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MACA Book Review
How to Beat the French Defence: The Essential Guide to the Tarrasch How to Beat the French Defence: The Essential Guide to the Tarrasch
by: Andreas Tzermiadianos

Price: $25.95
ISBN: 978-1-85744-567-1
Format: Book 320pp.
Publisher: Everyman Chess

Reviewed by: Life Master and FIDE Trainer Lou Mercuri
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Every author seeks to make a big splash with their first standalone book. International Master Andreas Tzermiadianos (AT) of Greece provides us with insights into a white opening repertoire against the French Defense using the Tarrasch Variation. This effort is the first strong push towards this early Karpov favorite in a number of years. In recent times, top Grandmasters have focused their attention on 3 Nc3 and 3 e5 as the main weapons against the always solid French. AT’s approach is often innovative and covers the critical lines in enough detail for players of many ability levels He reinforces these points through a careful strategic explanation of the opening.

Everyman Chess Publications has generally stayed away from publishing one volume, one opening repertoire books in favor of their “Starting Out” opening series. In this book, AT tackles 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 in 22 chapters using branches of variations to delineate the chapters and further includes about 50 annotated illustrative games sprinkled in at the end of the chapters. Approximately 2/3 of the book covers the specifics of variations and the remaining 1/3 includes detailed descriptions and explanations of how the examples model “best play” and how the strategic ideas fit together. The first 40 pages cover general middle game strategy, typical end games and a nice 3-page summary in Chapter One called “How we Work in the Opening” appears purposeful for the study of all openings. Many players will find the explanations most helpful, others will be impressed with the specific recommendations at critical points in theory.

Preparing to play white in the Tarrasch Variation involves mastering a strategic understanding of at least three general types of positions. There are big differences between the closed center positions with white pawns on e5 and d4 and black pawns on e6 and d5; isolated queen pawn positions 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 c5 4 Ngf3 Nc6 5 exd5 exd5 and eventually dxc5 by white and active piece play positions characterized by an early capture on e4 by black or where black recaptures on d5 with his queen such as after 3 Nd2 c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 exd5 Qxd5. All of the critical variations are shaped by the resulting pawn structures and AT focuses throughout on the role of different structures and how they are an “indispensable way to improve your understanding of chess strategy” from page 7. He carefully notes subtle differences in how the positions can be handled by both players which in turn strengthens our understanding of both this variation and a wide range of positions arising from a host of openings. AT highlights these points using italics and the reader will want to pay special attention to these references.

The consulted sources are up to date and the variations are selected by modern relevance and frequency. There is a nice balance in explanation on the more strategic 3…c5 variation vs. the more tactical 3…Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 branch where additional variations are presented. I appreciated the author using all of 22 chapters to break down the variation into manageable chunks as some lines tend to blend together. At 320 pages, the book sounds long, but the larger type face allows the reader to move through the material quickly. Recent opening books like to focus on introductions and conclusions to chapters and I find that approach useful. These elements are not included here and therefore the reader will have to study the meat of each chapter to determine where the crucial turning points are. This might be a minor complaint to some readers and in other ways the detailed move by move index in the back compensates for this shortcoming.

There are numerous points for the theoretician to consider. AT goes into considerable depth in the main line after 3 Nd2 c5 4 Ngf3 cxd4 5 exd5 Qxd5 6 Bc4 Qd6 7 O-O Nf6 8 Nb3 Nc6 9 Nbxd4 Nxd4 10 Nxd4 a6 11 Re1 Qc7 12 Qe2!? Bd6 13 Bg5 O-O 14 Bd3! and shows that black has a narrow path to thread. Just a few years ago 12 Qe2 was considered harmless and the move 14 Bd3! injects a lot of life into white’s position as AT demonstrates.

Overall, this book on the often less than exciting Tarrasch Variation revives interest and creates new opportunities for players of the white pieces. The strategic explanations alone are worth the price of the book and the analysis hits the mark for players of all levels. I welcome more publications from Tzermiadianos as he has the ability to bring together strategic understanding and tactical depth in the presentation of opening study. (Highly Recommended)

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