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MACA Book Review
Chess Explained: The Main Line Slav Chess Explained: The Main Line Slav
by: David Vigorito

Price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-906454-05-0
Format: Book 112pp.
Publisher: Gambit Publications

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

This work focuses on an opening variation that gives Black real winning chances against 1 d4. The Main Line Slav (1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Nc3 dc4) has become incredibly popular at all levels of play and its flexibility assures continued tests at the top levels. As local International Master David Vigorito points out it is a bit unusual to see so many high caliber players adopting both sides of the Main Line Slav, including world champions Kramnik, Anand, Kasparov, and Topalov in recent times. Just go back to the infamous Topalov-Kramnik World Championship Match in Elista 2006 where the Main Line Slav was played on three occasions and both players showed great respect for the line by playing an early e3 in a number of games to steer the game into quieter channel. 

Vigorito has tried to break down the complexities of this opening into manageable chunks of information. He has done this in traditional “Chess Explained” style by annotating twenty-five games with particular emphasis on alternatives for both sides in the opening phase. The reader needs to keep in mind that the opening phase often stretches out to move twenty with a combination of complex strategic and specific tactical ideas. All of the model games originate from 2001 to 2007 and are high-level grandmaster encounters. The material is nicely divided between seven chapters of twelve to twenty-one pages in length. Essentially, Black must be prepared for the Dutch Variation (4…dc4 5 a4 Bf5 6 e3 e6 7 Bc4 Bb4 8 O-O O-O) and either 9 Qe2 or 9 Nh4 from Chapters 1 and 2, or the Central Variation with 6 Ne5 (instead of 6 e3) in chapters 3-5 or where white avoids 5 a4 and opts for either of 5 e3 or 5 e4 as discussed in chapter 7. For those players seeking an alternative to 5…Bf5, Vigorito includes chapter 6 on the Bronstein and Smyslov Variations with 5…Bg4 and 5…Na6 respectively. For players of mid-level strength (say 1400-2000), there is a strong likelihood that you will reach familiar variations as black since white’s options in the first ten moves are fairly limited. Of course, white players may feel equally satisfied in facing the black alternatives. 

There are two features of this book that I particularly liked. First, I believe Vigorito is among the first authors to investigate the 4…dc4 variation in a single volume and indeed his bibliography and my chess library seem to confirm this. Graham Burgess’s 2001 Gambit Publication, “The Slav” goes further by covering the exchange variation and other earlier alternatives for both players, but with less explanation. It is long overdue that one title covers the 4…dc4 Slav in the depth it deserves as Vigorito has done here. Second, I applaud Vigorito for what he was able to achieve – a compilation of the most important ideas and variations without overwhelming the reader with the massive amount of theory that has developed on this line in the last ten years. Since we typically don’t know why certain game fragments or illustrative examples were not chosen, we must rely on the discretion of the author to pick out the most relevant material and present it to us. My research shows that the author has used excellent judgment in this area and that the specific games and variations are consistent with what Slav players need to be prepared for. The explanations are thoughtful and create opportunities for both players to dig deeper in the search for the best moves. All of this is reinforced by the pithy chapter introductions and conclusions where a quick synopsis of the variations proves quite useful. 

I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I’d certainly encourage David to author a companion volume on a black repertoire against lines where white bypasses the Main Line Slav and opts for the Exchange Variation or an early e3 or similar lines. 

The only difficulty I see in this publication is the $24.95 price tag for a mere 112 pages. This cost is consistent with other Gambit “Chess Explained” volumes, but the quality of the work and the amount of original explanations and material seem to justify it. 

Overall, David Vigorito has authored a fine opening monograph and we look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Download a PDF file with a sample from the book.

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