One of the useful things about playing the French is that it can be fairly easily turned into a low maintenance universal repertoire. A few years ago I made a DVD for Chessbase on this topic in which Black would combine the French with Bogo-Indian type lines, meeting 1.d4 with 1…e6 and then on 2.c4 playing 2…Bb4+. The emphasis here was on solidity rather than anything else and the French lines I gave featured the Romanishin System with 3…Be7 against 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2 together with super solid lines of the Bogo. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a good way to get a universal 1…e6 repertoire up and running.
For more adventurous souls I recently made this one in which the Owens Defence is used as a supplement to the French. I don’t recommend the Owens against 1.e4 because of 1…b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nd2, but it can be playable after 1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6. Here’s a sample that’s on Youtube:
Finally there’s a more traditional option for Black is to combine the French and the Dutch, and this you can do with playing 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5, which has the advantage of avoiding gambit lines like the Staunton (1.d4 f5 2.e4!?) plus other anti-Dutch ideas. If you’d like to go this route I show the ideas on this video at my Tiger Chess site:
Remember that players at club level really just need plans, ideas and concepts whilst they get on board an opening, in my opinion it’s plain madness for them to buy a huge tome full of variations played and analyzed by top GMs. I do explain this and more on my Tiger Chess site with some video lessons that are available to both full and video members.
Here’s a video I made on pgn (portable game notation) files, explaining what they are and how to use them. Hope you find this useful!
One of the most popular features at my Tiger Chess site is the recently introduced Analysis Training feature. It is very different to tactical chess problems of the ‘White to play and win’ genre in that the positions may be tactical or strategic in nature and call for a quite different type of thinking to the usual calculation of forcing moves.
Here’s my Youtube video about it:
This new film by the Israeli film-maker Yossi Aviram looks interesting. Meanwhile it’s interesting to reflect that all three sisters are now retired from tournament play.
Chess fans, myself included, are no doubt looking forward to the release of, Pawn Sacrifice, new Bobby Fischer movie. It looks pretty good from the trailer:
A controversial improvement method is to play blindfold chess. Blindfold exhibitions were banned in the Soviet Union in 1930 because they were thought to be a health hazard, though I have yet to see any evidence that this is true. And I’ve found that it has helped my own game to practice visualizing ahead in my mind rather than moving the pieces on the board.
Here’s a recent blindfold exhibition by Magnus Carlsen in which he takes on three opponents simultaneously. A bit of a walk in the park for him, but entertaining nonetheless:
I found this documentary interesting, especially the comparisons between chess and go in their applications to warfare. My view is that chess wasn’t actually designed as a war game at all, and that instead it evolved from fortune telling rituals. This would certainly explain why chess thinking doesn’t necessarily work so well if applied to military scenarios.
Here are a few tips from Magnus Carlsen. Worth watching and quite amusing:
One of the lost arts of the chess board is that of adjournment analysis. In the days before computers we used to adjourn games after the first session (normally 40 moves and 4 or 5 hours) and then continue them after dinner or on a separate day. And between the sessions it was customary to analyse the adjourned position as well as possible, recruiting what help was available.
There is an interesting chapter on adjournment analysis in The Art of the Middle Game by Paul Keres and Alexander Kotov, with this particular chapter being written by Keres. Alexander Kotov also discusses is in Think Like a Grandmaster and here there are some wonderful insights.
Kotov suggests that collective analysis tends to be inaccurate, something that was confirmed by my own experience. He suggests that an initial examination with friends can be a good thing, but after that you should work out everything on your own.
These days everything would be checked by a computer of course, but the idea that collective analysis tends to be inaccurate is interesting. I think that a lot of different voices will necessarily create an atmosphere in which participants want to outdo each other, and without their own game being at risk. It’s a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, with one highly motivated cook being far more effective.
How can this help the improvement process? Essentially in immunising us against believing the unknowing collective and seeking instead to be independent. Your own ideas may not be right but thinking them through yourself and putting them on the line you learn something if they are refuted.
Here meanwhile is a funny video about receiving advice:
One of my early favourite openings was the Chigorin Defence with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6!?. I started playing it after seeing it recommended in Leonard Barden’s The Guardian Chess Book. And I then played it throughout my teenage years, long before Alexander Morozevich discovered it.
The Chigorin is a sharp and lively counter attacking line which has much in common with both the Gruenfeld and Nimzo-Indian. There have been some developments since Morozevich championed it, but by and large it will tend to surprise White players.
Here’s my Youtube clip about the Chigorin Video at Tiger Chess: