Inside CBM 191: Improvement and training

by Davide Nastasio
9/30/2019 – The way we play and improve our chess has increased in complexity. The game is the same, but the information overload from video streaming channels, hundreds of books published yearly, and online sites vying for our attention can be overwhelming to an average chess player. ChessBase Magazine, with its holistic format based on training different parts of the game and its sophisticated interactive Fritz trainer tools, allows every player to learn while having fun. DAVIDE NASTASIO reviews the content of the latest issue and some fundamental positions and games everyone should play, learn from and enjoy.

ChessBase Magazine 191 ChessBase Magazine 191

Analyses by Caruana, Giri, So, Vidit, Wojtaszek, Gelfand, McShane, Yu Yangyi, Nielsen, the Muzychuk sisters and many more. Plus videos by King, Sokolov and Williams. 11 opening articles with new ideas for your repertoire plus lots of training sessions!


A review

I like to begin from the endgames, especially when I'm preparing for a weekend tournament. The reason is simple, most of my games last 3-4 hours, and they are generally decided in the endgame. Sometimes one begins to imagine the endgame to which a given middlegame position is likely to lead. Hence, to get some new ideas in the endgame, preferably with expert GM guidance is a must!

In this issue of ChessBase Magazine (abbreviated as CBM) the endgame expert GM Mueller created a selection of knight endgames. Generally when learning such endgames, one immediately remembers the words spoken by Mikhail Botvinnik, who was World Champion on and off from 1948 to 1963 thanks to system he helped devise.

One nice thing I like about Mueller is that he teaches also the German endgame terms, used to explain endgame techniques, while showing different positions. In this way, if one day I'll play with some German players who don't speak English, we can still converse about the endgame!

Of the plethora of endgames Mueller showed, some especially impressed me. I'd like to offer the reader of this article the chance to play, as White against the engine, this position coming from the Polish Women's Championship. White to play and draw:


This endgame is quite fascinating, and to discover all the lines, without an engine, is clearly hard. But it can give a feeling of what it meant in Fischer's times to adjourn a game, and prepare to play it the following day!

Of course there are easier endgames, like the following one, where is Black to move and win. Try it against the engine — the idea obviously is domination of the enemy knight.


After the endgames, I moved on to the training section. I like the idea of questions I need to answer, like in a real game or in a session with a real coach.

Often on commercial sites with tactics positions they don't ask questions, and one just guess the right move, instead of finding the correct continuation thanks to calculation. The difference is huge for the efficacy of the training, especially if one is interested in improvement.

There are a little more than 1,300 games in this issue of CBM. While it is the sacred duty of the tournament player to check the latest ideas in the openings he/she plays, it can also be fun to browse and look for exciting games.

Could you guess the name of the player who played 17.♗h6 with White and resigned after Black answered  17...♝xh6 ?


Navigating the Ruy Lopez Vol.1-3

The Ruy Lopez is one of the oldest openings which continues to enjoy high popularity from club level to the absolute world top. In this video series, American super GM Fabiano Caruana, talking to IM Oliver Reeh, presents a complete repertoire for White.

Here the entire game for those who'd like to know such prestigious name!


And what about the following position? If you were White how would you continue?


Many of these miniatures have critical moments in the sense they contain a tactic or combination, a blunder, and some moments in which we can recognize ourselves in the mirror, because we all commit the same mistakes.

The following is a selection of miniatures (games which are 25 moves or fewer) which I found entertaining, the first game is the one from which the position above was taken!


The miniatures, especially if one reviews a lot of them, are quite useful for spotting typical mistakes: surrender of the centre, wrong calculations, or even tactics which flow from a superior position, are elements one should pay attention to.

Another series of interesting games are the upsets! When one of the two players is 3-400 points stronger than the other, the result should be known, but Caissa is a capricious goddess!


The latest version of the flagship database — ChessBase 15 — offers an interesting training feature, which I'd call "Guess the Move." One can open a game and click on the replay/training tab, and try to understand why one side played in the way they played.

Click the "Replay training" tab

It can be done for the openings one plays or to follow in the footsteps of a favourite player.

In this issue of CBM there are many deeply annotated games by top players or their seconds. The following one is especially interesting for what GM Peter Heine Nielsen, Carlsen's second, considers the difference "AlphaZero" is making on modern play with pawns. I must admit I found the explanation amusing, because I lost a game with a similar pawn thrust up to H6, and it happened quite a bit before AlphaZero. Of course my opponent and I are not top players. The game is interesting also for the comparisons Nielsen makes between different engines, and what Grischuk's preparation was.


In the book Chess for Life, the chapter dedicated to FM Terry Chapman described how he likes to watch games by players rated around 2700 which totally outclass the opponent rated around 2200-2500. I think a similar exercise can be done thanks to filtering a difference of 500 points using the games in this issue of CBM.


In Megabase 2019, more than 5000 games can be found with such difference in rating, giving a lot of material to study, but also demonstrating a unique advantage of the ChessBase training system: In few clicks one can gather material that a few decades ago would have taken weeks find.

I finally come to the section called, "Ideas for your repertoire". (Yes I hear some of you grumble, I should have begun the article with openings instead of "those boring endgames"!) There are three videos and eleven theoretical articles, plus a section called: Topical Opening Traps. This last section is interesting because it has many positions in which one of the two sides fell into a trap: one on the Scandinavian, one on the Caro-Kann, and one on the London!

I went immediately to the Opening Videos section to see the video made by GM Daniel King, because it showed an overview of the Gothenburg variation, which is part of the endless ocean also known as: Sicilian Najdorf.

After the moves: 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 ♞f6 5.♘c3 a6 6.♗g5 e6 7.f4 h6 8.♗h4 ♝e7 9.♕f3 g5 (g5 is the move which introduces the Gothenburg).


This line is linked to chess history, when in round 14 of the Gothenburg interzonal (I found it written also as "Goteborg") in 1955, three Argentinian players, with the famous Najdorf in front, were soundly defeated by the Soviets who were fighting in the same tournament.

Here the games for those who are interested in such exciting moment of chess history:


But the story is even more interesting when we think a certain 15-years-old American in another interzonal tournament showed his theoretical preparation with an improvement. Remember I found all this in few clicks thanks to ChessBase, but in 1955-58 one would have had to consult a lot of books, if they were possible to fine. This helps shed some light on how legendary Bobby Fischer was.


Now I could go on an on describing the content of this latest ChessBase Magazine, but honestly just the video made by GM King, and learning about these games played in the past, shows how worthwhile the publication is for any serious player aspiring to improve. I also believe that the process we call "improvement" generally can happen only after we apply ourselves for a certain amount of time. To receive a complete training tool like this one, which can be revisited again and again, is certainly one route to becoming better players.

Final thoughts

As we can see, this issue of ChessBase Magazine offers many training opportunities, if one is seriously interested in chess improvement. In our present moment chess has faces the "problem" of too much information. But the ChessBase Magazine offers a structure to distil it down for effective improvement and training the different parts of our game. As a bi-monthly magazine, we have enough time to use the material just in time for the next issue to renew our passion for the game, while giving continuity to our training.

ChessBase Magazine 191

Analyses by Caruana, Giri, So, Vidit, Wojtaszek, Gelfand, McShane, Yu Yangyi, Nielsen, the Muzychuk sisters and many more. Plus videos by King, Sokolov and Williams. 11 opening articles with new ideas for your repertoire plus lots of training sessions!

CBM 191 is available in the ChessBase Shop

Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."


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