What chess history teaches us

by Johannes Fischer
7/26/2016 – While history might indeed teach us that history teaches us nothing, studying chess history is more rewarding. It helps to understand chess better and to play better. It is fun and helps to score more points. No wonder the renowned American author, coach and critic IM John Watson liked reading "The Big Book of World Chess Championships" by ChessBase editor André Schulz.

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In his in-depth review about The Big Book, recently published on Mark Crowther's website The Week in Chess, Watson particularly appreciated Schulz’ “obvious love of chess history”. To quote:

“A glance at the book’s extensive Bibliography gives you a feel for the breadth of his interest. Along with detailed biographical sketches of each champion and challenger, Schulz puts special emphasis on the backgrounds of the 46 championship matches, with the negotiations, conditions and events surrounding them. … Schulz almost always describes the champions’ and challengers’ upbringing. He describes their parents and/or families, sometimes at considerable length. He also annotates one game from each match in instructive fashion, supplying enough detail to be instructive without overwhelming the reader with variations.

Schulz includes all the matches and championship tournaments from 1886 to 2014, excluding the FIDE Knockouts. Readers who are unfamiliar with the championships will get to know all about the background and course of each match, including controversies and animosities. In addition, there’s a lot of curious and entertaining material, even for the chess fan who already has a substantial familiarity with historical details.”

At the end of his review Watson concludes: „It should be clear that I enjoyed The Big Book of World Chess Championships very much and highly recommend it, especially to players who haven’t explored the history of our game in depth. Young players will particularly benefit from an exposure to how the game and its understanding have evolved. Congratulations to André Schulz for having made this unique contribution to chess literature.“

New In Chess, 2015, 352 pages, €22,95

But Watson also points out that a history book like this goes against the trend of modern chess publishing and mourns the general „Decline of the Chess History Book“: „In the late 1960s, I learned about chess primarily from books about famous players, usually collections of their games or tournaments. Except for primers, those books were just about all that was readily available in the library and stores of the Midwestern U.S. city in which I lived. Nor was this a unique experience; most of the regulars I met in chess clubs and at tournaments had done their chess reading from the same set of books. The romance of chess history was built into our world view, and our chess conversations routinely referred to the great players and their games. ... [Today] many of my young students haven’t even heard of all the World Champions, nor of all their challengers, and certainly not of the leading players in generations preceding their own. Today, it’s quite possible to become an extremely strong and active player without any serious exposure to chess history.“

John Watson is an International Master from the United States and a renowned author and coach.
He has written over 30 books, including Secrets of Modern Strategy, Chess Strategy in Action,
the four volume Mastering the Chess Openings series, A Strategic Opening Repertoire for White,
and Play the French, the "bible" for many French aficionados.

ChessBase, to a certain extent, has followed the general trend of chess publishing. Most ChessBase DVDs recommend repertoires, show trends in modern openings, explain ideas in a variety of opening set-ups, and provide the reader with extensive opening knowledge. After all, this is what most chessplayers seem to be most interested in. It simply helps to win more games if you know your openings and the middlegames arising from them well.

But it also helps your chess (and might be more fun) to study the classics. To quote Watson again: “I’ve noticed several contemporary players and teachers make the point that many classic games by the old masters make particularly good teaching material, because the strategic ideas in them are relatively simpler to understand and more clearly expressed than in modern games. That’s due to the fact that such ideas have been absorbed by virtually all strong players today. Thus a strategic plan will either be anticipated and avoided, or neutralized before it comes to fruition.“

Here ChessBase, too, has a lot to offer. Indian IM Sagar Shah and Dutch open specialist GM Sergey Tiviakov, for instance, showed on recent DVDs how they used the knowledge they had gained from studying classical games in their own practice.

Learn from the Classics

By IM Sagar Shah

Languages: English
ISBN: 978-3-86681-500-1
Delivery: Download, Post
Level: Tournament player, Professional
Price: €29.90 or €25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU) $27.06 (without VAT)

Wise and successful players of the game have always told us to study the classics – games by the great masters of the past. But in this age of cutting-edge opening theory, preparation and engines, is studying the classics really that helpful?

On this DVD, Sagar Shah does'nt merely preach. First, he shows you classical games of great legends such as Petrosian, Botvinnik, Fischer, Korchnoi and Kasparov, looking at typical patterns and ideas from the middlegame. The author then goes on to explain how you can use these ideas in your own battles – by showing you examples of applied classical knowledge from his own games!

As well as looking at the middlegame, Sagar also focuses on the opening. The information explosion has ensured that opening theory continues to evolve at a rapid pace. The author shows that playing through the classics can help us establish a strong and stable feel for the initial phase of the game, and analyzes the opening duel between Botvinnik and Petrosian from their World Championship match in 1963. Going over these games will give you an excellent idea of how the classics can be used to prepare your own openings.

Order Sagar Shah's Learn from the Classics in the ChessBase Shop

 

Learning from the World Champions

By GM Sergey Tiviakov

Languages: English
978-3-86681-522-3
Delivery: Download, Post
Level: Advanced, Tournament player, Professional
Price: €29.90 or €25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU) $27.14 (without VAT)

From amateurs to professionals – players of all levels know how difficult it is to learn chess strategy and how much time and effort it takes to improve middlegame play.

The author of this DVD has a solution - suggesting and demonstrating what he believes to be the easiest and most affordable method - learning from the World Champions!

With famous classical examples from the works of the giants, the author talks in detail about principles of chess and methods of play that we can use during every stage of the game. Each example of World Champion play is followed by a similar example from the practice of the author, proving that his method works! A great deal of incredibly useful aspects are discussed and lot of tips offered on how to improve your play in 25 examples with 5 hours of video.

Order Sergey Tiviakov's Learning from the World Champions in the ChessBase Shop

Or you can study the classics directly, for instance, with the Fritz Trainer Master Class. Each DVD in this series is dedicated to one player. Video lectures explain how this player treated the opening, the middlegame and the endgames. Moreover, each DVD contains biographical material and the available games of this master. This is particularly helpful to study style and characteristics of this player.

So far, six masters have been portrayed in the series: Bobby Fischer, Mikhail Tal, Alexander Alekhine, José Raul Capablanca, Emanuel Lasker and Anatoly Karpov. Choose your favorite, learn and enjoy!

Master Class Vol. 1: Bobby Fischer

By Dorian Rogozenco, Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh

Languages: English, German
ISBN: 978-3-86681-371-7
Delivery: Download, Post
Level: Any
€29.90 or €25.13 without VAT (for Customers outside the EU); $28.39 (without VAT)

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Robert James Fischer. But what were the secrets to his sensational ability, and what enabled him to take on the Soviet school of chess alone – and win? On this DVD, a team of experts presents you every facet of the chess legend, and shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion. Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur. His congenial video analysis of Fischer’s legendary endgames can only be found on this DVD! To top it off - you too can unleash tactical combinations like Fischer! German Bundesliga player Oliver Reeh has compiled the World Champion’s best combinations – and now it’s your move. You too can try to find Fischer’s stunning brilliancies by entering your solution on the board and receive video feedback in the new ChessBase media format!

• Video running time: approx 5 hours (English)
• Interactive training including video feedback
• Collection of every Fischer game, tables, backround knowledge, short biography
• “Fischer powerbook”– the World Champion’s repertoire as an opening tree
• Tactic training: 100 Fischer games with training questions.

Order Master Class on Bobby Fischer in the ChessBase Shop

 

Master Class Vol.2: Mihail Tal

By Dorian Rogozenco, Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh

No World Champion has enchanted the chess world as much as Mihail Tal did. His reign as World Champion was short but in his time Tal’s star burned with unknown intensity. With his combinations and his intuitive sacrifices the young Tal ran over his opponents, and thrilled the chess world with his risky uncompromising attacking play, which inspired many players to emulate him. In 1960 he beat the reigning World Champion Botvinnik but one year later he lost the title of World Champion again in a return match of doubtful competitive value. But even though Tal was no longer World Champion, he still remained one of the best players in the world. At eight chess Olympiads he won gold with the Soviet team. Six times he became USSR-Champion. In 1973/74 he managed to remain unbeaten in 93 consecutive games, a still unmatched record. In 1988 he won the Blitz World Championship. Despite his frail health Tal enjoyed life to the fullest and was a funny and brilliant man, who loved nothing more than chess. Through the games of Mihail Tal this DVD provides a unique access to the realm of chess tactics. Tal’s colleagues dubbed their tactical guru „Magician“, because in his games seemingly incomprehensible moves in the end blended into a successful whole, as if by magic. But Tal was also a master of strategy and endgame play. On this DVD Dorian Rogozenco, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh and Karsten Müller present the 8. World Chess Champion in video lessons: his openings, his understanding of chess strategy, his artful endgame play, and finally his immortal combinations. In an interactive test they invite you to try to find combinations like Tal did. The DVD also contains all games by Tal, many of them annotated, plus comments and tournament tables.

  • Video running time: 4 hours 13 min (English)
  • Interactive tactics test with video feedback
  • Tactic training with 245 questions.
  • Collection of every Tal game, tables, backround, short biography
  • Tal powerbook – the World Champion’s repertoire as an opening tree
  • ISBN: 978-3-86681-372-4 – EAN: 4027975007960
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU);
    $26.99 (without VAT)

 

Master Class Vol.3: Alexander Alekhine

By Dorian Rogozenco, Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh

Alexander Alekhine, the fourth World Champion, played many fantastic attacking games and to this day enjoys the reputation of being an attacking genius. But ever since Alekhine won the World Championship match against Capablanca in Buenos Aires 1927 the chess world could see that the Russian-born Alekhine – who immigrated to France in 1921 – also handled technical positions excellently. But his success against Capablanca was still a surprise because the Cuban was considered to be virtually unbeatable. After winning the World Championship Alekhine reached the peak of his career in the early 1930s winning famous tournaments such as San Remo 1930 and Bled 1931 by a huge margin. Moreover, the World Champion was also a prolific author and in annotating his games gave deep insights to the thinking of a World Champion. Alekhine was one of the best players in the history of chess and treated all phases of the game – opening, middlegame and endgame – in textbook fashion. No wonder a lot of later top class players, not least Garry Kasparov, claimed Alekhine as their role model in chess. On this DVD Grandmasters Dorian Rogozenco, Mihail Marin, Karsten Müller, and International Master Oliver Reeh present outstanding games, stunning combinations and exemplary endgames by Alexander Alekhine. And they invite you to improve your chess knowledge with the help of video lectures, annotated games and interactive tests. The DVD also contains all known games by Alekhine, most of them annotated. Tables of important tournaments and various articles with background information complete the DVD.

  • Video running time: 5 hours (English)
  • Interactive tactics test with video feedback
  • Collection of all known games Alekhine played, tournament tables, short biography
  • Alekhine powerbook: the repertoire of the World Champion as opening tree
  • Tactic training: 102 Alekhine games with training questions.
  • 978-3-86681-373-1
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU);
    $27.14 (without VAT)

 

Master Class Vol.4: José Raúl Capablanca

By Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh, Niclas Huschenbeth

He was a child prodigy and he is surrounded by legends. In his best times he was considered to be unbeatable and by many he was reckoned to be the greatest chess talent of all time: Jose Raul Capablanca, born 1888 in Havana. At the age of 13 he became Cuban champion; in 1909 he sensationally defeated Marshall by 8:1 and was thus catapulted into the world elite. It was only after some time, since only sparse amounts of information made it across the pond, that in 1911 Capablanca achieved well-deserved recognition by leaving the elite of world chess trailing in his wake in San Sebastian. It would however take another 10 years before the Cuban defeated the reigning world champion Emanuel Lasker in their match and wore the crown himself.

On this ChessBase-DVD a team of experts gets to the bottom of Capablanca’s game. Niklas Huschenbeth presents the openings of the third world champion. Oliver Reeh has assembled a select choice of little combinations (Capablanca’s famous “petite combinaison”) and prepared them in interactive format. Mihail Marin looks into Capablanca’s strategic performances and finds astonishing parallels in the games of Bobby Fischer. Our end game expert Karsten Müller had a multiplicity of examples from which to choose, since Capablanca liked to liquidate into an endgame, being well aware of his particular strength and creating numerous masterpieces of the art of the endgame. The DVD also contains all of Capablanca’s games, many of them annotated and is rounded off by a biographical section, tables and both a tactics and an endgame database.

  • Video running time: 6 hours (English)
  • Interactive tactics test with video feedback
  • All Capablanca’s games, tables, background knowledge, short biography
  • “Capablanca Powerbook”: The opening repertoire of the third world champion as a variation tree
  • Tactics training with 103 Capablanca Games; 14 Capablanca endgames, with detailed commentary by Mihail Marin
  • 978-3-86681-467-7
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU);
    $27.14 (without VAT)

 

Master Class Vol.5: Emanuel Lasker

By Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh, Niclas Huschenbeth

The name Emanuel Lasker will always be linked with his incredible 27 years reign on the throne of world chess. In 1894, at the age of 25, he had already won the world title from Wilhelm Steinitz and his record number of years on the throne did not end till 1921 when Lasker had to accept the superiority of Jose Raul Capablanca. But not only had the only German world champion so far seen off all challengers for many years, he had also won the greatest tournaments of his age, sometimes with an enormous lead. The fascinating question is, how did he manage that? Previously the answer frequently given was – psychology and luck. But this thesis has been refuted by authors who have to be taken seriously. Lasker’s secrets are obviously to be sought elsewhere.

On the ChessBase DVD a team of experts delves deeply into Lasker’s play. In more than 6 hours of video (both in English and in German) the authors cast light on four important aspects of Lasker’s artistry. Niclas Huschenbeth has looked into Lasker’s openings. Our tactics expert Oliver Reeh challenges you in our interactive format: can you too find Lasker’s brilliant moves? Mihail Marin describes the second world champion as an original strategic player who took his decisions based on the specific features of the position. For Karsten Müller, Lasker was a great pragmatist and a superb defensive player, which is reflected in the selection of endgames he has chosen to discuss.

  • Video running time: 6 hours (English) • Interactive tactics test with video feedback
  • All Lasker games, tables, background knowledge, short biography
  • Detailed investigations of Lasker’s playing style (by Knaak, Rogozenco, Stohl, etc.)
  • “Lasker Powerbooks”: the world champion’s opening repertoire as a variation tree
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU);
    $27.14 (without VAT)

 

Master Class Vol.6: Anatoly Karpov

By Dr. Karsten Müller, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh, Niclas Huschenbeth

When Anatoly Karpov was 11 years old, he was invited to Botvinnik’s chess school. But the “Patriarch” passed a harsh verdict: “The boy has no clue about chess and therefore absolutely no future as a chess player.” Rarely was a judgement about a chess talent more wrong, for Karpov soon became the best player in the Soviet Union, growing to be considered a serious challenger to the reigning World Champion, Bobby Fischer. But in the World Championship match in 1975, Fischer refused to play and Karpov won by default, becoming the 12th World Champion. He nevertheless proved himself worthy of his title, playing in countless tournaments with exceptional results. Particularly impressive was his style. Thanks to Karpov’s brilliant feel for positional chess, which reminded many experts of Capablanca, he outplayed his opponents again and again with seemingly effortless ease. If you want to improve your grasp of chess strategy, then there is hardly a better teacher than Anatoly Karpov! It took the arrival of Garry Kasparov for Karpov to have an opponent who could challenge him on an equal footing.

On this DVD, a team of experts looks closely at the secrets of Karpov’s games. In more than 7 hours of video, the authors examine four essential aspects of Karpov’s superb play. Niclas Huschenbeth takes a look at Karpov’s openings. Our tactics expert Oliver Reeh tests your skills with interactive exercises, challenging you to find Karpov’s brilliant moves. Mihail Marin sees in Karpov’s play great similarities to Magnus Carlsen: by the time the opponent understands what is happening, it is already too late. For endgame expert Dr. Karsten Müller, Anatoly Karpov is “a living legend”. For him, Karpov has “an incredible feeling for the coordination and harmony of his pieces”, something which also shows in his endgames.

  • Video running time: 7 hours (English)
  • Interactive tactics test with video feedback
  • Collection of all Karpov’s games, crosstables and a short biography
  • “Karpov’s Powerbook”: The 12th World Champion’s repertoire as an opening tree
  • Tactics training based on 189 of Karpov’s games: 472 training questions with a maximum of 875 points
  • Delivery: download, post
  • Price: €29.90; €25.13 without VAT (for customers outside the EU);
    $27.14 (without VAT)


Johannes Fischer was born in 1963 in Hamburg and studied English and German literature in Frankfurt. He now lives as a writer and translator in Nürnberg. He is a FIDE-Master and regularly writes for KARL, a German chess magazine focusing on the links between culture and chess. On his own blog he regularly publishes notes on "Film, Literature and Chess".
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Chessspawnvt Chessspawnvt 7/29/2016 01:49
I just started reading this book after purchasing it via Amazon Kindle. It's quite enjoyable and there are some tidbits, factoids if you will, that are lovely to come across.
chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 7/28/2016 05:36

The quotation is from Hegel: What experience and history teach is this - that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.

digupagal digupagal 7/27/2016 08:30
I am yet to understand, how to study past games. Any guides on youtube or any book which would help me to study old games in a better way?

Is it only about guessing moves? how do you learn planning from old games?
Vernunft Vernunft 7/27/2016 05:10
Whoosh, went the George Bernard Shaw reference. I guess Aighearach doesn't learn much from history.
Aighearach Aighearach 7/27/2016 04:10
"While history might indeed teach us that history teaches us nothing"

It might teach you that, but it seems highly unlikely that most readers are that unable to learn from history. And when the purpose of the article is to sell books, it seems particularly daft. The statement is something that is rarely ever written down; rather, it is something that is said. On television. Where the average person in the audience doesn't read, and certainly the average viewer doesn't read _history_. But if you're writing text on a website in order to sell a book, and you're using the word "history" as part of a pithy quote to draw people in, well guess what? Most of the people who are reading words about a book, and who are likely to be drawn to the word history, it is actually quite reasonable to presume that have read history books, and see value in learning about history.

Which is more likely to sell: a history book by an author who values history, or one by an author who doesn't think that it is even possible for them personally to learn from history? And who phrases that inability in the form of an accusation against all of humanity?

My advice, the author of this piece should not be tasked with trying to sell books, or otherwise to write words whose purpose should be to draw the readers in. Instead, have one of the authors of the books write this sort of promotional copy. True, it is more effective to have a eloquent third party tell you how awesome a book is. But a self-serving promotion is actually better than a poorly written one from a third party.

If the book is any good, then André Schulz deserves better. Chessbase, as a publisher and bookseller, should be an expert at this. Therefore it seems just as likely that the book is a stinker, and so they used it as an opportunity to publish some words as a favor to somebody, rather than just that they are unable to effectively promote books. In any case, it makes you all look bad.
Vernunft Vernunft 7/27/2016 12:38
What's the cringe? Looks like he's quoting someone. Shaw, if my google-fu is accurate.
ghenghisclown ghenghisclown 7/26/2016 10:30
"History...teaches us nothing" -- CRINGE
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