Two new CDs: The Gruenfeld and The Colle System

by ChessBase
12/23/2003 – No matter whether you're looking to try a new opening as Black or as White, we have you covered with two new CD releases: The Gruenfeld and The Colle System. Take a look at what you can expect to find on both of these CDs in this week's ChessBase Workshop.

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previewed by Steve Lopez

  • The Gruenfeld by Knut Neven
  • The Colle System by Dimitri Oleinikov

The thought of authoring a CD that spans thirty ECO codes is enough to spook many a chess writer. Canadian NM (and one of the top 50 IECG players) Knut Neven has never been one to back away from a challenge, and he's certainly stepped up to the plate with his latest offering: the new ChessBase opening CD The Gruenfeld.

Neven examined the French Defense on two prior ChessBase CDs. The Gruenfeld opening covers ECO codes D70 through D99 (the opening moves of the Gruenfeld are 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5) and Neven somehow manages to cram it all onto a single CD. The main instructional database is simply entitled "The Gruenfeld" and it contains forty-one texts and nearly 650 games, most of which are annotated. It's worthwhile to have a look at this database's structure to give you an idea of what to expect from it:

  • 01 - Introduction
  • 02 - Contents
  • 03 - Historical Overview (here Neven provides a brief history of the Gruenfeld's development, with links to several key games)
  • 04 - Themes and Plans (this is the "meat and potatoes" of the database; Neven explains the main principles underlying the Gruenfeld. Here again there are links to key illustrative games)
  • 05 - Theoretical Overview (this is analogous to an "annotated game tree" in which the author lays out a roadmap of Gruenfeld variations, again with guidance in the form of text commentary)
  • 06 - Odds & Ends (this text provides a short overview of the lesser "side lines" of the Gruenfeld; it's followed by nine separate text "subsections", each on a different Gruenfeld subvariation. Each of these nine texts gives links to important annotated illustrative games)
  • 07 - Fianchetto System (as with the previous section, this text gives a brief overview -- this time of the fianchetto variations of the Gruenfeld. This in turn is followed by five texts on specific variations, each of which again provides game links)
  • 08 - Russian System (as before, an overview text is followed by six texts on specific variations)
  • 09 - Exchange Variation (the introductory text here precedes ten separate texts on subvariations)
  • 10 - Bibliography
  • 11 - About the Author

As with many of the other ChessBase opening CDs, you'll start with this main instructional database, using the texts to learn the key ideas behind each variation, then utilize the links to load and play the various illustrative games. Once you've learned the ideas, you can then dip into the three separate large reference databases provided on the CD:

  • Gruenfeld Games D70-D79 (18,089 games; 400+ annotated)
  • Gruenfeld Games D80-D89 (23,840 games; 1,000+ annotated
  • Gruenfeld Games D90-D99 (25, 273 games; 600+ annotated)

You'll use the annotated games in these databases to gain further knowledge on the Gruenfeld and the databases themselves as a research tool, ferreting out unannotated reference material in specific variations of your choosing (using either the position search tools of the Search mask or the detailed opening keys provided with each database).

The instructional materials don't stop there, however. There's yet another database: "Gruenfeld Training". This is a database of 45 special games, each of which contains timed training questions (in which you're challenged to make the best move within a set period of time); this allows you to test yourself on how well you've learned the concepts and ideas presented on the CD.

Finally, there's a huge Gruenfeld opening tree which contains nearly one and a quarter million unique Gruenfeld positions. You can browse this tree to explore various move possibilities at different points in the opening, check out how well each move has done statistically in competitive play, and/or load this tree into Fritz as the default opening book, forcing your program to play nothing but the Gruenfeld. This is a great "practical" training tool, no matter which side of the board you're sitting on (White or Black).

Make no mistake about it -- this is an enormous amount of material (as observed earlier, the Gruenfeld spans thirty ECO codes), but on the CD The Gruenfeld Knut Neven provides you with the tools (both organizational and informational) you'll need to master this aggressive Black Indian defense.

Players looking for a new opening to add to their arsenal as White haven't been ignored in the new ChessBase CD releases. While The Gruenfeld explores a concrete opening, The Colle System by Dimitri Oleinikov is a horse of a slightly different color: it explores an opening system based on a positional tabia rather than an opening based on a specific move order. It's not a wonder that this CD has been written; it's more of a wonder that it hasn't been written sooner -- the Colle is a phenominally popular opening, especially among American club players. Ten years ago, we used to offer a service in which we "custom-made" databases for users, drawn from our master database, and tailored to whatever criteria the user specified; the Colle was the single most-requested "custom database".

The Colle (pronounced "coll"; a "collie" is a breed of dog made famous in movies and TV, while a "coalie" is someone who sells coal) is defined by the White moves d4, e3, Nf3, Bd3, 0-0, Nbd2, and a possible c3, independent of what Black plays in reply. Thus the Colle is a system based on a tabia (setup) rather than a specific sequence of moves. This makes the Colle a relatively easy opening for club players to learn, but an extraordinarily difficult opening for authors to write about.

Dr. Oleinikov carries out the task admirably in The Colle System CD. The tutorial content begins with the database called "Colle Instructor", which contains seventeen text entries and over 350 games, nearly all of which have been annotated by the author. Here's how the texts are organized:

  • 01. Contents
  • 02. How to use this CD
  • 03. Introduction (which provides a short history of the opening and a brief biography of Edgar Colle)
  • 04. Getting Acquainted with the Colle (which breaks the tabia down into ideas and, most importantly, explains the "whys" of the moves)
  • 05. Ten Inspirational games (games in which the Colle succeeds admirably)
  • 06. Eight warning games (games in which the Colle fails miserably)
  • 07. Colle main line with Nc6
  • 08. Colle main line with Nbd7
  • 09. Colle side lines
  • 10. Black plays Bf5/Bg4
  • 11. Colle versus Semi-Slav and the Slav with ...a6 and ...g6
  • 12. Black Stonewall
  • 13. Black plays Queenside fianchetto
  • 14. Black plays Kingside fianchetto
  • 15. Black plays early ...c5
  • 16. Black plays rare systems
  • 17. Useful additional information (including a bibliography on the Colle and a short bio of Dr. Oleinikov [in which yours truly is quoted, so you know I enjoyed it])

Each of the Chapters 07 through 16 is jam-packed full of text instruction, in which Dr. Oleinikov explains the ideas of the variation in plain English and provides links to illustrative games from the database. Understanding ideas is crucial to success in this opening; since the Colle is primarily a tabia, you can't fall back on rote memorization of variations to get you through -- you must understand the ideas.

To make sure that you do grasp the concepts, the CD has not one but three training databases, each of which contains 25 games with timed training questions that allow you to test your knowledge of this opening:

  • Opening Training
  • Tactics Training
  • Strategy Training

For further study, the CD contains a reference database of 21,095 Colle games. And there's an opening tree with over 314,000 unique positions, usable for statistical study or as an opening book for Fritz. Use of this opening tree is critical to understanding the Colle, moreso than with most other openings, due to the highly transpositional nature of this system.

The highest praise I can give to any author is that he knows his audience, and this applies to Dr. Oleinikov moreso than with almost any other ChessBase author. Over 90% of a CD's potential audience is made up of untitled players; the best chess authors explain ideas in clear understandable language which almost any chessplayer can grasp. That's been a hallmark of Dr. Oleinikov's writing in his ChessBase CDs and The Colle System is no exception -- any chessplayer who's reached the level where he's concerned with building an opening repertoire can profit from a close study of this CD. The best part is that it's easy -- the good doctor has a positive talent for making ideas readily understandable.

Both of these CDs are standalones, as they include ChessBase Reader -- no other software is required to be able to use them. But owners of ChessBase and/or the Fritz family of playing programs will certainly want to use them instead of the Reader in order to make use of the increased functionality these programs provide.

Until next week, have fun!

© 2003, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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