From the Spanish to the King's Gambit

11/26/2012 – Learn From the Open Games is a ChessBase DVD by IM Sam Collins from Ireland. Collins makes it clear that this DVD is not intended as an opening repertoire for either White or Black. Instead, it is meant as a showcase for recurring motifs in a number of instructive Open games. The Chess Cafe reviewer Steve Goldberg thinks this DVD provides an instructive and entertaining experience.

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From the Spanish to the King's Gambit
Sam Collins: Learn From the Open Games

Review by Steve Goldberg

Learn From the Open Games, by Sam Collins (DVD), ChessBase 2012; Playing Time 4 hrs.

Learn From the Open Games is a DVD by IM Sam Collins from Ireland. It consists of twenty-four video segments, including the introduction, followed by twenty-three games. Most of the selections are fairly recent, although two are quite a bit older: Bronstein-Keres, 1950, and an odd King's Gambit from Spassky-Bronstein, 1960; about a third of the games are Collins's own.

Of the total of twenty-three games, eleven feature variations of the Spanish (Ruy Lopez), particularly the Spanish Chigorin and the Spanish Berlin Defense; four games illustrate the Scotch Defense/Gambit; three demonstrate the Italian Game; two show the Two Knights' Defense; two feature the Four Knights' Defense, and the final game is the Spassky King's Gambit. There are fourteen victories by White, eight by Black, and one is a draw.

Collins makes it clear that this DVD is not meant as an opening repertoire for either White or Black. Instead, it is meant as a showcase for recurring motifs in a number of instructive Open games. He stresses that you do not need to play a Sicilian to get wild, unbalanced positions.

Collins has selected a series of interesting games, and he takes the viewer through the entirety of each one, though his delivery is a bit monotone. Either for players who enjoy opening with 1.e4, or players who seek to become more proficient in answering 1.e4, this presentation can provide insights into some of the ideas of these various Open games, from the perspective of both White and Black.

For example, Collins discusses a Spanish Archangel Defense, with Magnus Carlsen as white. In this game, Carlsen unleashes "the typical undermining move a4," attempting to create a queenside weakness for his opponent, while opening a path for his rook at a1.

In another game, Collins was brave enough to show one of his losses. He was playing the black side of a Berlin Defense, and he shows the importance of not trading one of your active pieces for an opponent's passive piece.

Yet another game demonstrates the dangerous nature of an opposite-color bishop middlegame. In one of the Scotch games, Collins stresses that even with the queens off the board, there can still be enough firepower to attack the enemy king. In such cases, grabbing and holding the initiative is as important as ever.

In a Scotch Gambit that Collins presents, again the a4 move (reminiscent of Carlsen as noted above) allows the Ra1 to scoot over to the kingside via a3.

Although there are only three Italian Game segments, one of them is a twenty-two minute "tutorial on Black's attacking chances in the Italian Game."

While the Two Knights' Defense may not make most players' hearts beat faster, Collins shows an interesting Adams-Onischuk game in which he says that "Adams does little, but does it very well." He begins to control the light squares and forces small weaknesses in his opponent's position. A number of interesting strategies finally bring the victory home for Adams.

Collins does have a humorous side. He presents the following game, which he says he has included to "show off," although he admits that it may have some instructive value. Collins has white in a Berlin Defense, and the e-file opens very quickly.

Collins-Spanton 2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5

Collins points out the danger (to Black) of the open e-file, and suggests 6…Be7 as the best continuation.

6…Nxe5 7.Rxe5+ Be7 8.Nc3 Nxb5. Collins says that Black should clearly castle here. 9.Nd5. Much stronger than recapturing on b5.

9…0-0. Collins points out that Black, while already in a bad position, may still be able to survive with 9…Kf8 instead of 9…0-0. 10.Nxe7+ Kh8 11.Qh5

It is pretty much over for Black. If now 11…d6, White has the beautiful 12.Qxh7+ Kxh7 13.Rh5#. Or if 11…h6, play may continue 12.d3 d6 13.Bxh6 g6 14.Bxf8+ gxh5 15.Rxh5#.

11…g6 12.Qh6 Re8 13.Rh5 1-0

Black resigned. If 13…gxh5 14.Qf6#.

For players more interested in developing a better feel for variations of the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game), the Scotch or the Italian Game, among others, Learn From the Open Games will provide an instructive and entertaining experience. If you are looking for an effective repertoire DVD, 1.e4 Repertoire, GM Lines Explained for Club Players by Sam Collins and Daniel King's PowerPlay 17: Attack with 1.e4, is a good choice for players so inclined.

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


Sam Collins - Learn from the Open Games


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