The beauty of Daniel King's 'Power Play' DVDs

10/9/2008 – We all know the feeling of being lost in a sea of information. That is why we often need guidance from experts and that is why there is that famous "Power Play" series by GM King. "That's my kind of DVD", says Steve Goldberg in his review of vol. 6 at  Once again Daniel King has managed to limit the scope and deepen his coverage of the subject. Buy it now or read more.

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Hitting the Mark

Daniel King's 'Powerplay vol. 6' reviewed by Steve Goldberg -

When a professional in any discipline attends continuing education conferences, most lectures tend to be rather narrow in focus. Attendees might hear about the latest advances in wavefront technology for LASIK eye surgery, or the social and cultural implications of a growing immigrant population in the elementary school classroom, or perhaps experimental “best management practices” for municipal engineers charged with erosion control of city highways. Less often will presentations be broadly titled “How to be a better ophthalmologist/teacher/environmental engineer.”

In other words, such conference presentations don’t attempt to cover the entirety of the professional field; rather, time is spent on very specific topics, but specific topics that represent important subjects that a successful professional must be at least conversant with.

This is how I view Daniel King’s DVD presentations. They don’t attempt to cover overly broad, general areas – instead, King sticks to specific, well-defined topics that represent small vistas within the wide landscape of the chess world. And like the professional above, a chess player who wishes to be reasonably competent needs to be at least conversant with these subject matters.

Topics such as openings, tactics and endgames are crucial areas for players to be comfortable with, but how many books on these subjects are purchased with excitement and anticipation, then remain largely untouched once the purchaser opens the cover and sees the enormity of the subject matter?

This is the beauty of Daniel King’s PowerPlay DVDs. The limited scope, but depth of coverage of narrowly defined topics, allows the viewer to take in the material (and there is plenty of material) without feeling this sense of being lost in a sea of information. Ultimately, a player has to be willing to put in the work to really assimilate any information he or she is presented with, but if one measure of the value of a book or DVD is whether or not it at least gets looked at, then these DVDs hit the mark. The quality of the presentations are first rate, and King’s video segments are entertaining and clear. His speech is easy to understand, and it’s not uncommon to be watching a segment, asking oneself, “Why can’t Black take on d5?” only to have King discuss within the next minute or so just why Black loses if he mistakenly captures on d5. That’s my kind of DVD.

In this, the sixth volume in the PowerPlay series, King concentrates on the matter of the isolated queen pawn (IQP), typically on the white side. As in some of the other PowerPlay videos, King begins with a brief introduction to the topic, then presents the viewer with a series of relevant test positions. These are the type of positions one might easily find himself encountering during a game, so it’s reassuring to know that, even if we’re struggling to find the right continuation, reliable advice from a GM is just a few clicks away.

Chapter 1 consists of fifteen video segments on the IQP. The first nine portions demonstrate how the other side (Black, typically) can successfully execute attacks against the IQP. The remaining six segments discuss methods in which the side with the IQP can launch attacks on his opponent. Such coverage is again typical of King’s DVDs – very little is presented as solely one-sided.

Lest one wonder how King could come up with so much to talk about when the conversation is limited to an isolated queen pawn, he states that “The isolated queen pawn structure is such a well-known theme that I could fill ten DVDs talking about it.” Since the IQP position can arise from a great variety of openings, it’s hardly an unusual occurrence.

Chapter 2 begins by covering the isolated queen pawn that has developed into a passed pawn. The latter portion of the chapter reviews events that may lead to the formation of an IQP – the matter of when to exchange pawns and when to keep the tension. “I’ve noticed that many players get it wrong,” he says.

The DVD then concludes with King’s solutions to the test positions that he presented initially.

Let’s take a look at one of the segments. In IQP segment 4, King presents the ninth game from the 1981 Kortchnoi-Karpov world championship match. After 11.0-0, the following position was reached:

Here White (Kortchnoi) has the classic IQP that is at the heart of this DVD. King notes that in such positions, Black is well-advised to trade minor pieces to minimize the risk of a kingside attack by his opponent. He calls minor pieces “extremely dangerous,” citing in particular the a2-g8 and b1-h7 diagonals for the white light-squared bishop, and the e5-square for a white knight. Thus, Karpov followed up with 11…Nh5. Now if 12.Bg3 Nxg3 13.hxg3 Bf6 and Black sits well, so Kortchnoi played 12.Bxe7, to which Karpov responds 12…Nxe7, perhaps planning an eventual …Nd5. Play continued 13.Bb3 Nf6 14.Ne5 An excellent outpost for the knight, looking at f7, d7 and c6. 14…Bd7 A modest move, King explains, but the bishop is better placed at d7 than along the a8-h1 diagonal in order to provide protection for the vulnerable e6 and f7 pawns. 15.Qe2 Typical of IQP positions, lining up the queen with the e6-pawn, which may set up a future knight sacrifice at f7. 15…Rc8 Lining up against the white rook at c1 and possibly setting up more exchanges. 16.Ne4? “Very surprising. Just in principle, I find this very surprising, and I think it’s a bad error in judgement for Kortchnoi. He shouldn’t exchange minor pieces.” Better would be 16.Rfd1 or 16.Rfe1. 16…Nxe4 “Karpov leapt at the opportunity to exchange.” 17.Qxe4 Bc6 Forcing Kortchnoi to either retreat his queen or exchange again. 18.Nxc6

The video segment ends here, with King asking the viewer to consider how Black should recapture.

IQP segment 5 picks up the game at this point. “Recapturing with the rook is by far the best idea,” says King, continuing with the idea of maximizing the opportunity to exchange pieces, major or minor. 18…Rxc6 19.Rc3 Qd6 “Karpov begins to assert control.” 20.g3 Rd8 The direct attack on the IQP has now begun. 21.Rd1 “When it gets to be passive for the IQP player, you know things have gone sour.” 21…Rb6 Karpov wants to line up his heavy pieces on the d-file, but an immediate 21…Qd7 (to be followed by …Rd6) loses to 22.Ba4. 22.Qe1 Qd7 23.Rcd3 Rd6 Now Black’s heavy pieces are all lined up against the IQP.

24.Qe4 Qc6 To prevent the liquidating move d5, and offering to exchange yet more pieces. 25.Qf4 Nd5 “A nice blockade.” 26.Qd2 Qb6 27.Bxd5? The knight was troublesome, but its removal “seems to make things easier for Karpov.” 27…Rxd5 And now White will always have to be concerned about the move …e5. 28.Rb3 Qc6 29.Qc3 Qd7 30.f4? To prevent …e5, but this turns out poorly for White. 30…b6

31.Rb4 b5 Prevents 32.Rc4, which might have provided White with entry to the seventh rank. Black went on to win with 32.a4 bxa4 33.Qa3 a5 34.Rxa4 Qb5 35.Rd2 e5 36.fxe5 Rxe5 37.Qa1 Qe8 38.dxe5 Rxd2 39.Rxa5 Qc6 40.Ra8+ Kh7 41.Qb1+ g6 42.Qf1 Qc5+ 43.Kh1 Qd5+ 0-1 The latter portion of this game was also analyzed by King in another video segment of this DVD.

This level of detail is typical of the five hours of instruction to be found in PowerPlay6: Pawns, Pieces & Plans. As noted above, King presents a balanced approach, presenting a wide variety of games showing victorious plans and execution by both Black and White.

The best chess instruction probably comes from a one-on-one relationship with a knowledgeable and caring coach. But lacking this (or in conjunction with), a chess player would do very well to seek and assimilate the positional gems offered by the aptly named GM Daniel King. His sharply defined focus and easy-to-understand presentation makes these PowerPlay DVDs a valuable resource for any player aspiring to greater positional understanding.

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