Magic of Chess Tactics 2: a DVD review

by Davide Nastasio
12/18/2017 – For an adult player Christmas can come early — In this case more than a year ago, May of 2016, when reviewer Davide Nastasio discovered Magic Of Tactics 2. Here's his take just in time for the holidays. There's also a corresponding book, which Davide will look at in a follow-up post.

Magic of Chess Tactics 2 Magic of Chess Tactics 2

FM Claus Dieter Meyer has put under the microscope a comprehensive fund of topical and timeless games/fragments. On video Hamburg GM Dr. Karsten Müller has outlined corner points of Meyer’s work and created 14 tests plus 10 interactive test sets.

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Christmas came in May

Let me tell you a story from the long forgotten past! On May 24th 2016, I had one of the best surprises of that year, what we could define as Christmas for a chess player, the candy shop (also known as Chessbase) was giving away candies for a 25% discount, as they do from time to time. 

Mueller and Meyer

Who could resist? I didn't. First thing in the morning was to renew my subscription to Chessbase Magazine and Chessbase extra, and that gave me 40 euro voucher to spend!!

After long deliberations — half day going back and forth on different products — I bought the DVD that's the subject of this review, and of course the DVD on the best player of all times: Fischer.

Why did I buy this DVD? After all do I really need tactics? In the last years, I've done, on different commercial sites, and some apps, at least 10-15,000 tactics a year.

As chess player I often follow my feelings, and I felt that GM Karsten Müller, and FM Meyer definitely know their jobs, they have huge credentials, and they know the subject quite well.

But is the subject really about forks, and skewers?

Not really. As you can imagine, these two high level coaches selected material which will make every player grow. But yes, I do have a reservation to share: this material is not right for every player. A player who is rated 1100, maybe up to 1500, could find this some positions too difficult, or beyond his/her understanding, because they show some examples in which one must go beyond the mere material aspect, and learn how to win the game from a small advantage which maybe is not so easy for the chess knowledge of the average amateur.

Our two amazing coaches speak of "transformation" — a rather esoteric term, which I found is quite appropriate.

Meyer

Before reviewing the DVD let me introduce these two remarkable chess players, who are fundamental for learning tactics in a way we will be able to use them in our games. Meyer Claus Dieter is a FM with an amazingly long career, especially in what is considered one of the strongest world tournaments, the Bundesliga. Of course he isn't only a player: chess as sport is such a complex and varied human activity. FM Meyer is also a chess journalist, chess translator, and a passionate chess analyst in that time before chess engines, when one had to really use the brain instead of spitting out: "the engine says 0.9 advantage for White!"

How to present someone who had such a rich chess life? Well, I let their games speak for them! I found the following game interesting, not because of the sacrifice at move 16, but because it shows us how to exploit and win when the enemy king is left in the center for too long!

This was typical in Morphy's games, his opponents would leave the king in the center, and he would sacrifice, and win brilliantly. In modern times, we ascribed the result of such games to the low quality of his opponents. But this game was played in the year 2000, and Black is rated around 2300+!

 

Mueller

I didn't know GM Müller was born in 1970, making him younger than me. Mentally one wrongly associates wisdom, especially the deep knowledge Müller has for the endgames, with old age. He became GM in 1998, at just 28 years old!

Müller has written lot of books on endgames like: Fundamental Chess endings, that I bought, although I must admit I didn't read it all. Mea culpa!

Mueller Fundamental Chess Endings Bobby Fischer

Another of Müller books is on Bobby Fischer, the greatest champion of all!

Now, I cannot mention all the columns, books, and videos GM Müller has authored in the past, simply because they are too many. His DVDs for ChessBase alone number fourteen and counting 14!!

Thanks to one of his DVDs, I learned how to give checkmate with bishop and knight. He broke it down nicely, and his explanations were quite clear. To test myself, to see if I could indeed win it, I played it against an engine, with just five minutes on my clock! Success! So he is clearly a great teacher.

However, you don't have to take my word for it; i'm just a patzer. But what if someone who is over 2700, among the top ten players in the world, and possible future World Champion also has learned from GM Müller? Ever see his show, "Endgame magic"?

The periodic show always has a new guest, and covers interesting endgames analyzed from their games. In the 100th episode Super-GM Wesley So was the guest of honor, and GM Müller asked him how he learned the endgames. So answered that he read some books, but more precisely, expounded upon which specific endgame DVDs made by Müller he'd studied. For instance, he mentioned the one on rook endgames, from number 2 (but there is also volume 8 treating practical rook endgames) and another on pawn endings.


Chess Endgames 8 - Practical Rook Endgames

Rook endings are amongst the most frequently encountered endgames there are. And it is precisely the area in which the effort put into training is particularly quickly repaid in the form of half and full points, because the knowledge of even a few rules of thumb and methods makes life a great deal easier and provides a guiding light even in complex positions. The second DVD in Karsten Müller’s series on the endgame was concerned with theoretical rook endings and was structured according to the distribution of material, but this DVD focuses on the themes which are to be found in rook endings.

Karsten Müller also wants to help you with the training of your intuition. After all, the real art of the royal game can best be seen in the recognition of exceptions to the rules.

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Wesley So on a visit to Hamburg

Here one of Müller's games I found particularly pleasant!

 

Now finally coming to review the DVD, chess is a sport which is quite rich in history. Thanks to the endless production of books, we can witness ideas, games, positions from 3-400 years before our time, as though they happened just today. In the introductory video Meyer shows a study from 1600!! And then introduces the esoteric topic of "transformation".

 

In this position clearly White would lose if the pieces were exchanged, because Black has two passed pawns. How does White draw then? Obviously this is why chess is an almost spiritual activity, because one must have creative ideas to win or draw in desperate positions.

In this case it could help to notice that the black bishop has control of the light squares, and if White could make the black pawns transform magically to a file with a dark square for promotion, then the chances of a draw would be quite high. Nowadays we have computers which can analyze and find the draw quite easily, thanks partly to their brute force power. But for the human mind, it becomes an exercise in seeing the desired outcome, more than a calculation task.

I'm not giving a solution, because I also believe one should play chess with friends, so it is nice to take this position, bring it to the nearest chess club, and spend the evening playing it against some other club members — that is how your really learn.

Let's come to an easier example from a game between two titans, Sokolov and Ivanchuk. how does Black win?

 

Here we understand the deep meaning of "transformation" — the way in which Black will transform the game and win? Will it become a good bishop vs bad knight endgame? Or a rook endgame once the minor pieces are traded?

As we can see there are many possible candidate moves for Black, and with the quick time controls we do have today, one must prepare at home, for these kind of positions which could make us lose for time.

I must admit that I love pawn endgames, so for me this position was a no brainer, I decided to exchange all the pieces and transform the position into an endgame with opposition, which could be easily won, if one has the correct knowledge, since at a certain point one reaches the following position:

 

Training with a ChessBase Account

Now, at this point I'd like to show why I believe the Chessbase training system is superior to all others commercial sites. I've made a ChessBase Account, which gives me access to videos, tactics, etc. But what is most important in this case it gives me access to Fritz Online! I have my Chessbase 14 in which I'm seeing the DVD, and I click on the training tab and then I click on play out against Fritz (highlighted below).

What happens? It opens a new browser window, and accesses my Chessbase online account with the App dedicated to the Fritz engine!

And now I can play this position against the engine. In this way, if I don't have a chess club near, or a friend who wants to study with me, I can still learn chess, and prepare for the next tournament, when I could eventually enter into such endgame, and I need to know how to win it.

But why did I say this DVD is for the more experienced player? Compared to someone from 1100 to 1500? Because like in the above position one must have a knowledge of triangulation in the endgame or the theory of corresponding squares in order to win, compared to the common knowledge of the opposition.

After Meyer's introductory video there is one made by GM Müller. But let me explain, the DVD is divided into four parts. FM Meyer has created a database with 400 interactive questions, based on more than 280 games, where one is exposed to many different chess themes like: material/positional unbalances, structural defects, weak squares, pieces badly placed and many others. On some of the positions in this database, I don't know if it was a glitch in my system, the explanation, once I found the correct move, was in German, instead of English.

GM Müller has taken the huge work made by Meyer, and explained it in a series of 29 videos, using many different examples from a huge database created by Meyer. Then Müller has created 14 interactive videos testing the knowledge of the material explained. Müller has also used material from his own databases to better explain some points made by the huge work done by Meyer The topics are really too many to list them here, but they are clearly addressing the needs of the tournament player who is looking for a course into improving his all overall chess persona. More than a course, I'd call it a camp! Where at the end one can test the knowledge acquired, and exit as a better player.

The work has been tested by another ChessBase partner, and the content of the questions and tests has been improved following the feedback given. All in all this product is clearly the work of an entire team of people whose love for chess, will enrich us and improve our play.

Final thoughts

I like how these two German gentlemen took their time to introduce me to their world of interesting positions and ideas. Honestly I find the price of their effort ridiculously low (I used a voucher to pay, but in dollars was something like $25, and just an hour of coaching from a GM in US is between $70 and $100, in total here I have 6 hours of videos, it would mean like to spend $400-500 of coaching from a GM).

In the 6 hours of this DVD there are in reality hundreds of hours of concentrated chess wisdom these two players are sharing with us. Obviously to really gain something, one must be actively engaged in learning the material, but if you put in the effort, strain your visualization a bit, work to internalise these advanced attacking techniques, your chess understanding will deepen, and you'll bring your games to another level!


Magic of Chess Tactics 2

FM Claus Dieter Meyer has put under the microscope a comprehensive fund of topical and timeless games/fragments. On video Hamburg GM Dr. Karsten Müller has outlined corner points of Meyer’s work and created 14 tests plus 10 interactive test sets.

More...


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Davide Nastasio is a novel chess aficionado, who has made of 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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