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MACA Book Review
Fighting the Anti-King’s Indians Fighting the Anti-King’s Indians
by: Yelena Dembo

Price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-85744-575-6
Format: Book 206pp.
Publisher: Everyman Chess

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

King’s Indian Defense players are often a breed apart in that they consistently stick with their opening against 1 d4 even when theoreticians warn them of the dangers and the practical results are not always encouraging. Still, the kingside fianchetto and all of the associated theory has made many players of the white pieces opt out of Black’s most desired setup. The Greek international master Yelena Dembo takes up a topic that is visited in book form every few years, the most notable of which was “Beating the King’s Indians” by GM Joe Gallagher from Batsford in 1996. All of the leading culprits are covered here: the Veresov, the Trompowsky, London System, Barry Attack, and the Colle System to name a few. From White’s perspective, the name of the game is to avoid King’s Indian theory and to send the game into channels that are better known to the player of the white pieces. Developing a repertoire against each of these alternatives can be tackled piecemeal; however, Dembo solves the problem in one volume where Black seeks to throw White off balance rather than the other way around.

The trademark larger, easy-to-read print of Everyman publications is in play here and each of the twelve chapters constitutes a different white system where Dembo presents a remedy. Each chapter is distinctive in that transpositions to other sections are infrequent although readers need to be aware that White may avoid both d4 and c4 early on but may eventually push both pawns forward and a King’s Indian is reached. There are brief chapter introductions and summaries/conclusions that are short and not overly helpful. In addition, the index in the rear of the book is skimpy and leaves gaps in the repertoire. The format uses specific variations (mainly White alternatives) rather than model games to illustrate the best play for both sides. The material is not dense and many of the variations tend to be more of an outline rather than a detailed presentation of alternative methods for White.
As a bonus, Grünfeld Defense ( …g6 and … d5) players can benefit a bit from Chapters 8 and 11 where Dembo covers the white kingside fianchetto in which White doesn’t play c4 and also in Chapter 11 where White opts for the c4, Nf3 and Nc3, an English-like setup. These are highly positional methods for White, but again the recommendations for Black against these alternatives are on the solid side, but without much bite. King’s Indian players are provided with a …d6 repertoire against the London, Torre, and kingside fianchetto, and can be satisfied with active play in all of the suggested lines.
Caution is thrown to the winds in the section on the Trompowsky covered in Chapter 1. The “Tromp” has claimed many a victim in recent years and after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Black must make an important decision – play cautiously and allow White a potential nagging edge or try to unbalance with unclear consequences. Dembo suggests the latter by playing 2 …c5!? 3 d5 (most dangerous) Qb6 4 Nc3 Qb2 5 Bd2 Qb6 6 e4 e5!. Here you will find the most detailed analysis of any chapter in the book, but this section may not suit players who prefer to offer a pawn rather than grabbing one. From a stylistic standpoint, this variation is quite sharp and it would have been ideal if Dembo had considered offering a second more sedate option when facing the Trompowsky. Perhaps space considerations were in play, but with just 206 pages to this volume, this section and a more expansive index and chapter summaries would have bolstered the material.
I like this book and find her recommendations to be completely satisfactory for Black. The explanations are detailed and you get the sense that these offbeat systems (although more popular of late) do not challenge Black’s king side fianchetto. It is high time that King’s Indian, and to a lesser extent Grünfeld Defense players find adequate coverage of the anti-King’s Indian systems in the literature. Dembo’s book is recommended, the smaller criticisms notwithstanding.

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