Andrew Martin: First Steps in Gambits and Sacrifices

2/9/2013 – Sacrificing material successfully is one of the most exciting rewards the game of chess can bestow. To play a truly excellent game brings confidence and a true belief in one's own ability. Sometimes we look at the sacrificial masterpieces of the great players in awe. Could we imagine ourselves playing in that grand manner? On his new DVD Andrew Martin shows us we could. Chess Cafe review.

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Aiming to Achieve

Review by Michael McGuerty

First Steps in Gambits and Sacrifices (DVD), by Andrew Martin, ChessBase, Video running time: 3 hours 21 min. $30.95 (ChessCafe Price: $24.95)

The DVD packaging promises that "on this all new ChessBase DVD FIDE Senior Trainer and IM Andrew Martin will show you how to go about [sacrificing] in the right way." And in the introductory video, IM Andrew Martin describes the content as follows:

"Sacrificing material successfully is one of the most exciting rewards that the game of chess can bestow. To play a truly excellent or even brilliant game brings confidence and a true belief in one's own ability. Sometimes we look at the sacrificial masterpieces of the great players in awe. Could we ever imagine ourselves playing in that grand manner? On this all-new ChessBase DVD I hope to open up the world of sacrificing material and to see how it all works. Romantic notions aside, the fact is that more sacrifices fail than succeed and especially today, when computing power is at a new level and gambit play is reducing to a very narrow field at master level. The advice to the newcomer to chess is still the same: learn to make combinations and sacrifices early and to let your imagination fly. We will try to keep to this maxim, but inject a dose of realism at the same time; the realism that modern chess compels us to look out for. The most important thing to understand about sacrificing is that, adhering to the maxim of Steinitz everything is geared to the needs of the position. You have to be able to recognise situations throughout the game where a sacrifice might become possible. So join with me now and enter the world of the chess sacrifice. It will be an exciting journey."

The material is divided as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Breakdown
  • Game 1 Adly,A – Duchrow,O
  • Game 2 Zhao Jun – Zhou Jianchao
  • Game 3 Ledger,D – Jones,G
  • Game 4 Esserman,M – Van Wely,L
  • Game 5 Sarkar,I – Onischuk,G
  • Game 6 Weller,J – Hanley,C
  • Game 7 Aronian,L – McShane,L
  • Game 8 Gligoric,S – Keres,P
  • Game 9 Bondick,K – Cebalo,M
  • Game 10 Sigfusson,S – Bellin,R
  • Game 11 Moranda,W – Hoffmann,P
  • Game 12 Velimirovic,D – Ljubojevic,L
  • Game 13 Vuckovic,B – Govedarica,R
  • Game 14 Von Meijenfeldt,B – Naiditsch,A
  • Game 15 Gustafsson,J – Kramnik,V
  • Game 16 Cramling,P – Garcia Domingo,J
  • Game 17 Zagorskis,D – Sadler,M
  • Outro

It is noted that the material is further divided into the following sections:

  • Punishing sacrifices – the enemy has lost time and must be attacked!
  • Sacrifices for momentum
  • Positional sacrifices
  • Intuitive sacrifices
  • Speculative sacrifices
  • Unjustified sacrifices

However, it is not differentiated in the table of contents list as to which games fall into which categories.

The majority of the games are from 2011-2012. While there are a couple of old classics in Gligoric-Keres, 1958 and Velimirovic-Ljubojevic, 1972. The longest game clip is seventeen minutes in length; the shortest is a little more than eight; and the average is probably about eleven minutes or so. The majority of the games are less than thirty moves; the longest are forty-four and fifty-five moves.

In the first clip we see a grandmaster rip apart his lower-rated opponent's poor opening choices. The rating difference is 475 points, but, as Martin notes, it does not take away from Adly's accomplishment. The game with the largest rating difference is Moranda-Hoffmann where the winner out-rates his opponent by a whopping 815 points; another lopsided crush is Von Meijenfeldt-Naiditsch, with a disparity of 552 points, but it is the lower-rated player that sacrifices a pawn and then the exchange and only later goes wrong against his grandmaster opponent. Oddly, this latter game did not display properly at first in ChessBase 12. As can be seen from the screen-shot below, even though the slider bar (under the image of Martin) is half-way through the commentary, there is no game loaded in the game screen:

A restart of CB12 did not seem to help either. Nevertheless, the issue was resolved by opening the game in the database window first and then clicking to launch the ChessBase media file. Why this is so I have no idea. [This is because Andrew is showing a "training game" where you are supposed to guess moves – Editor] Another buggish issue in CB12, which has occurred in a number of databases, is that when the text file for the table of contents is first opened, it appears to be completely blank and it is only after attempting to scroll that the contents appear on screen.

Note that owning CB12 is not a prerequisite. First Steps in Gambits and Sacrifices comes bundled with the ChessBase Reader, so no other software is necessary. The system requirements are Pentium-Processor at 300 Mhz or higher, 64 MB RAM, Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows Vista, etc.

Returning to the DVD content, not all the games are lopsided slaughters; for instance, in Esserman-Van Wely it is the higher-rated player who "caught it on the nose" from the black side of a Smith-Morra Gambit. Here the rating difference is 230 points, though Esserman literally wrote the book on the Smith-Morra.

Here is that game with select notes:

[Event "US op 112th"] [Site "Orlando"] [Date "2011.08.03"] [Round "3"] [White "Esserman, Mark"] [Black "Van Wely, Loek"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B21"] [WhiteElo "2453"] [BlackElo "2683"] [PlyCount "51"] [EventDate "2011.07.30"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "USA"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2011.08.29"] 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nge7 8. Bg5 $1 {This is a reasonable and ambitious defensive set-up against the Morra, whereby Black aims to control the central dark squares d4,e5 and f4 by placing his knight on g6. This is why White interrupts this plan with 8 Bg5, forcing a concession.} f6 9. Be3 Ng6 10. Bb3 b5 11. Nd5 $1 {An absolutely typical Morra sacrifice. White detonates the position before Black gets developed. Practically, the sacrifice give excellent chances, especially against an optimist like Van Wely, who believes he can defend any situation.} exd5 12. exd5 Nce5 13. d6 {Forced, in order to open the bishop on b3.} Bb7 14. Nxe5 fxe5 15. f4 Qf6 $2 {Van Wely falters in defence, bringing his Queen out to a very exposed position.} (15... exf4 {is again forced, with everything to play for after} 16. Re1 $1 (16. Bc5 Qg5 $3 17. Qe2+ Be7) 16... fxe3 17. Rxe3+ Be7 18. Qd4 {although I would not like to be Black in this situation.}) 16. fxe5 $1 Qxe5 17. Bg5 $1 (17. Bf7+ {is also crushing!} Kd8 18. Bb6+ Kc8 19. Re1) 17... Be7 18. Bf7+ Kd8 19. dxe7+ Nxe7 20. Qd2 Kc8 21. Rac1+ Nc6 22. Rfd1 Qf5 23. Bf4 Qxf7 24. Qd6 Kd8 25. Rxc6 Bxc6 26. Qxc6 1-0

Martin's presentation is topnotch. He speaks clearly, has good eye contact with the camera, and explains things in an easily understandable fashion. Another praiseworthy aspect of the content is that much of the spoken commentary is included in the notes to each game in the database. Aside from some misspellings, this is ideal for those who want to play over the notes without the audio visual component. Moreover, it brings an element of portability in that one can copy the games to a PGN database and then load them onto a tablet, such as the iPad, for use in a PGN viewer. For those who prefer old-school book learning or may be interested in a companion to the DVD, Fred Wilson's Simple Attacking Plans offers thirty-seven games along the same general theme as the DVD.

First Steps in Gambits and Sacrifices is an inspiring collection of games that players of any strength can enjoy and hope to learn from. However, the fact that it is part of the First Steps series seems to suggest that it will offer instruction for beginners in how to play gambits and sacrifices. This is not quite the case. It certainly showcases some exemplary games and offers some general advice, but club-level and casual players will likely find it most worthwhile. The high level of tactics on display also require an equally high level of skill to begin with; so, while the DVD shows what can be achieved, it does not necessarily show how to get there in any categorical way. Nevertheless, it is well recommended as chess entertainment.

My assessment of this product: Great (five out of six stars)

Video Sampler: Andrew Martin – First steps in Gambits and Sacrifices

More Training DVDs by Andrew Martin

Andrew David Martin (born 18th May 1957 in West Ham, London) is an English chess player with the title of International Master. He has won various national and international tournaments and has been playing for years in the Four Nations Chess League, at present (July 2009) for Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher, previously for the Camberley Chess Club. Martin received his IM title in1984. He earned his first grandmaster norm in the British Championship of 1997 in Brighton. Martin was a commentator on the chess world championship between Kasparov and Kramnik in 2000.

On the 21st February 2004 Martin set a new world record for simultaneous chess. He faced 321 chess players at the same time. His result was: 294 wins, 26 draws and only one loss. Martin is known as a professional chess teacher and head trainer of the English youth team. He trains eight schools (Yateley Manor, Aldro, Millfield, Sunningdale, Waverley School, St Michael’s Sandhurst, Wellington College, Salesian College). Martin is a chess columnist, an author of chess books and the author of various instructional videos. He was the publisher of the series Trends Publications. Martin lives in Sandhurst, England, is married and the father of two daughters and two sons. His present Elo rating is 2423 (as of July 2009).


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