Chess Evolution 3: Mastery is the final book in a nine volume series designed to take club players to a masters level of understanding.
As mentioned in previous reviews of this series, these books have three principle audiences. They will be useful for players wishing to increase their strength to improve their rating, for coaches looking for a structured curriculum and/or useful training material and for those who wish to increase their understanding of the game that, because of various circumstances, may no longer be able to play regularly. While Yusupov modestly cautions in his introduction that this series is not a substitute for a trainer, there can be no question that the motivated student working alone can glean much knowledge. This series is aimed at players below 2100 but there will undoubtedly much that is new or previously poorly understood in these volumes by many players even in the 2200-2400 range.
This volume covers the following topics:
1 Desperadoes 8
2 Static advantages 20
3 The comparison method 34
4 Rook against two minor pieces 42
5 Open games 54
6 The minority attack 66
7 Complicated Combinations 80
8 Fortresses 90
9 Complex positions 100
10 The transition to the middlegame 110
11 The bishop pair 122
12 Shutting out a piece 136
13 Playing against pieces 150
14 Principles of rook endings 162
15 Playing for traps 176
16 Castling on opposite sides 188
17 Pawn chains 200
18 Transition from the opening to the ending 214
19 Exchanging queens the transition to the ending 228
20 Outposts for knights 240
21 Having a plan 250
22 Pirc and Modern Defences 264
23 Complex positions 2 278
24 Queen endings 288
One cannot help but notice that in this volume and the others in the series; only a small amount of the material covered no more than a maximum of 20 percent is devoted to opening play. While a large majority of chess books on the market deal primarily with the first phase of the game, there can be no doubt that for those rated below the target audience of 2100 the proper approach is teaching them the fundamentals which is precisely what this series does. This means an emphasis on the middle and endgame. When the opening is covered in this volume the Pirc/Modern the emphasis is on teaching the principal ideas through the medium of well-annotated model games and not reams of analysis without prose explanation.
Like many strong Grandmasters from the former Soviet Union, Yusupov is a big believer in endgame studies and many will be found throughout the nine-volume series. They are included to illustrate key endgame ideas in a setting in which each piece or pawn plays an essential role and their potential capabilities are realized in full.
Yusupov is especially good at explaining complicated subject matter in a clear fashion that makes the material accessible without dumbing it down. He doesnt gloss over the gray areas where the position is objectively and practically better but not theoretically winning.
A case in point is the following example from chapter eight on fortresses where Black is two pawns up but still has considerable technical difficulties in realizing his advantage due to Whites vastly superior minor piece.
K. Bischoff – J. Gustafsson, Altenkirchen 2005 1.Nf3 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.b3 Bg4 4.Bb2 e6 5.h3 Bh5 6.d3 Nbd7 7.Nbd2 h6 8.Be2 c6 9.a3 Bd6 10.Ra2 Qe7 11.Qa1 00 12.g4 Bg6 13.Rg1 e5 14.h4 h5 15.gxh5 Nxh5 16.d4 e4 17.Ne5 Nhf6 18.c4 Bh5 19.Bf1 Bxe5 20.dxe5 Ng4 21.cxd5 cxd5 22.Bd4 Qxh4 23.Rg3 Rae8 24.Rc2 Ndxe5 25.Bxe5 Rxe5 26.Be2 Rg5 27.Bxg4 Rxg4 28.Nf1 Rxg3 29.Nxg3 Bg4 30.Kd2 Qh2 31.Qe1 Rc8 32.Rxc8+ Bxc8 33.Ne2 Bd7 34.Kc3 Qc7+ 35.Kb2 a5 36.a4 b5 37.axb5 Bxb5 38.Nd4 Bd7 39.Qg1 Qb6 40.Qg5 Qf6??
This move allows White to construct a secure fortress. 40 Be6 would clearly have been better, although it is still difficult to play against the good knight on d4.
41.Qxf6 gxf6 42.Kc3 Kf8 43.b4 axb4+ 44.Kxb4 Ke7 45.Kc5
Despite his advantage in material, Black cannot make any real progress on account of his damaged pawn structure.
45… Be6 46.Ne2 f5 47.Kd4 Kf6 48.Nf4 Kg5 49.Nh3+ Kg4 50.Nf4 Kf3 51.Nh5
White does not need the f2-pawn he has built a fortress. His f4-Knight has enough squares to prevent Black forcing it into zugzwang.
51… Kxf2 52.Nf4 Kf3 53.Nh5 Bc8 54.Nf4 Bb7 55.Nh5 Bc6 56.Nf4 f6 57.Ne6 Be8 58.Nf4 Bf7 59.Nh3 Kg3 60.Nf4 Kf3, ½½. White still has a square for his Knight.
The following well-known example comes from the chapter on shutting out pieces. Garry Kasparov had interesting things to say about this old classic, suggesting that if White could not have saved the position he could have at least put up considerably more resistance. Yusupov shares his own ideas about the key point in the game.
Note that his game is carefully annotated throughout by Yusupov, but this review only focuses on one position.
W. Winter – J.Capablanca, Hastings 1919 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.00 00 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.d3 Bd6 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 c5 10.Nd5 g5 11.Nxf6+ Qxf6 12.Bg3 Bg4 13.h3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Qxf3 15.gxf3 f6 16.Kg2 a5 17.a4 Kf7 18.Rh1
Kasparov also criticizes this move opening the h-file does not change the fate of the Bishop. Perhaps Winter wanted to swap off a potential weakness, the h3-pawn. But White absolutely had to try to block the queenside.18.c4!? is an interesting recommendation by Kasparov:
a) After 18 …c6 19.Rfd1 Rfb8 20.b3 b5 21.Rc3 Rb6 22.Kf1 bxc4?! 23.dxc4! Rab8 24.Ra3! (Kasparov) White in fact constructs a fortress.
Black would do better to play 22 …bxa4 23.Rxa4 Rb4 with more options on the queenside, where White has a lot of weaknesses to protect. Despite that, Kasparov is correct in his evaluation of the situation in the game every chance should be taken to try to set up a fortress.
b) Perhaps 18 Ra6!? first is better. 19.Ra3 Rb6 20.b3 Rd8 21.Rd1 Rb4 (21 …Bf8 22.Kf1) and only now does Black prepare …c6 and …b5.
By analyzing this game at several levels of complexity Yusupov makes his annotations interesting for a wide audience of players.
18 …Ke6 19.h4 Rfb8 20.hxg5 hxg5 21.b3 c6 22.Ra2 b5 23.Rha1 c4 24.axb5 cxb3 25.cxb3 Rxb5 26.Ra4 Rxb3 27.d4 Rb5 28.Rc4 Rb4 29.Rxc6 Rxd4, 0-1.
One might ask why it is necessary to have such a distinguished Grandmaster Yusupov was at one time the number three player in the world write a series of 9 books totaling over 2500 pages for less-advanced players? The answer is that he offers the rare combination of tremendous chess knowledge and the ability and desire to share it.
Chess Evolution 3: Mastery and the entire series is not a random collection of positions tossed together but carefully chosen ones that methodically build the student’s knowledge from exercise to exercise. Those who seriously apply themselves to working their way through this series will look at chess quite differently when they are finished.
Most titled players who teach chess have difficulties in grasping how difficult it is for adult players to improve. Much like learning a foreign language, chess is a game that is best learned at a young age when the brain is still a sponge and lifes responsibilities have not taken over. Adult newcomers to the game and players who have passed their peak will invariably find themselves frustrated at some point if they define their relationship to the game solely by their rating. One way they can increase and rekindle their love of the game is by learning more about it. Yusupovs series offers them the perfect way to do this.