Review: Parimarjan Negi on the Modern Scotch

by Diana Mihajlova
11/13/2014 – The Scotch is an opening that evolved from the swashbuckling games of the 19th century. It has long been associated with exciting play, but people often doubt its positional base. In recent times, however, it has evolved into an aggressive alternative to the Spanish. In his first Fritz-Trainer DVD Parimarjan Negi explains the latest revolution in Scotch theory. Review by Diana Mihajlova.

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Modernizing a classic

GM Parimarjan Negi, the author of the DVD on the Modern Scotch Opening, played this opening himself on numerous occasions, but until he embarked on creating a training video material on it he did not know why it is called ‘Scotch’. Thinking that it is a good occasion to find out, he googled away, and, in the introduction he lets us know that it was first played in 1824 in a correspondence match between ‘Edinburgh and London’. Not much more enlightenment than that, but the next question Negi attempts to answer would be of more interest to us: ‘Why play the Scotch?’ Although it has some tricky, fun moves with early exchanges of pieces, the king pulled to the centre, and an unusual, unique structure, the Scotch actually offers White a sound positional basis around which to build up the game, while Black is left with not many alternatives. It might suit particularly players who do not like symmetry lines like Petroff, for example.

Following up on the advice of his long-term trainer, Nigel Short, Negi discovers for himself that studying ‘the Scotch’ offers a better understanding of more general facets of modern chess theory. He imparts his knowledge in a relaxed manner that makes the material easy to embrace. When he uses one of his own games as an illustrative example, he cheekily adds: ‘it is just to show you that I am a good player, sometimes’.

In the game in question, his opponent is the legend Lajos Portisch. Negi explains that his choice of the Scotch against an erudite of classical openings was in order to meet the veteran on less familiar ground. Actually, the main character of the Scotch is that it is a ‘modern’ opening, which contains lines that have been applied in more recent times and are still under scrutiny. It is considered a wilder alternative to the quiet, well established Spanish.

[Event "Politiken Cup 2013"] [Site "Helsingor DEN"] [Date "2013.07.30"] [Round "5.6"] [White "Negi, P."] [Black "Portisch, L."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "2634"] [BlackElo "2479"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2013.07.27"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "10"] [EventCountry "DEN"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2013.08.05"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nb3 Bb6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Qe2 Nf6 { [%csl Re8]} 8. Be3 (8. Bg5 h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Bg3 Be6) 8... h6 9. O-O-O Qe7 10. g3 Bg4 (10... Nxe4 11. Nd5) (10... Be6 11. Bg2) 11. f3 Be6 12. Bg2 O-O-O 13. Rhe1 Rhe8 14. Bxb6 axb6 {[%csl Re7]} 15. Qf1 {[%cal Re1e7,Gc3d5,Ge4d5]} (15. f4 Bg4 16. Bf3) 15... Nd7 16. f4 Kb8 17. Nd4 Nxd4 18. Rxd4 Nf6 19. Qd3 g5 20. Rd1 {[%cal Ge4e5]} Rc8 21. Ra4 Bd7 22. Ra3 Bc6 23. e5 Bxg2 24. Nb5 Rcd8 25. Qc4 d5 26. Qa4 Qxa3 27. Qxa3 Nd7 28. Qa7+ Kc8 29. Qa8+ Nb8 30. Na7+ Kd7 31. Qxb7 Re7 32. Nb5 1-0

On a couple of occasions Negi points out that the Scotch is not really his personal choice of an opening. One may wonder then why would he choose it to present it as a training tool and give it an elaborate work-out. The answer could lie in Anish Giri’s comment on Negi’s recently published book 1.e4 vs the French, Caro-Kann and Philidor: “He was foolish enough to be totally honest in his book, not hiding anything from the readers, and now a bunch of new creative ideas in 1.e4 is out there in the open…” Maybe this time round Negi decided to be wiser and just give a thorough study of an opening which is not exactly ‘his’. Whatever the motive, the end result is well researched and deeply analysed presentation of a modern opening that is being uncorked at high level tournaments with ever greater frequency.

Parimarjan Negi in the Chess Base studio

After the 19th century when the Scotch was fashionable, it suffered a relative decline until its revival in newer times thanks to Kasparov, who reinvented it by introducing new ideas. Kasparov used the Scotch frequently throughout the 90s, and it brought him many victories, among them a key game in the World Championship Match against Karpov. (Kasparov v Karpov, 1:0, World Championship Match, 1990.

Radjabov is another super GM who took to the Scotch by applying still more innovative moves, as it can be seen in the game Radjabov v Tomashevsky, (2012, Tal Memorial, annotated by Radjabov).

[Event "7th Mikhail Tal Memorial"] [Site "Moscow RUS"] [Date "2012.06.08"] [Round "1"] [White "Radjabov, T."] [Black "Tomashevsky, E."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C45"] [WhiteElo "2784"] [BlackElo "2738"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2012.06.08"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "22"] [Source "Mark Crowther"] [SourceDate "2012.06.11"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nb3 Bb6 6. Nc3 d6 7. Qe2 Nge7 8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O-O f5 10. exf5 Bxf5 11. h3 Bd7 12. Qd2 Bxe3 13. Qxe3 Kh8 14. Bd3 Qe8 15. f4 {[%csl Rc6,Re7]} Qf7 16. Rhf1 Rae8 17. Qd2 Nb4 18. Be4 Bc6 19. Rde1 Bxe4 20. Nxe4 Qc4 21. a3 Nbc6 22. Qc3 Qd5 (22... Qxc3 23. Nxc3) 23. Nbd2 Nf5 24. g4 Nfd4 25. Qd3 b5 26. Kb1 b4 27. a4 h6 28. Nb3 Re7 29. Ned2 Rxe1+ 30. Rxe1 g5 31. f5 1-0

As well as Kasparov’s and Radjabov’s innovations, starting from the instructive games in the introduction, through to specific case studies in the theoretical part, we learn how various modern masters came up with a new move to deviate from the established lines. Carlsen contented himself with creating a pin on Bg5 followed by 9.Bh4!N (Carlsen v Bacrot, 1:0, Nanjing Pearl Spring, 2010). Later on Aronian found a way to get away from the pin with 8…Nd4, which is demonstrated in the 2nd instalment of the theoretical part (the actual game was Hua v Aronian, ½:½ Olympiad, Istanbul, 2012).

Several other examples in the theoretical part demonstrate that the Scotch is truly a modern opening and is still brewing.

Negi is obviously quite confident with the knowledge he possesses and the material he presents. His way of demonstrating various lines will be better grasped by players closer to his level. I find the lines are interchanged too promptly, which beginners and improving players might find it a bit too quick to follow. But then, this is probably not an opening for beginners. It is full of variations and long lines, which are well covered by Negi, but one needs an alert mind to keep apace. After all, it is an opening played by the likes of Carlsen, Caruana, Nepomniatchi, Radjabov and Giri, the latest star who picked up on this opening. In the introduction, Negi even gives a somewhat cryptic announcement: “This opening can help the ones that aim at becoming world champions”. Is that you? In that case this DVD will provide you with abundant and well structured material for study, play and analyses.

It does not mean however that beginners are neglected and should not take up the challenge. Apart from full annotated games, Negi presents sample studies that only treat moves up to about the middle of a game, as a way of establishing firmly the most common lines and therefore making it easier to learn the basics and become aware of the pitfalls before the game deepens towards the middle. After the main line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4

Black’s most common fourth moves, 4…Bc5; 4…Qh4; 4…Qf6; 4…Bb4 and 4…Nf6, are illustrated in separate studies in the section ‘Theoretical Part’.

Negi also gives a comprehensive database of Scotch model games; studious amateurs are presented with material aplenty on which to build up their understanding of this opening. I find it particularly useful that this five-hour video is nicely rounded with a well compiled test containing 20 case studies, which you need to solve. Negi selects specific, crucial positions and gives a task, like ‘to spot the right motive’ or ‘to punish the black carelessness’, to find ‘what did Black miss’, ‘how should White proceed against f6’, ‘can White get a better position or is Black’s compensation enough’, ‘what should White do to maximize his advantage’, ‘how would you react to keep the initiative’, ‘how could you create counter play with black’… and so on. These are well chosen spots from the covered material and analysis, which should test how well you have mastered the Scotch. If your first attempt was not successful, you are given an opportunity to ‘try again’ before you are shown the solution. So, as Negi says at the beginning of the video: ‘Watch closely and good luck!’

Parimarjan Negi at the 2008 Paris Championship (photo: Diana Mihajlova)

Parimarjan Negi’s successful chess career numbers numerous won international events and championships as well as the title of the world’s youngest grandmaster (2006). Today, at 21 years of age, he expands into writing chess books and DVD training manuals.

Parimarjan is currently in the ChessBase team of commentators of the Carlsen v Anand World Championship match.

Parimarjan Negi:
The Modern Scotch Opening

  • Video running time: six hours
  • With interactive training including video feedback
  • Database with 50 essential games
  • Including CB 12 Reader

Price: €29.90
€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$31.20 (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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Sample Video: Parimarjan Negi - The Modern Scotch Opening

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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