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Don Aldrich’s Book Reviews

Super Tournaments 2002, by Sergei Soloviov, (ChessStars 2003) 556 pp., 16 pp. color plates, $29.95

Leko’s One Hundred Wins, by Sergei Soloviov, Alexander Khalifman ed., (ChessStars 2003) 340 pp., 8 pp. color plates, $24.95

The boys from St. Petersburg are at it again with two new hefty releases. As with prior volumes in these two series, Sergei Soloviov is listed as the ‘author,’ though it is never clearly specified exactly what he has written. One can only assume that those portions of the books not attributed to anyone else is written by him, but again, that is not specified.

Both tomes will feel familiar to those who have seen the earlier volumes. Super Tournaments 2002 is a direct companion to the earlier iteration, Super Tournaments 2000. There was no ST2001; one can only assume that they were kept rather busy last year with the excellent multivolume ‘Opening According to Kramnik’ series.

As in the earlier edition, ST2002 covers those category 18 and above tournaments that took place in 2002. Unfortunately, this means only five events: Linares, Corus [Wijk an Zee], NAO Masters, Dortmund [Einstein Candidates] and the Ponomariov-Ivanchuk match. Even more unfortunately, Kasparov played only in Linares, and Kramnik and Polgar played in none of these events. We get a lot of Leko, Bareev, Gelfand, Topalov and Shirov, though he was having an off year. This still leaves us with 224 deeply annotated games played by at least some of the elite.

ST2002 follows its predecessor in format - we are given full coverage of the events, all the games, crosstables, and interviews with some of the players. One of the things that made ST2000 remarkable was the personal touch provided by Khalifman. 2000 was his coming out party after winning the FIDE title, and he was getting some good invites for the first time in his career. He provided a lot of intimate and insider detail on the events; his story of the lost notebook alone was worth the price of admission. While he is still present in annotating some games, that personal touch is missing.

The games themselves are very well annotated; I think they are even a step up from the previous edition. One of the complaints about the ChessStars’ productions to date is the lack of attribution — who is annotating what. There is still some of that here, but many of the games now indicate who did the notes. In particular, Konstantin Sakaev does all the notes for the Linares tournament. This is a good thing — he is an annotator of the highest quality, and possesses that rare gift for being able to explain the essence of a position in a few well chosen phrases. There is plenty of concrete analysis, but his explication of plans and ideas is very well done.

Similarly, Dortmund is completely annotated by Shipov who also does an excellent job. The Ponomariov-Ivanchuk match is annotated by Golubev, with whose work you are probably familiar either here at Chess Today, or in his opening books. These games are not quite as well done as the others, but that is probably due in part to the source material. It was hardly a captivating match. The Dortmund playoff matches are ably annotated by Max Notkin, another familiar name to CT readers.

The Corus tournament takes up almost half the book, and features notes by the entire staff — those already mentioned as well as Khalifman and Goloshchapov. For the most part, these are very nicely done. In particular, I must congratulate the annotators for finding something interesting to say about every single game. Even the GM draws are given a full treatment, usually by a thorough explication of the opening line involved, and the variations not played.

The book concludes with the usual ChessStars indices of games both by opening [ECO code] and players. Physically, it is virtually identical to ST2000: the same cover, though a slightly different color, and of course the names of the tournaments covered, good quality paper and printing, easy to read diagrams. And the diagrams are plentiful. They are not numbered, but I would not be surprised at all if there are over 1000; there certainly seem to be more than two per page, and that is almost five per game.

The English is always spotty with these works. I cannot say for sure, but it seems to me that they have put a little more effort into this one. There seem to be less of the truly confounding or outrageous lines found in some of the earlier works. Two of the translators are holdovers; there are four new ones. There certainly is still some awkwardness, but at least no head scratchers.

The question is thus who will benefit from or enjoy this book? Some of the games are already almost two years old. If you get Informants, just download off the net, or even just read CT, you will have seen some of these games before, and certainly the ‘big ones.’ However, these are all carefully annotated by top flight GMs, and some of the games are really taken apart. This can be heavy going at times, but there is no better way to improve than with a top flight game collection, and there is no better collection of the top games from last year than this work, and this is a lot of book for thirty bucks. Recommended.

Leko’s One Hundred Wins, by Sergei Soloviov, Alexander Khalifman ed., (ChessStars 2003) 340 pp., 8 pp. color plates, $24.95

Leko follows closely in the footsteps of the ChessStars Shirov book — same format, cover, color and so on. We are given a short biographical overview, followed by a selection of interviews published from mostly Russian sources. The eight pages of color plates are a very nice touch. The one hundred games follow in chronological order. Each is introduced by a short paragraph or two, describing the game and setting the context.

The annotators are pretty much the same cast as in ST2002, with GMs Solozhenkin and Bezgodov thrown in. However, again most of the games have no annotator listed. One might presume this means Soloviov annotated them, but gosh, that means he did a heck of a lot of work on these two books! As in the Shirov work, Khalifman’s editorial comments are in italics and prefaced by an ‘AK.’

Why Leko? One can almost hear the jokes about the title — it was not so long ago on the ICC that a draw was called a ‘Leko.’ He is awfully young for a game collection, only turning 24 this September. On the other hand, most of the games are from 1999-present, and virtually all the top players in the world are represented. This is not a collection of games against East Europeans you never heard of. And, he is the fourth rated player in the world, about to play for the World Championship [of some color!]. Clearly, his games are worth studying.

I admit I wasn’t a Leko fan when starting this book. I was surprised to find that he is one of the only elite players to exclusively open with e4, and he usually plays the Sicilian with Black, and often the Gruenfeld against d4. In other words, he plays some serious active openings, and the games are much more interesting than I would have thought. The annotations are again on a level with ST2002, and there are no GM draws. Some of the games are annotated to great depths, spanning 10+ pages, and many diagrams.

The only real downside, unless you really have no interest in Leko, is that the games from 2002 that are also included in ST2002, are identical in their annotations. Fortunately, there are only ten of these, though that does constitute a tenth of the book. Interestingly enough, some of the games were also covered in ST2000, but these have new, or at least different, notes.

The same caveats apply—the English is somewhat awkward and stilted, though very readable. The annotations are by serious players, and for serious players. Keeping that in mind, Recommended.

Other reviews by Don Aldrich

Review 1: The Critical Moment, by GM Iossif Dorfman (PDF Format)
Review 2: Shirov's 100 Wins, by Sergei Soloviov (PDF Format)
Review 3: School of Chess Excellence 1: Endgame Analysis, by Mark Dvoretsky (PDF Format)
Review 4: Winning Chess Strategies, by Yasser Seirawan (PDF Format)
Review 5: Purdy On The Endgame, compiled by Ralph Tykodi
Review 6: School of Chess Excellence 3: Strategic Play, by GM Mark Dvoretsky
Review 7: Secrets of Positional Play, by Drazen Marovic
Review 8: Tony Miles: It's Only Me, by Geoff Lawton
Review 9: Chess Strategy In Action, by John Watson
Review 10: Leko’s 100 Wins, by Sergei Soloviov
Review 11: Super Tournaments 2002, by Sergei Soloviov
Review 12: French Nd2, by Lev Psakhis
Review 13: Chess Endgame Training, by Bernd Rossen
Review 14: King's Indian Battle Plans, by IM Andrew Martin

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted