Playing 1.d4 d5 - A Classical Repertoire

IM pfren


I have recently bought my copy of the new work of Greek chessplayer, analyst and theoretician Nikolaos Ntirlis "Playing 1.d4 d5 - A Classical Repertoire", and after reviewing it thoroughly, I would like to share my thoughts on it.
Authoring an opening's book in the computer era is certainly easier than any time before- but issuing a GOOD opening's book is entirely another story. For me, the landmark book on the OGD is Sadler's "Queen's gambit declined", which is (still!) an awesome source of information, but being pre-computer, and not being a repertoire book, can't be directly compared to Niko's work.
Nikos tried to keep it simple in his suggested variations, and explain everything, or almost everything- and regarding that, he has done a wonderful job.
The main lines of his repertoire have a seal of approvement by one of the greatest players ever, Vladimir Kramnik- so relax, his repertoire suggestions are entirely sound, and reliable. To be more specific:
- Against the old mainline 4.Bg5, he suggests the "neo-classical". The foundations of this defence are very old, but the modern treating (which involves a fast ...c5 rather than ...c6) has been worked out rather recently (no wonder, with a little help from silicon brains, and ideas from other QGD variations). This line is one of tha main reasons 4.Bg5 has slightly declined in popularity recently- and also a reason for a relative decline in the popularity of the ultra-solid, but a tad passive and unambitious Lasker defence to the QGD. The material is very well laid out, and the analysis (including several original suggestions) come out of serious database and computer research.
- Against the Bf4 lines he suggests an approach with 6...b6, which was far from being a top choice, but has recenbtly attracted quite a bit of attention. Plenty of original work here as well, and I should also mention a couple of tricky lines which try to lure Black in unfamiliar structures and are effectively covered.
- Against the exchange variation, he suggests nothing less than the courrent mainlines with ...Nh5, right out of the arsenal of Kramnik, Adams and a few more top GM's. Niko's contribution is that, being consistent with his KISS philosophy, he tries to meet white's agressive plans by castling the same direction white does in those lines.
- Against the Catalan, he suggests a modern active system involving an early ...dxc4 plus ...Nc6 and ...a6, which has a sloid theoretical reputation.
- He also covers thoroughly all the ....d5 lines where white does not opt for a quick c2-c4 (and he has done a great job), as well as a sketchy (but good) presentation of defences against 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 based on the QGD.

After studying it in some detail, I can say I liked this book very much. Nikos does not just stick to lines and variations, but also deals a lot with the basic pawn structures that usually occur, and explains the plans for both sides. His analysis, while detailed, is not excessive- throwing someone into the river is not the best way to teach him swimming. Just have in mind that this is NOT a Quality Chess GM series book, and as such not targetted at high rated players (although I have no doubt that many 2000+ FIDE players will find the book extremely handy).
I found his repertoire much more thorough and simple than his previous work on 1.e4 e5, where some of his suggested lines are not easy at all to deal with- either color.
I do not know if I would probably change something in that repertoire myself. An idea to keep things even more simple is meeting the exchange variation with 4...Nxd5!?, and 4.Nf3 (followed by 5.Bf4) 4....c5, aiming again for a Semi-Tarrasch, which currently has a surge in poulairty, mainly due to (guess who?) Kramnik. But OK, I must admit that while going the Semi-Tarrasch way keeps things simple and ultra-solid, is also a rather unambitious approach, since it's difficult for Black to play for a win. Niko's choice is rather more educational and principled.

His suggestion against the Catalan is theoretically very sound, but requires some variation memorization. I would probably opt for the so- called "Ukrainian Variation" (4...Bb4+ with 5.Bd2 Bd6 in mind, and meet 4.Nbd2 with 5...dxc4) which is solid, easy to master and rather simple, but it's just my taste, which may not appeal to anyone...

The Quality Chess book layout is of a high standard, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the company.

Highly recommended!