A Window into a New World
Review by Davide Nastasio
The French Defence for the Tournament Player, Nicholas Pert, ChessBase DVD, Video running time: 7 hours, $39.95 (ChessCafe Price $29.96)
English GM Nicholas Pert is the current National Head Coach of the English Chess Federation, and has regularly played for English teams in the Olympiads and the European Team Championships. On this DVD he provides a complete attacking repertoire for black in the French Defense.
The French Defence for the Tournament Player piqued my interest because I wanted to know more about what a French player thinks. A few weeks ago, during a tournament, I was playing as black when my opponent transposed from an Alekhine to a French, since he evidently wasn’t prepared in the Alekhine and avoided it. To me, openings are a journey of self-discovery. Your choice of opening will tell whether a player is a lion or an elephant. We have seen this throughout chess history. After all, Tal’s opening repertoire wasn’t the same as Petrosian’s.
I realized that the French gave me the chance to create a strong pawn center, and in the end I won the game by creating two passed pawns in the center. After such an experience I was curious and sensed that I should further investigate the opening. GM Pert, as an accomplished player and coach, is an excellent guide. He has played the French throughout his career and, as a coach, Pert has been in contact with many types of students, and he knows how to reach their hearts and minds.
I also admire his passion for the French when he says, “the repertoire I’ve chosen is a pretty aggressive repertoire; I’m looking to win in every game. I’m trying to create winning chances for Black.” He continues, “I’ve spent hundreds of hours developing these lines, and this is really the best condensed into one DVD, an absolutely must for everyone who wants to play the French.” Speaking of one of the lines he chooses, he states “it is a pretty good choice if you want to win games.” Thus, GM Pert has created a repertoire of aggressive, dangerously sharp lines that lead to exciting games. Who would have believed the French could be so combative. We generally hear of the Sicilian as the opening to use for creating imbalances, but GM Pert shows this is also possible with the French.
In addition to the usual video explanations there are some interactive clips where the viewer is tested on a range of theoretical questions and tactics arising from French Defense games, and there is an exclusive database of essential games. The DVD also comes bundled with the CB 12 Reader, so no other software is necessary. Toward the end of the videos, Pert often recaps all the main ideas, so the student listens to them at least twice!
Here I would like to give an example of one of the lines given by GM Pert, where he recommends a knight sacrifice!
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.a3 f6 7.b4 fxe5 8.b5 Nxd4 9.cxd4 exd4When I review a DVD I usually list how many videos are dedicated to each line. But this time I thought to make an exception, because this DVD is really too great for following my standard protocol.
Instead, I would like to show some representative diagrams. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and what GM Pert gives us is pure dynamite.Imagine playing Black, and having one rook as a blockader to the h7-pawn, and not being worried at all because a GM is whispering in your ear as to which is the right plan to follow. Such is the case in this wild-looking position.
This kind of craziness and extreme aggressiveness are pervasive in Pert’s repertoire. He really shows how to utilize the French as a weapon. It does not have to be played passively or defensively. Just look at this other position:Can you really imagine your uncastled half-exposed king helping a rook fight against queen and two possible passed pawns on one side of the board, while your own queen is launching an attack on the other side?
As a tournament player, I am generally wary of the sidelines that are often used at club level. So I was delighted that GM Pert covers these lines as well. I was particularly interested when Pert mentioned 1.e4 e6 2.b3 in his introductory video, because I have seen at least one player in my category win some games with it.
Now, since I’m a philosopher and skeptic at heart, I was curious as to how many games Pert has played in the French Defense. I opened my ChessBase MegaBase 2015 and discovered that he has played 200 games using the French! So, before watching the videos, I did a very useful thing: thanks to ChessBase, I can automatically watch all these games. I quickly cycled through them to have an idea of the problems that can be encountered as black, and to get a grasp of the pawn structures and the ideas behind them.
The reader may well ask why I would watch these games first instead of the one’s on the DVD. The reason is simple. An author can exaggerate to sell a product, but his games will not lie; they will tell me the real story. I was impressed by Pert’s games, because I saw the energy with which he played the French. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. Another important part of watching the games was to understand if he would lose in the opening, and I didn’t see that. If he lost one of these game, it was never because of the opening. One of the first games played by Pert, was in 1993 when he was rated 2075, so he really grew with this opening throughout his carrier.
The DVD is comprised of 23 videos that cover all the lines White can come up with! There are also 11 video clips of training questions to see if the prospective player understood the material. As an additional bonus, there is an exclusive database with 682 games!! The games cover quite a long period, from 1971 (Fischer) to 2013 (the new generation of white players such as Giri, Grischuk, Leko, etc). These games are all annotated and divided into categories using the ChessBase medal system.
My only caveat is that some of the games in the exclusive database are quite above and beyond the understanding of the average player. My advice is to watch all the videos at least a couple of times, and only then jump into the exclusive database. It will be like opening a window into a new world. The ideas expressed in the videos will be seen in action, and it will be really pleasant to discover that you can follow the themes within the games of the greatest players of the last forty years!
GM Pert is to be congratulated for explaining the ideas behind the French so clearly, and in such a way that a novice can play it at master level. A big impression was made upon me by the second video. Pert did a fine job explaining all the ideas behind the moves, the strategic plans for Black, and the right squares as to where to develop the pieces.
Here is the game, but Pert’s verbal commentary really brings it alive:
Howell,D (2247) – Pert,Nick (2451)
London Open ENG (2), 15.12.2001
French Advance [C02]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Be2 Nge7 7.0-0
7.Na3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Nf5 9.Nc2 Qb6 10.h4 (10.0-0 Na5 11.g4 Ne7 12.Nfe1 Bb5 13.Nd3 h5 14.gxh5 Nf5 15.Be3 Nc6 16.a4 Bc4 17.b4 Qd8 18.Bg4 Nxe3 19.fxe3 Qg5 20.h3 Rxh5 21.Qf3 0-0-0 22.Qxf7 Rxh3 23.Qxe6+ Kb8 24.Rxf8 Rg3+ 25.Kf2 Rxg4 26.Qd6+ Ka8 27.Rxd8+ Nxd8 28.Qd7 Rg2+ 29.Ke1 Qg3+ 30.Kd1 Qf3+ 0-1 Shabalov,A (2631)-Shirov,A (2705)/Edmonton 2005/CBM 107 ext/[Finkel,A]) 10…Na5 11.g4 Ne7 12.h5 h6 13.b3 Bb5 14.Ba3 Nec6 15.Bxf8 Rxf8 16.0-0 Bxe2 17.Qxe2 0-0-0 18.Rad1 g5 19.hxg6 fxg6 20.Qe3 Ne7 21.Nh4 g5 22.Ng2 Ng6 23.f4 Nxf4 24.Nxf4 gxf4 25.Rxf4 Rg8 26.Rd2 h5 27.Rg2 hxg4 28.Rfxg4 Rh8 29.Rg6 Kb8 30.Rh6 Rhe8 31.Qd3 Rc8 32.Kh2 Nc6 33.Kh1 Nb4 34.Nxb4 Qxb4 35.Qd2 Qb5 36.Rf6 a5 37.Rgg6 a4 38.Rxe6 Qf1+ 39.Kh2 Rxe6 40.Rxe6 Rg8 0-1 Moskovic,D (2307)-Pert,N (2541)/England 2010/EXT 2011.
8.Be3 Nf5; 8.Na3 cxd4 9.cxd4 (9.Nb5 Nf5 10.g4 Nh4) 9…Nf5 10.Nc2 Qb6 11.Kh1 Na5 12.g4 Ne7 13.Nfe1 Bb5 14.Nd3 h5 15.gxh5 Nf5 16.Be3 g6?! (16…Be7 17.Rg1 Nc4 18.b3 Ncxe3 19.fxe3 Rc3=/+) 17.hxg6 fxg6 18.Rg1 Qc7 19.Nde1 Bxe2 20.Qxe2 Qh7 21.Nf3 g5 22.Rg2 Nh4 23.Nxh4 Rxc2 24.Qb5+ Nc6 25.Nf3 Bh6 26.Bxg5 a6 27.Qb3 Bxg5 28.Nxg5 Qf5 29.Nxe6 Ke7 30.Ng7 Qe4 31.Qxb7+ Kf8 32.Ne6+ Ke8 33.Qc8+ Ke7 34.Qxh8 Rxf2 35.Qg7+ 1-0 Grischuk,A (2606)-Gulko,B (2643)/Esbjerg 2000/CBM 078; 8.a3 Nf5 9.b4 cxd4 10.cxd4 a5 11.b5 Ncxd4 12.Nxd4 Rxc1 13.Qxc1 Nxd4 With good compensation.; 8.dxc5 Ng6 9.Be3 Ncxe5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.b4 (11.f4 Nc4) 11…Be7 12.f4 Ng6= 13.Nd2 0-0 14.Nf3 b6.
8…Nf5 9.Bb2 Be7 10.Bd3 cxd4 11.Bxf5 exf5 12.Nxd4 Nxe5 13.Re1 Ng6 14.Qf3 0-0 15.Qxd5 Bf6 16.Na3
16.Nxf5 Nf4 17.Qf3 Nxg2 18.Kxg2 Bc6 19.Re4 Re8 20.Ng3 Be5-+.
16…Bc6 17.Qxd8 Rfxd8 18.Nxc6 Rxc6 19.Nc4?
19.Rad1 Rxd1 20.Rxd1 Ra6 21.Rd7 h6 22.Rxb7 Nf4=/+.
20.Na5 Rcc8 21.a3 Bxc3.
20…b4 21.Nxf5 bxc3 22.Rac1 Nf4 23.Ba3 Nd3 24.Be7 Re8 25.Bxf6 Rxe1+ 26.Rxe1 Nxe1 27.Ne7+ Kf8 28.Nxc6 gxf6 29.Nd4 c2 30.Nxc2 Nxc2 31.Kf1 Nb4 32.a3 Nc2 33.a4 Ke7 34.Ke2 Nd4+ 35.Kd3 Nxb3 36.Kc4 Na5+ 37.Kb5 Nb7 38.Kc6 Nd8+ 39.Kc7 Ne6+ 40.Kc6 Kd8 41.g4 Nd4+ 42.Kb7 Nf3 43.h3 Ng5 44.h4 Nf3 45.Kxa7 Kc7 46.Ka6 Kc6 47.Ka5 Nxh4 48.Kb4 f5 49.g5 Nf3 50.Kc4 Nxg5 51.Kd4 h5 52.Ke3 h4 53.f4 Ne6 54.Kf3 Kb6 0-1
One of GM Pert’s goals is to give the student a repertoire he can use for life. After only studying The French Defence for the Tournament Player for two weeks, I played in an Open tournament and twice used the French. My score was 1.5 out of 2! So I can say I’m satisfied with this opening and the way GM Pert teaches it. Whether or not I will continue to play the French as black remains to be seen, but my understanding of this opening has grown exponentially!
My assessment of this product:
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