DVD instruction

2/8/2007 – ChessBase has been developing and releasing video-based training DVDs like a house a-fire in the past few months. In this week's ChessBase Workshop we preview seven of these disks by Alexi Shirov, Jacob Aagaard, Andrew Martin, and more. Workshop...

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ChessBase has recently (as of this writing) released a passel of instructional disks on DVD. All of these disks ultilize the Chess Media System method of intruction. If you've not yet experienced a Chess Media System DVD, here's a basic rundown of how they work. You launch ChessBase, one of the Fritz family of playing programs, or ChessBase Reader (the latter of which is included on each of these DVDs), and open the database found the DVD. You might be startled to discover that there's usually just a single entry in the database's game list, a text file (not a game). Don't panic, just double-click on the text file to open it. You'll be greeted by a list of entries, each of which has a small photograph (actually a video capture) to its right. Click on the picture and a game window will open. You'll see the accustomed chess board and Notation pane, but also a video pane (actually a connection or plugin to Windows Media Player) in which the instructor will appear. You'll see and hear him speaking in full-motion video. At key points during his commentary, a game will automatically be loaded and appear on the chessboard and in the Notation pane. As you hear him talk about the game, you'll see the pieces moving automatically on the board in synch with his commentary. The instructor can also add variations (which will appear in the Notation pane) and is able to use the full compliment of ChessBase/Fritz special annotations (colored arrows and squares, for example). It's hassle-free chess instruction: you don't even have to use the VCR buttons or cursor keys -- all you need do is sit back, watch, listen, and learn.

I'll be using the "short form" for previewing these disks. I'll point out before we start that each disk is on DVD, so you'll need to have a computer with a DVD drive to view the instruction on the disks. I'll also mention that each disk comes with the ChessBase Reader program, so no additional software is required -- the disk is self-contained.

Title: My Best Games in the Spanish
Author: Alexi Shirov
Disk contents: Ten videos with a total running time of over four and a half hours. Variations covered include the Steinitz, the Berlin, the Open Spanish, the Moeller and Archangel, the Anti-Marshall, the Marshall Gambit, the Modern Tchigorin, and the Flohr/Zaitzev
Comments: I've been an unabashed Alexi Shirov fan ever since I reviewed a series of his VHS tapes for another website about eight years ago. Shirov's tactical acumen absolutely thrilled me (since his patented over the board fireworks were the main subject matter of that VHS series). But his series of ChessBase DVDs are of a much more instructional nature; they're intended more to help you than to merely show off Shirov's prowess (however, there are some real barnburners on these DVDs, make no mistake). It's always an interesting and instructional experience to "get inside a player's head" as he describes what he was thinking during a tournament game. In just the first fifteen minutes of the Steinitz Defense video, we get some insights not only on a GMs "home prep" for a particular opponent (including the process of how he assesses a relatively unknown competitor) but also the pros and cons of two additional minor Black responses to the Ruy Lopez and a number of early White responses to the Steinitz. That's in just the first fifteen minutes of a forty minute video lesson. So, yes, the DVD is jam-packed with useful information for the intermediate to advanced player.

Title: My Best Games in the Sicilian
Author: Alexi Shirov
Disk contents: Eight videos with a total running time of nearly four hours. Variations covered include the Kan, the Taimanov, the Paulsen, the Sveshnikov, the Rossolimo, and the Richter-Rauzer
Comments: More killer commentary from Shirov as he describes his favorite Sicilian games (see my comments on the Spanish disk above).

Title: My Best Games in the Sicilian Najdorf
Author: Alexi Shirov
Disk contents: Nine videos with a total running time of over three hours. Variations covered include the Najdorf with 6.Be2, the Najdorf with 6.Be3 Ng4, the Scheveningen, and the Keres Attack.
Comments: This DVD's a bit more specialized than the previous two Shirov disks due to the complexity of the material; the Keres Attack alone requires four videos for a complete treatment. The back of the DVD case is spot-on -- Shirov's battle with Loek van Wely is an epic and is alone worth the price of admission.

Title: Chess Endgames 2: Rook Endgames
Author: Karsten Mueller
Disk contents: Forty-four videos with a total running time of approximately five hours.
Comments: I'm not even going to attempt to catalogue the conucopia of Rook endings taught on this DVD; there's a lot here dealing with pure Rook endings as well as Rook and pawn endings. The focus of this DVD is to teach you the underlying technique behind Rook endings, so that you can find your way in your own endings by recalling the similar situations which are taught on this disk; as Mueller says in his commentary, "Study them until you know them by heart". Endgame DVDs are where the Chess Media System really shines; many players find "book and board" endgame study to be a form of drudgery, due to the myriad variations and sub-variations which traditionally illustrate the points and must be played through to gain a complete understanding of the technique. But with the Chess Media System's visual instruction, the hard work of shuffling pieces and resetting the chess board is done for you automatically, so all you need to do is sit back and absorb the material. And Mueller's right about studying these positions repeatedly -- knowing them by heart will dramatically improve your chess results.

Title: The ABC of the Caro-Kann
Author: Andrew Martin
Disk contents: Twenty-five videos with a total running time of approximately 4.5 hours. Variations covered include the Capablanca (and deviations), the Advance, the Two Knights, the Exchange, and the Panov.
Comments: I've said it before: Andrew Martin's the best video instructor on the ChessBase roster. His commentary and presentation is lively, entertaining, and (best of all) he doesn't mess around: when a position is good he says so, and if it's bad he makes that very clear too. I'm an old hand at the Caro-Kann, so this DVD immediately caught my eye in the stack of new arrivals. I didn't expect to learn too much, since I've been playing the Caro for years, but Martin put the lie to the old cliché that you can't teach an old dog new tricks; this old hound has picked up a lot of pointers from this DVD, which is suitable for beginning to intermediate players. Two paws up for this disk.

Title: Queen's Indian Defense The Easy Way
Author: Jacob Aagaard
Disk contents: Fifteen videos with a total running time of more than 3.5 hours. Included is an introduction, ten lectures on specific variations, one on pawn structures, and three "bonus lectures".
Comments: I once wrote a preview of a Jacob Aagaard video in which I indicated that I couldn't figure the guy out. After watching the introductory video on this DVD, I think I have a better handle on Aagaard; within the first sixty seconds he already had me laughing my head off. I still don't know whether to descibe the humor as "understated" or "over the top" but his approach had me totally conned on that prior DVD. Learning an opening can't be any less painless than this; Aagard's not clobbering you with an avalanche of theory -- he's stripping it down to the bare basics, giving you what you need to know to play the opening effectively. It's good stuff; I don't know that any chess video will ever be considered "wildly entertaining", but Aagaard's definitely giving Andrew Martin a run for his money with this disk.

Title: The French Defense
Author: Ari Ziegler
Disk contents: Twenty-seven videos with a total running time of nearly seven hours. Variations covered include the Advance, the Tarrasch, the Classical, the Alekhine-Chatard, the Steinitz, and various side lines.
Comments: Ziegler's DVD is a "repertoire for Black" in the French centering around a common theme which the instructor has termed "the Center Method". I'd gauge this disk as being suitable for high intermediate to advanced players; it covers a lot of theory and transpositional possibilities (even from other openings) -- however, he does explain the moves thoroughly and well, so it's not simply a catalogue of variations heaped upon variations. Be sure to crank up the volume for this one; Ziegler speaks very quietly.

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.


© 2006, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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