A Review by FM Markus Hochgräfe
Cheba… Who? Well, I call this opening is the “Slav with a6”. Unfortunately, spelling the name Chebanenco is so complicated – at least for me – that I find it easier to remember the line as “Slav with a6”. Maybe that’s also the reason why no opening is named after Smbat Lputian…
Bologan is one of the leading experts of the Slav and divides the material on his DVD into 20 chapters. I was positively surprised that he does not only cover the “Slav with a6”, but also the Exchange Slav, lines with an early e3, and Qc2. Basically, Bologan offers a whole Slav repertoire.
1: Slav Exchange 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Bf4
2: Slav Exchange after 4…a6
3: 5.h3 e6
4: 5.Qc2 b5!
5: 5.Qb3 e6
6: 5.Bf4 dxc4
7: 5.Bg5 Ne4
8: 5.a4 e6 6.e3 c5!
9: 5.a4 e6 6.g3 dxc4
10: 5.a4 e6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 or …a5
11: 5.Ne5 Nbd7
12: 5.c5 Nbd7 sidelines
13: 5.c5 Nbd7 6.Bf4 Nh5 7.Bd2 Nhf6 or 7.e3 g6
14: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.Dc2 e6
15: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 a6 5.b3
16: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 sidelines
17: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qc2 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bf5 with Nc3
18: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qc2 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bf5 without Nc3
19: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 mainlines
20: 5.g3 dxc4
I have played the Slav with a6 for more than a decade and I was very curious, where and why Bologan deviates from my own findings. Here is what I learned and found:
1: Slav Exchange. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Bf4 Nc6 6.e3 a6. Bologan covers a lot of the main lines, but he does not mention 7.Be2!? This is an interesting sideline, with which White wants to put Black under pressure after 7…Bf5 8.g4. Black can retreat with 8…Be6 and this should solve his opening problems, but I would still recommend 7.Be2.
2: Slav Exchange after 4…a6. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 a6 5.cxd5 cxd5 7.Rc1. I like 7…Ne4, but Bologan’s alternative 7…Bg4!? 8. Ne5 Nxe5 9. dxe5 d4! = is a remarkable and even stronger idea.
7: 5. Bg5 Ne4. Here I learned that 6.h4! is the best move. However, Black can equalize after 6…Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4. The older alternative seems to be pretty harmless: 6.Bf4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 dxc4 8. Ne5 b5 9. g3 f6! 10.Nf3 c5!
9: 5.a4 e6 6.g3 dxc4 7.Bg2 c5 8.dxc5 Qxd1 9. Nxd1. Bologan recommends 9…Nc6, I like 9…Bd7. If you look for an alternative to 9…Nc6, have a look at 9…Bd7 (with the idea …Bc6).
13: 5.c5 is one of the two critical replies (the other is 5.e3). You can choose between 5…Nbd7 and 5…Bf5, I played and I like both. During the last years both options have been equally popular. Bologan concentrates only on 5…Nbd7. Now, after 6. Bf4 Nh5 7. Bd2 Nhf6 White can repeat moves if he wishes. If you want to play for a win you can also play 7…g6. See the game Belov-Volkov:
After 7. Bd2 Nhf6 I found a mistake Bologan made: 8.h3 Qc7?! 9.e4! leads to an edge for White, but 8…e5! is an improvement for Black. Bologan does not cover 7.Bg5 or 7.Qd2, which are serious alternatives. For a recent example of 7.Bg5 see the game Cramling-Paehtz:
A strong improvement of my analyses in the old main line is 7.e3 g6 8. Bd3 and now …f6!, which equalizes on the spot and is most probably the reason why 7.e3 is no longer popular today.
14: Bologan covers 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 a6. A good alternative to 4…a6 is 4…Bf5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3 Nc6! See the game Korobov-Akopian:
19: 5.e3 is the other critical line. As in the lines after 5.c5 Black has a choice: 5.e3 b5, 5…e6, and 5…Bf5. Bologan concentrates on the latter. He does not cover 6.Be2 h6 7.Bd3!, which is a sophisticated way to prevent Bg6. Carlsen once played this move:
After the main move 6.Qb3 Bologan recommends 6…b5, but 6…Ra7 is an alternative if you are looking for one. Both options have been played equally often in the last years.
On this DVD Bologan presents a whole Slav repertoire, not only lines of the Chebanenko Slav. I like it that after each chapter he gives a short summary of the lines he presented. The depth of his analyses is manageable, which is also good, since nobody can remember tons of theory. Therefore, I recommend this DVD for players with a rating of >1800 but it also has grandmasters something to offers. And you can trust Bologan’s recommendations and lines: while checking with an engine I only found one mistake. Most critical seems to be the line arising after 5.c5 Nbd7 6.Bf4 Nh5. In my opinion, this chapter is too short since Bologan does not cover 7.Bg5 and 7.Qd2. But all in all this is an excellent DVD which I would rate with an ‘A-’.