How to tame the Alekhine, Scandinavian and Pirc

by Albert Silver
5/7/2013 – In his latest DVD by ChessBase, Victor Bologan, a top grandmaster, proposes to teach players from beginner to grandmaster a complete repertoire against the Alekhine, Pirc, and Scandinavian all in a single DVD lasting under five hours. He promises to teach his own repertoire and personal analyses dating back decades. Is he peddling magic bullets, or is he serious? Find out in this review.

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A review

Of the many authors in the ChessBase fold, Viktor Bologan, a top player, is one of the most productive and serious. His openings DVDs, in my experience, are usually addressed to mid to advanced players seeking a solid grasp and serious study on a line or other. They are usually quite heavy on theory, but do give a student an important foundation in whatever the topic of the day may be. Some of his treatises span several volumes, which though commendable, can also be daunting to all but the most assiduous viewers. I had never seen any exceptions to this rule until now, when seeing his latest title proposing a repertoire against the Alekhine, Pirc, and Scandinavian all in a single DVD lasting a little under five hours. Was he now peddling magic bullets, or was he serious?

In the introduction he explains that the three openings are rare guests at top practice for a reason, and that is because a player can acquire a lasting advantage with White so long as he comes properly prepared with both theory and an understanding of the concepts. Though this may sound pretty obvious, the fact is that he feels a player does not need to be a walking encyclopedia, and just needs some well-chosen approaches to steer past danger.

As a lifelong 1.e4 player whose track record speaks for itself, he proposes to teach you exactly how he approaches them, using his personal material, and even analyses he has used for decades now. If this promise sounds hard to believe, he adds that what he will show is not only nothing particularly secret, and furthermore, with everyone having access to top engines, the lines are readily available to all.

Personally, I have always been a 1.e4 player, though cannot claim to know these well-established maps with X marks the spot, so I was all ears. Have three less openings to worry about with 5-10 hours of study? I can do that. Needless to say, don’t expect to digest it all in a single sitting.

The contents of the DVD:

Austrian Attack vs the Pirc: 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7

02: 5.Nf3 side lines - Analysis
03: 5.Nf3 c5 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.e5 - Analysis
04: 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 side lines - analysis
05: 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Nc6 - Analysis
06: 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Bg4 - Analysis
07: 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Bd3 Na6 - Analysis
08: 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 a6 - Analysis

Positional Lines with Nf3 vs the Alekhine Defence: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3

09: 4...Nb6 - Analysis
10: 4...c6 - Analysis
11: 4...dxe5 - Analysis
12: 4...g6 - Analysis
13: 4...Nc6 - Analysis
14: 4...Bg4 5.Be2 c6 - Analysis
15: 4...Bg4 5.Be2 e6 - Analysis

Major lines vs the Scandinavian: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5
16: 2...Nf6 3.d4 Nxd5 4.c4 - Analysis
17: 2...Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 4.Nf3 - Analysis
18: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd8 - Analysis
19: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 c6 - Analysis
20: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 a6 6.g3 - Analysis
21: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6 - Analysis
22: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nc6 - Analysis
23: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 - Analysis
24: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bf5 6.Ne5 - Analysis
25: 2...Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 g6 - Anaylsis

Yasser Seirawan was the first player I saw who coined the term “dress like a grandmaster”, and the Moldavian strikes a good impression as he presents himself well-groomed and wearing a sharp suit and tie.

Victor Bologan - dressed like a grandmaster

For the Pirc Defense he does not pretend to have any secret sidelines that the entire world underestimates, and says his chosen approach is the Austrian Attack, a line he was first introduced to by GM Zigurd Lanka. He knows his material of course, and in seven videos covers all the lines he considers relevant, including the best way to navigate past the tricky 5…c5 6.Bb5+ line without being forced to split the point (or worse yet: losing). I found this to be the easiest part to sift through as I play both lines and am fairly familiar with the theory. That said, he showed how many gaps I had in my knowledge, replacing uncertainty with specific lines, and I can say I definitely feel better prepared to face the Pirc in the future.

Teaching how to navigate the lines to keep the pressure

Next came the Alekhine, and he does not mince words, by stating that sadly the quality of the opening does not reflect the power of Alekhine’s genius (ouch), though it is quite interesting nevertheless. The reason is that the opening wastes several tempi with the knight, and White has an enduring space advantage. White’s challenge is to know the best ways to fight for and build on this.  In fact, he explains that he has tried almost every main line there is, but the one that he feels has always stood the test of time is the simple, positional approach with 4.Nf3.

The table of contents of the DVD

It goes without saying that there is a large crossroads right there at move four, but Bologan is not terribly concerned and gives his antidote to each branch in videos of roughly ten to fifteen minutes. More importantly to each of his approach is that the moves are presented as logical choices, and there are no paradoxical sequences to try to memorize. In many cases a solid grasp of the opening setup will guide you to the right follow-up even if your memory fails you.

Finally, we reach the Scandinavian Defense where he takes advantage to reiterate the purpose behind the DVD. In his experience players of these three openings want to take their opponents down unfamiliar paths, to gain an advantage and trick them, and this DVD is designed to address this and prepare the viewer to face them confidently. Here too he teaches the best ways to answer the Scandinavian Defense, an opening he has faced many times against its most prestigious advocate: GM Sergey Tiviakov.
Once again we are not only shown the latest games to illustrate ideal setups, but important key moves, and some of the promised analyses he has relied on for much of his career. Again, he generously presents the theory and ideas, sometimes pushing the analysis quite far ahead, but in many ways, it is merely to illustrate how the game might proceed, to not leave the student stuck with ten moves of theory and no clue on how to continue. Turning points are highlighted where avoiding deep complications is to be preferred,  to avoid unintentionally walking into a minefield.

A video sample of 1.e4 - how to tame Alekhine, Scandinavian and Pirc

I gladly admit that I will no doubt be viewing it all at least a second time, and found the material to be well-chosen, objective, and presented clearly. The lines suggested fit his description as being aggressive, but from a positional point of view. In the introduction, Bologan suggests the DVD is suitable for players ranging from beginners to even grandmasters, a few of whom he feels are not well prepared for these openings. Personally I would take that with a slight grain of salt, since his definition of beginners is clearly not mine. Truly, players rated 1600 and up may benefit from the DVD, but I think that 1800 and over would be a more objective assessment. 

Overall, I enjoyed it quite a lot, and whole-heartedly recommend this work for anyone seeking to learn how to handle these openings headaches, or plug in holes in their knowledge. I know I did.

You can purchase 1.e4 - How to tame the Alekhine, Scandinavian and Pirc in the ChessBase Shop

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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