Black is Okay — Forever!
- From: ChessFire <onechess@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 23 Apr 2011 11:06:11 -0700 (PDT)
Here follows reviews of the Black is Okay series by Phil Innes/
Chessville and Akram Shehata/Chesscafe — these are notices in
preparation of a new title [I should like to have included the
statistical charts here too, but they will not format in this medium,
BLACK IS still OK!
Author: Andras Adorjan 224 pages $22.95 Batsford (2004)
Phil Innes (CHESSVILLE - US)
At about the two-thirds stage of reviewing Black is still OK! by
András Adorján I chanced into a conversation with GM Mikhail Golubev
or Odessa, who is twice men-tioned in its pages. “A classic” commented
And it is the rarest of chess titles by its publisher, Batsford, or
from any other chess publisher; a psychologically challenging but
practical exploration of our attitudes to Black’s chances in chess.
If the chess world, were to take András Adorján’s [AA] thesis
seriously, we might witness the end of draw-death, or at the very
minimum, experience more dynamic games and consequently see better
results from the black side of the board. Even the practical measure
of making all diagrams in the book presented to the reader with black
at ‘the bottom’ forms a consistent part of AA’s agenda. As if to say
“this per-spective” rather than the universal presentation of viewing
the board from the white side, which is a form of conditioning!
It should be made clear that this thesis – this admonition and
exhortation! – is no mere hypothetical set of ideas, but is amply
illustrated by games and analysis from the best players in the world.
The author also carries substantial weight for his opin-ions in being
closely associated with the noted successes of, among others, Peter
Leko and Garry Kasparov.
The format of the title is to initially explore in 50 pages of text
the experiences and attitudes of every category of chess player, via
questionnaire and subsequent e-mail correspondence. This Chapter
“Dispute” offers comments from: Anne Caz, Ian Ash, Alex Baburin, David
Christian, Erich Schiller, George Stern, John Henderson, Peter
Hartell, Henrique Henriques, Kenneth Bachman, Kevin Bonham, Dr.
Altanoch Gen-dengin, Rámon Rafael Barrios, Dirceau Viana, Frederich
Wolfenter, György Négyesi, Zoltán Blázsik, Mikhail Golubev, Gene
Venable, Igor Lyushkevych, Tom Cooper, Martin Cobham, Allan Jackson,
Jonathon H. Brewer, Attila Schneider, Török Sándar Miklós, De
Communicating with this collection of opinion from around the world AA
examines and records player’s attitudes with white and black, and
challenges conventional re-ceived opinion on player’s prospects with
each color. There follows a frank exchange of views with GM
Sveshnikov! The author asserts that our typical evaluation of our
prospects are not grounded in any objective way, and are instead much
to do with how we think we will prosper with white and black.
As part of this examination of our attitudes and experiences, by
conducting dialogs with the survey’s participants, the author counters
statistical measurement of white’s score as a reflection of our
preconceived expectations with either color.
These ideas are further examined in a Theme Tournament to challenge
this set of fundamental conceptions we have all been taught as chess
players, of the superiority of white’s initial tempo being worth a
win, while with black we expect to draw, by contrasting it objectively
with an examination of mutual prospects available to white and black
during the tournament.
Pointedly, AA records in a chapter “Garry The Greatest” his initial
contact with Garry Kasparov, and his role in GK’s career and
performance with the black pieces.
“It was also in Yugoslavia where my lucky star, which also brought me
a lot of hardships over the years, led to my first meeting with Garry
Kas-parov. The field of the 1979 Banja Luka tournament included 14
grand-masters, 1 local master, and a boy who would later become the
13th chess world champion. This was his debut on the international
scene. It was successful enough, as the shock-headed youth with the
piercing look, who turned sixteen during the tournament (on April 13),
came first with a margin of two full points! (2nd T. Petrosian, 3rd
Andersson, 4th Smejkal, 5th Adorján). I had never seen anything like
that before, and haven’t seen anything like that ever since.”
“I don’t remember how our conversations began, but I do remember that
we became friends and decided to work together”, says AA, “he chose me
of all the grandmasters available.”
Notes on this collaboration continue in some detail, in formal and
informal contacts, emphasizing black’s repertoire. It recounts the
Vladimirov scandal which AA thought unjust, and continues until the
publication of “A Child of Change” when the players fell out. AA is
frank with his criticism, on and off the board, and about any player.
In his own words; “No boot-licking, to anyone.”
After these last 100 pages of games and analysis we arrive at a
chapter of statistics of world champion games spanning the period 1886
to 2000. AA looks at world cham-pion’s wins with white and black,
starting with Steinitz, and ending with the trio of Fischer, Karpov
Player’s performance in world champion events is compared
statistically with all games by that player. A collection of charts
indicate not only shifts in results over the entire period, but also
results of specific players.
It is interesting to examine which players have scored 50% or better
with the black pieces: of all world champions the result is just;
Steinitz, Alekhine and Fischer.
With the white pieces, wins over 60% are;
Steinitz, Alekhine, Fischer and Kasparov.
[GK scores highest of all at 65.2%, but only 40.8% with black.]
Zoltán Blázsik writes a ‘guest essay’ as chess playing mathematician,
furthering the analysis above, and also adding other statistics, such
as Black has won 2 world championshops so far:
Alekhine – Boguljubow (1934) 4 to 7 in black’s favor (with 15 draws)
Botvinnik – Bronstein (1951) 4 to 6 in black’s favor (with 14 draws)
In 4 other matches black tied white, but white had the upper hand 25
Two chapters follow with a report of a meeting with Xie Jun who AA
likes, and with Kevin Spraggett of whom he says ‘no regrets’ while
describing AA’s training regi-men with the black pieces for the
Perhaps the most interesting chapter of all is that rarity - one
contributed by IM Dr. Ervin Nagy - on the psychology of chess. Dr.
Nagy examines our attitudes to white and black play, and probes them
for a self-defeating attitude with black, as well as an unwarranted
and over-confident attitude with white. He discounts much rhetorical
exchange on our attitudes to these issues as departing from an
original or internal sense of them, resulting in locking-in our stated
opinions to a fanatical or too-fixed attitude in debate.
The title concludes with another collection of well-annotated games in
“My Thesis in Practice”; against L. Vadasz, Tony Miles, Zoltan Ribli,
and in ‘improving on Fischer’, a mini-treatise in annotation against
H. Scheichel. An instructive game against Ivan Farago demonstrates how
to set about white’s inaccurate attempts to re-press black’s Queen
side, and how to capitalize on a second error.
A friend of the author, L. Györkös, is treated to a lesson on ‘you can
win by a “los-ing” variation’, where a substantial improvement is made
in the face of previous de-feat and ‘failed’ variation, and why white
players should not be overconfident in pre-vious theory. This is of
strong import to Grunfeld theory, and follows the game Lautier-AA,
Polanica Zdröj 1991, but black varies significantly and with decisive
effect at move 16 with a TN. Much analysis is attached.
Against L. Ljubojevic, AA gives up pawns and accuses himself of being
romantic, rather than choosing a perhaps more straightforward line,
but the enjoyment he gets from a probable win is spoiled by time
trouble, to share the point. Against. A. Onis-chuk he complains to
Dreev that he prepared for the wrong opponent, and Dreev commiserates
by saying he did the same yesterday. AA says of his opponent, “Some-
how people, even very strong players, don’t seem to realize that with
moves like this they are playing with fire.” He is commenting on
white’s opening at the third move! The game went 1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 c5 3.
Against Keitlinghaus we are shown a signature break with b5 at move
19. Against G. Forintos the break comes at 16 with c5. It is highly
instructive to study black’s disci-plined play and timing of the break
in each of these examples; AA conducts a Grandmaster Class on attitude
G. Giorgadze tries 7. Bb5+ ?! against a Grunfeld to be confronted
later by the novelty 13 …Qa5! Then substantial analysis follows
white’s options, of either 14. Qc2 or 14. e6. Both of which are
essential lines for the serious Grunfeld student to understand, with
14. e6 being fantastically complicated, following ‘Little’ Dao Thien
Hai. AA was awarded the brilliancy prize at the European Team
Championship 1992 for this game, and if there were a brilliancy prize
for chess titles, I agree with GM Golubev, that here we have a
But I don’t mean classic in terms of ancient and revered – András
Adorján’s title demonstrates an essential vitality at the heart of
chess, and also the underdeveloped aspect inherent in our contemporary
chances with the black pieces.
It is not so much a mapping out of a path lit by illustrations from
past games, as a ma-jor re-evaluation of our attitudes about black’s
chances for all future enterprising players of chess.
April 19, 2005
Black is OK forever! by Andras Adorjan, 2005
Batsford Publications, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Softcover, 192pp.,
ChessCafe.com – The Color Black – Akram Shehata
No one can deny the negative feeling that occurs when playing with the
black pieces, and the wideranging concept; when one thinks "If I can
just draw this game and win tomorrow with the white pieces!" In 1988
the chess world received the book Black is OK! by the Hungarian GM
Andras Adorjan with great interest. In this book Adorjan tried to
explain how, in many openings, black is doing better than the simply
seeking to draw and that the player with the black pieces should play
from the beginning for a win, rejecting the negative feeling of not
playing the first move.
The 1988 book was to some extent academic. In 2004 Adorjan introduced
his second effort, Black is Still OK, emphasizing the same concept and
containing some 29 let-ters from readers based on the internet survey
published on the Grandmaster Square website. A year after that he
introduced Black is OKforever!. It is supposed to trans-fer the
concept from hypothesis into theorem.
Andras Adorjan is a respected Hungarian grandmaster, a former champion
of Hun-gary, and a respected theoretician known for his ability to
analyze deeply; he has written many books in various fields translated
into many different languages. In my opinion his Elo rating doesn't
reflect his true strength, but this maybe due to his spe-cial
character. He is also a poet.
Black is OK forever! is put together in a unique way; I would describe
it as a collec-tion of articles. So we cannot really say there are
chapters but there are different arti-cles with different titles. For
interested readers there are 21 articles (chapters). This allows the
reader to read any article directly without regard to the order. And,
all the diagrams are "reversed" - with black at the bottom! We are
talking about black after all.
The second article in the book is called "A strange question: Is Black
OK?" Of course we knew the answer to the question - "Yes" as indicated
by the author.
This article serves as an introduction to the book. In this article (p.
9) the author writes:
.. study my books thoroughly,
.. give some unbiased thought to the psychological and philosophical
underpinning of the strictly chess-related message, perhaps even
discussing it with clever people,
.. spend at least half of their opening sessions on BLACK (like they
have never done before!),
.. study the detailed analyses of games won by great players with BLACK
.. simply cannot avoid improving their BLACK results significantly in
1, or maximum 2 years! Surprise, surprise: their White results are
also likely to improve, although to a lesser extent! ... This is all I
can promise. But mind you, dear reader fm not giving you the result!
Only strong faith and some food for thought!
I can confirm all the above, and add to it the joy the reader will
experience when reading Adorjan's book. There follows an article
(chapter) titled "Curiosities" with six deeply analyzed games are
presented almost as appetizer.
The fourth article, "BLACK IS OK! Once more about the presumption of
Innocence in Chess" is ara essay that includes many philosophical and
psychological ideas. For example (p.24): "The right to start is worth
no more in chess than in, say, football. In this ball game, a lot of
goals are scored from counterattacks, and it happens very rarely that
a team scores from the very first attack after kick-off. As regards
the `course' taken by the game, my - otherwise ‘orthodox’ - friend GM
Evgeny Sveshni-kov and Mr Kenneth Bachman pointed out independently
from each other that it is even EASIER to put together a BLACK
There follows a comparison of what black might need to do to prepare a
defense to 1 e4, and what white might need to do to prepare opening
with 1 e4. We all know that white's task is harder and longer. Adorjan
put it this way (p.24): "I can't be gravely mistaken if I say that
after 1 e4, the lexical knowledge BLACK is required to have is about
one-fifth of White's `homework'!!" One important subject to discuss is
the ef-fect of first move and symmetrical play ("mirror" positions).
Regarding the psy-chological aspect he emphasizes the importance of
being positive when having the Black pieces "So, two opponents are
faring each other. Both believe in White's ad-vantage. However one of
them is `forced to' have BLACK today. He fights for dear life, trying
his best, but deep in his heart he plays against himself ' (p.26).
Adorjan follows with a chapter of letters from readers. Then there is
"More Curiosi-ties" featuring a short draw against GM Hjartarson and
ara enormous amount of in-teresting analysis. The next chapter, "BLACK
is BAD?," is article on the negative psychological association of the
Word `black'. He also discuses
the first player, second player "thing" and asserts that a better way
of referring to the players may be as occasionally used in German -
`anziende', `nachziende' (starting to move, moving after). In my
opinion he goes a little too far in this essay when he compares
playing black pieces and the black side in chess with words and
phrases that imply the negative. Maybe it is not so dark as in many
languages `black" often expresses beauty.
In my opinion, "Interrupted by Darkness" is by far the most
interesting chapter in the book. It is about the relationship between
Adorjan and Hungarian GM Peter Leko. Much new information will be
found about this relationship and how it started, his opinion of Leko
from his childhood (I do not think he has changed his opinion as
otherwise he would have probably said so). I am giving this opinion
from page 50:
"Tilburg, October 13, 1996. (extract from my tape-recorded `out loud
.... Watching the kid's behaviour, I have noticed some frightening
signs. It's very good, of course, that he is tough, merciless, and
even 'inhuman' during chess games, he is also stubborn and persistent.
The problem is that the same character traits can be observed in
`peaceful times'." Adorjan's scandalous style appeals to the readers
from the beginning of the article to its end. Interesting too is his
patriotic approach towards his country which appeared parenthetically.
Regarding Laszlo Polgar's attitude to-wards the Olympiad he states:
"The doings of Laszlo Polgar concerning his daugh-ters' participation
at the Olympiads, including treats and blackmails, are well-known in
Hungary. That's what we call the `Polgar-method,' a `school of
thought' that has unfortunately found followers.)"
But enough of philosophy, psychology, and scandals; interested readers
will find more in the book full of Andras's rants (replete with hold
face type and the caps).
However, pure chess and high class analysis is there wherever you look
for. Even in this scandalous article he discusses much of his work
with Leko, which is exempli-fied by Leko in Tilburg 1998 when he
played what Andras called the Adorjan Gam-bit. Here is the game
Tilburg Fontys Tilburg (6), 29.10.1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 e5!!?
diagram, then the game without analyses
Adorjan acknowledges that this gambit had been first played by
Champman against Wohl, Melbourne 1993. Part of his introduction to
that game, which follows immedi-ately after the Kramnik-Leko game,
reads as follows: "I had 3...e5 in mind since 1992. As often happens,
I never had the opportunity to play it. Even my protégé P. Leko had to
wait till 1998 when he beat Kramnik with it in Tilburg. I don’t
remember when we realized it had actually been played before. Since
the pioneer lost the game, and anyway who's interested in novelties by
players under 2400? It is of course im-possible to follow all the
news, on the other hand don’t forget: the gift and democracy of chess
is that anybody may come up with a bright idea!"
There are another six games deeply annotated in this chapter along
with a detailed presentation of the Adorjan Gambit (E60). I hope
readers will enjoy this article (chapter) as much as I did.
Two articles follow on novelties, "Some Novelties" and "More
Novelties." Adorjan thinks that there is no point keeping novelties
secret for a long time for two reasons: on page 86: "As regards
myself, I have never been a `taciturn', and I never `stored' my ideas
for a long time. One reason for this was that the others are not
idiots, either. There are a lot of excellent minds working on chess
theory, any of them can `set the Thames on fire' and get the laurels.
Second, I have never feared that I would run out of steam. Even now,
after being away from the chess scene for 3 years due to `literary
pursuits', I still have original ideas which are fit for life even at
the heights of Linares. Plus the novelties, a few of which could also
be called discoveries, which have not been refuted over the decades
because I didn't have a chance to play them. I will pub-lish those by
We will reveal some of the novelties here; there are many more in the
book. Let's take Dreev- Adorjan, Alusta 1994:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 NxdS 5.e4 Nxc3 ó.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 0-0
8.Ne2 b6 9.h4 Nc610.h5
Adorjan revealed a secret here: White could improve here and obtain
advantage - we will give short branch of the long analysis on page 87:
"10. Bd5! Qd7 11 h5 e6 12 Bb3 Bah 13 Ng3!N" and there is no
satisfactory reply for BLACK according to the analysis published in
10...NaS 11.Bd3 e512.Be3 Qe713.Qd2 exd414.cxd4 Bb7 15.e5 Bxg2 16.Rg1
Bf3 17.Ng3 Qd7N (untried novelty till now) 18.Nf5 Nc4! 19.Bxc4 Qxf5
20.hxg6 hxg6 21.Rg5 Qh3 22.Qc3 Bh5 23.Rg3 Qh4 24.Bd5 c5 25.Bg5 Qh2
26.Rg2 Qhl+ 27.Kd2 cxd4 28.Rxh1 dxc3+ 29.Kc2 Rad8 30.Bxd8 Rxd8 31.Be4
Rd4 32.Bb7 Rd2+?! 33.Kxc3 Rxa2 34.f4 Ra4 35.Rh4?? Bxe5+36.Kb3 Bd1+
37.Rc2 Rxf4 38.Rhh2 Rd4 39.Rh1 Bxc2+ 40.Kxc2 Ra4 41.Bc6 Ra2+ 0-1
Adorjan analyzes this game over five full pages! This game is followed
by an amaz-ing Sicilían Scheveningen, Keres Attack. All these point to
Adorjan's contention that BLACK IS OK!
The next chapter/article is a letter from Lajos Portisch sent in 1994,
with Adorjan's thoughts on it. It is supplemented with the 1991 game
Portisch-¬Adorjan from the Hungarian Super Championship ('/2, 42).
Using the MegaDatabase 2003, Adorjan, in the next chapter, called
"Statistics on An-dras Adorjan's Games," presents a full statistical
table of his results. He played 826 games with the Black pieces and
lost only 17.6% of them, with 26.4% wins, and 56.1% draws. The book is
filled with many other interesting articles.
And what should sensible leaders say for their team? AA answers this
in an article titled "No Dogmas Please - Reasoning Only!": "White
loses many games playing for a win even when it is no longer a
realistic pursuit, simply because they are `supposed to' win as White!
It's horrible when a team instructed to try to win the White games,
and hold the draw as BLACK. Sensible people don’t say things like
that .. . What sensible people say is, OK guys, play the opening, and
see what kinds of positions you get. Try to win the good ones and save
the bad ones, regardless of colours! It's not the colour of the pieces
that matters: it's their position!" (p.137)
And we of course cannot but agree. Adorjan's email address is included
in the book for those who want to share their thoughts with him.
BLACK is OK forever! is filled with a lot of concepts, ideas,
philosophy, psychology, and of course real chess games and analysis. I
enjoyed reading this book, and even went through it twice. I can
recommend it for all chess players who are looking for a good chess
`read', or those who want some inspiration playing black; the author
promises no nonsense and he lives up to his promise. Andras Adorjan in
his 2005 BLACK is OK forever! is by far better writer than the Andras
Adorjan in the 1988 Black is OK! BLACK is OK forever! is an extremely
valuable book, worth far more than its price. BUY IT!
- Re: Black is Okay — Forever!
- From: Offramp
- Re: Black is Okay — Forever!
- Prev by Date: Re: It was 50 years ago today: Botvinnik was taking Tal to the F$%king Cleaers!
- Next by Date: Re: Capa paperback by Winter out; glowing reviews
- Previous by thread: see the link
- Next by thread: Re: Black is Okay — Forever!