parisattack: But comes now two books on the O’Kelly Sicilian:
Play the O’Kelly Sicilian by Andrew Martin (Everyman 2022, 276pp) and The Modernized O’Kelly Sicilian by Jan Boekelman (Thinker’s Press 2022, 342pp).
Going in to these two tomes my conclusions on the O’Kelly would be summarized:
White’s primary replies are: 3. c4, 3. c3 (often cited as best) and 3. d4. The Wing 3. b4 is a real possibility. c3 is supposed to be the strongest, that at best Black gets an Advanced French with …a6 committed too early or a strange Scandinavian. c4 often leads to a Hedgehog formation unless Black tries to dragondorf it with …g6 or (my preference) an early …e5 any way!
The format of the Martin tome in line with other “Play the …” series, is game-based. There’s a couple dozen of them now more proof P.T. Barnum was right. “Collect ‘em all boys and girls!” The book includes 110 annotated games. This format makes for easy reading but lacks the thoroughness of the Variation-based format.
The chapter layout is logical: Introduction, O’Kelly Timeline, Routine 3. d4, Development 3. Nc3, Sensible 3. c3, Seizing Space 3. c4 and Loose Ends.
IM Martin begins his Introduction with a 3. c4 game where Black essays …e5. So, that’s good. But he says the common belief is that any of 3. c3, 3.c4 or 3, d4 gives White a small advantage. I’m not seeing that, as above. I am convinced 3. c3 is the critical line.
The chapter, Timeline of the O’Kelly (68 pp) is the star of the show. A truly excellent historical look at this variation and its development.
The four main body chapters on 3. c3, 3. c4, 3. Nc3 and 3. d4 are mostly adequate. His analysis of 3. c3 doesn’t alter my opinion of the move, as above. TNSTAAFL.
The chapter Loose ends covers, 3. b3, 3. g3, transpositions from 2. c3. The final two games look at 3. b4.
CHESS BOOK TIP! When you read a line like, “Remember you’re not playing a computer, you’re playing a flesh-and-blood human being.” It means the variation in question sucks.
Play the O’Kelly Sicilian is a workman-like tome and, as noted, the Timeline is almost worth the price of admission. I’ll give Andy a 4-Star on this effort.
I am not familiar with the work of Jan Boekelman, ‘a dedicated chess enthusiast and analyst’ but apparently, he has written other books for Thinker’s Press. I am familiar – and a fan – of Thinker’s Press!
According to the FIDE website, Jan’s Standard Rating is 2131…not too shabby. I’ve never believed you had to be 2400+ ELO to offer the world a decent chess book.
The Modernized O’Kelly Sicilian is variation-based, unlike Martin’s ‘game-based’ format. It is thorough, there is some heavy slogging, but it is laid out about as well as a variation/sub-variation/sub-sub variation book can be – until I spring my wonderful ‘ParisAttack Format’ on the unsuspecting chess world…someday.
Boekelman’s TOC shows some creativity in arrangement of the material: Slow Set-Up by White, Routine Open Sicilian 3. d4, Maroczy Bind 3. c4, Delayed Alapin 3. c3, Sicilian Kan I, II and Anti-Sicilians. I prefer Martin’s but kudos to Boekelman for going his own way.
Just having spent minimal time with the book, I want to say his work on the critical 3. c3 is stronger than Martin’s and offers Black a couple of possible improvements to thread-the-needle to full equality.
There is also a Foreword, Preface and Theoretical Overview…all in five pages; nothing to compare to Martin’s Timeline. Modernized O’Kelly does offer both a Print and Digitized bibliography for those who must dig deeper.
The ‘mix’ in annotations between analysis and verbiage is excellent and well-balanced. The author does offer some historical derivatives and interesting tidbits therein. All-in-all, very readable.
I also give Boekelman a 4-Star for his work.
Truly both books would be strongly recommended to anyone thinking of playing the O’Kelly! They seem to complement each other quite well. Of course, don’t forget Lutes for the Complete O’Kelly Sicilian Library.
I dedicate this Book Review to my late-great chess friend, Nikolai Brunni. Godspeed, <Focus>.