Valeri Bronznik's lengthy treatise on the Chigorin Defence (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6) is the latest and most impressive in a series of recent writings about this odd-looking but stubbornly resistant opening. It is written in German, but contains mostly variations (in Figurine). The Chigorin is being played by an increasingly long list of titled international players, and I seriously doubt whether White can gain more than a typically slight edge against it (as with other sound openings). In column #39, I reviewed Martin Breutigam's excellent ChessBase CD (2000), which had some very original ideas and generally excellent coverage. Two 2002 Everyman books also deal with the subject. The Chigorin Defence constitutes one of the three sections of Chris Ward's Unusual Queen’s Gambit Declined' book; and Angus Dunnington (who wrote a whole book on the Chigorin in 1996) has a proposed solution to 2...Nc6 in his 'Attacking With 1.d4' book, reviewed 2 columns ago. Looking back a bit, we have the progression of works from my own 1981 Batsford book 'Queen's Gambit: Chigorin Defense', Eric Schiller's 1990 book 'How to play the Chigorin Defense in the Queen's Gambit Declined' (Chess Enterprises), Andrew Soltis' 1995 'The Tchigorin Defense' (Chess Digest), and Nigel Davies' 1996 video 'The Untamed Chigorin' (Grandmaster Video). Bronznik makes use of my, Breutigam's, Dunnington's and Schiller's books, and finds a number of other sources of which I wasn't unaware, e.g., V Gagarin's 'Secrets from Russia' and a Chess Monthly article by Andrew Martin! To me, this is particularly inspiring, because with increasing frequency books by the major publishers are using databases almost exclusively, and ignoring extremely vital and original books and articles on their subjects. As only one example of many, Ward's Bibliography, apart from This Week in Chess and ChessBase Magazine, gives only three books and a video for the three openings that he covers! This is also true of books on mainstream openings: In studying certain openings in detail recently, I have been stunned by what major lines and relevant ideas (even refutations) go completely unmentioned in currently-appearing books. Clearly the database method of writing has become a strong incentive to lazy research and writing. Finally, speaking of sources and the Chigorin, this is as good a time as any to mention Paul Janse, who has developed a great deal of Chigorin theory by experimental games, and been kind enough to share his discoveries with me.
Bronznik has put together the first encyclopedic, full-length book on the Chigorin. As with Dunnington and Breutigam, he also provides material on the order 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6, which is of great practical interest to one who prefers to avoid main lines of the Queen's Gambit. In all three cases, this section is useful but not comprehensive.
So much of the Chigorin is virgin territory. Take a look at this amazing position: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e4 Bg4 6.d5 Ne5 7.Bf4 Bxf3 8.Qa4+ Qd7 9.Nb5 (from a blitz game between Dlugy and Morozevich), and now ...Qg4!!I'll let you contemplate that. Or the typical knights-on-the-rim versus the centralized bishop pair from Z Szabo-Dobosz, Budapest 1994, with the same line until 6.Be3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.Qd3 0-0 9.a3 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Bxf3 11.gxf3 Nh5 12.Qd2 Na5 13.Ba2 c5 14.Rb1 Qf6! and Black is at least holding his own!
In more developed but obscure lines, Bronznik provides countless new ideas and much analysis. After 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Ne4 (he agrees that my suggested 4...dxc4 is probably satisfactory, adding much analysis), there is a terrific amount of detail following all 3 White moves: (a) 5.Nxe4 dxe4 he looks at 6.e3?! f6! and 6.d5 e6!, with great complications; (b) 5.cxd5 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Qxd5 7.Nf3 [a whole page of small print; and (c) 5.Bh4 g5!? with 5...Others 6.Bxg5!?, a fascinating line based upon 6...Nxg5 7.cxd5 and if 7...Nmoves? 7...e5!, 8.h4.
In all lines in the book, he quotes extensively from the other sources mentioned above and extends their analysis. I see, for example, that Bronznik used my lengthy 3-part 1998 Inside Chess article on the Chigorin. It looks as though he thoroughly and objectively used and improved upon the relevant material from it, although I can't seem to find a copy of my own to confirm that! (Which gives you an idea of my level of office organization).
Let's do a comparison with the variation emphasized by Ward and recommended for White by Dunnington: 3.cxd5 Qxd5 4.e3 e5 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 exd4 8.Ne2. First of all, I should say that there is a typical and unfortunate tendency of database-dependent books to overemphasize the currently most popular lines, neglecting other variations (in this case quite a few) that are at least or more dangerous. The 7.Bxc3 move became popular a few years back, but mainly because the idea is very straightforward and top players, who have little time to study irregular openings like the Chigorin (that situation is changing), saw and found a simple solution in it. Ward, supposedly covering the whole defense (although missing or dismissing crucial and valid major variations) devotes 10 of his 49 pages to this line alone (! and 4 pages are indices or introductions).
At any rate, Dunnington's Chigorin coverage no index at all for this book of complex variations - what can I say? gives a detailed section on this, his only suggested line. But he seems unaware of the theory! On page 72, for example, he states that in the line 8...Bg4 9.f3, the most natural move 9...Be6 'lacks consistency' (why?), giving 10.Nxd4 0-0-0 11.Qa4! Nge7 12.Nxc6 Nxc6 13.Bb5, not even mentioning my 1998 suggestion, 13...Qc5!, which has since won a pretty game since and gives Black a choice of equal continuations in its main line. In the very main line, 8...Nf6 ('!' Bronznik) 9.Nxd4 0-0, Dunnington gives 10.Nb5! Qg5 11.Nxc7 Bg4 12.Qb3 Rad8 13.Qxb7, and here he doesn't mention Breutigam's 13...Rd6 suggestion from his ChessBase CD, which Bronznik thinks leads to compensation after 14.Nb5 Re6, 14.h4 Rfd8! or 14.h3 Rb8 (14...Bh5!?) 15.Qa6 Bh5. In the line 13...Qc5 14.h3, Dunnington follows a Rebel-Tiger 12.0 game with 14...Ne4 ('?!' Bronznik) from Cadaques 2000 leading to White's advantage (although he doesn't give the citation). Ward quotes the same game. But more important are Bronznik's suggestions 14...Bc8!? 15.Qb3 Ne4 and 14...Bh5!?. These are crucial positions, in my opinion. Note: The above was rewritten after TWIC reader Shane Gaschler pointed out that in my review I had mixed up Dunnington's analysis of 8...Nge7 with his analysis of 8...Nf6 ! My apologies to Mr. Dunnington, who was unjustly criticized in my original version.
Ward is much better in covering this 7.Bxc3 variation (showing Black to be fine in all lines), but then has little room for more critical White attempts. His most amazing omission is analysis on 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e4 (he also misses Black's known best continuations after 5.d5 Na5 6.Qa4+ and skips the important 5.e3) 5...Bg4 6.Be3 e6. This is considered the very main line of the Chigorin Defence by most of us and is given 21 pages by Bronznik! Ward gives just 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.Qc2 (no alternatives like 8.Qd3) 8...0-0 9.Rd1 and Stop! He says only that 'White maintains his centre'. Bronznik cites the many, many games with this line, and uses both his and others analysis of 9.Rd1 (along with other moves up to and at this point) resulting in over 12 pages on this crucial variation.
Bronznik covers so many other lines with thoroughness and originality that his book deserves the highest praise. I do have a personal gripe. After 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 Ne5 5.Qd4, the move 5...f6 was suggested in my 1981 Batsford book, played by me in tournaments that year, and further analysed in an article before it later caught on to become one of two main lines (the best one, I believe). I even outlined the main plans that Black still follows. I'm not sure that any source has given me credit, and Bronznik, who has my publications, only says that Dunnington (1996) likes the move. In a similar case, I first suggested in 1981 that in the old main line of this defence, 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.cxd5 Bxf3 5.dxc6 Bxc6 6.Nc3 e6 7.e4 Bb4 8.f3, at the time thought to be better for White in every line, 8...Qh4+! 9.g3 Qf6! should be played. After 10.Be3 0-0-0, the only theory at the time was Suetin's '11.Bd3!' with clear advantage, and almost every previous game had continued 8...f5 instead (considered almost losing at the time) or more passive, weaker moves. I showed in detail that after 10.Bd3 Ba5! (a move that appears in other lines as well), Black was doing fine. This important verdict has held up, and 8...Qh4+/9...Qf6 is the main line today (although interestingly, Bronznik single-handedly tries to revive 8...f5!? in this book). Again, Bronznik cites some of my analysis but gives no credit. This may seem a petty complaint, but these are two discoveries critical for the health of the entire opening. By contrast, some well-known international players are continually given credit for obvious moves that had been played many times before.
Putting that to the side, I have nothing but praise for this book. It will not only become the Chigorin Defence bible for many years to come, but it establishes the Chigorin as a sound defense deserving respect. Players of all strengths might want to look in this direction for a new system to play.
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This is the first English edition of a book that was originally published in German as Die Tschigorin-Verteidigung in 2004. Now fully revised and updated to May 2005, The Chigorin Defence examines the brainchild of the great Russian player through 115 complete games. It is an approach that has become quite common, and no wonder, for it allows the reader to study the middlegame positions and endings arising out of the opening, as well as any particular lines and variations. Altogether, this cannot fail to make for a fuller, a more rounded and organic, understanding of any opening system.
Mikhail Chigorin’s defence to the Queen’s Gambit is active, relatively sound and less explored than most other systems. In his introduction, Valery Bronznik says that it:
… is so aggressive that, to tell the truth, I don’t understand why this opening is called ‘Defence’, and therefore I would suggest it be regarded as a counter attack.
After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6, the knight move not only develops a piece, it completes an initial pressuring of all four central squares (Q, N and … d5 pawn together attack d4, d5, e4 and e5); and it is only move two! Hardly surprising, then, that the Chigorin Defence is especially testing for the first player. Early on, in many lines, tactics predominate and quick victories are possible against unprepared opponents. The middlegame positions are generally strategically complex – for both sides – and material imbalances are not uncommon. In summary, one can say that other defences are rather staid by comparison.
There have been two terrific books written about this opening in recent years – The Chigorin Defence According to Morozevich by Alexander Morozevich and Vladimir Barsky (New In Chess, 2007) is the other one – and so one hopes a comparison won’t be thought too odious. The two books have different purposes and qualities: Morozevich presents his own personal interpretation of the Defence; Bronznik aims for a comprehensive and full survey of all lines and sidelines. One would therefore recommend that The Chigorin Defence be studied first. (And of the 115 games given by Bronznik, 14 feature Morozevich, so one anyway gets a good representative sample of his practice with the opening; incidentally, Miladinovic has the next highest total of games at 8.)
Here are three examples in support of this view. First off, after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.Nf3 one might play 4 … Bg4; it seems a natural move. Don’t; it is a mistake! Bronznik includes the move and explains why it is wrong; this is useful if you’re learning the opening. Morozevich’s book doesn’t mention it at all; and why should he, it’s a dubious move. Still, a newcomer might be perplexed by the omission. Secondly, Bronznik gives a full consideration to John Watson’s move 5 … f6 (after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 Ne5 5.Qd4), whereas Morozevich gives it a cursory assessment of “rather artificial”; it doesn’t fit into his style. Nonetheless, it is a viable move. Finally, in one of the most important lines (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e4 Bg4 6.Be3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.Qc2 0-0 9.Rd1) Bronznik devotes a lot of attention to each of Black’s three alternatives: 9 … Ne7, 9 … Qe7 and 9 … Bxf3 10.gxf3 Nh5. He concludes that the last line is the strongest, yet Morozevich mentions this possibility only in passing: he gives two game references. In general, Bronznik treats Black’s options in greater detail and is more open-minded. Against this, one concedes that as a world class player Morozevich’s judgements have a definite authority; but in chess nothing should be taken on trust. The Chigorin Defence covers all lines arising after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 and 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6; Chigorin’s other fancy after 2.Nf3 (i.e. 2 … Bg4) is not covered, which is a pity. The bibligraphy makes reference to books and articles, periodicals and databases, and even to the private game collections of a couple of Chigorin specialists.
Here is an analytical note to finish. This position arose from the game Lputian-Sibilio, Nereto 1999 (Game 36 in the book) and the opening was 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6!? (rather than 3 … dxc4, the normal move), a byway to which Bronznik devotes a chapter.
Black played 16 … Nd7, a move given as dubious by Bronznik, and he asks: “Why not 16 … Re8, winning a pawn? After 17.0-0 (17.e5? Qxd6) Qxe4 18.Qxe4 Rxe4 19.Rfe1Rxe1+ 20.Rxe1 Nd7 21.Re7 Rd8 White would have an active position, but it would hardly be enough to win.”
This evaluation seems correct, but perhaps White can improve here with 18. Rael (rather than 18.Qxe4), e.g. 18… Qxe1 19.Rxe1Rxe1+ 20.Kf2 Re8 (20 … Re6 21.d5 cxd5 22.Qxd5 or 22.Qb3 Nc6 23.d7 intending Bc7) 21.Qh3 Rd8 (21 … Re6 22.d5 cxd5 23.Qb3 attacking both … b7 and … d5) 22.d7! Nxd7 (22 … Rxd7 23.Bxb8 wins; and if 22 … Na6 23.Bd6 followed by Be7) 23.Bc7 Nf6 24.Bxd8 Rxd8 25.Qa3 and White can still probe, though objectively Black should be able to draw.
To pronounce a judgement: The Chigorin Defence offers a comprehensive, solidly researched survey of this most aggressive and dynamic defence to the Queen’s Gambit. The organisation and presentation of the material is excellent, and there is much detailed original analysis. Equally importantly, Bronznik’s assessments strike one as being trustworthy. If you are seriously thinking of playing this opening as Black, The Chigorin Defence is an essential purchase. The Chigorin Defence by Valery Bronznik is currently available and can be purchased from http://www.kaniaverlag.de/htm/engli...
And The Chigorin Defence According to Morozevich is recommended too.
Reviewed by Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England.
The Chigorin Defence | By Valery Bronznik | Schachverlag Kania, June 2005 | ISBN 3-931192-28-8 | http://www.kaniaverlag.de/htm/engli...
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<Valeri Bronznik: Die Tschigorin-Verteidigung. Schachverlag Kania, 2001, ISBN 3-931192-21-0
Alexander Morosewitsch und Wladimir Barsky: The Chigorin Defence According to Morozevich. New in Chess, 2007, ISBN 90-5691-200-3 >
Wikipedia article: Chigorin Defense
Wikipedia article: Tschigorin-Verteidigung
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