Chess is a Tool of Self-Discovery
By Davide Nastasio
The Modern Scotch Opening, by Parimarjan Negi, ChessBase DVD, Video running time: 6 hours, $39.95 (ChessCafe Price $29.96)
According to the DVD packaging, the Scotch Opening has evolved from the swashbuckling games of the 19th century to become a sound and aggressive alternative to the Spanish Opening. In this DVD, GM Parimarjan Negi examines the latest revolution in Scotch theory that has completely changed white’s plans, and once again brought back the interest of the world’s elite. He also looks at a dynamic way for Black to counter this latest trend.
Negi became the youngest GM in the world in 2006 (he was only born in 1993!), and has won many international events, including the Asian Championship in 2012. He also boasts an impressive score in the Scotch during the last few years. Nevertheless, it made me chuckle that this strong player didn’t know the origin of name of the opening. He thought it was related to the drink before learning the name came from a correspondence match played between Edinburgh and London in 1824. Yet the first time this opening was mentioned in a book was by the Italian author Ercole del Rio in 1750 in a treatise entitled Sopra il giouco degli Scacchi (Upon the Game of Chess). Thirty years later that same book would be the basis of the work of Gianbattista Lolli. So, as we can see, history is an everlasting torch that passes from hand to hand, reaching to the present day.
The DVD becomes particularly interesting when Negi speaks of the history over the board and how the ideas behind this opening have evolved in the last 20-30 years. Here is an outline of some of the ideas expressed in the videos:
Surely everyone knows that the Scotch was revived by Kasparov in the 1990s through this setup:
Then, as always happens in chess, the black players tested new ideas to neutralize the opening at a professional level, and again it was White’s turn to infuse new ideas. Around the year 2000, they came out with this new setup:In the beginning this was played with the intention to enter an endgame that would eventually be advantageous for White. One of the main advantages of the above setup was that White didn’t have to study a lot of theory. But it was fit only for very tenacious players who wanted to fight until the end, Carlsen is an example of such a player.
Now, I’d like to reveal the real reason why we devote so much time to studying openings. Chess is a tool of self-discovery, in order to know yourself you just need to play chess, and try to discover which opening is right for you. In this case the Scotch is a huge opening that has been interpreted and re-interpreted over the time by players with different styles. So while the diagram above can appeal to positional boa constrictors like Karpov, the new modern interpretation, conveyed by GM Negi, appeals to a more dynamic player:However, the modern interpretation wasn’t exciting enough for some. So a new idea was developed, where White would castle long, and then begin a pawn storm on the kingside: Now this idea can be particularly exciting, because, as opposed to the Sicilian Dragon or Najdorf, we don’t have Black counterattacking on the queenside.
The teaching approach used by Negi is to begin with two videos that show four very important games everyone should know, of course played by top GMs, and then begin to discuss the theoretical lines in the other videos.
Here I will show some lines treated in the beginning videos, because they show some important tabyas. However, I will not show all the lines presented on the DVD, since there are too many. The Scotch is quite a complex opening, and rest assured GM Negi covers it thoroughly.
Two videos are dedicated to 4…Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2 0-0 8.Bg5 Nd4 9.Qd2 Nxb3 10.axb3:One video is dedicated to 4…Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2 0-0 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 a5: The line 4…Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qe2 0-0 8.Be3 Be6 shows the plans White must follow depending on the different ways Black can castle: This line 4…Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Qe2 Nge7 8.Be3 0-0 9.0-0-0 has two videos dedicated to the theoretical analysis: Another good idea is also to find games on these lines to grasp the main patterns. A wonderful tool for this is the ChessBase database.
After the 32 theoretical videos, we have 20 video-clips with questions by GM Negi to test the viewer’s understanding of the theoretical lines and the ideas presented.
The DVD is completed by some interesting databases. One is called “Scotch Collection,” and it is comprised of 51 games from the most important players: Caruana, Nakamura, Nepomniachtchi, and Svidler to mention just a few. The games are well annotated and show all the main ideas the student should know when playing this opening. There is also a smaller database with the main 23 theoretical lines examined by GM Negi in the videos.
I took the liberty of making a database, based on ECO C45, for ChessCafe members. There are 1,397 games with players rated over 2500. My advice is to watch them fast to absorb the patterns, though some are so beautiful that the viewer will surely want to stop and contemplate these gems at greater length.
My assessment of this product:
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by Parimarjan Negi
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