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Chess Book Reviews -

by the Duke of Brunswick

The Chigorin Defence According to Morozevich
by Alexander Morozevich & Vladimir Barsky
(New in Chess, 2007)

Chigorin Defence 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 (fully revised English edition, Kania)
By Valeri Bronznik

Why should you play the Chigorin Defence to the queen's pawn opening (1 d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6)? Like its sister opening, the Verseov (1 d4 d5 2 Nc3) it drives the game into the territory which it's practitioner wants. Already on move two you will be calling the shots as Black in an opening which, even in this day and age, has received little attention. Why should you not play the Chigorin Defence? Well, apart from Chigorin over a hundred years ago, no great player has made it an important part of his repertoire. True, Colle played it in the 1920s (and was soundly defeated by Alekhine for his pains) and a number of Soviet players, notably Smyslov, used the Chigorin on occasion in the years after the war. But it never caught on.

At least until the 1990s. Then, a young Russian called Alexander Morozevich was studying the play of Chigorin, became fascinated by his major contribution to opening theory and discovered that many of the variations thought to be better for White were nothing of the sort. In the mid-1990s Morozevich remarked that he “regularly employed the Chigorin Defence and it was my main reply to 1 d4. Positions were reached with unusual pawn structures and incomprehensible strategic guidelines; my opponents spent much time, not knowing where to place their pieces or what they were aiming for.” Other strong players such as Igor Mladinovic and Robert Rabiega also became adherents to the Chigorin Defence.

The upswing in the Chigorin's fortunes has been marked by the publication of two first class books over the last five years. First, Valeri Broznik brought out a 300 page comprehensive opening manual on the Chigorin (first in German, then an updated English version) and Morozevich himself has recently authored a repertoire book with his Russian compatriot Vladimir Barsky. We will cover these works in detail in this review, but first a small comment which some may consider insignificant. When I first tried playing the Chigorin over 20 years ago, there was one thing that bugged me. After 1 d4 d5 a frequent answer was 2 Nf3 and, no matter how I tried, I could never get White to play c4. Both these books have chapters covering what Black should do in such a case, and they advocate, in effect, playing the Veresov a move down. Broznik in particular covers this area well devoting two chapters to 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3 Bf4 Bg4 and 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3 g3.

Let's first look at what the Broznik book covers:

Chapter 1: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 dc 4 e3

Chapter 2: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 dc 4 d5

Chapter 3: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 dc 4 Nf3

Chapter 4: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6

Chapter 5: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 cd Bxf3 5 gf

Chapter 6: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 cd Bxf3 5 dc Bxc6 6 Nc3

Chapter 7: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 Nc3

Chapter 8: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 e3

Chapter 9: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 Qa4

Chapter 10: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 e5

Chapter 11: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 cd Qxd5 4 Nf3 e5

Chapter 12: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 cd Qxd5 4 e3 e5 5 Nc3 Bb4 5 6 Bd2 Bxc3 7 bc

Chapter 13: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 cd Qxd5 4 e3 e5 5 Nc3 Bb4 5 6 Bd2 Bxc3 7 Bxc3

Chapter 14: 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 e3 e5 4 de

Chapter 15: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3 Bf4 Bg4

Chapter 16: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3 g3

The fact that chapters 15 and 16 cover lines without c4 should make it clear that Broznik offers a complete repertoire against 1 d4. The Morozevich book also does this, but omits certain sidelines for Black. Thus, the variations covered in chapters 4 and 10 of the Broznik are omitted, so Broznik would be the book to buy if you intended to play either of these lines for Black.

Both adopt a similar format when presenting the material. Variations are investigated through the analysis of complete games. Broznik presents 110 complete games and Morozevich 75, many of the latter previously unpublished. The vast majority of the games of both books are from the last 20 years. Broznik (a well known trainer in Germany) has written his book so that it will be clear to the average player. Morozevich, a +2700 player, has included many suggestions which are new to theory.

Let's take the line 1d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 Nf3 Bg4 4 cd Bxf3 5 gf Qxd5 6 e3 e5 7 Nc3 Bb4 8 Bd2 Bxc3 9 bc which was reached in a famous Kasparov v Smyslov game (1984). Kasparov, analysing this game, wrote about the Chigorin. “Therefore I reckoned with the possibility of the Chigorin Defence occurring in the match, but did not analyse it in detail. Why? Tigran Petrosian once joked: ‘If your opponent wants to play the Dutch Defence, you shouldn't prevent him!' There is a mass of openings for which this joke is justified, and the Chigorin is one of them.” Kasparov is of the opinion that the pawn centre and the two bishops ensure the advantage for White. Morozevich strongly disagrees. Broznik takes Smyslov's 9 … Qd6 as Black's main continuation. Morozevich writes, “ In the diagram position ( after 9 bc ) I have studied and employed several different moves for Black. The main theoretical continuation here is 9 … Qd6. Sometimes 9 … Nge7 occurs, with the idea of quickly completing development and at the same time, just in case, supporting the knight on c6. In several blitz games I have played 9 .. Qd7 …. However, as a result of theoretical investigations and practical tests, I have come to the conclusion that the most promising continuation for Black is 9 … Nf6!? which has not been employed much in practice. So, you have an interesting divergence of opinion here and some idea of the breadth of Morozevich's experience in this opening.

Both books have further interesting suggestions on this line. The Kasparov v Smyslov game continued: 9 … Qd6 10 Rb1 b6 11 f4 ef 12 e4 Nge7 13 Qf3 O-O. Here Morozevich recommends 12 … Qa3 as much stronger and provides plenty of analysis to back up his opinion. After Smyslov's 13 … O-O Kasparov played 14 Bxf4 when Broznik notes that the interesting 14 … Qe6 is possible (instead of Smyslov's 14 … Qa3). Suggestions like these abound throughout both books.

These two volumes are well above the normal standard of opening books and are worth buying. If you only have the money for one, then you have to set the thoroughness and clarity of Broznik against the daring ideas of one of the most inspirational players in the world today. Either way, I doubt if you will be disappointed.

I will end with a game where Morozevich uses the Chigorin to defeat one of the world's leading Grandmasters in the German Bundesliga..

Beliavsky v Morozevich

Duke of Brunswick



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