Ftacnik: 1.Nf3: A Variable Repertoire for White

7/13/2012 – "Lubomir Ftacnik is the sort of strategically-minded GM who makes positional chess look simple and forces the viewer to sometimes reconsider their approach to the game," writes Seven Dowd in Chess Cafe. One thing you really learn from Ftacnik's five-star DVD was how to utilize closed positions to your advantage. "You can never have too many examples of these in your chess memory." Review.

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Lubomir Ftacnik:
1.Nf3: A Variable Repertoire for White

Review by Steven B. Dowd

1.Nf3: A Variable Repertoire for White (DVD) by Lubomir Ftacnik, ChessBase, Playing time: 4 hours 33 min. $29.95 (Chesscafe Price: $25.95)

This is a very unusual opening repertoire DVD from GM Ftacnik. He is the sort of strategically-minded GM who makes positional chess look simple and forces the viewer to sometimes reconsider their approach to the game. And that can be a good thing.

A quiet but determined presenter, his command of English is strong with few gaffes. One example of the latter, he uses "parade" for the German parade (counter). These small mistakes are persistent, but do not overly detract from the material. The introduction is worth listening to for any class of player, as he attempts to answer the question,"Why 1.Nf3 instead of 1.c4 or 1.d4?" One thing he stresses is that one should use databases to find ideas you can use with either color by looking for analogies and symmetries in openings.

That made me think right then and there. I have used databases to search for specific positions, and have noted instances like this in the openings – a Latvian Gambit can transpose to positions found in the King's Gambit, for example. I may explore this further and report on it in a future CB11 note. 1.Nf3 is a "careful player" repertoire. When playing it, you are often a step away from mainline openings, and you can transpose, but you do not often run the risk of falling into an opening trap based on a specific variation. I don't normally give the whole list of topics on a DVD, but it seems wise to in this case:

  • Introduction
  • Symmetry (no less than ten illustrative games! - there sixty-five total on the DVD)
  • 1.Nf3 01: Avoiding main lines 1...b5, 1...d5, and 2...Nc6, 1...b6
  • 02: The Hour of Bc8 – 1...d6 and 2...Bg4
  • 03: Dutch Defence – 1...f5
  • 04: King's Indian Set-up for White
  • 05: English Opening – 1...c5
  • 06 English Version of Gruenfeld/Queen's Indian – 1...Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5/ 1...b6
  • 07 Nimzo-Indian Setup
  • 08: Catalan (without d4)- 1...Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2
  • 09: The Big 1...d5 Challenge 1a – 1...d5 2.e3 Part 1
  • 10: The Big 1...d5 Challenge 1a – 1...d5 2.e3 Part 2
  • 11: The Big 1...d5 Challenge 2a – 1.d5 2.g3 Part 1
  • 12: The Big 1...d5 Challenge 2b – 1.d5 2.g3 Part 2
  • 13: The Big 1...d5 Challenge 2c – 1.d5 2.g3 Part 3
  • 14 Hedgehog with ...e6 – 1...Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3
  • 15 Hedgehog with ...g6 – 1...Nf6 2.c4 b6 3.g3
  • 16 English Opening 4 Knights – 1...Nf6 2.c5 c5 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.g3
  • 17 English Opening with 3...e5 – 1...Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 e5
  • 18 Summary

You certainly cannot complain that this DVD is too sparse with either variation- or idea-based play.

I am a big believer in using ideas rather than rote memorization for openings. However, I must confess that I have rarely found the approach of using an opening with a tempo in reserve to be all that useful. It is very difficult to turn a defensive idea into an attacking idea, especially for a player who prefers punching to counter-punching. Still, the third section was quite illuminating, with the game Kramnik-Carlsen providing a good example of his symmetry analogy and I began to get the drift.

[Event "Moscow Botvinnik Memorial"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2011.09.03"] [Round "5"] [White "Kramnik, Vladimir"] [Black "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A40"] [WhiteElo "2791"] [BlackElo "2823"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2011.09.02"] [EventType "tourn (rapid)"] [EventRounds "6"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "23"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2011.09.16"] 1. Nf3 b5 $6 {Stopping an immediate 2.c4 but only for the shortest of time.} 2. e4 $1 Bb7 $6 ({Marin in his notes in MegaBase that it almost looks safer to avoid the pawn exchange with} 2... a6 3. d4 Bb7 4. Bd3 {transposing to 1.e4 a6, the famous game Karpov-Miles.}) 3. Bxb5 Bxe4 {Here both Marin and Ftacnik make similar comments: Generally speaking, the exchange of a knight-pawn for a central one should favor Black. However, the bishop is exposed in the center and the time invested in this operation (two tempi) is too high a price to pay. At the same time, the b5-bishop is active. For instance, it prevents an early occupation of the centre with ...d5, according to Marin.} 4. O-O Nf6 5. d4 e6 6. c4 {Here is where the point of the DVD became clear to me, because I play 1. ..e5 against the Polish. But there, Black has to usually block his c-pawn with Nc6 to control the center; here White has time for c4 and is going to continue in Steinitzian mode with d5. The extra tempo for White certainly tells here.} Be7 7. Nc3 Bb7 8. d5 O-O 9. Bf4 $5 Na6 (9... c6 $2 10. d6 $1) 10. Re1 Qc8 11. Nd4 Bb4 12. Bg5 Ne8 13. Re3 {A decisive kingside attack.} c6 14. Bxa6 Bxa6 15. Qh5 f6 16. Rh3 fxg5 17. Qxh7+ Kf7 18. Qh5+ Kg8 19. Qh7+ Kf7 20. Ne4 Bxc4 21. Qh5+ Ke7 22. Qxg5+ Kf7 23. Qh5+ Ke7 24. Qg5+ Kf7 25. dxe6+ dxe6 26. Nf3 Kg8 27. Qh4 Rxf3 28. Qh7+ (28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Rxf3+ Ke7 30. Qh4+) 1-0

One thing I really appreciated from Ftacnik is how to utilize closed positions to my advantage. You can never have too many examples of these in your chess memory. I just wish it were as simple as he made it look. After you work your way through all these games, the summary is a bit disappointing; he really doesn't give you any more than he gives in the introduction, less in fact. A more overarching conclusion would be valuable.

Closed openings are not especially useful for lower-rated players seeking to improve, so I will say this DVD is for any player rated above 1600 Elo who wants to learn more about ideas that arise in closed openings. It certainly was an educational experience for me, and I intend to continue viewing it, as the author has many great ideas that I need to comprehend.

My assessment of this product: Great (five out of six stars)

Sample lecture: Lubomir Ftacnik 1.Nf3: A Variable Repertoire for White

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valery2 valery2 12/26/2016 12:22
This is very good!
Best regards,