The Queen's Gambit new ChessBase training CD

by ChessBase
10/26/2004 – When we think of central pawn captures in the Queen's Gambit, we typically think of Black's move ...dxc4. But White can play a "preemptive first strike" with cxd5, as Thomas Henrichs demonstrates in his new ChessBase Opening training CD Queen's Gambit Orthodox Defense. Get a first look at it in the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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previewed by Steve Lopez

When we think of pawn exchanges in the Queen's Gambit, we usually think of the QG Accepted (in which Black cops off the White c4-pawn with his pawn on d5). But White can also strike first by taking Black's d-pawn with his own c4-pawn.

Whoops. Most players (both Black and White) don't even consider that. After all, isn't central control (by the c4/d4 pawn pair) one of the main reasons for playing the QG? You get that nice pawn pair established and keep the central tension while simultaneously developing your pieces behind the pawn shield. So why would White give up that c4-pawn to get the following pawn structure (after Black recaptures):

That's the question new author IM Thomas Henrichs addresses in his first published work, the ChessBase opening training CD Queen's Gambit Orthodox Defense. And, let me tell you, this CD would make a fine debut for any author. There's a lot of good material here and it's presented in an excellently organized manner.

As with other ChessBase training CDs, this disk begins with a tutorial database (which, in this case, also doubles as the QG Orthodox master database). Sixteen texts (the first of which is a simple Table of Contents) are at the start of the database. These are followed by a couple of hundred annotated games. The remainder of the 31,000+ game database is mostly unannotated, but a few lightly-commented games are interspersed through this remainder.

The Introduction explains the main reasons why White would choose to exchange his c-pawn for Black's d-pawn in the variation 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nd7 5.Nf3 c6 6.cxd5 exd5 (arriving at the following position, which uses the same pawn skeleton as pictured above):

At first glance, it looks like White has given up a lot of advantages which were conferred by the c4-pawn. But he does get something in return: he ducks the Cambridge Springs Variation and gets some nice tactical and strategic opportunites which are different from the ones we generally associate with the Queen's Gambit.

These ideas are nicely elaborated upon in the next chapter: Strategy. The author has divided this chapter into four main sections which verbally discuss the ideas of each of White's strategic and tactical ideas. Note the use of the word "verbally". Henrichs has chosen to explain the ideas in English, rather than simply relying on piles of variations to tell the tale. This is crucial and important stuff for most chessplayers and what separates this CD from the average run-of-the-mill opening book.

But the Queen's Gambit Orthodox Defense CD isn't just for players of the White pieces. For each of White's strategic ideas, Henrichs also provides Black's "counterproposals", ideas he might try to thwart White's plans. The inclusion of this material makes the CD suitable for players on both sides of the argument.

The next chapter is a bit misleadingly titled: Index of Variations. You'd think that this would be just a list of the various lines in the Orthodox QG. But here again the author surprises us: while this chapter ceratinly is a catalogue of variations, he also takes the time and trouble to explain each of them, again in plain English. Each variation's explanation also provides us with a link to an overview game in the database, a Survey in which Henrichs provides further subvariations and additional text explanation.

The fourth chapter provides us direct links to games of the World Champions, while the fifth chapter is a list of the references used in creating the work.

Queen's Gambit Orthodox Defense also provides an opening tree (useful for statistical research or as an alternative opening book for the Fritz family of playing programs) containing over 600,000 individual positions from the Orthodox QG. Loading this as a Fritz opening book forces the program to play nothing but the Orthodox QG (from either side), which will give you plenty of practice playing this opening.

As a capper, the CD also has a separate database of games containing timed training questions. The forty-five games in this database allow you to test how well you've learned the material before you try the opening in tournament or online games. And the disk ships with a copy of ChessBase Reader, making the CD self-contained (no other software is required).

Queen's Gambit Orthodox Defense is a wonderfully well-organized CD, chock full of easily understood information which will allow you to play the opening confidently from either side of the board. Why should a White player adopt this opening variation? In addition to taking Black away from the more well-trodden QG lines, Henrichs summarizes it well in the CD's Introduction:

Since in the Exchange Variation there are very few forced or deeply analysed lines, the variation can be played, as it were, with "sound common sense". Strategical understanding of the types of positions which arise is far more important here than the mastery of long forcing sequences of moves....The magic word which White should always have at the back of his mind is: flexibility. Whether it depends on your own mindset, on the tournament situation or on the playing strength of your opponent, there is the possibility of choosing between different good plans and thus of determining the future course of the game. This is one of the main reasons that makes this variation so attractive to players of all styles.

Until next week, have fun!

© 2004, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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