Sam Collins: Attack with the Schliemann

by Davide Nastasio
7/17/2015 – Some players like to sacrifice. They gambit pawns in the opening and later give their queen to mate the king. Others are more careful with their material and refuse to sacrifice even a pawn in the opening. But maybe they should once in a while. It leads to interesting chess and it helps to improve your rating - and your chess understanding.

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A Review

I'm a French defense player, but I want to reach master level, and I spend most of my time reading and learning about chess. Once a GM told me: "Davide, every chess player must be able to play 1...e5; and if you never did, then you should definitely play 1...e5 for some time. Otherwise you will have a huge gap in your chess education." Thus I tried a couple of books, written by another eminent GM, but honestly there was simply too much material and I gave up.

However, that phrase continued to resonate and from time to time I would hear it, as if that GM was still standing in front of me. I felt guilty that I never followed through. But circumstances made 1...e5 a real possibility in my opening repertoire. Following a repertoire recommendation of IM Robert Ris I had spent about one month learning the Two Knights variation plus many other openings White could play after 1.e4. When Sam Collins' new ChessBase DVD came out I thought: "Now I can practice 1...e5 over the board." So I felt the need to close the gap in my opening knowledge!


In the beginning IM Collins explains that he will use the names Schliemann and Jaenisch interchangeably. Let's begin with Carl Ferdinand Andreyevich von Jaenisch: he was a Finnish-Russian chess player who in the 1840ies belonged to the top theorist/players in the world. He made contributions to the Petroff and of course to the gambit that bears his name. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate any of his games with this opening.

But I found a game of Adolf Karl Wilhelm Schliemann, which could be considered a Cordel gambit (in the Cordel defence of the Spanish, the third move is Bc5):


However, while the past is historically interesting, the opening never had great results, and was forgotten at top level. But this has changed in the last ten years after Teimour Radjabov played some wonderful games with this line and made it fashionable again. My Megabase 2015 contains 19 games Radjabov played with this opening, which shows that it is more of a surprise weapon than a repertoire. In these 19 games Radjabov reached a score of 47%: He drew 14 games, lost 3, and won 2. But these were games against Caruana, Carlsen, Karjakin, Svidler, Shirov, Kramnik, Leko, the top 10-20 players in the world. Thus we cannot just go according to the statistics because Radjabov was playing it mostly against outliers!

We should consider other numbers instead. For example the fact that from 1990 to 2015 more than 10.000 games have been played with the Schliemann Gambit, which means the opening is alive – and killing! This opening leads to dynamic, attacking, sharp play and unbalanced positions, in which White struggles to prove an advantage. This is what we should look for in an opening, especially with Black. This is why everyone plays the Sicilian: to reach unbalanced, dynamic, and sharp positions.

Let's examine the content of the DVD: Collins begins with a brief introductory video, followed by a video called "repertoire", in which Collins in less than ten minutes outlines the main ideas, moves, and sidelines which White plays against the Schliemann.

Before shocking the reader of this review with some diagrams, I would like to emphasize again that this opening is a gambit, and must be played to learn how to play real chess! In his famous book and video series on gambits GM Alterman mentions how Kasparov once reproached him for playing too passively, and recommended a more aggressive repertoire.

Alterman also quotes Réti: ''A knowledge of tactics is the foundation of positional play. This is a rule which has stood its test in chess history and one which we cannot impress forcibly enough upon the young chess player. A beginner should avoid the Queen's Gambit and French Defense and play open games instead! While he may not win as many games at first, he will in the long run be amply compensated by acquiring a thorough knowledge of the game." (The Alterman Gambit Guide, p.5)

This is the real reason why we want to play this opening. Not because Radjabov had good results, not because we want to surprise our opponents. We want to play this opening to become chess masters, and we can only do that by understanding deeply the value of pawns, and the real meaning of development.

But now let's throw a glance on the shocking details: In the very first "repertoire" video Collins shows that White can counter-sacrifice a bishop, forcing Black to be very precise to survive!

Obviously you need to watch some videos more than once to make sure you really understand Black’s ideas, otherwise you could easily lose a game in 20 moves or less. IM Collins did a lot of work on the lines he recommends. They are fully playable and form a very aggressive attacking repertoire.

Of course White, as good pawn grabber, will win a pawn, as in the following diagram:

Collins often recommends lines in which Black sacrifices a pawn. Here’s one example:

Once again, the student must remember to watch the videos a few times to absorb the material. This can be quite difficult at times but is also rewarding because Collins proves again and again that White is not able to keep the material, and Black has full compensation. Usually the two bishops, an open file leading to White’s king, and of course the dynamism of the Black pieces.

If you do not know how to exploit such advantages you cannot become a good player. The sooner we learn to play and win with such advantages, the sooner our rating and chess understanding will grow. In 21 videos Collins provides the main theoretical framework you need to play the opening. This is followed by ten video-clips with questions and feedback. A good way to see what you understand, remember and what you did not understand.

The DVD comes with one database of 117 heavily annotated model games and the main database of the 23 games Collins used for the videos.

I'd like to conclude the review showing the following game, which made a very strong impression on me:



Sample video

Sam Collins: Ruy Lopez -
Attack with the Schliemann

• Video running time: 3 h 48 min (English)
• With interactive training including video feedback
• Exclusive training database with 50 essential games
• Including ChessBase Reader

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$27.37 (without VAT)

This DVD can be sent by mail or downloaded directly from the Internet

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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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