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Back to Life: A damning review



 
 
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Old October 27th 17, 09:07 AM posted to rec.games.chess.misc
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Default Back to Life: A damning review

Two people who can come back to life. A review by Carsten Hansen from http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen15.txt.


Frankenstein-Dracula Variation in the Vienna Game by Eric
Schiller, 2000 Chess Enterprises, Figurine Algebraic Notation,
Softcover, 161pp., $9.95

With 80-90 titles to his name, Schiller is one of the most prolific
chess authors in today's book market. While there has been much
debate about the quality of the works he has in print, there is no
doubt that many people buy his books. There is no other reason
why so many publishers would have published his books in the
past.

It is not exactly a secret that Schiller has released some works that
have contained all kinds of howlers. Two of my favorites are the
cover of his book on the Janowsky Indian, which gives the moves:
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bf5 [sic] and, in one of his recent books
639 Essential Endgame Positions, where I found the following
position on page 28 (See Diagram):

White: Kc4; pawn - e3; Black: Kg4; pawn - e4.

Schiller offers us the following insights: "This is a win for White
regardless of who is on the move. 14.Kd5 Kf3; 15.Kd4 would put
Black in zugzwang immediately, but even when it is Black's turn,
defeat cannot be avoided. This maneuver is known as
triangulation. Instead of moving to a square directly, the King
makes a triangular journey (here Kc4-d4 via d5). Triangulation is
only possible for the King and the Queen, but the mighty Queen
rarely needs to make use of it. In pawn endings, it is one of the
principal weapons of combat. 13...Kg3. 13...Kf3; 14.Kd4 is the
familiar zugzwang. 14.Kd5 Kf3; 15.Kd4. (See Diagram)

The goal is reached. Black loses the pawn and the game. 14...Kg4;
16.Kxe5 Kg5; 17.Ke5 with a simple win."

For those who believe in what Schiller has to say about endgames,
I have a little tip: Good luck! As many scholastic players certainly
will be able to point out, the above endgame is drawn, no matter
who is to move. The key is another of the principal weapons of
combat, the opposition. For Schiller and his followers, here is the
key: move the King backwards! Let's try it out: 1...Kf5 2 Kd4(d5)
Kf6 3 Kxe4 Ke6, and White can't win. Similarly, if White is to
move: 1 Kd5 Kf5 2 Kd4 (the triangulation he is babbling about)
2...Kf6 3 Kxe4 Ke6, and as the dust settles, it emerges that, yes
you can open your eyes now, it's a draw. Isn't it fantastic? I could
give you another handful of examples from that same book, but I
will not waste your time.

The present book covers probably the sharpest and most
fascinating line in the Vienna Game, namely the Frankenstein-
Dracula Variation (so-named by fellow columnist Tim Harding in
one of his books in the seventies). First of all, I don't like the,
which has absolutely nothing to do with the opening, but I will not
hold Schiller responsible for that.

The first curious thing I came across was something I found even
before the Introduction. Although the book has "Copyright 2000
by Eric Schiller", it has the following acknowledgment "The
author would like to gratefully acknowledge the valuable
assistance of James V. Eade in the preparation of the analysis and
for reviewing the 1995 manuscript." A strange statement, I would
say, unless of course the manuscript for this book has been lying
around for five years, before Schiller could find someone that was
willing to publish it.

There is no Table of Contents in the book, but a brief look reveals
the following three sections: Introduction, Overview of the Theory,
& Complete Games.

The introduction starts on page three like this:
"Introduction
Let me begin with the facts, bare facts, meager facts and
figures, and of which there can be no doubt. I must not confuse the
with experiences which will have to rest on my own observation or
my memory of them. Left Munich at 8.35 pm, on 1st May, arriving
at Vienna early next morning.

"Thus begins Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is only fitting that the tale
begins with Vienna, for it is the Vienna Game that is under
discussion in this book. That opening begins
1 e4 e5
2 Nc3
[The book contains a diagram here.]
The opening is more frequently found at amateur levels of play in
modern times, but with such old stalwarts as the Four Knights
Game returning to favor [CH: that was some years ago] the Vienna
may be due for a revival. Our subject is the variation which begins
2...Nf6
3 Bc4
This is Hamppe's Variation. The first he tried it, back in 1846
against Staunton in a match, Black played 3...Bc5, which is hardly
confrontational. [CH: Hamppe didn't play a match against Staunton in
1846. However, he did play against Lowenthal in a match, where this
opening occurred!] Our attention is focused on the more aggressive
continuation:
3...Nxe4".

That was page 3, page 4 is empty, maybe left open for the student
to write his own analysis to the above moves? Who knows?!

On page 5, the introduction continues:

"The leader, with a quick movement of his rein, threw his horse out
in the front, and pointed first to the sun, now close down on the hill
tops, and then to the castle, said something which I did not
understand.

[The book contains a diagram here.]

"It took some time for Black to dare this over the board. Max
Lange, commenting on the game Rossy-Haing, Dosseldorf 1863,
simply gave 4 Bxf7+ as correct, also noting 4 Nxe4 d5. [CH: Black
in this game was not Haing, but Hoing. And the wording by Max Lange
in the 1863 October-November issue of Deuthsche Schachzeitung was:
"Auf 3 Sf6-e4:, um bei 4 Sc3-e4: sodann d7-d5 zu spielen, konnte
zunachst 4 Lc4-f7+ geschehen."] Both of
those lines have passed into oblivion. Now the most important
continuation is the violent queen sortie
4 Qh5!
which threatens to checkmate the enemy King at once.

[The book contains a diagram here.]

4...Nd6
5 Bb3 Nc6
6 Nb5

[The book contains a diagram here.]

This creates the indirect threat of Nxd6+ followed by Qxf7 mate.
[CH: This sounds pretty direct to me!]

6...g6
7 Qf3

Once more renewing the combinational threat.

[The book contains a diagram here.]

7...f5

The move 7...f6 leads to a somewhat different play, and Black
does not fare well. See Mukhin-Bronstein. [CH: This, by the way,
was written in a different font!]

Page 7 is more of the same, a couple of diagrams, three moves
from each side, a quote from Frankenstein, and a little bit of text.

I hope you get the idea, he is trying to fill the pages with minimum
effort, but I will return to that later.

Page 8 brings something interesting into the pictu

"This monograph has several goals
1) to present an historical overview of the development of the
variation and to bring the existing literature up to date

It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of
my being; all the events of that period appear confused and
indistinct. [CH: ??]

2) to further investigate a variety of unclear positions, and clean up
some past mistakes in the literature

It was almost impossible to believe that the things which we had
seen with our own eyes and heard with our own ears were living
truths. [CH: ???]

3) to make the study of the variation entertaining

4) to bring to light a number if fascinating games which have been
buried, often incomplete, in obscure literature."

I have to admit that the above sounds awfully promising.

In pursuit of first goal, Schiller mentions that he has relied on
literature that previously covered this variation; this helped him to
locate over 200 games.

About the second goal he writes: "The second goal was the most
fun to work on, sitting in the California sun with a nice set and
board and working on new ideas [CH: !]. I did use computers to
check some of the lines, but found them interestingly weak in this
task, because the horizon on many of the lines is just too far down
the road. For example, in the key line that, in my view, resurrects
the line for Black, the variation beginning on move 16 must be
worked out to move 30 before the winning line is confirmed. [CH:
I will look at that below]. That is still too deep a solution for most
microcomputers. I will confess that the machines did find more
efficient kills in a number of situations."

For the third goal, Schiller has turned to the original stories of
Dracula and Frankenstein.
He has sprinkled excerpts from these two classics throughout the
book.
I find this extremely annoying, and like the numerous unnecessary
diagrams, they only serve as fillers. The same goes for the big font
he uses to display the moves, with one line for each move. A more
efficient way of wasting pages after pages cannot be found in other
chess books.

For the remainder of the introduction, Schiller quotes a number of
books and people on the theoretical standpoint of this opening.
Then we reach Overview of the Theory. This part covers 16 pages,
which again sound reasonable for a little played opening, but in a
161-page book about a single line, it is not much at all. On top of
that when you consider that Schiller uses 17 diagrams, a large font
with one move per line and is scattering excerpts from Dracula
and Frankenstein throughout, you're down to next to nothing.

Pages 12-15 are used to reach move 10: (1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4
Nxe4 4 Qh5 Nd6 5 Nb5 g6 7 Qf3 f5 8 Qd5 Qe7 9 Nxc7+ Kd8 10
Nxa8 b6). None of the alternatives are covered in any detail,
mostly only referring to games in the games section. (See
Diagram)

Here Schiller gives eight alternatives for White to choose from.
The coverage is typical Schiller: "11 Qd3 This is not considered
dangerous, because the time taken to move the Queen to safety
allows Black to grab the Bishop. See Filip-Keller."

I don't think you can call the d3-square safe and when he wrote
that Black would grab the Bishop, he meant of course the Knight
on a8, but of course you knew that

The next six alternatives (11 a4, 11 c3, 11 d4, 11 Nf3, 11 Qf3 and
11 Nxb6) are covered with the same thoroughness.

I particularly like his comments about 11 Nxb6, which is the main
line and awarded an exclamation mark in NCO: "11 Nxb6 This is
the automatic choice by many players, but is deemed 'a poor
transaction for White' [CH: Why?] by Harding. After 11...axb6 12
Qf3 Bb7 White gets into trouble by retreating the Queen
(Chistyakov-Dzhanoyev), while after 13 d3 Black can choose
13...Bg7 (Horvath-Hardicsay) or 13...Nd4 14 Qh3 f4!, which
Konstantinopolsky & Lepeshkin claim to lead to a draw by
repetition [CH: How?]."

There is notoriously little back-up for these statements. Schiller
has apparently judged that the reader, for whom he supplies
diagrams all the time and points out simple mate threats, can work
out these lines by him- or herself. By the way, in regards to the
draw claim, NCO gives (after 14...f4) 15 c3 N4f5 16 Bd2 with a
clear edge for White.

At least Schiller found out that 11 d3 was the main line. The
coverage is still as deep as in the other lines (i.e., skin deep), but I
started my search for the line he mentioned earlier, the one that he
had worked out in the California sun, the line that was so deep that
computers could not work it out.

Well, I found it, and here it is in its entirety: moves 1-10 as above
and then: 11 d3 Bb7 12 h4 f4 13 Qf3 Nd4 14 Qg4 h5 [CH: It
doesn't appear that this move has ever been played, which of
course increases the importance of the line we are about to see!] 15
Qxg6 Rh7, and now there are two alternatives, the former is 16
Qg5, which K&L evaluates as better for White:

A) 16 Qg5 Rg7 17 Qxe7 Bxe7 18 c3 Bxg2 19 Rh2 Bxa8 20 cxd4
Rxg1+, and Black has a strong initiative for the exchange.

B) 16 Nxb6 axb6 17 Rh2 Rg7 18 Qxh5 Bxg2 19 c3 Be4 20 cxd4
Rxg1+ 21 Kd2 Nf5! 22 dxe4 Qb4+ 23 Kc2 Nxd4+ 24 Kd3 Nxb3
25 Qxe5 Bg7 26 Qc7+ Kxc7 27 Bxf4+ Ke5 28 Bxe5+ Kc6 29
Rxg1 Qd2+ 30 Kc4 Na5#

In line A, 20 cxd4 is of course a major blunder, 20 Kf1 should
defend, e.g. 20...Rxg1+ 21 Kxg1 Nf3+ 22 Kg2 Nxh2 23 Kxh2,
with a complicated game, but White doesn't appear to be losing.

Line B is pathetic too, after 21...Nf5 White is losing, which my
computer, without difficulty, saw in a few seconds. By the way,
after move 20, in his comments, Schiller claims that this opening is
"an excellent choice against computer opponents!". The reason
should be that they cannot calculate the position after move 16 all
the way to move 30. Mr. Schiller, I would be surprised if you
could, given that they cannot. This, by the way, is the only lengthy
analysis by Schiller in the entire book, so he probably didn't get a
sunburn when he was working it out.

The theory chapter ends with 13...Bh6 (deviating from above) 14
Bd2 ... and "well, if you do find games or ideas I have overlooked,
I appreciate hearing from you."

The Complete Games Section is probably the biggest joke in the
book. The collection is supposed to be complete, but with only 206
games (they are not numbered, so I had to count them, I hope I got
it right, and by the way, one of them is there twice, with a different
diagrammed position in both games!), this is hardly a "collection".
In my own databases, which consists of Megabase 2000, Mega-
Corr (an excellent correspondance and e-mail game collection
from Chess Mail) and the TWIC updates, I found over 300 games
with the position after 4 Qh5, while Schiller in his collection also
covers 4th move alternatives like 4 Bxf7+ and 4 Nxe4. On the
internet I found well over 300 games on Chesslab.com and on
Encyclopaedia on Chess Openings on the internet I found over 850
games, although some were games between computers.

You may ask yourself if the games that he missed are of great
importance and if they involve stronger players. I can give you
some of the names, and you can decide for yourself. I will start
with the correspondance players: Wibe (IM and probably one of
the leading authorities on this opening), van Oosterom (one of the
world's strongest CC players, and also the man behind the Amber
tournaments in Monaco and Women vs Veterans), Timmerman
(one of the highest rated CC players in the world) Ekebjerg (#2 in
the last CC-Wch) to mention but a few. OTB players: B. Lalic,
Sulskis, Szmetan, Bezgodov, Lengyel, Chabanon, Czerwonski, I.
Rogers, Shirov, Basagic, Solomon, Hector, Parker, Gdanski,
Raetsky, Shabalov, Hawelko, Koch, and the list goes on.

By the way, only 8-10 of the games in Schiller's collection were
dated after 1990, while I had over 100 in my base (before going on
the internet). This is simply inexcusably poor research, but with
the standard of the book already below zero, it should not come as
a surprise. The games section, by the way, takes up pages 29-161!
Amazing. Another count reveals that 104 of the games are without
any annotations (the excerpts from Dracula and Frankenstein don't
count as annotations), 52 games are with text annotations only
(lines of two moves or less are included in this count) and finally
50 games are annotated with some analysis.

Of the 102 games that are annotated, many, and by this I mean the
majority, only have one or two comments.

I will draw your attention to the following game, that can be found
on page 99; the annotations are by Schiller:
Mieses-Unknown, Liverpool (simul) 1900
1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Nxe4 4 Qh5 Nd6 5 Bb3 Be7 6 d3 0-0?!
6...Nc6 is correct. See Jaffe-Alekhine. 7 Nf3 Nc6 8 Ng5! h6 9 h4!
Ne8? 9...Nd4 was necessary. Mieses now demonstrates a nice
combinational motif which recurs in Gufeld-Tarve. 10 Nd5 [Here
thre is a diagram- CH] 10...Nf6 11 Qg6! fxg6 12 Nxe7+ Kh8 13
Nxg6# 1-0.

Nice finish, I would say. But the rest of the game is of more
questionable quality. Let's see: 6...0-0 - Schiller gives this move
'?!', and while it is weaker than 6...Nc6, it is nothing next to what
happens later in the game.
7 Nf3 - this move deserves a '?', because he could win his pawn
back and doesn't, and now is worse off.
8 Ng5! - I hate to say it, but 8 Nxe5 winning back the pawn is just
as good.
9 h4! - This, however, is a big mistake - see next note.
9...Ne8? - '??' is what the move deserves. Not only was 9...Nd4
necessary, it was clearly better for Black. For that same reason,
White should have played 9 Nce4 with some compensation for the
pawn.
10 Nd5 - Well, Schiller didn't give it an '!'. In fact, it is another
blunder on White's part. I'm sure that Mieses by now had noticed
Black's lacking potential as a chess player. Otherwise, I'm sure he
would played the fairly obvious 10 Nxf7 which pretty much wins
on the spot. But Schiller obviously didn't see that.
10...Nf6 - A giant blunder, which allows White to finish the game.
Correct was 10...Nd4, after which it is doubtful if White can keep
the balance.
11 Qg6! This is actually not White's best. White wins after 11
Nxf6+ Bxf6 12 Bxf7+.
11...fxg6 - Another example of Black's failing abilities, 11...Kh8!,
after which White should continue with 12 Nxf7+ Rxf7 13 Qxf7
Nxd5 14 Qxd5, and White has big advantage.

Given the complicated nature of the game and the high level on
which the game was played, it is understandable, that Schiller
could overlook the few defensive resources for Black, who's play
otherwise was immaculate.

A final comment about the game section is that there is no index,
so instead of arranging the games by lines, Schiller has arranged
the games in alphabetical order. A novel concept.

It should be obvious to everyone that none of the goals that
Schiller was achieved.

I have seen thousands of chess books over the years, but this book
is by far THE WORST BOOK I HAVE EVER SEEN. I don't have
any words to express the degree of disgust I feel. It is sad that
anybody is willing to put their name on such trash, but for some
people it is only a matter of getting paid; they are willing to do
anything for money.

I don't feel sorry for the publisher of this book (or for that matter
those who otherwise also publish Schiller's books), because he
should know better. Therefore I will ask you to do me the favor of
not supporting this particular author by buying this piece of
rubbish.

My assessment of the book: (no stars)
 




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