This is Topalov’s idea, which appears very menacing. If White is given a free move 18 Qd3 is decisive in view of 18…Nf8 19 Bxf8, destroying the defense of h7 – that’s why he put the bishop on a3.
A strong riposte that destroys White’s plan and leaves him with a shattered centre.
TIP: If your opponent sacrifices a piece for an attack, see if you can find a way to return the material to gain the initiative.
[please note that I am leaving out almost all of the rest of the interesting analysis of the game at this point in the interest of keeping this review to a reasonable length]
18 fxe5 Rxe5! 19 Bxh7 Kxh7 20 c5 Qe8 21 Qd3+ Be4 22 Qd2 Qe6 23 Rf2 bxc5
24 Raf1 Re8 25 c4 Qh3
TIP: Opposite colored bishops are notoriously drawish in the endgame, but in an aggressive middle game situation such as this their presence often makes it feel like the attacker is a piece up!
26 Bb2 Rg5 27 Qc3 Re6 28 Qe3 Rg4 29 Rc1 h5! 0-1
So, although the book does have some minor flaws as you can see it has some very interesting ideas. This book give lines for both Black and for White in the English Opening, rather than just tell you what may look good for only one side. Overall most players will find this to be a good book, a good value, and a good addition to your growing chess library. I would rate this book [on a scale of 1 pawn to 5 kings] rather high: qqqq