12/03/2008 20:27

Devious Chess



Amatzia Avni


When I opened the parcel containing this book and saw the title, I thought, "This is marvellous.   A major inhibition affecting my play are the rules, and if they can be legitimately circumvented my results will improve by leaps and bounds."

I had visions of the modern version of Ruy Lopez' (or was it?) advise to always seat ones opponent facing the sun.  Again, I was going to be taught the particular sleight of hand that enabled Michael Stoop in the following position against Reg Cox at the  3rd Royal Beacon Seniors Congress, to uncork the magnificent 36. ...Ne8? without being detected. 


I had also heard instances of players sacrificing the exchange and then use a rook from an adjacent board to castle.  There was bound to be some instructions on the mis-use of clocks and how to upset one's opponent.  I had experience of the latter when my opponent at the last Paignton Congress played five moves,  opened a haversack and proceeded to have a picnic whilst sat at the board!  The pieces of shell from boiled eggs made it rather difficult to decide which squares were white and which were black and a piece of ham stuck to the bottom of my knight made it rather difficult to move and remain upright when released on the square of my choice.  The sound of a waterfall from seemingly endless bottles of water did not help my concentration.

Eagerly, I opened the book and sought this type of advise.  A quick scan persuaded me that I was going to be disappointed.  This was a serious book (well almost) that looked for the unusual and then assembled the unusual into themes to demonstrate how effective such play could be.  This was rather counter to the title as, if there are many examples of typical unusual play, then unusual moves become the norm.  However, setting aside this quibble, "Devious Chess" is a very entertaining read.

The author is an Israeli psychologist and also a FIDE Master and has in fact written a number of books on chess psychology, including "Practical Chess Psychology" also a Batsford publication.   To develop the theme of this book, he uses an Introduction, four parts and eleven chapters entitled:

Part One: The nature of 'Devious Chess'

Chapter One: Virgin Soil

Chapter Two: Raising the tension

Chapter Three: Coffeehouse Chess

Chapter Four: Not so Elementary, My Dear Watson.

Chapter Five: Peculiar Moves

Part 2: Principled Issues Concerning 'Devious Chess.'

Chapter Six:  Twists and Turns

Chapter Seven:  The Trap vs Blunder Dilemma

Chapter Eight:  Methods of Conducting 'Devious Chess'

Chapter Nine: Confronting 'Devious chess'

Part 3: Illustrative Games

Part 4: Assessment and Practical Tips

Chapter Ten: Evaluating 'Devious Chess"

Chapter Eleven: Becoming an Unconventional Player.  

In the main section of the book there are complete games and extracts intermingled with puzzles the solutions to which are at the end of the book.  A particular feature of these examples are that Avni does not fully annotate all the moves but concentrates on the particular move(s) that illustrate the point he is making.

The extracts that follow have been preceded by a note of the chapter in which they appear.  Many of the games do not appear in any database that I have and this demonstrates the diligent research that has been untaken by the author.

In addition to the games included in Parts 1 and 2, there are a further 15 given in Part 3.  These are annotated to a greater depth than the preceding games.

Chapter Ten contains a paragraph that explains the concept of "devious chess.":

    "Regular chess is anchored on clearly defined principles, leans on a theoretical body of research.  "Devious" chess is bizarre, risky, unstable, does not always pass the soundness test." 

Having pondered this philosophical statement I still have problems sorting "devious" chess from the norm.  However, this problem has not prevented me enjoying the book.  In the main I enjoyed the simple annotations, but at times a slightly deeper examination would have been more instructive.

This book is placed in the "Strategy/Tactics" category of the Batsford series of books for all chess players.

Batsford have applied their normal impeccable publishing techniques and this volume of 144 pages at a normal price of 14:99 is a good buy. 



Chapter One

Virgin Soil

A prominent characteristic of 'devious chess' is to seek new, hitherto unexplored lands.  Avoiding well-trodden paths from the very first moves often leads to juicy, freakish positions.  There are are more chances of finding (chess) life in far-away uninhabited jungles than in nearby metropolitan environments.

 Tal - Panno [C92]
Interzonal, Portoroz Leningrad, 1958
[Amatzia Avni]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nd7 10.d4 Nb6 11.Be3 exd4 12.cxd4 Na5 13.Bc2 c5
A standard Ruy Lopez position. However, Tal now navigates the game towards sharp, uncharted waters.

14.e5!? dxe5 15.Nxe5 Nbc4 16.Qd3 f5 17.Bb3 f4 18.Bd2 Nxb3 19.Nc6!?
The same 19.Qxb3 Qd5 is better for Black; so White heads for an unbalanced fantastic position, illustrated in the following diagram.

19...Nxa1 20.Nxd8 Bf5 21.Qf3 Raxd8 22.Rxe7 Bxb1

23.Bxf4 Rxd4 24.Qg4 Bg6 25.Qe6+ Bf7 26.Qf5 Nc2 27.b3 Bg6?
27...Rd1+ 28.Kh2 Nd2! 29.Bxd2 (29.Qxc2? Nf1+ 30.Kg1 Ne3+ ) 29...Rxd2 is correct. when Black holds the edge.

28.Rxg7+ Kxg7 29.Bh6+ Kxh6 30.Qxf8+ Kg5 31.bxc4 bxc4 32.g3 Be4 33.h4+ Kg4 34.Kh2 Bf5 35.Qf6! h6 36.Qe5 Re4 37.Qg7+ Kf3 38.Qc3+ Ne3
38...Kxf2 39.Qxc2+ Kf1 is about equal.

39.Kg1 Bg4 40.fxe3 h5 41.Qe1 Rxe3?
A decisive mistake. 41...Re6! still keeps the balance.

42.Qf1+ Ke4 43.Qxc4+ Kf3 44.Qf1+ Ke4 45.Qxa6 Kd4 46.Qd6+ Kc4 47.a4 Re1+ 48.Kf2 Re2+ 49.Kf1 Ra2 50.Qa6+ Kd4 51.a5
White comes first in the mutual pawn-race.

51...c4 52.Qb6+ Kd5 53.a6 Ra1+ 54.Kf2 c3 55.a7 c2 56.Qb3+ Kd6 57.Qd3+
After 57..... Ke6 58.Qxc2 Rxa7 59.Qe4+ the rook falls. A fabulous fight, in which, it seems, both players sought victory at all costs. 1-0