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Review: Secrets of Opening Surprises, Volume 12

Secrets of Opening Surprises: Volume 12, Jeroen Bosch (ed.), New in Chess publishing.

I feel a little strange reviewing volume 12 of the SOS series since I haven't reviewed the first 11, so I'm going to frame this as a review of the series in general as well as a review of this particular volume.

SOS brings back fond memories. When I was a budding scholastic player (rather than a plateaued adult losing to scholastic players), my parents got me a subscription to New in Chess for my birthday. What a deal! Every month I had analysis from the likes of Kasparov, Ivanchuk, and Anand. But even better, I had: Secrets of Opening surprises! I think everyone has a part of a magazine they always read first. When my copy of the The Economist arrives, I always turn immediately to the obituary. But back in the day, when my copy of New in Chess arrived, I'd head strait for SoS. For a time, my repertoire changed radically each month, just so I could try to catch my opponent in some silly (but effective!) line of the Richter-Rauzer or the English Defense. The format was always roughly the same: a quick overview of a relatively unknown/offbeat line accompanied with some fresh analysis and a set of tournament games.

Since then, SOS has become something of a franchise and I was shocked to discover that they're now on their twelfth volume. I guess I missed the boat. No matter, let's take a look at what is inside the present volume. Looks like there are 17 different articles on openings ranging from the Trompowsky to the Alekhine's to the Bird's Defense. I'll just do a quick run-down of the ones that looked especially interesting to me.

Dimitri Reinderman has coverage of the Cinema Variation of the Trompowsky. This one seems like a pretty good choice since it's an off-beat reply to what is already a somewhat marginal opening (and one I used to employ regularly). The position looks pretty wild and Reinderman claims it's only been played 48 times, mostly by unrated and low-rated players. Perfect for an SoS! A quick glance suggests his (and Fritz's!) analysis is sound and I'd be willing to give it a punt. Too bad I play 1.d4 d6. Or maybe I should get back into the spirit of my long-lost SoS fandom.

Now Glenn Flear's Bird's Defense According to Bird is a keeper. I don't play anything even remotel close to this line, but diagram position was strange enough to capture my attention.

The other two got quick glances, but the Dutch: Preparing the Staunton Gambit article is one right up my theoretical alley. I've played the Staunton Gambit a good deal as I consider the Dutch defense the one opening I really go nuts against. I throw all considerations of theoretical soundness out the window and just go for the jugular. So can this new SoS line enter the rotation? It looks a little quiet, I mean why prepare e4 with f3 when I can just throw away a pawn straight away? But, it makes a good deal of sense and if my opponent lets me get in e4, I'll have a great game. Bosch is right to go straight to lines that prevent e4, as otherwise black just seems to be rolling over. Well it looks like after 2...Nf6 we sacrifice a pawn anyways with 3.e4. I like it! White has quick development and with the f-file open I've got hopes for a miniature and a relaxing stroll around the tournament hall. Looks like I'll be giving this one a try.

When it comes to opening play, nothing really captures the magic of chess like Secrets of Opening Surprises. How do they keep finding this stuff? Every volume must leave Bosch biting his nails more and more nervously as he wonders how he'll be able to keep up with fresh articles. Or chess is really just that endlessly magical. Either way, make sure to check out this series from New in Chess.