The secret Weapons of the Champions

10/3/2007 – GM Mikalchishin, former trainer of Anatoli Karpov, lately recorded two powerful training DVDs covering several middlegame themes. In his review of the first DVD, Steve Giddins stresses that already a single of Mikalchishin's nuggets is worth the price of the DVD and tells you how to make it a personal, one-to-one training session. Buy 'The secret Weapons' now or read more.

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A portion of Maknuggets

Mikalchishin's 'The Secret Weapons of the Champions' reviewed by Steve Giddins

There can be no doubt at all that the Soviet chess school was the greatest organisation for producing top-class chessplayers that has ever existed. Even today, when the Soviet Union has been a relic of history for over 15 years, and state support for chess ended almost as long ago, the strength in depth of Russian/ex-Soviet chess is second to none. It is still the case that visiting chessplayers from the West cannot rule out the risk of losing at blitz against the local Moscow taxi-drivers!

The key to the Soviet school's pre-eminence was the vast network of experienced trainers, which spanned every corner of the country. This meant that any talented youngster, even those living far from the main metropolitan centres, could find a local chess club, with a wise and experienced, master-strength trainer in residence. Many of these trainers were not well-known players, but a lot of others were masters and even grandmasters, who had themselves enjoyed successful playing careers, before turning to training work.

The present DVD is by one of the recent generation of players-turned-trainers, grandmaster Adrian Mikhalchishin. Himself a product of Viktor Kart, one of the best-known Soviet trainers (other pupils included Beliavsky and Romanishin), Mikhalchishin has become a highly successful trainer in recent times. The six years he spent working with Anatoly Karpov, in the period 1980-86, are enough by themselves to underline his status. Karpov was world champion for most of the period, and pretty much had his pick of the best trainers and seconds in the USSR, so if you got on his team, you were very good indeed. In more recent times, Mikhalchishin has trained national teams from Slovenia, Poland and The Netherlands.

On this DVD, he presents some key positional and strategical concepts, based around the games of four players - Botvinnik, Petrosian, Tal and Makagonov. Each section focusses on a single strategic device, which was a favourite of the player concerned. Thus, we see Botvinnik's use of a flank attack to conquer the centre, Petrosian's white-square domination strategy, and Tal's disruption of the material balance. Each section is illustrated by a whole series of examples, taken from the player's practice, and demonstrated with great clarity and fluency by Mikhalchishin.  I was especially struck by the Petrosian examples, as he ties up strong grandmasters in knots, almost by magic, before finishing them off with elegantly-calculated combinations.

Click her for replay of Petrosian - Schweber (1962).

Naturally, Botvinnik, Tal and Petrosian need no introduction, but the fourth name may seem an odd choice. However, the Makagonov section is in many ways the most important and striking section of the whole DVD. If you do not know much about Vladimir Andreevich Makagonov, then shame on you! In the period 1935-45, he was one of the strongest players in the Soviet Union, finishing consistently high up in the mighty Soviet Championships of the era. In the 1940 championship, he defeated Botvinnik, Smyslov and Keres in the same event, whilst when Reshevsky took part in the 1939 training event in Moscow -Leningrad, he was soundly crushed by Makagonov, in an excellent game.

Mak, as he was known amongst his colleagues, was also one of the most highly respected positional players in the country. A disciple of Capablanca, his classical style made him an excellent model for young players. When he gradually stopped active play in the 1940s, he became a highly respected trainer, working with Smyslov during his world championship years in the 1950s. As a native of Baku, he was called on in the 1970s (at Botvinnik's personal recommendation) to work with the young Garry Kasparov.

What is most odd about the DVD is that it does not actually feature a single example from Makagonov's own games! However, in his training work, he formulated one of the most important and valuable principles of positional play, something which is applicable in numerous different positions, and it is this which Mikhalchishin explains and illustrates on the second section of the DVD. The rule is this:.... ah, come on, you don't really think I'm going to tell you, do you? You will have to buy the DVD! But I can assure you that this one nugget of positional insight is worth the price of the DVD itself, quite apart from the other sections. It is a simple, easy-to-apply positional principle, which will very often enable you to find the correct move, in positions where there are no direct threats, and you are uncertain how to proceed.

Delivered in fluent English, and illustrated with numerous well-chosen and highly instructive examples, this DVD offers you hours of priceless positional instruction. If you close the notation window, so as not to see the next move, and then pause the DVD regularly, whilst you try to find the best move yourself, you can turn it into a personal, one-to-one training session, with one of the world's foremost chess trainers. It is intended that further DVDs will appear in the same series, so here you have the chance to collect some invaluable positional nuggets, including a helping prepared by Makagonov himself. I'm no dietician, but this is one portion of Maknuggets that can only do you good!

More chess training with Adrian Mikalchishin:

Decision Making in chess.


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