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Oh wait...This Toolbox is from London!

by Tanmay Srinath - 11/07/2020

Learning a new opening is an art that requires a lot of effort. First of all, you must like the opening! Second, you should have the time and patience to methodically update your files and remember the analysis. Most importantly, you must be able to understand the typical patterns that can occur in specific lines, and what tactical shots you can use in positions. For the London System, Simon Williams has taken up the mantle to provide an aggressive but sound repertoire for White. Here's a review of the Tactics Toolbox on the London System. Tanmay Srinath tries to find out what the Tactic Toolbox consists of.

The London System is basically a 1-dimensional opening where White just aims to place his pieces on good squares and tries to outplay his opponent, so save for a few delayed castling lines there is literally no scope for creativity. Simon has the difficult task of managing to provide a DVD that could be useful to a learner as well as a strong club player and master, and I believe he does decently well, but not as well enough as I would have liked. Let's dig in now:

The general concept of the London System. White's pieces usually are developed on these squares.

For starters, what is this concept of a Tactics Toolbox DVD? Basically, mastering an opening can be broken down into 5 steps:


1. You are interested in something new, and you start exploring - this is how I built up all my openings from both sides - books do help, like the Life and Games of Mikhail Tal, but you also need to have the required passion and interest level. Most importantly, the opening you choose must fit your general chess psyche - I for example enjoy playing against the Sicilian but not with it as it demands a lot of memorization from the part of the Black player, which is not how I play chess. This is the absolute prerequisite to play any opening in chess - the Basement of a building as I like to call it.


2. You see some games of top players and slowly begin to grasp some patterns. This is the Ground Floor, and now your bedrock is formed - time to scale the peak!


3. You decide to consult some databases to prepare briefly, just using statistics - this is the First Floor, and using this small set of lines you play a lot of online/offline practice games. In my opinion this is the most important step, as pattern recognition only develops when we see them in our games and are forced to do something about them!


4. Your basic set of patterns built (for the French as an example - the rock on d5 and the eyesore on e5!), your next step is to study typical plans and tactical tricks ( French as an example again - f6, a5, Rxd4, Rxf3, Nxe5, the list goes on!). This is the level that is addressed by the tactical toolbox.


5. Now that you are serious, you use a strong engine to prepare in conjunction with a coach, or an opening book (The former is a far better option!). Now you have a definite set of lines that you can use anywhere, and you start using them in tournaments. This is the level that is taken care of by the repertoire in the Fritz Trainers, and the coaching provided by the presenter.


Now that the path to mastering an opening is clear, let us understand the purpose of a Tactics Toolbox DVD - it aims to equip the viewer with a set of plans and tactical ideas that will help her/him find a plan/path in a given position, by forcing her/him to actively participate in solving exercises. Sounds too bookish! Well, I hope I've got your attention now, because now we move on to the deep end - the actual set of ideas that Simon presents in this DVD!


The Greek Gift is a powerful idea, but many players feel that it is seldom possible if Black is careful. Wrong! Even if he is, this idea continues to pop up so many times that this DVD felt like a Greek Gift Mastery Course! Here are a few examples:

Calculate till the end! It's not so simple.

Ready, Set.....Go!!!! An idea that occurs a lot in similar positions.

Old is Gold....

Are you kidding me! It obviously works here as well!! Or does it??

I hope you didn't fall for the last one, where Bxh7?? is a huge mistake! Well, this should in general give you an idea of what positions you can get if you play the opening correctly and Black doesn't. Something I quite liked about this concept is that it teaches you to punish careless play, while at the same time keeping you alert, so that a familiar pattern lands you wins and not losses!


Another additional pattern that occurs so very often is a Nxf7 - this along with Bxh7 make up for a huge chunk of the material presented.

Knight on the Rim equals Sac and Win!

You know what to do!

In the absence of the Fianchetto Bishop - Nxf7 and Qxh7 is a recurring pattern.

Well, I won't spoil the fun for prospective buyers, so I will end with a few miscellaneous positions:

How did the creative genius from Armenia finish off Black here?

Hard to believe there is a tactic here, but one does exist - play like Kamsky!

Why should you never ever take a Trojan horse on g5?

Well, it is hard to go on without revealing stuff, so I will now stick to detailing the format of the DVD:

The new Chessbase DVD Format is in my opinion far better than the older ones!

In each section you get a textual description of what you can expect, and a database set of those games.

You also get a bonus section, consisting of Additional London System Tactics, London System Games and a London System Tactic Toolbox Positions Database! Worth the money I would say!

Williams is a good presenter, has a firm grip over English, and an excellent entertainer, so it is fun watching him explain things. Also, I could basically start guessing the moves once I understood the typical plans, which meant what I was doing was in essence reinforcement learning of the London System, something not easy to do just with books and games. Pattern Recognition forms the basis of chess, and this DVD helps in that aspect, even if all the patterns are not new. It has to be noted that there are overlaps in the content in the previous London DVDs by Simon Williams and this one.


Thus, what I would say is that for any player below 1600 (strength wise - the ratings are inflated these days!), who is looking for an easier way to master the typical plans of the London System, along with a nice companion to the theoretical lines of the London Reloaded, I would definitely recommend this!


I will end this review with a nice tactic - White to play and Mate!

A simple way to finish a simple DVD!

Buy the London Tactic Toolbox

Buy the London System 2.Bf4 reloaded and London Tactics Toolbox combo

About the Author:

Tanmay Srinath is an 19-year-old chess player from Bangalore, Karnataka, currently pursuing both chess and engineering at BMSCE Bangalore. Tanmay is also a Taekwondo Black Belt, who has represented the country in an International Tournament in Thailand. He is a big fan of Mikhail Tal and Vishy Anand, and sincerely believes in doing his bit to Power Chess in India!

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