Bologan’s Black Weapons in the Open Games

Victor Bologan

Reviewer: John Donaldson
New In Chess
528 pages

BOLOGAN’S BLACK WEAPONS IN THE OPEN GAMES is a massive book that offers two Black repertoires after 1.e4 e5 against every White try but the Ruy Lopez.

The idea for this kind of book isn’t new. John Emms wrote PLAY THE OPEN GAMES AS BLACK back in 2000 and more recent works include Mihail Marin’s BEATING THE OPEN GAMES (2008) and THE OPEN GAMES FOR BLACK by Igor Lysyj and Roman Ovetchkin (2012). Bologan references all these books and more and combines it with his own ideas and analyses to produce an impressive work.

First, to get an idea of what this book contains:

Part I – 1.e4 e5 45

Chapter 1 – Rare Openings on the Second Move
Chapter 2 – The Center Game
2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 (4.Qa4) 4……Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 and 5……Be7
Chapter 3 – The Danish Gambit
2.d4 exd4 3.c3 Qe7 and 3……d5
Chapter 4 – The Bishop’s Opening
2.Bc4 Nf6
Chapter 5 – The Vienna Fianchetto
2.Nc3 & 3.g3
Chapter 6 – The Vienna Gambit
2.Nc3 Nc6 and 2……Nf6
Chapter 7 – The Vienna Attack
2.Nc3 & 3.Bc4 2……Nc6 and 2……Nf6

Part II – 1.e4 e5 2.f4

Chapter 8 – Rare King’s Gambits
Chapter 9 – The Bishop’s Gambit
2…exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+
Chapter 10 – Rosentreter’s Gambit
2…exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.d4 g4
Chapter 11 – Polerio’s Gambit
2…exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4

Chapter 12 – The Kieseritzky Gambit / Allgaier’s Gambit
2…exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5 h6
Chapter 13 – Bilguer’s Defense
2…exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 d6 6.Nxg4 Be7
Chapter 14 – Intro to the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit
2…d5 3.exd5 exf4
Chapter 15 – Fedorov’s Line
2…d5 3.exd5 exf4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nxd5
Chapter 16 – Rabinovich’s Line
2…d5 3 exd5 exf4 4 Nf3 Nf6 5.Bb5+ Nxc6

Part III – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6

Chapter 17 – Rare Third Moves
Chapter 18 – The Ponziani Opening: the Harrwitz Attack & the Steinitz Defense
3.c3 d5
Chapter 19 – The Ponziani Opening: Paulsen’s Line
3.c3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Nd5
Chapter 20 – Relfsson’s Gambit & Sarrat’s Attack
3.d4 exd4
Chapter 21 – The Berlin Gambit
3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.0-0 d6!
Chapter 22 – The Göring Gambit: the Capablanca Defense
3.d4 exd4 4.c3 d5
Chapter 23 – The Scotch Opening: Tartakower’s Line
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
Chapter 24 – The Classical Mieses Line
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.Bd3 d6 and 6……d5
Chapter 25 – Intro to the Modern Mieses
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5

Chapter 26 – The Modern Mieses: the Old & the New Main Line
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Nb6
Chapter 27 – The Horrwitz Attack & Potter’s Line
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5
Chapter 28 – Blumenfeld’s Attack
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.Nb5
Chapter 29 – The Fianchetto Variation & Other Rare Lines
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7
Chapter 30 – The Cuban Variation
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Qf6 6.c3 Nge7 7.Bc4 0-0 8.0-0 b6
Chapter 31 – The Exchange Line: the Paris Variation
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 bxc6
Chapter 32 – The Exchange Line: Lange’s Line
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 Qf6! 6.Qf3
Chapter 33 – The Exchange Line: Kasparov’s Variation
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 Qf6! 6.Qd2

Part IV – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6

Chapter 34 – Gunsberg’s Four Knights Game
4.a3 d5
Chapter 35 – Glek’s Four Knights Game
4.g3 Bc5 and 4……d5
Chapter 36 – The Italian Four Knights Game
4.Bc4 Nxe4!
Chapter 37 – The Belgrade Gambit
4.d4 exd4 5.Nd5 Nxe4 and 5……Nb4!?
Chapter 38 – The Scotch Four Knights Game: Kramnik’s Line
4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4
Chapter 39 – The Traditional Main Line of the Classical Defense
4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.exd5 cxd5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Bg5 c6

Chapter 40 – The Scotch Four Knights Game: the Modern Defense
4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bc5
Chapter 41 – The Spanish Four Knights Game: Cohen’s Defense
4.Bb5 Bd6!? 325

Chapter 42 – The Spanish Four Knights Game: the Symmetrical Line
4.Bb5 Bb4

Part V – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4

Chapter 43 – The Italian Game: the Lucena Line
3…Bc5 4.d3 Nf6
Chapter 44 – The Italian Game: the Greco Line
3…Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6
Chapter 45 – The Italian Game: the Giuoco Piano
3…Bc5 4.Nc3 Nf6
Chapter 46 – The Evans Gambit
3…Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Bc5 and 5……Ba5
Chapter 47 – The Italian Game: Falkbeer’s Gambit
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.0-0 Nxe4
Chapter 48 – The Italian Game: the Sveshnikov Line
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5!
Chapter 49 – The Italian Game: Møller’s Attack
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cd4 Bb4+
Chapter 50 – The Italian Game: Bird’s Variation
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.b4 Be7 and 5……Bb6
Chapter 51 – The Italian Game: the Modern Giuoco Pianissimo
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a6!? (without …0-0)
Chapter 52 – The Italian Game: the Classical Giuoco Pianissimo
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 a6!? (with …0-0)
Chapter 53 – The Italian Game: the Adams Approach
3…Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 d6
Chapter 54 – The Two Knights Defense: the Modern Line
Chapter 55 – The Center Gambit & Attack
3…Nf6 4.d4 exd4
Chapter 56 – Polerio’s Attack: the Morphy Line
3…Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5! 6.d3
Chapter 57 – Polerio’s Attack: the Chigorin Counterattack
3…Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5! 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6

BOLOGAN’S BLACK WEAPONS IN THE OPEN GAMES covers a huge amount of territory from topical lines in the Scotch routinely seen in top-level tournaments to obscure gambits. Bologan treats them all with a fresh eye.

Here are a few that caught this reviewer’s attention and brought back memories of his first steps as a chess player.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3

Everyone plays this when they are starting out but after 4…Nxe4 they give it up due to 5.Nxe4 d5.

Would it surprise you to learn that over a dozen players rated over 2500, including Vassily Ivanchuk, have played this position for White! Bologan hypothesizes that the position after 6…dxe4 7.Bxe4 may not that easy for Black who has better in 6…Nb4! (first proposed by Larry Kaufman) with excellent play.

Should White vary with 5.0-0 (instead of 5.Nxe4) Black can accept the sacrificed material in confidence with 5……Nxc3 6.dxc3 f6 with the main line running 7.Nh4 g6! 8.f4 Qe7! 9.Kh1 d6 10.f5! Qg7 11.Qf3 Ne7 with the idea of ……c7-c6. The Boden-Kieseritzky gambit bites the dust.

Moving on to another ancient line of the Giuoco Piano I remember first being introduced to the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 (? Petrosian, ?! Bologan) 7……g5 8.Bg3 h5 9.Nxg5 h4 10.Nxf7 hxg3 11.Nxd8 Bg4 in Petrosian’s chapter in HOW TO OPEN A CHESS GAME and was under the impression that White was completely lost. As Bologan points out things are considerably more complicated.


Lines like 12.Nf7 Rxh2 13.Qd2 Nd4 14.Nc3 Nf3+ 15.gxf3 Bxf3 16.Qh6 Rg2+ 17.Kh1 Rxf2+ 18.Kg1 Rg2+ 19.Kh1 Rh2 mate! Or 14.Ng5 Ke7 15.Qe3 Rah8 16.fxg3 Rh1+ 17.Kf2 Rxf1+ 18.Kxf1 Rh1+ 19.Kf2 Bd1! mating, got my attention when I was a kid.

12…Nd4 13.h3

13.Nc3 Nf3+! mates again.

13…Ne2+ 14.Qxe2

Or 14.Kh1? Rxh3+ 15.gxh3 Bf3 mate.

14…Bxe2 15.Ne6 Bb6 16.Nc3 Bxf1 17.Kxf1 gxf2 18.Na4 Kd7 19.Nxb6+ axb6 20.Kxf2 b5 21.Bb3

Now Bologan judges 21…c5 22.Ng5 c4 23.dxc4 Rag8 24.Nf3 Nxe4+ 25.Kf1 b4 26.Rd1 Rf8 27.Kg1 Rh5 and 21…Rag8 22.Nxc7 Kxc7 23.Bxg8 Rxg8 24.g4 d5 25.Kf3 Kd6 to both be slightly better for Black. This is no ringing endorsement to enter this line for White, but maybe 7.Bh4 doesn’t deserve the question mark it is traditionally given.

There is a huge amount of theory in this book, but Bologan presents it in a lively matter and explains things simply and well. One example is his rationale for Black playing 4…Bd6 in the Four Knights after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5. Bologan writes:

“Really, if this move doesn’t look like a patzer move, I don’t know what does. However, this ‘ugly’ move works simply because White cannot attack effectively through the center. Replace Nc3 with 0-0, and White would play 5.d4 (and if Black’s knight were on e7 instead of f6, White would simply play c2-c3 and d2-d4).”

He then goes on to explain that since Black cannot break in the center (…d5) for some time he should be careful not to castle early as White is well positioned to launch an attack with g4. The chief reasons for buying this book are Bologan’s explanations and his judgment in deciding what lines are good and which are not.

One way that Bologan has been able to cover so many openings in a little over 500 pages is to adopt a modified approach used by the MODERN CHESS OPENINGS series. The author does not cite game references in the main body of the text but gives footnotes. The full game citations can be found in the back of the book. The advantages are clear – it saves space and it makes for a clearer presentation, but some may not like having to go to the back of the book to look up a reference.

I give BOLOGAN’S BLACK WEAPONS IN THE OPEN GAMES a strong recommendation for players of a wide range of playing strengths from the club level (who will love the gambit coverage) to grandmasters who will appreciate the in depth coverage of the Scotch.