Review: King's Kalashnikov Sicilian by Daniel King
King's Kalashnikov Sicilian
by Daniel King
New in Chess / Chessable 2022, 192 pages, hardback
Sample material available in pdf on the publisher's website
Subtitled 'A Dynamic Black Repertoire for Club Players', this book is a revised, updated version of a course on this opening that GM Daniel King released on Chessable.
Followers of King's Powerplay Chess channel on YouTube will already know how exceptionally lucid and engaging he is as a commentator and coach. These qualities are also to the fore in this beautifully-presented repertoire work.
The Kalashnikov begins with 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5. It is a less theory-heavy cousin of the Sveshnikov (4...Nf6 5 Nc3 inserted to prevent White from playing c2-c4, and only then 5...e5). When I first read about the opening in Andrew Martin's book Secret Weapons (1991) it was still very offbeat, but by now it is fully respectable and counts Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri and especially Parham Maghsoodloo among its practitioners.
006 Explanation of symbols
011 Part I Model Games
054 Part II The Kalashnikov Repertoire
055 Chapter 1 A misplaced knight: 5.Nb3
066 Chapter 2 The unassuming 5.Nf3
074 Chapter 3 The ugly 5.Nxc6
084 Chapter 4 Menacing...? 5.Nf5
088 Chapter 5 Too sophisticated: 5.Ne2
094 Chapter 6 The pragmatic 5.Nb5 d6 6.a4
102 Chapter 7 A bad Sveshnikov: 5.Nb5 d6 6.Be3
109 Chapter 8 A traffic jam: 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bc4
112 Chapter 9 A mini traffic jam: 5.Nb5 d6 6.N5c3
116 Chapter 10 The gentle 5.Nb5 d6 6.g3
123 Chapter 11 The modest 5.Nb5 d6 6.Be2
127 Chapter 12 The terrible 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bg5
130 Chapter 13 Sound development: 5.Nb5 d6 6.N1c3
141 Chapter 14 A careless fianchetto: 8.g3
144 Chapter 15 A move with potential: 8.Be3
147 Chapter 16 Main line 8.Nc4: minor 10th moves
154 Chapter 17 Main line with 10.g3 h5
163 Chapter 18 Main line with 10.g3 0-0
172 Chapter 19 6.c4: main line with 7.N1c3
185 Chapter 20 6.c4: main line with 7.Bd3
191 Index of variations
192 Index of names
Twenty model games open the book. Here, King introduces various memorable concepts such as 'Liberation Station' - when Black bursts out with ...d6-d5 - or 'the Bad-Bishop Bounce', which is the manoeuvre ...Be7-d8-b6. These games are unsurprisingly well-chosen, inspiring and helpfully annotated. The remainder of the book consists of theory. Introductions and conclusions provide excellent orientation for each chapter.
As King points out, the fixed central pawn structure in this opening makes for clear strategic plans. Another very practical aspect of the Kalashnikov for Black is that most of White's possible replies are harmless. Only one knight move, 5 Nb5, is any good, and White has to follow this up carefully. A great deal of the book sees Black rolling over suboptimal play by White. This is an ideal opening against an unprepared opponent. And with so many different open Sicilians to prepare, how many opponents will know what to do against 4...e5?
Even the line 5 Nb5 g6 6 c4, the subject of the final two chapters, seems not to cause Black major theoretical problems. The modern counter involves an early kingside fianchetto by Black, often featuring dynamic, King's Indian-style play.
The critical line
So far, so good. Against a very well prepared opponent, however, the game is quite likely to go like this:
I'm still prepared to believe that Black is theoretically fine here. If King reads this, he can probably provide sound answers. Nevertheless, I feel that it would have been useful for him to show what can go wrong for Black, and especially how to avoid a Huschenbeth-Panjwani scenario.
A thoroughly enjoyable, instructive, useful repertoire book - but treat the main lines with caution and do your own analysis there.