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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten

The Safest Grünfeld: A Complete Repertoire For Black

Safest Grunfeld - Alexander Delchev, Evgenij Agrest How about that: a chess openings book with a title that doesn't insult the reader's intelligence. Instead of Winning Chess With The Grünfeld or The Grünfeld: A Dynamic, Counterattacking Opening, the authors promise they'll focus on variations that don't involve learning the theory to move 25 and beyond, and show you how to get middlegame positions where you can just play chess.

I gave up on this opening because I was so sick of the main lines in the Exchange Variation, but maybe Delchev and Agrest will bring it back into my repertoire! Ordered and should be here in a week or two.

I'm afraid I spoke too soon; the book in no way lives up to its title. That's not to say it's a bad book. On the contrary, it's probably the best book I've ever seen on the Grünfeld, and I've seen quite a few. It's just that "Safest Grünfeld" is a contradiction in terms. The whole point of the Grünfeld is to create an unbalanced position where both sides have to play precisely and creatively, and that means it can't be safe.

When I played the Grünfeld back in the 70s and 80s, chess theory wasn't remotely as developed as it is today. You got new ideas from magazines that came out a few times a year, or from your friends, and it wasn't so hard to keep up. Now, every serious chessplayer is connected to the Internet, and you can track theory as it happens on the Chesslive database. If someone finds a good new move, the whole chess world knows about it within a week.

It is rather scary. The authors are genuinely trying to deliver on their promise. I can see that they have made every effort to select a repertoire which won't become out of date in a few months. But I tried playing a few practice games, and in one of the first ones my opponent went into the 5. Bd2 line in the Exchange Variation, generally regarded as one of White's most conservative and solid tries. I got a bad position, and looked at the relevant chapter to see what advice Delchev and Agrest had for me. They warn me about a move that was discovered earlier this year by Illya Nyzhnyk, a 14 year old Ukrainian Grandmaster

Illya Nyzhnyk

and give a long sequence which, they claim, equalizes.

And that was a really simple and straightforward variation. What'll it be like in the 8. Rb1 Exchange, or the Russian System? I'll try it out for a bit just out of curiosity - it's ages since I last tried seriously to learn a very sharp opening - but I have serious doubts about whether it's going to work.

A shame: I know I'd have loved this book when I was 14.