Jubilee DVD with four Gigabytes of memories

by ChessBase
7/21/2004 – The new issue of ChessBase magazine is a landmark in the publication's history: our 100th issue. In celebration of the event, we've included a bonus -- the Jubilee DVD, chock full of videos. In this week's ChessBase Workshop, Steve Lopez offers a (sometimes very personal) preview of this retrospective DVD. Workshop...

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Previewed by Steve Lopez

I can see already that this is going to be the summer of the "CD preview"; the new products are piling up on my desk faster than I can write about them. I had intended to preview another instructional CD in this ChessBase Workshop but I'm going to detour to another product instead. Once in a while something hits my mailbox that turns out to be very special. In this case, it was ChessBase Magazine #100.

It wasn't the magazine CD itself which struck me (although it's excellent as usual) -- it was the bonus insert: a DVD called ChessBase Magazine Jubilee. For my fellow Yanks who aren't familiar with the term, "jubilee" is a (primarily European) expression that corresponds roughly with "centenary", i.e. the hundredth anniversary or hundredth edition of something. In this case, obviously, it's the 100th issue of ChessBase Magazine.

For players unfamiliar with the publication, ChessBase Magazine (or CBM for short) has been the foremost electronic chess publication for nearly two decades. The early versions consisted of a floppy disk containing a database of games with the emphasis on complete tournaments; CBM wasn't just a haphazard bunch of games but was (and is) an ongoing part of the historical record of chess. Starting in the early 1990's the content became more or less "standardized" -- about 1500 games would appear in each issue, with about a quarter to a third of them being annotated by top masters and GMs. The disk also contained opening theoreticals, strategy and tactics advice, a special endgame database, and (for a long time in the 1990's) a special "blunders" database which showed that even top players suffer lapses.

In 1996, CBM went from being something special to something extraordinary: the magazine began to appear on CD and now contained video clips and audio commentary in addition to the previously mentioned database content. Most of us in the U.S. had only seen still pictures (in black and white) of the world's top players in magazines such as Inside Chess. Now we were able to see and hear them in action: watching them play at the board and hearing their comments in post-tournament interviews. ChessBase's Fred Friedel, who was always a "travellin' man", now started globetrotting with a video camera seemingly permanently attached to his eye.

CBM 55, the first issue containing multimedia content, blew everybody away. As Fred explains in the print booklet that accompanies CBM 100, it's hard for younger players today to comprehend what a breakthrough this was. We didn't have broadband Internet access back in those days -- a 56.6bps dialup modem was a pretty pricey acquisition. And it took forever to turn a part of a standard video into an .avi clip on a Pentium I computer. So you couldn't just click on any old chess site to get audio and video the way we can today. CBM 55 was special: we got to see and hear audio and video of our favorite players. This was big stuff.

I'll warn you that this article is about to veer off from being just a preview to something more akin to my trademark rambling screeds. I've been associated with ChessBase for twelve of the seventeen years that CBM's been published and, believe it or not, I have some very fond memories of some of these CBM issues and the events and news they provided. My own commentaries and impressions will be interwoven into a preview of what the CBM Jubilee DVD provides.

First of all, CBM 100 and the CBM Jubilee DVD go hand in glove; there was so much cool stuff available that it couldn't all be put on the DVD and it's not all multimedia. The CBM 100 CD contains a PDF version of the printed supplement that accompanied CBM #1.

The Jubilee DVD contains a set of folders corresponding to twenty-one separate issues of CBM. Each folder contains a multimedia database which interweaves text, videos, and (oftentimes) games in ChessBase format. You'll use ChessBase, one of the Fritz family of playing programs, or the included ChessBase Reader to access these databases.

The way these typically work is this: a "framing" text acts as a chess article that links the multimedia and games together. You read the text and when you come to a link to a video or game you'll click on that link to activate the separate element. In fact, you'll also find games on the DVD which have audio and video embedded within the game -- as you play through the game, a video window will open at the appropriate points to display the clip.

It's been seven years since this format was introduced and I'll confess that it still blows me away. We've come a long way from the days when I was a kid and had to settle for Horowitz' Solitaire Chess column when I couldn't find a live chess opponent. The ideas of a computer opponent and of a multimedia chess magazine were pure science fiction back in the days when I was just a sprout.

Here's an overview of what you'll find on the Jubilee DVD, along with my personal commentary on some of the contents (and some of which will have nothing whatsoever to do with the DVD; I told you this would be a "rambling screed"):

CBM 55: The Credit Suisse Masters Tournament -- This is a landmark database: the first time that video clips were integrated directly into a ChessBase-format game. Although this CD debuted in 1996, I'd known it was in the works for quite some time. In a 1994 long-distance call from Germany, Fred Friedel told me that the programmers were working to integrate video into our games. Being the moron I am, I was nonplussed -- I didn't see what the big deal was. Fred patiently explained to me that the video didn't necessarily have to be clips of the players at the board, that we could include clips of players explaining what they were thinking at the time a move was made. Slowly the light began to break and I understood what a huge thing this would be.

One of the most famous video sequences in ChessBase Magazine. Kasparov is caught realising that he has blundered and will lose the game to Anand, in CBM 55

You'll catch a hilarious example of this in Game #33 in the database. In the clip to Move 32, Vishy Anand explains how he discovered during the game that "it was more important [at the time] to play quickly and badly than slowly and well". And while we're on the subject of hilarity, Move 33 has a clip that shows how wrong I was about video of players at the board: Kasparov makes a move that totally hoses his game and, when he sees Vishy's reply, almost falls backward off his chair.

A youthful Kirsan Ilyumzhinov telling the audience, with the help of a translator, about his plans to build a “chess city” in the capital of his Republic of Kalmykia, in CBM 55.

CBM 56: Encounters -- I really love this one. It's a series of short video clips of various famous chess personalities. For one thing, it illustrates how far digital video technology has come; back in those days, the clips had to be short (compared to today when a single CBM video clip can run longer than fifteen minutes). In those days, clips ran thirty seconds or less. But we were thrilled with them. We finally got to see what an engaging speaker and formidable presence Garry Kasparov makes, what a nice guy Nigel Short really is, and how charming a young lady Judit Polgar grew up to be.

17-year-old Peter Leko telling us about his draw against Kramnik in CBM 56

CBM 57: Behind the Scenes - Gelfand in Linares -- I still recall the pre-Internet days (in the early 90's) when getting all the games from Linares (with a few black and white pics) in Inside Chess a month after the event was a really big deal. While it's true that we had to wait a month longer for the CBM coverage later in the decade, we got multimedia from the event. This was much. (Still is, in fact).

CBM 58: Kasparov vs Deep Blue -- Here again my age is showing. I watched Game 6 live online and thought that was hot stuff. A few weeks later, I got a CD in the mail with video of what is arguably still the biggest event in chess history. It's probably still the most dramatic multimedia database that's ever appeared in CBM. You get to see Garry slowly being unnerved by the machine as the video record progresses; in the post-match videos he looks like death warmed over. You get a video of his famous "hand of God" comment (a soccer reference that I won't even begin to try to explain here). You get a dramatic sixty-second clip of Garry self-destructing in Game 6. And the addition of videos featuring Danny King and the exquisite Anjelina Belakovskaia just further sweetens the pot.

Garry Kasparov losing the final game against Deep Blue, at 15h 10 min and 24 sec on Sunday, May 11th 1997, in CBM 58

CBM 61: Tilburg 1997 -- What do GMs do at tournaments when they're not at the board? You'll find out in the video clips. You'll also get some pretty nifty in-game video commentary by Peter Svidler. I met him at the 1995 World Open when he was a young up-and-comer and practically nobody in the U.S. knew who he was. We couldn't stand each other at first but after a couple of days Peter and I got to be pretty good friends. It's hard to share a pizza with a guy while watching him play blitz game after blitz game against Fritz and not develop a friendship...

Joel Lautier, Peter Leko, Alexei Shirov and Vladimir Kramnik playing table soccer in Tilburg in 1997, in CBM 61

CBM 62: Kasparov in Oxford -- Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Garry Kasparov's been the best "ambassador for chess" that we've had in modern times. In this multimedia section, you'll see firsthand the spellbinding power that Garry can exert over an audience.

Kasparov speaking to the European Affairs Society in Oxford, in CBM 62

CBM 63: FIDE Knockout World Championship -- A nice video record of the new format for WC events.

Russian President Michael Gorbachov attends the closing ceremony of the FIDE world championship in Lausanne, in CBM 63

CBM 66: From Dortmund to Hamburg -- I distinctly remember this database from the time I received the CD in the mail. It contains more in-game commentary by Peter Svidler and I was struck by how much the video had improved (both in length and picture quality) over previous CBM issues.

The two Peters, Leko and Svidler, play a super-fast blitz game in the ChessBase kitchen, with Anand commenting from the sidelines, in CBM 66

CBM 67: Ken Thompson -- As Fred Friedel says in the accompanying text: "...Thompson is a seriously smart cookie". What an understatement! Ken Thompson has genius written all over him. I've never had the pleasure of meeting him, but we spoke on the phone a few times back in the day and I remember being impressed by what a nice guy he was. Ken's one of those guys who knows a lot about everything. In this multimedia presentation, Ken describes the development of his legendary endgame databases. They've since been supplanted by the Nalimov tablebases, and Ken has since turned his attention away from chess, but those databases are a landmark in chess history.

Ken Thompson tells us how the Endgame databases started, in CBM 67

I'll probably get in trouble for telling this story; tough. Ken had a parrot that he trained to talk -- but the parrot would say nothing but insults. On a 1992 trip to the U.S. (a legendary one in which the Maddox brothers and I taught Fred to play American baseball and in which Fred and I became close friends), Fred Friedel stayed with his friend Thompson for a few days. The parrot took an apparent immediate dislike to Fred and never passed up the opportunity to insult him. That is until Fred sat glowering on the couch, staring at the parrot and brandishing a weapon. The parrot decided that discretion was the better part of valor and learned the value of the axiom "Silence is Golden". The parrot shut up -- and survived.

CBM 68: Kasparov in London -- Garry holds forth on the state of professional chess in a London press conference.

CBM 69: Allwermann and Fritz -- The second known instance of an over-the-board chessplayer receiving computer help at a major event. For my less than serious take on this, see my article "Outside Help", published in the March 22, 1999 issue of Electronic T-Notes.

By the way, I recently ran across an old message board post about that article, in which the poster accused me of deliberately fabricating the "Frank Marshall ghost story". Talk is cheap, especially when the accused isn't around to hear the accusation. Check your back issues of Chess Life, pal -- the story was published in one of Andy Soltis' columns sometime between late 1989 and early 1999. I don't have the exact issue number handy or else I'd provide it. But that issue was right in front of me for reference as I typed that article.

Anand laughing uncontrollably while discussing the brilliant moves made by chess amateur Clemens Allwermann, in CBM 67

The truth is stranger anyway -- check out the videos that accompany the Allwermann story on the Jubilee DVD.

CBM 70: Linares 1999 -- Not just a chess tournament report but a complete travelogue. Fred should work this one up for The Travel Channel.

Frederic Friedel showing Anatoly Karpov how to operate the computer, in CBM 71

CBM 71: Advanced Chess -- coverage of the Karpov-Anand Advanced Chess match. I remember these videos vividly: I thought I was fast with ChessBase until I saw the videos of Vishy Anand -- that guy is lightning with a keyboard. Karpov was very obviously uncomfortable with the computer. It's the classic Aesop fable about the tortoise and the hare updated for the new millennium.

Aruna and Vishy Anand telling embarrassing stories about the author, in CBM 71

Judit Polgar and Kasparov’s wife Julia find Aruna’s stories amusing, in CBM 71

There are numerous other videos and databases, but I'll stop with just two more:

CBM 88: Alexandra Kosteniuk -- Is all this damn cheesecake really necessary? This'll probably get me in hot water, but (again) tough. Sometimes when I'm reading the ChessBase website, I don't know whether I'm looking at a chess site or an issue of Maxim. Enough already! Dissenting opinions are always welcome (in fact, they're inevitable).

Alexandra Kosteniuk hamming for the camera during a Hamburg visit, in CBM 88

CBM 91: Man vs. Machine in Bahrain -- Kramnik vs Deep Fritz in what was arguably the most publicized chess event of the new millennium (so far).

There's more, but I'm tired -- man, there is a lot of stuff on this DVD! If you're not already a subscriber, do yourself a favor and order a copy of ChessBase Magazine #100. You'll see on the accompanying Jubilee DVD what you've been missing for these last eight years since the new multimedia CD format was introduced. It'll make you a believer in a hurry.

A wry and ironic Evgeny Bareev talks about Kramnik and computers, in CBM 82

Bareev and Kramnik at work during the world championship match in London, in CBM 83

Garry Kasparov with the boxing champions Vitaly and Vladimir Klitschko, in CBM 83

Vladislav Tkachiev telling us about how chess players think, and what it is like to play Kasparov, in CBM 93

Vladimir Klitschko playing against Fritz on the Playchess server, in CBM 93

Oh, and the regular magazine CD ain't bad either...

Until next week, have fun!

© 2004, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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