Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

by Diana Mihajlova
2/2/2015 – "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess", a beginners book, is a bestseller. However, it is not clear how much Fischer is in this book. But the former World Champion still teaches chess. Through his games. The first volume of the ChessBase Master Class series shows how much you can learn from them. Diana Mihajlova had a look at the DVD which entertains and instructs.

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Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

Review by Diana Mihajlova

The ChessBase Fritztrainer compilers have regaled us with training DVDs based on the games of three chess giants: Alekhine, Tal and Fischer. I would consider this ‘trilogy’ an obligatory item in the chess library of any player at any stage of their development. Four important aspects in the play of each of the three greats – the opening, strategy, tactics and the endgame – are analyzed to detail, in videos of about 5 hours running time.

Four well known chess writers and trainers joined forces to present this indispensable learning material, each contributing in their own field of expertise: GM Dorian Rogozenco covers the opening, GM Mihail Marin strategy, IM Oliver Reeh tactics and GM Karsten Müller the endgame. The bonus material in each DVD consists of a short biography of the player studied, a database of all his games (yes, ALL!), White games as a tree, Black games as a tree, and more than 100 games with training questions.

One only needs to reserve time, sit down and study the DVD to improve. All experts agree that studying the classics is the best way of strengthening one’s understanding of chess. And here we have the choice of the undisputed best classics of all: Alekhine, Tal and Fischer.

In a way of biography of this tormented chess soul, the eleventh World Champion, I would rather just repeat some of his well known quotes, starting with the most telling and potent one: 'All I ever want to do is just play chess.' And so he did. Fischer gave chess his own self  and brought us some of the most memorable chess games. He was known to give short, laconic statements:

‘Genius. It's a word. What does it really mean? If I win I'm a genius. If I don't, I'm not.’
‘Don't even mention losing to me. I can't stand to think of it.’
‘Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponent's mind.’
‘I don't believe in psychology. I believe in good moves. All that matters on the chessboard is good moves.’
‘Psychologically, you have to have confidence in yourself and this confidence should be based on fact.’
‘Tactics flow from a superior position.’
 ‘That's what chess is all about. One day you give your opponent a lesson, the next day he gives you one.’
‘Chess is life.’

Almost all great players of today, in one way or other, have built up their careers with Fischer as example. Anand said: ‘…I mean, most of modern chess is his offering. Myself and the rest had those moves ready for us when we started out, but it had to take someone to discover them first. Bobby Fischer was that person. He was that person for entire generations of chess players. His was a singular life in that sense. He's made it easier for us today.’

Anand’s assertion is being further endorsed by the four authors of this video, Marin, Müller, Reeh and Rogozenco, who are making it easier for us, improving chess players, to understand Fischer’s play. We can learn and marvel at Fischer’s geniality.

Dorian Rogozenco demonstrates Fischer’s opening techniques and the development of his repertoire.

Fischer studied many foreign chess sources, especially the Soviet chess literature, often astounding his Soviet counterparts when he would uncork an idea he found in their own chess manuals. But he also developed his own opening ideas. Fischer’s favourite opening move was 1.e4, about which he said: ‘Best by test!’ In fact, he almost always played 1.e4 with White and afterwards he usually followed the main lines of his time. Later in his career, and probably as a surprise weapon, he also occasionally played rare openings such as 1.b3. From Rogozenco’s presentation we learn that

  1. After 1. e4 e5 Fischer adopted the Spanish, usually the main lines but, later in his career, he would also apply the exchange variation.
  2. After 1.e4 c5 Fischer would play the move Bc4 in the main lines wherever possible.
  3. Against 1...e6 and 1...c6, it appears that Fischer had a few problems and Rogozenco shows that in these cases Fischer often reverted to the King’s Indian Attack.
  4. With Black, against 1.e4, Fischer almost always played 1...c5, the Sicilian, and more specifically, the Najdorf.  Against 1.d4, his main defence was the King’s Indian. He would, on occasions, play a Benoni with a great success.

Rogozenco reminds us that Fischer’s way to handle both the Najdorf and the Benoni influenced a lot of players, for instance Garry Kasparov.

Here is one of Fischer’s most famous wins with the Benoni: the third game of the World Championship match against Spassky in Reykjavik, 1972. It was the first time in his career that Fischer could win against Spassky.


One of the most legendary World Championship matches: Fischer against Spassky, Reykjavik 1972

Mihail Marin explains strategy

In the second chapter “Strategy” Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s style and his strategic talent. In four videos Marin shows how Fischer’s strategic skills developed over time. In one video Marin analyses game eight of the World Championship match Fischer-Spassky. After the game Soviet chess experts criticized Spassky harshly because Fischer had won it ‘so easily’. However, Marin explains that the win was due to Fischer’s ability to hinder his opponent’s plans, which provoked mistakes by Spassky who consequently was outplayed.


Oliver Reeh shows beautiful tactics

Part three is arguably the most interesting part of the DVD: Fischer’s combinations, compiled by Oliver Reeh. The exercises are chosen from 18 games and the new ChessBase interactive media format allows you to enter your solution on the board, after which you receive video feedback. Here’s the crucial position of the game Byrne-Fischer, one of Fischer’s most famous games. He played it when he was 13!

My first guess was …Nxe4, after which Reeh gently reprimanded me: ‘Robert Fischer found something better. Try to uproot the pawn on e4.’ I find these ‘conversations with the coach’ very appealing. Fischer played ...Na4! with the idea of deflecting the Nc3 which defends the pawn on e4.

Bobby Fischer in 1957

Several crucial points occur in the game where Fischer’s brilliancy sparkles; you are given an opportunity to find all of them while being helped with prompts by Reeh. All 18 games in this chapter are treated in a similar vein, which I find an exquisite way of improving your play while marvelling at Fischer’s mastery. The bonus material offers even more opportunities for training your tactical skills: 100 games with training questions.

Endgame expert Karsten Müller, who is also the author of a book on Fischer, talks about Fischer’s endgames. Müller chose 25 examples which he divided into four chapters:

1: Theoretical endgames
2: Rook endgames
3: R+B vs R+N
4: Famous endgames

During his enthusiastic analyses Müller often pauses to give you a chance to find the best move in a given position.

The wealth of material offered and the insightful analyses make this DVD a real gift.

Master Class Vol. 1: Bobby Fischer
by Dorian Rogozenco, Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh

€25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU)
$28.45 (without VAT)

This DVD can be purchased as a hard copy or it can be downloaded directly from the Internet, that way sparing you the few days needed for it to arrive by post.

Order this Fritztrainer in the ChessBase Shop

A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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