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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Book Reviews - Attacking 101: Volume #001
 Nicholas P. Sterling, Ph.D.
  April 2014

Attacking 101: Volume #001 

Joel Johnson 
Lulu, ©2012, HC, 112 pgs. $14.99
What seasoned chess player wouldn’t want to launch a deadly furious attack against his terrified opponent any chance he could? Attacking 101: Volume #001 is the second attack-themed book by Life Master Joel Johnson that I have had the pleasure of reviewing in as many years. Mr. Johnson has devoted considerable literary effort to teaching attacking tactics and formations in lucid step-by-step explanations, aided by illustrative game annotations and final position diagrams. 
As with the previous book that I reviewed, Formation Attacks, the premise of this volume, which purports to be the first of an upcoming series, is to teach patterns of attack. A concise 112 pages long (with 60 games), Attacking 101 presents Mr. Johnson’s games against lower-rated players (up to 1800) in which the opponent makes 
fundamental mistakes that Mr. Johnson (known online by several monikers, such as MassCarnage) punishes decisively. Readers will enjoy seeing Mr. Johnson “dissect and exploit” the errors, as he puts it, in order to exact retribution on the hapless opponent for his inability to appraise a position accurately. 
Mr. Johnson’s approach in Attacking 101 is to base his teaching of techniques of attack on the openings that lead into them, and to do this, he divides the games into specific variations that he employs against popular openings and defenses. I like this approach for a couple of reasons: first, it shows the reader how a game starts off and leads into the attacking patterns he illustrates, and second, it lets the reader see some unusual variations and orders of moves that, in Mr. Johnson’s experience, are likely to trip up unprepared inexperienced players. 
Some of the variations are mainly move-order transpositions into other more familiar openings; for instance, Center Game(1. e4 e5 2. d4) can be used to transpose into several major lines, such as Giuoco Piano, Scotch Game, and Two Knights Defense. Other variations are out-of-the-ordinary responses to standard openings, such as 4. b4!? against the Center Counter Defense (1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5), and 4. Qd3 against the Winawer French (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4). Some of these “catch-him” moves lie deeper in the opening, such as 7. fxg6!? in the Sicilian Grand Prix, ECO B23 (1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 Nc6 4. Nf3 g6 5. Bc4 e6 6. f5 Bg7). 
In effect Mr. Johnson, or another player of these moves, can dictate the course of the opening in a direction quite unexpected to his opponent, and can not only avoid his booked-up opening variation, but can also lead the opponent into positions never, or rarely, seen before. If the opponent is not skilled at assessing positions spontaneously over the board, he is likely to go astray and let the much stronger master into his camp.
The opening variations explored are: Center Game and its transpositions; Danish Gambit; Alekhine Defense; Caro-Kann Defense; Sicilian Defense, with focus on Grand Prix attack, Smith-Morra Gambit, and Yugoslav Attack; Pirc/Modern Defense (with another version of Grand Prix); Center Counter Defense (against which 4. b4!? is featured); French Defense (against which 4. Qd3 is featured); Stonewall Attack; and Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Completing the survey are offbeat openings like 1. a3. Each opening discussion is divided into an introductory diagram, Opening Lines, Techniques Learned, and the example games. Mr. Johnson uses his concise 
introductions to explain his own experience with the openings and the likely psychology behind his opponents’ selection of those openings. The reader can understand that if he both prepares his responses against predicted openings, and also knows how to steer a game onto paths not predicted by his opponents, he can quickly take psychological advantage of his opponents long before a tangible advantage materializes on the chessboard.
Then we have the games themselves. Mr. Johnson’s annotations are brief but helpful for pointing out the moves where the opponent went astray, and his explanations of why the moves are faulty are simple and clear. From there the reader can follow why Mr. Johnson’s attacks work so well, and by the time we arrive at the triumphant diagram, there is a sense that the game flowed as a sinuous whole rather than in discrete, unrelated parts. 
Many of the final, or almost final, positions are entertaining. My own favorite is Game #36, a Smith-Morra Gambit that ends with a knight checkmate on h7. Really amusing is Black’s rook stuck on g8 and Black’s bishop stuck on g2 with the White king tucked safe on g1. Gee – Black just DIDN’T have that one last tempo he needed for that discovered check! 
Overall, this is a fine basic attacking-technique pamphlet with some really neat pointers on attack for beginning and intermediate-level players. A few points of critique need to be made. First, although editing and layout are much improved over the carelessly produced Formation Attacks, there are still some annoying proofreading 
errors here and there. Second, Mr. Johnson’s indications of his opponents’ errors could have been more consistent in giving the right or preferred moves, to allow players to learn what mistakes to avoid and prevent the onslaughts that follow, without having to devote a lot of extra space to this. Such would have enabled the primer to serve the secondary purpose of indicating defenses against attacks as well as attacks themselves. Perhaps work for another volume. 
But these are minor points. Clearly the information provided is meant to be rudimentary and succinct, and a more comprehensive and advanced treatment is to be looked for elsewhere. What is provided in Attacking 101 is illuminating, and does a superior job of linking opening to final position, or alpha to omega. This reviewer 
eagerly awaits Volume #002 and recommends this book to those who are ready to learn how to sneak up on their opponents with well-concieved and well-executed attacks.