Review: Powerplay 23: A Repertoire for Black With the Queen’s Gambit Declined, by Daniel King.

By Davide Nastasio

On this chess journey there is never a boring moment. There are always new openings to learn, new ideas to acquire, and new ways to experiment in Black and White!  Thanks to GM Williams, I learned the Dutch, and thanks to GM Pert I know the Solid Slav, as well as the French.




But I felt my knowledge was quite limited. For example, one of the most exciting world matches in history, Capablanca vs. Alekhine, was played mainly around the Queen’s Gambit Declined.



Capablanca vs. Alekhine, 1927


I always wanted to examine such a match, but I didn’t have any knowledge of this opening.  Now thanks to GM King, I can open my chess mind to this new unexplored continent, and eventually use it in my own games.  GM King does a great job in the introduction in outlining what he wants to convey.  In the Introductory video, GM King tell us that the Queen’s gambit declined (from now on abbreviated as QGD) is completely sound, and has been used by every world champion.




Then King goes on to tell us why learning this opening is relatively simple, and that the main traits of the opening are the king’s safety, and a solid pawn structure.  These traits are what I want from an opening, because I just need to reach the middlegame or endgame to unleash my chess warrior, and I cannot do it if I cannot survive the opening!

I’d like to outline the lines GM King covers in this DVD. But first, let’s begin by saying that the Catalan is covered in Powerplay 24, a DVD I’ll review later.




This was very important for me, because I know some authors have dedicated books to the Catalan, so clearly it needs focused teaching in order to neutralize it; otherwise, our QGD repertoire could be sunk quite easily. As a player I feel a big frustration when an author just gives me half a repertoire. I really like that GM King is a thoughtful teacher, covering all the bases for us!

GM King’s DVD is based on the Tartakower variation; however, in the beginning he shows that the QGD can be a universal opening, and for that reason he begins to show the following version of the Lasker variation with Nd7:  1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 h6 7.Bh4 Ne4.




GM King informs us that GM Ulf Andersson is the main practitioner of this line. This is important, because obviously we can go right away to watch some games played by Andersson and find the main ideas and themes.  When we watch the video dealing with this line, we are able to absorb more and focus our attention deeper.

Thanks to the new Chessbase Megabase 2017, I’ve made a quick search based on Andersson Ulf, and the D53-D56 keys, and found more than 50 games played by Andersson with both colors. The following game wasn’t included in GM King model games, and as you can see, thanks to Chessbase tools, I can integrate and improve my studying. The following game is a beautiful example of a queen-and-pawns endgame:



Notice that IM Collins (I don’t know if it’s correct to call him IM, since he has 2 GM norms!) has made for Chessbase a DVD always on the QGD, which is based on the Lasker variation (also called “defence”) that doesn’t use the Nbd7 move favored by GM Andersson.




Clearly if one is serious about learning the QGD, it is essential to acquire this DVD, because it will show the main themes and plans under a different teacher. And eventually in tournament one can switch from the Tartakover (taught by King) to the Lasker (taught by Collins) to keep our usual opponents always guessing, since they will not know which one we are going to play!

In the second video, GM King treats a variation which has been made famous in the Capablanca-Alekhine match!




But just adding a couple of moves: 7.Rc1,a6; we see the line as used today by another world champion: Spassky.    1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg5 0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Rc1 a6




I find the teachings given by GM King superb, because he is not only teaching me mechanically opening moves, he explains the ideas behind the moves, and treats also typical middlegame themes. In the video of the game between Corral Blanco and Spassky, GM King directed my attention to how Spassky neutralized a minority attack, giving me this important knowledge I will use in my next tournament games.

We finally reach the line GM King wants to cover in game 3, 4, and 5, which is the Tartakower, also known as Makogonov-Bondarevsky variation by the Russians. This line, for King, is the diamond spear of the entire repertoire.




In every video GM King delves more deeply to cover all the possible lines White can throw at us.

The video on game 6 is dedicated to lines where White exchanges on F6. King adds that this line was popular in the 1980s and early 90s. GM Short is a great proponent of the Tartakower in modern times, and this should signal, to those interested in learning, that you should check out all the games played by Short with such opening, because you will learn all there is to know:




Once more, notice how easy it was for me to locate all the games played by Nigel Short in D59 thanks to Megabase 2017.

Here is the one I liked most against the legendary Kortchnoi:



Game 7 covers the lines where White develops the Bc1 in F4.




The last 3 games cover the exchange variation, a line which GM King says never goes out of fashion!




Note that GM King also explains the subtleties of move order, like in game 9, where he shows one of his games:




Once more we see that such a line was used in a world match (the Botvinnik-Petrosian 1963), reminding us of the need to learn such an opening, because it was the field of contest of many world champions over a long period of time:




For those who love world championship matches, there is also a book dedicated to that match:




In the last game GM King reiterates the importance of move order, and how White can play an inaccurate move with 5.Nf3, and how it should be refuted:




Some folks could mistakenly think that GM King, showing only 10 videos and 10 example games, is not giving enough material for learning a repertoire. Such an idea is wrong, because for each model game he has prepared a little database of games one MUST study. But it is not finished. The video running time for this DVD is 5 hours and 52 minutes; let’s say 6 hours.  That makes about 36 minutes per video, right? Well, no! GM King is a great coach, so while he explains the opening and the main lines in each video well, when he reaches around the middle game he makes full use of the Fritz Training System.




In the series of chess books Move by Move, by Everyman Chess, in some critical moments he stops and asks us to find the next move. Just to finish the second video it took me more than one hour. Often I would make mistakes in my answer, and receive right away the feedback from a little video clip that GM King has prepared for the incorrect move I played. This made me think upon the position in a more committed way, than what I’d done just reading a book, or following a video lecture. Some positions, due to the huge number of mistakes I made, are now burned in my memory, because I was able to differentiate between the plans which don’t work, compared to the ones which do work.

I also found interesting that GM King didn’t use only top games, between 2500+ players. He used amateurs’ games and he showed the difference between his mindset and the way he evaluates the position and proposed candidate moves compared to what the amateur actually played.

Honestly I recommend this DVD to those who don’t care to learn this opening as part of their repertoire, because I think it will improve their chess understanding and give a good foundation for growing as a chess player. Daniel King is clearly a good teacher, and I hope he will produce many more DVDs. One last note: I found quite interesting the new system adopted by GM King for the model games. Generally one could easily dump one to two thousand games played with the QGD, thanks to a simple query in the Database. But GM King, being a great teacher, created laser-focused mini-databases, with just 10 games for each video, to be watched after the video. In this way one can reinforce the material learned in the video adding one’s own notes.

If, on the other hand, one prefers tons of games, it is enough to buy the new Megabase 2017, and they will be provided with just a few clicks.



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