11 September 2012
I bought The Flexible French upon recommendation of a friend. I had a complete collection of Chess Informant in electronic editions through 112. The last print edition I had bought, however, was CI 73. Recent exciting changes in the format of Informant provoked me to try CI 113 in both CD and print form (see "Chess Informant Innovations"). They cost more that way, of course, and I likely will resume my practice of awaiting to whole volume compilation CD, which keeps me a year or so behind.
Glancing through Informant 113 last night pushed my excitement to a point where I thought I might need some medication. I can barely restrain myself from setting a chess set out on the table and beginning to pore through the detailed grandmaster analysis of recent games, of key opening innovations, of brilliant combinations. If not for non-chess work that has me extremely busy this week, I would have done so.
The Modern French also provokes enthusiasm. It is a model for structuring opening manuals. It is not a comprehensive text on the French Defense, but an exploration of fresh ideas in six key variations: The King's Indian Attack, Exchange, Advance, Tarrasch, Steinitz, and McCutcheon. I played the McCutcheon quite a bit when I was switching from the Sicilian to the French, but abandoned it several years ago. Perhaps this book will motivate me to bring it back into my repertoire.
Antic and Maksimovic explain that their goal was not to cover all possible variations, but offer "extensive analysis of strategic plans from the basic to the most complex" (7). Two notable features of the book struck me on first glance: extensive verbal comments and an exceptionally well-organized index of variations. Each chapter offers in-depth examination of each move with several branches. Rather than extensive branching, however, the emphasis is upon the ideas of select key variations. The authors promise theoretical novelties.
Chess books that explain ideas as well as showing variations are too few. Antic and Maksimovic show that human thinking expressed through verbal commentary can become the substance of an opening monograph.