Six-Star DVDs with a Wealth of Information

9/23/2011 – This month in the Chess Cafe Steven B. Dowd looks at three recently released ChessBase DVDs, one each for the opening, middlegame, and ending. "Each one is very well-done, and contain a wealth of information for the learner," he writes. "It will probably be the only time you see me giving six stars – the maximum – to each DVD." Reviews and links.

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Wealth of Information

By Steven B. Dowd

Beating the Sicilian: A Grandmaster Repertoire Vol. 2 (DVD) by Viktor Bologan, ChessBase, Playing time: 5 hours 40 minutes, $36.95 (ChessCafe Price: $33.95)

I reviewed the excellent first volume of this series last month. There is nothing here that dissuades me from my original opinion: if you are a decently strong player, club player or above, and want to get an inside track on how to beat the Sicilian as white using main lines, this DVD is for you. Buy it before someone else in the club does, so you can start winning more games! I note that ChessCafe is currently running a special where you can buy all three DVDs (the third volume is now available as well) with a six dollar discount.

The emphasis is on the Dragon and Najdorf systems. There are twenty-four well-laid out sections: one an introduction and discussion of the "Drago-Najdorf," four on the Dragon, and nineteen on the Najdorf.

I was most interested in the first section. According to Bologan, the system presented here, which he calls the "Drago-Najdorf" (and I have always heard being referred to as the "Dragon-dorf"), is a system that popped up a few years back, with the intent of beating weaker players by combining the Dragon system with the Najdorf. A friend and I had had a conversation on this one some years back, and we both remembered that GM Kavalek had in the old RHM series roundly condemned such systems as violating too many general opening principles.

My assessment of this product: Excellent (six of six stars)
Order Beating the Sicilian: A Grandmaster's Repertoire, Vol. 2 by Viktor Bologan
Order all three volumes of Beating the Sicilian and automatically save an extra $6.00!


First Steps in Attack (DVD) by Andrew Martin, ChessBase, Playing time: 4 hours, $23.95 (ChessCafe Price: $19.95)

First Steps in AttackI was not sure what to expect from this DVD, because of its author. It is touted as the beginning of a series for players under 2200, and which will eventually cover a variety of topics. At the end of the series, the viewer should be able to pursue individualized study on the chess topics of his choosing, as he will now have a firm foundation.

Why was the presenter an initial concern? Andrew Martin is certainly one of the most prolific authors in chess these days, but unlike his compatriot Nigel Davies, also a prolific author, Martin has produced a few duds. When I was a member at chesspublishing.com, I liked his analyses and sections the least. They often seemed hurried and incomplete. He has produced some very good books, but also some that were less-than-stellar. However, just about any prolific author is bound to release some letdowns just because they are producing so much material. And unlike some authors, who shamelessly cut-and-paste from their colleagues, Martin's mistakes are all his own.

Here Martin wants to tell you what you should be thinking "before you launch an assault." He notes that just about everyone likes attacking chess, and of course, below 2200, tactics prevail. His presentation style is very entertaining, and he divides the DVD into sixteen annotated games. This is great, because full games are the best way for a lower-rated player to really understand chess in its entirety. Although I understand the use of game fragments and positions as a means of teaching for lower-rated players and tactics, I often think this is overly stressed. A good collection of games, showing how the attack followed logically from the opening and early middlegame, is best for learning.

Particularly impressive was that Martin was not afraid to show one of his losses, in this case to show the potential of the queen as an attacking piece. Chess is a funny game in that often we learn more from our losses than our wins, painful though they might be. And Martin makes no bones about the fact that this game was a painful lesson for him. Having just completed his first book on the King's Indian, Martin was eager to show how Bronstein's queen sacrifice was good against the Sämisch.

My assessment of this product: Excellent (six of six stars)
Order First Steps in Attack by Andrew Martin


Chess Endgames 8: Practical Rook Endings (DVD) by Karsten Müller, ChessBase, Playing time: 3 hours 41 minutes, $34.95 (ChessCafe Price: $28.95)

Chess Endgames 8I always expect quality from Karsten Müller's offerings; for years I kept a notebook of his Endgame Corner column, which I now of course archive digitally. I was not disappointed here. There are seven chapters, and each chapter has at least five examples, using annotated games in all cases except for a few pointed studies. The titles of some of the examples are enticing in and of themselves: "Mating attacks out of the blue," "Prophylaxis is important," "The king needs a place to hide," "The beauty of ugly rook moves," and so on. The DVD concludes appropriately with, "Duel of the Legends," featuring a Korchnoi-Karpov world championship game from Baguio City, 1978.

I had believed no one would ever produce anything superior to Emms' Survival Guide to Rook Endgames, one of my favorite books on rook endgames, but I do believe this DVD is much better, and for those who prefer the kind of learning provided by electronic media, it is definitely superior.

The lessons are typically short and pointed. I like to view one each morning to get the main point, but someone who wanted to use it as a quick overview of rook endings could do so easily. For example, from Huschenbeth-Buhmann, German Championship 2011.

My assessment of this product: Great (five of six stars)
Chess Endgames 8: Practical Rook Endings by Karsten Müller


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