Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review of "1.d4 - Beat the Guerillas!"

by Valeri Bronznik. Published by New In Chess, 2011

International Master Valeri Bronznik has burned a lot of midnight oil to help the 1.d4 player build a good repertoire against offbeat opening responses by black. He assumes that white will continue 2. c4 and 3. Nc3 or 3. Nf3 before black goes off the beaten path, although black can still essay some of these openings (like the Delayed Stonewall) against 2. Nf3. Since the black player in these unusual openings will have the advantage of familiarity with the complications that can ensue from white's sharpest continuations, Bronznik has designed his repertoire to help white obtain a stable, though often modest, advantage while sidestepping the deep complications. If you're the kind of 1. d4 player who likes the chess equivalent of a knife fight in a blind alley, some of Bronznik's suggestions may not be your cup of tea; but if (like most 1. d4 players) you're happy with a stable positional plus, I can recommend it without reservation.

For each opening Bronznik presents a chapter in three parts:
1. Introduction to the opening: what black is trying to accomplish and what possibilities white might consider.
2. Detailed discussion of the suggested white repertoire in the context of model high-level games. A few of the "games" are actually just Bronznik's analysis, although his discussion cites play from recent high-level games to justify his analysis choices.
3. Summary of the repertoire choice(s).

Bronznik's work is both thorough and well-organized. His analysis incorporates the published analysis of dozens of grandmasters, although he is not afraid to explain why he occasionally disagrees with even the most highly regarded (like Avrukh) when a recent game result or better computer analysis is available. His analysis includes plenty of top-flight games from the last couple of years, although earlier examples are not neglected when appropriate. And where black has plenty of choices for seeking to impose his will, Bronznik provides detailed analysis of white's strongest responses.
While Bronznik focuses on white's repertoire choices, he has not written a one-sided how-can-white-not-win-with-this-great-repertoire book. Against sound black openings like the Schara-Hennig Gambit (the von Hennig-Schara Gambit for American readers), he acknowledges that white cannot expect anything more than a slight advantage out of the opening. In his analysis of model games he offers improvements for black as well as for white, too. As a result, I can recommend this book for those who play the black side of any of the 24 openings that he discusses.

So you'll know the scope of Bronznik's work, here are those openings:

Englund Gambit
Soller Gambit Delayed
Hartlaub Gambit Delayed
Felbecker Gambit
Zilbermints Gambit
Dutch Benoni
The Woozle
Polish Defence
Keres Defence
English Defence
Owen Defence
Marshall Defence
Austrian Defence
Baltic Defence
Albin's Counter Gambit
Schara-Hennig Gambit
Delayed Stonewall
Snake Benoni
The Vulture
Fajarowicz Gambit
Budapest Gambit
Black Knights' Tango

With a rating of only about 1800 (based on my online play) I cannot pass judgment on the quality of Bronznik's choices, other than to say that he has obviously read widely and analyzed deeply with computer assistance to arrive at his conclusions. That said, as a player of the black side of the Schara-Hennig Gambit, I have found his analysis to be much more helpful than anything else I have read on the opening.

I can heartily recommend this book for anyone rated 1800 and up who wants a good repertoire against offbeat black responses to 1.d4, although someone rated down to 1500 could probably derive great benefit by using it as a reference. Also, anyone who plays the black side of any of these openings would find plenty of helpful material as well.

Full disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy of this book to me. I have endeavored to remain completely unbiased and helpful, and feel confident that the review reflects my commitment to objectivity.

You can buy the book at Amazon here.

No comments: