This Book is an interesting addition to the chess books I’ve come across this year. Put out by “Mongoose Press,” it is part opening book, part game collection, part tribute to the late Aleksander Wojtkiewicz (a.k.a. “Wojo”). Referred to as the the “Polish Magician,” Wojo won or tied for first place in over 240 tournaments, averaging over 30 tournament victories a year, or nearly three per month.
The book features a repertoire for white based on the catalan, though this volume (the first in a series we hope,) only covers positions arising after 1…d5, so indians and other responses for black will hopefully be covered in forthcoming volumes. Having played through the games in this book, I have to say it is extremely well done, with an enormous amount of explanatory prose as well as a nice amount of parenthetical citations to game fragments at key points in the opening. By grouping the games according to black’s major answers to the catalan, and spending a large portion of the book covering the fashionable “open” variation, the authors have provided enough material and ideas to comfortably play these kinds of positions on a high level.
As for the Catalan itself, I am planning on writing a post later on some of the ideas, though it is a very large and deep universe. It is no surprise that this opening has been a key battleground in recent world championship matches.
Another note on this book, which I read elsewhere. Even if you’re not planning on playing the Catalan, reading through this book will help you understand how to play certain kinds of positions, which is to say even if you never play the catalan reading this book will make you a better chess player.
Wojo’s bio at chessgames.com contains some interesting info about his life:
Aleksander Wojtkiewicz (pronounced wo-jo-KEV-ich) was born in Riga, Latvia to a Polish father (Pavel Voitkevich) and Russian mother. He was Polish by nationality. He became a Soviet master at the age of 15. He was a member of a human rights organization in Latvia. In 1986, he was imprisoned for refusing to join the Soviet Army and was imprisoned for 1 1/2 years. In 1986, he immigrated to Warsaw, Poland. He won two Polish championships (1989, 1995). In 1989, he became a Grandmaster. He represented Poland on first board in several chess Olympiads and European teams championships. In the late nineties, he was banned from representing Poland in international tournaments after arguments between him and former communists heading the Polish Chess Federation. In 1998, he moved to the United States. In 1999, he was on the team of Alexander Khalifman, and help him win the 1999 World Championship in Las Vegas. He won the US Grand Prix 6 times in a row (1999-2004). In 2001, he won the US Open. At the time of his death, he was leading the Grand Prix for 2006. In 2006, he won or tied for first in the Columbus Open, the National Open, the Kentucky Open, the DC Action Championship, and the World Open. He played chess in 48 states and 6 continents. He died in Baltimore on July 14, 2006 of internal bleeding (perforated intestine) at the age of 43. He never married, but in 1993 he had a son, Yosef, with Laima Domarkaite, a Lithuanian chess player. His last FIDE rating was 2562.
Below, I have included a collection of games in which Wojo employed the Catalan. Playing through these games will help to understand how white’s kingside bishop is the source of his “pull” or longterm postiional advantage, and this is even more clear when you compare to it’s black counterpart, which struggles to find a useful job in comparison.