Andrew Martin's DVD The ABC of the Ruy Lopez

12/9/2004 – The Chess Media System feature of ChessBase 9 and the Fritz family of playing programs allows instructors to provide video chess instruction in a more engaging manner than standard chess videos by using fully animated chessboards. The latest entry in the Fritz Trainer series is Andrew Martin's DVD The ABC of the Ruy Lopez. In this week's ChessBase Workshop, we tear off the shrinkwrap to bring you details on our latest chess DVD release. Workshop...

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ANDREW MARTIN'S THE ABC OF THE RUY LOPEZ

previewed by Steve Lopez

The Ruy Lopez is easily the most popular White continuation in the double-King-pawn openings. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, White gets lasting pressure on Black's position:

Although the opening is popular at the club level, how many players of the White pieces really understand all of the nuances of the Ruy? After the Bishop comes out to b5, Black has a lot of options at his disposal; the move 3...a6 (the Morphy) is really just the tip of the iceberg. But there's a common thread in all of the Ruy Lopez variations: a well-prepared White player who really understands the purpose of the opening will get lasting pressure on his opponent's position.

That lasting pressure is the focus of the new ChessBase Fritz Opening Trainer DVD called The ABC of the Ruy Lopez. Andrew Martin, known for his chess books in print format, is your instructor for this series of video lectures which use the Chess Media System features of the Fritz8 "family" of chessplaying programs (Fritz8, Shredder8, Junior8, Hiarcs9, and Chess Tiger15) as well as ChessBase 9. You'll need an upgraded version of one of these playing programs (a free upgrade for registered users, available by logging on to the Playchess server) or CB9 to be able to view the lectures. But the DVD is more than just a collection of videos. In the screen's video pane, you'll see and hear Martin, but he uses the program's on-screen chessboard and its various multimedia components (colored arrows and squares) to illustrate the ideas and concepts and bring them to life. You can resize the chessboard in your program to whatever size you're comfortable with and do the same for the video pane -- this alone makes the DVD approach superior to regular chess videos that use a physical wallboard (which, all too often, is so badly sized or colored as to make the tape or disk almost unusable).

(In addition to owning one of the aforementioned programs, you'll also need to be running Windows Media Player 9 on your computer system, plus have a sound card and speakers, as well as a DVD drive.)

Each of the video lectures contains games which are replayed automatically on the chessboard in conjunction with Martin's commentary. The advantage of the "video lecture" approach is that Martin can take his time and explain literally every move of the illustrative games as well as any side variations he includes as further illustration.

The reason why The ABC of the Ruy Lopez is provided on DVD instead of CD lies in the sheer amount of material included in the course: there's over three and a half hours of video chess instruction on the disk. Although Martin doesn't cover every possible Ruy Lopez system, he discusses almost all of the major ones the average club and tournament level player is likely to play/encounter in his own games. Here's a list of the "chapters" (each is a separate video) as well as their running times (in minutes and seconds):

  1. Introduction (19:12)
  2. Sustained Pressure (12:54)
  3. Simplicity (18:36)
  4. Solidity (9:50)
  5. The Lopez Grip (12:58)
  6. Black Tries to Smash the Ruy Lopez (10:40)
  7. Intro to Theory and the Berlin Defense (11:38)
  8. Berlin I (5:14)
  9. Berlin II (6:15)
  10. Schliemann (16:55)
  11. Bird (9:19)
  12. Cozio (12:19)
  13. The Smyslov Variation (14:55)
  14. The Classical Variation (10:50)
  15. Berlin Classical (6:28)
  16. Chase Variation (8:57)
  17. Steinitz Deferred (9:28)
  18. Main Line I (9:06)
  19. Main Line II (7:09)
  20. Main Line III (9:49)
  21. Outro [Conclusion] (0:48)

The database on the DVD consists of one entry: a Table of Contents text which allows you to start any of these videos just by clicking on the "Media Player symbol" beside the video's title.

You can easily see both by the number of topics and variations covered as well as the running times that there's a ton of material on this DVD. Although it's certainly possible to watch the whole disk in an evening, I recommend a slower approach: it's best to view the DVD one to three sections at a sitting, rather than try to devour it all at once as a "crash course".

Martin doesn't try to cover every single subvariation in each of the above-listed variations. The point of this disk isn't to be a complete compendium of every Ruy Lopez game played to date (that's what your master database is for); instead, the focus of this DVD is on ideas. Understanding the ideas of the opening will get you a whole lot farther than merely memorizing variations by rote.

This, in fact, is the basis of the DVD's title: The ABC of the Ruy Lopez. It's not a complete guide to every Ruy variation known to man but is instead an introduction to the ideas contained in each of the main Ruy Lopez subsystems. However, a bit of pre-knowledge of positional ideas is assumed (and required) on the part of the viewer; it's not a DVD for beginning players. Speaking as a very average typical club player, though, I had no problem following/understanding Martin's instruction (which, by the way, is provided in English).

While I'm thinking about the presentation itself, I'll let you know that it's excellent. The video is good quality and (though I won't pretend to have viewed the entire 3.5 hours of video yet) there have been no problems with sound quality either -- no muffled sound or volume dropoffs. Martin is an excellent speaker and you should have no trouble following along with the commentary assuming that you have a fair grasp of the English language.

As a personal note, the DVD doesn't cover in-depth the Ruy system that I usually employ. The main reason I adopted the variation that I play is because I found an excellent intermediate book years ago that explained the system's ideas in really good detail; I was able to easily grasp the ideas and use them in my own play. However, had this DVD's instruction been available to me back then, I'd likely have adopted another Ruy variation instead. That gives you an idea of how easily-understandable and accessible Martin's instruction is: even a guy like me (who's not the sharpest knife in the drawer by a longshot) can learn and use the ideas expressed on this disk with minimal effort -- the level of commentary and explanation is similar to that of the intermediate book I mentioned.

That's what The ABC of the Ruy Lopez is all about: learning to play this opening with confidence. While the video style of instruction isn't for everyone (and in the past I've tended to lose patience with chess videos in general, since my mind tends to wander while watching them), I found Martin's teaching style to be interesting and engaging. I think The ABC of the Ruy Lopez is a good bet for any player of the White pieces who wishes to adopt this solid opening and add it to his or her chess arsenal.

Until next week, have fun!


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


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