By Davide Nastasio
I never played 1…e5; as Black. I toyed with the idea of playing the Russian Defense 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nf6;
because for a certain period I was playing 1.e4, as White, and a friend of mine, with whom I played blitz often, had good result against me using the Russian Defense. However, a good way to neutralize it, and play sharply, was through the King’s Gambit,
for which GM Williams made 2 DVDs for Chessbase.
However, my attempts using the Russian Defense were not so good. The main reason was that some lines were quite long and theoretical, and unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to prepare (often to build the confidence to play an opening in a tournament takes 6 months or more!). So I continued with the French taught by GM Pert.
Then tired of the French, in which I felt claustrophobic, I moved to the Scandinavian, as taught by GM Tiviakov, but also with such an opening I felt tight and passive. It was a mix of French and Caro-Kann. It was clearly a solid opening, but I felt the need for something more active to contrast White’s 1.e4.
Now I’m changing again, because I feel the need to discover if this repertoire proposed by Collins fits my style as Black player against 1.e4. Collins has made a few DVDs on using 1…e5; against the Ruy Lopez. One of the latest DVDs was dedicated to placing the Bf8 on G7, after the moves: 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.Bb5,g6;
Such a system has also been used by Carlsen, always in the attempt to unbalance his opponents’ preparation, like in the following game:
Collins also made a DVD on the Jaenisch gambit to attack the Ruy Lopez.
Which happens after the moves: 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.Bb5,f5;
I’m introducing the many works made by Collins to show the extreme degree of knowledge and preparation this professional player has, and the good opportunity we have to learn from such great teacher! Now Collins is giving a complete repertoire for Black based on the move Bc5.
In the introductory video, Collins begins to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the bishop in C5. Clearly the advantages are the pressure on F2, because if White makes a mistake, he can lose the pawn. Another advantage can be the control over the center, and more activity compared to a bishop developed in E7 or G7.
The negative sides are interesting, too. For example, White can try to render passive the Bc5 with the pawn chain Pc3, and Pd4; this can lead to violent fights for center control!
Another consequence of Bc5, followed by Pd7-d6 (closing the dark-square bishop on the queenside, compared to when such a bishop is developed in E7) is that White can pin the Nf6 with Bg5.
The liberation maneuver from such a pinning can also be source of risk, because in some cases White can sacrifice on G5, as in the following example played by one of the greatest women chess players in history:
However in the DVD Collins teaches us how to neutralize this dangerous sacrifice, making the DVD just worth it for this bit of research!
Let’s go to review the content of the DVD. There are 34 videos covering most of White’s options, and telling us how big our repertoire will be. This could be frightening, but the point is that some themes which happen in the Ruy Lopez can be used in the Italian Game or in the King’s Gambit, hence playing this repertoire will open our minds to use an idea we learned in one opening into another opening!
Spanish – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5
To the Spanish has been dedicated the bulk of the DVD, with 16 videos. Logically the Spanish is a very theoretical opening, with a long history played by all world champions, and historically by all major players, a true formative opening for each player. The first video clip deals lightly with some possible deviations on the 4th move, and the main 4.Nxe5.
Before going on with the review, I’d like to share how we need to operate and do our own homework if we are really going to play this opening, as I will surely do! Before 4.Nxe5, Collins shows a deviation: 4.Bxc6 (the Spanish exchange) 4…dxc6; 5.0-0, f6; and gives his evaluation: “Black is comfortable in this position.”
Once I have a line, I use my megabase 2017 to locate games played in that line.
No GM ever played it, but I found an interesting game where White is rated around 1500 and Black over 2000, and Black lost badly! This teaches us to avoid thinking that just because Collins said the position is comfortable, it will be a very easy win.
Once I find a game where Black lost badly, I also try to identify the reasons so I’ll be ready in my tournament games. One way to do it, using Chessbase 14, is to go under the Training Tab, and push the button “Play out against Fritz.” In this way, one can practice the opening and gain some experience before a tournament.
Then the DVD continues with the Italian Game – 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5, with 3 videos. Believe it or not, this is another opening which like the Spanish should be given a big space, because it is clearly the theoretical battlefield of many champions also nowadays, as proven by one of the latest works published on it:
I’d like to share my experience with the DVD. First of all I had about 20 days before the next tournament, so I wanted to learn this new repertoire. But how to become confident in it? I used the main lines given under as “content” of the DVD on my Megabase 2017. For each line I watched at least 20 games, trying to absorb the main ideas from both sides. When the games were not good quality, I would play the line against an engine, as mentioned above.
This would help me to see what were the main tactical tricks I could fall into, and it was a slaughterhouse! The computer is definitely the most boring and annoying opponent one can find! It always wins! However, 20 days were not enough to build confidence, and I had to give it more time. Now we are more than 4 months away from the first contact, and I’m still not ready. One must acknowledge one’s own limitations. Maybe it will take me a year before being able to use it with some form of competence.
Another line which was quite interesting, especially if I’d use this new repertoire for Blitz, is the following: 1.e4,e5, 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.Bb5,Bc5; 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.d4
Believe it or not, when I was watching Collins’ introductory video, these were the first moves which crossed my mind when I thought how White would play this opening.
Also in this case it is important we do our homework. When I looked for games using this line, my attention was captured by a draw played in ICCF. ICCF is the correspondence chess federation, and they allow the use of engines in their games, making the humans quite stronger than any possible human champion. They also have 3 days per move, which means they have the chance to go quite deep in their analysis, hence the game quality is good, and worth watching:
As I wrote before, the Spanish is covered with a total of 16 videos. Three videos cover the Italian game. Two videos are dedicated to the 4 knights. The Scotch, King’s gambit, Vienna, Centre game, and Evans gambit have 1 video each. The DVD ends with 10 videos of testing positions.
King’s Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.f4
To the King’s Gambit was dedicated only 1 video, however this is a very dangerous opening which cannot be underestimated. From my search in Megabase 2017, it is well alive at all levels from 1700 to 2500 rated players. Everyone plays the King’s Gambit once in a while! Hence the need to spend some time studying the games and playing some games. Collins gave a good selection of games on the King’s Gambit in the model database. Needless to say I watched them all, and commented on some of them.
As mentioned earlier, GM Williams released 2 DVDs on the King’s Gambit, and yes, in my opinion if one wants to play the open games as Black, he or she needs to acquire those 2 DVDs and study them. What is important are the ideas and maneuvers behind it that we could miss in a tournament game. If we don’t cover all the bases in our preparation, we are going to suffer some losses. Better to avoid and prepare!
Scotch: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4,exd4; 4.Nxd4,Bc5; 5.Nb3,Bb6; Nc3,Nf6;
This is not what Collins recommends. I will not say what he taught on the DVD, because it could be a bad surprise for players of White! I found it interesting that Collins analyzed the latest trends in the Scotch and gave us a safe path to navigate such a dangerous opening!
By the way, for what regards the Scotch gambit: 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.d4,exd4; 4.Bc4,Bc5; 5.0-0,d6;
it is discussed under a different move order in the video: “Italian Various 4th moves.” This is the move order given: 1.e4,e5; 2.Nf3,Nc6; 3.Bc4,Bc5; 4.d4,exd4; 5.0-0.d6;
Centre Game: 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4
This is one of the openings where obviously we cannot use the Bc5 move. But it is also interesting because it can lead through transpositions into other openings. Once more my mantra is “Do your homework,” because the author of this DVD, also if very professional and clearly good in his field, cannot cover everything. In fact, while I was in a big tournament a friend introduced me to a master-level player who wrote a book on the Centre Game as a repertoire for White. It’s good to play it against players up to or rated around 2000.
I’d like now to show you a game because beauty and top chess should always be on our to-watch list!
This game is mentioned by Collins in the video, and in fact it is pretty amazing! Collins adds that in this case the opening doesn’t matter, because in his opinion to play against Morozevich is impossible independent from the opening.
The DVD has 2 databases, one of Model games with 1604 games, and the other is the analyses of the lines shown in the videos which form the theoretical part for a total of 23 game-lines. This second database is quite important because we can use it as reference. After we play a game, we can return to this database and update it with the line played in our game. After a while, we will have a reference to use in preparation for a tournament, which will be easily linked to our memories on the board.
By the way, a DVD or a book (often written by a titled player) can miss some continuations that are important for club players. Does this make the DVD or book bad? Absolutely not, because the truth is we need to do our own homework!
All this material will not magically enter our heads if we don’t make any effort. A very important effort could be to find sidelines which were not treated and prepare them for our tournament games.
For example the line: 1.e4,e5; 2.Bc4,Bc5; 3.Qh5 is not treated by Collins in the videos.
However, there are 3 games which can give an indication of how Collins would play against such idea in the Model Games Database (the one with 1604 games!). But all three transpose into an Italian game. They are played with the following move order: 1.e4,e5; 2.Bc4,Nc6;
So what I did was to open my Megabase 2017. That is the reason why we need a database program in 2017, because in order to prepare, we need to have tools which speed up our preparation.
I placed the above position in the filter, and out of 7 million games the program found over 220 played with such a line:
The first game was played by Gioacchino Greco, an Italian player of the 1600s. This is the game:
Quickly I went over these 200 games, to have an idea of what White plays and why. This is what I call doing the homework, because Mr. Collins can help you only up to a certain extent, then we need to cover all our bases before losing a game because we didn’t study what Collins didn’t cover!
And why did I say we need to watch quickly all games? Because some are garbage, but some (like those played between 2100-2300 rated players) can relate to our tournament experience and the level of opposition we face, like the following game:
To think that a line with Qh5 is played just by amateurs or players under master level is a mistake, as in the following game played by strong Russian GMs.
In general, what I’m trying to convey is that once I’ve seen all the videos–but also while watching them–I jot down all the crazy ideas, lines, and moves Collins didn’t explain and see if there are games played, just in case my opponent plays that move or idea during a tournament game. I don’t want that kind of surprise.
Now that we are coming toward the end of the review, I’d like to share one small criticism, because as a reviewer I must be impartial: Collins says “ahm… ahm… ahm…” too many times. Obviously this doesn’t change the good quality of the content provided, but surely Collins can improve the presentation by removing it before each phrase he says.
In conclusion, I feel Collins is a good teacher because I realized he researched what the current trends of many openings are, and gave us a repertoire to neutralize those ideas. Many of our opponents do pay attention and copy their chess champion’s opening repertoire. It would be naive to think we can neutralize hours of research over the board, hence the need of an experienced titled player like Collins who tells us what we are going to face, and how to neutralize it! However, it must be also made clear that this is a high-maintenance repertoire. One must keep it updated with the latest theoretical findings. This means that every Monday one needs to download the latest games played in the major tournaments around the world, and look for each line if there were novelties or new ideas. That said, good luck and have fun playing against 1.e4 with Bc5!