Robert Ris’ complete black repertoire against 1.d4 - A review

by ChessBase
9/15/2022 – Dutch IM and well-known trainer Robert Ris has recorded a two-volume FritzTrainer in which he presents a complete Black repertoire against the opening moves 1.d4,c4 and 1.Nf3. His repertoire is based on the Queen’s Gambit Accepted after 1.d4 d5 2.c4. Free piece play is the idea. Philipp Hillebrand took an in-depth look at the course.

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Going for activity

By Philipp Hillebrand

Just over a year ago I wrote a review of IM Steve Berger’s course on the same opening. Now that there is another FritzTrainer on the Queen’s Gambit, the question arises, does the Dutch author, who also presents the Fast and furious series at ChessBase, have anything new to offer? At this point I can already answer this question with a clear yes!

In fact, this edition not only bears the signature of the Dutch IM, i.e. fast and furious, but also picks up where IM Berger left off. While the IM from Hamburg devoted himself to the rather ‘quiet’ variations after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 and 4...e6 from Black’s point of view, Robert Ris insists on rapid piece development with 4...Bg4 and implements this consistently in his entire repertoire recommendation. Sometimes this is done via pawn sacrifices, but the compensation is always there and the author explains very well what it is based upon.

The structure of the FritzTrainer has three large chapters:

  1. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5
  2. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 with the deviations in the third move from White’s point of view
  3. Queen’s pawn openings. The setup with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3; the London system with 1.d4 d5 2./3.Bf4; the Torre Attack with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bg5; and the increasingly popular system named after Badur Jobava with 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bf4

A Complete Black Repertoire against 1.d4

Besides covering all the critical lines after 1.d4 & 2.c4, popular systems such as the Trompovsky, London/Jobava System, Torre Attack, Colle System and Veresov are dealt with as well.


First chapter

The first part immediately shows the reader what the basic ideas or strategies are in the Dutch author’s repertoire proposal. Fast piece development and open lines are the core themes, which is especially the case for the bishops, since the two pawn moves ...d5 and ...e5 contribute to the fact that these two light pieces can quickly join the fight.

This active approach runs through the entire repertoire, also in the following volume, where the strategies after 1.Nf3 and 1.c4 are discussed, for which a separate review will follow! I can already state that the light squares play an important role and sometimes even positional quality sacrifices show up, precisely so that one can gain or maintain the upper hand on a square complex.

A basic position of the repertoire can be seen in the following diagram, which with 3.e4 is also one of the trendiest and most critical approaches also from White’s side:

 

This position arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.0-0 7.Bxe6 fxe6 8.Qb3 Qd7 9.Qxb7 Rb8 10.Qa6 and now 10...Ne7

The last knight move is then also the deviation from the repertoire by IM Steve Berger, who examined the knight move 10...Nf6 at this point. Compared to IM Berger, the Dutch IM examines this position in more detail and in essence also more concretely, as this corresponds to his approach and motto: fast and furious. An important idea is to be able to direct the black king’s knight to f4, thereby targeting g2 and d3, as it is not uncommon for a white knight to stand very well on d3, due to the strategic blocking of the black d-pawn, which is an essential advantage of the black position. It is important not to be deterred by the slightly jagged black structure. The active pieces and the passed pawn sufficiently compensate for this disadvantage.

This concrete approach can also be seen in the fact that this FritzTrainer has seven clips that are devoted to 3.e4 e5, whereas IM Berger only had two. This alone provides real added value and a comprehensive supplement to IM Berger’s approach.

Also of theoretical relevance are the lines in which White does not exchange on e6, but ties up the black knight on c6 with Bc4-b5 and tries to capitalize on the weakened black structure.

 

This position arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4 Nc6 6.0-0 7.Bb5 Bc5 8.b4. Now it is White who relies on quick piece development. The author explains very well that it is better for Black not to grab the b4-pawn.

After 8...Bb6 9.a4 a6 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.a5 Ba7 12.Bb2 Nf6 13.Bxd4 this is left on the board.

 

Friends of intact pawn structures may not like this position, but a weighty factor is the black bishop on e6. As already indicated above, it is the light squares on which Black must rely in order to justify his strategy. The black pawn on a6 can therefore also be protected if necessary. Thanks to the b-file and the c6-c5 break, Black has counterplay.

In addition to these very concrete lines, the 3.e4 e5 variation is discussed with all the plausible alternatives, so that one can choose this continuation with confidence. Furthermore, one should not forget that even a grandmaster as strong as Sergei Rublevsky very often resorted to responding this way to the Queen’s Gambit with the black pieces, and was not deterred by his opponent’s preparation. This underlines the confidence in Black’s chances here. Moreover, Vishy Anand has also played this with Black.

For a league match, I once had GM Stevic in my team and helped him prepare this line. He is also a loyal follower of this setup, and his games should therefore be given special attention. In my opinion, one can learn a lot from his games in the Queen's Gambit Accepted!

Second chapter

The second part of this FritzTrainer then deals with deviations played by White on move 3, i.e. what not so long ago was regarded as the main line, especially when White seeks more control with 3.Nf3. As Robert Ris states, the variation, or rather, the ideas connected to 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 and now 5...c5 or 5..a6 seem to him rather unfortunate, since White has many different setups at his disposal. 

This is especially true with the lines following the exchange of queens with dxc5. This is undesirable if one, as Black, wants to increase the risk and fight for the full point. In a symmetrical structure with the exchange on the queenside, this is rather unlikely against players of equal or even greater strength.

Consequently, the Dutch author gives 4...Bg4 and ...Nc6 to quickly put pressure on the dark central squares. If White gets greedy and goes for Qd1-b3-xb7, you get exactly what you want, namely active play with three possible results.

 

This position arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.Qb3 Bxf3 7.gxf3 c5 8.Qxb7 Nbd7 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.0-0 Rb8 11.Qa6 0-0 12.Nc3 Rb6 13.Qa5 e5 and the evaluation is already -+!!!

In very clear and instructive tactical games, the author explains how Black can so quickly get such an edge, and how even very strong players underestimate the weakened complex around the squares g2-f3, since the h2-square can hardly be protected effectively.

Therefore, from White’s point of view, it is more clever to avoid this risky line by going for 6.Nc3. Now IM Ris proposes the move 6...Nc6. Besides an active development, this move contains a drop of poison: if White opts for the ‘beautiful’ e3-e4 unprepared, the cold shower ...Bxf3 together with ...Nxd4 catches him unprepared — with a black bishop on d6, after White goes the fork e3-e4-e5, this might cost him an important central pawn, since the black knight on d4 is then taboo: if the d6-bishop can give check from b4 or h2, he will grab the white queen in return. Some strong players have already fallen for this motif.

However, it is by no means a ‘trick variation’ because Black plays healthy opening moves, with a clear strategic idea. When he reaches for ...Nc6 and ...Bd6, he himself wants to become active in the centre with ...e6-e5.

Things get very lively in the positions after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 and 4...a6. Black is willing to hold on to the pawn with ...b5. Compared to lines in the Slav Defence, Black’s c-pawn is not yet on c6, whereby on the one hand the ...c7-c5 push not only came one move faster, but also the h1-a8 diagonal can be occupied reliably with ...Bc8-b7, but only after Black plays ...e7-e6 to undermine the potential sacrifice e5-e6!

 

After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 e6 (!) 8.axb5 this position arises, and after the relatively new 8...Bb4, instead of the traditional 8...Nb6, a sharp fight breaks out. These lines need to be studied more specifically and also learnt by heart. Playing black, one must not worry about a potential expedition with the monarch. On the queenside, however, this is surprisingly secure, as this even supports Black’s main trump card in the form of the c4-pawn, especially in endgames:

 

This position was reached in a game between GMs Krasenkov and Praggnanandhaa. Black has good prospects, but even strong players make inaccuracies. However, the author offers good and convincing analyses for this variation.

The lines following 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 are also conscientiously examined, as are the ideas connected to Qa4+, which intends to immediately recover the sacrificed pawn on c4.

 

This position arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Qa4+ c6 4.Qxc4 Nd7 5.Nf3 e5. By means of ...e5, in some cases a pawn is sacrifice, but Black’s active pieces more than make up for this small investment. Here the game between GMs Rapport and Dominguez, played in Saint Louis, is particularly worth a look. The Cuban-born player has also long been a stalwart of the queenside gambit and, as with GMs Stevic and Rublevsky, you can be sure his games will be sound in ideas and rich in chances!

Third chapter

The third and final section of this FritzTrainer once again sees the young Dutch author relying on active piece play, which is often peppered with tactical finesses in order to gain positional trumps:

 

The opening moves are 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 f6!?

In earlier generations, such an outrage would have seemed very suspicious. Today one can even suspect a ‘mouse-slip’ instead of the perhaps planned 2...Nf6. But that is not the case: we have to accept that this is an absolutely full-fledged playable variation. What's more, with 3.Bh4?! the white bishop can quickly go astray, and if you don’t want to believe that this move is actually playable, Robert Ris gives you an expert explanation that this is the case.

I also find the approach against the Colle System very inspiring, where Black deliberately chooses a fianchetto setup to stay away from the beaten track.

 

This position is reached via 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.b3 cxd4 5.exd4 g6 6.Bb2 Bg7 7.Nbd2 0-0 8.Bd3 Nc6. This structure is very healthy for Black, and by means of ...Nh5-f4 active ideas can be introduced. Later, in a game between Mamedyarov and Aronian, from Leuven 2018, a very rare tactical motif also appears, which both players overlooked during the game!

Recently, the system following 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bf4, christened after GM Jobava, has become increasingly popular and there are both new books (GM Moskalenko) and courses on the net (including one by Hans Niemann) highlighting the attractiveness of the white setup.

Not infrequently, Black’s queenside becomes the preferred target. The Dutch author circumvents the problem as follows: 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 cxd4 5.exd4 Bg4 (!) 6.f3 Bd7. After ...e6 the bishop on d7 looks passive, but subsequently it can also be activated via b5, and Robert Ris explains well why a knight on c3 seems active, but has the disadvantage of blocking the c-pawn.

The popular London System with Bf4 on moves 2 or 3  is also convincingly treated, and here the author chooses the idea which is also used by GM Danny King on one of his courses, namely to hunt for the f4-bishop with the well-timed manoeuvre ...cxd4 and ...Nh5.

There are many other healthy lines against the London System and GM Yannick Pelletier also has excellent suggestions, but it depends on whether you are a fan of the Grünfeld or King's Indian Defence, or would rather build up with the Nimzo and Queen’s Indian or the Queen’s Gambit. Each player has different preferences, but Robert Ris’ choice of ...cxd4 together with ...Nh5 fits perfectly into the concept of his FritzTrainer: active piece play right from the start!

I am personally very keen of his interpretation against the Catalan System.

 

This position arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 Bf5!? 4.c4 e6 5.Bg2 c6. Black’s position is very solid and, since White has already played d4 and c4, the flexible Reti System is no longer available to him. Nevertheless, White can work on the e2-e4 breakthrough and try to exploit a developmental or spatial advantage, but the author neutralizes these ideas in a sustained and convincing manner.

Conclusion

It is precisely the trend towards shorter time control that makes this repertoire so attractive. In many games it is Black who has the initiative, since the time used to recover the c4-pawn should be used to mobilize the black troops. Especially the line following 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc4 a6 underlines this motif. All in all, this FritzTrainer offers many fresh ideas and positions, a fact which is marked by the choice of 10...Ne7 instead of 10...Nf6 (compare here with Steve Berger’s proposal).

The product is nicely rounded off by the bonus chapter with sample games and interactive tests. As has been made possible recently, this FritzTrainer can also be conveniently replayed as a stream via a mobile device.

As far as the repertoire is concerned, it should be noted that it is conceived in a ‘fast and furious’ style, and that one should not back down from material sacrifices or a weakened structure if one gets active piece play in return. The content is only accessible in English, but Robert Ris speaks clearly, in a structured manner and at a good pace so that you can follow him easily even if you are not a native English speaker.

One of the strongest things I find in this FritzTrainer is the fact that the third chapter, i.e. the so-called Queen’s Pawn games with the Torre, London systems and the like, can also be used by players who, for example, have a repertoire with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6!

I can recommend this product to anyone who likes active piece play with the black pieces! I highly recommend it.


A Complete Black Repertoire against 1.d4

Besides covering all the critical lines after 1.d4 & 2.c4, popular systems such as the Trompovsky, London/Jobava System, Torre Attack, Colle System and Veresov are dealt with as well.


A Complete Black Repertoire against 1.d4, 1.Nf3 & 1.c4

These video courses feature a black repertoire against 1.d4, 1.Nf3 and 1.c4. The recommended variations are easy to learn and not difficult to remember, but also pose White serious challenges.



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