CBM 194 Review: How to remain sane

by Nagesh Havanur
4/13/2020 – ChessBase offers a window to the world of professional chess. The current issue offers a bird’s eye view of three major events, Jerusalem Grand Prix, London Grand Chess Tour and Wijk aan Zee 2020, including 1249 games, 11 opening surveys, demo lectures and exercises for training. Games annotated by Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Romain Edouard, David Navara, Alireza Firouzja, Anish Giri, Wesley So, Igor Stohl, Jorden van Foreest and Peter Heine Nielsen, to mention a few. PROF. NAGESH HAVANUR takes a look. | Photo: Alina l'Ami

ChessBase Magazine 194 ChessBase Magazine 194

Tata Steel 2020 with analyses by Giri, Firouzja, So, Duda, Navara, Van Foreest and many more. Videos by Daniel King, Mihail Marin and Simon Williams. 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas and training sessions in strategy, tactics and endgame!


“I am under house arrest!”

The phone rang. It was my friend Max.

“I am under house arrest!”, he complained. “My daughter is not letting me out.”

“Good for you”, I said. “And for everyone else.”

“You are also on her side. Why can’t you come?”

“I can…if she allows me.”

“She will. Get me something to read, will you?” 


I stay nearby and it’s a quiet place with few people around. My friend’s daughter looked relieved when she saw me. Chess would keep her dad occupied. Ever since the pandemic hit the world, his generous heart has thought of nothing but help. Left to himself, he would have rushed to join a relief effort, never mind that he is past seventy. 

“They also serve who stand and wait.”(1) I assured him. “Some day our turn will come and then we can also help. Meanwhile give your heart some rest.”

He didn’t believe me, “They think I am too old to help, and I am not. What to do? Any way, what have you got for me?”

I pulled out the recent issue of ChessBase Magazine and soon we were transported to a world that was still real weeks before. Among others, this issue carries games from Jerusalem Grand Prix, 11th London Chess Classic and Wijk aan Zee Tournaments.

A battle of generations

We started with games from the Jerusalem Grand Prix in this issue. As is known, this 
was the last in the series to determine places in the Candidates’ Tournament.  It was a strong field that included Vachier-Lagrave, Nepomniachtchi, Gelfand, Wei Yi and Karjakin, among others.

Ian Nepomniachtchi came first, beating Wei Yi 1½:½ in the last round. I was curious to see how he got past Gelfand — an experienced campaigner — in the first round. In this issue. Igor Stohl annotates his fighting draw with Boris, who dominated the position from the word go. I would like to draw the attention of readers to one more game, the last of the mini-match, when Gelfand was trailing by one point and it was imperative for him to win.


Boris Gelfand, Ian Nepomniachtchi

Nepomniachtchi went on to win the fourth stage of the Grand Prix — he knocked out Gelfand in round one | Photo: Niki Riga

Reti would have been pleased

Richard RetiThe 11th London Chess Classic was held as the final stage of the Grand Chess Tour. Ding Liren beat Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final, World Champion Magnus Carlsen finished third by beating Levon Aronian. Now that bald summary can hardly do justice to the battles of this tournament.

Perhaps readers should look up the news stories once again to see how the drama unfolded before the spectators.

In this issue, Romain Edouard annotated quite a few encounters from the event. Here we shall see the last of these games, Ding Liren versus Vachier-Lagrave. For the sake of completeness, I have also checked commentaries by others, not to mention annotations by Ding Liren himself.

A model game that would have pleased Reti! [Pictured]


Ding Liren, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

Ding Liren won the 2020 Grand Chess Tour after beating ‘MVL’ in the final of the London Chess Classic | Photo: Lennart Ootes / Grand Chess Tour

Caruana calls it a miracle!

The Wijk aan Zee Tournament was the most prestigious among them all, with the participation of Magnus Carlsen. As is known, Caruana won the event with a score of 10/13, two points ahead of Magnus, who finished with 8/13. The World Champion was bogged down by some tough draws.

Here, young Duda analyses Caruana's game with Carlsen, and you will see how both players were courting danger throughout in their quest for victory. Magnus had his way with another young player, Alireza Firouzja, and with a touch of jujitsu brought him down. The game would have delighted Aron Nimzowitsch, the apostle of Hypermodern chess. In this issue it is annotated by Peter Heine Nielsen. My own favourite is the eighth-round battle between Caruana and Anand. 


Fabiano called his victory a miracle

Anand took great risks in this tournament and suffered another defeat in the hands of Wesley So in a sharp battle. The latter has annotated the game in this issue. 

This brings me to the rest of the DVD. Apart from standard features on middlegame tactics, endgame play and training this issue has as many as 11 opening surveys ranging from the Caro-Kann to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Among them, I would single out the articles on Two Knights’ Defence and the Anti-Marshall Variation in the Spanish.

In this second part of the series(2) on the Two knights’ Defence, Renato Quntiliano deals with the Main Line and indeed it is up to date. However, I would have liked to see his own annotations to the following classic instead of citing analysis by others. 

The Bohemian Caesar speaks

Both Steinitz and Chigorin were passionate seekers of truth and fought whole World Championship matches on principled positions. The Two Knights’ Defence was a major battleground between these two legendary players. The following game was a turning point between those matches, and for a change we are going to see it through the eyes of the loser.(3)


Admittedly, engines today would see it all differently. But then let us remember those wise words of Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Wilhelm Steinitz, Mikhail Chigorin

Mikhail Chigorin, from Saint Petersburg, and Wilhelm Steinitz, from New York, conducted a telegraph match from October 23, 1890 to April 28, 1891

The Anti-Marshall under attack 

The second opening survey that interested me was on the line 8.a4 d5!? in the Ruy Lopez, analysed by Krisztian Szabo with inputs from Simon Williams. For a moment you begin to wonder if it works for Black, then White has to look for other lines in this opening. However, there are some drastic remedies here as shown in the sideline below. I have kept it simple for readers not familiar with current theory.


For now, the Anti-Marshall has survived.

Apart from these surveys, there are regular sections on opening traps, middlegame tactics and endings. There is much else in this DVD that deserves to be explored. The main database of the issue has 1249 recent games, of which 30 are deeply annotated. Apart from the GMs I have already mentioned, the commentators include Anish Giri, David Navara and Igor Stohl. A major contribution is made by Romain Edouard, who has annotated 11 games. It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the sections on opening theory and training.


ChessBase Magazine 194

Tata Steel 2020 with analyses by Giri, Firouzja, So, Duda, Navara, Van Foreest and many more. Videos by Daniel King, Mihail Marin and Simon Williams. 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas and training sessions in strategy, tactics and endgame!


(1) Readers of course know the line, “They also serve who stand and wait.”  It’s from John Milton’s poem “On his blindness”. 
(2) The first part of the series in CBM 194 dealt with the Traxler Counterattack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 !?).
(3) The annotations to the Steinitz-Chigorin 1890 Cable Match are taken from the International Chess Magazine that Wilhelm Stenitz edited. A selection of his writings is available from The Collected Works of Wilhelm Steinitz (DVD) published by Sid Pickard.


Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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