Anish Giri

My Junior Years in 20 Games

Anish Giri

Reviewer: John Donaldson
New In Chess
124 pages

Anish Giri was one of the stars of the 2014 Chess Olympiad. The young Dutch Grandmaster scored an undefeated 8 from 11 on first board for the Netherlands, good for a 2836 performance rating and a bronze medal. The 13 points he gained brought him to number 11 in the world rankings at 2758, just two points behind Vladimir Kramnik.

Giri turned 21 at the end of June and to celebrate his coming of age the Dutch publishing firm New in Chess commissioned him to write a book about his chess career to the present. The result is ANISH GIRI: MY JUNIOR YEARS IN 20.

This book consists of a four page preface by Anish’s father Sanjay, an eleven page autobiography, eight pages of black and white photos and twenty well annotated games that are a nice mixture of explanatory prose and variations. The former will ensure that this book enjoys a wide audience and the three to four diagrams per page should enable stronger players to read it without a board.

Reading the story of Giri’s life (his father is Nepalese and mother Russian) is confirmation of just how international the chess world has become and how Russia let a great talent slip through its fingers. Giri was born in Russia and first developed as a player there, leaving for the Netherlands when he already had the rating of an International Master. The only greater loss Russia has suffered was when Gata Kamsky moved to the United States at a similar age. Those who want to read about Giri’s early development will find the interview with his old trainer at: interesting reading. Russian chess was disorganized in the mid-2000s and one wonders what inducements might have been thrown the way of the Giri family today with the Russian Chess Federation currently possessing a seemingly limitless budget.

When Giri’s father took a job in the Netherlands, his son was following a path blazed by ex-Soviets Genna Sosonko and Sergei Tiviakov and former Yugoslavs Predrag Nikolic and Ivan Sokolov. There is no question that the Netherlands is one of the best countries in the world for chess and has a generous immigration policy. Giri made quick progress becoming a Grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 7 months and 2 days which made him the youngest in the world in 2009. The past year he was the top-rated junior on the planet and now as an adult is just on the edge of the top ten in the world. The Dutch have done him right providing world-class trainers Vladimir Chuchelov and Vladimir Tukmakov to work with him.

MY JUNIOR YEARS IN 20 GAMES presents 20 games from 2005 to 2014. The first two were played in Russia at the age of 10 and see Giri seeking to emulate Fischer and Kasparov and doing a remarkably good job considering his youth. Even then it was clear he was a big talent, which was confirmed when he won the Russian under 12 Championship. The majority of the remaining games are presented in chronological order excepting three and four which are paired together for thematic reasons. Half are post 2009 when Giri was already a strong player.

The games in My Junior Years in 20 Games are thoroughly and instructively annotated but this reviewer suspects that the insights Giri supplies about top-level chess will be the most eagerly received. To give but two examples:

Page 90: “It wasn’t a big surprise that Anand decided to play a quieter line, considering that the Moscow Variation wasn’t the main thing he had prepared against. However, it had not stopped me from burning half of my morning rehashing the entire Anti-Moscow. I can tell you it’s a pleasant thing to do after breakfast, to just sit there and stare at your huge files with a big smile on your face and enjoying the grin of your coach next to you, who knows that it’s not he who will have to play all of these lines… 6.Bh4 is what I’m talking about.”

Page 107: “A study-like pawn construction on the kingside. A pity that my opponent didn’t have an extra pawn somewhere like on b3, which would have made the win look even more aesthetic. It’s quite remarkable that it is possible to beat a strong player like Ivanchuk in such a simple matter that it doesn’t require a single variation to explain what was going on! In fact, the endgame is tougher than it seems.

“Later on, I played a blitz game in a little tournament in Norway against Turov, who played a lot more precise and we ended up splitting the point. Once again, it’s the Ivanchuk phenomenon. If you meet him on the right day, you are lucky, if not, then not.”

Anish Giri: My Junior Years in 20 Games is an excellent book and one that deserves a place in every chess player’s library. The content is first-rate and the book, with one exception, is very well-produced. Like pretty much all New in Chess published books the photos could be crisper. They are not bad, but due to the quality of the paper they are printed on do not reproduce as nicely as they could. Economics are likely dictating this NIC policy but one wonders if they couldn’t charge a few dollars more and put the photos on better paper. Another idea would be publishing a smaller selection, again on better paper. One need only look at books published by Quality Chess to see this can be done.

This is a must buy book for the content and a good value for the price, but if another reason is warranted to purchase it the author’s website provides it:

“The proceeds of this book will go to an educational project for poor children in Nepal.” Those who would like to learn more about ANISH GIRI: MY JUNIOR YEARS IN 20 GAMES can watch a short video of Giri presenting one of the games featured in the book at:

Highly Recommended