Daniel King: Power Play 16 – Test Your Rook Endgames

10/19/2011 – "Too often, one may learn something of value but not have the opportunity to use that knowledge right away," writes Steven Dowd. "In such cases the knowledge fades quickly into the recesses of our brains." So what can we do about that? How about two new ChessBase training DVDs? Here's a Chess Cafe review of the first, which gets five out of six stars.

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Daniel King: Power Play 16 – Test Your Rook Endgames

Review by Steven B. Dowd

This month I review two products that provide the opportunity for you to test yourself on the knowledge gained. Thus, they train and test, which is an excellent way to learn for any skill with a performance component, such as chess. Too often, one may learn something of value but not have the opportunity to use that knowledge right away. In such cases the knowledge fades quickly into the recesses of our brains. With these two products, you can not only learn something about the royal game, but also how reinforce how to use it in a game. Let's go!

Power Play 16: Test Your Rook Endgames (DVD) by Daniel King,
ChessBase. Playing Time: 6 hrs. $34.95 (Chesscafe Price: $30.95)

This is the first product by GM King I have reviewed, and he passes muster. He has a good speaking ability, is obviously knowledgeable and well-prepared for each unit, and works to his strengths. He isn't the "fun" sort of instructor we will discuss in the next review, but he can crack a joke when appropriate and is exceptionally professional in his approach.

That being said, this product must be compared with the product I reviewed last month, Karsten Müller's Chess Endgames 8: Practical Rook Endgames. I compared that product favorably with, and even felt it surpassed, my favorite all-time book on rook endgames, Survival Guide to Rook Endgames by John Emms.

Comparatively, this is a very good product, though it is quite a different product from Müller's. First of all, the endgames given are more basic than Müller's examples. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If you are looking for a first primer on rook endgames – and if you don't believe you need more than one, you haven't played much tournament chess – this could be just the ticket, with Müller's product to follow.

GM Daniel King, author of the Power Play series

Second, there is the opportunity to test yourself with King's DVD. He structures the test portion quite nicely, giving you various positions in which you must find a plan. Later, he explains the proper plan so you can compare your answers with those given. There is no feedback, though, to tell you how well you did other than your own evaluation of your answer with King's.

Let's look closer at the content. First comes the learning material. There are eighteen endings, all curiously called "pawn endings" for some reason. They are mostly grandmaster games from 2000 on, although the classics are included. Newer games are better, simply because both sides show a deeper understanding of how to attack and defend various positions. Too many endgame books use the "great player versus second-class player" approach; this is not a problem here.

King is another author who shows his losses. The following game was played when he was quite young. He notes the deep impression it made upon him, since he could have drawn but did not, in fact, getting it "spectacularly wrong." I believe this is often the impetus to endgame study; you lose a game you should have drawn or won and realize that it is because you have spent too much time in opening books and middlegame puzzle books, and don't understand the finer points of an ending.

Sanz-King, Charlton Open 1979

Here Black played 32...Rg2, as he should. After 33.Rg6, he made a not-so-obvious mistake, 33...Kb5? Normally one is dissuaded from flinging pawns forward in the endgame, but that is exactly here what he must do, with 33...b5! 34.Rg4 a5! ( 34...a6 is also probably good and more solid). Now if 35.Ka2 a4! and the king cannot emerge. King is hard on himself, but probably shouldn't be. Many players would be hesitant to push those pawns, and his waiting strategy led to an eventual win for White, who both got his king out and cramped Black with his own queenside pawns.

The second part of the DVD is the test. It is straightforward, and the viewer is encouraged to make plans in most cases, instead of finding single moves. There is no means of evaluating yourself once you complete the test, but I would say a seventy percent score would place you in about the 1800 category, at least in terms of rook endgame knowledge.

As much as I love ChessBase products, and love to recommend them to visual and oral learners, I still, in every product, see at least a bit of sloppiness in the production. For example, the following appears on one of the test questions (Spoiler alert!):

In the test to this section, you are asked whether Black can win or whether it is a draw. Now if you have any sort of command of German (or are simply curious, an online translator will tell you what the above says in a few sections), you will know that Black can win, since it clearly states that he can decide the race for himself. Why do such goofs survive in otherwise quality products? It clearly isn't King's mistake, or even if it was, the CB editors should have removed that comment for the test. It especially irks me because it shows a nice classical win of far advanced pawns versus rook and pawn, and if you already know Black will win, you won't look for the draw.

Video sample of Danny King's Power Play 16 DVD

As noted, this is a good first primer for rook endgames. If you are at that point where you lose or draw too many rook endgames simply because you have not studied them in any depth, this is a great product for that purpose, and the opportunity to test yourself is a great plus. After that, you can graduate to Emms or Müller, and know rook endgames as well as the grandmasters.

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

Review of What Grandmasters Don't See, Vol 3 (DVD)
by Maurice Ashley to follow shortly.

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