1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 - Complete Repertoire for White (Analysis by FM Or Cohen and Video by GM Petar Arnaudov)
This opening course is different from anything that we have been publishing so far. The Israeli FM Or Cohen provides a fantastically deep and extensive repertoire for White based on 1.c4 c6 2.Nf3
Practically, every chapter of this database is so extensive that can be a database or book on its own. The main focus of the course is the position arising after 2...d5 3.e3
In the introduction, FM Cohen justifies his choice in the following way:
The first part of the 1.c4 series is about "Anti-Slav" (i.e., Black's attempts to play within the style of the Slav with moves like 4...Bf5 and 4...Bf5 after 1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nc3. Then, I dedicate my efforts to the Schlechter and the Chebanenko. However the most important part and heart of my course is the Semi-Slav (1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.d4) .
I do believe that 1…c6 is a sort of an Achilles heel among 1.c4 players. I do believe that is one of the cases in which we must transpose into 1.d4 territory because we have no good independent alternative (consistent with my promise of being "uncompromising" and suggesting a principled repertoire)
A very important feature of this course is that FM Cohen dedicated many chapters dedicated to 1.d4 players. In his 1.d4 section, Cohen suggests the following move order - 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3
The author provides extensive coverage of all Black's possibilities in this position. The chapters dedicated to 1.d4 are enough for an entire book!
Probably the Semi-Slav is the most important cornerstone of the database.
In this highly important position, the suggestion of the author is 6.Be2. In order to justify his choice, Cohen explains why he does not like 6.Qc2 and 6.Bd3. By studying these chapters, you will get an almost complete repertoire for Black!
Due to the tremendous amount of material, GM Petar Arnaudov recorded a video course where he explains the philosophy behind each suggestion. This video course, as well as the Memory Booster, will help you to focus on the most important ideas to remember. You will also find 20 interactive test positions. Like all the latest Modern Chess products, this database also comes with a Computer Practice section. This time, you will have the chance to practice 10 important positions against a strong engine.
Introduction by FM Or Cohen
Why the English, then? Well, it is a matter of personal taste. I have never been a 1.c4 player, and like the rest of the world, I started playing chess playing 1.e4 exclusively and I had considered other moves ridiculous (To be honest, I even quit chess for more than a decade before the Covid-19 Crisis got me hooked again on this great game). My very instructive chess coach (when I had reached the rating of 1800+) showed us (we were a group of students) the games of Fischer and Karpov (the late Karpov switched to 1.d4 later) and the openings of these fantastic games belonged solely the 1.e4 territory. I was even told about Fischer's immortal sentence: "1.e4 is best by test," and I used to mock people who had not thought as I did. Obviously, I am not entitled to speak on behalf of the Great Bobby Fischer, but I can only assume (my personal opinion) that had Fischer played and lived in our Era, he would not have claimed 1.e4 to be the best move anymore.
The engines' revelations starting with Alpha-Zero are more than astonishing! The number of innovations and improvements for Black make me speechless. The new radical cold-blooded dynamic approach presented by the engines has ruined decades of humans' beliefs and thinking! It also mainly has destroyed White's illusions of a real opening advantage. Thanks to these "silicon beasts," a variety of openings are much more playable than anyone had ever believed, and we gain a glance into the realm of "Chess Truth": Leela and Stockfish NNUE really tremendously increase the "Range of Draw". If the nature of Chess is drawn (if both sides play perfectly), then the remaining question is "how big is that range"? I refer to this by saying, "a glance into the Chess Truth". These engines literally teach us that this range is much more extensive than we had ever realized, and it leaves a lot more room for personal taste and unique styles! (it also makes the authors' work and seconds' preparation at top GM much more complex than ever before, as there are so many decent "sidelines" and sub-variations than one could have ever dreamed!)
The main casualty of these discoveries is any 1.e4 repertoire. The nature of 1.e4 leads the game into much more concrete jarring variations right from the start, which make the life of professional chess players (who try to find a decent lasting 1.e4 repertoire) very difficult. This tendency also impacts chess authors and coaches. The main issue for 1.e4 is 1…e5 (not only Berlin Defense) and Sicilians, but you can see a super genius like Anish Giri who can really prove 1…e6 also withstand the most critical attempts and so does the Caro-Kann Defense that I have recently started to explore as well (for Black this time).
You can notice that there are much more courses (not only in the great platform of Modern Chess but in general) for Black in the past few years. It is much easier and more objective to show equality for Black than to really prove an advantage for White (meaning that some authors need to bend or even twist the "Chess Truth" a little bit to market and publicize their chess content and I totally understand it, and not really criticize them).
It has made me realize that people who like to put the effort into their opening repertoire (regardless of their strength or if they play chess for a living or not) should abandon the term "advantage" (I find it a bit anachronistic and pre-Stockfish 14 NNUE eras, because there is no opening advantage anymore - at least if Black goes for any decent defence) and focus on "Playability" and "practicability". The quality of variations should not only be examined only in the eye of Chess Quality (This is of course the most important factor), but also in terms of players' adaptability and playability for 'humans chess' (meaning: The chess quality of the opening choice shall withstand for more than just one game- not being refuted and dealt with ease by using a good chess engine postmortem, and that we could still have some room for changing our move orders and lines (It also means being able to choose the engines third and even fourth choice and still keep posing problems for our opponents) within our opening choices - that our opponents' adaptability to our selected variations will not be so obvious, easy and so accessible).
Having said that, I think that 1.c4 provides White with the best combination of playability, quality and flexibility. We can bypass the most annoying defences to 1.d4 (Grunfeld - at least main lines Grunfeld, Slav (classical main lines Slav that begin with 4…d:c4 5.a4), Benko Gambit, and most importantly by far, the Nimzo-Indian!) We also deny Black from an easy transposition to many other 1…d5 defences unlike those that play 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 as White (allowing Queen's Gambit Accepted and so on).
Obviously, the price for that is having to deal with 1…e5 and 1…c5, but this is an issue for my second, third or even 4th parts of this vast project to, which I call: The Uncompromising English 1.c4. I call it uncompromising because I don't provide you with any "shortcuts" or a "working man" repertoire. I will keep insisting on providing you decent suggestions in terms of Quality and Playability. I refuse to attend resorts like the Slav Exchange or the London System (an excellent system especially for beginners, nothing wrong in playing the London, but it cannot be a long-term repertoire, at least in my view).
I do believe that White should aim for a space advantage (preferably with the c4-d4 duo or even d4-c4-e4 trio if allowed). Space advantage and dynamics are mostly the "humans terminology" that stood the test of time. Our great founders and predecessors of this game have emphasized pawns formation, pawns weaknesses and in general "static considerations". The mighty engines (3600+ Chess entities) show us again and again, in any opening in any variation that Space and piece Quality are the most important factors (much more often than pawns structure in most cases). Engines (and I've been working with engines a few hours a day for almost a year during this Covid-19 pandemic) mostly show us that there is no generic rule or any other stable consideration. It is always about concrete moves, tactics and variations (never general evaluations).
Still, suppose someone points a gun at me and forces me to conclude as for how to evaluate a chess position like an engine. Space advantage is really an issue for the 3600 beasts (Engines are very liberal about pawns structure, they tolerate a lot of "weaknesses" as long as the piece activity and space advantage are not compromised). This is what I like about the English opening. We have much more chances of preserving at least one of our d or e pawn for a later battle stage, and we do not have to squander them so quickly - keeping our relative central control and space advantage for a more extended period.
This is of course very general, amorphous and debatable, but I do stand behind this statement. I say all of this in order to convey what I am referring to by saying "uncompromising". I don't believe in d4-e3-c3 Colle set-ups as a general method of developing as White, or any other similar set-up for that matter, that mostly emphasizes quick development and quick attacks, and not even also not in 1.e4 (White simply has less central hold with this move against most defences - The proof is that against 1.c4 there is no equivalent defence to the Scandinavian 1…d5 as against 1.e4 which is quite playable. Indeed, one could play 1…d5 against 1.c4 but it would be the most dubious choice ever).
My general intention for this 1.c4 English series takes the benefits of 1.d4 set-ups, but to steer the game into totally different directions when Black's responses to 1.d4 lines become too strong and too forced (forcing a draw). The great benefit of 1.c4 is that more pieces are left on the board in most lines and that there is more room for "strategic battles." (manoeuvres and less forced complicated variations). This is why I keep quoting the great IM Sagar Shah (who himself quotes GM Gupta (unfortunately, I do know which Gupta, I assume he meant Abhijeet Gupta) and said that: "One has to be a fluent 1.d4 player in order to play 1.c4 well" and I couldn't agree more! We really need to know when and when not to transpose to 1.d4 openings.)
Chess wise, If you want to "speak 1.d4" and become a more fluent 1.d4 player, I really think that you should study the games and see Old Lectures of Garry Kasparov. His chess knowledge and understanding is staggering (You should definitely view his series on 1.d4 QGD (Queen's Gambit Declined) and not only settle for written material. Kasparov had established the foundations of Modern Theory. He is bestowed with the amazing pedagogical ability to convey the spirit and the essence of many important key features of Modern Chess.
Another very important excellent 1.d4 player in modern terms (to my view the greatest in terms of 1.d4 preparation) to learn from his games is GM Ivan Cheparinov (Topalov's second). His tactical abilities and technical skill and positional understanding make his games super instructive!
Despite claiming about 1.c4 strategical nature, I must really "apologize" in advance about the extensive usage of super hardware (Mostly Stockfish 14.1 NNUE with many cores - No fake MN/S etc'). in the first part of my 1.c4 series, specifically on 1.c4 c6 for White.
First of all, I am only a Fide Master and I've never been too active playing tournaments (my peak rating was 2370). Therefore, I am not at liberty to suggest my thoughts and evaluations about the positions. I am not as nearly as competent and strong as many great chess authors on Modern Chess. Another important consideration is that I don't think Club Players (players ranging from 1700-2200 or so) should be fed with partial information and a simplified version of the "Complicated Chess Truth". I also do not hide information or any problematic variation and I try to dig deeply into the core of the positions. I don't do it merely for money or publicity (Writing this extensive course took me almost 5.5 months and a tremendous amount of ducats).
I wanted to dig as a dip as my chess understanding allowed me.
I have to admit that my target audience is not beginners and lower-rated players. This is why I think Modern Chess is the most important and profound publication online! (with writers like Pavel Eljanov, The great Mihail Marin (a fountain of classical Chess understanding), The Great Boris Avrukh (who always come with fantastic novelties, Boris Gelfand and many more !).
I would like to seize the opportunity and sincerely thank the Founders, GM Grigor Grigorov and GM Petar Arnaudov for helping me prepare this vast project! This would not have been possible without their assistance. I really appreciate the opportunity to share my chess enthusiasm. Modern Vhess dedicates materials for higher-rated players and provides very quality chess analysis! I have to admit that beginners will not benefit from my analysis as advanced players might.
I feel morally obligated to notify you. I do try to provide as much as chess explanations (including visual explanations that exist in the Chessbase platform) as possible, but at the end of the day I let the engines "talk". I neither alter and cut their analysis nor their evaluation. I have to admit that this was a challenging task to organize material according to importance and popularity among humans.
In contrast, the mighty engines always have their "own ideas and agenda" about what is considered important or "mainline" in the opening. As a result of "their tendency", sometimes it seems as If I put too much emphasis on the sidelines, but, as said, I do not censor or influence their analysis in a way that should "fit" our limited human divisions to mainlines and sidelines. The nature of Slav/Semi-Slav defence itself has a significant part to do with the computerized analysis of this course. The Semi-Slav, in particular, is a super tactical opening with tons of forced variations. Again, I apologize for the length of this course but it is as is! As all native English speakers might have realized, I am not a native English speaker and I apologize for any grammar and spelling mistakes you find in this course. I also felt in need to stress that I don't find it appropriate to refer to "Black" or White as he. When I refer to Black and White, I mostly refer to the computers' analysis and use "it" - I decided to avoid anthropomorphizing the machine more than I already do. These chess entities are not humans after all.