Four training DVDs by Alexei Shirov

by ChessBase
10/13/2007 – Our ChessBase Workshop columnist Steve Lopez has been getting lazy in regard to his previews of ChessBase training disks, as he himself states in his latest column. Recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to curing it; please offer him your support by reading the latest column in which he previews four DVDs by Alexei Shirov. Workshop...

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  • My Best Games in the Slav and Semi-Slav by Alexi Shirov
  • My Best Games in the Nimzo-Indian by Alexi Shirov
  • My Best Games in the King's Indian by Alexi Shirov
  • My Best Games in the Caro-Kann by Alexi Shirov

It's been a while since we've previewed any CDs and DVDs in this column (about five months, I believe), so it's high time we tore off some shrinkwrap and popped some disks in the drive tray. In this column we're going to examine the four offerings by GM Alexi Shirov above.

The four disks do share some common elements (aside from a common author). They're all presented on DVD, so your computer will require a DVD drive for you to be able to use them (I know that sounds obvious and to 99% of you it will be -- but you'd be amazed at the number of e-mails I get from users who don't understand why a DVD won't run in a CD-only drive). All four disks contain ChessBase Reader, making them self-contained: no other software is required (however, if you're an owner of a version of ChessBase or Fritz produced since the introduction of the Chess Media System, you won't need to install ChessBase Reader -- just use your existing program). And, now that I've mentioned the Chess Media System, I'll also mention that all four disks use that form of instruction: videos of GM Shirov speaking while your program's on-screen game board follows along automatically with his spoken instruction.

We'll be using my "short form" of preview: bare-bones info followed by some brief comments on the disk's contents.

Title: My Best Games in the Slav and Semi-Slav
Disk contents: Thirteen instructional videos, each based around a single game in which Shirov was a participant. The games span the years 1992 to 2006. Total video running time is nealy five and a half hours.
Comments: The introductory video explains the basic ideas behind the Slav, plus explains a novelty presented in that game. Each successive video explains theory in each variation presented. Note that I did use the word "explains": instead of merely cranking out variations for their own sake, Shirov takes the time to explain the reasoning behind the moves. This is the reason why the user should watch the videos and absorb the instruction in the recommended order; ideas are carried over, but the ideas not verbally repeated, from video to video. Of particular interest to computer chess fans, Shirov's 2001 victory against Shredder in an exhibition game is also included. It should be noted that all games on this DVD are presented in both Chess Media System format and as a regular ChessBase database game; although the latter also contain variations and a bit of symbolic commentary from time to time, the extensive instruction from the videos is not included in text annotation form.

Title: My Best Games in the Nimzo-Indian
Disk contents: Nine video lessons; after an introduction, eight videos (each based around a single game) follow. Total running time is more than four hours.
Comments: The DVD's title isn't completely accurate; Shirov actually discusses three separate openings on this disk, all of which follow the initial moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6. These include the Nimzo-Indian (3.Nc3 Bb4), the Queen's Indian (3.Nf3 b6), and the Catalan (3.Nf3 d5 [intending a transposition into a number of varied openings including the French Winawer] 4.g3). Especially interesting is Shirov's revelation in the introductory video that the games presented share a common thread: Shirov knew the general ideas of each opening at the times the games were played but lacked an in-depth knowledge of many variations -- thus he "flew by the seat of his pants" in each game and developed interesting (and successful) ideas in each opening while at the board, instead of relying on "home preparation." Shirov plays White in all but one game, so the user can look on ths DVD as being from "White's point of view", and also concentrates on more recent (post 2003) games (with one exception). As with the Slav disk, the games are also presented in a very-lightly annotated traditional database form.

Title: My Best Games in the King's Indian
Disk contents: Eleven instructional videos, each centered around a single one of Shirov's games. The total running time exceeds five hours.
Comments: Shirov again offers a glimpse into the mind of a grandmaster as he explains his thoughts in eleven of his best games. Both colors are covered, as Shirov plays both sides of this classic opening. Interestingly he includes three draws among the eleven games instead of presenting nothing but victories (how many players typically consider a draw among their "best games"?). The DVD concentrates on the Classical King's Indian (with White's Be2, Nf3, and 0-0 defining the tabia). The introduction contains a brief description of the history behind this opening (including Garry Kasparov's influence on this opening in the 1980's and early 1990's), after which Shirov adopts a "building block" approach to this opening: each subsequent video builds on concepts introduced in prior lessons. Again on this CD the eleven games are also presented in standard database form.

Title: My Best Games in the Caro-Kann
Disk contents: Ten instructional videos, each (with one exception) focuses on a single game in which Shirov was a participant. Total running time is just shy of five hours.
Comments: Shirov presents ten instructional videos, based on both sides (presenting ideas for both White and Black). One video isn't based on a particular game, but instead contains analysis of the Caro-Kann Advance in which Black plays the older move 6...Ne7 instead of the more current 6...c5. In fact, the main focus of this entire DVD is on the Advance thrust 3.e5 (Shirov's preferred line as White). Of particular interest is Shirov's 2001 blindfold game as White against former world champion Anatoly Karpov, an acknowledged master of the Caro-Kann defense. Unlike the other disks mentioned above, this one does not contain the games in standard database format in addition to the instructional Chess Media System format videos.

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.

© 2007, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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