Attacking with Italian game

Review: Attacking With the Italian Game and The Ruy Lopez, by Sergei Tiviakov

By Davide Nastasio

I like Tiviakov because he is very zealous in his videos.  He is clearly trying to pass all the knowledge he has acquired over the years.  One of the funny things of this DVD is that Tiviakov included a database of over 1 million games over the topic he is teaching!  I don’t know if he expects us mere mortals to peruse them all, but maybe that is his secret gift to us:  he is trying to tell us that if we don’t watch a lot of games and train our brains to recognize a lot of repeating patterns, we will never learn to play chess at his level.  On the other hand, he also included a database of his own games, the one he played as White, covering ECO from C50 to C99.  Clearly he is doing his job as coach and mentor.  Now, let’s come to the first interesting part.  A long time ago, I began to watch a Chessbase DVD made by GM Nigel Davies (another very passionate and good teacher) on the Italian game.  I got this one because I thought it was a newer version, since chess opening theory does evolve.  But Tiviakov is clear in the introduction.  He is not giving us an opening repertoire; he is teaching us how to attack the Black king with the Ruy Lopez and the Italian game!  I was totally in awe of the concept.  Often we learn the openings but then we come out from what we learn by memory, and we don’t know what to do.  Here I have two great teachers bringing me around like a child:  the first, Nigel Davies, gives me the opening repertoire with his DVD on the Italian game; the second, Tiviakov, teaches me what to do once I’m out in the field and I need to kill that naughty enemy king.  How could a chess player ask for more?

One piece of information given to us by Tiviakov is that the Spanish (another way of referring to The Ruy Lopez) and the Italian have common strategic themes, which means that if a player studies the Spanish, he can switch to the Italian and learn it faster.

The first part of the DVD is dedicated to attacking against the castled king, with eight videos.  Of these eight videos, three are dedicated only to the analysis of one game, with other games presented inside to explain how Black can go wrong.

Just the first three videos contain an amazing wealth of ideas.  I want to share some, because Tiviakov deserves a special place in every chess player’s library.

In the first video on the game Tiviakov – Buhmann, he shows when Black’s center becomes vulnerable, and why.




The amusing thing is that GM Tiviakov, if in this case he is not teaching an opening repertoire, he really cannot keep to himself the right move order depending on what Black does, explaining the reason behind the moves.  Consider the following case where the dark-square bishop pins the Nf6 because Black castled early.




But what I really like about this DVD is that such a great player is, through his words, opening a world of understanding to my mind that I didn’t have before.  For example, for my amateurish vision of the game, I didn’t personalize the pieces, but Tiviakov does!

I guess this was true also for Fischer at a certain point, because the pieces became real characters, and each game is like a movie where those characters are the actors.

Thanks to Tiviakov, I discovered that in this opening White’s main task is to keep the Spanish bishop alive!




The consequence is that at a certain point in our chess development, the pieces will fall into the right squares, because in order to keep him alive he needs to go in some specific squares.  This cannot be learned from a book, but only watching a great player like Tiviakov explaining these concepts through his vibrant voice.

Forgive me if I feel the need to reiterate the concept, but it deserves attention.  Tiviakov, in my opinion, does a great job of explaining why or why not some moves must be played.  The way he explains the ideas is so clear that one doesn’t need to “memorize” lines, because he will know why he is playing a certain move.  Like the example in the following diagram, Tiviakov explains why not to castle kingside, since he needs the square F1 for the Nb1 going to g3.




But Tiviakov explains also what Black must do, so he doesn’t take only on the White side, and leaves a White player blind to Black’s possibilities, he clearly outlines Black’s plans and possible maneuvers, making this dvd quite useful also for the Black players.

Here an example of one of the plans Tiviakov explains for Black:




The DVD continues with the second part which is dedicated to attacking with Bg5, comprised of six videos.
These six videos are detailed, annotated games played by Tiviakov.

I’d like to share the game I like more in this section, without annotation, leaving the reader of this review to hear from Tiviakov’s voice all the interesting ideas he had.  Just pay attention to the full power of the bishop pair in the hands of someone who clearly uses them like machetes to slice through the enemy defenses with the same ease we would use a knife to cut butter.



The third section is entitled “Opening the f Line With f4,” and is made up of ten videos.
Tiviakov begins to comment the following game from move 48, to show this important idea.



The last teaching portion of the DVD is called Different Attacking Strategies, and is composed of six videos.  Here Tiviakov aims to give us a lot of different ideas from his games that we will use as inspiration for our own games.  I’d like to share one image from one of the games to show how easy can be to understand the ideas conveyed by Tiviakov, thanks to the graphic arrows!




After that follows the practical section of test questions, made up of 8 videos.

On the road to mastery everybody should have Tiviakov as a companion, because he really conveys a lot of ideas through some simple phrases. Tiviakov is extremely professional in his presentations, and one can feel the knowledge he has, like an encyclopedic professor. Honestly, I cannot thank Chessbase enough for giving us amateurs these wonderful experts, such as Tiviakov, to teach us the game in a way that just 30 to 40 years ago was possible only to those living in Eastern Europe.


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