A list of must-haves and should-buys

by Albert Silver
5/24/2016 – The number of DVDs and products in the ChessBase Shop literally number the hundreds. What is best, or more specifically what is best for you? It depends on what you are looking for in chess, your level of play, your ambitions to get better. In case you are a mite overwhelmed by the vast range of products, here is a list, based on hands-on experience, of personal recommendations.

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Recommendations from the ChessBase Shop

I can recall the time when I would head over to the chess store, sometimes to just sigh wistfully at the infinite lore shared by so many great players in books covering row upon row. The biggest question was what was really unmissable? The ChessBase Shop is really no different. Whether you want a bit of chess edutainment or hardcore knowledge, it is all there, and there is something for everyone. I won't claim to have seen it all, and you won't find me recommending it all either (following the motto "if you have nothing good to say..."), but all the suggestions below are sincere and from experience.

Learning chess

Fritz and Chesster targets children who have never played chess before in their lives and teaches them the basic rules in a Sesame Street like environment. There are cartoons and stories for the children to follow, and then there are tasks for them to solve interactively. Brilliant.
With this DVD you can learn chess from scratch and join the world wide chess community. Daniel King, an experienced Grandmaster, teaches you in easy-to-follow videos all you need to get started: how to set up the board, how the pieces move and how to checkmate. A painless primer.

Once you have learned the moves, but not gone any further, it can be daunting to know how to start down that road where you imagine yourself a fierce opponent. This DVD brings the first fundamentals to a player in easy and friendly videos.

This very interesting DVD is less a series of lessons on how to win, and more a sit-down with a veteran coach as he shows you what you should be improving at different levels of play. If you are unsure what you should be studying or doing to improve, Basics of Winning Chess should be a big help.

Openings

Trying to recommend an opening DVD for each and every one, even if I had seen them all, would be impossible, so I won't even try. I will share some recommendations that are good for beginners, some personal favorites that I really enjoyed a lot, and finally some tips on material that might have been forgotten as a result of the new ones (often excellent) that are constantly coming out. That said, by all means check out the page on New Products to see what has been released to see whether there is something that fits your repertoire or piques your curiosity.

Beginner openings

When I first received this, I had serious reservations, but I was soon won over by this excellent series. In five volumes, a wide variety of openings are each presented in short videos that share the ideas and main lines to give you a taste of what they are like. If one of the openings really clicks, you can then look for a more thorough DVD on it.
There is nothing quite like innocently laying a trap in the opening and watching your 'poor' opponent find himself wondering what hit him. This fun DVD shares 1000 opening traps for you to test yourself, and perhaps play at the board.

Before heading into a couple of DVDs I particularly liked, should you be looking for something to prepare a repertoire, whether against a specific opening or something as broad as a full armor with 1.Nf3 or 1.d4, you will find it. Do not hesitate to use the Search function to enter a word such as Repertoire. You might be surprised at what it turns up.

A couple of favorites

As someone who is not always seeking to book myself up to move 25 (understatement of the year), but not wanting to go down the road of just a 'system', I found this DVD on the Sicilian Taimanov/Paulsen to hit that middle ground perfectly. GM Ramirez's presentation is fluid, enthusiastic and convincing. Highly recommended.
I'll be honest, I have always found Bologan's material to be as intimidating as they are thorough. I cannot fault it of course, but it was never really for me.... until this. Instead of a DVD on how to neutralize one opening, he proposes to neutralize three: the Alekhine, the Scandinavian, and the Pirc. His explanations are clear, the lines he chooses are simple and efficient. Superb.

Not to be overlooked

Seriously, what more do you need apart from a cover that says Garry Kasparov is going to teach the Najdorf. Not just a game, but the entire opening in three DVDs! Even if the theory is not all cutting edge, his detailed explanations on ideas and his vision of the opening are worth the price of entry alone. Mind you, he has one on the Queen's Gambit Declined too!
I'm a romantic at heart, and in a day when the King's Gambit seems all but swept under the rug, it is such a rich opening with fun positions, that one cannot help but take one's hat off to GM Simon Williams who filled two DVDs with over 11 hours of delightful games and analysis. Fantastic.

Middlegame

Beginner to Intermediate Tactics

With so many choices, it is hard to know
which to recommend, but you can never
go wrong with Daniel King, hence this
suggestion for his Power Play 14 on tactics.
Top GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov brings his
own course on tactics here, covering ideas
as well as his own method in The Path to
Tactical Strength.

Advanced Tactics

The Magic of Chess Tactics, which 2002
was originally published as book in the
USA, has been considerably improved and
expanded. It is also quite challenging.
The sequel, The Magic of Chess Tactics 2,
was no less challenging, with hundreds of
new positions and quizes to test. Not aimed
at beginners, it is a fun DVD for the student.

Also, do not forget the excellent Tactics Trainer web app in ChessBase Account, which provides nearly
unlimited (over 50 thousand positions) training and that adapts to your ability.

Positional play / Strategy

If you are still wetting your feet in strategy,
and want a friendly yet thorough look, then
First Steps in Chess Strategy is a good start.
Veteran trainer and grandmaster, Adrian
Mikhalchishin produced a five-DVD series
called Strategy University. This is vol. 1

Endgame

You really cannot find anything better
than the multi-volume series on the
endgame by GM Karsten Mueller. This
is volume one covering Basic Knowledge.
If you want it all and want it in one single
product, then the timeless Endgame Manual
by the Russian trainer Mark Dvoretsky is your
choice. Just be warned: it has no videos.

Master Class

This new series by ChessBase is great fun and fascinating. Each volume covers a world champion, but this is not simply a collection of their games. First you get a thorough breakdown of the champion's openings by a grandmaster, then another grandmaster analyzes his middlegame play, commenting on quirks, tendencies, style, and contributions to modern understanding. Then there is a selection of tactical quizzes by IM Olver Reeh, who also brings a large selection of test positions from that player's career, and of course the endgame play is illustrated by GM Karsten Mueller. Topping that all of is of course a database of all the known games by the players, with as many commented as can be found, and a summary of their careers. I gave them all enthusiastic thumbs up, and deservedly so.

It is fitting that the first volume in this new series was on the legendary Bobby Fischer, but the quality of the content and the videos ensured the series' success.
Mikhail Tal is best known for his boundless imagination and courage at the board. This Master Class on his career does him justice, with hundreds of quizzes to solve as well. His nickname the 'Magician of Riga' was well deserved.

Games collections

There are so many excellent games collections, that to present only two seems to suggest the others are less worthy, but to keep this article on selections manageable, only two are give. One is a personal favorite, plugged shamelessly at every turn, and the other is Kasparov. Still, be sure to check out Seirawan, Kramnik, Anand, and Short, all of whom have superb DVDs in their own right.

This two-DVD set by Viktor Korchnoi is the best of its kind, hands down. I have watched it more than once, and will no doubt do so again. Korchnoi's sheer enthusiasm is contagious as he bounces in his chair explaining how much he wanted to win. If you are ever feeling a bit down about chess, watch this to rekindle the fire.
Based on his three-book games collection / autobiography, this DVD on volume one might seem to by a lightweight version of the book. However while it might not contain as many games as the book, it makes up for it with Garry Kasparov's personal presentation. You can see the emotions on his face as he relives some of the moments.

Classic ChessBase

Even here I cannot cover all the basic fundamental items in the ChessBase catalogue, and while they are all deserving of mention, these are the ones I think are true must-haves if you can.

Was there ever any doubt? The program ChessBase started it all and is an essential tool to every pro under the sun. It started as a plain database program, but has grown into so much more, with online publishing tools, analysis functions, etc. The many packages in the ChessBase Shop with varying prices bring more items at an overall cheaper price.
If you had but one other item to add to ChessBase, it would be Mega Database. Not only does it contain millions of games, all well organized with consistent spellings, but has tens of thousands of pictures of the players, tens of thousands of commented games, and a free one-year subscrition to update the database every week. It is hundreds of book collections in one.
The newest kid on the block, Komodo 10 is the strongest analysis engine there is, with superb positional play and endgame technique that is the envy of its rivals. You also get a free 6-month Premium subscription to ChessBase Account and Playchess. Great value.
Frankly, this is the ultimate gift to a player, whether someone you know, or yourself. A subscription to ChessBase Magazine is a dream package. Each issue contains videos on openings, commented games, world class analysis by players such as Carlsen, Caruana, Nakamura, and more. There are articles on openings with novel analysis, endgame articles and the list goes on. It even comes with a voucher for the ChessBase Shop! I have honestly been collecting them since the very first CD came out, well over a decade before I wrote a word for ChessBase, even when I worked for rivals...
ChessBase Account Premium 1 Year
A Premium subscription used to 'only' offer a one year access to Playchess with right to rating, simuls, ChessBase TV, and the interactive live GM commented games (you can ask the GM questions). Now that also includes everything in ChessBase Account, with the Cloud database features, Fritz, and the utterly brilliant online Video catalogue with hundreds of hours of material, some of which are for sale in the ChessBase Shop.
The Opening Encyclopaedia is a bit of a hybrid with a huge database, not quite as vast as Mega, but containing thousands of openings surveys and articles coming from over 15 years of ChessBase Magazine articles. In it are also tens of thousands of commented games. You lose the year of free updates Mega has, but get the amazing wealth of openings material.


Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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Lachesis Lachesis 6/2/2016 02:17
I strongly recommend the DVDs by IM Sam Collins.
MarriedRhombus MarriedRhombus 5/24/2016 05:24
Those authored by GM Pert are all great.
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