2016 Christmas Buyer's Guide: From start to finish

by Albert Silver
12/20/2016 – While openings are unquestionably important, even a winning advantage can be squandered if the middlegame and endgame skills are lacking. There is no lack of top-notch courses to help you, ranging from beginner tactics to advanced strategic motifs, not to mention numerous exemplary works on the endgame. In this Buyer’s Guide you will find all you need on learning to play chess, mastering the middlegame, and converting the endgame.

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Learning chess

If you were looking for a good DVD to teach a child to play chess, or an adult, you will find what you need here. And if you learned the basics of the game, and want to know what your next steps should be, you will find invaluable help in this oft confusing stage of your chess development.

Fritz and Chesster targets children who have never played chess before in their lives and teaches them the basic rules in a Sesame Street like environment. There are cartoons and stories for the children to follow, and then there are tasks for them to solve interactively. Brilliant. With this DVD you can learn chess from scratch and join the world wide chess community. Daniel King, an experienced Grandmaster, teaches you in easy-to-follow videos all you need to get started: how to set up the board, how the pieces move and how to checkmate. A painless primer.
Once you have learned the moves, but not gone any further, it can be daunting to know how to start down that road where you imagine yourself a fierce opponent. This DVD brings the first fundamentals to a player in easy and friendly videos. This very interesting DVD is less a series of lessons on how to win, and more a sit-down with a veteran coach as he shows you what you should be improving at different levels of play. If you are unsure what you should be studying or doing to improve, Basics of Winning Chess should be a big help.

Beginner tactics

Tactics are the first skill set taught to beginners as they have the largest impact on your results. Why worry about an open column if you are up a piece or two? Whether capturing pieces or delivering mate, the next suggestions will help you maximize your improvement.

With so many choices, it is hard to know which to recommend, but you can never go wrong with Daniel King, hence this suggestion for his Power Play 14 on tactics. GM Nicholas Pert brings his experience of Typical mistakes by 1600-1900 players covering themes such as “Miscalculating Forcing Lines”, “Being Too Materialistic” and “King Safety” amongst others. Each theme has several examples and there are various test throughout the DVD
IM Valeri Lilov provides a comprehensive review of the most important themes concerning tactics. Tactical motifs, themes, and techniques are among the core concepts explained, and you will find all you need in this series of three DVDs on tactics Without tactics all the best laid plans fall apart, and Lubomir Ftacnik himself reminds us that players all too often get caught up and lose sight of the most fundamental goal of chess: the checkmate. This well-structured DVD has no fewer than 1000x Checkmate.

Advanced Tactics

The Magic of Chess Tactics, which in 2002 was originally published as book in the USA, has been considerably improved and expanded. It is also quite challenging. Don't forget to see the sequel, The Magic of Chess Tactics 2 with hundreds of new positions and quizes to test. After the success of his first DVD for players between 1600-1900, GM Pert is back with a slightly more advanced DVD with Typical Mistakes by 1800-2100 players. The material is split into categories such as “when to exchange pieces”, “how to convert an advantage”, “passive pieces”, “anticipating your opponents plan”.

Beginner positional play / strategy

If you are still wetting your feet in strategy,
and want a friendly yet thorough look, then
First Steps in Chess Strategy is a good start.
In this first DVD of three, world-class commentator and instructor GM Maurice Ashley explains common blindspots and What Grandmasters Don't See, as well as ways to identify these issues and root them out.

Intermediate positional play / strategy

This series of DVDs demonstrates the importance of taking proven principles into account before choosing the direction of your over-the-board calculations. The first DVD deals with the initial phase of the game: development!, While the second DVD covers static positions. Veteran trainer and grandmaster, Adrian
Mikhalchishin produced a five-DVD series
called Strategy University, covering all the fundamental ideas such as pawn sacrifices, to how to realize a win.
FIDE Senior trainer and GM Mikhalchishin proposes to teach pawn structures you should know. Every typical structure has its typical plans and to know these plans helps you to find your way in these positions. Tthe author presents and explains the most common central structures every chessplayer should know: The Hedgehog, the Maroczy, Hanging pawns and the Isolani. Wise players of the game have always told us to study the classics – games by the great masters of the past. But in this age of cutting-edge opening preparation and engines, is studying the classics really that helpful? In Learn from the Classics, IM Sagar Shah explains how you can use these ideas in your own battles.

Endgame

You really cannot find anything better
than the multi-volume series on the
endgame by GM Karsten Mueller. This
is volume one covering Basic Knowledge.
If you want it all and want it in one single
product, then the timeless Endgame Manual
by the Russian trainer Mark Dvoretsky is your
choice. Just be warned: it has no videos.


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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