ChessBase Tutorials Open Games review

by Albert Silver
10/26/2010 – The new ChessBase Tutorials series on openings aims to provide amateurs and club players with a concise, working overview of the openings, providing a booklet, and 24 video lectures in both English and German, presented by eight masters and grandmasters. Each lecture presents the main theory and ideas behind the lines making openings study easier than ever. Review by Albert Silver.

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ChessBase Tutorials Open Games review

By Albert Silver

Selecting and learning openings, in particular new ones, is a bit anguishing, in particular if you are inexperienced and only know the most basic moves, if that. Many of us tend to learn some openings early on, which we study to a certain degree, and then continue to use it, for better or for worse, even if we feel other openings might suit us better. Why? Because the idea of starting all over, from scratch, is intimidating. What’s more, what if the time invested ends up showing we don’t actually like the opening? Well, if you wanted a primer on openings, with a selection of the main lines, and the fundamental ideas behind them, ChessBase Tutorials is for you.

If you fear this will mean reading a series of articles, surveys, or even going through exhaustively commented games, guess again. The concept is to make the process as painless as possible, and is broken down into 24 video lectures, each lasting from eight to fifteen minutes, presented by a variety of masters and grandmasters, covering the essentials of each opening and variation.

The first volume is on Open Games, meaning 1.e4 e5, and the myriad openings associated with it, from the respectable Ruy Lopezes to the numerous gambits.


The cover of the booklet in English.

Contrary to the usual ChessBase DVDs, it doesn’t come in a standard DVD box, but rather with a booklet using the same very high quality layout and print as the revamped booklets that now come with ChessBase Magazine. It introduces the various lectures covered in 28 pages, and is entirely bilingual, in both English and German. The DVD itself is quite simple to use, and can be accessed directly from ChessBase or with the ChessBase Reader provided with it.


A sample of the contents in English.

If you look at the advertisement, or even the cover of the booklet, it distinctly says: 24 videos with a total of 5 hours running time. I will state right out that this is a baldfaced lie. There are indeed five hours of videos presented in English by GM Mikhalchishin, IM Trent, GM Schandorff, and FM Lilov. However, if you go to the German selection, one will also find 24 videos (in German) spanning five hours, but presented by GM Gustafsson, IM Huschenbeth, GM Mueller, and WGM Pahtz. After looking at samples in both languages, it becomes clear they aren’t dubbing the first group, rather these are 24 independent videos covering the same material, so in fact there are actually two videos for each line and opening, and in the end you are really getting 48 videos lasting 10 hours!


Though the contents is the same, the lectures in German are not identical, thus you
potentially get two lectures for the price of one. Provided you can understand both
languages of course.

The video material is quite interesting and well presented though each author clearly approached the problem of doing a general overview with main ideas and key lines for amateurs (1400-1800 Elo) a little bit differently. It goes deeper than just style of presentation, it is also the actual material. It goes without saying that one cannot possibly cover all there is in a line in 10-15 minutes, but a well-made presentation can unquestionably help you see what the main theory looks like, the ideas behind the moves, and even some history. One can certainly take a few of them and try them out online in some casual games, or even at some weekend event if you are feeling a bit more adventurous.


Veteran coach Valeri Lilov helps make sense of the King's Gambit.

My German was good enough to follow the comments and presentations in both languages, and while some videos covered much the same theory such as the King’s Gambit by Valeri Lilov in English, and Karsten Mueller in German, others focused slightly different areas such as the Italian by Lilov and Pahtz, where each had their idea on which line to show in more detail. Naturally, each video is good enough in itself for its purpose, but if you have the privilege of being able to enjoy both, then by all means do so.


IM Elizabeth Pahtz teaches the latest developments in the Evans Gambit.

In some cases, the difference can be even starker such as the incredibly theoretical  Ruy Lopez Chigorin as presented by Schandorff and Pahtz. The fact the line is named after a 19th century player and is still played today, tells you just how much theory there actually is, and GM Schandorff clearly feels that to even pretend to present a substantial amount would be absurd, so he shows a handful of mainlines and the ideas for each side, while highlighting the latest trend.


WGM and former World Junior Champion Elisabeth Pähtz on
the cover of next month's Schach Magazine.

WGM Pahtz goes much further and presents the viewer with far more material, but the danger is that some players may feel a bit overwhelmed if it is their first time. If so, remember the videos can be stopped, rewinded, and replayed at will. To complement the lectures, there is also a selection of 100 sample games for viewing, and of course, if you feel the desire to study any of them deeper, there is also a list of DVDs (by ChessBase obviously) you can purchase that cover the openings in question.

All in all, I found ChessBase Tutorials DVD to do a very good job of fulfilling its goal of providing players with a concise, working overview of the myriad openings after 1.e4 e5, whether on the serious positional Ruy Lopez Chigorin or the romantic Evans Gambit. Should you be shopping for an opening to study, or simply seeking basic answers and guidelines to an opening you met or fear to meet, ChessBase Tutorials with its 24 lectures in each language and at a very modest price point of 29.90 Euros is quite easy to recommend.

Copyright ChessBase



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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