Nicholas Pert: The French Defence

by Davide Nastasio
4/6/2015 – Nicholas Pert, English grandmaster and experienced coach, loves the French Defence. He has played this opening in hundreds of games and it brought him many fine victories and helped him to become grandmaster. On his new ChessBase-DVD he distills this huge knowledge into a French repertoire. For Davide Nastasio this opened a window into a new world.

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A Window into a New World: The French Defence for the Tournament Player

English GM Nicholas Pert is the current National Head Coach of the English Chess Federation, and has regularly played for English teams in the Olympiads and the European Team Championships. On this DVD he provides a complete attacking repertoire for black in the French Defense.

The French Defence for the Tournament Player piqued my interest because I wanted to know more about what a French player thinks. A few weeks ago, during a tournament, I was playing as black when my opponent transposed from an Alekhine to a French, since he evidently wasn’t prepared in the Alekhine and avoided it. To me, openings are a journey of self-discovery. Your choice of opening will tell whether a player is a lion or an elephant. We have seen this throughout chess history. After all, Tal’s opening repertoire wasn’t the same as Petrosian’s.

I realized that the French gave me the chance to create a strong pawn center, and in the end I won the game by creating two passed pawns in the center. After such an experience I was curious and sensed that I should further investigate the opening. GM Pert, as an accomplished player and coach, is an excellent guide. He has played the French throughout his career and, as a coach, Pert has been in contact with many types of students, and he knows how to reach their hearts and minds.

I also admire his passion for the French when he says, “the repertoire I’ve chosen is a pretty aggressive repertoire; I’m looking to win in every game. I’m trying to create winning chances for Black.” He continues, “I’ve spent hundreds of hours developing these lines, and this is really the best condensed into one DVD, an absolutely must for everyone who wants to play the French.” Speaking of one of the lines he chooses, he states “it is a pretty good choice if you want to win games.” Thus, GM Pert has created a repertoire of aggressive, dangerously sharp lines that lead to exciting games. Who would have believed the French could be so combative. We generally hear of the Sicilian as the opening to use for creating imbalances, but GM Pert shows this is also possible with the French.

In addition to the usual video explanations there are some interactive clips where the viewer is tested on a range of theoretical questions and tactics arising from French Defense games, and there is an exclusive database of essential games. The DVD also comes bundled with the CB 12 Reader, so no other software is necessary. Toward the end of the videos, Pert often recaps all the main ideas, so the student listens to them at least twice!

Here I would like to give an example of one of the lines given by GM Pert, where he recommends a knight sacrifice!

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bd7 6.a3 f6 7.b4 fxe5 8.b5 Nxd4 9.cxd4 exd4

When I review a DVD I usually list how many videos are dedicated to each line. But this time I thought to make an exception, because this DVD is really too great for following my standard protocol. Instead, I would like to show some representative diagrams. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and what GM Pert gives us is pure dynamite.

Imagine playing Black, and having one rook as a blockader to the h7-pawn, and not being worried at all because a GM is whispering in your ear as to which is the right plan to follow. Such is the case in this wild-looking position.

This kind of craziness and extreme aggressiveness are pervasive in Pert’s repertoire. He really shows how to utilize the French as a weapon. It does not have to be played passively or defensively. Just look at this other position:

Can you really imagine your uncastled half-exposed king helping a rook fight against queen and two possible passed pawns on one side of the board, while your own queen is launching an attack on the other side? As a tournament player, I am generally wary of the sidelines that are often used at club level. So I was delighted that GM Pert covers these lines as well. I was particularly interested when Pert mentioned 1.e4 e6 2.b3 in his introductory video, because I have seen at least one player in my category win some games with it.

Now, since I’m a philosopher and skeptic at heart, I was curious as to how many games Pert has played in the French Defense. I opened my ChessBase MegaBase 2015 and discovered that he has played 200 games using the French! So, before watching the videos, I did a very useful thing: thanks to ChessBase, I can automatically watch all these games. I quickly cycled through them to have an idea of the problems that can be encountered as black, and to get a grasp of the pawn structures and the ideas behind them.

The reader may well ask why I would watch these games first instead of the one’s on the DVD. The reason is simple. An author can exaggerate to sell a product, but his games will not lie; they will tell me the real story. I was impressed by Pert’s games, because I saw the energy with which he played the French. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it.

Another important part of watching the games was to understand if he would lose in the opening, and I didn’t see that. If he lost one of these game, it was never because of the opening. One of the first games played by Pert, was in 1993 when he was rated 2075, so he really grew with this opening throughout his carrier.

The DVD is comprised of 23 videos that cover all the lines White can come up with! There are also 11 video clips of training questions to see if the prospective player understood the material. As an additional bonus, there is an exclusive database with 682 games!! The games cover quite a long period, from 1971 (Fischer) to 2013 (the new generation of white players such as Giri, Grischuk, Leko, etc). These games are all annotated and divided into categories using the ChessBase medal system.

My only caveat is that some of the games in the exclusive database are quite above and beyond the understanding of the average player. My advice is to watch all the videos at least a couple of times, and only then jump into the exclusive database. It will be like opening a window into a new world. The ideas expressed in the videos will be seen in action, and it will be really pleasant to discover that you can follow the themes within the games of the greatest players of the last forty years!

Let me also elaborate for the beginners. To watch the games in the exclusive database without following a particular order is meaningless. Instead it makes more sense for example to watch the videos on the Advance Variation. Then using the database provided, one should "filter" the games using the ECO.

For example for the French Advance, if I remember correctly it should be C02. In this way out of the 682 games provided by GM Pert in the database, one extracts only those relative to the videos he/she just watched, and tries to connect the ideas learned in the videos with the annotated games eventually adding our own ideas.

This can be done also for a single player, that we know is a French expert. We put the name of the player (Kortchnoi, Pert, Akobian, to give you some of the GMs I know who play the French) and C02, and automatically we get what we need to see. Because maybe in a book on the French a GM will not convey all his ideas on the opening, because the opponents would learn how to neutralize them, but the games cannot lie!

GM Pert is to be congratulated for explaining the ideas behind the French so clearly, and in such a way that a novice can play it at master level.

A big impression was made upon me by the second video. Pert did a fine job explaining all the ideas behind the moves, the strategic plans for Black, and the right squares as to where to develop the pieces.

One of GM Pert’s goals is to give the student a repertoire he can use for life. After only studying The French Defence for the Tournament Player for two weeks, I played in an Open tournament and twice used the French. My score was 1.5 out of 2! So I can say I’m satisfied with this opening and the way GM Pert teaches it. Whether or not I will continue to play the French as black remains to be seen, but my understanding of this opening has grown exponentially!

I'd like to share the game annotated in the second video, however, I must warn the reader that to listen to GM Pert is a whole different experience, and one will remember much more than simply watching this game.



Sample video

Nicholas Pert:
The French Defence for the Tournament Player

• Video running time: 7 hours (English)
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Exclusive database with 100 essential games
• Including CB 12 Reader

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$27.11 (without VAT)

This DVD can be be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

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Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."


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