Magic of Chess Tactics 2: Advanced lessons

by Albert Silver
1/29/2015 – Although there are many works teaching fundamentals, themes such as advanced attacking techniques and more notably positional transformations are discussed much less often. In this second volume of Magic of Chess Tactics, C.D. Meyer and Karsten Mueller cover these topics in detail over six hours of lectures and hundreds of games, taking the student one step closer to mastery.

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Expectation and reality. When a writer uses those two words in the same phrase, we have come to anticipate a comment along the lines of something being better than expected, or (knock on wood) worse than expected. My experience with Magic of Chess Tactics 2 has been neither. It has been better than expected, but that isn’t the why of the comment.

For whatever reason, I had thought I was getting a fairly ABC title, with a generous selection of positions with ‘wow’ moments, which I love, and some nice test sets, probably fairly easy. Modesty thrown to the winds, tactics have always been my forte (i.e. everything else is not), and have sustained my rating throughout the years. In chess terms, I’m the guy who will sucker punch you when you least expect it.

That said as I explored this new DVD by C.D. Meyers and Karsten Mueller, I was forced to come to terms that I had a very different beast here. This is a serious product with a wealth of information on attacking, positional transformation, and tactics. I did not realize this at first though, and almost immediately after listening to the introduction, decided to skip to the test sets put together by Mueller based on the database of positions and analysis by Meyers. Facing the first positions, I soon began to sweat as indecision loomed its ugly head. Was it this? No. How about that? Yes! No. Damn... As I plodded through the set, I began to wonder whether I was really that rusty, or whether these positions were that much harder than I was mentally prepared for. These were tough.

Karsten Mueller had asked the viewer to study the positions seriously, and not just ‘play through the answers’, but I had needed no prompting, as this has always been my approach. After working through the first test set, wrinkling my forehead far more than the somewhat innocent sounding title had led me to expect, I returned to the main menu much more warily. What was this?

As many ChessBase DVDs, Magic of Chess Tactics 2 is several things at once, all designed to take an advanced player to a higher level of understanding and ability in attacking and exchanging one type of advantage for another. Originally, the bulk of the positions came from a book by C.D. Meyers, a well-known German trainer, with hundreds of deeply annotated games and positions. Needless to say, I was unfamiliar with it. In order to share his work with a wider audience it was transformed into ChessBase training questions, but rather than take the easy road and just package that, Karsten Muller teamed up with Meyers to produce six hours of video lectures teaching and demonstrating the invaluable lessons, and adding some material of his own.

Karsten Mueller and Claus Dieter Meyer

These videos cover many topics, and are also clearly not aimed at players at the bottom of the Elo ladder. The first part with nine videos on attacking techniques seemed fairly normal, and was not the first time I had seen them covered, however the second part, Transformations, entered poorly discussed topics.

 

Karsten Mueller illustrates attacking technique in this first lecture, starting with a fantastic example played
by 12-year-old Judit Polgar

When you are starting off, radically changing the nature of the position is not something you look forward to. If you are attacking, you want to finish it with a handshake when you were about to deliver mate. Masters and grandmasters, thanks to their ability to handle a much wider variety of situations, will have fewer issues switching to a positional advantage, or an endgame edge, if that is what they feel is the best way to proceed. The key is in not only detecting this, but in conducting that transformation to your advantage.

In this second part, Mueller discusses how many of these transformations take place, and will not hesitate to shoot down overly repeated dogma, such as ‘exchange pieces if you are ahead in material’. He is quick to say that if there is one basic rule that deserves to be tossed in the waste bin, that is it. Other rules such as ‘A rook fighting against minor pieces welcomes exchanges’ are reaffirmed with illustrative examples.

Yussupov-Dolmatov (1991)

In the position above, played in a game by two of Dvoretsky’s most
famous pupils, Dolmatov is faced with the choice to exchange rooks.
The exchange would be a losing disaster for Black, and the correct move
is 48…Rb8! After which a draw should (and did) ensue.

There are many themes covered, that are not usually discussed in such a persistent or methodic way, such as ‘The statically worse side should strive for dynamics’  or ‘Should one convert the advantage statically or dynamically?’ and more.

In keeping with the highly entertaining video training questions, there are ten for the reader to solve, but these are merely a taste of the meat of the analysis: C.D. Meyer’s database of games with training positions.

Karsten Mueller put together ten test sets using Meyer's games, and organized thematically

There are also video training positions

This database contains no fewer than 238 games, all filled with multiple test questions. In most cases, unless you are a grandmaster, these will represent a considerable challenge more often than not, especially if you approach them seriously. That means each position is your game in a tournament, no takebacks, and a missed move may mean a missed opportunity. Don’t play a move and see what happens, try to work it out first as you would in a game. Naturally, this doesn’t mean you should start beating yourself over the head if you fail the first time, but the attitude will determine how much you leverage out of this wealth of material.

Although the training questions are all translated, and a chess position needs none, it should be noted that the exhaustive analysis in the game notes is all in German. All the explanatory texts are in English, but not the game notes themselves. Bear in mind that chess symbols are used throughout, but the warning needed to be made. Personally I did not consider this an issue since it is the training questions themselves that are the most interesting, and the solutions can be understood fairly easily based purely on symbols such as ! or +-

Hundreds of games each with several training questions, all analyzed extensively. There are also
numerous texts in English and German disucssing the themes.

At the end of the day, I had expected to find an entertaining collection of tactics, with light comments, but instead found a serious work with valuable lectures and work material that covers areas other authors barely scratched for the most part. Although players rated 1700 or more may enjoy the lectures, of which there are hours, players rated 2000 or higher are the ones who will make the most of the content.

The DVD is a work of the highest quality, with great lectures, demanding test sets, and tons of training positions, whose particular value is that the positions are not merely challenging, but contain exhaustive notes on alternative moves. I know I will be working through the database for some time to come, and highly recommend it.

Click here to purchase Magic of Chess Tactics 2




Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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