Robert Ris’ Fast and Furious: The Botvinnik Variation in the Semi-Slav

by Robert Ris
9/10/2021 – This week, well-known Dutch trainer Robert Ris takes a look at a sideline in the Botvinnik Variation of the Semi Slav — 7.a4. He analyses a game in which Indian prodigy Gukesh had the white pieces, and pays special attention to a 2019 predecessor in which Daniil Dubov beat Anish Giri with white. | “Fast and Furious” is available on-demand with a ChessBase Premium Account. You can register a Premium account here.

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Pattern recognition is an important tool in modern chess, as it helps you to understand better the characteristics of a position. Particularly when you have been confronted with a surprise opening system played by your opponent, it helps when you can just


The Botvinnik Variation of the Semi-Slav is still seen from time to time in grandmaster games, but in the game Gukesh-Warmerdam White didn’t fancy entering the main lines and opted for the tricky sideline with 7.a4.

Special attention will also be paid to the famous game Dubov-Giri, Moscow 2019, in which White castled queenside without any pawns in front of his king and beautifully crushed his opponent on the other side of the board. That game must have inspired Gukesh to go for this specific line, even though Black has various alternatives on move 7 encountering, unlike the main lines after 7.e5 which are usually leading to more forcing type play.

It's good to see we can still see some brilliant, uncompromising attacking chess without using deep opening preparation!

Exercise: White to play and win!


You can move the pieces on the live diagram!

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Robert is an International Master who mostly spends his time training and coaching talented youngsters. On the PlayChess server The Fast and the Furious is a popular show where he explains sharp opening lines for a wider audience. He is also a well-known ChessBase author who produced numerous DVDs and regularly contributes to ChessBase Magazine as well. Since 2015 he is the organizer of the Dutch Rapid Championships in his home town Amstelveen. He has started a YouTube channel with chess analysis as well.


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