Chess24 Jan London

John Watson DVD Reviews (101)

ChessBase Training DVDs and Downloads

John Watson reviews DVD and Video Downloads from ChessBase

John Watson reviews DVD and Video Downloads from ChessBase |

After a break John Watson returns with two sets of reviews of downloads and DVD courses. In the first group he looks at 5 ChessBase tutorial videos. Pressing Straightaway: The London System 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 in 60 Minutes; Henrik Danielsen, Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes; (Download); Dejan Bojkov, English 1 c4 c5 for Black; DVD; Viktor Bologan, English Opening; DVD; Nigel Davies and Meine Beste Partien; DVD; Wolfgang Uhlmann.

Pressing Straightaway: The London System 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 in 60 Minutes

Pressing Straightaway: The London System 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 in 60 Minutes; (Download); Henrik Danielsen; ChessBase (2012)

Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes; (Download); Dejan Bojkov

Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes; (Download); Dejan Bojkov; ChessBase 2012

Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes

English 1 c4 c5 for Black; DVD; Viktor Bologan; ChessBase 2012

English Opening; DVD; Nigel Davies; ChessBase 2008

English Opening; DVD; Nigel Davies; ChessBase 2008

Meine Beste Partien; DVD; Wolfgang Uhlmann; ChessBase

Meine Beste Partien; DVD; Wolfgang Uhlmann; ChessBase

For my new set of columns, I'm going to begin by fulfilling an old promise to discuss some of the scores of DVDs from ChessBase which I've watched parts or all of over the years. I'll try to pick out good ones, with a variety of authors, and I'll include some recent video products which are only available by download. It's amazing how much is out there: according to the ChessBase website, in the 'training' category alone (which doesn't include programs, databases, CBM Magazine, etc.), there are 331 DVDS, including 189 on openings , 71 on middlegames, 17 on endgames, 19 on 'World Championship chess, 6 'Fritz and [X]' elementary DVDs, and 24 '60 minutes' videos (described below). The great majority of these are four hours or more, sometimes up to 8 hours (e.g., Davies' English Opening DVD discussed below).

Here I'll discuss the type of videos I've used myself in teaching and writing, i.e., those about openings and middlegames (e.g., the 'Fritztrainer' DVDs). But in the past, I've reviewed ChessBase Magazine several times, as you can find in the TWIC archives. I've also written about ChessBase DVDs which deal with historical/biographical subjects; in fact, those are my personal favourites. In this column, for example, I have already looked at the Anand and Kramnik autobiographical DVDs, Kortchnoi's My Life for Chess , Nigel Shorts Greatest Hits Volumes 1 and Greatest Hits Volumes 2 , and Hort's DVD about playing against the World Champions. In the older days of the CD, I also very much liked 'The Greatest Tournaments in the History of Chess' and the World Championships CDs, as well as the World Champions series by Huebner and other ChessBase staff. The nice thing is that such material doesn't become dated, so you can enjoy it on its own merits.

Meine Beste Partien; DVD; Wolfgang Uhlmann; ChessBase

Meine Beste Partien; DVD; Wolfgang Uhlmann; ChessBase

Along those lines, Wolfgang Uhlmann has authored a wonderful DVD in German: Meine Beste Partien. This is available on the German ChessBase-shop.com/de site. Uhlmann presents 20 of his most memorable games in 7 hours and 38 minutes, with Karsten Mueller as co-commentator. Uhlmann is much like his games: lively, sharp, and full of enthusiasm (he's 77 years old now). This is the rare DVD that might be worth getting even (also available by download) if you don't speak German. Granted, that might be a bit of a luxury for someone without a liberal chess budget.

Some of the basic questions about chess video products have been around for a couple of decades: Who are they best suited for?; Are they a good learning tool?; What's the best way to keep the viewer's interest?; How do they compare with books? In my experience, people either take to videos or don't. I have a friend who watches them as he exercises on a stationary bike; he's seen hundreds. Other players show little or no interest. An important issue is whether you absorb and/or enjoy material better in a video format (as many people do for 'real world' subjects, particularly children); on the negative side passive learning (not moving the pieces or being engaged interactively) doesn't work for some people, who say they don't like the lack of feedback. From those who do like watching chess videos, the most common complaint I hear about ChessBase DVDs is that the presenter's face is always before you (facing you or staring at the computer screen), but after you've gotten used to him or her, the only thing you're really doing is watching the moves on the board and listening to a voice. So in one sense, the split screen method isn't that much better than just showing the board with audio commentary and no live visuals. On the other hand, some people find it pleasant to have a face in front of them simulating a real-world lecture. Personally I don't care that much, although it's very nice to see the presenter for at least a brief time so that you know what he looks like and can see a little about his screen personality.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the players from England are the best at presenting the material (at least for English-language DVDs!); it's simply a matter of a native feel for the nuances and humour of the language. That's one reason Davies (who is quietly expressive) and Martin (who has a more directly enthusiastic style) are so popular; they are fun to listen to. Lawrence Trent is similarly at ease and convincing, while Daniel King, whose Power Play series is very popular (unusually so for lectures with mostly middlegame themes) gives a comfortable impression with numerous entertaining comments. As much as I respect the competent English of other lecturers, which easily exceeds my own abilities with other languages, they too often come across as either mechanical, forcedly 'humorous', or downright dull. Some of them are even difficult to understand. (Of course there are exceptions, for example, Jan Gustafsson and Lubomir Ftacnik. And players with exceptional knowledge are always interesting, e.g., Alexei Shirov sometimes seems befuddled, but I like his humour, spontaneity, and of course great chess wisdom). On the other hand, linguistic awkwardness can be to some extent made up for by a good spacing of the moves and variations. And of course, the chess material itself is easily the most important factor in assessing these DVDs. Nevertheless, especially in a video format, we're more likely to stay alert and interested if the lecturer's personality engages us.

Recently ChessBase has hit upon a formula which I suspect will be a great success: they've introduced a series of videos limited to an hour, and available by download, called '[X]...in 60 minutes', e.g., Attacking the Semi-Slav with g3 in 60 minutes by Robert Ris or An Anti-Sicilian Repertoire in 60 minutes by Loek van Wely. It seems to me that this is perfect for the average player, for whom 6-hour presentations are somewhat intimidating, and for the everyday worker require the patience and consistency to split into various viewings over what might be a week or two. The '60 Minute' series videos are more focused and require only one session or at most two for the average player, and they cost less than the full-length ones (9.90 Euro). For me, the requirement to download is actually a benefit: I get the product more quickly and save shelf space.

Pressing Straightaway: The London System 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 in 60 Minutes

Pressing Straightaway: The London System 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 in 60 Minutes; (Download); Henrik Danielsen; ChessBase (2012)

Let's look at a couple of examples. Of the 24 '60 minutes' videos by ChessBase, only 2 are not about openings, showing again how players are ever-hungrier for opening knowledge; this is a trend which shows no sign of stopping. I've been researching the London System recently and watched Henrik Danielsen's Pressing Straightaway: The London System 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 in 60 Minutes. This isn't a complete London System repertoire, since it only covers lines with 1...d5. This is a large subject, however, and includes a wide variety of combinations, e.g., ...d5 and ...e6, ...d5 and ...g6, ...d5 and ...Nc6, and ...d5 and ...c5, and others. Danielsen has a lot of experience playing the London, and not only gives a repertoire versus Black's most common setups, but presents some new ideas. For example, after

1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Nf6 3 e3 e6 4 Nf3 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Be7

r_bqk__r
pp__bppp
__n_pn__
__pp____
___P_B__
__P_PN__
PP_N_PPP
R__QKB_R

Position after 6...Be7

he doesn't like the normal 7 Bd3 due to 7...Nh5, and suggests

7 Ne5

giving and example with

7 ..0-0?! 8 Bd3 Qb6 9 Rb1! Rd8 10 Qf3! Bd7 11 Qh3 Rac8 12 g4 g6 13 Ndf3 cxd4 14 exd4 Ne8??

(better 14 ..Be8 15 Bg5 Rd6 16 Qh4 Qd8 17 0-0 Rc7 18 Rfe1 h5 19 h3, but White has a clear advantage)

15 Nxf7 Kxf7 16 Qxh7+ Ng7 17 Bxg6+ Kf8

(17 ..Kf6 18 Bg5#)

18 Qh8#.

In this line, the move

6...Bd6

r_bqk__r
pp___ppp
__nbpn__
__pp____
___P_B__
__P_PN__
PP_N_PPP
R__QKB_R

Position after 6...Bd6

Diagram

is often preferred, when Danielsen gives

7 Bg3

(he also mentions 7 Bxd6 Qxd6 8 Bb5 Bd7 9 a4 0-0 10 0-0 a6 11 Be2, having in mind the trick 11...e5 12 Nc4! dxc4 13 dxe5 Qxd1 14 Rfxd1 Nxe5 15 Nxe5 Be6 16 Bxc4)

7 ..0-0 8 Bd3 Re8 9 Ne5 Bxe5

(9...Qc7 and 9...Qe7 are met by 10 f4)

10 dxe5 Nd7 11 Nf3 Qc7 12 0-0

with the idea 13...Ndxe5?? 13 Nxe5 Nxe5 14 Qh5 f5 15 Qxe8#.

Danielsen's solutions to an early ...c5 and to Grunfeld structures with ...g6 are excellent, and he's convincing in his claim that Black will have a difficult time fully equalising in all these variations. Obviously, anyone who plays the London on whatever level will want to have this video. For a more general treatment on the London versus all defences, ChessBase has Nigel Davies' London System from 2008, in DVD format, whereas traditional readers may prefer the comprehensive treatments in the books Play the London System by Cyrus Lakdawala, and Win with the London System by Sverre Johnsen and Vlatko Kovacevic.

Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes; (Download); Dejan Bojkov

Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes; (Download); Dejan Bojkov; ChessBase 2012

The English Opening has been the subject of several ChessBase projects and I'll take some time to compare and contrast them. In the 60-minute series we have Dejan Bojkov's Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes, which features 1...e5 and the Reversed Dragon with ...Nf6 and ...d5. This is a complete anti-1 c4 solution, of course, but to be fair, it is a system which can be played against many of White's move orders involving an early Nc3 and g3 (extremely common) and occurs in the main line

1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 d5 5 cxd5 Nxd5.

Of course, with the latter order White can play moves such as 4 e3, 4 d3, 4 d4, and even 4 e4 (the latter much more interesting than its frequency of use would indicate); in any case, it's not too difficult to find solutions to those in the literature.

Since I've written about the English Opening rather extensively in Volume 3 of my Mastering the Chess Openings series, I thought I'd take a look to see if a 60-minute project could compete with written theory on the same subject. It's interesting to compare Mihail Marin's massive 3-volume repertoire book on the English Opening with Bojkov's and other ChessBase DVDs. In this case, the two overlap in the line

1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 g3 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Bg2 Nb6 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 0-0 Be7 8 a3 0-0 9 b4 Be6 10 d3 f6 11 Rb1 a5 12 b5 Nd4 13 Nd2 Qc8 14 e3 Nf5 15 Qc2 Rd8 16 Bb2 a4

(or 15 Bb2 Rd8 16 Qc2 a4), with analysis as follows:

r_qr__k_
_pp_b_pp
_n__bp__
_P__pn__
p_______
P_NPP_P_
_BQN_PBP
_R___RK_

Position after 16...a4

17 Rfd1

This is the only move that Marin gives. He doesn't mention Carlsen's move 17 Rfc1 versus Kramnik, who answered 17 ..Nd6 18 Nde4 Ne8! , and although White ultimately won the game Black had several improvements noted by both players, and arguably the second player had good chances of actually turning his extra space to advantage. Bojkov demonstrates this clearly in his own analysis of the Carlsen game.

17 ..Nd6!

With ideas such as ...Ra5 and ...Qd7, targeting the b-pawn. Marin doesn't mention this move, or in fact any other move besides 17...Ra5 (after which White gets an advantage from 18 Nc4!). This is a little strange, since 17...Nd6 was Kramnik's move in the forementioned game, and is suggested by the computer as Black's best in the position after 17 Rfd1. In fact, 17...Ra5, which Marin analyses for two pages, isn't among my engine's top seven choices (I stopped adding lines at that point). This is a problem which I have run into repeatedly in Marin's book, i.e., that at critical main line junctures he only gives one move (sometimes for one side and sometimes for both), and if his suggested repertoire move proves inadequate versus another reply (which is inevitable from time to time), he doesn't offer the reader any alternatives. In sidelines this isn't quite so important (or realistic, even in three volumes), but offering at least some main-line options should be part of every repertoire book. Interestingly, Marin's 17 ..Ra5 18 Nc4! line goes 18...Nxc4 19 dxc4 Bxc4 20 Rxd8+ (Bojkov gives 20 Nd5 as somewhat better for White) 20...Bxd8 21 Nxa4 Nd6 22 Nc3 Bxb5? (22 ..Be6 and White has an edge) 23 Nxb5 Rxb5 24 a4 Rb4, and here Marin gives the move 25 Rc1 a '!!'. He continues with more than a page of tiny-print analysis; but in fact, this is a rather simple position, and 25 Qc3! is so strong that it renders this only marginally relevant.

18 Ba1 Ra5

Black can also play 18 ..Kh8 or 18 ..Bf8, in both cases with the more comfortable better position, at least equal possibly very slightly better for the second player.

19 Bf3 Bf8 20 Be2 Ra8 21 Bb2 Qd7 22 Rdc1

22 Nc4 Ndxc4 23 dxc4 Qf7.

22 ..Nxb5 23 Nxb5 Qxb5 24 Ba1 Qe8 25 Qxc7 Nd5 26 Qxb7 Bxa3 and Black was clearly better in the game Shoker-Li Chao2, Ningbo 2011.

So Bojkov comes out very well indeed in the comparison with written theory, even within the 60-minute format.

Meet the English Opening in 60-minutes

English 1 c4 c5 for Black; DVD; Viktor Bologan; ChessBase 2012

The recent English 1 c4 c5 for Black DVD by Viktor Bologan is comprehensive look at 1...c5 employed as an anti-English repertoire. In general this is an instructive work by one of ChessBase's most knowledgeable contributors. I've always loved Bologan's creative style as a player, and I also recommend his other DVDs, which tend to be quite ambitious, e.g., a repertoire for White against the Sicilian in three DVDs lasting over almost 17 hours, using the Open main lines. Similarly, he presents an anti-French repertoire which bites the bullet and has White play 3 Nc3 main lines, with all the complexity that entails. And in an earlier DVD he presents a full King's Indian Defence repertoire, no easy task. Bologan isn't the most charismatic presenter, nor is he the worst; fortunately, the high quality material speaks for itself.

I suspect that Bologan is less obsessed with the details of this 1...c5 project than he is in his other DVDs; he prefers to concentrate on the main lines and is sometimes a little too casual about White's alternatives. But he also gets important things right. Let me look at the 'Fischer' variation

1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nf3 e6.

r_bqk_nr
pp_pppbp
__n___p_
__p_____
__P_____
__N__NP_
PP_PPPBP
R_BQK__R

Position after 5...e6

Here White can play 6 a3, a fairly rare line which is nevertheless very interesting. Bologan's main line after 6 a3 goes:

6 ..d5

After 6 ..Nge7 7 b4, Bologan doesn't go into the mess of 7..Nxb4, but continues 7 ..b6 8 b5 (I prefer 8 Rb1 with a limited edge) 8...Bxc3?! (This seems inferior. Why not 8 ..Na5 ?) 9 dxc3 Na5 , targetting c4. However, I think 10 Ne5 gives White the better chances, e.g., 10...Bb7 (10...Rb8? 11 Qd6; 10...d5? 11 Bg5 0-0 12 Bf6) 11 Bxb7 Nxb7 12 Bg5.

7 b4 Nf6

Bologan analyses 7..cxb4 8 axb4 dxc4 9 Qa4 (9 b5!) 9 ..Nf6 (9 ..a5 10 b5 Nb4 11 Ba3 Nf6!?) 10 b5 Ne7 11 Qxc4 with the idea Ba3, with advantage.

8 bxc5 0-0

Bologan also gives 8 ..d4 9 Na4 (I think 9 Nb5 is slightly better for White, e.g., 9 ..0-0 10 d3 a6 11 Nd6 Nd7 12 0-0 Nxc5 13 Nxc8 Rxc8 14 Rb1) 9 ..e5 10 0-0 h6 11 d3 0-0 12 Rb1 Re8 13 Nd2 Re7 14 Qc2 Qc7.

9 d4

9 0-0 dxc4.

9 ..dxc4 10 0-0 Nd5 11 Bd2!?

Here 11 Nb5! with the idea e4 seems to give White some advantage.

11 ..b6!

(Bologan), and Black can claim equality.

The most important line in the entire variation (1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nc3 e6) goes 6 0-0 (Probably 6 d3 Nge7 7 Bg5 h6 8 Bd2 is the most accurate way to get to the main line, generally transposing) 6 ..Nge7 7 d3 0-0 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bd2 d5 10 a3 b6 11 Rb1

r_bq_rk_
p___npb_
_pn_p_pp
__pp____
__P_____
P_NP_NP_
_P_BPPBP
_R_Q_RK_

Position after 11.Rb1

Once again it's worthwhile to compare Mihail Marin's analysis and my own with Bologan. He suggests:

11...a5!

I like this move. By far the best-known line is given in both my and Marin's book: 11 ..Bb7 12 Qc1 Kh7 13 b4 cxb4 14 axb4 dxc4 15 dxc4 Qc8 , and both Marin and Bologan follow Jobava-Alekseev, Moscow 2006 with 16 Ne4 for another 7 moves before Bologan deviates and tries to improve for Black. Objectively, I think White retains the better of things in that case, but as I show in my book, the move 16 c5! is quite strong and makess that disagreement less significant.

12 Na4?!

I think this is substandard. White has more natural alternatives, including 12 Qb3 and:

a) 12 Nb5 Ba6 13 Qc1 (13 Qb3!?) 13 ..Kh7 (13 ..g5 and; 13 ..Nf5 appear equal.) 14 Bc3, and here 14...Qd7 15 Bxg7 Kxg7 is about equal, while 14 ..d4 15 Bd2 Qd7 16 Qc2 Nf5 should also hold the balance.;

b) 12 Qc1 Kh7 13 Qc2 is Marin's choice for White, more interesting but still nothing special: 13 ..Rb8 14 Rfd1, and instead of his 14...Bb7, 14 ..Nf5! should be played, since 15 e3 (15 cxd5 Ncd4 16 Qc1 Nb3 17 Qc2 Nbd4 18 Nxd4 Nxd4=; 15 Qb3 may be best) 15 ..d4 16 Nb5 dxe3 17 fxe3 Qd7 is equal.

12 ..dxc4 13 dxc4 e5 14 e4 Nd4

with the idea ..Be6 or ...Bb7 and Black obviously stands well.

What we're finding with these videos is that, although the main point of both DVDs and the '60-minutes' series is to give a broad and necessarily simplified look at an opening line, they can still contain original and relevant theory.

Finally, I was interested in Bologan's choice of an early ...g6 in the line

1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6

which is respectable but not thought of as giving Black positive chances. The most important variation continues

4 e3 Nf6 5 d4 cxd4 6 exd4 d5 7 cxd5 Nxd5 8 Qb3 Nxc3

(Bologan also thinks that 8 ..e6 equalises, and that may be a better path. He analyses 9 Bb5 and 9 Nxd5, which are both unclear, but I think that 9 Bg5! is a better way to fight for a small advantage)

9 Bc4!

(a well-known trick)

9 ..Nd5 10 Bxd5 e6 11 Bxc6+ bxc6 12 0-0 Qd5

r_b_kb_r
p____p_p
__p_p_p_
___q____
___P____
_Q___N__
PP___PPP
R_B__RK_

Position after 12...Qd5

Bologan thinks that Black stands satisfactorily here. He calls

13 Qc3

the 'main line', but this doesn't impress after

13 ..Be7 14 Bh6 f6 15 Qe3 Bd7 16 h4 Kf7

Developing at the same time as targeting Black's dark squares is consistent. There are two better moves:

a) 13 Bf4 f6 14 Rfc1 g5 15 Bg3 h5 16 h4 Qxb3 (16 ..g4 17 Ne1! and Nd3) 17 axb3 gxh4 18 Bxh4 Be7 . Bologan says this is equal. I imagine that a player of his strength is confident of a draw, but these DVDs should present practical lines for 'normal' players, and even a master won't be happy that Black has no real chances, whereas I think White still has a minor edge after either of two moves:

a1) 19 d5! (a computer suggestion) gives a small advantage: 19 ..exd5 (19 ..cxd5? 20 Rxa7! Rb8 (20 ..Rxa7 21 Rxc8+ Bd8 22 Rxd8+) 21 Bg3 e5 22 Nxe5!) 20 Rxc6 0-0 (20 ..Kf7 21 Nd4) 21 Nd4 with a modest positional advantage. Nothing special, but no fun for Black to play.

a2) Black also has to prove full compensation after the simple 19 Rxc6 , e.g.,

19 ..Rg8 (19 ..Bd7 20 Rca6) 20 Rc7 a5 21 d5!.

b) 13 Bg5 is interesting, probably slightly in White's favour after 13 ..Qxb3 14 axb3 Bg7 15 Rfc1 Bb7 16 Ra4 f6 17 Bf4 due to Black's somewhat more significant weaknesses. Bologan gives 17 ..Bf8 and stops, but the reorganisation 18 Nd2 g5 19 Bg3 is still not fully equal. Again, this is probably good enough for the professional as Black, but potentially uncomfortable for everyone else.

English Opening; DVD; Nigel Davies; ChessBase 2008

English Opening; DVD; Nigel Davies; ChessBase 2008

I'll take a look at one more English Opening DVD: Nigel Davies' English Opening, which presents a repertoire but may still be viewed as a general discussion of English Opening ideas. Davies has done more videos than any other presenter besides Martin, and his delivery shows why: this is a well-paced and highly instructive DVD which presents 40 games to cover a repertoire based upon 2 g3 (everyone's favorite order, it seems, following the footsteps of Tony Kosten's classic The Dynamic English). Being from 2008, his theory isn't quite as up-to-date as the Marin's book or the other videos; but he picks some unique lines. I'll do a quick comparison with theory. First, let's once again see how Davies confronts the Reversed Dragon problem. He does so cleverly, avoiding the main line with the order

1 c4 e5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 d5 4 cxd5 Nxd5 5 Nf3.

There follows

5...Nc6 6 0-0 Be7

(Davies' solution to 6 ..Nb6 is 7 b3 which has done rather well and I feel tends to favour White slightly in theory. The main is 7 ..Bd6 8 Bb2 0-0 9 d3, and now 9 ..Bg4 10 Nbd2 has been featured in some top-flight GM games, with good results for White)

7 d4!?

r_bqk__r
ppp_bppp
__n_____
___np___
___P____
_____NP_
PP__PPBP
RNBQ_RK_

Position after 7.d4

(7 Nc3 Nb6 is the main-line reversed Dragon again)

7 ..exd4?! 8 Nxd4 Nxd4 9 Qxd4

and White stands a little better, especially because

9 ..Nb4? 10 Qxg7 Bf6 11 Qh6 Nc2 12 Nc3 Nxa1 13 Rd1

is winning for White, e.g.

13 ..Bd7 14 Nd5 Be5 15 Bg5 Qc8 16 Nf6+ Bxf6 17 Qxf6 0-0 18 Bh6.

But a problem with delaying Nc3 is that Black can play, instead of 7...exd4,

7 ..e4 8 Ne5 f5!

(8 ..Nxe5 9 dxe5 Bf5 10 Bxe4 Bxe4 11 Qa4+ - Davies)

9 Nxc6 bxc6.

Then 10 Nd2 and 10 Nc3 were played in games in which Gelfand and Topalov were Black, and both should have led to equality. Otherwise the most obvious move is

10 Qc2

e.g.,

10 ..Qd7 11 Nc3 0-0 12 Na4

(12 Nxd5 cxd5=)

12 ..Ba6 13 Re1 Nb4 14 Qd1 c5=

Still, this is a nice way to get a double-edged game and avoid main-line theory.

One drawback of an English opening repertoire on DVD is that Black's options have to be limited, and that's difficult in the Symmetrical English. Davies' choice of 5 e3 in the pure Symmetrical English beginning with

1 c4 c5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 Nc3 Nc6

is an attempt to simplify things for the viewer. Traditionally,

5 e3 e6 6 Nge2 Nge7 7 0-0 0-0

has been considered dully equal. If White is to get realistic winning chances he needs to go into

8 d4

(else Black plays ...d5)

8...cxd4 9 Nxd4 d5 10 cxd5 Nxd4 11 exd4 Nxd5.

r_bq_rk_
pp___pbp
____p_p_
___n____
___P____
__N___P_
PP___PBP
R_BQ_RK_

Position after 11...Nxd5

Here Davies suggests that

12 Nxd5 exd5 13 Be3 Be6 14 Qb3

can be played for a win, but 14 ..Qb6 or 14...Qd7 is awfully sterile (and equal). After the more enterprising move

12 Qb3,

Davies shows a famous game which went

12...Bxd4 13 Bh6 Re8 14 Rad1

and White came out better. However, as I mention in my book,

12 ..Ne7!

with the ideas ...Nc6 and ...Nf5 equalises, e.g.,

13 Rd1 Nc6 14 Be3 Nxd4 15 Bxd4 Bxd4 16 Nb5 e5 17 Nxd4 exd4 18 Bd5 Qf6 19 Qb4 Bf5=

But maybe 5 e3 could be a worthwhile repertoire choice anyway. Interestingly, the innocent-looking move 12 Re1! (instead of 12 Qb3) can cause Black some real problems. This was played by Ivanchuk versus Kramnik, and although Black equalised, I show in my book that White could have put considerable pressure on Black's position.

So much for the English Opening. In my next column I'll continue with DVDs and videos by other ChessBase lecturers.

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