CD Sicilian Dragon 2 preview

7/1/2004 – In his preview of the new ChessBase training CD Sicilian Dragon 2, columnist Steve Lopez admits to receiving a pair of major shocks. What's so shocking about GM Dorian Rogozenko's CD? Read more about it in the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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previewed by Steve Lopez

This ChessBase CD preview is being offered with a lot of trepidation. It's not that the CD isn't good -- quite the opposite: I don't think my words can do it justice.

The latest opening training CD offering from ChessBase is by GM Dorian Rogozenko; it's called Sicilian Dragon 2: B75-B79. I'll cut right to the chase on this CD -- I firmly believe that it will stand for some time to come as the definitive work on the Dragon Yugoslav Attack. For those unfamiliar with the Yugoslav, the author describes it as "an ambitious system, which starts with 6.Be3 and the King castles long."

I unwrapped the CD, popped it into my computer's drive, and fired up ChessBase 8 for a look. The standard introductory text opened and I gave it a quick read. Several points stood out:

Thanks to its rather unique approach, [the] Sicilian Dragon can be considered an independent opening by itself rather than a part of Sicilian Defence. One can go even further and affirm that Sicilian Dragon is more than an opening, it's an aggressive style of playing, a way of seeing and understanding chess....[A] reason for writing about [the] Sicilian Dragon is that we live in the era of ultra quick development of opening theory. Therefore sharp and popular openings need periodically to be upgraded. Quite a lot of analysis in [the] Dragon have been reviewed and checked again, often with new and more accurate conclusions. In spite of a large existing theory of Sicilian Dragon, some lines have been ignored and I tried to fill that gap.

All I can say is that it must have been a whale of a gap, but more on that later...

The text introduction explains GM Rogozenko's approach to the work's structure; the CD follows standard ECO codes in numerical order. He also explains the manner in which he checked his analysis. All of this is followed by five video clips in which 1999 FIDE World Champion Alexander Khalifman discusses various aspects of the Yugoslav attack, featuring theory for both White and Black as well as discussion of some key variations.

OK, I thought, so far so good -- we know what the author's intends to do with his CD. I then closed the introductory text screen and, as you'll know if you've used other ChessBase training CDs, the game list for the main database is displayed. And that's when I got my first shock.

The list of explanatory texts goes on and on and on. Counting the introductory text, there are ninety-six explanatory texts on this CD!

I quite literally couldn't believe my eyes. I actually shook my head to clear it and looked again. Yup -- ninety-six. So I figured that each text would be some quick one-paragraph blow-off of the opening along with a link to the appropriate section of the opening key. I double-clicked on a text to open it and got yet another shock. I closed the text screen and started randomly double-clicking on texts to check them out. I found the same thing with every text I opened.

Each text is an extensive (two screens or more at 1024x768) examination of the variation in question, complete with text explanations of the moves, evaluations of the variation's merits, and links to important illustrative games. And there are ninety-six of these texts!

I slumped backward into my chair. I've written electronic books in ChessBase format, so I know how much work goes into writing one. My head spun -- I can not estimate or even imagine the amount of time required to write a CD of this scope. Upon looking at Sicilian Dragon 2, I saw how paltry my own efforts have been by comparison -- it's enough to make one give up writing forever.

I won't pretend to have read this whole CD; I stopped after a half-dozen texts and the accompanying games. There's no way anyone can read everything without spending literally weeks in the attempt. Needless to say, you get a lot of "bang for your buck" with this CD, and I imagine that most players will read just the sections that interest them and apply to their own repertoire.

So let's just examine the nuts and bolts of the CD -- what exactly does it contain? The main instructional database is likely the largest collection of Yugoslav Attack games ever assembled; in addition to the nearly one hundred explanatory texts, you get over 26,000 games in the database (current up through the year 2003). Over 1,200 of these games are annotated; the style of annotation runs the gamut from a few variations and evaluations to games extensively annotated with English text (and many of the latter were annotated by GM Rogozenko himself). The database also has a very comprehensive opening key, detailing the Yugoslav's variations (both major and minor) in a hierarchal fashion which will be familiar to owners of other ChessBase CDs.

The CD also contains two additional training databases. These databases are made up of games which contain timed training questions which allow you to test your skills in the Yugoslav Dragon. Why two such databases? That's another key feature of the CD -- GM Rogozenko examines the Yugoslav from the perspective of both players (White and Black), so the CD is appropriate study material no matter which side of the opening you're playing. Thus there are two training databases: one for White and one for Black. Here again I'm impressed by the volume of the work involved -- I've created training databases for some of the projects I've worked on and brother, let me tell you, they are a lot of work. Just selecting a dozen or so games to annotate is an afternoon's work; I can annotate maybe four games a day if I hurry the job. Each of the two training databases on Sicilian Dragon 2 contains thirty-five games, for a total of seventy. Once again, my head spins.

Sicilian Dragon 2 also contains an opening tree of 470,366 unique positions in the Yugoslav Dragon. You can use the tree for researching opening variations, examining the statistical performance of each move in the tree, or as an opening book for the Fritz "family" of playing programs: just load the tree as the program's opening book and you force the engine to play nothing but the Yugoslav Dragon.

Finally the CD also contains a copy of ChessBase Light, the "cut down" version of ChessBase, which you can use to access the material on the disk if you don't have the full version of ChessBase or one of the myriad playing programs we offer. Consequently the CD is self-contained and no other software is required to access the instructional material on the CD.

Needless to say, I was totally blown away by Sicilian Dragon 2. As I stated earlier, I don't think my words can do it justice and it is very likely to stand for a long time to come as the definitive work on the Yugoslav Attack.

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

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