Sam Collins – Tactical Toolbox

1/8/2014 – "IM Sam Collins is one of my favorite ChessBase lecturers," writes Glenn Mitchell. "This new DVD is different from previous Fritz Trainer DVDs. It’s even different from the new interactive Fritz Trainer DVDs. The focus here is exclusively on tactical problems. More than sixty of them!" In his review Mitchell gives the DVD an enthusiastic recommendation for intermediate to advanced players.

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Sam Collins – Tactical Toolbox

Review by Glenn Mitchell

Tactical Toolbox: Ruy Lopez/Spanish Opening
by Sam Collins
Fritz Trainer Opening, ChessBase
Delivery: Download or post
Video running time: 4 h 35 min (English)
Price: €27.90 – €23.45 ($23.45) without VAT

I saw the release of Tactic Toolbox today on the ChessBase site and made the immediate decision to download it. This was “eye candy” for a club player like me who wants to improve. Lots of tactical exercises on the theme of an important opening, the Ruy Lopez. What could be a better start to my week?!

IM Sam Collins is one of my favorite ChessBase lecturers. I’m an enthusiastic fan of his series on pawn structures, Know the Terrain (which now has six volumes).

This new DVD – and I hope Tactic Toolbox is the start of a new series – is different from previous Fritz Trainer DVDs. It’s even different from the new interactive Fritz Trainer DVDs. The focus here is exclusively on tactical problems. More than sixty of them! One problem per clip.

Be warned, this is not an opening DVD. You will not learn a repertoire for white or for black from this DVD. Nor is it just a collection of opening traps and zaps. There are some examples of players getting zapped, but the purpose of this DVD is not to start with 1. e4 and walk viewers through a handful of moves leading to one trap or another. Nor is it IM Collins purpose to explain the latest theoretical novelties in one of more variations of the Ruy Lopez.

The clips begin with a brief introduction to the problem. IM Collins mentions the last move made. Then it’s your turn. You choose the best continuation. If you guess incorrectly but make a reasonable choice, a short clip will play that explains why there’s a better move available. Then you can guess again. This gives the DVD the feel of chess lessons with an International Master. If you choose a weak reply, you’ll just see a message that you chose the wrong move. Of course, you can guess again. Or, you can surrender and jump to the solution.

The other educational feature of IM Collins presentation is the suggestions he provides when you guess incorrectly. He will point out strategic features in the position to consider, which helps to reinforce how tactical opportunities flow from strategic decisions.

When you guess correctly, IM Collins explains what happens as a result of the move. I did find myself wishing that I could guess some of the subsequent subsequent moves, too. That’s what distinguishes this DVD from the other interactive Fritz Trainers. They examine entire games or significant portions of games. So, for example, with GM Daniel King’s recent DVD Power Play 20: Test Your Attacking Chess, you get to follow an entire attack on the enemy king. Here, you make one move for most of the examples and then move on to the next problem.

An example where a follow-up move or two would have been especially welcome occurred in an Open Ruy Lopez between Shirov and Carlsen from the Tal Memorial in 2007. Once you select the correct move, IM Collins explains that it’s a thematic example in the Ruy Lopez of a sacrifice exchange of the knight on f5. He then states that you need to have a response to gxf5 and walks through GM Blatny’s suggestion. I would have preferred to have the clip stop and ask me to choose the correct continuation. It’s not that I’m disinterested in GM Blatny’s analysis, but I would have preferred to have a go at choosing the correct continuation. Then IM Collins could bear on with GM Blatny’s recommendation. Just as the answers to most chess problems in books and magazines involve multiple moves, that’s the case with the problems here and the DVD would be even more educational with the added opportunity to stay with a tactical combination through multiple moves.

The DVD includes a database of 100 games. Viewers definitely get lots of practice applying tactics to many different positions from the extended family of Ruy Lopez variations with this DVD.

From the point of view of an improving player, none of the tactical problems are trivial. I’m not an IM or GM, so I’ll defer to the ChessBase description for the DVD and repeat that “some of the problems are combinations even grandmasters will struggle to solve.” I believe the appropriate level for this DVD is in the range of 1700-2000, although players outside that range will certainly find plenty of examples to test their tactical abilities.

This new DVD from IM Collins and ChessBase deserves my enthusiastic recommendation for intermediate to advanced players who want to improve their tactical opportunities in the Ruy Lopez.

About the author

Glenn Mitchell, aka “Mitch”, is an avid chess player. Born in 1960, he loved chess in his youth, dabbling here and there for decades. About three years ago, his love for chess was rekindled and he’s determined to improve. Mitch is not a chess teacher. He recently started a blog, Improving Chess Player to share what’s been working for him and what hasn’t been much of help. What he hopes to provide is help and encouragement for other improving chess players.

Sample video

Tactic Toolbox:
Ruy Lopez / Spanish Opening

by Sam Collins

Fritz Trainer Opening
Video running time: 4 h 35 min
Language: English
Delivery: Download or post

Price: €27.90
€€23.45 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU); $23.45 (without VAT).

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