Learn the Opening the Easy Way:
The Colle-Zukertort System

Reviewed by Michael Jeffreys

Susan Polgar & Chessdvds.com, 2006
$22.95 – DVD
Length: 2 hours 13 minutes

“A player who specialises in the Colle System needs to spend only about a tenth of the time studying the openings that he would otherwise have to.” –Cecil Purdy

Although all three of the famous Polgar sisters grew up, got married and had kids, their lives have gone in completely different directions. Sophia, the middle sister stopped competing many years ago. Judit, the strongest, only plays in elite tournaments, although less frequently than she used to. And Susan, the eldest, has become both an ambassador for chess all over the world as well as a marketing machine. Together with her manager, Paul Truong, she works tirelessly to promote chess and more specifically scholastic chess for girls, via her foundation, her website (http://www.susanpolgar.com), her blog, her column in Chess Life, TV and magazine interviews, and numerous public appearances and simuls.

As if all that weren’t enough to keep her busy, she somehow has found the time to put out several chess books as well as an entire series (currently up to 11!) of DVDs. While most of the DVDs are aimed at beginners, the one we will be looking at in this review is geared more for lower rated club players, somewhere in the 1200-1600 range.

Learn the Opening the Easy Way is sort of video version of Susan’s Opening Secrets column that appeared in Chess Life a few years ago. Each month she would take a different opening and explain the basic strategic goals for both sides, then show some games/variations featuring that opening, and then give her conclusion. (In fact, you can find Susan’s coverage of the Colle-Zukertort Variation in the May 2006 issue of Chess Life.)

As most of you reading this already know, when you play the Colle Opening (named after the Belgian master Edgar Colle), you have a major decision to make on move five. After the moves: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bd3 c5 do you play 5.c3 (The Koltanowski variation) or 5.b3 (The Zukertort variation)? With 5.c3 you are creating a retreat square on c2 for your bishop should Black play 5…c4. The downside to this is because your b1 knight will go to d2, your dark squared bishop on c1 stays hemmed in for the early part of the game. (By the way, I play the Colle-Koltanowski variation from time to time and in fact beat my first expert with it at the 2003 US Open. You can see that game here on youtube.com: http://youtube.com/watch?v=QFaoKjk3X0g).

On the other hand, 5.b3 (named after the strong Polish GM, Johann Zukertort) stops Black from playing c4 and makes a square on b2 for the dark squared bishop. Here is a screen shot from the DVD of Susan explaining the basic Colle-Zukertort set-up:

The Colle-Zukertort set-up

Some of White’s plans in this opening include dropping a knight into e5, playing f2-f4, lifting a rook from f1 to f3 to h3, playing g2-g4, and going for a big king-side attack. The point of putting the bishop on b2 is twofold: If Black ever takes the knight on e5, the pawn on e5 will be supported by the b2 bishop. Secondly, White has the option of playing dxc5 at some point opening the long diagonal for his dark squared bishop, which when combined with other threats could lead to the demise of Black’s king.

Of course, the exact move order with which these moves are carried out will depend on what Black does, but these are the general ideas. The thing that makes this opening so appealing to class players or those who don’t have a lot of time to study is that you can play this plan against many Black set-ups.

Here is the game that Susan says inspired her to take up the Colle-Zukertort:

Yusupov, Artur (2565) – Scheeren, Peter (2445)

EU-chT (Men) Plovdiv (2), 1983

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.Bd3 d5 5.b3 Nbd7 6.Bb2

r1bqkb1r/pp1n1ppp/4pn2/2pp4/3P4/1P1BPN2/PBP2PPP/RN1QK2R b KQkq – 0 6

6…b6 7.0–0 Bb7 8.Ne5 a6 9.Nd2 b5 10.Nxd7 Qxd7 11.dxc5 This move does help Black develop his King’s bishop, but White wants to open up the long diagonal for his dark squared bishop. Bxc5 12.Qf3 Be7 [12…d4? 13.Ne4! Nxe4 14.Bxe4 Bxe4 15.Qxe4 Rd8 16.Rad1±] 13.Qg3 0–0 14.Nf3 Rac8 15.Ng5 g6 16.Qh3 h5 17.Rad1 Nh7

2r2rk1/1b1qbp1n/p3p1p1/1p1p2Np/8/1P1BP2Q/PBP2PPP/3R1RK1 w – – 0 18

18.Qxh5! Bxg5 19.Bxg6 f6 20.f4 Qg7 21.fxg5 Nxg5 22.h4 Ne4 23.Bxe4 dxe4 24.Rf4 1–0 A nice game by a strong GM.

One feature I like about the DVD is that it cuts between shots of Polgar talking with the board over her shoulder (as in the screen shot above), and close-ups of the board itself (as in the screen shot below), making it easy to follow the action.

White has just played g2-g4

Susan’s commentary throughout the video is very instructive for the class player. For example, in the above position she points out that the reason g2-g4 is playable by White is because the center is blocked. If the d5 pawn were gone, then such a move would be very dangerous due to Blacks light squared bishop. She also mentions that anytime Black has to put his/her queen on f8, that’s usually a bad sign! The above game was played in 1923 between the Hungarian GM Maroczy and his opponent Blake, and is the first game featured on the DVD.

Obviously White has a strong attack, and indeed does go on to win. And while Polgar does show several more moves and possible variations, she doesn’t actually show the conclusion of the game. Rather, she ends sort of abruptly saying, “White has a winning position and the rest of the game is not interesting.” Personally, I would have liked to see the entire game right up to its conclusion. However, I understand that this is an openings DVD, and as such once White has gotten a substantial edge—usually well into the middle game—she wants to go on to the next game.

A nice feature of the DVD is that each game is a separate chapter, so finding a particular game is quite easy. The video is divided up as follows:

Introduction by Paul Truong and Susan Polgar – 4 minutes

History of the Colle-Zukertort – 3 minutes

Typical Games & Ideas – 1 hour & 38 minutes (which includes the following games:)

Game 1 – Maroczy-Blake
Game 2 – Alekhine-Rosselli
Game 3 – Barbero-Liao
Game 4 – Euwe-Kroone
Game 5 –Rubinstein –Salwe
Game 6 – Evans-Gomez
Game 7 – Summerscale-Gimenez
Game 8 – Yusupov-Spiridonov
Game 9 – Smyslov –Mariotti
Game 10 – Yusupov-Scheeren
Game 11 – Filatov-Mayer
Game 12 – Polgar-Mai
Game 13 – Hartson-Upton
Game 14 – Capablanca-Bernstein

Various Black Responses 28 minutes

c7-c5, Nc6, Be7

c7-c5, Nc6, Bd6


Conclusions for White and Black

As you can see, Susan goes over 14 games in total, so you are definitely getting a lot of “bang for your buck” on this DVD.

The Bottom Line

Susan Polgar is an excellent teacher and has created a first class product. The production value is excellent. Seeing the pieces move on the color board over her shoulder is vastly superior to any other teaching method I have seen to date, and I hope it becomes the new standard for chess DVDs. One advantage of Polgar’s line of DVDs is that unlike Chessbase DVDs, you don’t a have to run it on a computer, but can play it on any DVD player.

I should mention that while Susan’s English is quite good, there is no getting around the fact that she does have a thick Hungarian accent. However, I personally find it quite charming and thus don’t mind it. Also, I often play her beginner videos for my chess classes and the kids have no problem understanding her.

If you are looking to learn an easy to play opening that will give you good attacking chances and doesn’t require a lot of study, you are going to want to check out this DVD. As someone who plays the Colle, I can tell you that I have had more than a few opponents underestimate its latent power. On a scale of 1-10, Learn the Opening the Easy Way: The Colle-Zukertort System gets a 9.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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