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MACA Book Review
Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings
by: Richard Palliser, Tony Kosten, & James Vigus

Price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-85744-583-1
Format: Book 253pp.
Publisher: Everyman Chess

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

Our last review of the “Dangerous Weapons” series concerned the 2007 work by Richard Palliser and others on the Queen’s Gambit. In the meantime, other DW publications on the Nimzo Indian and Benko-Benoni have appeared and have been well received by chess players at all levels. The latest Everyman publication by IM Palliser, GM Kosten, and FM Vigus makes another nice contribution in the subtle area of flank openings. The term “flank openings” may confuse some, but I generally think of almost any non 1 d4 or 1 e4 opening with the English and Réti Systems being most prevalent. Conceptually, these weapons are designed to throw the opponent off balance by selecting a series of precise opening moves where tactics predominate. Naturally, these strategies entail more risk, but for players at or below master level in particular, such strategies can pay great dividends.

In this work, the three authors compile individual and separate articles of between ten and thirty pages in length detailing the weapon under consideration. There are twelve chapters and therefore twelve weapons under review. Without outlining every chapter, I’ll note that eight of the chapters concern English Opening positions arising from the Réti with Nf3 d5 2 c4; and the last two chapters give us ideas after 1 f4 with the final chapter being named “Beware the Polar Bear!” (I have no idea why) after 1 f4 d5 2 Nf3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2. Seven of the chapters lay out ideas for White and five do the same for Black. This provides a nice balance, with the weapons appearing as early as move three or as late as move eight.
Each chapter introduces the weapon with an oversized diagram of the starting position and an overview of what’s to come. Typically, the “main line” game follows where the dangerous weapon works to perfection or at least was successful from the opening phase. These games are annotated with references to major alternative moves. Finally, the chapters conclude with the “Looking a Little Deeper” section where the theory of the variation in question is analyzed. Each variation and chapter is separate and distinct; no attempt is made to develop a complete repertoire for either side.
There is no doubt that this series makes the study of openings more interesting and exciting. Players adopting these weapons know the premise going in and have to combine some memorization and the ability to project into murky tactical situations where “best play” may be elusive. I don’t think players can develop an entire repertoire around dangerous weapons only, but I do think there is fertile ground for pulling off quick wins and certainly the ability to strengthen your tactical skills at the earliest point in the game. The authors do an outstanding job of combining home analysis with existing theory and show us where we might look for improvements. I’m equally impressed with the editing and compilation of all the chapters as the synthesis of the three authors’ articles is consistent in terms of explanation, depth of analysis, and strikes the right balance between analysis and theory.
A couple of words of caution are in order to all prospective players of these lines. You’ll notice the stem game for each weapon is sometimes played by two obscure players of unknown strength. That same feature appears in many of the game fragments; please check the analysis before playing that big last round game! I give credit to the authors for adding lots of new material and filling in gaps where necessary. I think players from 1300 or 1400 to 2300-2400 are most likely to net the most points by using the analysis and dangerous weapons presented here. Have some fun with it!
I like this series and think players can expand their horizons by doing the work needed to make these weapons formidable in their own play. The authors have done a fine job of injecting these ideas into the mainstream of chess literature which, of course, means future generations will be better prepared for our current weapons. I have nothing but praise of the creativity and much of the original analysis that is presented here and I hope to see more of it in the future. Enjoy!
You can download an excerpt from the publisher’s website here.

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