"The Semi-Slav": a fine performance by Peter Heine Nielsen

by Hartmut Metz
12/6/2017 – Peter Heine Nielsen is a considered to be one of the world's best seconds. He worked for former World Champion Vishy Anand and now works for current World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Naturally, Nielsen knows his openings, and one of his favourites is the Semi-Slav. On a ChessBase DVD he shared his knowledge and expertise. Hartmut Metz, German chess journalist and strong amateur, had a look. | Photo: Hartmut Metz

The Semi-Slav The Semi-Slav

The Semi-Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6) can arise via various move orders, has decided World Championships, and is one of Black's most fascinating replies to 1 d4. Magnus Carlsen's second, Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen explains in detail what this opening is all about.


"I still remember all the lines from Anand's World Championship matches"

On his DVD about the Semi-Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6) Peter Heine Nielsen once again proves to be a marked opening expert. After all, Nielsen was a second of Vishy Anand and analysed many Slav variations with the former World Champion. Another Semi-Slav expert is former FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov who for a while was also part of Anand's team and inspired the analytical work, as one can sometimes notice when listening to Nielsen talking about the Semi-Slav.

But first of all, it is Nielsen's confident presentation that convinces the viewer. His lectures are among the best the reviewer has ever seen on a ChessBase DVD! While all other authors occasionally have to throw a glance on their manuscript or sometimes take a rather long look at the screen, Nielsen most of the time looks at the camera. He usually hesitates only when trying to remember whether a certain game was played in 2004 or in 2005.

"To a certain extent I still remember all the lines. After all, they were crucial for all of Anand's World Championship matches — with the exception of Sofia. That means: we invested a lot of time into this opening and that is why I still remember it vividly", explains Anand's former second.

The Danish Grandmaster also remembers his blitz and rapid duels with Garry Kasparov that took place more than ten years ago. In Reykjavik, Kasparov and Nielsen twice debated the sharp pawn sacrifice 7.g4 in the Semi-Slav. The first game ended in a draw and in the second game Kasparov again failed to get an advantage from the opening, but then Nielsen went for too much with black and quickly lost.

The 44-year-old also has an explanation for his confident presentation: "Of course, here, too, precise preparation is required. It takes me about three days to record a DVD. This always gives me a little time to refresh my memory of the next lines and databases." Grinning, Nielsen adds: "Moreover, as I am 'old school', I always have my notes on paper, lying before me!" 

Peter Heine Nielsen in the ChessBase studio | Photo: Pascal Simon

In 22 videos Nielsen objectively weighs the pros and cons of the various lines for White and Black — in clear, easy to understand English. Ten interactive quiz videos complement the excellent material. Moreover, Nielsen gathered 59 instructive and illustrative games. He did not analyse them all himself but experts such as Anand, Michail Krasenkow, Mihail Marin, Christopher Lutz, Anatoly Karpov or a certain Kasparov are also trustworthy. They had or have an interest in the line and analysed crucial games for the ChessBase Magazine. The DVD is a must for every Slav-aficionado — if only to enjoy the crazy battles in the Moscow and the Botvinnik system.

Peter Heine Nielsen and Vishy Anand | Photo: Hartmut Metz

The world class second who has a very tight schedule promises his fans "more DVDs — the question is only when I will find time for them". With a grin the grandmaster adds that doing the Semi-Slav DVD "was not really planned. I only did it because I wanted to visit my nephew who at that time was working as an intern at ChessBase — and for this visit I needed a good excuse at home", the young father jokes while looking at his wife, world class women player Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen.

On a more serious note, Denmark's best chess and shogi player thinks about future ChessBase projects. "My first DVD was about the Dragon, and that offered itself because I had often played the variation in the last of my active time and thus felt sufficiently equipped to convey some of the finer points. I also felt comfortable doing the Semi-Slav — because of my experiences as a second. Maybe I should think about the Accelerated Dragon as a possible topic for my next DVD. It was an old love of Bent Larsen and together with Carsten Hansen I wrote a book about it." But with a view to his great countryman Nielsen likes another idea best: "Or I simply do something about Larsen's games?" But he also suspects: "Hard to say, but in the end the guys from ChessBase always come up with entirely different interesting proposals..."

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

The Semi-Slav

The Semi-Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6) can arise via various move orders, has decided World Championships, and is one of Black's most fascinating replies to 1 d4. Magnus Carlsen's second, Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen explains in detail what this opening is all about.



Hartmut is an editor at Badischer Tagblatt, headquartered in Baden-Baden. He also writes for chess and table tennis among others for the Frankfurt Rundschau and the Munich Merkur. In addition, the FM of the Rochade Kuppenheim regularly writes articles for the chess magazine 64, Chess Active (Austria) and Chessbase.de.
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Aighearach Aighearach 12/8/2017 09:08
I'm not sure it is a very good marketing angle to say he just whipped it out in a few days as an excuse to visit a distant relative, and who knows when or if he'll do more because he's too busy with other things.

I mean, if all that is true, normally you'd want to just avoid talking about those parts. Those are stories he should save for a memoir! There they'd have value, here they detract from the value.

Are you guys mad at him or something? It would be easy to believe you signed a contract to promote it, but then didn't want to, so you wrote this thing.