Make big progress with little ado

by ChessBase
4/22/2009 – "Major pieces vs. Minor pieces" is the subject of Daniel King's latest Powerplay-DVD. These positions are not only difficult to play but hard to evaluate because a wide range of criteria must be considered. Amateurs can learn more from the masters here than in any other middlegame theme. Mark Donlan reviews the DVD at Buy "Powerplay 9" or read this review.

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The Exchange Sacrifice

Daniel Kings Powerplay 9 DVD reviewed by Mark Donlan (

GM Daniel King’s popular Power Play series has previously presented such subjects as mating patterns, attacking the king, pawn play, piece placement, and minor piece endgames. In this ninth Power Play DVD, King looks at positions that feature an odd material balance: queen vs. rook and minor piece or queen vs. two minor pieces (five segments), or rook against two minor pieces (three segments), or rook against a bishop or knight. The latter segments are the most plentiful and King examines seven games over the span of eleven videos.

During the twenty minute introduction, King likens the major pieces to “giants striding across the chessboard ... making the minor pieces look like peasants compared to these almighty pieces.” He first examines a game of his in which he has a queen and knight against his opponent’s rook, two knights, and bishop. Here he notes that if the opponent can coordinate his pieces, then they will undoubtedly beat the queen. However, the queen and knight tandem have the initiative and prove to be too strong, winning in about a dozen moves. He describes the queen as “a heat seeking missile” zeroing in on weak spots. Of course, it helps to have a grandmaster mind guiding the missile; lesser mortals may be more prone to not recognize these same targets.

The next example is also from one of King’s games in which he is playing an endgame with a rook and three pawns against a knight and five pawns.

He notes that normally the knight and two pawns should be a match for the rook, but not in this particular situation. Here the rook cuts the black king off from the e-file, while White can simply march his king over to the queenside and pick up the weak pawns. White only needs to take care to not let Black win the white a-pawn, when the pawns on one wing give the defender better chances of salvation. In the end the rook lets the king out, and just when it seems that Black has defended on the queenside, the rook switches to the kingside and forces Black’s resignation.

In the third example from the introduction, King shows a game where he was the exchange ahead against Istvan, yet “cowardly” offered a draw because he could find no targets of attack, while the opponent had a straightforward way to make progress. The final example of this segment has Ivanchuk and Timman agreeing to a draw with queen against rook and bishop. Where the draw is justified because the queen has no targets, “therefore the effect of the queen is very limited,” while if White over-presses the rook and the bishop might lose coordination allowing the queen to come into its own.

The fritztrainer format works by showing a video of the presenter in one window, a chessboard in another and a notation window for the moves. All the windows are resizable. The moves and variations on the board are synchronized with the video and the format allows the presenter to highlight important squares or use colored arrows to further clarify exactly what’s happening on the board.

With the next segment, King jumps straight into test positions. He recommends that the viewer close the notation window and that they keep a chessboard nearby to analyze with, “a proper one with wooden pieces hopefully.” The solutions are in a separate segment.

In the sections on the exchange sacrifice, Petrosian and Topalov are featured prominently; for instance, six of the eleven segments are devoted to just three of Topalov’s games. One game is Kasimdzhanov-Topalov, San Luis 2005, where Topalov is a pawn down on the black side of a Berlin Defense, and it looks as though White may be able to grind out a win. However, Topalov came up with “a beautiful idea” of an exchange sacrifice that “was really precisely calculated” that forced White “to play very accurately to hold the draw.” King compares the rook and bishop tandem to that of queen and knight, where the two pieces work very well together. He notes that nine times out of ten, if you are playing with two rooks versus rook and bishop it benefits the stronger side to exchange one pair of rooks.

The DVD also contains the whole training course in audio-format for Pocket Fritz 3. No additional software is needed to run this DVD as it comes equipped with the ChessBase 9 Reader that installs onto your hard disk. If you already have CB9 or one of the Fritz family playing programs, then you do not need to install the reader. The system requirements are Pentium-Processor at 300 MHz or higher, 64 MB RAM, Windows XP/Vista, DVD drive, etc.

King explains the material and concepts very well, making this DVD useful for self-training as well as for providing coaches with exercise material or lesson plans. In all there are twenty-two video segments with a running time of about four hours and fifteen minutes. The focus on the exchange sacrifice in this installment of the Power Play series will be of great practical interest to the average player.

More Powerplay:

Powerplay 1 - Mating Patterns
Powerplay 2 - Attacking the King
Powerplay 3 - Pawn Storm
Powerplay 4 - Start Right
Powerplay 5 - Pawns
Powerplay 6 - Pawns, Pieces & Plans
Powerplay 7 - Improve your Pieces
Powerplay 8 - Knights and Bishops

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