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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

At the used bookstore 07/23/2018

410qc9jcfhl-_sx326_bo1204203200_When the chess shelves in a used bookstore are replenished, it’s usually a sad indication of a retired player’s poor choice in literature. Opening books abound, because almost every inexpert player goes through the  useless “I’d be a better player if I could just learn the openings” phase.

Sometimes there are a few middlegame books, as though the player figured if his openings knowledge was flawless, he had a middlegame to muddle through. (If chess players took this to its logical conclusion, then endgame study is the best way to go, because the endgame is inevitable, given you can’t put pieces back on the board to return to your openings memorization).

Occasionally there are games collections by players whose games are way out of reach of the typical club -level player.  Tal and Alekhine are favorites of these players who sell their libraries because they never get anywhere (unlike the students of Morphy).

An openings book caught my attention today:”The Soltis Variation of the Yugoslav Attack”, by Steve Mayer (he doesn’t know who I am, either), published in 1995 by the fine folks at Hypermodern Press (hi, Jim).

The title doesn’t mention the trunk with the Yugoslav Attack  branch. The book assumes that anyone picking it up knows the Yugoslav Attack as the anti-Sicilian Dragon line, with which Fischer said weak players beat grandmasters . That might have been the dumbest thing Fischer said in 60 Memorable Games.

It was the  first line in the introduction that struck me as charming . Either the author Mayer or guest IM Jon Mestel (some ‘M’ name, I sort of recall) said the Soltis Variation of the Yugoslav Attack has achieved a form of openings greatness, since Soltis’ 12…h5 was once ridiculed as a  unnecessary weakening of Black’s kingside, but over time the move gained more and more respectability until it evolved into a main move (a main move deserving 300 pages of encyclopedic coverage! — the book is 23 years old, which is an eternity in openings theory; I wonder how many of those 300 pages are still valid).

The Soltis Variation is established as a weakening move that’s a good idea, like Igor Boleslavsky’s d6-e5 hole in other Sicilian variations (these dramatic self-weakening moves that turn out to be pretty good are wholly unnecessary if Black smartly goes 1…e5 or 1…e6).The Boleslavsky Hole is  unique in chess theory as a weakness with someone’s name on it. Boleslavsky was one of the top five players in the world at the turn of the 1950s, but we remember him for a giant positional flaw. Weird.

Let’s do the same for Soltis’ move. Let’s name 12…h5 (loosening g6, h6, and h7) the Soltis Scar or Soltis Stain or Soltis Self-Mutilation.  I’d hope grandmaster Soltis, whose credentials as a player-and-journalist are up there with M. Tal and R. Byrne, would chuckle.

Categories chess media

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