Review: Powerplay 25 – 1.d4 sidelines decoded

by Davide Nastasio
9/20/2017 – In an attempt to sidestep mainline opening theory, a lot of today’s 1.d4 players have switched to systems like the Trompowsky or the London. Therefore players — whether amateur or professional GMs — can no longer rely on their Nimzo-Indians or Queens Gambits and have had to look for antidotes to these systems. One such club player, Davide Nastasio, got his hands on Daniel King's Powerplay 25. Going through the contents of the DVD, he found that King's work not only provides an easy-to-learn remedy against these systems but also helps amateurs get a better understanding of themes like pawn breaks, destroying opponent's centre, opening and closing lines, etc.

Powerplay 25 Popular Queen's Pawn Openings A Repertoire For Black Powerplay 25 Popular Queen's Pawn Openings A Repertoire For Black

On this DVD, Grandmaster Daniel King presents a repertoire for Black against the opoular queen's pawn openings such as the London System or the Trompowsky!


Popular Queen's pawn openings

A repertoire for Black

Powerplay 25

The entire series of Power Play DVDs, devised by Grandmaster Danny King, is geared towards bringing a player from beginner to master level. Lately, King has begun a series of opening repertoires. The reason is simple: in order to access all the middlegame and endgame ideas he so skillfully explained in the other DVDs, one must be able to survive and get out of the opening.

Previously King made two DVDs giving a full opening repertoire based on the Queen's Gambit Declined, and against the Catalan for Black players.

Now he is giving a repertoire for Black on those openings which once were considered sidelines, but at this time are commonly found both at amateur as well as top GM level. Openings like the Colle or the London sytems:

Colle and London tabiya

Learn how to face these offbeat d4 systems from the black side

It is interesting to notice how chess has changed thanks to the introduction of computers. On one hand, there was a period in which everyone enjoyed having the silicon monster find a novelty around move 8 or 10 which would give a nice advantage and convert it into a winning endgame. Then things became more complicated. The monster was still finding novelties, but now around moves 17 to 25. So, it became a battle of memorization.

On the other hand, amateurs, most of the time, never really had the memory for opening novelties to spring around move 25. In fact, they didn't even have memory for lines ten or more moves long. So, amateurs and club players began to use systems like the London, or the Colle, where ideas are more important than memorization of a series of moves.

Nowadays, even GMs seem to find it is easier to play a system and then just play chess instead of reciting the moves found by an engine. As a result, the popularity of systems like the London or Colle is on the rise, even at the top level. The following game played by Magnus Carlsen serves as a good example:


Magnus Carlsen

Even the current world champion has chosen "systems" over openings many a time! | Photo: Macauley Peterson

King argues that "opening systems" give an advantage to black because they don't immediately pose the question of how to solve the center problem. In fact, King is candid about it. "If White doesn't play c2-c4, this gives black a chance to dominate the center," he says. I have played some of the systems mentioned as white. And King's words resonate particularly true.

One of this DVD's strengths is the way King enumerates and explains the goals a player should have in the opening as black, and how to apply them against these opening systems which are so popular today.

Here's a sample of what you can expect:

An eight minute excerpt from Power Play 25

King recommends

What are King's recommendations? Simply the following:

  1. Get the pieces developed, and placed on the correct squares
  2. Come out of the opening with a sound pawn structure
  3. Have a safe king position
  4. And in the end, have a position out of the opening which provides dynamic winning chances

King also covers the Colle-Zukertort opening, which we have after the moves: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 (of course King points out that we can reach the same position with different move orders) 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 b6 5.0-0 Bb7 6.b3

Position after 6.b3

If instead one plays 6.Nbd2 with idea of Ne5, that is the Colle:

Position after 6.Nbd2

Another line which King examines is the following: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 b6 5.c4 Bb7 6.b3:

By the way, here is the real reason I wanted to watch the DVD. I'm a 1.d4 player at the moment, and to ignore what the best teachers are providing as weapons for black players means to have a very bad opening preparation. So while it is important to know the opening one is playing, one must make the effort of understanding the ideas and plans of the other side too.

In this direction, King, against the London, shows a game of one of the most brilliant players of the last years, Wesley So, battling the Dutch number one, Anish Giri.


Anish Giri

Anish Giri means business in the opening | Photo: Macauley Peterson

While this game is beautiful, I think the real learning experience is in King's annotations and references to other games one must know and study.

The above game is also important for another reason: during the video, King often pauses at critical moments and asks some training questions. In this way, the person watching the video becomes involved practically in the learning process.

King also points out some of the most modern systems used in top-level chess, like the Jobava system in the London 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bf4:

Want to play like Jobava?

And of course, he also shows games and lines to deal with the Veresov, which we can have after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5:

3.Bg5, the Veresov

King says the theory hasn’t changed much for years. However, one shouldn't underestimate the poison of such openings as taught by Andrew Martin in another Chessbase DVD, The wicked Versov Attack.

The wicked Veresov Attack

This DVD is an ideal introduction to this opening for players below 2000 or busy players who would like to play aggressive chess, but do not have time to learn the main lines. The Veresov is worth studying and playing!

And of course, King is also treating the Trompowsky attack 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5:

The Trompowsky attack 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5

Or a Trompowsky sideline with Nd2, like after 1.d4 d5 2.Bg5 Nf6 3.Nd2

Another important 1.d4, sideline is the famous Blackmar-Diemer gambit, which can be used against many different openings: 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3:

The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

As always, since the move order can be quite flexible, King shows also possible tricks White can try, thanks to different move orders.

I find King's DVDs quite laser focused! He doesn't give the student 2000 games to watch, but just five or six games for each line, and he goes deep into dissecting those openings, and the ideas behind them.

The first ten videos of the DVD are dedicated to the Colle/Colle-Zukertort and Colle-Zukertort Queen's Indian. Thanks to the wise explanations on the pawn structures given by King, I was able to correlate in my mind the same structures for Black when playing against White. This was quite useful because I began to have a picture in my mind which connected common moves played in those structures with the plans for both sides.

Here a list of the content of the DVD:

  • The London system (3 videos)
  • The Jobava system (2 videos)
  • Veresov (2 videos)
  • Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (3 videos) and
  • The Trompowsky (6 videos)

Closing thoughts

I'd like to conclude this review with a game by Hou Yifan. I selected the game because it shows how after the fog of battle is cleared, Black magically has a quality advantage!


This repertoire given to us by King teaches us the fight for the center, and how to fight against the sidelines. I believe this repertoire will give the amateur a chance to become a better and more complete player, especially with regard to pawn breaks, when to push a pawn and destroy the enemy center and when opening the lines to our advantage.


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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