A cornucopia of Chess: ChessBase Magazine

7/8/2015 – What to do if the summer is hot and you had to spend days with boring assignments and now want to train some chess and feel the wish to catch up on recent chess events? Have a look at the ChessBase Magazine 166! Indian IM Narayanan Srinath decided to to so and with a wealth of diverse and high-class chess material he treated himself to a wonderful Sunday full of chess.

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A cornucopia of Chess – Review by IM Narayanan Srinath

April is the cruelest month" – T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

For me, April is indeed the hardest month in the calendar year. This year I prepared for my final exam in the uncharitable Chennai heat and I sat down with prosaic assignments while the rest of the world was having fun playing/following events in Shamkir, St.Louis and other places around the world. It was about this time that I read how IM Sagar Shah spent a fine Sunday with the ChessBase Magazine and decided that I could recover all the time lost by treating myself to my own ‘well spent Sunday’ with the latest issue of the ChessBase Magazine.

Strategy and technique

So, one Sunday I set about hoping to catch up on the missed events and learn new things along the way. I first read Albert Silver’s review and felt so excited about the abundance of chess material that I jumped right into Simon William’s ‘move by move’.

Simon interacts right from the start of the game

The ‘move by move’ is in Fritztrainer format which was something new for me. It took me back to the video lectures by Josh Waitzkin for the ‘Chess Master series’ which had a significant influence on my early development. Both GM Simon Williams and I were particularly impressed by the following maneuver by the World Champion:

Give yourself some time and see if you can find the excellent maneuver
employed by the World Champion who played with White

The chosen game for the series was M. Carlsen – M. Vachier-Lagrave from the 5th round of Gashimov Memorial – a fantastic strategic demonstration of how to place the pieces, weakness of light squares, improvement of the worst piece, and other things. The following diagram illustrates White’s domination:

White’s control of the light squares and his better pieces
give him a 'text book advantage'

Simon Williams not only thoroughly explains the strategic aspects of this game but in his series again and again emphasizes the role of concrete calculation and tactics in positional play and technique. There are a total of 16 very instructive interactive sessions. I recommend to take the exercises seriously, and make an earnest attempt to find the right answers. There is, of course, the added benefit of adding new words such as ‘gung ho’ to one’s vocabulary. In his strategy column GM Dorian Rogozenco also talks about strategy and technique in an instructive video session. As we all have probably experienced multiple times in our careers, one of the hardest aspects of chess is to convert advantages. It brings to mind the famous quote of Lasker: "The hardest game to win is a won game" GM Rogozenco addresses precisely this problem – in CBM 165 he talked about converting positional advantages, now he talks about converting small material advantages.

What would you play with White?

He shows three instructive classical games where the side with the advantage was either an exchange or a pawn up and went on to convert this advantage in a smooth and precise way. I found these lessons particularly useful considering the number of won games I’ve botched throughout my career. No lesson on strategy or technique is complete without endgames, of course, and Karsten Mueller’s endgame section never disappoints. There’s not much to describe here that’s not covered in Albert Silver’s review, however, it’s safe to say that a regular dose of endgame study will have a tangible correlation with swindling points. This is due to the fact that by the time we reach the endgame we have less time on the clock and knowledge is even more important. Here stronger players often trick weaker players.

In my younger days I used to dislike and neglect endgames simply because it took longer to checkmate that way. However, after some painful lessons I realized that there might be more economical ways to pay for such lessons than losing games. I started to pay attention to such lessons and began to understand the beauty of endgames. They combine beauty with practical value. The following diagram illustrates this:

The black rook is imprisoned. But can the white rook win on its own?


As illustrated by GM Simon Williams and several others, precise calculation and a sharp tactical eye are indispensable parts of a good technique. The ‘tactics’ section by Oliver Reeh speaks for itself. I regularly solve the tactics from the weekly ChessBase column and the only complaint I have is that there Reeh only shows one example per week. However, this was more than compensated for by the tactics column in the ChessBase Magazine which contained 29 excellent training positions. It is remarkable that the ChessBase Magazine offers a holistic training tool. It has often been said that strategy, tactics and endgames go together but here you do not only hear this but experience it through training. One example for the connection between tactics and endgames:

What happens after Rd5?

Similar motifs

I tried e5 here. See what happens? Finally, the article on ‘Endgames from the Benko gambit’ shows how the beginning and the end of the game are linked!

Recent Tournaments

After I got completely carried away, I realized that I originally wanted to with recent events, seen from the perspective of the players. With his instructive videos Daniel King took me through the highlights of important recent events like Shamkir and the European Championship. Watching such videos has many advantages, among others it reinforces the perception of known patterns, and engages more senses than just ‘seeing’.

The best for the last

Having read Albert Silver’s review, I was of course looking forward to the top items of this issue: Vishy’s game against So from Shamkir and GM Erwin l’Ami’s innovation in the Winawer.

L’Ami’s Survey

The French Defense has recently come under a lot of pressure. GM Parimarjan Negi’s not so recent book had provided a complete and deep Winawer repertoire for non-lazy chess players. However, opening theory develops at a furious pace. After finding a few antidotes against the recommendations in the GM repertoire series, I was curious to discover what Erwin had in store. I must confess that I was also welcoming an alternative to the ginormous amount of variations in Parimarjan’s book.

Starting position of the French Survey

Although Erwin doesn’t find problems with Parimarjan’s lines, he proposes a different variation on the ninth move. I can say with certainty that the description ‘Strong innovation against the Winawer variation’ is no bluff at all. I immediately checked his analysis with my own analysis and found that I was not even close to the important details. Giving away more here would be unfair to the author, but the earlier such innovations are used, the more the chances are for scoring points with them.

Vishy Anand’s game against Wesley So

Getting into the minds of great champions is one of the well-established methods of training. Nothing comes close to hearing from them directly. Having seen the game in different publications and as an ardent fan of Vishy, I looked forward to the top item in CBM 166 with a lot of curiosity. I was not disappointed. The game and the annotations by Anand gave an answer to questions I had before looking at the DVD. Questions like: “What was Vishy intending against 10…h6?” “Whose idea was it?” “Where exactly did Vishy’s preparation end?” and deep variations showing how exactly Black could improve. Although this’ll sound far-fetched to many, to my imaginative, fantasy-filled mind, looking at recent games explained by the players themselves is like going over memories through a Pensieve.

Of course, my journey through the memory lane of top players was not just restricted to this one game. CBM 166 has numerous games of top players annotated by themselves, providing insight on the moves, preparation, calculation, and psychology! Of course, there is too much material for one day, but these opening surveys can be studied quickly one day before a particular game. To conclude, I embarked on the DVD with the intention to catch up on recent events, but ended up being completely absorbed and pulled into the chess world. The CBM 166 DVD offers many things, the highlight for me being the holistic training material it offers – encompassing all the important aspects of chess in a separate yet correlated form. I would like to thank ChessBase for providing such wonderful material for chess players of all levels and look forward to the next magazine!

ChessBase Magazine 166 can be purchased at the ChessBase Shop

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