Review by John Stephens.
In this highly enjoyable and informative DVD, Alexei Shirov explains in intricate detail, the nuances, ideas and latest theory in the Nimzo Indian, Catalan and Queen's Indian openings.
I was initially sceptical upon installing the DVD as to of how much use it would be to me. I play 1.e4 with white and am a religious devotee of black openings such as the Benko and King's Indian when faced with 1.d4. Learning about the Nimzo-Indian would seemingly add nothing to my opening play, how I was to be proven to be wrong! The first thing to be said about Shirov's presentation is that it is in no-way based around numerous theoretical variations, impossible to remember, and hard to understand. Indeed, Shirov himself admits that he is in not an expert in the lines played, and this I believe, is the key as to why this DVD is so hugely instructive. In it, we follow a super-GM battling his way through the very problems we ourselves are faced with when on unfamiliar territory, and to be given an insight into this process is an exhilarating experience.
The first four games Shirov presents follow the main line of the Classical Nimzo Indian, arising after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e3 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a6 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7. In this position, the three main continuations, 8.f3, 8.e3 and 8.Nf3 are all considered. In the first game, Shirov takes up the black side of the debate in the f3 line, and shows that with careful play white should not be able to pose any serious problems. The second and third games show Shirov demonstrating two very different ways of playing the 8.e3 continuation with the white pieces. The first is a typically thematical super-GM victory, showcasing sound opening play, excellent middlegame technique and a ruthlessly accurate endgame understanding. In the second game in the 8.e3 line, Shirov presents an important opening novelty. In the following position Shirov introduces a pawn sacrifice with 12.Be2.
Tactical fireworks follow thick and fast, and Shirov's excellent attacking technique demonstrates that White's position is more than playable, and that it is black who will have to find answers to the questions posed in this variation. This is a hugely enjoyable game to follow, not merely for the on board action, but also for the insight into GM preparation, game psychology, and the “feeling” that one can develop for sharp positions such as these. Finally, Shirov moves on to the lesser played 8.Nf3 line, and shows that there are many unexplored variations to be played, and that despite it's shady reputation, the move does not lack a certain amount of venom. .
Games five and six are Queen's Indian's with 4.a3 and 4.g3. Shirov-Leko, Monaco blindfold 2004, is the fifth game to be presented, featuring sharp tactical play, and deep positional understanding, it is a joy to play through. It would be impossible to learn how to play such an extensive opening as the Queen's Indian in just two games, and indeed Shirov does not try to teach us how. Instead, we are treated to a deep insight into why GM's play certain openings, how they approach their preparation and why they will choose to play particular variations in particular circumstances.
The final games of the DVD focus on the Catalan opening. Game seven,
Shirov – Topalov, is an instructive game for anyone wishing to play either
side of the opening, as it features several thematic Catalan themes and
lots of theory on why lines have developed in the fashion they have. The
last game on the DVD, is quite literally at the cutting edge of chess
theory. Played just three (!) days before filming in the German Bundesliga,
it would be impossible to ask for anything more up to date! It features an
excellent example of how to turn a small opening advantage, into a
initiative, into a winning endgame.
This DVD is not just an excellent tool to further your understanding of the Nimzo-Indian, Queen's Indian, and Catalan openings, but also to further your chess knowledge in general. It covers all areas of the game, not just specific to these openings, but to opening play in general. Alexei Shirov's explanations are insightful, easy to understand, and useful to put into practice. Indeed, as all good commentators should, he makes it surprisingly easy to peer into the mind of a top GM, and to follow his thoughts through the games played. In his own modest, understated style, Shirov has put together a gem of a DVD, and I would recommend it to anybody wishing to indulge in the openings covered or to further their general chess understanding.