Superb defensive technique is a hallmark of all great chess-players. With a few deft counterstrokes, they not only deflect what looked like an overwhelming offensive, but also expose the darker side of their opponent’s build-up. Is this sheer black magic, or are these skills that ordinary players can develop?

While some of the key defensive skills follow well-established principles, modern players ally this with an appreciation of chess dynamics that is a good deal more subtle. Zenon Franco provides a wide-ranging course in how to handle difficult positions, seeking not only to hold them together but to go on the counteroffensive, exploiting to the full the commitments and concessions the opponent has made to launch his attack. The methods he advocates are varied: often a countersacrifice is the key, while simplification can also employed as a subtler, but equally deadly weapon.

Chapters include:
* Lasker, the Master of Defence and Counter-Attack
* Refuting Premature Attacks
* Fighting Blow by Blow
* Regrouping
* Prophylactic Thinking
* Simplification

Zenon Franco is a grandmaster from Paraguay who now lives in Spain. He is an experienced chess trainer, his most notable former pupil being Paco Vallejo, now one of the world’s top grandmasters.

Gambit books by Franco: The Art of Attacking Chess, Chess Explained: the English Opening, Chess Explained: the Modern Benoni, The Giant Chess Puzzle Book, Grandmaster Secrets: Counter-Attack!

Download a pdf file with a sample from the book.

“Has rapidly found a place on lists of recommended reading by chess coaches. The serious player can find plenty of games where it seems all is about to go wrong but a glorious counterattack makes all the difference. There are lots of tips and wise comments to make it a joy to play through all the games” – IM Gary Lane, Australian Chess

“Very detailed analysis and the content is extremely informative. There’s some excellent practical tips and techniques to be picked up in this work and I think reading this material will improve any player’s understanding of the game in general.” – IM Stephen Gordon

“Teaching skills in counterattack and defence is a difficult topic, but this book provides much material which could be used in this training.” – Paul Dunn, Australasian Chess

“...covers a subject we would all love to master - Counter-Attack! Franco gives us several wise lessons, such as regrouping and prophylactic thinking, all explained using stunning games as examples” – Bab Wilders, Nederlands Dagblad

“Each chapter contains three or four main explanatory games, with a number of supplementary games or part games to further illustrate important points. These games have been well chosen and the ample explanatory text sticks to the point. For me the best teaching books are those which invite reader participation, and this is an important part of this book, with about sixty test positions for the reader to attempt. These are more than just Black/White to play and win but generally require longer term strategic understanding and provide good feedback on the extent to which you have understood the lessons. Franco is now becoming a major author for Gambit (this is his sixth book) and I am increasingly impressed by the clarity of his approach. Like a good teacher he knows his subject and more important can communicate successfully. This latest book maintains the high standards and contains a great deal of practical advice on how to turn defence into attack.” – Alan Sutton, En Passant

“What really makes this book different from early books on defending are the more than 60 exercises that Franco offers the student to solve, all of which relate directly to the material covered and feature detailed solutions with both the correct answer and plenty of explanatory prose.” – IM John Donaldson, on Silman’s website,

“30 deeply-analysed games with some 50 exercises to test the reader’s understanding, on several subjects such as ‘Lasker, the Master of Defence and Counter-Attack’; ‘Refuting Premature Attacks’; ‘Fighting Blow by Blow’; ‘Regrouping’; ‘Prophylactic Thinking’; and ‘Simplification’. It is a typically well-presented Gambit Publications product and an interesting read.” – John Saunders, British Chess Magazine

“A book that [teaches] you as no other to strike back!” – John Elburg,

“Approximately 60 exercises are peppered throughout the book to test the reader’s counterattacking skill. The answers are fully annotated, covering 48 pages. The annotations are excellent throughout the book. GM Franco has clearly worked hard; a similar effort from the student should result in a greater understanding of various types of middlegames.” – Sean Marsh,

“An Impressive Book
Readers unfamiliar with the works of Zenon Franco have plenty of catching up to do. The grandmaster from Paraguay, who now lives in Spain, wrote three excellent books for Gambit Publications. After Chess Self-Improvement and The Art of Attacking Chess, Franco recently came up with Grandmaster Secrets: Counterattack! His discussion of the delicate subject on how to bounce back from difficult positions is both enjoyable and instructive. One can still learn a lot from Emanuel Lasker’s tenacity in defense and José Raul Capablanca’s art of simplification, but examples of modern players, such as Kramnik and Carlsen, are also presented. Overall, it is a great book for tournament players.” – GM Lubomir Kavalek, Washington Post

“...the author knows not only his historical but also his contemporary sources, and is able to introduce a topic (not only counterattack, but also psychology in chess) in a subtle but compelling way. ... the book consists of much more than just classic games. It’s a guide to all possible ways of countering an attack, such as simplification and prophylaxis, logically ordered by theme, each followed by lots of good exercises. ... a truly interesting book not only for people who want to improve their game, but also for those who simply like classic games analysed by a contemporary grandmaster. ... depth and insightful explanations go hand in hand.” – Arne Moll,