Gukesh Fritztrainer: first reviews

by Sagar Shah
8/3/2023 – Gukesh is one of the most promising youngsters in the world of chess. He is no longer just a talent, but has confidently marched to the very top of the chess world, where he is currently ranked no. 11, with an Elo of 2751. In March 2023, Gukesh visited the ChessBase India studio in Mumbai and together with IM Sagar Shah they recorded a video course on how to attack like a super GM. The video course was well received – here are some reviews, from a strong IM to an unrated player.

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The course is based on Gukesh's best attacking games. This video course, which lasts for 4 hours and 14 minutes, was reviewed by members of the ChessBase India community, players of differing levels of strength - right from a strong IM to an unrated player. They give their honest feedback about the video course in this article.

This was the ChessBase announcement when the Gukesh Fritztrainer was launched:

Dommaraju Gukesh, Attack like a Super Grandmaster

Dommaraju Gukesh is currently world no.19, with an Elo of 2730 (April 2023). The most amazing thing is that he is just 16 years old! How did the youngster manage to achieve so much at such a tender age?

While Gukesh is a universal player, there are three qualities of his play that stand out - Attack, Calculation, and Imagination. In this Fritztrainer he touches on these aspects of his play, with special emphasis on how you can become a better attacking player. Gukesh explains his games in great depth, and questions are asked at the appropriate moment to help you understand the intricacies of the position. You not only learn how to attack, but also how to build an attack. Games include Gukesh's wins over world-class players like Rapport, Abdusattorov, Sargissian, Jones and more. At the end of the Fritztrainer, you will find test positions that help you to reinforce the knowledge that you have gained by watching the videos. These test positions include Gukesh's wins over Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. IM Sagar Shah sits together with Gukesh and asks him relevant questions that will help you gain a lot of critical insights.

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Review by IM Sebastián Lermito

Sebastián (2509 FIDE, one GM norm), was born in Argentina and is currently one of the best ten players in Italy. He is active as a player and a coach. He has won the Argentinian Championship five times, the Pan-American Championship twice, and the South American U20 Championship once. As a coach he has the FIDE Trainer title and more than ten years of experience. In 2022, he was the captain and trainer of Argentinian Women Olympic team during the Olympiad in Chennai.

This is what he says:

I strongly recommend this course. It has pleasantly surprised me from the very beginning. I consider that the format used in it is very good, with examples from Gukesh's games, which offers a better analysis of them, since it allows us to know his thoughts and his analysis process during the game. I really liked the "duo" and interactive format with Sagar Shah asking Gukesh interesting questions.

The entire video course is shot with IM Sagar Shah sitting next to Gukesh and asking him relevant questions

This also allows us to know why each opening was chosen, how far its preparation went, and many other details that Gukesh reveals to us throughout the course. I mainly emphasize the concepts of “time” and “bringing all the pieces to the attack”. Another highlight of the course is that at all times Gukesh analyzes and tries to solve by his own means the different variations that arise, without using the engine.

While Gukesh was preparing for the course and (Sagar was dozing off!) he would prepare without the use of engines!

The format chosen for the games is also very good, since we don't see only the final shot, but the entire game, which allows us to see from the beginning how the favorable conditions for the attack are gradually taking shape. Finally the section on exercises and practice positions versus the engine are the final touch, allowing the viewer to apply the concepts learned throughout the course. 

Review no. 2 - Vishnu Warrier (Elo - 2100 USCF)

Vishnu is a USCF candidate master with a peak USCF rating of 2173. Vishnu has written a book through Thinkers Publishing called the “Chess Bible: the Most Instructive Tips, Acxiom's, One-Liners & Mantras”, incorporating lessons learned from his love of the game. Professionally, Vishnu is a SCRUM Master & Sr. Technology Consultant at Ernst & Young.

About the Gukesh Fritztrainer he writes:

The introduction does a good job providing a preview of the course. It is clear the course will focus on three areas

  • building an attack (opening/middlegame)
  • conducting the attack
  • concluding the attack (tactical shot).

It's great we see the entire game because Gukesh does a wonderful job breaking down his thought process in the various phases of the game. Sagar also does a great job asking probing questions.

Review no. 3 Amey Dhule (Elo: 1279)

This review is not meant to point out any flaw in either of the presenters. It's just an honest review from a player/coach and chess enthusiast First of all, Kudos to Sagar and Gukesh for creating such amazing content on Attacking Chess. I have divided the review into 3 parts:

1. Brief Overview
2. Course content
3. Sound and Video quality

Brief Overview: The course is designed considering the playing strength of below 1600 players as well as 2000 rated players. Players above 2000/titled players must already be aware of the concepts mentioned in the course, but different ideas mentioned in the Ragozin/Catalan, Grunfeld and Sveshnikov would be helpful. One of the best parts is the way the content has been structured into ten minute videos with a question at the end. In this age of social media, it’s easier to process bite sized information if you are learning something new. Also, since the attention span of young kids who are learning chess is not high, ten minute videos are better.

Course Content: I have highlighted my key takeaways from this video course.

  • Each tempo counts
  • Time is of essence in dynamic positions
  • Not necessarily every move you play has to be aesthetically pleasing. For example as a beginner I would be afraid of doubled pawns or opening up lines along my castled king even it was for an attack on the opponent’s king 
  • Look for rook lifts while attacking 
  • As rule of thumb, don’t exchange queen or pieces since it simplifies the game
  • Consider opponent’s ideas and best defense resources
  • In the game against Sargissian, I loved the idea of f5 since in one of the lines it allowed for a brilliant temporary queen sacrifice
  • Understood the concepts of Sicilian Sveshnikov since I play it myself from both sides 
  • Best game of the course - Gawain Jones. Instructive pawn sacrifice on d6 followed by Qc3!! and the final nail in the coffin Re7!!

Sound and Video quality: Video quality was good throughout the course. The only suggestion I would make is regarding the sound. At times it was quite low, since Gukesh is soft spoken, especially in Game 5 (Cuenca).

Gukesh during the recordings at ChessBase India in Mumbai

Review no. 4 Sunny Dubey (Unrated)

This is an Interactive Learning “Video + Board” platform wherein the Host (Sagar) reveals interesting stories, tips, strategies and techniques behind each game via instructive dialogues with the Trainer (Gukesh). Throughout the entire course, you will always find both Gukesh and Sagar maintaining a cheerful smile on their faces, which imparts a positive attitude among trainees, so that they should keep on playing chess and enjoy the small happy moments even in the toughest battle of strategies.

 I took this as an opportunity to step into the footsteps of an Attacking Player to get the sensation of how he thinks and plays wild, aggressive and attacking chess. His top five attacking games clearly demonstrates his fighting spirit and his experiences in hunting for a win, even in neutral positions. All those games have been broken down into simpler puzzles, starting from the openings until the endgames. The key moments have been beautifully described in the video analysis of a game, with a separate section for analysing the full game available in text format, along with well-written annotations.

Similar to ChessBase India's YouTube videos, the concept of Play-Pause-Think-Move-Resume allows the viewers to first think it for themselves and then log their moves on the corresponding board before resuming the video. Gukesh showcases his brilliancy by explaining the logic behind his move in the game, and also speaks about how quickly he considered other possibilities before selecting the most effective one. I can also write and record my own variations, both as White and Black, and check their credibility with the engine. This feature is definitely worth a try, as who knows you may discover a creative line better than those mentioned! If not, then there's always a blunder waiting on the board: check to find it by yourself and see how the other side makes the best use of it.

At the end we have the exercise section, which tests our understanding of the course and how much knowledge we have accumulated so far, with new positions taken from many games played by Gukesh against several other players. When I entered a move on the board, a video automatically starts playing, which explained to me why this move is right or wrong. So here we are always learning irrespective of our move choices. It's quite challenging, but it definitely tickles your brain cells. Try, Try, Till You Succeed! The two sections on Practice Positions and Model Games consists of numerous attacking games played by Gukesh, which you can also play against Fritz on the Fritz app or on your browser, and identify what a particular position is demanding you achieve.

For beginners, this course is useful in understanding how to analyse the games, how to make a plan and how to make a habit to figure out a set of moves which you and your opponent will play after a particular position. The annotations in analysis section are written in simple language and are beginner-friendly. Also, if one desires to learn all the openings played here, they should observe carefully and try to replicate it on a real chess board simultaneously.

For intermediate players, this course will make them focus and concentrate more on the imbalanced positions and take advantage of them. This course helps in developing the tactical and positional skills necessary to convert the attack into victory.

For advanced players, understanding of the pawn structures and the type of attack becomes the key in the battle of strategies. Also, you will learn how to control the key squares with your pieces to build an attack and simultaneously defend your king. The small advantages that he gains in most of his games are an important lesson for intermediate to advance level players on how to Attack, Calculate and Imagine at the right moment.

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Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.