Review: The Modern Sämisch, by Eric Montany

Everyman Chess 2017
368 pages

By Davide Nastasio

One exciting trend of the chess world is the continuous, uninterrupted publishing of opening books! Do we need another opening book? The answer is a simple YYY (Yes, Yes, Yes!!).

Last year at the chess club where I play more often, I realized everyone knew my openings.  I realized that I needed to change my repertoire to avoid my opponent’s preparation, but also for changing results (and with these two reasons I’ve addressed two of the yes answers above).
Last, but not least, learning new openings keeps my mind fresh, and motivates me to play more chess!

In 2017 I played the London, but I realized the King’s Indian Defence (abbreviated as KID) was a good antidote to the London, because Black’s D pawn, placed in D6, clearly limits the Bishop F4 control of the H2-B8 diagonal, and makes its placement in F4 kind of awkward.
For example after the moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 g6 3.e3 Bg7 4.Nd2 d6




Instead the Sämisch can be a powerful opening to counter the KID and the Benoni. But what is the Sämisch, one could ask? (Maybe I need to add another Y to my answer above, since learning openings helps our chess minds to grow in the knowledge of the main historical players who played those openings before us.)

After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 we reach the main tabiya for the KID.




The author, Eric Montany, begins to explain what is going on and what the reasons are behind these moves, showing that he is interested in teaching, more than just giving a series of moves to memorize. Notice he doesn’t treat only the White side, but also Black’s ideas. This gives us a good blueprint to use in our games, or when we will teach chess to someone else.

I do believe the author did a good job in explaining the ideas on both sides, and in fact they are important also for understanding why White plays in the way he does.

Often watching the board and thinking how you would continue, and why, can be a real good exercise.




Repeatedly we ask ourselves what the most effective squares are for developing a piece.  In this case everything revolves around F3.




Is F3 really the best square for developing the Ng1? The author shows the following line, arguing that maybe we don’t need to develop the knight in F3 if after we need to move it again in order to achieve the pf2-f3 push (notice move 9th Ne1).

5. Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1 Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 this is one of the most used KID’s lines, also known as Mar del Plata.




Main lines (like the Mar del Plata) are very important, but they can be disastrous if we enter into our opponent’s home preparation, like the following game.  Notice the date when the game was played, because it was pre-computer, and White was destroyed thanks to such theoretical research.



Of course, Kasparov had great examples before him that he surely studied, like the following game by the great Tal:



All of this to further prove the point, made by the author in the book, that main lines can definitely be dangerous. I found the theoretical discussion made by the author in the introductory chapter aimed at eliminating White’s main moves to be very important, and worth the price of the book.  He is explaining all the years of thinking he had on how to neutralize the KID. I also don’t want to spoil it, paraphrasing it here.

The Sämisch is based on the idea of pushing the Pf2 in F3 and develop the Bc1 in G5 here the position after the moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5




The book is made up of 9 chapters. I’d like to detail what is treated in each chapter, to give the reader a useful overview of what he’ll find in the book:

Chapter One is entitled “6…h6 7 Be3 e5?! and the attempted classical,” based on the line: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 h6 7.Be3 e5?!



This chapter is based on 3 games deeply annotated, like the Move by Move series of this same publisher.

Chapter Two is based on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 Nc6
this is called the Panno Variation.




In this chapter there are 10 games annotated as mentioned above.

Chapter Three 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 c5




The author pays special attention to the move order, because it can become confusing for the player who is not an expert in this line. 4 games are annotated.

Chapter Four is the Modern Benoni main lines, after the moves: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Qd2 exd5 9.cxd5




In this chapter, there are a few example games by Gallagher, another author praised by Eric Montany for introducing him to the Sämisch many years ago. If I understood well, this should be the book.




Chapter Five is 6…c6 and the Byrne system, based on: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 c6




Chapter Six 6…a6 and the attempted Benko 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 a6!?




Chapter Seven is 6…Nbd7; Independent lines: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 Nbd7




The last chapter of the book deals with 4th and 5th move deviations, and this is a very important chapter because often some of the moves played by Black can have some ideas with which we are not acquainted. Maybe one could even start reading the book from the last chapter, because at tournament level it is common to have early deviations.

The book ends with an index of the variations which are a very useful for reference if we like to play correspondence games.  There is also an index of the games, 46 in total if I counted them correctly. I have introduced all the content of each chapter, because often I receive queries asking if the author treated some lines or not.

Pro and cons: While I don’t have any problems in praising the author for the monumental job done, I found myself thinking, “Maybe the book could be more effective if it would give the reader, at the end of the chapter, a series of exercises?” I’m saying it, because I think often we find surprises when we play in tournament, but while reading the book we thought we understood everything. Apart from this I didn’t find anything missing in the book. As always in our historical period there is a ton of material to study and memorize. Just to add to the pros, the diagrams are clear, big enough for those who, like me, would need reading glasses. The fonts used for the book are easy to read. I’m mentioning it because lately I bought some old books, and the diagrams were small, as well as the fonts .

Final thoughts: The author is a national master in the US.  Often we find a Master-level player more appropriate than a GM to teach an opening to club players and amateurs. Why? Because he is more tuned to the needs of the player going to play weekend tournaments. I like Montany’s explanations because they are easy to follow and remember, and he did a good job for both sides. If your resolution for 2018 is to find a new weapon for fighting the KID and the Benoni, this is definitely the book for you! Good luck!



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