Rustam Kasimdzhanov's Beat the Slav the Classical Way (ChessBase 2011). 72 minutes. €9.90/$13.75. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
ChessBase has recently started a new “60 Minutes” video series. This has nothing to do with the long-running American news program, but offers a reasonably quick look by a strong players on some topic or other. Most of the programs thus far have focused on openings, with GM Loek van Wely supporting the Najdorf Sicilian and fighting the King's Indian, IM Sam Collins promoting the Korchnoi Gambit against the French, and – the topic of this review – GM and former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov supporting White's cause in the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4.
There are nine clips in all: an intro, seven substantive clips presenting ten games in total (nine “officially”, but a tenth game is included in one of the main games), and a wrap-up. (In case you're curious, the total running time is 72:20, so the series title is intended as an approximation and not a law.) Kasimdzhanov has expert knowledge of this system, as he has played it himself against very strong opposition and worked on it while working as Viswanathan Anand's second during the latter's 2007 world championship match with Vladimir Kramnik. In the ten games, Topalov has the white pieces in two of them, Anand white in one, Ivanchuk white in another (against Anand!) and Kasimdzhanov has white in the other six. There's one game from 2006 and one from 2011; most of the rest are from 2008 with one each in 2009 and 2010. So the games are recent and Kasimdzhanov knows whereof he speaks.
A little more specificity about the material: after 5.a4 Black has a decision to make. 5...Bf5 is the main move and the subject of six of the seven substantive clips, but 5...e6, heading for a QGA-like position after 6.e3 c5 7.Bxc4 Nc6 8.0-0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Be7, has become reasonably popular and is also covered. Back to 5...Bf5. After 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0-0 Black can choose between 8...Nbd7 and 8...0-0. The moves can transpose into one another, but there are some nuances and Kasimdzhanov addresses them. (For instance, Black sometimes plays 8...0-0 9.Qe2 Bg6, when the omission of ...Nbd7 works against the immediate e4 but allows 10.Ne5.) The absolute main line of the system arises after 8...Nbd7 9.Qe2 Bg6 10.e4 0-0 (or 8...0-0 9.Qe2 Nbd7 10.e4 Bg6) 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Qe3, and now Black generally chooses either 14...Bg6, 14...Be7 or 14...Re8. Kasimdzhanov devotes separate clips to each move.
While the coverage wasn't encyclopedic (this is the “60 minutes” presentation, remember? If you want an encyclopedia, you'll have to get Boris Avrukh to write a book on the line or Jan Gustafsson to do a video series), I didn't see any major gaps in the presentation; no main lines that had to be there but weren't. I would certainly suggest that stronger players who want to employ his repertoire suggestions check the databases and run their engines, but I think between the specifics and the general concepts Kasimdzhanov presented most players, possibly even masters, will be able to play these lines competently against their peers and betters based on the videos alone.
The price (approximately 10 euros/$14) is pretty decent too, so while you shouldn't burn your opening books or delete your databases, Kasimdzhanov's presentation may help those of you looking for a way to meet the traditional Slav (as opposed to the Semi-Slav and Chebanenko's ...a6 systems, which are not covered here). Recommended especially for players from around 1600-1700 to 2200.
Ordering info and a sample clip here.