Attacking with the Italian and Ruy Lopez

by Albert Silver
12/4/2013 – When it comes to openings DVDs, there are essentially two types: the instructive work endeavoring to teach the theory, the plans, or both, and the thematic games collections. Sergey Tiviakov's "Attacking with the Italian and Ruy Lopez" defies easy classification as it teaches opening ideas, shares 30 exciting games, and is a master class in attack. Review by Albert Silver

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A review

When it comes to openings DVDs, there are essentially two types: there is the classic instructive work, endeavoring  to teach the theory, the plans, or both, and there are the thematic games collections, such as several produced by Shirov, to name the most prolific in the ChessBase family. Although there is always some overlap, they tend to be fairly different beasts, and it was not with inconsiderable curiosity that I saw Sergey Tiviakov’s latest DVD called “Attacking with the Italian and the Ruy Lopez”. That is an awfully specific title and theme, and as a lifelong player of the Italian, it made me wonder. There are certainly moments when one can attack with the Italian, but I have never found it to be something White could simply decide at will. Contrary to some openings such as the Classical King's Indian where it is where it is a mad race to see whose horse crosses the finish line first, the Italian is an opening that can lead to all manner of play, from central struggles to queenside expansion and of course kingside onslaughts. Still, one of the oldest concepts a player learns is that one must play according to the position’s needs, and while there is flexibility in plans, it is usually not along the lines of “I think I will play for mate now”. Chess is just not that simple.

Tiviakov has already earned my respect as a serious and generous author who does not hold back, so I demanded to see. Seeing is believing, right? The DVD's table of contents is already very promising, as it contains no fewer than 30 videos, not including the introduction and conclusion, divided by clearcut attacking themes:

  • Attack against the castled king (eight videos)
  • Attack with Bg5 (six videos)
  • Opening the f-line with f4 (ten videos)
  • Different attacking strategies (six videos)

The table of contents to a highly original DVD

In the introduction, the grandmaster explains that his plan is not to discuss the finer points of theory, and he plans to focus on some of his more original attacking setups in both the Italian and Ruy Lopez, notably castling queenside. I admit I stopped here and started laughing a little. Castling queenside In the Italian? As in 0-0-0? Had this come from anyone other than a 2700 grandmaster I would probably have dismissed this as a joke. Let us refrain from judgement and keep an open mind.

Possibly realizing he had to quickly establish credibility for his thesis, in the first video the Dutch grandmaster elaborates on how this is achieved. He does not just develop as usual and suddenly castle on the other side, since that would be absurd, there is a clear plan to his madness. The Ruy Lopez and Italian, as he clarifies, share major themes and plans and his goal is not to castle as quickly as possible, but rather to forestall castling, bring his pieces to the kingside, and initiate aggressive space grabbing maneuvers. Despite having denied discussing any theory in depth, he actually does cover many of his tracks here to show that his intentions are not easily refuted.

While explaining his attacking plans, he also shows what Black needed to do to
fight back

The games he chooses are mostly from his own, which makes sense as they are also the ones he will understand the best, showing this is not a case of ‘do as I say but not as I do’. Each game, some only found as references within another game, is shown in its entirety, each clearly linked to the theme at hand, and each with an exciting finish. No endgames here. It is attack after explosive attack.

The plan is simple

In fact, it quickly becomes clear that even players who have no interest in playing either the Italian or the Ruy Lopez can safely buy this DVD for the pleasure of watching no fewer than 30 great attacking games, all commented in depth with many fun variations behind the moves. However, it goes deeper than this. Because of the quantity of material and the nature of his focus, the DVD is a master class in attacking, and there are many more attacking ideas and plans explained in the games than the four main subjects listed in the contents. Any player can benefit from this instruction and come out a stronger, more enriched player on how to conduct his plans of conquest. Tiviakov is also clear on the mistakes by his opponents, even strong grandmasters, and what fundamental errors led to their demise and allowed him to sign his scoresheet victoriously in under 30 moves.

In the end, there are eight interactive video questions proposing key moments to press forward an attack. The first question is easy to see, but hard to calculate, and the rest are a mixed bag of easy and hard as well. Above all, even if you do not see the solution or are unable to work out the lines, consider it as a repository of further ideas to use in your own games. Finally there is a massive database with over a million games taken from ChessBase’s MegaDatabase, covering the Italian and Spanish, of which thousands are commented by masters and grandmasters.

Included are games commented by the giants of yesterday and today

When I was done with the DVD, I was left wanting to go back to see several again, a good sign, and it is easy to recommend this unusual product. Although one can buy it for its announced purpose, 'attacking in the Italian and Ruy Lopez', anyone looking for a fun collection of exciting games, or seeking a master class in attack will be just as well served, since it is all that and more. I heartily recommend it.

'Attacking with the Italian and the Ruy Lopez' can be purchased in the ChessBase Shop



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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