Adrian Mikhalchishin: An Active Repertoire for Black

9/20/2012 – "This trainer was a pleasant surprise for me, because it offered a very informative discussion by a grandmaster on the 'neglected' open games," writes Chess Cafe reviewer Steven Dowd. It does not, he admits, provide a full repertoire for black – "the universe of the open games is very broad and not easily covered in a few hours." But it is definitely a good starter. Review.

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Adrian Mikhalchishin: 1.e4 e5 –
An Active Repertoire for Black

Review by Steven B. Dowd

1.e4 e5: An Active Repertoire for Black (DVD) by Adrian Mikhalchishin, ChessBase, Playing time: 6 hours 48 min. $31.95 (ChessCafe Price: $27.95)

This trainer was a pleasant surprise for me, because it offered a very informative discussion by a grandmaster on the "neglected" open games. It doesn't really meet the goal, in my opinion, of providing an active repertoire for Black, especially at the club player level, but it is definitely a good starter for finding your own repertoire in the open games. There is no formal introduction, but the introductory comments regarding opening choice are golden here: a useful discussion of why you might choose 1.e4 e5 as opposed to various other openings, the fight for the center, etc.

Mikhalchishin has a pronounced accent, but he is perfectly understandable. He tends to rush through positions at times, and this means that multiple viewings are necessary if you want to get the full gist of an idea.

He starts very well, using Smyslov as the model player for the first portion of the Spanish: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6. Why g6 versus the Spanish? It can be similar to a King's Indian, not in the sharp attacks but as a means of fighting for the center. This line is easy to study and implement. You don't need to know a lot of theory, but you need to know ideas, which makes it an ideal opening for players below 2200.

Then he oddly switches to both the Exchange and the Archangelsk variations. I am not sure why you would need these in your repertoire if you already had the Smyslov line without ..a6. In fact, it seems a rather dissonant choice. I believe he is trying to give the viewer a number of possibilities, but I am not certain it makes much sense in a repertoire DVD. A grandmaster may need several lines, but most of us need just one – in fact, having too many can be just confusing for the club player.

Mikhalchishin notes the many holes that can be found in this opening, but he also praises the good development. If you like his ideas here you may want to try his trainer on the Archangelsk. His contention is that the e4-square is of significant importantance in the Spanish, and the Archangelsk certainly piles pressure on that square in many variations.

In Mikhalchishin's version, Black plays ...h6 and ...g5 with castling short. The piece activity makes up for having what Purdy called the weakest kingside position. You have to be especially adept at handling these sorts of positions:

[Event "Dortmund op"] [Site "Dortmund"] [Date "1990.??.??"] [Round "11"] [White "Prandstetter, Eduard"] [Black "Mikhalchishin, Adrian"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C78"] [WhiteElo "2400"] [BlackElo "2485"] [Annotator "Doe,John"] [PlyCount "60"] [EventDate "1990.04.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "GER"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1996.11.15"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 Bb7 7. Re1 Bc5 8. c3 d6 9. d4 Bb6 10. Bg5 h6 11. Bh4 g5 {Castling here for Black and playing a later ...g5 will lead to various pieces sacrifices on g5, which will be hard for Black to meet.} 12. Bg3 {None of the piece sacrifices quite work here without Black having castled.} O-O $5 {This was a novelty at the time. The traditional line began with 12...Qe7 and castling long, along with ...h5. If you examine the position in your database, you will find that both Beliavsky and Hector have also been successful with the line, along with Mikhalchishin, of course. White has only a 43.5% success rate, which does speak to it's potential, but there have been relatively few GM games with the line.} 13. h4 ( 13. Qd3 {may be better. Exchanges on e5 just work out to a Black advantage.}) 13... g4 14. Nh2 h5 15. Qc1 {This certainly seems best, along with 15.Qd2, while 15.d5? Ne7 just lets Black bring another piece to the kingside.} Kh7 { There are many holes in the black position, but Mihalchishin is more impressed with Black's "fantastic development."} 16. Qg5 Rg8 {This move involves a pawn sacrifice.} 17. Qf5+ Kh8 18. dxe5 ({White doesn't take the sacrifice.} 18. Bxf7 Bc8 19. Be6 Bxe6 20. Qxe6 exd4 21. Na3 dxc3 22. bxc3 Qf8 23. Nc2 Re8 24. Qf5 Ne7 25. Qf4 Ng6 26. Qf5 {is glossed over as better for Black, which it certainly is. In the only game with this in the databases, Svensson-Lejlic 1994, White played 21.Nd2 and won, but Black should still be better there as well. It certainly is a position worth exploring for both sides.}) 18... Nxe5 19. Bxe5 {The engines already evaluate Black as much better here.} dxe5 20. Qxe5 Qd6 $1 {This removes White's only active piece; Black has terrible pressure against e4 and f2.} 21. Qxd6 cxd6 22. g3 Nxe4 23. Re2 Nxg3 24. Re7 Bc6 25. Nd2 Nf5 26. Rxf7 Raf8 27. Nhf1 g3 28. Nxg3 Rxg3+ 29. Kf1 Rxf7 30. Bxf7 Rg2 0-1

Certainly a model game. If this sort of fighting chess interests you, I recommend you check out the Archangelsk DVD too.

I was quite interested in Mikhalchishin's assessment of the Bishop's Opening, as that has been the source of the most heartbreak for me in tournaments. He advocates building a big center, noting, "White can attack Black's center, but the center is the center." As regular readers of this column know, I always test openings in online games to see what I have learned. I can report a big success here by following the author's ideas, and I want to thank him profusely for that.

Another interesting contention of the grandmaster is that the King's Gambit is underestimated. He asserts that White can achieve better positions than in the Spanish, and this opening is due for a comeback. A good tip presented here is to remind you that one can approach a gambit in two ways: take all or nothing. The "in-between" route is rarely successful. Thus, he recommends two lines: one declined and one accepted.

I was especially impressed with his discussion of the King's Gambit declined and accepted. A particularly excellent discussion focuses on the right time for White to take the c5-bishop in the 2...Bc5 declined variation. For example, after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Bc5 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.d3 Bg4 7.Na4 0-0 8.Nxc5 dxc5 (the loss of the bishop is not a problem here) 9.0-0 Nh5 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nxf4 12.Bxf4 he recommends his own innovation 12...Nd4! (Forster-Mihalchishin, 2002), giving Black some chances to fight for a win in a position that is normally a well-known drawing line.

If you decide you prefer the approach of taking the f4-pawn, he recommends the modern line 3.Nf3 Ne7.

There is very little to speak against on this DVD, except its positioning as a repertoire trainer. In its defense, the universe of the open games is very broad and not easily covered in a few hours; whereas it is easy to make a repertoire trainer on Larsen's or the Bird's Opening, for instance. If you view this DVD as a potential starter for your search for an opening repertoire based on 1.e4 e5, then you will not be disappointed. In general, this one rates five stars, but four as an opening repertoire trainer. Good work from the GM and I hope to view more of his work in the future.

My assessment of this product: Good (four out of six stars)


Sample lesson by Adrian Mikhalchishin in 1.e4 e5: An active Repertoire for Black


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