Erwin l'Ami: The modern Two Knights

9/14/2015 – When she started playing chess, back in 1988, Nisha Mohota faced a big problem: lack of information. Twenty-seven years later, with the advant of computers and the Internet, she faces the opposite problem: too much information. But there is a very nice solution: ChessBase DVDs, in which very strong players present in information in easy-to-learn summaries! Review.

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The modern Two Knights by Erwin l'Ami

Review by IM Nisha Mohota

When I started playing chess in the year 1988, I faced a big problem: it was the lack of information. There were very few chess books: most of them very difficult to find. Computers were not around, so no question of live games. I had a lot of time which I could devote to chess but I did not have access to enough material.

Today, twenty-seven years later, things have completely changed, and I face a different problem: too much information. Although I would like to consider myself a serious player, I never find time to go through even ten per cent of important material that I have – the large number of books and annotated games and a huge amount of computer data. How times have changed!

In my younger days, I hoped someone could have extended the data I had, and today I wish that someone could help me summarize the material. ChessBase DVDs have come as a blessing to me! Grandmasters and International Masters spend hours on some particular theme and present it to me as a summary! How wonderful it is to learn an opening in four to five hours from experts and master it quickly! We all know that making a new repertoire from scratch can be a real time consuming process.

A copy of one of my earliest books

Recently I looked at the first DVD of grandmaster Erwin L’Ami: The modern Two Knights. By now we all know that he recorded this video series just before his triumph in Reykjavik Open this year, so I expected this DVD by such a strong player to be very good, especially since this was his first. It really surpassed my expectations! I will give you my impressions on why I consider this DVD a class apart from all others that I have seen.

I play 1.e4 e5 regularly as black and have many times reached the position 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. Like L’Ami, 3...Nf6 is my personal choice too, and therefore the start position of the DVD is of great interest to me.

The starting position of the DVD where I knew 5...Na5 to be the best move.

Most of us play one line knowing it to be the best but find it hard to work out and remember the refutation of the variations which we do not play. However, it is always better to learn variations by first seeing the out-of-fashion moves and the reasons why they eventually faded – and then logically arrive at the popular lines. I had prepared the main line 5...Na5, but Erwin’s DVD helped me to understand why the other continuations are not as good.

The Dutch GM not only helps us build a repertoire with black, he also points out the best variations as white, therefore the material he presents is useful for both sides.

This position after 5...Nd5 is very common at club level
and according to Erwin it’s refutation is 6.d4.

There was one variation which took me completely by surprise.

The position after 8.Qf3 is very common. The bishop cannot be captured
due to hanging a8 rook... or is that a myth?

How often have I looked at the above position and never ever tried cxb5, even during preparation due to the obvious rook grab. Here Erwin comes up with the shocking 8...cxb5 and says: “I have not been able to refute this idea!” This variation is one of the most exciting revelations of this DVD!

The most important analysis is given in the topical variation today: 5...Na5 6.Bb5 c6 7.dc6 bc6 8.Bd3. Here Erwin analyses 8... Nd5 9.h4!

The analysis from this position is what makes this DVD very invaluable!

A couple of months back a friend of mine who happens to be a strong GM had mentioned that 9.h4 is a line which deserves a lot of analysis by both sides. I had stored this piece of information in my mind but was never able to devote time to the variation. When I saw this DVD and found ready-made analysis by a strong GM, I was very happy! However, I had my doubts. The line looked really double edged and I was sure an active player like Erwin must have withheld some useful analysis, so some of the evaluations could be misleading. I spent a couple of days trying to find a flaw in his analysis. I failed. The variations given have the precision of computer calculation and the right evaluations of a strong human! The analysis is of extremely high quality and most importantly it leads to positions with a lot of material imbalance, so it is not easy to assess. Erwin’s guidance in these tough-to-evaluate positions is of great importance. Had I worked on these positions on my own, it would have taken me more than ten days to come anywhere close to the analysis provided, and I am not sure I would have figured out the positions correctly!

Complete imbalance. It is exactly in such unclear positions that wise words
and the verdict of strong players make a lot of difference to our understanding.

L’Ami ends the theoretical overview with some very nice words which I think is very important for youngsters to take to heart: “I went very fast through all the lines here. If you have the feeling that you haven’t quite understood certain variations, don’t be ashamed to watch all the videos again. As I have told you, me, myself, I have forgotten about the lines that I have checked many times so it is definitely essential to repeat the lines to get familiar with them”. Many young players complain that they are not able to remember everything they see and they feel uncomfortable about it. Erwin tells us what strong players do to overcome such situations: “repeat”!

The Dutch GM not only shows us the current theory in the lines, he also makes us familiar with the classical must-see games in the Two Knights. He explains the importance of studying famous games thus: “this kind of classical game we should know about before learning our openings. These are the players that built the foundations on which we are playing our chess today!”

Towards the end, there are “Memory Markers” and “Tactics” – which are the interactive sections where the viewers are put to a test. The Memory Marker section is very interesting: the little questions help us to recollect the variations which we saw and important positions get stored in our brains!

Erwin says: “it is always good to test your tactical abilities”. Going through tactics which can come from our openings can be a very useful exercise.

Here’s a position which looks very threatening for White.
There is a very convincing way to deal with White’s last move 19.b4. Can you spot it?

The solution is 19...Bxf2! 20.Kxf2 Qh2! With Ne4 to follow, leading to mate. It is a very nice illustration of the dangers that White is facing in this line.

Erwin’s enthusiasm kept me glued to the computer screen!

L’Ami’s style of presentation is extremely entertaining, making it a very enjoyable experience for the viewers. He clearly enjoys sharing his knowledge with us. I will end with his words: “time flies when you are having fun, and that’s indeed the case here as well!” I am really looking forward to many more of his ChessBase DVDs!

Video sample: Erwin l'Ami - The modern Two Knights

Erwin l'Ami: The modern Two Knights

  • Video running time: 4 hours 27 minutes (English)
  • 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

Price: €29.90
€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$28.48 (without VAT)
ISBN: 978-3-86681-471-4

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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About the author

Nisha Mohota, born on October 13, 1980 in Hinganghat, Maharashtra, started playing chess at the age of seven.

During the 1995 Women's Zonals in Chennai she earned the WIM title, at the age of 14 years 6 months and 13 days. This record of youngest ever WIM in India was only broken by Koneru Humpy in 1999. In August 2003 she became India's fourth WGM – after Vijayalakshmi, Humpy and Aarthie Ramaswamy.

Since February 2011 Nisha is a full International Master. Her highest ever Elo rating was 2416 (in October 2007).


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Nisha Mohota Nisha Mohota 9/18/2015 07:43
@babycroc : Thank you very much for your appreciation!
babycroc babycroc 9/17/2015 01:11
Great review, Nisha. I'm also an Indian chess player who started playing in the 80s, though I retired as a junior, so I feel the pain. Kids growing up today are so incredibly lucky, with such resources available to them. Anyway, hope to see more reviews from you, this was very well done.
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