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Maurits Wind (Netherlands), Review of "Chess on the Edge", Volumes 1-3, by Bruce Harper and Yasser Seirawan.


It must have been around 1975 that I purchased "The modern defence" by Keene and Botterill. This was a companion volume to their earlier well-received book "The Pirc Defence". I liked this book "The modern defence" a lot. The authors wrote in an inspiring way about all these new systems with 1... g6 that looked both interesting and provocative. One devout adherent of the modern defence 1... g6 whose name appeared frequently was the Canadian IGM Duncan Suttles.

There are six complete games by Suttles in the book. One magnificent example was Barczay - Suttles, Sousse 1967 in which black, with energetic play, managed to dismantle both white's queen side and center by move 18. Duncan Suttles became one of my chess heroes. I admired his unusual and provocative opening concepts and his hypermodern strategic play (resembling that of Nimzowitsch).

A few years ago my friend Gerard Welling told me that Bruce Harper was working on a project to collect every game by the Canadian grandmaster. Gerard also got involved in the project, by critical examination of the analysis with computer assistance, by checking facts and dates and by putting forward some suggestions. In spring of 2008 the massive project was finally completed.

The games of IGM Duncan Suttles were published in three bound volumes titled "Chess on the Edge". The title aptly refers to Suttles' style, which sometimes seems to violate the laws of chess, and to his preference of playing moves on the wings. In fact in "The Modern Defence" there was chapter "Creeping round the edges" in which Keene and Botterill analyse the game Zinn-Suttles, Havana 1967. The authors humorously comment that: "Suttles really does believe that white's position will crumble under the cross-fire of black's decentralized men."

The first volume is the most interesting of the three. It contains 100 selected games, which have been sorted by theme. For example chapter 2 deals with pawns. There are seven games in this chapter which show Suttles' preference for pawn advances on the wing, flexible pawn chains --a preference he shared with Petrosian-- and developing his pieces behing the pawns.Other chapters deal with themes such as space, the center, king walks, weird manoeuvres, opening disasters etc. This volume is not a "best of" collection, there are also some horrific losses by Suttles.

Volumes two and three contain all the remaining hundreds of games by Suttles, sorted by opening. The many interesting games with the Rat (1... g6) are found in Volume 3. The game's annotations by Harper are excellent. While the games have all been checked with computers, the text is mostly free from overlong analysis or computer evaluations. Instead the focus is on explaining positional ideas and psychology. This more narrative approach makes it highly enjoyable to play over these games. Personally I prefer to play these games on a regular board + pieces rather than on a PC. One learns from these games that there is a lot of leeway in chess to play non-standard moves and to still obtain quite playable positions. Chess is a rich game.

My overall impression is that this is a wonderful tribute to an original and influential chess player. I highly recommend it to the readers of Kaissiber, in particular Volume one. Here is a fine example of Suttles in action. It features original and daring opening play, a peculiar pawn structure, and some nice middle game manoeuvring with which he outplays his opponent.

Forintos - Suttles, Tel Aviv Olympiad 1964.

1.d4 g6 Of course Suttles plays the Rat. 2.g3 Bg7 3.Bg2 d6 4.Nf3 Nc6!? Trying to provoke white into playing 5.d5, which would close the diagonal h1-a8. 5.d5 White accepts. 5... Ne5 6.Nd4 h5?! 7.h3 Better was the immediate 7.f4. 7... Bd7 8.f4 c5! 9.fxe5 cxd4 10.e6 fxe6 11.Qd3 e5 This looks more solid than the Rybka suggestion 11... Kf7!?. 12.Qxg6+ Kf8 (D) A highly unusual position. 13.0-0+ Nf6 14.Nd2 Qe8 Black had reasonable alternatives in 14... Qc8 or 14... Rc8. 15.Qd3 Perhaps slightly better was 15.Qg5 Kg8 16.Ne4 though the position is obscure. 15... Bb5 16.Qf3 Rc8 17.c3 dxc3 18.bxc3 Kg8 19.c4 Bxc4 20.Nxc4 Rxc4 21.Be3 Qg6 22.Bxa7 Kh7 23.Rab1 e4 24.Qf5 Qxf5 25.Rxf5 Kg6 Suttles's daring playis paying off. His position is clearly preferable. 26.Rff1 Ra8 27.Rxb7 Ra4 28.Bf2 Nxd5 As one often sees in Suttles' games, in the middle game he succeeds in taking over the control of the center. 29.Kh2 Bf6 30.h4 Nc3 31.Be1 Nxe2 32.Bb4 d5 33.Bxe7 R8a6 34.Bh3? Nd4 35.Bxf6 Rxa2+ 36.Bg2 Rxf6 37.Rd1 Rff2 38.Rxd4 Rxg2+ 39.Kh1 Rgd2 40.Rxd2 Rxd2 41.Re7 0-1

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