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MACA Book Review
The Black Lion: The Chess Predator’s Choice Against Both 1.e4 and 1.d4 The Black Lion: The Chess Predator’s Choice Against Both 1.e4 and 1.d4
by: Leo Jansen & Jerry van Rekom

Price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-90-5691-257-4
Format: Book 280pp.
Publisher: New In Chess

Reviewed by: Chess Horizons Editor Mark Donlan
Recommendation: Recommended

Were this book titled “Play the Hanham Philidor” it would likely hold a lot less allure than does “The Black Lion.” Yet, it deserves serious recognition. The book presents a repertoire for Black that can be played against either 1.e4 or 1.d4, using the move order …d6, …Nf6, …Nbd7 and …e5. The Hanham variation of the Philidor goes 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nbd7. However, by withholding …e5, Black can avoid such openings as the King’s Gambit, Bishop’s Opening, etc.

The opening has a remarkable pedigree in that it was developed by two strong Dutch club players who wrote a book about it in 1997. This original work soon attracted a following and it was twice reprinted in Dutch, with the third Dutch edition being translated into English in 2001. Thus, this is a fully revised and updated second English edition.
In this edition the author’s do not discuss the “genuine” Philidor move order but restrict themselves “to genuine Lion variations about which next to nothing is to be found elsewhere.” They note that the popularity of the opening has allowed them to utilize more examples from grandmaster games and that they have subsequently raised the level of analysis “to make it still easier for adherents to fathom the system.”
There are five main theoretical chapters in the book and each includes an introduction by a renowned chess player. For instance, GM Jan Timman writes that he faced the Lion on several occasions during simultaneous exhibitions “and didn’t have an easy time of it.” He notes that “its strong point is that Black’s play is easier because he has a clearly outlined strategy. Its weak point is that Black does not immediately start a fight for the centre.” Meanwhile, IM Johan van Mil calls it “a universal opening that is applicable for everyone.”
The book is also unique in that all the diagrams are given from Black’s point of view. It is possible that the Lion is most effective against 1.d4 (or even 1.c4) because d4 players are less likely to be familiar with Philidor structures. Yet, the chapters all follow the move-order 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3. A King’s Indian set-up for White, with pawns on e4, d5, and c4, is only given one example in the introductory chapter. This should have been explored to a greater degree. Still, in this day and age, when every opening book professes an easy-to-play universal repertoire, this is one book that delivers on its promise.

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