The French Defence book cover

Review: The French Defence 3.Nd2: A Complete Repertoire for White, By Sergei Tiviakov

By Davide Nastasio

Throughout the year I have some very important tournaments I attend to, and some minor ones. One of the most important tournaments is the Castle Chess Grand Prix, because a lot of kids attend Castle Chess camp a week before, and are trained by the best GMs in the country for one week. That tournament is quite strong, because kids, like sponges in the sea, grasp whatever they can and then use it right away! I like the tournament, because it is hard and requires my utmost preparation. While working on that neverending story that is my opening repertoire, I wanted to switch from the exchange French to something more complex. Like always, my wishes are satisfied by the genie coming out of the lamp, the one called Chessbase!

Tiviakov begins to tell us that the strongest move against the French is 3.Nc3. Unfortunately there are some problems when playing it: mainly that one can lose if he doesn’t know the theory well after 3…Bb4, because some lines are quite sharp. But Tiviakov goes a step further and tells us about his career.  In 1993, he even created his own notebook for playing 3.Nc3; regrettably his results were quite bad, so from then on he began to play 3.Nd2. Tiviakov, like every good Russian, tells us the number of games he played with the French: 219 games.  He won 138, made 75 draws, and lost only 6 games! After these scary statistics, I thought I should learn the Sicilian as Black! All jokes aside, just those numbers made me feel that I’m on the right track of building my repertoire as White against the French.

As always I love history, and for those who don’t know it, the 3.Nd2 of the French defence is also called the Tarrasch variation.

This is the first game I have in the Megabase 2015 played by Dr. Tarrasch with this move:

However, thanks to another source, I was able to locate another game played by Tarrasch, which is antecedent to the one above:

GM Tiviakov mentions that two strong GMs playing this opening are Michael Adams, and Sergei Rublevsky.


Michael Adams


Sergei Rublevsky

However, this variation became fashionable in the 70s and 80s, thanks to Karpov. In this sense, it would be a sin not to know this gem played by Karpov on his way to the top!

To try to learn a new opening is surely a complex task, but to learn it through the games that have marked such an opening throughout history is a delight that every chess player should enjoy.

Coming finally to review the content of the DVD, there are 18 videos covering all the lines of the repertoire a player of White needs to know, plus two videos for the introduction and the conclusion. Then there are six video clips of quizzes on the different lines, and important tactical moments of the games presented in the videos. In this way the student can discover how much he was able to retain.

Then we come to the important part, and the reason why I prefer Chessbase over books. There is a database with all the games from C03 to C11, which means more than three hundred thousand games! Obviously nobody really watches three hundred thousand games, so how do we make the most out of such huge database? I clicked on the players tab, and I see that Michael Adams  has played 145 games with this opening, and that tells me that he is a role model to choose in order to learn the opening. Once more, I saw the power of the French Tarrasch against Black; Adams scored victories 78% of the time as White! Obviously I don’t think I’ll ever play against Adams in my life, but if I do, for sure I’m not going to open with the French against him.

Here is one of the illustrious victims of this opening:

The other player I looked up in this huge database was Sergei Rublevsky.  He has 112 games, and a 68% win ratio as White. The list of names dispatched by Rublevsky contains some of the world’s top players, but the game I like best is the following:

Thanks to such a huge database, I was able to single out the Black players (for example the names of Vaganian, Kortchnoi, Rozentalis) and see what they did–or tried to do–to neutralize the Tarrasch. Again, all of this in just few clicks.

Aside from this huge database, the DVD also comes with a database of all the games played by Tiviakov. These games must be studied seriously and deeply, because Tiviakov is the role model player we want to copy in our own games. Another database is the ECO, in which all the material is divided in 235 games. If one chose to print this, he would have practically the entire encyclopedia of the French Tarrasch, and all the moves played at master level (This is what you’d have if you would buy the former Yugoslavian Encyclopedia of the openings for this particular opening).


Then there is one last database which comprises all the games played with Black by Georg Meyer, a Grandmaster with a top ELO of 2671, and with a good score against the Tarrasch. Imagine, out of 218 games he played as Black he was able to win 68 (31%), draw 105, and lose 45 (21%).  Again, please tell me if a book can give you such a wealth of material to study, and with such precision. Because in this case, I’m also a French player, and I love having this database with the DVD to understand what to do if I have to face it as Black.

GM Tiviakov does a great job in explaining the right setup of the pieces, like in this case for the knights:


In conclusion, this DVD was quite thorough (I can say without fear of being disproven), so much so that it is even more complete than a book. Tiviakov was clearly one of the top GMs in the world, and maybe he thinks everyone has his exceptional memory. He clearly goes above and beyond what an amateur like me can remember. On the other hand, he covered everything, such as sidelines that I don’t think anyone will ever use! This DVD can be used as an encyclopedic reference, especially for those who want to achieve master title level over 2300. My advice is to return over and over to this DVD, because Tiviakov did his job, and now, as good students, we must do ours.

I’d like to add this simple fact: thanks to my studying of Chessbase DVDs, in the last 2 months my rating has increased more than 100 points.

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