Two the easy way

2/14/2006 – Chess Trainer Andrew Martin is featured on two recent ChessBase opening training DVDs: The Scandinavian The Easy Way and The Trompowsky The Easy Way. Our ChessBase Workshop columnist previews both of these disks as well as the Chess Media System (for those who've not yet experienced it) in the latest edition. Workshop...

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  • The Scandinavian The Easy Way -- Andrew Martin
  • The Trompowsky The Easy Way -- Andrew Martin

    In this ChessBase Workshop we're going to preview two DVDs by well known chess trainer Andrew Martin, namely The Scandinavian The Easy Way and The Trompowsky The Easy Way. I've written favorably about Martin's fine work before and these two DVDs are likewise no exception.

    A preliminary word about ChessBase's instructional DVDs is in order. They ship complete with the latest version of ChessBase Reader, a sort of demo version of the ChessBase program, so no other software is required (although ChessBase/Fritz owners will certainly wish to use them instead of the Reader). The reason that the products are on DVD instead of CD is because of the large quantity of video content; that's essentially what these DVDs are. There's little or no text on the DVDs; the chess instruction is provided via the Chess Media System, a "marriage" of video instruction and an on-screen chessboard. You'll see (and hear) the instructor in a pane on your monitor; he's able to move the pieces around on your on-screen board, and is also able to use colored arrows and squares for further emphasis at key points. These DVDs are similar to chess videos and DVDs that you'd watch on your TV: your ChessBase or Fritz board acts as the wallboard that you see in other chess video products, and (as stated above) the instructor on ChessBase DVDs has other graphic tools at his disposal that aren't available to people using a real-life wallboard. A ChessBase video instructor also has the ability to switch from main lines to variations at the click of a mouse, and your on-screen board will also reflect this change instantly.

    To be able to use these DVDs, you'll (obviously) need a computer with a DVD drive and sound card with speakers. You'll also need to have Windows Media Player v9 (or later) installed; the Chess Media System doesn't work with Media Player 8 or earlier versions.

    You'll begin by loading the database on the DVD, clicking on the sole entry (which will appear in the game list as a single text entry, not a game) and you'll see a screen which looks like this (the illustration is from the Scandinavian DVD):

    You'll see the title of each separate video on the disk, a small screenshot of the instructor, and the running time of the video. To lauch a video "chapter", just click on the picture of the instructor. A new window will open with the chessboard loaded and an extra video pane as part of the display. The video will load and begin playing automatically; all you need to do is sit back, watch, listen, and learn.

    The video pane works like a standard Media Player display, giving you some playback options:

    (The lettering will appear black on your screen; my stupid graphics editor changed the lettering to red when I converted the image to a GIF).

    The buttons let you open a different video, play, pause, and stop the current video, and adjust the volume up or down. The slider lets you move to a different portion of the video. Note, though, that there will be a slight pause in the video when you adjust the slider; the Chess Media System will require a few seconds to adjust the chessboard to the position being discussed at the new point in the video).

    Now I'll tell you true: I don't know why the ChessBase folks even bothered to let me write about these two DVDs. All they really needed to do was provide the introductory videos for each DVD on the ChessBase website as streaming clips-- after you'd watched them, you'd be scrambling for your credit card, all set to order the disks. Andrew Martin is that good; he's a natural teacher, an engaging speaker, and he provides the instruction so clearly and painlessly that even Bonzo the Chimp could play these two openings even just adequately after he'd watched these videos.

    Each DVD's primary focus is from the point of view of the initiating player (the one who opted to go into that opening), i.e. Black for the Scandinavian, White for the Trompowsky. Ideas are presented for both players, but the emphasis is again placed on options for the initiating player to counteract his opponent's plans.

    Here's a look at what you'll find on each disk, a list of the videos and their running times:

    SCANDINAVIAN

    • Intro and Ideas: 06:54 min.
    • Traps - The exposed queen: 06:49 min.
    • Main Lines 6th moves: 6.Be3: 23:23 min.
    • 6.g3: 13:02 min.
    • 6.Bc4: 13:43 min.
    • 6.Bd3: 14:21 min.
    • 6.Be2: 08:00 min.
    • 6.Ne5: 14:25 min.
    • 6.Bg5; 6.h3: 13:12 min.
    • Summary of 6th moves: 00:39 min.
    • Various other moves: 5.Bc4; 6.Nge2: 06:44 min.
    • 5.Be2: 12:06 min.
    • Various 5th moves: 06:01 min.
    • 4.g3: 11:11 min.
    • 3.Nf3: 11:51 min.
    • 3.d4: 10:58 min.
    • Miscellaneous 2nd moves: 06:18 min.
    • Outro: 00:35 min.

    TROMPOWSKY

    • Pre-intro: 00:19 min.
    • Intro and Game 1: 06:01 min.
    • Game 2: 11:23 min.
    • Themes: Bishops vs. pawn structure: 09:13 min.
    • The big centre: 08:05 min.
    • White sacrifices for attack: 06:43 min.
    • White sacrifices for attack II: 08:50 min.
    • Originality: 13:11 min.
    • Reportoire: 2...d5 Game 1: 12:43 min.
    • 2...d5 Game 2: 10:37 min.
    • 2...d5 Game 3: 12:05 min.
    • 2...e6 Game 1: 09:57 min.
    • 2...e6 Game 2: 09:04 min.
    • 2...e6 Game 3: 06:27 min.
    • 2...e6 Game 4: 03:54 min.
    • 2...e6 Summary: 00:40 min.
    • 2...c5 Game 1: 09:36 min.
    • 2...c5 Game 2: 07:56 min.
    • 2...c5 Game 3: 12:35 min.
    • 2...c5 Summary: 00:45 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Game 1: 03:21 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Game 2: 03:52 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Game 3: 10:19 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Game 4: 05:35 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Game 5: 11:12 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Game 6: 05:08 min.
    • 2...Ne4 Summary: 00:23 min.
    • Minor Stuff: Loose ends: 05:14 min.
    • Loose ends II: 01:42 min.
    • Outro: 00:57 min.

    As you can see, there's a lot of video instructional content on each of these DVDs.

    Concerning the instructional content itself, I'd like to stress that these disks are designed for the average player, not high-level titled players. The disks aren't a detailed examination of every ECO line down to the nth degree; the focus here is on ideas, the basic stuff you'll need to know to succeed with each of these openings. A potential player of either of these openings can go into them "cold" (with no prior knowledge of either of them) and after watching these disks (and assuming he's learned the lessons contained therein) walk away with enough knowledge to be able to play either of them reasonably successfully. It doesn't matter that every single known variation isn't covered on these DVDs; if you understand the ideas of the main variations, you should easily be able to adjust to any quirky play from your opponent.

    Martin provides this information in a clear and concise manner, and does it wonderfully well: as I said earlier, he's an entertaining and engaging speaker. He'll hold your interest and even make you think that he's talking to you, not just to some faceless audience of chessplayers. The only way it could get any better was if Martin came to your house and gave you private lessons one-on-one (and he just might if you've got the bucks -- that's between you and him).

    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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