Modern Defence — Move by Move

Cyrus Lakdawala

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
400 pages

A few years ago Everyman Chess started its move-by-move series in which the author seeks to replicate an individual one on one lesson by engaging the reader with a question and answer format. One writer who has adapted well to this new way of doing things is Cyrus Lakdawala. His latest book, The Modern Defence: move by move shows why the San Diego based International Master is well-suited to this: he has 30 years of teaching experience, communicates well and knows his material.

The Modern Defense offers a select group of lines against 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 using 55 heavily annotated games. The majority of the book (287 pages) covers 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 with Black adopting setups with an early …a6 (typically on move 4). This includes the ambitious 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 a6 intending …b5, …Nd7 and …c5 where Black seeks to transpose into favorable Dragon and Benoni positions.

This sequence works surprisingly well against many White formations but as Walter Browne showed forty years ago, and as Lakdawala acknowledges on pages 267-268, after 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Be2 White has move-ordered Black into a Pirc as 4…a6 5.c4! vividly illustrates one of the advantages of not blocking the c-pawn until required to do so. Also an attempt to use pieces to attack d4 with …Bg4 and …Nc6 is well met by moves like Nbd2 and c3. The saving grace for Black in this move order is that the Classical Variation is not White’s most testing line against the Pirc. The author recommends 4…Nf6 5.Nc3 0-0 6.0-0 c6.

Most of the remainder of the book is devoted to 1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 e5 with particular emphasis spent on lines where White trades queens and Black loses the castling privilege – 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 – but the second player has a trump in his better pawn structure and a potential grip on the d4 square. Lakdawala, a noted London System champion, points out that 1.d4 g6 2.Nf3 Bg7 3.Bf4 is not a good move order as Black is ably to play …e5 straightaway after …Nd7 as he benefits from not having developed his king knight yet.

Last but not least The Modern Defence covers the English and 1.Nf3 where the flexibility of 1…g6 comes into play as Black is able to adopt aggressive reversed Closed Sicilian formations.

This book is a good guide for players rated between 1800 and 2300 who want to play 1…g6.