Nikos with a quick overview on the Mihail Marin book, Grandmaster Repertoire – Pirc Defence

80 thoughts on “Nikos with a quick overview on the Mihail Marin book, Grandmaster Repertoire – Pirc Defence”

  1. Personally I would have wished to find an answer to the question why so few top players play the pure Pirc. If you see guys like Nepomniashchi, Mamedyarov or Svidler playing it it’s mostly through some Modern Defense move order. Why? What’s the problem with the Pirc ?

  2. Great video, thanks! I have also been wondering what’s wrong with the Pirc that’s it’s so rarely played on top GM level. It seems perfectly playable to me. Maybe it has to do with the preference for space by modern GMs?

  3. I think one of the problems is a lack of space. Another one is that whote has lots of options against the opening and black needs to know a lot just to play the opening where you might be under attack after a minor slip or have a lack of space.

    Why not spend all of that time on 1..e5 or 1..c5?


  4. Frank van Tellingen

    Most probably because the Modern is the more flexible move order, trying to trick White out of his standard anti-Pirc line. However, it is most probably a matter of taste @Thomas

  5. If you could persuade Avrukh to do a similar short video (or indeed any author ahead of release) I predict sales would go through the roof!

  6. Thank you very much for the video, I really appreciate this service to your customers.
    I hoped to find the answer to the move-order issue that Marin missed and that was mentioned on another blog at this page but it is not considered by Nikos:

    1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bf4 {(Chapter 13)} c6 5. Qd2 Nbd7 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. Bh6 {not mentioned by Marin.} O-O {This is a move order to 4.Be3, where Marin consider this as “?!”.} (7… Bxh6 8. Qxh6 Qa5 {Similar position like inthe 1.e4-book of John Shaw with Nf3 and Nbd7 inserted}) 8. Bxg7 Kxg7 9. e5 dxe5 10. dxe5 Ng4 11. O-O-O “strong initiative on the dark squares ” according to Marin (Chapter 8, variation C sideline 7…Nbd7)} *

    Besides this, I really like the Pirc book, Marin did a great job.

  7. I’m currently working through the chapter on the Austrian Attack with 6.Bb5+, and have already worked through the chapters on 4.Bg5 and the Classical System. I have to say that this book is absolutely brilliant! I really like the good explanations and introductory sections, and the quality of the analysis is superb! Just like Thomas I’m looking forward to the update 🙂 .

    Also, it would be really nice if Marin could write a similar book on a dynamic counterattacking opening against 1.d4, e.g. the Leningrad Dutch.

  8. Thomas :
    By the way:
    Any news on the Update file for Marin’s book, mentioned by John Shaw?

    Mihail is aware and will create an update file, but he has been delayed by the many many tournaments he has been playing.

  9. @Ray and TD, yes! After my christmas came early this year with the Pirc which we have been asking for a long time, a Leningrad rep book in the usual inimitable Marin manner would be a great 2018 Christmas present.

  10. @ Thomas:

    The first thing I do is enter the variations (including comments / explanations) into my repertoire database. I also include arrows etc. at specific positions, in order to emphasise typical piece manoeuvres / plans. Usually I only enter the bold variations, but sometimes also some sidelines, e.g. if they contain useful insights or difficult tactics. After I have entered everything, I systematically go through the lines in training mode, just to memorise them. An then it’s basically repeating this regularly to keep it stuck in my memory. It’s quite some work, but it works well for me 🙂

  11. @Ray
    Thanks Ray.
    Sounds like really much work, but promising.
    I always try to look at openings also on my wooden board, for better visual memory.
    But that’s probably a question of memorising techniques.

  12. I agree a wooden board is probably better for memorising, but the downside is that it takes much more time and , more importantly, a big advantage of working with a database that I can use the engine for example in positions where I am wondering “what if black plays x instead of Marin’s move y?”

  13. The Gm repertoire ones we need now are:
    Leningrad Dutch
    Queens Indian
    Scotch opening
    Buy Lopez
    Guico Piano

    The kan, scandinavian and classical Sicilian aren’t the strongest theoretically but it would be nice to have a Gm repertoire for them too.

  14. GM Repertoire ‘The Grob’ is another one I’m looking forward to…

    In all seriousness though, a GM Rep Leningrad book would be amazing, and a GM Rep book on the Ruy, focusing on the traditional mainlines instead of the early d3/a4 stuff, might even make me take up 1.e4 again… Some kind of book on the Alekhine for Black would also be interesting, and would probably fill a gap in the literature as there does not seem to be a lot of material for strong players who want to play the opening with Black.

  15. @Ray
    We would obviously include a discussion of the Petroff in such a book, but it would not be a traditional opening book. Boris is not interested in writing opening books.

  16. Book is very nice an Mihai had to spend lot of time with his book.
    However I think that there are 2 chapters, where I am not sure about used lines.
    Firstly: 4.Bg5 – 4…c6 & 5..Nbd7 is very interesting try and new try, but game Landa-Marin could be somewhere improved and we can start with 9.Nh3 and maybe white can claim some initiative!?

    Secondly… Chapters with 4.Be3 are the most important and I think that c6+b5 system (against all white setups) is not universal. Recomended line 4…c6 5.Qd2 Nbd7 6.f3 b5 (i would prefer 5..b5 6.f3 Nbd7 move order) 7.g4 Bg7 8.h4 h5 9.g5 Nh7 (stem game Smirin-Gofstein, but mentioned Moskalenko too) 10.Nge2 Nb6 11.b3 d5 (!Marin) – but after 12.e5 Nf8 13.Nd1 with idea something like Nd1-b2-(d3), a4 (will force b4), f4, 0-0 and trying open position with c2-c3 (look at hole c5) or even f4-f5 looks dangerous for black (there is no real counterplay, black can only sit and wait)

    Thirdly 4.Be3 c6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Qd2 0-0 – i thought that this is very dangerous for black, but Marin think that black is OK. I dont think so, because after 7.Bd3 b5 8.Bh6 Bg4 9.h4 Bf3 10.gf3 e5 white play can be improved and white can claim advantage.

  17. @AliceB

    About Marin’s 4.Bg5 line.

    1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5 c6 5.Qd2 Nbd7 6.f4 d5 7.e5 Ne4 8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.Ne2 Looks quite nicely met by Marin to me. He gives the key improvement 12…e3 and while white can play on with the better try 16.Be2, instead of the given 16.fxe5, it does not look special for white.

    1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5 c6 5.Qd2 Nbd7 6.f4 d5 7.e5 Ne4 8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.Nh3 Seems seriously worthy of analysis though (and hopefully Marin will get there). To me it seems like the least clear cut continuation and perhaps for this reason it could be investigated by some white players not happy with 9.Ne2, 9.Qe3 or (not in the book) 9.Bc4. When I looked at this 9.Nh3 I had 9…f6 10.Bh4 Bh6 11.Nf2 (quite natural moves) 11…Nxe5!? as mainline of analysis. Apart from going 12.Nxe4, trying to get something in a more open position, white can actually take a piece with 12.dxe5 Qxd2+ 13.Kxd2 Bxf4+. Not without at least some compensation obviously. Still… if were not to work out for black his alternatives e.g. 11…fxe5 12.dxe5 or 11…Nb6 12.exf6 Nd5 don’t look obviously equalising so it could be something to follow up for white maybe.

    Have a nice evening.

  18. @CbT
    I don’t think 9.Nh3 is a problem for black. “My” (read: Stockfish’s) main line goes: 9…Nb6 10.Nf2 Bf5 11.c4 f6 12.Bh4 fxe5 13.fxe5 h5 14.Bg5 Bg7 15.c5 Nd5 16.Bc4 b6! 17.b4 a5! 18.Bxd5 Qxd5 19.0-0 axb4 20.cxb6 c5! 21.dxc5 Qxd2 22.Bxd2 Kd7! 23.Bxb4 Kc6 24.Rfe1 Rhd8 25.Nd1 Bxe5 26.Bx3 Rd5 27.a4 Rxd1! 28.Bxe5 Rxe1+ 29.Rxe1 Rxa4, with equal chances in a drawish endgame.

  19. Hello.

    Thank you for sharing that way of playing. It looks fairly interesting actually.

    9…Nb6 10.Nf2 Bf5 has the downside that black’s last two moves quite seriously limited his chances to dismantle white’s centre by; moving first the knight so it targets light squares and the the light squared bishop are essentially moves that fortify the light squares.

    There is perhaps something to be said for this approach anyway though since e4 gets defended making white’s knight on f2 quite poor and if white’s best is now 11.c4 (likely) then his centre should in the long run be more unstable.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  20. @AliceB
    I’ve also looked at the line with 4.Be3 and 12.e5 you give. It indeed looks a bit passive for black – in general I’m not a big fan of these structures for black, since he lacks good pawn breaks. Anyway, maybe a solution is indeed the move order you suggest, i.e. 5.Qd2 b5 (instead of 5…Nbd7) 6.f3, and now not 6…Nbd7 but 6…Bg7, when we have transposed to the repertoire in Kornev’s recent book on the Pirc – but without allowing 4…Bg7 (this is Kornev’s move order) 5.Qd2 c6 6.Bh6, which is better for white according to white (the engine agrees). The question is whether or not white can profit from this different move order with an early …b7-b5?

  21. Interesting discovery on by pirc kid:

    As in Chapter 1 explained, if White aims for the well known classical setup, Marin explained why to avoid this line

    1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0 6.0-0 c6 7.h3 Nbd7 8.a4 Qc7 9.Be3

    where Marin see problems with both 9…b6 and 9…e5, and therefore wanted to avoid it in the first place. Instead he recommends 7… Qc7 followed by quick e5 and exd4.

    This White setup is often reached through different move orders, often started as accelerated classical. I think Marin contradicts his repertoire against this setup with chapter 9.

    In chapter 9 his chosen move order is 4.Be3 c6 5.h3 Nbd7 (the chapter only deals with 6.f4 and 6.g4, no mentioning of transpositions)

    So if White plays now 6.Nf3 aiming for the same setup as above, the obvious problem is, that blacks knight is already on d7. If Black now goes 6…Qc7, 7.a4 Bg7 8.Be2 0-0, 9.0-0 we reach the same position as above, which Marin wants to avoid.

    Other 6th moves such as 6…e5 (7.de5 de5, 8.Bc4 Bg7, 9.Qd6) or 6…Bg7 (7.e5) are not that convincing.

    Or I play 4.Le3 c6, 5.h3 Bg7 to solve the classical problem but have to skip Marins repertoire after 6.f4

    Did I miss anything?

  22. In Marin book on Pirc in the 3. Bd3 variation he gives: 3…e5 4.c3 d5 5.de5 Ne4 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Nbd2 Nc5 8.Bb1 Bg4 9.h3 Bh5 10.h3 Bh5 11.cd4 Nd4 12.g4 Bg6 13.Ne4 Be4 14 Be4 Ne4 15.Nd4 Bc5
    now he proposes 16.Be3 Bc5 and now 17.Qa4+ but what about 16.Qa4+?
    it seems to me good for white. many thanks

  23. Hi QC-Team,

    any news for the update/newsletter about the several move-order issues with the Pirc GM Rep that have been mentioned in the blog/other websites?
    As always, I prefer quality and not speed, but having it in Februray would be great, so I can prepare the Pirc for a tournament End of March.

    By the way, I have to mention that Nikos 1.d4 d5-book is one of the best opening book I ever read. I studied it within the last 4 weeks, to have a backup for my beloved KI and not to run into preparation in an important match during the team season. I know that an opening book is good when I search for the next move to play and I have ideas in my head what are the main strategic themes in the position, so that I find the next move based on this. Thanks for this book!

  24. @Patzerking
    Hello Patzerking,

    As far as the Pirc book is concerned, i am in the process of gathering the stuff that have been mentioned here and elsewhere that are (probably) missing from the book and we’ll definately do something about that.

    Thank you for your nice words about the d4 d5 book. I put my soul into in,

  25. I really like Nikos’ d4 d5 book too.
    My usual choice is the Grunfeld, which has worked wonderfully, but lower rateds have been trying to force draws with me, and many times I have to struggle to win in a dry endgame. I was wondering what was a better choice if I want to play for a win against 1.d4 as Black – Nikos d4 d5 or the Ragozin by Pert. I know Nikos offers some interesting extra options with …c6 in the Bg5 chapters, keeping the game complex, but the Ragozin looks very active. I’m happy with a complex middlegame – leaning more towards positional understanding rather than too many tactics. I’ve tried tactical openings like the Kings Indian and they don’t suit my style, plus the exchange variation just puts me off. Any suggestions?

    TL;DR – To keep the game complex and get positions where I can outplay my lower rated opponents, should I study Nikos’ 1.d4 d5 or Pert’s Ragozin?

  26. The Pirc book is a very interesting book in its own right, missing lines or not. The 1d4 d5 book is very clear and one which, as I white player, I would have preferred not to see published 😉 I used to utilise the old 11 h3 line (QGE 0-0)recommended by Kornev, but the insertion of an early h6 makes the h3 line very difficult to implement.

  27. @Mjolnir
    Nikos book is fantastic because of his crystal clear explanations of where the drawing boundaries are for Black in the repertoire. It is easier to learn. If you think some of the lines in the Gruenfeld are dry, there are many lines after 1…d5 that will require huge technique to win. I played the Gruenfeld for years. I think there are options to avoid many of the endgames. I moved away from it because of the concrete level of play required and fast moving theory I no longer had time for.

    The Ragozin has a lot to recommend. Not sure if you want to play Nf6 and e6 to get there. If yes, then the Nimzo is also required or a transposition to 1…d5. Lot more to learn. But, there are many options for Black. That also gets back to the element of surprise discussed. Play within that repertoire and vary the specific variation.

    There are several source of material on the Ragozin. Pert covers, 5 cxd5 exd5 6 Bg5 h6 7 Bh4 Nbd7. There is also 7…0-0 and 7…Bf5 for Black and 7…g5 and 7…c5. I don’t like the latter 2. But the first two are interesting. White is never worse in these lines. But, there are a lot of positional issues and tactical issues that can allow Black to gain chances in any of the first 3 variations without taking huge risks. Jacob is of course correct in his earlier reply to me. The process of making the right move at the CM matters a lot more than how you arrive at that CM. I was focused on…

  28. Thanks Paul – I did what I could with the time that I had. And by that I mean I kept delaying and working until Everyman threatened to cancel the whole thing, and then I worked 24 hours straight and turned in the manuscript with about 40 minutes to spare. 😉

  29. @TonyRo
    I like your book a lot, Tony, even though I dropped playing the Sicilian again in general. Wasn’t my thing in the end.
    Your book would surely have deserved proper editing, though. Navigating it feels cumbersome (as in most books by your publisher, though).
    Then, of course, it would be a bare minimum of getting your, the author’s, name spelled correctly even on the side cover. That’s just negligent…

  30. @Craig
    I just did, after you mentioned it.
    At the same time, this topic has been completely exhausted in 2-3 other books; there is absolutely nothing to add to it.
    You are right, Nikos should have written something (if only because this setup is popular in club level), and maybe he will offer an addition in PDF in the near future. But it’s not really an ommission worth noting. Besides, simply playing in QGD-style is enough to give one a good position and equalize; the problem with this approach is that you will only equalize and not much more :-p

  31. Tobias :
    I like your book a lot, Tony, even though I dropped playing the Sicilian again in general. Wasn’t my thing in the end.
    Your book would surely have deserved proper editing, though. Navigating it feels cumbersome (as in most books by your publisher, though).
    Then, of course, it would be a bare minimum of getting your, the author’s, name spelled correctly even on the side cover. That’s just negligent…

    I have mostly dropped the Sicilian lately too, but that’s mostly due to burnout. If I was more active I’d also have consider that the Kalashnikov is my only claim to fame and that I’d have to deal with a lot of preparation and/or Rossolimos, as Jacob mentioned in “Thinking Inside the Box”. Recently I’ve been obsessed with Alekhine’s, and (don’t judge me) the French Rubinstein. I have been working with Georg Meier when I get the chance, so perhaps that was unavoidable. 😉

    The navigation thing might be taste – I tend to think Everyman books look quite nice on the inside and out. Actual editing however, for instance on the spine, might be lacking somewhat.

  32. Nikos Ntirlis :
    Hello Patzerking,
    As far as the Pirc book is concerned, i am in the process of gathering the stuff that have been mentioned here and elsewhere that are (probably) missing from the book and we’ll definately do something about that.
    Thank you for your nice words about the d4 d5 book. I put my soul into in,


    It’s been exactly a month since this comment now. Any new on the GM repertoire – Pirc update?

    All the lines mentioned as possible problems/omissions here on the QC forum and on a certain more or less well known chess forum I have ready and previously compiled. If it helps I can post them (even though I have refrained untill now because it seems like a bad idea frankly) or perhaps better send it via mail or PM on that other forum.

    Good luck to everyone working on (or helping) with QC-projects. Best publishing house.

  33. @FM To Be
    The first workbook will be out in 1-2 months, then a few others will follow quickly. It is my main focus this year. They will be focused on pre-Yusupov level, starting at the beginning. I am especially interested in getting very basic elements into the books that I see missing in strong players. Like seeing undefended pieces, possible captures and other basic elements in.

    I cannot deny inspiration from the Dutch series “Steps,” as well as many others, but will try to do better the things I felt they did poorly. Others can later decide if I succeed :-). I expect that people will use all good available material and hopefully our series will make it natural to have such books and all companies will thrive. My goal is for chess to be the winner.

    We will have special arrangements in order for translation of the books. We already have sold rights to one Federation.

  34. Frank van Tellingen

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Regarding the “Steps”. Did you also take a look at the instruction manuals or only at the workbooks? The former are ready-made and fully worked-out lessons on a given subject to be given in approximately one hour based on constructivist educational theories (like Piaget etc.). Very handy for those who have no training as a teacher. Very curious though what you are going to do differently, looking forward to it.

  35. @JacobAagaard Some time ago I’ve stumbled upon a series of 15 books by a Russian trainer Joseph Slavin, and his wife Galina Slavina that cover all the aspects of chess starting with the basics. I was so frustrated that there is no translation that I was going to suggest that you buy the rights to publish them in English or write something similar yourself so needless to say that I’m very happy to see that you’re working on exactly that. I really hope that the series I mentioned is in the “many others” you looked at and you include just as many exercises in your books.

  36. @Jacob Aagaard

    Sounds quite good!

    I knew there were going to be “Textbooks” with corresponding “Workbooks”, but now I see that only workbooks are coming, will the instruction be included within the same books then? Like the Yusupov course but on a lower level?

  37. By the way, I really liked the design/art of “Small Steps To Giant Improvement”, if you want to go for a “cartoonish” look in any of the next books, I think this design is the way to go!

  38. Jacob Aagaard

    @FM To Be
    That is for the From Scratch series and also a cover for a book by Ehlvest, coming out late spring/early summer. But otherwise we will go for many different cover ideas. Some of them illustrated, some of them photo based.

  39. Nikos Ntirlis

    @Frank van Tellingen
    My personal opinion. Some of the “lessons” in the teacher’s manuals of the “Step Method” are badly constructed. This is an opinion based on personal experience with working on young kids and not by using any kind of academic education knowledge. Also, i really don’t like some small things. For example, there are places where a move a made by a GM in a given example in the teachers’ manuals is called “foolish”.

    Once again personal experience with young people has shown me that it makes a negative effect in their culture and general way of thinking if you call such moves “stupid” or “foolish”. It is much better to be respectful to those who have accomplished to get the highest titles in our game and try to understand the reason why such a strong player made an inaccuracy or even a bad mistake, rather than just simply give the impression that the guy is an idiot and move on…

    Realising that mistakes happen all the time, even by the strongest players among us is acrucial thing for competitive chess. Trying to analyse the reasons of the mistakes and the conditions under which they are made is what seperates a good trainer with a top one (like Dvoretsky or Jacob). What i have realised myself, is that this kind of attitude among trainers starts becoming stronger when the trainer stays away from competitive chess. This is why i decided that i should play more games myself. It is very different to look at…

  40. Nikos Ntirlis

    …chess from an academic-objective perspective rather that a competitive game. I have the feeling that this practical side of chess is one of the things missing from the Step Method.

    Don’t get me wrong, of course i think that the “Steps” have done some other things amazingly well and we are lucky that we have them around.

  41. Frank van Tellingen

    Hi Nikos, I worked with Steps for about 20 years and indeed it is not perfect in the sense that it has been written from a perspective of improving local club and youth trainers possibilities to teach their pupils something in a coherent fashion stressing the importance of making lots of exercises based on connected themes (each level there is an extra preparatory move to a tactical motive). Before that there was hardly anything coherent available in Dutch apart from the writings of Max Euwe, good in their own rights, but not a method with a lot of exercises and to a certain extent simplified for the average club player. It has not been written for higher level players. As in all methods it certainly contains mistakes. I was fortunate enough to train with both creators of this method, so possibly, not entirely objective. During those courses it seemed to me that it is rather hard for an average club player (let’s say an enthusiast rated 1800) to teach children chess in a systematic fashion such that they like chess and improve skills that are important, like tactical vision (first the children should become dangerous tactically, I do agree with this idea). (I always missed more positional and strategic exercises). Unfortunately in the age of the computer some trainers do not encourage their pupils to analyse their games in the right fashion, without digital assistance, with the opponent etc. first. It is also not easy to admit that you don‘t know something yourself…

  42. Frank van Tellingen

    Rob Brunia and Cor van Wijgerden always stressed the importance of analysing your own games, looking at the classics although indeed, they did not include this in their method. Things like training visualization, calculation were also included, but included in their training sessions only. They even developed their method as fas as step 10 I believe, I have seen 7 and 8, but those exercises were only available for talented youngsters like l‘Ami or Smeets. Probably for sales reasons. Nevertheless still curious what QC is going to add, after all, the only thing that really matters is helping those children who love the game to develop (their love of the game).

  43. The Step Method has been very successful and is of course the best thing out there. We have learned a lot from it, but I also want to add my own interpretations of basic chess skills. I do often find that not many, if any at all, thought about the very basic individual building blocks of visualisation and calculation and so on. I train 2700+ guys who clearly don’t have the basics covered in all areas. I also train kids that cannot see mate in 1. I am hoping this work will make it possible to create an unique angle and thus build on the experience of Steps to make something great. At least we are trying. This is why we made the first workbook a year ago, printed 200 copies and gave most of them away in order to get feedback. Over time I want to see this as an evolving project that gets better and better and learns from feedback from readers and coaches alike. But first I need to get back to the production line!

  44. When do you think the scotch, najdorf and taimanov gm repertoires will be out?

    Will there be a guico piano gm repertoire? It has been extremely popular the last few years at the top level as the ruy Lopez has been too drawish.

    Also any chance for a book on 1.b3 or 1.f4?

  45. @Dextro53
    Playing 1.e4 volume 1 has been out for a year. It has the Scotch Repertoire in it. The Najdorf is long term, the Taimanov hopefully just a few months. Sadly some employees take holidays sometimes, delaying their editing work :-(.

    A book on the Italian certainly makes sense, but we cannot do everything.

    And no to b3 and f4. Not planned and no excitement either.

  46. Jacob Aagaard :
    Playing 1.e4 volume 1 has been out for a year. It has the Scotch Repertoire in it. The Najdorf is long term, the Taimanov hopefully just a few months. Sadly some employees take holidays sometimes, delaying their editing work :-(.
    A book on the Italian certainly makes sense, but we cannot do everything.
    And no to b3 and f4. Not planned and no excitement either.

    Chess Stars just brought out a Repertoire Book for White Based on the Italian and Bishop’s Opening by Delchev and it looks both fresh and enticing, so no need for Quality Chess to dwell on that one. As Jacob says you can’t do everything.

  47. @Patzerking
    4.Bf4 has always been considered a bit weak due to 4…Nc6! attacking d4 and if 5.d5 then 5…e5! and Black is already equal. Personally I have found 4.Be3 a lot stronger but eventually did find a good antidote

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