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The Complete Sveshnikov
The Sveshnikov Sicilian is one of those openings where you either come home with your shield or get carried home on it. It shares this trait in common with a lot of other Sicilians, but it is a topical opening where the theory is constantly evolving, and it is ideal for those players who like a sharp contest and enjoy fighting for the initiative right out of the opening. Gambit’s latest contribution to the fray, by Yuri Yakovich, will be a welcome addition to the collection of any serious Sveshnikov player and will also be useful to players of the White pieces who are tired of losing to it.
The Sveshnikov is not an opening for the faint of heart. Although its origins go back to the 19th century, the player who is given most of the credit for popularizing the variation is the redoubtable Evgeny Sveshnikov. The Sveshnikov Variation refers to 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5. This move order can also refer to the Lasker, the Pelikan, or Pilnik, but as Yakovich points out, the tendency in recent years has been to consider the whole complex as the Sveshnikov Variation. The Sveshnikov proper is 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5. 6.Ndb5 d6. While White can vary at move 6, and Yakovich covers these in detail, the typical move is Ndb5.
Yakovich’s approach researches the opening in depth, and while he annotates with a great deal of detail, he does not spend a lot of time on the ideas behind the opening, at least not in terms of explanations other than symbol annotations. This makes the book useful for stronger players who already know the opening, but makes it less valuable for novice to intermediate players who might be interested in learning the strategic ideas behind the opening. It is comprehensive though. All of the current variations are covered in detail, including older lines like Bird’s variation and unusual moves for White. This is important in a book that is attempting to cover a complete variation, because sometimes the bad moves may be harder to answer than the good ones if you have never seen them! A good example of this in Chapter 3: The Premature 8.Bxf6?! where he explains what is wrong with 8.Bxf6 and how Black can obtain an advantage against it. He also covers the Bird Variation 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8. Na3 Be6. This line, while not in vogue at the moment, still appears from time to time.
The remainder of the book is split into two sections, with five chapters dealing with 9.Nd5, and six chapters dealing with 9. Bxf6. The coverage is thorough and any devotee of the defense should be able to play either side with a great deal of confidence. The book contains a comprehensive index of variations, making it simple to look up a given line, something that is very useful if you are playing the White pieces and just want to prepare a variation without wading through a myriad of lines that you have no intention of playing or learning.
This book is very thorough and well written, but it’s clearly aimed at stronger players who already have a firm grasp of the theory behind this system.