Erwin L'Ami: The modern Two Knights

by Davide Nastasio
7/2/2015 – The Dutch Grandmaster Erwin L'Ami recently won the strong Reykjavik Open and soon after that the Blitz Marathon in Rabat. Before he went to Reykjavik he recorded a ChessBase DVD: "The modern Two Knights". Coincidence? Davide Nastasio saw the DVD and liked it. A fine, funny and enjoyable presentation of interesting material. Obviously it helps your chess.

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The modern Two Knights by Erwin L'Ami - a review

I have to admit that at first I thought this DVD offered a repertoire for White against the Two Knights. But at the end of the Introduction video, I was totally baffled, because the author, Dutch GM Erwin L'Ami shows ways for both sides, as if he can play one side or the other without feeling any different. This is clearly different from the Grandmasters of the past. Here we have a GM whose style is universal, while in the past one could immediately see whether certain players had Black or White. The evolution of the modern chess player is quite amazing, and must serve as an example for us amateurs who dream to become titled players one day.

Before coming across this DVD I knew almost nothing about L'Ami, apart from the fact that he is married to a beautiful woman, who is also a great chess player, and an amazing photographer. Had I known more about L'Ami I would have known that he is an expert on the Two Knights and has played it successfully in many games, most often with Black. However, on this DVD L'Ami offers us a repertoire for Black and for White!

I believe as an opening the Two Knights is well defined by the words of a friend of L'Ami who said: "With White I don't like it, because I'm always behind in development, and with Black I'm down a pawn, and it is quite difficult to capitalize." But I was interested in this DVD because I wanted to see the differences to another ChessBase DVD on the Two Knights, which IM Lawrence Trent published a few years ago, proposing a repertoire for White.

Let's go over the content: One should note that L'Ami does not cover the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 – the famous Traxler counter-attack – because IM Robert Ris covered this line extensively on a ChessBase DVD, showing how Black can play for a win in this sharp line. But L'Ami he feels that the Traxler is not entirely correct. And I think he is partly right. In his work on the Two Knights Lawrence Trent also warned that the Traxler might be refuted – if you ask the engines. But this would only be relevant for a player who is able to memorize all the lines analyzed by a computer. Maybe at GM level this is possible, but for an amateur such a feat seems to be quite difficult, if not completely impossible.

Instead L'Ami focuses on the position arising after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5. Here Black has four serious alternatives.

The arrows in the diagram show what L'Ami thinks about the moves: the green arrow indicates an interesting move, the red arrows moves of lesser value.

The first video shows the consequences of taking on f7.

Obviously we are entering a highly tactical territory after 6...Kxf7 7.Qf3 Ke6 which is the start of the so-called „Fried Liver“ attack:

L'Ami admits that he doesn't know why it is called "fried liver" but reveals that the line is rather old. The first impressive game that we have was played around 1610 in Rome:


Let's have a look at the name "fried liver". Unfortunately, the famous Wikipedia, in which not all entries are made by scholars and professors, is not of much help here, and can, in fact, be misleading. Wikipedia offers the following definition for the "Fried Liver" attack: "also called the Fegatello Attack (named after an Italian idiom meaning ‚dead as a piece of liver’)". Which is not correct. "Fegatello" is a way to cook liver but does not mean "dead as a piece of liver" – sorry, Wikipedia, you got that wrong.

"Fegatello" means to put the liver in a net and cook it over a fire, or, in modern times, in a pan. Here we can see a metaphor for what happens to Black’s king in this line: it is cooked like a "fegatello". The game above is a good illustration: Black’s king is caught in the mating net and White increases the heat move by move.

The name of that attack goes back to the Italian player Polerio, who lived from 1548 to 1612 and wrote a number of treatises on chess, at that time called "codex". In fact, a lot of great and famous players such as Morphy, Steinitz, Tal, Fischer, etc. contributed to the Two Knights.

However, L’Ami explains the origins of the Fritz variation, arising after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nd4:

As L'Ami explains the line was not named after the chess program Fritz but goes back to a German Chess Master named Fritz, who suggested 5...Nd4 to Carl Schlechter, who mentioned the move in 1904 in an article for the Deutsche Schachzeitung. In 1907 Fritz himself published an article about the move in a Swedish magazine. We thus see that studying this opening teaches us something about chess history and old languages, but what I like about it is the way in which L'Ami structures his presentation:

There are fourteen videos, which cover all the lines you need to know to play the Two Knights. These fourteen videos are followed by four videos with model games. Then something amazing comes: ten video clips called "memory markers". Yes, theory today is quite advanced, and we need all the help we can get to memorize it! In the end there are another ten video clips of tactics.

And tactics are an important part of the Modern Two Knights, a variation that leads to very sharp chess. Here is a recent example:


I definitely like this DVD – it is well structured, dips into chess history, presents a number of exciting games, and gave me the chance to get to know a Super-GM who is evidently a great teacher. Super, because L’Ami just won great tournaments such as the Reykjavik Open and the Rabat Blitz Marathon (yes, a 21 games marathon! The man is clearly made of steel!). And is it just coincidence that L’Ami had this string of successes immediately after recording this DVD?

Erwin L'Ami after winning the Reykjavik Open (Photo: Alina L'Ami)

At any rate, he opened my eyes with a lot of questions I didn't think of, and gave me the chance to glance into the mind of a Super-GM. I also felt that he is a great commentator, since he explained almost all moves, sometimes in quite a funny way that helped to remember lines which are not good for White. For instance, in the line shown in the following diagram L’Ami talked about "space invaders" which are going to touch ground!

I look forward to seeing more DVDs by GM L'Ami, either on other openings or the middlegame. I am sure he will explain the ideas in a dynamic, funny way, which is enjoyable, and helps to memorize the material.

P.S. This opening is pure dynamite! So use it at your own risk. L'Ami does a great job, but there are many, many ways where things can go wrong for White and Black. And the amount of attacking and counter-attacking moves shown in each video is mind blowing! It is like watching a kung-fu movie – amazing and fun!

Sample Video: Erwin L'Ami: The modern Two Knights


Erwin L'Ami: The modern Two Knights

• Video running time: 4 h 27 min
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Exclusive training database with over 90 essential games, full analysis of the variations by L’Ami
• Including CB 12 Reader

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$28.30 (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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Davide Nastasio is a novel chess aficionado, who has made of chess his spiritual tool of improvement, and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."
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KevinC KevinC 7/2/2015 02:59
While GM L'Ami is certainly very strong, I do take exception with the watering down of the term "Super GM". Virtually all consider 2700 the unofficial level to be called a Super GM, which he has not come close to yet.
WildWine WildWine 7/2/2015 11:42
Are there plans to do a some other 1.e4 e5 FritzTrainers with Gm L'Ami to complete the Black repertoire? I'm mainly interested in his recommendations agians 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3