Nicholas Pert: The French Defence

by Priyadarshan Banjan
3/4/2016 – The French Defence has always been a tough nut to crack for 1.e4 players and even Bobby Fischer had problems against it. But English Grandmaster Nicholas Pert loves the French Defence - he has been playing it with Black since his junior days. On his DVD about the French he uses his knowledge and experience to recommend a solid yet aggressive repertoire for Black.

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Nicholas Pert: The French Defence for the Tournament Player

A Review

In his Sixty Memorable Games Bobby Fischer once called the French Defense “anti-positional”. A remark that was born out of frustration. If you check Fischer’s tournament records, you will note that until his last Candidates cycle Fischer had always scored relatively badly against the French. And if a player of Fischer’s caliber has problems against the French the opening certainly contains a lot of venom and might offer Black good chances.

Nicholas Pert, currently Head Coach of the English Chess Federation and a strong Grandmaster, believes that the French is indeed a very attractive, solid and yet aggressive opening if you know the right ideas and plans.

GM Nicholas Pert

On his DVD French Defense for the Tournament Player Pert presents and explains these ideas and recommends an aggressive repertoire for Black – an ideal weapon for the improving player.

The Structure of the DVD

The DVD is made up of thirty-five video segments, of which twelve are quizzes and one is an introduction. The twenty-two theoretical video segments cover all important lines of the French:

·         The Advance Variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 with all the main lines and sidelines. (Three video segments)

·         The Tarrasch Variation 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 including the sub variations therein, such as the popular Universal System, lines with 5.f4 and main line 7.Ne2. (Six video segments)

·         The Winawer Varition with the “Poisoned Pawn variation”, the old main line in the “Poisoned Pawn Variation”, positional lines with Nf3 and a4 by White and the sidelines White can play (Nine video segments)

·         The Exchange Variation (Two video segments)

·         2nd Move deviations (Two video segments)

Pert presents the material in an extremely energetic manner that holds the student’s attention over a long period. His presentation is straightforward, offers pure information but is never boring. He also has his share of anecdotes to narrate because most of the games Pert shows are from his own practice. Pert has played the French since his junior days and he still plays it regularly. In fact, the French helped Pert to become a grandmaster and to achieve the success he enjoys.

Pert makes good use of the visual cues to point out the plans.

The French has a reputation of being positional and solid but Pert offers an aggressive opening repertoire that allows Black to play for a win against all lines White can choose. Pert always makes sure that the student knows what he should do in a certain position – for example after sacrificing a pawn for good play. Indeed, Pert often recommends such lines and this might lead to exciting attacks in which Black has the upper hand. One example:

Sethurman-Ganguly, Mumbai, 2006.

Black to play and win.

Solution: 1…Qxd2 2.Bxd2 Rxe1+ 3.Bxe1 Ne2+ winning the queen.

The versatility of the variations Pert recommends sets this DVD apart from other works on the French. Take, for example, his treatment of the Winawer variation. In the nine video segments devoted to this section, Pert not only analyzes the popular line with 12…d4 in the “Poisoned Pawn Variation” but also the old main line with an early …Bd7. This enables Black to reach sound, yet messy, positions where knowledge of the typical plans is important and that are fun to play because Black’s pieces are so active.




If you already know the French a bit you will notice how Pert offers subtle improvements of some of the main lines, e.g. in the Tarrasch.

And Pert even comes up with an aggressive set-up against the notoriously dour Exchange Variation. He recommends that Black should keep his light-squared bishop and castle queenside – which leads to the unbalanced positions most players who opt for the Exchange Variation with White want to avoid!

The quizzes at the end of the DVD allow you to test your knowledge of the French. Pert poses you a problem; you ponder over your move, make the move on the board and Pert then explains the details of the move you played – an interactive, almost real experience with a Grandmaster coach.

The DVD also comes with an “Exclusive Database” of 682 quality games, most of them annotated. However, it must be noted that players rated below 1900 may find all the information Pert offers a bit too much of a good thing – a bit too much, a bit too fast. At least I did. However, this issue can be solved by simply going through the relevant video segment repeatedly until the concepts are firmly drummed in.

To distill eons of playing experience and hours of home analysis into a seven-hour DVD is no easy task. It is obvious that Pert loves the French defense and his attempt to pass on his passion and knowledge on this opening is worth applauding. Heartily Recommended.

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)
$27.14 (without VAT)

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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Priyadarshan Banjan is a 23-year-old club player from India. He works as an editor for ChessBase News and ChessBase India. He is a chess fanatic and an avid fan of Vishy Anand. He also maintains a blog on a variety of topics.


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