Recent ChessBase disks

10/10/2007 – It seems like you can't swing a stick these days without hitting a newly-released ChessBase instructional disk. You'll find previews of three of these releases – King's Indian Saemisch System, 1...d6 Universal, and My Path to the Top – in the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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Now that the pile of recently released ChessBase instructional disks on my desk has reached managable proportions, we're ready to take a last quick look at them before moving on to other topics. In this ChessBase Workshop we'll rip the shrinkwrap off of three disks and give you an idea of what awaits inside the packages. The first of these disks is a bit of a throwback: a CD presented in the "traditional" text-based ChessBase format. The material is presented in the form of text screens and annotated games (instead of Chess Media System videos). Since it's a CD, you don't need a DVD drive on your computer.

Title: King's Indian Saemisch System
Author: Boris Shipkov
Disk contents: Instructional database with 29,819 entries; the first twenty-one are the instructional texts, the remainder are games (over 1,000 are annotated). Separate training database with thirty games; each contains timed training questions designed to test your knowledge. Opening tree derived from all games in the main instructional database containing 481,128 individual board positions, suitable for statistical research or as an opening book for Fritz.
Comments: For those not familiar with the Saemisch, the basic tabia is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3. The author adopts a "building block" approach by starting with the basic overall ideas and then layering on the variations. The disk is written primarily from the viewpoint of the White player, since it's his decision to adopt the Saemisch as a response to the King's Indian. From the author's introduction: " we scrutinize the Saemisch System (KISS) 5.f3 that is a very aggressive and solid approach to the KID. Also the KISS is simple to understand and to learn." It's no accident that Shipkov has chosen to adopt the acronym "KISS" as a shortened form of "King's Indian Saemisch System" as the acronym is more commonly associated with "Keep It Simple, Stupid". That's exactly what Shipkov does on this CD -- keeps the instruction simple and accessible to the average player. Although some authors question whether club level players should even attempt the King's Indian in the first place, there are many times when the White player doesn't have a choice; the trick in such a case is to be prepared. This CD, along with practice against one or more of the Fritz "family" of chess engines (using the included opening book to force the engine to play the KID) should give you the preparation you need to be able to play the Saemisch on a competitive level.

The remaining two disks we'll preview are both DVDs (thus, obvously, requiring you to have a DVD drive on your computer). They use the Chess Media System form of video instruction: a "talking head" video of the instructor with games automatically animated on your ChessBase or Fritz etc., software's main chessboard. If you don't own one of these programs, the disks also include ChessBase Reader, so no other software is required.

Title: 1...d6 Universal
Author: Nigel Davies
Disk contents: Twenty-seven instructional videos with a combined running time of about five hours. The games discussed in the videos are also included separately in the database in traditional ChessBase format in unannotated form.
Comments: The basic thesis of this disk is that ...d6 can be used as a response to any White opening move; in other words, ...d6 can be a labor-saver by providing the Black player with a complete repertoire based on similar positions in a variety of openings. After an introductory "overview" video, Davies then offers twenty-one lessons based on 1.d4 d6, three on 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 d6, one on 1.Nf3 d6, and a final lesson on other White first move alternatives (obviously 1.e4 d6 is the Pirc Defense, which Davies explores in full on another Chess Media System DVD). Interestingly, the "1...d6" in the disk's title is a bit of a misnomer since the move ...d6 is deferred in a few of the openings, but the basic principle holds true for all of the openings discussed. Also be aware that the DVD doesn't cover literally every opening White can throw at you (obviously bad/weird moves, such as 1.a3, are omitted); the final instructional video concerning "side lines" discusses 1.b3 (the Larsen), 1.b4 (the Orangutan), and 1.f4 (the Bird) -- here again, the move 1...d6 is often deferred. Although the DVD is being presented as an opening repertoire for Black, the Pirc is omitted as it's covered in detail on another DVD; my impression is that the two DVDs together do indeed offer a more or less "complete" Black repertoire, although in my opinion the disk 1...d6 Universal will be of greatest value to players who are already familiar with (and comfortable with) the Black side of the Pirc.

Title: My Path to the Top
Author: Vladimir Kramnik
Disk contents: Twenty-eight videos. Twenty are in Chess Media System format, in which Kramnik discusses some of the most memorable games from his career. The remaining eight videos are taken from an interview conducted by ChessBase's Frederic Friedel, in which Kramnik discusses his controversial 2006 World Championship match. The interviews are also provided in text form in the DVD's database. The games discussed in the Chess Media System portions are also provided separately in annotated form as standard ChessBase-format games. Total running time exceeds six hours.
Comments: Chess autobiographies are all the rage these days and have been so for about a decade. It's a contrast to the days when a top-level player might write some instructional books but not a book collecting his own games. Video-based autobiographical materials are in great demand and are very popular: witness ChessBase's disks by/about Kortchnoi and Shirov's "Best Games" series. Vladimir Kramnik, arguably the strongest player to come along since Kasparov's heyday checks in with his own Chess Media System autobiography entitled My Path to the Top. There aren't a lot of games on this DVD, but the ones which do appear are exhaustively analyzed by Kramnik. While there are some personal anecdotes related on this disk (mainly in the first video), the bulk of the commentary concerns chess exclusively. The DVD spans the years 1992 through 2006, with special emphasis placed on the latter year's title reunification match. The additional videos are interview clips in which Kramnik discusses the whirl of controversy surrounding that World Championship event.

Until next week, have fun!

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© 2007, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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