Christmas Day

This is absolutely astonishing. Black wins in a really beautiful way. Very, very hard to find. I mean very hard. Let’s take the solution in the new year!

Thank you all for playing along!

46 thoughts on “Christmas Day”

  1. Merry Christmas to all. Not sure I’ll make much progress with this puzzle before the whisky kicks in 😉 but have just unpacked a present of the last 3 books of the yusupov series to complete my set… Things were noticeably getting tougher towards the end of book 6 so still quite a way to go!


    ### controversial review of “Playing the French” ###

    Folks check out what’s happening!

    Playing the French is the second opening repertoire book by the Quality Chess authors Jacob Aagaard and Nikolaos Ntirlis. I was very enthusiastic about their first book, The Tarrasch Defence (2011), not because I am a great fan of this opening myself, but because Aagaard and Ntirlis presented an original yet consistent and convincing framework which, despite its complex details, was straightforward and centered around just a few strategic concepts.

    Their latest book is an even more ambitious project and, being an occasional French player myself, my expectations were high-strung. The authors claim to present “a fighting repertoire with a minimum of drawish positions and perpetual checks.” They have certainly achieved this goal, but the result is such an abundance and, at the same time, absence of details that it’s hard to imagine any Black player adopting this repertoire without going (or being) slightly mad.

    First, let me deal with a couple of sidelines. At club level (and, in fact, well above that), these are never to be underestimated, as I know from experience, but Aagaard and Ntirlis deal with them rather briefly. For instance, after 1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5, they write that “It is practical to meet 3.Nf3 with 3…Nf6, and after 4.e5 Nfd7 5.d4 we reach variation B of Chapter 12. Harald Keilback in his original work Knight on the Left: 1.Nc3 agrees with me.”

    This may be true, but there’s a little bit more to it, for White’s extra option 5…c5 6.Bg5!? (which is the introduction to the dangerous ‘Jackall Variation’) is nowhere mentioned.

    Just too easy

    Curiously, against the gambit line 1.e4 e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e5 c5 4.b4!? the authors’ recommended continuation is 4…cxb4 which, at the very least, gives White exactly what he wants. Their main line continues with 5.a3 bxa3 6.d4 Nc6 7.c3 Bd7 8.Bd3 h6 9.0-0 a6 10.Nxa3 Rc8

    “This position has been recommended by Eingorn and his assessment is that White has insufficient compensation for the pawn. My engines don’t believe him, but I certainly do after looking at this position for a long time and playing it against both humans and my PC. As in many other lines in the French Defense, we can afford to leave our king on his original square in order to take care of more urgent matters first. In this case White has long-term prospects on the queenside, as our kingside can take care of itself without help. A set-up that I found very comfortable for Black here was …Na5, …Rc6 and …Qc7 followed by …Nge7 or even …Bxa3 followed by …Nge7, …Nc4 and …b5; I couldn’t find a way for White to stop this or make it ineffective.

    11.c4 In the only practical test, White tried this move, but it fails to trouble Black. However, a calmer build-up by White would allow Black to follow the plan mentioned above. For example: 11.Qe2 Na5 12.Bb2 Ne7 13.Nc2 Nf5 Black is developing easily, and let’s forget his extra pawn.”

    That does sound convincing, doesn’t it? They’ve looked it ‘for a long time’ and even played the position out against humans and a computer! But if this is such a good position for Black – who has a pawn extra – why do all engines keep evaluating this position as roughly equal if not minimally better for White? The authors don’t bother answering this question but it’s a very relevant one indeed. After all, this is a gambit so all White seeks is compensation for the pawn – and according to the strongest engines in the world, he has it!

    I’m not claiming I understand this position better than Eingorn, Aagaard and Ntirlis, who are all much stronger than me, but in my opinion it’s just too easy to say you don’t believe your engines and then only give one sample line to illustrate your point, especially if your audience doesn’t all consist of fellow title holders.

    What if White just develops his pieces and just sits on his space advantage until Black runs out of useful moves? Even the weird-looking 11.Qb3!?!, which is Rybka’s suggestion – actually provoking Black’s plan of Na5 and Rc6 – is not clear at all: White retains long term chances on both wings and Black must wait passively even if he can carry out his dream plan until White shows his cards.

    This is what (positional) gambit play is all about, after all. If that kind of long-term compensation isn’t worth taking a bit more seriously, then we might as well dismiss the entire Volga/Benko Gambit. I, for one, would be happy to play this position with White against equal opposition if given the chance, especially knowing that Houdini and Rybka are supportive in principle.

    Building a repertoire

    The authors use similar reasoning in the Euwe System of the Advance Variation. In this notoriously tricky gambit in which White sacrifices all his central pawns, the recommended line is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.Bd3 cxd4 7.cxd4 Qb6 8.0-0 Nxd4 9.Nbd2! Ne7 10.Nxd4 Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qb6 12.Be3 Qd8!

    Aagaard and Ntirlis mention that this important position has been analysed at length by many other authors in the recent past, such as Viktor Moskalenko, Nikita Vitiugov and Simon Williams. Black’s last move was dismissed by Antic & Maksimovic in The Modern French (2012) but Aagaard and Ntirlis “couldn’t find anything wrong with this move.” Indeed, their analysis convincingly show that Black doesn’t have much to fear if he does his homework: “13. Ng5 (…) gives White compensation, not an advantage. The situation is highly unclear, but not at all bad for Black.”

    Based on the concrete evidence presented in Playing the French, this seems certainly true. But here, too, it’s obvious that White players who have this system in their repertoire are perfectly happy to play this position knowing they have ‘mere’ compensation. Why give them what they want and walk into their preparation? Black still has to memorize lots of tricky variations with lots of opportunities to go astray along the way.

    Aagaard and Ntirlis often seem strangely blind to this element of practical play, preferring to focus on whether Black can survive from a theoretical and computer-analyzed perspective – instead of pausing to ask the question whether Black actually wants to play these positions in the first place. (To their credit, the authors also analyze the alternative option 9…Nxf3+ instead of 9…Ne7, but this, they admit, leads to a position “where White’s chances could be evaluated as a tiny bit better.”)

    Sharpest possible version

    Here’s another example of what I mean, in a fascinating line of the the MacCutheon variation with the rare 6.Bc1: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bc1 Ne4 7.Qg4 g6 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nxc3 10.Bd3!

    10…b6! 11.a4 Qd7 12.Ra3 Nxa4 13.c4! Bb7 14.Bc2!?N Bc6 15.cxd5 Qxd5 16.Bxa4 b5! 17.Bd1 Qxg2 18.Qxg2 Bxg2 19.Bf3 Bxh1 20.Bxh1 c6

    “We have reached an unclear endgame with White having two strong bishops against a rook and three pawns. I would evaluate the position as objectively somewhat better for Black, although White has his trumps as well.”

    This evaluation may well be entirely correct, but the question is also whether you would want to play this position without analyzing it extensively yourself first and knowing exactly where to put your pieces? Why don’t the authors explain what’s going on and give some basic ideas for both players to support their verdict? Isn’t this what chess students are mostly interested in?

    This is my problem with much of the material presented in Playing the French: it’s all highly original, but very often it’s also very concrete, highly untested, sharp as a razor’s edge and therefore dangerous if you don’t study it yourself very well. Stuff like this is not only ‘unfinished business’, but also risky business. One fresh grandmaster game in this line could demolish an entire branch of your repertoire – without much of a backup.

    In general I would only recommend this book to extremely serious, confident and dedicated students who are not afraid to spend a lot of time familiarizing themselves in great detail with the variations presented in this book. The content of Playing the French is often much too theoretical to be of much value to the practical player, but at other times it’s nowhere near detailed enough to serve as a truly ‘scientific’ guide to the French.

    Take another important line treated in the book: the Tarrasch Variation (3.Nd2). The authors’ main choice against this is again the sharpest possible version of 3…c5:

    1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nb3 Nc6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 a6 11.Re1 Qc7 12.Bb3 Bd6

    “13.Nf5 This is the main idea behind playing 11.Re1, and to someone seeing this position for the first time, it looks really dangerous. However, there is enough practical material nowadays to ascertain that Black can equalize. (…)

    13…Bxh2+ 14.Kh1 0-0 15.Nxg7 Rd8! 16.Qf3 Kxg7

    We can now see the point of the zwischenzug with the rook. It is not immediately obvious how White should continue his attack. From this point on, both sides have to proceed with caution, as a single inaccurate move can lead directly to disaster. The following notes may seem daunting to some readers, as it seems that Black has to remember a lot of complicated theory, but if you play through the notes a few times at home, you should not find it difficult to repeat the moves at the board.”

    Seriously? I’ve looked at this line myself a couple of years ago, and the (theoretical) complexities in this position are vast – there’s no way you can understand what’s going on by just ‘playing through the notes a few times at home’. For starters, the only move given for White in this position is 17.Bh6+! which is indeed the strongest continuation, but what if White plays something like 17.Qe3!?

    I recall looking at this move at the time, and my question to Aagaard and Ntirlis would be how many people they think are able to find the only defense 17…Kh8! 18.Qg5 Nd7! 19.Qh4 Bd6! behind the board? Even there, the situation is actually far from clear without an engine running in the background for constant help.

    And this is just one pretty random line in this variation, not even White’s most promising option (which, according to the authors, is 12.Qe2! and also leads to hellishly complex play).

    If I were Black, I think I would prefer the slightly inferior endgames after 4…exd5 against the Tarrasch Variation – because the other stuff is just way above my head without spending hours and hours analyzing it myself. (Ironically, the book’s back cover assures us that “the characteristic blocked pawn centre leads to situations where a player with superior understanding can overcome an opponent whose expertise lies in computer-assisted preparation”!)

    Examples like this make the book strangely unsatisfying to me, the authors’ trademark originality and audacity notwithstanding. Despite the sometimes really good, well-analyzed content, too often I found myself doubting if the authors knew anything at all about practical tournament chess. For all their frequently repeated assertions that this is “a practical guide”, they don’t seem to believe it themselves.

    Unfinished symphony

    This Christmas, Lars von Trier’s much-anticipated new and controversial movie Nymphomaniac will hit the cinemas – or rather, a trimmed-down version of it, for the original 5,5 hour movie was cut to 4 hours and split in two parts which will be released separately a few weeks later. Von Trier has already declared that this cut-down version is incoherent and that he refuses to take responsibility for it. And he is right, of course.

    I couldn’t help thinking of Lars von Trier (who, by the way, has an equally original and creative ambition as Aagaard and Ntirlis do) when I read Jacob Aagaard’s Introduction to Playing the French. There, he writes that the book’s first draft was close to 700 pages – that is, 250 more than the present publication – “as we had checked virtually every possibility in every line, but eventually managed to whittle the project down to the present version.”

    In my view, it would have been better to stick to the original and include those additional 250 pages after all – or perhaps to split the book into two equal volumes. I think it would have made a much more coherent piece of work and I would probably not have had the feeling that I was listening to an unfinished symphony. Now, like in Lars von Trier’s case, the work feels incomplete and therefore doesn’t live up to its potential.

    For those who are wondering where this review comes from: it’s from ChessVibes (Arne Moll). I often agree with his reviews, but in this case I think he is being too harsh. True, the minor lines could have had some more coverage perhaps, but overall in my opinion this is a great book. It’s just impossible to cover everything in one book, and I just don’t agree with his statement that this book is only suitable for extremely serious, confident and dedicated students (though I personally would have liked the extra 250 pages :-). This is not a reportoire for whimps, and if you play main line openings you can expect to have to study on it, but that’s just a fact of life nowadays. I think we shouldn’t forget that our opponents normally are also human and are just as unlikely to have memorised everything as we ourselves. Also, I do think that the main line Tarrasch with 3…c5 is rather easy to memorise since there are many forced lines. It’s in that respect similar to Tarrasch with 3…Nf6 and 11…Qc7 with the exchange sacrifice: crazy lines, but not too difficult to commit to memory!

    PS: I have played the French for around 10 years, and have NEVER faced the Jackall, so I would say that it’s a practical choice not to cover it :-). The same goes for the wing gambit; I have faced this only once so far. My guess is that above a rating of 1900 or so chances that you will have to face these lines are very small indeed.

  4. Arne Moll is a great reviewer and his opinions are always interesting. I have written a piece with general thoughts on the difficulty of being Black and preparation, which then responds to this review based on this framework. It will be my next Monday blog post.

    I hope that we can have an interesting discussion about how to prepare and what people think. Arne Moll have come with one opinion, I will come with another in my piece. What will be really interesting will be the input from you guys.

    One final remark: the evaluation of our work is up to each individual. Arne gave his opinion. It is neither harsh nor hostile. It is his opinion. Personally I am very grateful to Arne for writing long and well-thought out reviews; whether or not I agree with his opinion or not. The fact that someone thinks and shares it with such intelligence and detail is a gift to all authors who care about their craft.

    Or to summarise: don’t fall into the trap of thinking it is Jacob vs Arne. We are all on the same team, with the same goal: to become smarter.

  5. I just can say that 1. …, Kg7 seems not good because of 2.Qb2, Qa3;3.Rxg6+!! (Not obviously 3.Qa1? because of 3. …, Qc3 and Black wins), Kxg6 (Also 3. …, Kf8 is not good because of 4.Qxa3, ba;5.Tf6 and White wins);4.Bxf5+, Kh5 (Or 4. …, Kh6;5.Qf6+, Kh5;6.g4#, or 4. …, Kg5;5.Qg7+, Kh5;6.Bg4#);5.Qg7!, Qc1+;6.Kg2, Qd2+;7.Kh3 and the checkmate is unavoidable. For the moment it’s all I can see, but naturally the solution is far more complex.

  6. All I see currently is 1. … d5 to support Qf2 which is not possible right now.

    1. … d5 2. Bxf5 (Qxd5 b3! 3.Qxb3 [axb3? Qa1+ 4.Kg2 Ne3+] Rb8) Qf2 3. Qd1 Ra8 looks strong.

    The other idea is 1. … Rc8, but after Bxf5 I don’t see a result for black, since the King can escape over h3.

    I’m very very curious for the solution!

  7. Jacob Aagaard :
    Arne Moll is a great reviewer and his opinions are always interesting…

    Having just completed a repertoire book for Black, I sympathize with both sides. Where do you draw the line between practical repertoire choices and those that are perhaps more principled, but sharper and more difficult to handle? How do you cater to those that play (something like) the French for variations akin to the Advance French with …c4 vs. those that prefer the tooth and nail Poisoned Pawn Winawer? Do you try to punish variations like the Wing Gambit and risk defeat (or give White want he wants), or choose something that’s practically very safe, but maybe gives White more than he deserves? It’s impossible to do all of those, and I’ve found it difficult to avoid repertoire choices that may divide a reader.

    To me, Arne Moll downplays the advantages of a sharp Black repertoire – one that is likely to generate more winning chances (and for a lot of people, enjoyment, but that’s subjective!) than his preference of solid but slightly worse positions. But to each their own!

    The review is good, though in some ways I object to a reviewer presenting only his opinion – coloring repertoire choices (and therefore the book as a whole) on personal taste alone may turn away readers regardless of whether the actual content was accurate and well-presented, but again that’s simply my opinion. I think he could have done a better job with objectivity, or considering the other side of the coin.


    First of all marry Christmas to everyone!!! 🙂

    Regarding above review of “Playing the French” I just want to say that in every opening Black has three choices:

    1) active defence – demands bold moves, memorization and very dynamic play;

    2) solid defence – moves are not so crucial, but on the other way they lead to normal positions where Black can fight for edge in some way;

    3) passive defence – moves without weaknesses but also without chances to play for a win.

    Well, to my mind “Playing the French” fits in greater part into 1) defence. In today’s time and tournaments you have to engage risk if you want to be on the top. I can’t see nothing wrong in it!

    For those, including Noll, who don’t want to play that kind of chess should choose option 2) or 3).

    There are also Berg’s books, and the top notch ones like Antic’s, Vitiugov’s or Watson’s.

    It’s up to you what to choose and play, just like in everyday life!

  9. Back to the puzzle. The white rook is in trouble. 1… Kg7 don’t work. Therefore let’s try 1… Qe7. After 2. Qb2 Black plays Rc8 with the threat of Rc3. What can White do? After 2. gxf5 Rc3 3. fxg6 Qxf6 Black is an exchange up and the open position of the white King should be enough to win quickly.

    I agree with your categories, but I had the impression that the reviewer would have liked the book to be more ‘complete’, precisely because the recommended reportoire is principled and double-edged (hence the phrase ‘unfinished symphony’). I think there’s some sense in this opinion, but I think he’s too black-and-white in his verdict that the book is unsuitable for all but serious, hard-working etc. chess students. Personally I don’t mind either way. If a book is not totally complete I have plenty of other books (also on the French) to make up for the ‘gaps’ and if a book is very complete (like Kotronias on the KID) it’s a also fine by me, but it means I will have to find my way to the jungle :-). I’m looking forward to Jacob’s blog post on this topic!



    And what about “Playing the 1… e5!” 🙂 book? That would be outstanding. Just like with French books, GM Repertoire and GM Guide?

    Any thoughts about such project? If I remembered correctly somebody is working on GM Repertoire Open Games for Black? Am I right?

  12. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I have received GM15 today, and it is indeed excellent, some extremely deep analysis in almost every part of the book, but what really impressed me was 13…b5!!, which is actually very bold (in a good way), since 13…Qf7 and 13…Bd7 have been so focussed that to think of anything else. It would be similar to in the Najdorf 6. Bg5, recommending suddenly a new line rather than the main 7…Qb6, 7…Be7, 7…Nbd7, etc. In that manner, it is fresh analysis from the starting point instead of continuing down either 13…Qf7 or 13…Bd7 and trying to find novelties on move 35. I still think that both 13…Qf7 and 13…Bd7 are good and solid moves, and I would fully trust them in any tournament game. But 13…b5!! I shall try to play now, a quick look so far and the analysis seems excellent. I remain convinced by this move.

    8…f5 also very good, reinforcing the fact that 7…0-0 offers two solid systems. It also helps that I see that Berg has played all three systems in the book. 8…f5 goes seriously deep, with page 242 seeing a line ending on move 42 with equality, so attention to detail is certainly not a weakness.

    I am very unknowledgeable about the Poisoned Pawn, but Chapter 12 with 12…b6 looks interesting, but still crazy. Unsurprisingly, most of the Poisoned Pawn material has insane positions, but that is simply the nature thereof. I look pn page 182, end of the Poisoned Pawn on Chapter 13, and it moves with a perpetual after 46(!) moves. And the two diagrams on this page, the Black king is on b5, and the one therebeneath is on d4, and this is the middlegame. Quite the remainder of the chapter, White has a passed pawn on h7 after move 16, so this is extremely complicated. It looks fun, but extremely insane.

    I defintely shall play 7…0-0 regularly now, in addition to the Classical like in Playing the French, as a combination. 7. Qg4 is like the 6. Bg5 of the Najdorf–thereon depends everything. But it has been a success, with 630+ pages of Winawer material.

    Well done.

  13. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    We actually tried to bust 13…b5 in the office, because we felt it was very important to see if it worked. Some of the best lines in the chapter originated in Glasgow and not the Swedish country-side. In my opinion Emanuel and Andrew did a great job on this book. I look forward to see what White has against 13…b5, if anything.

  14. @Ray
    Going off the interesting substance of the review and looking at the language, some of it seems odd to me. One the one hand it seems to be too theoretical for Arne, but on the other hand it is too short. I am not sure that a second choice against the Advance French, the Nakamura Steinitz or 6…Qd7 and 6…Qd8 in the Tarrasch would have made the book better. The chapters were not thinned out in the way Arne imagines.

    I have so far never come across a proof reader that did not want to put more moves into my books, but it is always with the loss that if you have to put them in one place, you should do it other places too (where other readers might want them), making the whole thing too detailed and cluttered.

    Quality Chess books are always detailed, high level and for the serious student. At least so far. If anything, I probably want to use that part of the review as a quote. The way Arne makes this sound like a bad thing is a bit confusing to me :-).

  15. @Jacob Aagaard
    I agree with you, that’s also what I meant. You can’t have it both ways I think. The only point I see in his review is that indeed some lines might be missing if you are going for ‘ completeness’ – he gave some examples of those, the most notable being the critical Tarrasch line with 13.Nf5. On the other hand, some study at home is absolutely essential to play this reportoire, and with this comes asking some critical questions such as ‘ what do I do after x?’. Every engine gives the answer in seconds nowadays, so what’s the problem? The lines he thinks are too theoritcal / difficult (such as the line against the 6.Bc1 MacCutcheon) seem absolutely fine with me – they are the reason I play the French :-). But if you’re more expecting something along the lines of Eingorn’s ‘A rock solid reportoire for black’, then I guess you might be disappointed by the recommendations in Playing the French.

  16. Gilchrist is a Legend

    @Jacob Aagaard
    I still feel that Black has a good game after both 13…Qf7 and 13…Bd7, and 8…Nbc6 in general, but 13…b5 is very interesting because it sidesteps what are basically the only known main lines that are played without any other contemplation. It is very difficult for White to breach the defences in any of the lines. I study the book now and quite like the positions. 7…0-0 also have 8…f5 if that suits their style. The Poisoned Pawn looks crazier than I thought, many positions look like Fischer Random or bughouse positions, or even a mix of both. It might even be crazier than the Najdorf Poisoned Pawn Variation.

    It would be interesting to see top GM games soon with 13…b5. It seems that when a QC opening book is published, lines therein are tested in praxis quite quickly.

  17. @Gilchrist is a Legend
    I agree with your comments on 13…b5. I wonder why Franck Steenbekkers doesn’t trust this – it looks quite natural to me. Anyway, we’ll indeed have to wait for practical examples!

    As for the poisoned pawn, it reminds me more of the Semi-Slav Botwinnik than of the Najdorf PP.

  18. About the review.

    I cannot say much about the book, because I don’t have it.

    I play the pirc, and have a lot of books on this opening, the best I think is the one of Vigus.
    In the Dutch team competition someone played against me the following
    1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 f4 Bg7 5 Be2 c5 6 d5 0-0 7 g4
    Well, if i wrote a review about the books I have, should I say these books are missing this line?
    What does one expect? I think these books can be helpfull, but you also need to play these systems, and analyse the games you played. Sometimes you see that some lines are fantastic, and some other lines do not fit to your style. So these books can help you to give some ideas.

    An other line I got in a recent Dutch team cup competition
    1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Be3 Bg7 5 Qd2 c6 6 0-0-0 b5 7 f3 Qa5 8 Kb1 Nbd7 9 g4 Nb6 10 b3
    This line I could not find in the book. I saw some games in my database played by Colin McNab with black. Most black players have problems in this position.
    I played 10 … b4 11 Nce2 h5 12 g5 Nfd7 13 f4 e6 14 Nf3 d5 15 f5 dxe4 16 fxe6 exf3
    And went on to win. But after analysing the game I saw that 13 … e6 was not that good, white could play direct f5 followed by Nf4. And better was playing 13 … c5, with typical play for black.

    I think this is the way you learn tot play an opening, not just think that the absolute truth will be found in one book.
    So my expectation of an opening book is that it gives me ideas, and some games played as example, and that the book is an workbook, and that a lot of work is done by practicing and analysing my own games.

    But if someone expects to find all lines covered, and also lines that are all good for black players, well…is that possible?

  19. Looks like 1… Qe7 2.Qb2 Rc8! 3.Rxf5(otherwise Rc3 follows) gxf5 4.Bxf5 is advantageous for black. Not sure about the direct win though. Is there anything better than this?

  20. As well as John Donaldson’s review, I’ve just seen reviews of both volumes of Berg’s French books as well as Playing the French, over on Sean Marsh’s site.
    Am enjoying my copy of Playing the French very much, incidentally. Thanks.


    I’m interested for Avrukh’s upcoming Grandmaster Repertoire 17 – The Classical Slav. Can we please get some more information about it, some rounded number of total pages etc.

    I’m just curious if it’s very theroy heavy and how it can be combined alongside Grunfeld and Tarrasch against 1.d4.

    Thanks for reply.

  22. Gilchrist is a Legend

    13…b5 looks quite promising, and the lines with 8…f5 too. The Poisoned Pawn looks well like the Semi-Slav Botwinnik, absolute insanity in the lines, which is why it scares me. I am not sure that I can memorise all of the theory, especially after my experiences with the Najdorf equivalent whereby I lost 5 games before move 30, including two before move 25, and all of them with 15+ people watching, probably because my position was so embarassing and I lost almost all of my time trying to figure out what to do. 7…0-0 for me, coupled with 3…Nf6 and 7…a6 in Playing the French.

    It would be nice to see Apicella, Kindermann, or even Carlsen himself try the 7…0-0 repertoires, especiallly 13…b5. I think that there is a 2300 Abrahamjan who in the database plays 11…Nce7 with success, so there are also other lines too. Perhaps the Winawer GMs shall start playing from this book too.

  23. Just wanted to say thanks to Jacob for providing these exercises during the holiday. I didn’t always post, but I studied each one! Thanks so much.

  24. Hi guys, back to the position, and yes, thanks to Jacob!!! It’s very interesting and for sure not easy 🙂
    I still like the idea to play …d5 with the idea to play Qf2 and probably ..b3 and Ra8.

    Since I’m a serious french player, I ordered the QC book of course and yes, of course the magic sidelines are probably not perfectly solved, but in this case you simply need your imagination and/or other books…

    Sometimes I stopped playing variations because a sideline kept me worrying, but nowadays I understand that this is just a sideline…

    Even if the book is not perfect, I’m sure it will help your chess a lot and this is what counts!

  25. Hi all,
    I heard about this forum discussing my review. It seems it has generated a lot of misunderstanding. I believe Jacob got it right when he said I was just trying to express my opinion. Perhaps I didn’t made it clear enough that I am not at all negative about the book, but I wanted to give extensive arguments for the critical notes I do have. As I write a couple of times in the review, there are very good parts in the book and most of the analysis seem correct, but my overall feeling was still very mixed. It seems to me the authors just wanted too much with this book, which claims both to be a practical, non-engine driven manual AND tries to cover some of the sharpest lines in the entire French with fresh, often very complex analysis and evaluations which are not always worked out. This, I felt, is just asking too much of readers. In my view you can’t have your cake and eat it when you’re writing a repertoire book and it’s probably better to make some radical choices rather than giving too many choices. If you want to write a book about all your interesting new ideas in the French, great, but then don’t throw away 30% of the analysis. Overall the book just feels unbalanced to me but as Jacob wrote, it really is just my opinion, nobody elses. If others think this is a great book, I’m happy for them and I have no reason to convince them of the opposite. Cheers, Arne

  26. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I also disagree with the review for the same reasons–in fact, I feel that Playing the French is probably the best of the French repertoire books so far, just my opinion. However, Berg’s GM14/15 are seriously good, perhaps I rate them as the same as Playing the French. So they essentially compete with each other, but I feel that Berg and Ntirlis/Aagaard books are around the same level of excellency, and I like them more than the other French repertoire books, even though some of the others are good as well.

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