Review: Simple but Powerful: Exchange on D5 in the Slav and Queen’s Gambit, By Simon Williams

By Davide Nastasio

Williams is one of those GMs who, in my opinion, has a lot to give.  His DVDs are full of his enthusiasm for the openings he plays, and he actively conveys such enthusiasm through his teachings.  I’m interested in whatever he publishes, because I know that he plays it, and one of the ways to become a better player is by having a role model.  Of course, we do have wonderful role models like Kasparov or Fischer, but I prefer someone who is not above and beyond humanity.  Someone like Williams is human with all his flaws and defects when playing chess.

But why did I become interested in this opening?  During a recent trip for a strong tournament in North Carolina, a friend lost a crucial game using this opening.  Then one day he asked me to watch his game, and I realized that I already knew something about this opening, thanks to the wisdom by GM Williams! The funny thing is that, thanks to GM Williams, while watching my friend’s game, I already knew what Black did wrong with his pawn structure, and where the pieces and pawns should have been placed. Clearly the Chessbase products are high quality if they can pass so easily the insight of a GM level player to an amateur.

The DVD is divided into two parts: the part against the Slav, and the part against the Queen’s gambit. In the introductory video, over 17 minutes, GM Williams gives a broad picture of what he is going to teach, and what the main themes and ideas are in a very thorough manner. The key idea is that one doesn’t need to study theory deeply, but simply has to remember the main points that Williams explains so well.
For example, in the following image we can see how, with just few strokes, GM Williams outlines the main pieces and pawn placement against the Queen’s Gambit.




But GM Williams does much more than just give pieces and pawn placement, which maybe everyone could do. He gives us a thinking framework for how we should treat the opening, and he frames it all around the Bc8, which is the bad guy of this series of moves.




The exchange Slav section is made up of eleven videos, with important names like Aronian, Naiditsch, and Morozevich. But the key point is that every video is packed with GM Williams’ analyses, which often are improvements or refutations of moves played in the game used as a model!

I’d like to show the following game because it is quite impressive.  I removed the comment/annotations from the game, because I believe one should read them from the DVD.   The fight for some squares and some weaknesses in this game was instructive and entertaining, and I wouldn’t have understood it without the good annotations provided by Williams.



The second part on the Queen’s gambit is made up of seven videos.
Notice that GM Williams explains the ideas for Black, as well, as in the following diagram:




This gives White a better understanding of why some moves need to be played.  I believe this is extremely important, because some chess authors just show the ideas of the side they are on; instead, GM Williams’ holistic approach allows a player to grow by understanding both sides. However, with the move order given by GM Williams, 1.d4,d5; 2.c4,e6; 3.Nc3. the problem is that Black could enter the Tarrasch defense, and he doesn’t cover it.




Chessbase, previously under GM Nigel Davies, covered the Tarrasch defence from the Black side.




Such a DVD is useful for White also, because Nigel Davies covers it quite well.  In any case, Williams did a fine job of explaining the commitment of the pieces, and where to place them, in relation to how Black moves.  He is quite thorough and detailed.

In the part relative to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, I’ve found a very exciting game played by Bronstein during a period in which he was one of the top players in the world.  I like this game because by move 24, Bronstein has a powerful phalanx of pawns which gives him a nice space advantage.  Ten moves later, the phalanx doesn’t exist anymore, and Bronstein traded it for an irresistible attack on the enemy king!



After the second part, there are the interactive Fritz trainer videos, comprised of sixteen test positions with video feedback for the moves chosen.  In this series of videos, GM Williams tests the player on tactical positions, as well as strategical ideas seen throughout the DVD.  Here is an example:




The DVD comes with a database of eighteen analyzed games which are used in the videos, and another database with 61 model games.  One should study and remember these in order to know the main lines and sidelines needed to play these openings at top level.

I was quite excited about having this product, because it shed new light and understanding upon my friend’s game.  I couldn’t have had such a sophisticated viewpoint without this essential work of GM Williams.



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