The return of the King

by ChessBase
8/27/2007 – Daniel King has returned to our list of ChessBase instructors with his recent pair of Power Play training DVDs. "If you'd had this guy as a high school instructor," our reviewer writes, "you'd remember him as one of the 'cool' teachers whose classes you actually looked forward to." Read more about "Mating Patterns" and "Attacking the King" in the latest installment of ChessBase Workshop.

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"What are you watching?"

"A chess video," I replied.

There was a pause as my friend looked and listened over my shoulder.

"Who's the guy talking?"

"Danny King -- English grandmaster."

"He doesn't talk like a chess guy."

"How's a 'chess guy' supposed to talk?"

"Oh, I don't know. More serious, less entertaining."

"Hey -- I'm a chess guy."

"You don't talk that way either."

"Thank you. Sheesh."

"Heh -- I had you going for a minute. You know, I'm not into chess enough to study it or anything, but I could sit down and watch this guy -- he's pretty good."

And there you have it -- a great endorsement.

Daniel, where've you been? Aside from some ChessBase Magazine appearances, we've not seen a lot from Daniel King for a few years. His Check and Mate was one of the first ChessBase "classic format" CDs back in 1997; it was also one of the first to use video clips and is still, in my opinion, one of the best training disks that ChessBase ever produced.

Daniel first made a mark among US chess fans/viewers as one of ESPN's commentators for PCA events in the mid-1990's. Along with GM Maurice Ashley, King injected a lot of life into the commentary -- even if a specific game was deathly dull, King could liven the thing up through sheer enthusiasm. He later became a ChessBase commentator; his written commentary on the disk Check and Mate was entertaining enough, but his videos were often hilarious. The clip of Danny pushing his way through a huge potted plant just before talking about a "jungle" of tactics or complications or somesuch was an instant classic in my book. As a commentator, both on TV and on disk, Daniel King had just one rule: never be boring.

Then he just up and disappeared (at least as far as ChessBase disks were concerned). We did get a bit more of King here and there in ChessBase Magazine but there was a long, long drought on the training disk front.

Until now.

Danny King's back and better than ever. ChessBase has recently released the first two of a planned series of training DVDs entitled Power Play (gee, that title sounds awfully familiar for some reason) and starring GM King. My only question is: what took you so long?

First let's dispense with the messy technical details. The Power Play disks utilize the Chess Media System method of instruction: "talking head" video lectures accompanied by an animated (pieces move, squares get highlighted, arrows appear, etc.) chessboard which acts as the instructor's "wallboard". You can view the instructional content using ChessBase or any of the Fritz family of playing programs; however, these are not required since the disks include the ChessBase Reader software. But since the disks are DVDs, you will be required to own a computer with a DVD drive.

Power Play 1 is subtitled "Mating Patterns" and, not surprisingly, the overall feel is much like King's previous Check and Mate. While that older disk challenged you with a host of timed training questions (ten per game), the newer DVD primarily presents a variety of mating patterns through individual games (all of which are accompanied by King's video commentary). You do get tested on the disk, however, with eleven additional "puzzle" videos at the end of the DVD. These aren't the timed training questions that you nearly always find on the "classic format" training disks; they're more akin to having the teacher standing over your shoulder, helping and encouraging you to find the correct answer.

This first DVD contains forty-two instructional videos, all lively, all entertaining. The first thirty or so concern themselves with various classic mating patterns (back-rank mates, the double Bishop sac, h-file mates, "lawnmowers", etc.), while the remainder are the previously-mentioned "puzzle" videos (with the order of the themes scrambled so as to not give away which type of mate you're supposed to be looking for).

Power Play 2 continues with the theme of "attacking chess". Subtitled "Attacking the King" on the DVD case, the title you'll find inside the database itself is much more indicative of the true nature of the disk: inside the database the disk's title is "How to build an attack". Successful attacks don't just pop up like crabgrass; you have to create them. King shows you how to do just that in the twenty-eight videos on the DVD. He begins with an extensive series of lessons illustrating attacks against common structures (often keyed to specific openings), then wraps up with seven "puzzle" videos in the same style as the ones on Power Play 1.

I really can't say enough about Daniel King as an instructor. The videos are typically between five to fifteen minutes long, but you really don't notice the length either way: they all seem quick, because King is such a lively, entertaining instructor. If you'd had this guy as a high school instructor, you'd always remember him as one of the "cool" teachers whose classes you actually looked forward to. When even my "casual chess" friends (who normally wouldn't be caught dead within a mile of a chess book or video) say they really love to watch King's instruction, you know you've got a real winner with the Power Play series.

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.

© 2007, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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