Dense, But Enlightening
by Chris Wainscott
Yelena Dembo’s Opening Theory: Slav and Semi-Slav, ChessBase and PGN file formats, 2014, $39.95
Yelena Dembo’s Opening Theory: Slav and Semi-Slav is not an ebook per se. Instead, it is an insanely dense opening preparation database. As indicated in the introductory paragraph, if you were to print this out on a word processor it would span roughly 760 pages!
Here is the entire introductory text:
“Welcome to Yelena Dembo’s Chess Openings: Slav and Semi-Slav 1!
“With Yelena Dembo’s Chess Openings, Greek International Master Yelena Dembo invites you into her personal theoretical laboratory! The 100 very deeply annotated game examples provides an incredible theoretical resource. If you were to export this material into a word processor, there would be more than 760 pages of content! These examples are just a small fragment of the more than 37,000 instructive game examples, classified under more than 400 themes, that she has compiled for her work as a chess coach.
“IM Dembo is the author of several critically-acclaimed books for Everyman Chess; she won the Hungarian Women’s Championship in 2003; has eight medals from World and European championships; and has won prizes in dozens of men’s and women’s events. She has also written and self-published two middlegame books: “The Very Unusual Book About Chess” and “Conversation with a Professional Trainer – Methods of Positional Play.” To learn more visit her website at http://yelenadembo.com!
“To allow more convenient access to the material, we have installed an openings key in the database. Just click on the “Openings” tab. Good play!”
In essence, this database is a compilation of 100 different lines that are analyzed in enormous depth.
It presents every conceivable idea by giving you variations stacked upon variations stacked upon variations.
Other than the occasional sentence of text within the lines, there is very little explanatory prose. So this is not designed to teach you the basics of the Slav. However, if you are someone who currently plays the Slav or Semi-Slav from either the black or white side and are looking to hone your opening to a fine edge, then this could be exactly what you have been searching for.
As for myself, for the past few years I have been playing the Chebanenko Slav as black: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6After the initial four moves shown above, a reference search of the database finds fifteen main games:
The main lines begin 5.c5 and 5.e3. As I have faced both I decided to work through the lines in depth, and I used ChessBase’s online database as a further reference tool. In the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.e3 e6, Dembo’s main continuation goes as follows: 6.b3 Bb4 7.Bd2 Nbd7 8.Bd3 0-0 9.0-0 Bd6 10.Re1 h6 11.Qc2 b6 12.e4 dxc4 13.bxc4 e5 14.Na4 Rb8 15.Bf1 b5 16.Nb2 c5 17.d5In this position the evaluation is given as plus over equal. When I clicked the reference tab, I discovered that after the move 14.Na4 there is only one game in the ChessBase online database, and that continued 14…Re8. I do not much care for 14…Rb8, so I compared it with 14…Re8 using Stockfish and the engine evaluates both at about +.4, but after 14…Rb8 15.Bf1 b5 16.Nb2 c5 17.d5 the evaluation jumps to about +.7 for White. (Komodo has +.4 for White; while Houdini calls it equal at +.29; and Rybka equal at +.24-ed.)
As a side note I did discover an interesting idea while analyzing with the computer after 16.Nb2Instead of 16…c5, Black can try 16…exd4, when after 17.e5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 Qc7 19.Nbd3 c5 White is still clearly a bit better, but Black has some dynamic play, including the ability to get connected passers at will. The computer gave White +.8 here, but certainly some interesting imbalances.
Next I decided to look at the Czech Variation of the Slav which begins 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5The main continuation as given by IM Dembo is 6…Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Qc7 8.g3 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Bf4 Nfd7 11.Bg2 g5! 12.Ne3 gxf4 13.Nxf5 0-0-0 14.Qc2 Nc5 15.0-0 fxg3 16.hxg3 a5 17.Rfd1 h5 18.Rxd8+ Qxd8 19.Rd1 Qf6 20.Bh3 Kb8 21.Qd2 Ng6 22.Qe3 Qe5 23.Qxe5+ Nxe5 24.Rd4 Kc7= This can all be found in praxis, as the line follows the game Winkler-Atakisi from the ICCF World Championship. For the most part the variations are given as fragments of games, though complete games are given on occasion. Many of the lines end shortly after the opening, but sometimes the analysis extends to move forty and beyond. When a position is from a game, Dembo usually cites the source at the end of the line. She also utilizes some of the graphical annotation features within ChessBase to showcase certain aspects of a position:
To illustrate the level of detail contained within the database, if you print out the analysis at move seven from the line above, there are pages and pages of analysis just to reach move eight. It depends on your playing strength as to whether this level of detail is necessary. The nice thing is that you can take only what you need. You can stick to the main line of each variation or you can investigate the myriad sidelines and develop your own conclusions.
Thus, Yelena Dembo’s Opening Theory: Slav and Semi-Slav is not for everyone. For a casual player certainly not, yet for someone aspiring to a higher level this can be an important part of your educational process. Higher-rated players will likely gain the most value from this compilation, and anyone playing correspondence chess should get this database regardless of their rating.
My assessment of this product:
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