Review: Crushing Isolated Queen’s pawn tactics, By Robert Ris

By Davide Nastasio

The topic of this DVD is absolutely a MUST-KNOW for anyone who is serious about chess. There is no excuse. Nonetheless, I must admit my personal reluctance in entering the study of such a complex topic, until the moment I felt ready. I know it is a fundamental step in my progress toward chess master level. Often we mistake the rating for chess knowledge. Instead, real chess knowledge is based on the understanding of many pawn structures. The Isolated Queen Pawn is one of those structures one must learn to play from both sides. This is my attempt to remedy this lack of knowledge in my preparation.




Ris begins with important definitions about the Isolated Queen Pawn (from now on abbreviated as IQP).  As we can see from the diagram, in the endgame the IQP is a problem for the player who has it, because it is not supported or protected by other pawns. Ris’ words resound with me.  He shares that when he was a younger player, he loved to play against the IQP because he traded the pieces, entered in an endgame, and had a clear easy target to attack–the IQP itself.  Then he grew to appreciate also playing the side with the IQP, because there are some great attacking ideas which can be implemented in the middle game.

One example which comes to mind is the additional space the player owning the IQP has. This consequently helps to develop the pieces, centralize them, and bring them to attack the enemy king.  The main topic of the DVD is not about the positional treatment of the IQP, but the tactics which arise from positions with the IQP.

A question the reader may have at this point in the review is “How can that improve our chess?” Well, many advantages are “dynamic” not “static,” which means they disappear with time, hence the need to be able to feel them.  We are not computers, and we need to learn how to feel what is right or wrong in a certain position. Then we need to learn how to exploit these dynamic advantages at the right moment. This is the reason why this DVD is an important milestone in our progress, because Ris has created videos based on more than 30 games with the right training questions at important critical moments. Therefore this will help immensely our feeling for finding the right move and tactical idea in positions with the IQP in our tournament games.

And what about the openings? One could have the faulty notion that the IQP appears only in 1.d4 openings, and in fact it’s a common appearance in the Nimzo-Indian after the moves: 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,e6; 3.Nc3,Bb4; 4.e3,b6; 5.Bd3,Bb7; 6.Nf3,0-0; 7.0-0,c5; Bd2,cxd4; 9.exd4,d5; 10.cxd5,Nxd5:




And of course the list of openings can continue with the Queen’s Gambit declined,  or the Queen’s gambit accepted after the moves 1.d4,d5; 2.Nf3,Nf6; c4,dxc4; 4.e3,e6; 5.Bxc4,a6; 6.0-0,c5; 7.Bb3,Nc6; 8.Nc3,cxd4; 9. cxd4,Be7; 10.Bg5,0-0; 11.Qd2,Bd7; 12.Rad1 where we have a typical IQP position:




or the Tarrasch defense played with Black.   But also in openings with 1.e4 like in the Sicilian Alapin after the moves: 1.e4,c5; 2.c3,d5; 3.exd5,Qxd5; 4.d4,Nc6; 5.Nf3,Bg4; 6.Be2,cxd4; 7.cxd4,e6;




also in the Caro-Kann Panov variation we find the IQP.  Ris has selected positions mainly from White’s perspective, but the IQP is common also in Black’s positions, like in the French Tarrasch Black can have an IQP or also the Nimzo-Indian as Black after the moves: 1.d4,Nf6; 2.c4,e6; 3.Nc3,Bb4; 4.Qc2,0-0; 5.a3,Bxc3; 6.Qxc3,b6; 7.Bg5,Bh7; 8.e3,d6; 9.Ne2,Nbd7; 10.Qc2,c5; 11.Rd1,Qe7; 12.Nc3,cxd4; 13.Rxd4,h6; 14.Bh4,Rfd8; 15.f3,d5; 16.cxd5,exd5;





In the Slav after the moves: 1.d4,d5; 2.c4,c6; 3.Nc3,Nf6; 4.e3,a6; 5.Nf3,b5; 6.b3,Bg4; 7.Bd2,Nbd7; 8.h3,Bxf3; 9.Qxf3,b4; 10.Na4,e5! (notice how Black smartly decided to convert the position to an IQP, because he has a lot of counter-play!) 11.Rc1,Bd6; 12.cxd5,cxd5; 13.dxe5,Nxe5;





Ris didn’t mention all these openings, but I wanted to prove the point for the reader who could be unaware of how many openings can lead us into an IQP. Obviously this list isn’t comprehensive of all openings and transpositions, but just to give an idea of the importance of knowing how to deal with such a common pawn structure. Clearly one must know both sides in order to become a complete player, and as mentioned before, it will happen in our own games!

Let’s return to the reason why this DVD is a milestone for every serious chess player. From the games Ris has chosen one can’t avoid to notice the correct piece placement for both sides, because Ris chose some of the greatest chess names: Karpov, Andersson, Timman, Smyslov, etc. Each game shows how these champions fought successfully (or not) with and against the IQP. This wealth of examples, commented by a great player like Ris, will open our eyes into understanding and evaluating the position in a way we wouldn’t have dreamt before! Here an example of good piece placement in the game Andersson vs, Karpov, 1995.




While Ris explains  the position, he also asks questions. Like in the position above, White has more space and more active pieces, but how to continue and why?

The practical training side of the DVD is quite important as well, because we don’t want to absorb passively, as in reading a book.  We want to be active learners and think about what we would play in that position, and if our choice is wrong, discover why, in order to better align ourselves to the thinking process of the professional.

Now for those who are curious and want to see if their intuition was correct, here is the entire game.  However, the value of this game is in the video where Ris explains it and asks questions.



Throughout the DVD, Ris does the job of a skilled teacher in conveying the ideas and maneuvers that the side with the IQP can entertain in the middlegame, like the following diagram, where he shows a rook lift and the targets:




These tactical ideas on how to attack the king castled on the kingside are then deepened in another Chessbase DVD just dedicated to such a topic:




Once more we can see the perfection of the Chessbase teaching system.  Like many pieces of a puzzle, the different DVDs all form our chess persona, and facilitate our journey to reaching a master-level understanding!  Ris has provided us a wealth of examples, some just with the skeleton of pawns around the Black king, in order to show how one should attack and open the position. In the following diagram one can see an example of the maneuvers and ideas that Ris discusses to explain what we should do, and why.  We then see those ideas happening in real games shown in the videos.





The DVD also comes with a database of 64 model games which one must study in order to better understand the topic. This gives us the best of two worlds. One world is the DVD with a master-level player teaching us visually and verbally how to play with or against the IQP.  The other world would be a chess book.  This is made up of the 64 model games which are annotated, and allow us to add our own annotations or ideas, improving our understanding of the subject.

Before concluding this review, I’d like to share one game I found amazing, because it shows many of the themes Ris teaches us in the DVD.




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