ChessBase Magazine 143 – A Cornucopia of Chess

9/22/2011 – "Serious chess players will relish spending countless hours studying the information in ChessBase Magazine issues," writes Steve Goldberg. "Some players may find just the opening analysis they've been looking for, others will appreciate the impressive depth and breadth of the annotated games, too many to count, annotated by world class players." Goldberg gives it five stars in his Chess Cafe review.

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A Cornucopia of Chess

By Steve Goldberg

ChessBase Magazine #143 (DVD), by Rainer Knaak (ed.),
ChessBase 2011, $23.95, (ChessCafe Price: $19.95)

ChessBase Magazine, appearing every two months, has been and remains a virtual cornucopia for serious chess players. There is a little of everything – coverage of recent tournaments, opening surveys, various strategic and tactical presentations, endgame analysis, countless annotated games, and an extensive database of correspondence games. There are video segments and audio segments, as well as text-based instruction.

The DVD is the main star here, but there is a companion booklet that accompanies it. The booklet is a twenty-five page summary of the contents of the disc, so a player can quickly identify items of special interest. Actually, there are twenty-five pages in English and another twenty-five pages in German.

The initial screen of the DVD provides a rather extensive overview of the magazine's contents, with clickable links to various elements within the DVD. The left side of this initial screen contains a basic table of contents, again with clickable menu items.

Recent Tournaments

This issue features coverage of four recent events:

  • The Candidates Matches in which Boris Gelfand emerged as the world championship challenger to Anand.
  • The Bazna Kings tournament that saw Carlsen and Karjakin tied for first place.
  • The Lublin tournament as part of the 3rd European Chess Festival. Alexei Shirov took clear first here.
  • The 46th Capablanca Memorial Tournament, where Ivanchuk and Le Quang finished ahead of the field.

It should be noted that this tournament coverage consists of a brief discussion of the course of the event, together with a number of extensively annotated games. It's not an in-depth round-by-round report of the event.

In addition to the four tournaments noted above, this issue also contains games from a variety of other events. The primary game database lists 844 games from all of these events, dozens of which are heavily annotated. Except for the number of annotated games, the game database resembles the weekly TWIC database updates many players will be familiar with.

Openings

A total of thirteen opening surveys are included here:

  • A89 Dutch Leningrad
  • B30 Sicilian Anti-Sveshnikov
  • B33 Grivas Sicilian
  • B90 Sicilian Najdorf
  • D27 Queen's Gambit Accepted
  • D44 Semi-Slav
  • D52 Queen's Gambit Cambridge Springs
  • D53 Queen's Gambit
  • D90 Grunfeld Defense
  • D94 Slav/Grunfeld Defense, Schlechter Variation
  • E11 Bogo Indian Defense
  • E67 King's Indian Fianchetto
  • E73 King's Indian

Each opening survey reviews plans for both sides, provides various alternative variations, links to a number of relevant annotated games, and ends with a conclusion about the nature of the specific opening.

In addition, there is an "opening trap" segment covering the Staunton Gambit in the Dutch Defense. Furthermore, there are four other FritzTrainer video segments covering the Classical King's Indian, French Winawer, Exchange Slav, and the Grand Prix Attack in the Sicilian Defense.

Move by Move

Daniel King presents a game in which the viewer is asked to consider options for Black after nearly every White move. King frequently lists alternatives to Black's actual moves, but doesn't always provide an evaluation of these moves. I found this portion of the DVD a bit difficult to work with, although turning training mode off and just working through the game annotations can still be beneficial.

Strategy

This segment consists of a single, lengthy written presentation titled "The vital art of exchanging queens," by Peter Wells. He broadly discusses when and how one should seek an exchange of queens, and when this should be avoided. Links again are provided to multiple relevant annotated games.

Tactics

Thirty-one tactical puzzles are included, six of which are presented on the "Tactics" screen. These six are easily worked with, as long as the "training" tab has been clicked on the game screen. The other puzzles, however, were less intuitive to access. I found that if I opened this segment using my ChessBase program, and if I had the "training" option clicked (tools-options-notation-training, in ChessBase 9), the puzzles worked beautifully. Without ChessBase, though, a viewer will have to click the "games" tab on the Tactics main screen of the DVD. This will bring up the thirty-one game database in the normal ChessBase database format. But then clicking on any game brings the viewer to the beginning of the game, not to the specific puzzle position. Proceeding move by move, the viewer may well move right past the puzzle position(s) and thereby miss the whole point of trying to solve the problem.

Endgames

In this portion, eight endgame positions are reviewed by noted endgame specialist Karsten Müller. These are short video segments, most between about three and seven minutes, looking at recent games.

Tele-Chess

Somehow, I expected this segment to consist of little Teletubbies characters wobbling around with chess boards on their abdomens. Instead, ChessBase uses the term "tele-chess" to refer to correspondence chess, whether by postcard, email, web server, or similar means.

There's not a lot of "meat" here, but there are a number of annotated games included. ChessBase also includes links to multiple sources for free correspondence chess. Of note is that there is included in this section a database of 7,029 correspondence games, although most of these games appear to involve lower-rated players.

ChessBase 11 Video Course

In order to view these video segments, I had to have my version of ChessBase (CB9) open. This essentially is a "how-to" set of videos for users of ChessBase 11.

Summary

Serious chess players will relish spending countless hours studying the information in ChessBase Magazine issues. Some players may find just the opening analysis they've been looking for, while others will appreciate the impressive depth and breadth of the annotated games, too many to count, with many of these annotations by world class players. I should note that some of the annotated games use German text only, and at least one of the video segments on this DVD is in German, not English. But with these few exceptions, everything else is user-friendly for English-speaking players. Also, ChessBase Magazine Extra is published on alternating months from the regular edition.

There may be better options for tactical puzzles, and for greater in-depth coverage of international tournaments, turn to the New in Chess print magazine. But for the sheer variety and scope of the chess included, these ChessBase Magazine issues are a source of pure joy.

My assessment of this product: Great (five of six stars)
Order ChessBase Magazine #143 by Rainer Knaak


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