Martin: First Steps in Positional Play

3/27/2012 – "IM Andrew Martin is a well-organised presenter. He is clearly in command of his material, appears practiced, addresses the audience direct to the camera, and explains lucidly at an appropriate learner level. Rather than just talking chess, chugging dourly click-click-click through games, I found Martin to be engaging, good-humoured and easy viewing." BCM Review by Simon Bibby.

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Andrew Martin: First Steps in Positional Play

ChessBase DVD – 3 hours 20 mins

There are scores of DVDs about all sorts of openings and a fair few now available about endings, but not very much about what happens in between. IM Andrew Martin seeks to remedy this in his DVD First Steps in Positional Play, aimed at players around 1500 ELO level. The DVD contains 21 multimedia segments, lasting 3 hours and 20 minutes in total.

How to teach ‘positional play’? These lessons are presented mostly based on pawn structure, with extra segments discussing other issues such as piece activity, initiative, king vulnerability, outplaying an opponent, good and bad pieces, and outplaying an opponent.

Martin introduces the DVD with a brief exposition of his views regarding training and chess success, noting that chess improvement and chess success will only be achieved through “the combination of hard work, study and practice”. In the second segment, ‘A Routine’, Martin offers some sensible and pedagogically sound advice on what to do, and equally important what not to do, for an effective and efficient chess study routine. Sensible and easily applicable advice that we can all benefit from as chess learners. I consider these two brief sections to be worth the price of entry alone.

Down to the nuts and bolts now, what does Andrew Martin offer in the way of positional guidance in this ChessBase DVD? As a collection of instructive games, the DVD works, but the choices of illustrative games are a little surprising in parts. One does not find the archetypes here that one may expect to demonstrate essential positional ideas for both sides of the structures considered. This appears problematic particularly within the section on the Isolated Queen’s Pawn (IQP). Discussing the IQP in three segments, firstly in the game Khenkin-Galdunts, black misplays, then blunders a pawn; then secondly, in Kudrin-Kaidanov, white just goes haywire after the pawn has been liquidated. The third game at first sight looks more hopeful, a Petrosian-Spassky game, with a classic d-pawn break, d5!, a highly thematic move in this pawn structure. Yet this is not a precursor to a direct king’s side attack, which wins so many games for the holder of the IQP, but as a means of invading the queenside. With the DVD pitched at around the 1500 level, it may have been more helpful to consider the typical plans and typical piece positioning using the IQP and combatting it.

IM Andrew Martin is a well-organised presenter. He is clearly in command of his material, appears practiced, addresses the audience direct to the camera, and explains lucidly at an appropriate learner level. Rather than just talking chess, chugging dourly click-click-click through ChessBase on screen, I found Martin to be engaging, good-humoured and easy viewing. While a more considered choice of games may have been more helpful, Martin’s explanations of the games within this DVD will be helpful to players around 1500 level seeking to learn about positional play.

Reviewed by FM Simon Bibby

Order Andrew Martin: First steps in positional play


Andrew David Martin (born 18th May 1957 in West Ham, London) is an English chess player with the title of International Master. He has won various national and international tournaments and has been playing for years in the Four Nations Chess League, at present (July 2009) for Wood Green Hilsmark Kingfisher, previously for the Camberley Chess Club. Martin received his IM title in1984. He earned his first grandmaster norm in the British Championship of 1997 in Brighton. Martin was a commentator on the chess world championship between Kasparov and Kramnik in 2000.

On the 21st February 2004 Martin set a new world record for simultaneous chess. He faced 321 chess players at the same time. His result was: 294 wins, 26 draws and only one loss. Martin is known as a professional chess teacher and head trainer of the English youth team. He trains eight schools (Yateley Manor, Aldro, Millfield, Sunningdale, Waverley School, St Michael’s Sandhurst, Wellington College, Salesian College). Martin is a chess columnist, an author of chess books and the author of various instructional videos. He was the publisher of the series Trends Publications. Martin lives in Sandhurst, England, is married and the father of two daughters and two sons. His present Elo rating is 2423 (as of July 2009).


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