Dejan Bojkov: Attacking with the Pirc - A Review

by Moshe Rachmuth
8/24/2016 – "This is the story of how I fell in love with the Pirc Defense" - this is how Moshe Rachmuth begins his review of Dejan Bojkov's DVD about the Pirc Defense. Rachmuth describes how he got to know the Pirc, how he came to like it and how he cherished it more and more when he got to know it better. All with the help of Dejan Bojkov's DVD "Attacking with the Pirc".

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Dejan Bojkov: Attacking with the Pirc - A Review

This is the story of how I fell in love with the Pirc Defense.

It all began with me volunteering to co-coach in my son’s middle school.

On the first meeting my friend and co-coach—D. Duffer— and I brought a few chess sets and entered classroom 219. We found ourselves standing in front of a dozen teen-agers in a schoolroom whose walls were covered with quotes of great people. The kids called us “coach” and expected us to instruct them in the royal game. For some reason, all that I could think of in that classroom—with the walls filled with quotes by Einstein and Lincoln—was a quote by Yogi Berra, “If you know, you do. If you don’t, you teach.” We did not know what to teach so we told the kids to play against each other “in order for the coaches to assess your level of play.” They moved the pieces while we walked from board to board wearing serious faces and making notes.

Duffer and I did not let our lack of knowledge of chess and of coaching put us down. Instead, we spent the next morning at a coffee shop making a plan. First, we decided to order some tactics manuals for the kids. Second, we thought how to split responsibilities and decided each of us would teach to his relative strengths—Duffer would teach endgames while I would teach openings.

That evening I sat at my dining table with an open chessboard and thought what repertoire I could teach against 1 e4. My own repertoire at the time contained lines like 1 e4 Nc6 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e5 Ng4 4 d4 d6 5 h3 Nh6 6 Nc3 dxe5 7 d5 Nd4. This was good enough for me—a busy middle aged patzer— but I could not send an innocent child to war with such lines, could I? So here I was, scratching my head at the table when my son and student, A. Patzer Junior passed by, eating a Muenster cheese sandwich.

“Why don’t you teach us the Pirc?” he said.

“Why the Pirc?” I asked.

“It’s good for kids,” he said.” First you build yourself a fortress with d6, Nf6, g6, Bg7 and 0-0 and only then you start thinking. It’s not like the open games where—if you don’t remember all the traps—you can sometimes lose before you even found a pencil to write your moves with.”

There was logic to what the boy said so I contacted my friend Johannes from ChessBase and asked to review a DVD about the Pirc. Within a couple of hours I downloaded Bojkov’s “Attacking with the Pirc” and sat to watch.

GM Dejan Bojkov

Since I know the limits of my memory, my policy in learning a new opening is to first watch the introductory videos, then play a few games online and then come back and watch the lines that I encountered most.

The introduction to this DVD consists of four videos titled:

 1 Introduction

2 Dark Square Strategy

3 Opposite Colored Bishop Strategy

4 The Exchange Sacrifice.

The sentence that struck me most in the introduction video was “this is not the opening for world champions.” At first, I was insulted. Is Bojkov implying that I am not world-champion-material? But, seriously, I liked his honesty straight of the bat—this is an opening that will give the club player and even the devoted grandmaster good practical chances to play for a win even as Black but objectively there are better first move options for the second player.

Video number two explains the importance of the squares d4 and f4 for Black. In this video Bojkov talks about possible pawn structures and demonstrates what could happen after an early queen swap, with a highly creative game from Azmaiparashvili. An important video and a truly inspiring game by the grandmaster with a name so complicated it could be compared only with Nepomniachtchi.

Zurab Azmaiparashvili (right) with Garry Kasparov - but
do they discuss the pros and cons of the Pirc Defense?

In the third video, “Opposite Colored Bishop Strategy” Bojkov shows two games against the classical (1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Nf3) in which Black keeps his dark square bishop against White’s light square Bishop and wins. This is the time to mention that Bojkov is not only honest in his assessments of positions but also easy to follow. He describes the logic of the decisions of the black players (in this video, Eugenio Torre and Mikhail Gurevich) in a simple but never too simple way. As I watched this video I felt that—armed with the idea of the opposite colored bishop strategy—I could play against the classical quite confidently from game one.

The last introductory video, “The Exchange Sacrifice” shows another common idea against the classical—sacrificing the rook that started on h8 for white’s dark square bishop. As in the earlier video once Black’s dark square bishop has no White counterpart (that is once White’s dark square bishop is off the board) things go well for the Pirc side. The idea of this long term exchange sacrifice is one I would have never found over the board myself but once Bojkov explains it in his usual calm eloquent way I understand it and feel confident about playing it.

At this stage I felt good enough to start playing online. I knew, of course, that I was not fully ready but I wanted some practical experience so as to know what the most popular lines were for white and which ones gave me the most trouble. After some twenty games I made note of two lines in which my opponents toasted me: 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Bd3 and 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 Bg7 4 Be3. The latter was not only devastating but also the most common White choice so I was eager to learn what to do against it.

For this reason, the next chapter I watched was chapter 13, “4 Be3 and 5 f3” which I followed with “Chapter 14: 4 Be3 and 5 Qd2.” Just because I was on roll of dark square bishop moves I also watched “Chapter 15: 4 Bf4 and 5 Qd2” and “Chapter 12: The 4 Bg5 Aggression.” From these videos I understood that the main question was what the correct timing was for …Bg7 and it was not always the fourth move even though sometimes it had to be the fourth move. I believe these move order questions can be quite confusing, especially in the Pirc where Black does not have a big error margin, but Bojkov navigates the repertoire ship confidently and after watching the above four videos my results against the dark bishop moves were more than solid.

The same is true and even more so against 3 Bd3. After Bojkov’s suggested 3…e5! and after you watch the fourteen minutes of chapter 21, “3 Bd3” you will feel completely safe against this move. In fact the way to equality is so easy that you cannot believe that 3 Bd3 was used by players such as Aronian, Shirov and Nakamura. My internet results after watching the video were well over 50% in this line. The Austrian Attack, for some reason, I did not encounter much, neither online nor OTB so I just watched the videos and got the general ideas. If it becomes popular against me I’ll come back and learn it some more.

In general I recommend to those of you who, like me, are not world-champion-material to come back to the videos every once in a while and revive your memory. When you open the software to refresh your memory, you can save time and from the “Home” tab—instead of playing the video—click the “analysis” and recall the move options. If this is not enough to remind you the correct move, you can always watch the video again. I find that I watched some of the videos eight or ten times in the little less than a year that I have been using it. Those of you who are under forty-five years old may need less times before you remember something forever. We, older folks, have the consolation that we can see the same movie for the first time every month.

Speaking of the younger, the kids in the club adjusted nicely to the Pirc repertoire. In their games, we have found that the most common move order for white was 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Bc4. I went back to “The Art of Attacking with the Pirc” and found that although Bojkov does not talk about 5 Bc4 he talks about something similar in chapter 19 “4 Bc4.” After omitting …c6 I could recommend my students to answer 5 Bc4 with 5…0-0 and then what usually happens is that White plays 6 0-0 to which my students answer 6…Nxe4! With full equality at move six. I am proud of finding this line for my students (it literally happens in half their games as Black) but I would not have found it if I had not seen the idea in chapter 19. This is the main beauty of this DVD—it gives you the recurring ideas in the Pirc that you can later use at the board even if it is not the exact same position.

Did I like the DVD so much that I started playing the Pirc in tournaments? You bet. The Pirc has become my main line against 1 e4—it’s dynamic, it leaves a lot of room for creativity and you can always play for the full point. Unlike the French, in the Pirc White has no “Exchange Variation.”

Let me end my review with the opening of one of my latest games that shows what I have learned from GM Bojkov.

W. Pusher Vs. A. Patzer, Portland 2016

1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Be3 c6 5 Qd2 Nbd7 6 Be2 b5 7 d5 At this point I did not remember if this position was shown by Bojkov but I did remember the idea of pushing …b4 in order to put pressure on White’s center so I sacrificed a pawn with 7…b4!? 8 dxc6 bxc3 9 cxd7+ Bxd7 10 Qxc3 Bg7 11 f3 0-0. Black is a pawn down but he has everything a Pirc player wants—the king is safe in its fort, the dark bishop is on the long diagonal, harassing the white queen and the b and c files are semi-open and waiting for Black’s rooks. In the words of the Lego Movie – everything is awesome.

I will not show you the rest of the game because both my opponent and I make such dreadful mistakes that it could ruin your appetite for the whole day. Still, I am proud of the position I got after the eleventh move. Going back to the DVD I found that Bojkov does not discuss 6 Be2 but he does discuss the push b7-b5-b4 against the plan 6 0-0-0 and 7 Bd3 so the idea was there and that is what matters at the amateur level.

“Attacking with the Pirc” may not make you a world champion but it will give you a healthy yet exciting repertoire so you can play for a win in every game and against any opponent. I may be speaking only for myself, but this opening was the main weapon of Mikhail Gurevich who made it to top-ten so those of you who are humble enough to accept the eighth or ninth spot in the world ranking can still play it. You can always switch to the Berlin Defense before your World Championship match.

Anatoly Karpov and Mikhail Gurevich (right) - but do
they discuss the pros and cons of the Pirc Defense? (Photo: Anastasiya Kharlovich)

GM Dejan Bojkov and ChessBase have created a DVD that is fun to watch, highly informative and gives the viewer a reliable and enjoyable repertoire for many years. “Attacking with the Pirc” is highly recommended for busy yet ambitious amateurs as well as coaches. I would recommend this product to all but Sergei K. and Magnus C. who still need to work on their Berlin. The rest of us can have fun with the Pirc.


I have heard that Bojkov also published a one hour video with a repertoire for White AGAINST the Pirc. This makes me curious...

P.S. 2.

Carlsen had just used something pretty similar to the Pirc to win a game in Black against Wei.


Sample Video:

Dejan Bojkov:
Attacking with the Pirc

• Video running time: 4 hours 29 min (English)

€23.45 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$25.33 (without VAT) 

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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Dr. Moshe Rachmuth has a Ph.D. in Comparative literature from the University of Oregon and is a senior instructor at Portland State University, where he has worked since 2012. His teaching and life interests include Modern Hebrew, Biblical Studies, creative writing, humor and chess.


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