New ChessBase trainings CDs

12/21/2005 – Two of our recent training CD offerings concern the opening and middlegame: Knut Neven's Classical Nimzo-Indian 4.Qc2 and Alexander Bangiev's Squares Strategy 3. If you've not seen either of them yet you can get a preview of both in the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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In this ChessBase Workshop we'll pull the shrinkwrap off of two recent ChessBase training CD releases and give you a preview of what you'll find on the disks.

The first of these is Classical Nimzo-Indian: 4.Qc2 by top-notch Canadian correspondence player Knut Neven. I've been very impressed by Mr. Neven's previous work for ChessBase (including two training CDs French without Nc3 and French with Nc3), so I had high hopes for this CD going in. I wasn't disappointed.

Once again Neven has placed the emphasis on ideas rather than rote memorization of variations and this is as it should be. His section on "Themes" should be required reading for anyone wishing to play the Classical Nimzo well.

The CD begins with an introductory text in which the author provides some very general ideas on why this opening is important. He informs us that "The Classical Variation has always appealed to players who see structure as more important than trifling matters such as development", and this is key to understanding the material presented on the CD. After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2, Black looks to give up the Bishop pair by trading on c3 and saddling White with doubled c-pawns. This is why White has gone to c2 with the Queen: to try to thwart Black's intentions. And there lies the background for the drama yet to unfold.

Neven continues with a chapter on the history of this opening and engages in a fair amount of "name-dropping" to illustrate the popularity of this opening at chess' top levels; players such as Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe, Keres, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky, Timman, Kramnik, and Kasparov have all contested this opening against their opponents. Of course Aron Nimzovitch plays into this as well (obviously, as seen in the name of the opening) but the idea predates Nimzo: you'll even find Wilhelm Steinitz on the White side of this "hypermodern" opening. Neven provides us with links to interesting database games illustrating the play of these legendary masters.

Next comes the chapter on themes. This is divided into smaller sections, each on a common positional theme in the Classical Nimzo:

  • Overview
  • The Advantage of the Bishop Pair
  • The Placement of the Minor Pieces
  • The Ne4/Nd5 Tactical Trick
  • Central Pawn Structures
  • Pressure Against c4

This chapter provides us with a handy guidebook to the themes we should be looking for as we proceed deeper into the instructional material. This chapter also contains links to key illustrative games from the database.

Next we come to the Theory section, an overview to the layout of the remaining instructional material. Neven has divided the large amount of theoretical material into eighteen separate chapters (each an individual text). The Theory chapter provides the reader with an introduction to each variation, a link to its individual text chapter, and often includes links to key introductory games:

  1. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 Nc6
  2. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 Others
  3. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Others
  4. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5
  5. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 Qxd5 6.Nf3 Qf5 7.Qxf5 exf5
  6. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 Qxd5 6.Nf3 Qf5 7.Others
  7. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 Qxd5
  8. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.Others
  9. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Others
  10. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Ba6
  11. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 b6 7.Bg5 Bb7
  12. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Others
  13. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 f5
  14. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.e4
  15. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 c5 5.dxc5 Others
  16. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 c5 5.dxc5 0-0
  17. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 c5 5.dxc5 Na6
  18. 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 Others

Each of these chapters contains extensive text instruction on the ideas behind each variation (and the numerous subvariations which I've not listed here) plus links to important example games which illustrate these concepts.

The instructional database contains nearly five hundred illustrative games, nearly all of which are annotated.

Classical Nimzo-Indian 4.Qc2 also contains a separate reference database consisting of more than 22,000 games played using this important opening, as well as a transpositional opening tree of more than 400,000 unique positions. The tree can be used both as a reference source (with complete statistical information provided for every position in the tree) as well as an opening book for Fritz (and our other playing programs) -- just load the tree as an opening book and force your engine of choice to play nothing but the Classical Nimzo.

An additional database contains training games. Forty such games are provided, each containing timed training questions which let you test your knowledge of the material presented on the CD.

Classical Nimzo-Indian 4.Qc2 is an impressive work, with material presented with all the thoroughness and clarity which we've come to expect from Knut Neven.

The second CD to be previewed is Squares Strategy 3 by IM Alexander Bangiev. This is the final entry in a series of disks which provide the "Bangiev Method", the author's system for identifying key squares and developing a plan of action accordingly. As the author says on the disk, in Squares Strategy 3 "...we are concentrating on the 'Co-ordination rule'. This simple but astonishingly effective rule enables us above all to determine rigorously and in concrete fashion what are the strategically important squares; this in turn allows the player to spot active plans much, much earlier....This rule is also effective when it comes to 'conducting an attack', thus enabling the player to handle the tactical tasks in a much more accurate manner."

The CD begins with twenty instructional texts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Squares
  3. Pieces
  4. Exchanging Pieces
  5. Strategy
  6. Pawn Strategy
  7. Piece Strategy
  8. Initiative
  9. Planning
  10. The d4-strategy
  11. The d5-strategy
  12. The e4-strategy
  13. The e5-strategy
  14. Conducting an Attack
  15. Transition to the Endgame
  16. The Thought Process
  17. Training the Thought Processes
  18. The B-Method
  19. The B-Notation

The last two texts are the keys to understanding the Bangiev Method. It uses its own specialized terminology and notation and these are explained in the latter two texts.

The instructional database contains 132 games, all annotated used the aforementioned special notation. After the reader has completed the instructional portion of the CD, he should then proceed to the training database which contains nearly 140 entries. Positions are provided and the reader is challenged to come up with the correct plan. The database game which then immediately follows provides the answers, illustrating the proper thought processes involved in the Bangiev Method.

I've already previewed the previous two disks in the series and these previews have become somewhat controversial in their own right (which doesn't bother me. Frankly, I don't care about the "controversy"; I just call things the way I see 'em). None of the three Squares Strategy CDs is for the faint-hearted; they require readers to learn a whole new specialized notation and do a considerable amount of work unlearning a whole lot of chess concepts they've previously learned.

So don't say you haven't been warned.

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.


© 2005, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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