Putting fire into the Petroff

2/15/2007 – Many players look on the Petroff or Russian Defence with the suspicion that it is a drawish and often boring opening. Who could be better suited for countering this view than Alexei Shirov? On his Petroff DVD he reveals the depths of this opening in no less than five hours of entertaining, instructive lessons. Buy it now or read more.

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Arsonists and firefighters
Review by Steve Giddins

As any 1 e4 player will tell you, the Petroff or Russian Defence is just about the most frustrating response for White to meet. Heavily analysed, and employed at top GM level by almost all of the leading players, it remains one of Black’s most fireproof defences.

Many top GMs have experience of the Petroff from both sides. Vishy Anand and Michael Adams are two, but perhaps the most interesting of all is Alexey Shirov. One would expect “Fire on Board” Shirov to have many encounters on the White wide of the opening, and it is certainly highly interesting to see how this most incendiary of GMs attempts to gain an advantage. This in itself would make a DVD of his thoughts on the Petroff compulsory viewing. However, it happens that Shirov also has substantial experience on the Black side of the opening, a case of “poacher turned gamekeeper”, one might say – or perhaps, to continue the fire analogy, “arsonist turned firefighter”. This being the case, any player who is interested in either side of the opening can expect to learn a huge amount, from seeing Shirov himself spend over 5 hours, going through his most interesting games on both sides of the Petroff fence.

Watching any top GM go through games in a certain opening like this is immensely instructive. Shirov explains the different set-ups and move-orders for each side, setting them in context, and explaining the subtleties of why a certain move-order went out of fashion because of a certain line, and why a slight tweak in move-order avoids the problem variation, but brings other difficulties, etc. Along the way, one sees games in which he beat such players as Short, Leko, Topalov, Kramnik and Morozevich. In addition to the 13 main games, each analysed at length on the DVD, numerous other games are quoted partially or in full in the notes, which build into a complete guide to the current state of Petroff theory. Along the way, you will see many brilliant examples of Shirov’s unique tactical vision and imagination, such as his intuitive piece sacrifice against Piket at Wijk aan Zee 2001.


Buy it now...

Shirov’s presentation is fluent and entertaining, spiced up here and there with some nice anecdotes about his GM colleagues. I will leave you to guess the identity of the top GM who, when discussing what his chat-up technique would be with women who were like certain chess openings, declared that if he met a woman who was like the Petroff, he wouldn’t bother wasting his time chatting her up at all, but would give up all hope of a conquest and seek a different woman! Such is the respect in which top GMs hold the Petroff’s impenetrability…

Along with Tal and Bronstein, Alexey Shirov is a player whose games every chess lover appreciates, and to see him explaining them in such detail is a joy in itself. Add in the unrivalled openings expertise which he conveys, and you have an unmissable 5+ hours of instruction and entertainment. Whether you class yourself as an arsonist or a firefighter, or perhaps a bit of both, you will not do better than this DVD.


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