Andrew Martin's opening training

by ChessBase
10/15/2007 – Our Chessbase Workshop columnist continues to catch up on his previews of ChessBase training CDs. In the latest column he tears the shrinkwrap off of four opening DVDs by Andrew Martin to offer a look at the goodies they contain. Workshop...

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  • The ABC of the Modern Slav by Andrew Martin
  • The ABC of the Czech Benoni by Andrew Martin
  • Queen's Pawn Openings by Andrew Martin
  • The ABC of Alekhine by Andrew Martin

In this ChessBase Workshop we're going to continue catching up on DVD releases from the last several months. The four DVDs previewed in this column share some commonalities. All of them feature Andrew Martin as the video instructor. All of them also ship with the ChessBase Reader software included, so no other programs are required (note that if you already own a version of ChessBase or one of the Fritz family of playing programs which support Chess Media System content, you don't need to install ChessBase Reader to be able to use these DVDs). The Chess Media System presents video-based lectures coupled with a chessboard upon which the pieces move in conjunction with the instructor's audio/video commentary; all you need do is start a video, sit back, watch, listen, and learn. And all of these DVDs are aimed at the average club-level player.

Title: The ABC of the Modern Slav
Disk contents: Twenty-three videos, most of which concentrate on a single game. The total running time for all videos combined is approximately four hours.
Comments: As we discover in the DVD's introduction, the Slav is one of the most popular defenses to 1.d4 and has the additional benefit of encompassing concepts which are easily applicable to various flank openings (such as the English, the Larsen, and various 1.Nf3 openings). Martin concentrates on the Black side of the Slav, and especially focuses on a newer approach to this defense involving an early ...a7-a6. Martin (as usual) emphasizes ideas in the opening, the reasons why the moves are played, instead of avalanching the viewer with variations heaped upon variations, and he does so in a highly engaging conversational style. An interesting aspect of the instruction occurs in the Notation pane, in which Martin includes a shorter version of his video commentary in text annotation form (much like an instructor who hands out a printed outline to the students at the start of class); thus the viewer gets the additional benefit of reading the important points as well as hearing them.

Title: The ABC of the Czech Benoni
Disk contents: Thirty-one Chess Media System instructional videos, most analyzing a single game. Total running time of the video instruction is approximately four hours.
Comments: The thirty-one(!) videos on this disk are organized according to either variation or theme ("Pawn breaks", "Blocked position theory", "What can go wrong"). This should automatically assure you that the emphasis on this DVD is again on understanding ideas rather than on memorizing reams of specific move orders. In the disk's introductory video, Martin disputes the "bad rap" that the Czech Benoni has gotten as far as chess' upper echelon players are concerned. He also reinforces the ideas that a) there's not much concrete "theory" (i.e. loads of opening sequences) to learn, so even the average player can play this opening well, and b) understanding how to handle blocked positions is crucial to playing this opening successfully. Consequently, even if you don't have a strong interest in playing the Black side of this opening, the disk still serves as a good basic guide to proper play in cases of a blocked/interlocked pawn structure. In fact, the video chapter on "Blocked position theory" contains crucial information (both technical and psychological) for every player who finds himself facing an interlocked central pawn structure. The disk also contains all of the games separately in regular database form, sans verbal commentary.

Title: Queen's Pawn Openings
Disk contents: Thirty-one videos using the Chess Media System form of instruction. The total running time of the video lessons is more than six hours.
Comments: Here again Martin covers the opening from the Black viewpoint. This DVD is a virtual arsenal of weaponry which Black can use in against variety of 1.d4 openings, including the Trompowsky, the Torre Attack, the Colle System, the London, the Stonewall, and even the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (among others). There's a lot of territory covered on this DVD, which explains the lengthy (combined) running time of more than six hours. There are some interesting general points to be made about these "annoying" White 1.d4 openings (as Martin termed them on a previous video offering), mainly that they're very popular at the club level even if top level players tend by and large to dismiss them, which makes it all the more important for Black players at the club level to have ready defenses to them. Martin provides the viewer with numerous ideas in this wide range of assorted 1.d4 lines, and does so in his usual clear, easy to understand language, making this DVD ideal for the average player. Martin sums up his approach to the instruction on this DVD in the introductory video: "It is time to put those damned Queen's Pawn players back in their place". Believe it -- I wish I'd had the information on this disk a dozen years ago when the Torre and the Trompowsky were all the rage with my opponents in the local monthly rated chess events.

Title: The ABC of Alekhine
Disk contents: Twenty-five instructional videos, with a combined total running time of more than five and a half hours.
Comments: As with the other DVDs discussed above, Martin approaches the material primarily from Black's viewpoint. Unlike the others, this disk deals with a defense to 1.e4. Martin refers to the Alekhine as more of a counterattack than a defense, because it gives Black lots of dynamic play and a good chance of early equality. Here again the instruction is aimed at the typical club-level player, but be forewarned -- the plethora of White options in this opening does require a bit more "book" learning than some of the other openings which Martin has tackled in his other DVD offerings. However, Martin still concentrates primarily on ideas and tries to make things as easy as possible for the Black player. The videos do tend to be a bit longer on this disk than they are on other "ABCs" offerings; be prepared to do a bit of extra work if you plan to adopt the Alekhine as a defense to 1.e4. Still in all, Martin has made the task of learning this opening as painless as it can be.

Until next week, have fun!

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

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