Alexei Shirov, Sicilian Najdorf 6.Bg5 (ChessBase, 2010). Running time = 7 hours.
Alexei Shirov has done dozens of DVDs for ChessBase, and there are consistent features among all of them. First, of course, they tend to feature his games, and this in turn means that viewers will see some extremely entertaining chess. Second, while he has analyzed the games beforehand, he tends not to use notes during the recordings. While this makes his presentations a bit more spontaneous, it has its dark side too. Shirov will sometimes pause for a fairly long time as he tries to remember his analysis, or to figure out some new position, or to figure out where he made a wrong turn after forgetting his actual analysis. And sometimes, he simply blunders in his on-the-fly analysis. Third, when they are openings-based DVDs (as they generally are), one gets an interesting mix of useful information and moments where Shirov refuses to say more because it's where his important secrets are.
These general features are present here, too, but we can add some remarks and qualifications on their application to the DVD I'm reviewing. First, this DVD includes four games not played by Shirov, as they helped fill in important theoretical details to lines he hasn't had in his own practice. Second - and this is excellent - the ChessBase people error-checked his videos before sending the product to market, and as a result there's a final 45 minute video at the end of the disk presenting updates and corrections to the earlier clips. Finally, about Shirov's habit of saying that he won't say anything more about a given line (at least for the moment), viewers should take this as a very useful hint: we now at least know two very important things: first, that this, in the considered opinion of one of the word's absolute best players, is the place to go digging; second, that other games to reach that position must be critically flawed for one reason or another, or he would have presented them as the truth. This is very helpful for research-minded viewers!
To the DVD itself: there are 16 clips covering various lines starting with the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5. There's an intro, then fourteen game clips (12 from the original recording sessions in August 2009, one add-on from a different recording session, and a later game recorded in late February), and then the bonus update (recorded right after Wijk aan Zee, in late February).
The material breaks down like this:
6.Bg5 Nbd7 - one clip (plus some important new material in the update based on his game with Dominguez in Wijk aan Zee 2010).
6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Be7 8.Qf3 Qc7 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.g4 - three clips. Two are on the old main line, Perenyi Variation: 10...b5 11.Bxf6 Nxf6 12.g5 Nd7 13.f5 Nc5 14.f6 gxf6 16.gxf6 Bf8 17.Rg1, and one covers 10...h6.
6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Nbd7 (the Gelfand Variation) - seven clips. Of these, four feature 8.Qe2, the other three 8.Qf3; at the end of those clips he pronounces himself unsure which of those moves is better. (On the other hand, 8.Qe2 fares better in the games he presents, seems fresher, and was his [successful] choice against Berg last week in the Olympiad.)
6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 (the Poisoned Pawn Variation) - two clips, plus further discussion in the update video. He still has ideas against this, but opined that both 10.f5 and the again popular 10.e5 both lead to nothing more than a draw with best play, according to his analysis. (This isn't news about 10.f5, but might be about 10.e5.)
6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qc7 (the Kasparov Variation) - one clip.
About 7...b5 (the Polugaevsky Variation) he says very little: he gives only 8.e5 dxe5 9.fxe5 Qc7 10.exf6 Qe5+ 11.Be2 Qxg5, expresses a preference for 12.0-0 over 12.Qd3, recommends having a look at the database (Leko's games in particular - see his 2001 wins over Ghaem Maghami and Ivanchuk) in particular, and asserts that White is better.
He has even less to say about 7...Nc6, as he hasn't had any games with it and doesn't want to give up any of his prep before getting to use it. He confines himself to the remark that it is "unrefuted" until the additions video, where he gives 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.e5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 11.fxg5 Nd5 12.Ne4 Qb6 as an interesting, sharp position.
Without going into much detail - that's what the DVD is for - I'll note one interesting area of overlap with Lubomir Ftacnik's new book for Quality Chess, The Sicilian Defence. One of Ftacnik's main lines for Black against 6.Bg5 runs like this: 6...e6 7.f4 h6 8.Bh4 Be7 9.Qf3 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Qc7, and Shirov discusses this position as well in the additions clip via the move order 7...Be7 8.Qf3 h6 9.Bh4 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Qc7.
Ftacnik examines some other moves deeply, but his ultimate main line, which is Shirov's as well, continues 11.Be2 b5 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.e5 Bb7 14.Qg3 dxe5 15.fxe5 Nd5 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.Qg6+ Kd7 18.Bg4 Qxe5 [It's hard to believe, looking at such a position, that Black isn't losing by force, but the ...Qg5+ resource keeps him kicking.] 19.Nxd5 Qg5+. Here Ftacnik thinks 20.Ne3+ is White's best try for a meaningful advantage, but he also looks at Shirov's line 20.Qxg5 Bxg5+ 21.Kb1 Bxd5 22.Rxd5+ (as played in T. Hansen (2423) - Nguyen Huynh Minh (2477), Budapest 2008). Ftacnik doesn't seem terribly worried about the ending, though he does acknowledge that the presence of the rooks reduces the drawing tendencies of the opposite-colored bishops, but Shirov thinks that White has "quite good" winning chances and views this as the way to handle the line.
The DVD will not tell you everything you need to know to handle the 6.Bg5 Najdorf with either side, but it will give you valuable information, opinions and hints that will give you a leg up on those who are working with books and databases alone. Recommended for 6.Bg5 fans and their victims.
Ordering information here.