Fritz middlegame trainer: attacking chess

8/3/2004 – Nearly everyone loves attacking chess, but few of us are good at it. Mainly because we don't know how to establish the prerequisites for an attack. IM Jacob Aagaard shows us how to create winning attacks in his new CD series Fritz Middlegame Trainer: Attacking Chess. Tear off the shrink-wrap and take a sneak peek at this two CD set in this week's ChessBase Workshop.

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FRITZ MIDDLEGAME TRAINER: ATTACKING CHESS

previewed by Steve Lopez

There are few "natural defenders" in the history of chess. Sure, Petrosian comes to mind immediately, and we've all had at least one opponent who prefers to "bunker down". But, realistically, not too many players prefer to play this kind of chess. Most of us secretly admire the daring adventurers who prefer to attack at all costs. In fact, many of us try to emulate these players; the problem is that many of us also emulate them quite badly.

The key difficulty isn't in seeing how to attack when all the pieces are already on the correct squares; once all of the proverbial ducks are in a row, even Bonzo the Chimp can spot a forced mate in three. The real trick is to know how to set up an attack rather than to know how to execute it once it's already in position.

Going through my chess library and pulling down all the books I can find on attacking chess, I notice a similarity between most of them: they almost exclusively deal with how to execute an attack once the pieces are already in place. And that's why so many of us are such bad attackers -- we don't know how to properly set up an attack and we tend to launch them prematurely. Our attacks get beaten back and we find ourselves on the run, fighting to hold a draw instead of gloriously mating our opponents after a lovely "cascade of sacrifices" (to use a hoary old cliché -- see the last installment of ChessBase Workshop).

A couple of weeks ago I received an air parcel from Germany. Tearing open the packet, I was delighted to see two new ChessBase CDs, both by Danish IM Jacob Aagaard, entitled Fritz Middlegame Trainer: Attacking Chess. Both are in the new Chess Media System format, requiring the latest online upgrade for Fritz8 (hint, hint: you'll need to install this upgrade to be able to use the CDs). The format combines audio/video commentary with an animated gameboard upon which IM Aagaard can manipulate the pieces and use colored arrows and squares to illustrate his points.

But my initial delight was tinged with a hint of doubt. Sure, I love books and CDs on "attacking chess" -- who doesn't? But what if this turns out to be another couple of volumes on executing an attack without any instruction on how to set up the prerequisites for an attack?

The introductory video on Volume One allayed those fears and doubts. There are two things the author states in the introduction that immediately showed me that he knew what he was about. The first was his comment that "sometimes we attack because we want to and sometimes we attack because we need to". I cracked up laughing when I heard this, remembering an old correspondence game (which I mentioned a few articles ago in ChessBase Workshop) in which my opponent had me dead to rights but then fell prey to my counterattack -- I had no choice and was forced into attacking, since had I defended passively I'd have lost that game. The second comment was an assurance that the two CD series would focus on setting up the prerequisites for a successful attack. This is the kind of instruction I'd been hoping for.

I won't pretend to have watched every minute of video from these two CDs; they contain a combined six hours of video/multimedia instruction. But I'm impressed by what I've seen so far; the author is quite knowledgeable and has a knack for making the instruction simple enough for even a dunderhead like myself to understand.

I few weeks ago, I previewed another in the Fritz Middlegame Trainer series, namely Strategy and Tactics. In that preview I described how the Chess Media System works, so I don't see a need to repeat that exposition here. Attacking Chess 1 and Attacking Chess 2 work the same way -- you get audio/video commentary and instruction coupled with an animated chessboard which the instructor uses as a kind of "blackboard" to illustrate his points.

In the Attacking Chess duo, the games are well-chosen and the author's commentary is clear and understandable. I've already corresponded with a few fellow Yanks who are worried about "European accents"; it's a silly concern, as many Northern/Central Europeans speak better English than a lot of Americans I know. IM Aagaard is no exception, so put those fears aside.

Each CD contains a series of video lectures, each of which discusses a particular topic. Here's a list of the topics and their running times (in minutes and seconds):

ATTACKING CHESS 1

  1. Introduction 22:23
  2. Include all pieces in the attack 1a 15:35
  3. Include all pieces in the attack 1b 13:41
  4. Include all pieces in the attack 2a 22:23
  5. Include all pieces in the attack 2b 13:55
  6. Development and pace in the attack 1a 15:51
  7. Development and pace in the attack 1b 13:04
  8. Development and pace in the attack 2a 13:30
  9. Development and pace in the attack 2b 29:19
  10. Color Schemes 1 16:57
  11. Color Schemes 2 17:50

ATTACKING CHESS 2

  1. The indifference of the value of the pieces in the attack 1 23:37
  2. The indifference of the value of the pieces in the attack 2 18:28
  3. Evolution - Revolution 1 17:49
  4. Evolution - Revolution 2 14:29
  5. Drawing the King out into the open 13:05
  6. Destruction of the King's position 1 15:33
  7. Destruction of the King's position 2 11:41
  8. Destruction of the King's position 3 13:37
  9. Destruction of the King's position 4 15:16
  10. Opening lines to the King 1 18:49
  11. Opening lines to the King 2 11:45
  12. Attack the weakest point in your opponent's position 16:18

A few of these topics cry out for some further exposition. To most Yanks, the word "indifference" connotes "apathy". In the present context, "indifference" here indicates the idea that "not all pieces are created equal"; some pieces are more valuable than others in an attack and this will need to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

"Color schemes" is a topic that is often mentioned in many, many chess books and CDs. Unfortunately, danged few of them take the time to explain what the concept means (I've seen maybe three or four such books, total). So this set of two lectures will be of especial interest to a lot of players who are still unclear on this concept.

Likewise, "Attack the weakest point in your opponent's position" seems like a bit of obvious advice; after all, don't most chess books mention this concept? Yes, they do. Now think back: name the last chess book you read that actually showed you how to identify the weakest point. Right. Exactly. Here's another lecture that will be of great interest to most chessplayers.

Attacking Chess 1 & 2 is a really great set of CDs, because the author has really pulled together a lot of concepts that are usually found scattered across a wide number of traditional chess volumes and offered this knowledge bundled together in one place. He offers the instruction in a manner that's simple, clear, and understandable. And, most importantly, these CDs aren't a rehash of the same old "how to win a won game" instruction that's far too often found in traditional print books; Attacking Chess will illustrate how to create the prerequisites for a successful attack. No more blindly stumbling into these kinds of attacking positions; no more ersatz "attacks" that happen by accident. Learn to apply what IM Aagaard offers on these CDs and you'll be making attacks happen yourself.

Until next week, have fun!


© 2004, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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