Modern Openings: A Concise Overview

by Diana Mihajlova
12/1/2014 – Modern opening theory challenges. If you play topical lines you have to keep up with the developments in latest theory. If you do not play these openings it helps to know them to understand what is going on in top level chess. In both cases opening expert Rustam Kasimdzhanov offers help: with his DVD "Trends in modern Openings". Demanding, informative, inspiring.

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Rustam Kasimdzhanov:
Trends in modern Openings

As if by coincidence, this DVD, published just recently, is coming out fresh from the 'press' immediately after the end of the World Championship Match Carlsen v Anand. What is the connection? Among the most significant modern trends in chess openings studied in this video, a large part is dedicated to that ubiquitous, intriguing opening that we have been hearing so much during the recently finished World Championship Match: the 'Berlin'. The Berlin Defence was regularly played in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Emanuel Lasker is known to have been among its main promoters.

But then the opening had lost its attraction and it has been hardly used until its renaissance in 2000, when Vladimir Kramnik became its promulgator at the World Championship Match against Kasparov. Kramnik used it as a drawing weapon against Kasparov; it helped him to become the 14th world Champion. Since then the Berlin has been associated with Championships, as if top players are looking to it as some magic formula for success. However, at the most recent Championship, Anand had not much luck with it.

But the Berlin keeps fascinating. I suspect that the intricacies of this most modern of the modern trends remain only vaguely clear to many players. Particularly the ones that are at a lower end in their chess progress. In this DVD, Kasimdzhanov exhausts all variations and transpositions resulting in the Berlin, in four large parts, with corresponding games and extensive analysis; no question would remain unanswered.

Rustam Kasimdzhanov at the ChessBase recording studios

The Berlin is a line of the Ruy Lopez (the Spanish) opening. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Black does not play 3...a6 but 3…Nf6 indicating his willingness to enter the Berlin Defence. It is generally considered to be drawish; its main attraction is that it provides Black with a solid defence. It is so solid that it is often dubbed 'the Berlin Wall'.

Kasimdzhanov analyses this opening extensively and one topical line he covers arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8 Kxd8 9.h3. Here is Kasimdzhanov's analysis:



The Berlin, as a modern trend, got a privileged 'front presentation' in this review because of its most recent popularity; however, it is not the main topic of the DVD. Kasimdzhanov presents a collection of modern openings that make the core of the most recent trends in the development of opening theory. They include new trends in the Scotch, Petroff, Queen's Gambit Declined, Caro-Kann, Classical Slav, Najdorf, and other new variations in Ruy Lopez, apart from the Berlin. The examples are gathered from some of the strongest tournaments of today.

Kasimdzhanov, who is a top player himself, guides you through significant trends in modern opening, aiming to explain why certain openings practically vanished from tournament practice while others were resurrected. Thus, this DVD helps to understand modern openings played at top level today. It should also provide you with new ideas for your own repertoire. The DVD with its sometimes very detailed analysis of openings is aimed at ambitious players that really want to make progress and get to grips with the current trends in chess performance.

The accompanying database, aptly titled, Grandmaster Games, contains 63 games from high level tournaments, featuring analysed games from super grandmasters - a real treat.

The last part of the DVD contains test positions and is probably the most important. Here you have a chance to check what you have learned. It will not be easy, but worth trying your best by returning to the material covered and filling in the gaps where necessary. The solutions are given, but coming up first with your own idea would be most beneficial.

Here is one test position:

Black just played ...Qxb2

The diagram shows a line from the Caro-Kann. Black just played Qxb2 and White is to move; what would you do? If your first attempt is wrong (as was mine!), Kasimdzhanov provides a useful tip: 'Well, try to be imaginative and think of what kind of damage the white queen can do if it comes anywhere near the black king?

Solution: Qb1! - Black cannot play Qxc3, because Bd2 followed by Qxb7 is winning for White. With Qb1 White develops a serious initiative.

As you can see from this example the DVD might at times be demanding. But it is worth the effort to follow Kasimdzhanov on his explorations of "Trends in modern openings". You see and experience how a top grandmaster, who for years had worked as a second to Vishy Anand and is considered one of the leading opening experts of our time, approaches the opening. You also get a good glimpse into current opening theory, helping you to understand modern chess better. Very likely this well presented DVD also gives your opening repertoire a boost with fresh ideas - inspiring you to better and more successful opening play.

Thus, although difficult at times I found this DVD demanding, informative, inspiring, and occasionally delightful. What more can you ask for?


Rustam Kasimdzhanov

born in 1979, the grandmaster from Uzbekistan has for many years been known as a very strong and imaginative player.

However in 2004 Rustam Kasimdzhanov shocked the chess world by winning the FIDE World Chess Championship title, beating a string of world-class players like Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Topalov and Adams in the process.

The Uzbekian grandmaster, who has helped Anand in tow of his World Championship matches, lives in Germany.

Sample Video: Rustam Kasimdzhanov: Trends in modern openings

Rustam Kasimdzhanov:
Trends in modern openings

  • Video running time: four hours
  • With interactive training including video feedback
  • Database with analysis and 50 selected GM games
  • Including CB 12 Reader

Price: €29.90
€23.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$31.44 (without VAT)
ISBN: 978-3-86681-446-2

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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A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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