ChessBase DVDs – The Art of the Exchange Sacrifice

1/11/2012 – This month in Chess Cafe Steven B. Dowd is reviewing ChessBase DVDs that "show the power of original ideas in chess, their categorization, and learning how strong players formulate and classify these ideas will make you a better player." In the current review he looks at Ari Ziegler's DVD, which gets only four stars ("good") because of certain shortcomings, but actually deserves six.

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Ari Ziegler – Exchange sacrifice

By Steven B. Dowd

The Art of the Exchange Sacrifice (DVD), Ari Ziegler, ChessBase, Playing Time: 6 hours 40 minutes $31.95 (ChessCafe Price: $27.95)

I was very excited at the prospect of learning more about that most diffuse of sacrifices, the exchange sacrifice. I love such sacrifices because of the unbalanced positions they provide, as well as the opportunity to play a "beautiful" game. The package insert promises that you will, "seriously enhance your understanding of exchange sacrifices, very quickly recognize the value of an exchange sacrifice in any kind of position, your games will be richer and you will see more opportunities and because of that you will improve your overall results, and you will reach a better understanding of the games of world class players."

The author notes that this is a DVD for "chess lovers," and that only a true chess lover would buy a DVD on the exchange sacrifice. Ziegler succeeds with flying colors in developing a classification of when the exchange sacrifice works in various settings. Exchange sacrifices work in diverse positions and have diverse goals. Sometimes you sacrifice the exchange for mating possibilities, but just as often it can be a strategy to give you a strong outpost piece in the middlegame, or as a means to an endgame advantage by sacrificing the exchange for a minor piece and a pawn.

There are thirty sections to his taxonomy, from defensive sacrifices to build a fortress (the DVD uses the unfortunate term "to build a castle," which might be misinterpreted by some) or secure a technical draw, getting strong outpost pieces on e6/d6 or d3/e3, sacrifices on squares such as f6 or c3 to weaken the squares around the king, for central domination, getting the bishop-pair plus one pawn against rook plus bishop with weaknesses on the squares that would be protected by the missing bishop, and so on. He obviously has been collecting these for a good many years, and he knows his material.

However, some of the games are misplaced. For example, the very strong exchange sacrifice made by Kasparov against Yusupov, 1989, is classified under "Sacrifice on f6 in order to weaken the squares around the castled king." Well, in this game Kasparov sacrificed an exchange on e8 to a white bishop on h5, which lead to fatal f3 weaknesses, so it does qualify as a sacrifice that weakened the f3-square, but that is not where the sacrifice occurred. Certainly some viewers would find this distracting and confusing.

My favorites were the various endgame sacrifices, especially the following, since it looks like a study. It falls under the heading "sacrificing the exchange to get a pawn to the seventh rank."

Ziegler comes across as a sympathetic character, but he is a terrible presenter. Another weakness of this DVD is the written notes accompanying the games. Some are in poor English with multiple misspellings (whereas others are well-done without mistakes), some are in German, and some are in Swedish! This appears to be a lack of editorial quality control by ChessBase.

The material in terms of its attempt at a first taxonomy of the exchange sacrifice deserves six stars. The author's analysis is usually quite good, although it does lapse at times into the superficial. His ideas deserve a full six stars as well. But given his poor presentation skills, and the editorial gaffs, this brings the rating down considerably. Still, if you are one of those "chess lovers" who wants to learn more about the elusive exchange sacrifice, you will want this DVD. My hope is that the author expands on his material; it would be enough to fill a good-sized book and would provide for easier reference.

My assessment of this product: Good (four out of six stars)


Sampler from Ari Ziegler: Art of the Exchange Sacrifice

Born in 1966, Ari Ziegler is a Swedish international master. In his homeland Ziegler has an excellent reputation as a theoretician. In 2004, together with Jacob Aagaard and John Shaw, he founded the publishing house Quality Chess, which rapidly earned an excellent reputation on the chess scene. In 2007 Ziegler left the firm in order to become president of the Swedish Chess Federation.


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