Reviewed by Paul Kane
My One Hundred Best Games
By Alexey Dreev
Chess Stars, 2007
The title of this terrific book is pretty much self-explanatory as regards its contents: it brings together the 100 best games of Alexey Dreev (1969-), one of the top 100 chess players in the world (his current FIDE rating being 2633).
The book opens with a brief biographical sketch entitled “From First Steps to Success”. This charts Dreev’s introduction to chess (he learnt to play when a child of six), his experiences with some early coaches and mentors (especially Saigin, Dvoretsky and Filipenko) and his successes as a junior (he became Under-16 World Champion on two occasions, in 1983 and 1984). This section ends when Dreev is about twenty and, overall, it presents an interesting account of growing up in the Soviet Union. Early on, the Soviet system was supportive of Alexey’s chess talent, but certain later difficulties with the KGB meant that he was not allowed to play in tournaments abroad. While this circumstance certainly stunted Dreev’s development as a player, he was able (as the games assembled for this book make clear) to fulfil much of his early promise.
The next section, “Competing at Top Level”, introduces the games themselves. Dreev writes that “the 100 games which have been presented in this book will probably give the readers an idea about what kind of a chess player I am”; and so they will. He is a positional player in the mold of Karpov, Smyslov or Rubinstein. There are games here of great subtlety (e.g. Lerner-Dreev, Rostov-on-Don 1993) and dynamism (e.g. Tiviakov-Dreev, Ubeda 1999) and Dreev’s victory over Chandler at Hastings 2000, an elegant technical win in a double rook ending, would be well worthy of the great Akiva.
The games cover the period from 1984 to 2006, showing Dreev’s development as a player, and many were played against elite opposition. So there are wins against Khalifman, Leko, Adams, Shirov and Morozevich; and draws with Anand, Kasparov and Timman. These epic encounters were mostly hard-fought games with errors on both sides and much instructive content in both the play and the annotations. Throughout, Dreev is an adept annotator and he gives variations judiciously, as arguments to support his written explanations. Variations are not just used to illustrate tactical possibilities.
About two thirds of the games have Dreev as White (and opening usually with 1.d4) and he shows himself a virtuoso in the handling of certain crucial opening systems. There are plenty of examples of the Queen’s Gambit Declined with 5.Bf4; the 3.e4 variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted; 4.a3 against the Queen’s Indian; and the Samisch (here spelt Zaemisch) King’s Indian with 6.Bg5 or 6.Nge2 (after 5.f3 0-0). These recur quite frequently and Dreev’s discussion of the opening phase will be of interest to anyone who plays (or plans to play) these lines. And certainly it wouldn’t be a bad idea to copy or pilfer some of this fine player’s opening repertoire – along the lines of Eliot’s observation that
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal”.
Along with the games, Dreev’s principal tournament and match results are included. There is an index of opponents and openings (ECO codes only: e.g. C07 rather than “French Defence, Tarrasch Variation”). Finally, there are plenty of photos, including four colour plates. One has to say that the English reads a little peculiarly at times (in particular, the word “that” is often used where “this” would be a more natural choice – to this Englishman at least), but it is nonetheless readily understandable.
To come to a reckoning:My One Hundred Best Games is a splendid collection and a good summation of Alexey Dreev’s chess achievements to date. The games are unfailingly interesting, often aesthetically pleasing and as a showcase of modern chess they can hardly be bettered.
About the reviewer: Paul Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org