Friday, 18 September 2009

Chess Reviews: 107

The Queen’s Gambit Declined: Exchange Variation
By GM Nigel Davies
Four Hours

As GM Davies demonstrates, White has more than one way to play the positions arising from:
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 cxd5 exd5 5 Bg5 or similar move orders. This DVD focuses on the strategical aspects of the system rather than the specific lines of theory.

He stresses that the positions arising have relevance in other openings too and highlights the fact that ‘this is such an important opening and such an important type of position that every great player in history has been involved in this kind of position at some point in his career’.

Botvinnik, Kasparov and Reshevsky are named as the biggest heroes of the White side, Spassky, Karpov and Keres singled out as particularly notable upholders of the Black position.

He goes on to highlight the difference in strategic factors for both sides. White has a half-open c-file and a central pawn majority; Black enjoys the half-open e-file and has a Queenside pawn majority. These imbalances help to create the conditions to produce the different plans available to both players.

The Minority Attack

A central advance with f2-f3 followed by e2-e4

0-0-0 and a Kingside attack

Having introduced the basic ideas, he then analyses them in turn.

It’s particularly impressive how he presents both sides of the story; the illustrative games feature plenty of Black wins in addition to White victories. For example, in the section dealing with 0-0-0 and crushing Kingside attacks against the Black monarch, he makes sure that balance is restored with some examples in which Black is more on the ball and consequently ensures an equal share of the spoils.

Kuzmin - Kerius
Harrachov 1967

Black has played too passively and White clearly has the better position. 1-0 (33)

At club level, the plan of 0-0-0 for White will harvest plenty of points. Stronger players will handle the Black position with greater skill, as this DVD shows.

Hulak - Spassky
Interzonal 1982

13...b4 looks perfectly logical but after 14 Na4 White has stopped the Queenside attack and even has extra options of playing down the c-file.

Spassky’s 13...a4! is much better and he went on to outplay Hulak after 37 moves.

The last three lectures examine the use of the QGD’s strategical ideas in other openings, such as the minority attack in the Exchange Variation of the Caro-Kann. This is typical of the approach adopted by GM Davies; he is never lazy with his material of his presentation and is genuinely in teaching as much as possible.

The Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined has been one of my favourite openings for a very long time. I think GM Davies does an excellent job of explaining everything the viewer needs to know to play these lines with either colour. This DVD is the pick of this month’s bunch.

By GM Adrian Mikhalchisin
Five Hours

In an attempt to avoid the slow, positional lines of the Ruy Lopez, GM Mikhalchisin opines: ‘Sometimes it’s possible to change the approach; it’s possible to play some sharp lines…’

This introdcues the Arkhangelsk.

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 b5 6 Bb3 Bb7

I didn't know very much about this variation so I was pleased that he included some historical background to its development.

‘It was invented in 1962 by the players from Russian port city Arkhangelsk on the north of the Russia.’

Heroes of this line include Mikhalchisin, Planinec, Mecking, Beliavsky and Malanuik. Indeed, the latter has a special connection with the opening as he was born in Arkhangelsk.

The main ideas involve the Bishops. The Bb7 increases pressure on the centre especially on White's corwn jelwel, the e4 pawn. The other Bishop wants to go to c5. After White tries to blunt it with c2-c3 and d2-d4, the Bishop can drop back to b6 to pressure the pawn on d4. So it's really a counterattacking system, all about applying pressure on White's centre and to cuase the opponent problems he wouldn't normally experience in other Lopez lines.

White has various tries from the diagram above. 7 Ng5, 7 Qe2, 7 d4, 7 c3, 7 Nc3, 7 Re1 and 7 d3 are all considered.

A good demonstration of the power of the Bishops came in this classic game, in which Black sacrificed his Queen.

Ljubojevic - Planinec
Vrsac 1971

The presenter admires the game but is not convinced Black had to be quite so aggessive. In his sometimes semi-berken English, he says: ‘So, it’s interesting Queen sacrifice I must honestly…it’s necessary for Black to play in such sharp way, but if Black enjoy it, then it’s no problem.’

As a presenter, Mikhalchisin perhaps runs through the games and variations a little too quickly. I often had to use the 'pause' and 'rewind' facilities to keep.

Black does seem to have some fun at White's expense in this system but it’s sharp stuff and not to be played without proper preparation.

The Budapest Gambit
By IM Andrew Martin
Four hours and twenty minutes

Fans of the Budapest will have enjoyed September. First they have a new book on the subject from Everyman and now a new DVD.

IM Martin brings the fighting talk out early:

‘A reliable defence to 1 d4 is a prerequisite for every chess player. On previous ChessBase DVDs I have suggested various approaches but none is as audacious or exciting as the fiery Budapest Gambit.’

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5 looks very strange at first glance but after 3 dxe5 Ng4 (The Fajarowicz Gambit - 3...Ne4 - is not considered here). Black usually manages to either recapture the pawn or force big concessions from White if the latter intends to keep it.

The material is well organised. Themes are discussed first, followed by 4 e4. Then the unusual tries are examined before we are eventually led to the main lines with 4 Bf4.

Throughout the DVD, Black is heartily encouraged to take the most active paths.
For example, when White plays a2-a3 in some of the main line positions, Black’s reflex…a7-a5 is not merely Queenside prophylaxis; he is often hoping to follow up with …Ra6 followed by swinging the Rook over to the Kingside to participate in an attack on the White King.

Genova - Listas
Greece 2000

Black’s battle plans are as direct as IM Martin‘s delivery. ‘We know what to do - …Ra6. There is an alternative here, …Re8. But why waste time with that when you can get on with the job?’

In this game, Black did indeed ‘get on with the job’. The adventurous Rook helped to force resignation 14 moves later.

If I took up the Budapest I’d still be concerned by two lines. One is the fairly modern plan of 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5 3 dxe5 Ng4 4 e3 Nxe5 4 Nh3, intending 5 Nf4 and a very firm grip on d5. I’m not entirely convinced by the treatment given on this DVD; the illustrative game Gurevich - Tisdall shows rather insipid play by White.

The other problem receives some interesting suggestions.

In the main line, reached after the moves:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.e3 Ngxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.Be2 0–0 10.0–0

…White is hoping to track down Black’s dark-squared Bishop and grind out a win with his own Bishop pair. This is essentially how Karpov best Short’s Budapest in game one of their 1992 Candidates match. Short played 10...d6 in that game. IM Martin has two different suggestions.

10...a5, to stir up trouble after 11 a3 a4 and 10...Ng6, to trade Bishops after 11 Bg3 Bd6

Black players must pay special attention to these lines.

With his direct, rallying style of presentation, IM Martin makes a good case for examining the Budapest Gambit. Yet the lack of Budapest heroes, who will play it consistently at high levels and thus continue to evolve the theory of the opening, is an indication that strong players feel it is not entirely satisfactory. Nevertheless, club players will be happy with the bloodthirsty nature of the recommended repertoire given here for Black. Just don’t forget to prepare something for 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3, which people will play to once they know you are armed to the teeth with swinging Rooks.

Finally, two older titles have just been reissued with considerable amounts of new material.

The Scandinavian - The Easy Way - 2nd Edition
By IM Andrew Martin
Four hours

Following a typically motivational introduction by IM Martin, he then moves on to point out various traps against the exposed Black Queen. The first edition of the DVD covered 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6!? when the lion’s share of the material dealt with the position after the further moves 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 a6

The presenter examines eight different sixth moves for White.

6 Be3; 6 g3; 6 Bc4; 6 Bd3; 6 Be2; 6 Ne5; 6 Bg5 and 6 h3

After analysing them all, IM Martin concludes that ‘…Black seems to be holding his own against each of them.’

Deviations from the main line received attention too, such as 3 Nf3 and 3 d4.

There are seven new video lectures, each giving a relevant recent game. All are from the years 2004 - 2009

There was a time when the Scandinavian Defence was played only by GM Bent Larsen and a few eccentric characters in chess clubs. These days it is a perfectly respectable defence to 1 e4 and one which appears easy enough to learn. Not everyone will feel comfortable with the early Queen excursions but those who like trying new things should find plenty of interest here.

The ABC of the King’s Indian - 2nd Edition
By IM Andrew Martin
Five hours

IM Martin’s coverage of the King’s Indian Defence starts with some typical motivational material in the Introduction.

This is followed by four main chapters as he works his way through all of the standard lines.

Classical Games

Four Pawns Attack

Saemisch Variation


Systems with an Early Bg5

Other White Systems

A famous five-minute game between Korchnoi and Fischer continues to inspire new generations of King’s Indian fans. It is used here as one of the illustrative games.

Korchnoi - Fischer
Herceg Novi 1970

24...Nh8! and the Knight ends up striking a devastating blow on the White King.

28...Nxh3 0-1 (31)

Nine new videos enhance the original edition of this DVD bring the King’s Indian right up to date. Two games are from the 2009 British Championship: a smashing victory by GM Williams over KID specialist Hebden and an excellent demonstration of Black’s chances in the Classical variation, showing Gawain Jones whip up a mating attack against GM Summerscale.

The attacking style is reminiscent of Fischer’s game. ‘Route one chess; zeroing in on White’s King.’

Summerscale - Jones


A few moves later, White is suffering enough to throw in the towel.

0-1 (...Rh4 is coming next)

‘The King’s Indian is one of those openings…Black’s going for the throat on the Kingside; if White makes a mistake, it’s game over. If White wins the battle of the Queenside? Ok, there will still be Kingside counter chances for Black. Many players are attracted to the King’s Indian precisely because it’s possible to put White away in the this brilliant manner.’

Mastering the King’s Indian will take a lot longer than the Scandinavian; it is extremely theory-heavy and shouldn’t really be attempted over the board without a substantial amount of homework.

Consequently, The Scandinavian DVD is the better of the two for club players to get a new opening up and running in the shortest time possible, as it will not necessarily require further research, but the King’s Indian Defence will be more rewarding as part of a long-term repertoire.

The new lectures on both of the second edition DVDs make these products even better value for money than ever. Those who already own the first editions will definitely find enough extra material to justify purchasing these updated editions.

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