Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Chess Reviews: 145

A bumper crop of ChessBase DVDs has kept my reviewing time fully engaged over the last couple of weeks. A review of the new Rybka will follow soon, but meanwhile here's my thoughts on the latest regular releases...

ChessBase Magazine #136

The latest issue of ChessBase hits the ground running with coverage of the exciting Anand - Topalov World Championship match. All the games are nicely annotated by a combination of Krasenkow, Stohl, Postny, Marin, Ftacnik, Rogozenco and Anish Giri.

Unfortunately there is no video footage of the match here, but the annotations are a good mix of prose and chess variations, so the games are admirably brought to life.

The other major event to receive full coverage is the European Championship, won by Ian Nepomniachtchi. The tournament featured over 180 Grandmasters - an incredible amount. 2166 games are given on the disc.

As usual, there are several surveys about chess openings. The most interesting one for me was 'The Caro-Kann in the Spirit of Bronstein and Larsen' by Spyridon Skembris, looking at 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6+ gxf6

It's a fine article on a variation which somehow never seems to attract much attention. From the diagram, six White options are covered, namely:

6 Ne2, 6 Be2, 6 Bc4, 6 Nf3, 6 c3 and 6 Qd3

Other highlights include two Fritztrainer video lectures by GM Shirov, both clocking in at just under half an hour, and three video updates for previous DVDs. Two of the updates are by the busy Shirov's and are additions to his recent work on the 'Slav and Semi-Slav Revisited' and one shows Nigel Davies adding to his 'Busy Person's Repertoire'.

ChessBase Magazine remains a top product and is highly recommended.

Nigel Short
Greatest Hits
Volume 2
5 hours+

It's great to see the second volume of GM Short's 'Greatest Hits' follow so soon after the first. It's a sign of good sales, which will hopefully continue and provide inspiration to produce more volumes in either this or a similar series.

This time, the opponents are: Miles, Ye, Gelfand, Gurevich, Seirawan, Khalifman, Ljubojevic, Kasparov, Pogorelov, Epishin, Timman, Adams, Illescas, Korchnoi and Gligoric.

The games are not presented in chronological order, but the first one demonstrates his first victory over a Grandmaster (in 1979), who just happened to be Tony Miles. There was no love lost between the two British chess giants, but Short is very restrained in his commentary and doesn't descend into name-calling.

Following that, six games are from the 1980s, five from the 1990s and three from the 2000s.
GM Short has enjoyed - and is still enjoying - a long chess career.

Seven games show GM Short in action with the Black pieces. One of the most interesting is a Rapidplay game against Garry Kasparov, from their six-game match in 1987. One of the most interesting things about this game is the proposed march of the Short's King to attack the enemy King on a very busy board, which of course was the highlight of a later Short game against Timman (included
on volume 1 of the series).

This time, it's 'only' a 'half-King march', but to do it against a reigning World Champion is very impressive.

Kasparov- Short

Black played 46 ...Kh5! and White resigned four moves later.

Little stories embellish the games. In this next game, Black played 11 ...0-0 here.

Short - Ye Jiangchuan

Nigel tells of showing the game to his neighbour, Lord Owen, who correctly pointed out that Black had '...castled into it'.

The final game gives Nigel the opportunity to reminisce about the The Master Game (an old BBC half-hour chess show - much missed!). He recalls how Vlastimil Hort tried to win on time with Rook and Bishop v Rook, but led to lots of complaints from Hort when his own flag fell instead. The game was eventually agreed drawn - it was all Nigel needed to qualify from the group - although he admits he may handle the situation differently today.

The chosen encounter from the Master Game is against another chess giant.

Gligoric - Short

This is an interesting moment. The game continued 30 ...Qxh3 and Black won soon enough, but there is a pretty mate in five which you, dear reader, are challenged to solve.

It's a fun and interesting collection of games and my favourite ChessBase release of the month.

Guide to the Tkachiev Ruy Lopez
By GM Alexei Shirov
6 hours

GM Shirov explains that even though he has already made three DVDs on his favourite Spanish Opening, he '...always felt that something was missing'. Then he realised that he had neglected his real favourite - the Tkachiev - and that's what this DVD is all about.

GM Shirov started playing this line more often from 2009 onwards and, as he points out on this DVD, World Champion Anand has been playing it recently too.

So what is the Tkachiev Ruy Lopez? It arises after the moves:

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 b5 6 Bb3 Bc5

'...one of the most fascinating opening lines in chess'.

Black is trying to play more actively than normal, with the Bishop outside of the pawn chain and more aggressively placed than it's 'normal' Spanish square, e7.

Four White options are considered in detail:

7 Nxe5
7 a4
7 c3
7 d3

After looking at the illustrative games, it should be quite clear that pushy Black system suits Shirov's style perfectly. All of the relevant move-orders and general ideas are analysed in turn.

There are 12 main illustrative games, 10 of which show Shirov himself handling the Black side of the opening in question.

The final game on the DVD is from 2010 and it looks at the Exchange Variation (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Bxc6). Black does need to have something to play against this annoying line, which is actually quite potent.

It is very interesting to hear Shirov's thoughts on playing against a young player about whom he had very little knowledge; it made him nervous and a little bit afraid. So he stuck with a line which has always served him well (a single defeat over many years):

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 0-0 Bg4 6 h3 h5

Maxime Vachier Lagrave - Alexei Shirov
Bundesliga, 2009-10

This DVD will suit advanced club players who are looking to achieve more active positions against the Spanish Game.

The Advance Caro-Kann
2nd Edition
By GM Alexei Shirov
7.5 hours

This is older release, updated with new material, in the form of six new video lectures. Five are from 2009 and one is from 2010 (recorded just a couple of days after the game was played). Half of the new games feature Shirov.

The new material focuses exclusively on the positions arising from the sequence:

1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 Bf5 4 Nf3 e6 5 Be2

Shirov opines that the Caro-Kann, usually labelled a strategical opening from Black's point of view, is actually one which allows White to play strategically while Black has to reply with very concrete lines right from the start.

White fails to win only one of the newly added games, and that is this one, featuring some intriguing early Knight moves:

1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 Bf5 4 Nf3 e6 5 Be2 Ne7 6 0-0 Bg6 7 Nbd2 Nf5

Shirov - Solak

8 g4 Nh6 9 h3 Ng8 when after 10 Ne1 h5 11 Ng2 hxg4 12 hxg4 c5

Black seems to be ok, despite the alarming loss of tempi. (The game was drawn after 41 moves). Shirov now believes 10 Nb3 h5 11 Bd3 is a better try for White.

This DVD features advanced material, probably more so than the Tkachiev one above. It should appeal to those with a specialist interest in 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 from either side of the board.

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Roger said...

I didn't know that Short and Miles didn't get along. Without getting too dishy, why?

Sean Marsh said...

Probably a combination of things, Roger.

A rising junior star consistently scoring well against England's No.1 player was more than likely a top factor.

Without wishing to post too much information here, I can point you in the right direction. For starters, just Google for 'Tony Miles+obituary' which should provide some basic details and you should be able to dig deeper from there.