Chess Developments — The Pirc

James Vigus

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
252 pages

Chess Developments: the Pirc by FM James Vigus is his third work on the subject following The Pirc in Black and White (2007) and Dangerous Weapons; The Pirc and Modern (co-authored with Richard Palliser and Colin McNab in 2009). Whereas the first volume, which was close to 400 pages, was encyclopedic, the present work is more focused and deals with only the most important lines where theory has changed the past five years.

The lines Vigus covers in this volume are:

The Austrian Attack (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3)
The Classical (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2)
White plays 4.Be3 (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3)
The Byrne (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5)
The Fianchetto (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3)

As might be expected the Austrian, the traditional main line of the Pirc, gets the bulk of the coverage – almost half the book. Both of Black’s tries, 5…c5 and 5…0-0 are examined at length. After 6.Bd3 Vigus examines not only the long established 6…Nc6 and 6…Na6 but also the experimental 6……Nbd7 which has long held to be inferior but may in fact be playable, especially after a few improvements featured in this book.

While the quieter and more positional Classical and Fianchetto variations are covered most of the remainder of the book is devoted to two variations that have only become popular in the last decade – 4.Be3 (with either f3 or Nf3 to follow) and 4.Bg5 – first developed by former World Championship Candidate Robert Byrne. The latter system, which frequently involves f4 and e5, can be particularly violent and it is a testimony to the richness of chess that there is no consensus on how Black should meet this variation and 4.Be3.

The days when the Pirc was a second rate response to 1.e4 are over. While it may never replace 1…e5 or certain variations of the Sicilian as Black’s most trusted answer to 1.e4, there can be no doubt the Pirc has entered the main stream and that the books by Vigus are the one’s to get if you want to play this defense.