The French Defense by GM Nick Pert

by Albert Silver
11/23/2013 – The French Defense has always stood out as a special kind of beast, garnering a passion that borders on religious fervor. GM Nick Pert comes as the high priest as he presents his finest material, which is the result of hundreds of hours of study and thought. The new DVD comes with over seven hours of videos to give you a complete competitive repertoire against 1.e4. Read the review.

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The French Defense for the Tournament Player

Review by Albert Silver

In my years as a player, the French Defense has always stood out as a special kind of beast more than any other. The reason is that somehow it has always garnered a form of fanaticism and passion that borders on religious fervor. The players I have known who played it as Black almost invariably enjoyed playing it as White as well, and I could not help envying this unabashed love for it, as if staring from the outside into a particularly posh club.

As a 1.e4 player I have played against it extensively as White, and have essayed almost all the main lines, whether it be the Winawer, the Tarrasch, the Advance, or the Exchange variation. When I saw the latest DVD on the venerable opening I was quite intrigued by two things: the exceptional duration of more than seven hours of video material (a record in the ChessBase stable as far as I know), and the description of a ‘no holds barred’ approach by the author, GM Nicholas Pert. For one thing, it could not hurt me to brush up on my lines from the white side, and maybe his DVD would make a convert of me yet.

After installing it, I started up the intro and must admit it was one of the best sales pitches I ever heard. He introduces himself as a former world U18 champion, an experienced grandmaster, and explains the French has been his nigh-exclusive answer to 1.e4 since he first started playing. So far, so good. He then explains that the sheer time spent studying and pondering the opening easily amounts to hundreds and hundreds of hours, during which he has finetuned his repertoire. The repertoire he is sharing represents the best lines he has come up with, and they are tailored as an aggressive approach designed to maximize winning chances in competition. A man after my own heart.  

The French Defense is a vast opening, and since it is mostly White who decides what the main line will be, Black needs to be ready for a variety of main variations as well as a number of oddball replies designed to sidestep the main theory. The DVD menu promises no fewer than 22 theoretical videos, followed by twelve interactive quiz videos.

After downloading it from the ChessBase Shop, a double-click and it is installed

The menu lists 35 videos no less

My first concern, as always, is not so much the quality of the material but the presentation and delivery. It won’t make much difference if his repertoire is good enough to put Kasparov to shame, but my eyes glaze over from boredom halfway through. Luckily this fear is cast aside in the first video on the French Advance. Pert is an energetic presenter, well experienced, making full use of the visual cues available, such as arrows and highlighted squares. He sticks to the theory he knows, explaining clearly the plans and positional subtleties, such as when certain maneuvers should be undertaken and when not, and at the end he summarizes the main points to make sure nothing is missed.

Not wanting a single idea to be missed, he uses a ton of visual cues

During his presentations, he shares near full games, showing not only the opening but the transition to the middlegame and how that middlegame is often negotiated. If there are tactics to beware of, he will pause and tell you, but often suggests you pause to try to find it yourself before seeing the answer. It is clear he is a consummate teacher.  

GM Nick Pert will not hesitate to quiz you during his lectures. Loved it.

The lines he chooses are all close to mainlines if not completely mainlines, and he does not hesitate to acknowledge that some choices are designed for practical reasons, and while theory might prefer a drier line for complete equality, he prefers something a little more double-edged to keep some fight in the position.

His coverage of the lines is quite comprehensive, and even if one’s opponent deviates from the precise theory, the deep understanding of all the ideas and plans ensures you have the tools to find the best replies. Despite the considerable amount of theory presented, it is digested incredibly easily thanks to his characterizations of the players and choices, and his alternating between pure theory and conceptual approaches.

Playing a feisty opponent dead set on catching you off-guard? Worry not. After reviewing the theory, I began going through the quizzes and here was a second surprise. Until now, these have always been tactics for the user to solve and enjoy, and while the first one was indeed a combination, in his second quiz question, you are asked to solve an opening problem that has no tactical shot as a solution. It is nice to see the author thinking out of the box here. Finally the DVD contains a database exclusively for the French Defense with 682 commented games and an absolute wealth of top commentators.

Breaking away from the mold, Pert uses the quizes to test what you learned

I was quite impressed with the thorough, high quality presentation by GM Nick Pert, and definitely see myself playing his recommended repertoire in my next tournaments as well as online. They look dynamic and competitive, and his detailed explanations left me feeling a more knowledgeable player. It is worth adding that the DVD is labeled as ‘expert knowledge’, which is just to say that a player rated 1700 or more will benefit the most from it. I heartily recommend it for anyone interested in playing the French, or seeking something new to revitalize their repertoire.

The French Defense for the Tournament Player can be bought in the ChessBase Shop

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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