Friday, 10 December 2010

Chess Reviews: 166

Things have been very busy again on the ChessBase front and we have no fewer than six new DVDs to catch up with...

ChessBase Magazine #139

The latest ChessBase magazine is just as packed as its predecessors. Frankly, the amount of material each issues contains is extraordinary.

The highlights this time must be the coverage of the top tournaments Nanjing (Carlsen, Anand...), The Tal Memorial (Aronian, Karjakin...Kramnik in the bottom half) and the Grand Slam Final (Kramnik, Anand, Carlsen and Shirov).

The top players seem rather bloodthirsty at the moment, which is to our benefit. When world class stars really play against each other there are plenty of instructive moments. Throw some good ChessBase annotations into the mix and it all makes for very impressive study material.

Kramnik - Carlsen
Grand Slam Final

Kramnik started a deep strategical plan with 16 Bxb8!?. He is trying to obtain a position with a good Knight v bad Bishop, although to lesser mortals it looks a million miles away.

This is a position which almost arose later in the game, and shows Kramnik's goal almost being realised. Here, he would continue with 31 Ng4 Bg7 32 Nh2. According to Stohl's ChessBase annotations, Black would now be forced to play ...e6-e5 once the Knight goes to f3, The Knight would then be free to dance around to better squares, such as d5 after Ne1-d3-b4.

Carlsen avoided that branch by trying to break out but lost after 41 moves.

There's the usual blend of opening surveys, endgames, tactics and, of course, a sprinkling of video lectures in the Fritz Trainer format.

Over 7000 recent games are included, a fair chunk of them from the Chess Olympiad.

As always, ChessBase Magazine represents excellent value for money and has something for everyone. Highly recommended.

Chess Endgames 7
Endgame Principles Weaknesses & Fortresses
By GM Karsten Mueller
5 hours and 40 minutes

The Chess Endgames series is one of the highlights of the whole ChessBase range. Following a lull since volume 4 was released, we have now had volumes 5-7 arriving at regular intervals.

'The new 7th volume deals with many different aspects of endgame play: the art of pawn play, weaknesses, converting an advantage, stalemate, fortresses, the art of defence and typical mistakes. But the themes are connected in various ways'.

The material is split into seven sections:

Weaknesses (14 video lectures)
The Art of Pawn Play (15)
Converting an Advantage (11)
Stalemate (8)
Fortresses (12)
The Art of Defence (6)
Typical Mistakes (7)

I know a lot of people who don't like to study endings, thinking they are dull and that the time should be used to study exciting opening lines instead. Well, there's certainly nothing dull here; every example has been expertly chosen to demonstrate an important theme.

I found the sections on Stalemate and Fortresses to be particularly interesting.

Stalemates are always entertaining. I'm sure we all dream of swindling top players just like this...

Bernstein - Smyslov
Staunton Memorial 1946

59 ...b2?? 60 Rxb2! and drawn after 60 ..Kg4 61 Kf1. 60 ...Rh2+ 61 Kf3 Rxb2 stalemate is the point.

GM Mueller makes a couple of very interesting observations here. Firstly, the fact that Smyslov, one of the greatest endgame players of all time, can fall for a stalemate trap gives us all hope (and further demonstrates the principle of 'don't rush'). Secondly, it's the human mistakes which make chess so interesting to spectators. Watching near-perfect computer chess has far less appeal.

Generally speaking, we don't see enough explanatory material on fortresses; GM Mueller diligently strives to fill the gap and presents some excellent examples.

McShane v Danin
Aeroflot Open 2010

Luke played the incorrect 51 h3? ('pawns can't go backwards!'). White should have seized the moment and played the surprising 51 f5!!. The analysis given on the DVD of this position is typical of GM Mueller's style. He methodically works his way through the complicated lines, merging moves with pertinent observations.

The material is quite advanced and this fine DVD should suit experienced players. This is my pick of the bunch featured in this review article.

Attack with the Modern Italian
By GM Nigel Davies
4 hours

Starting with a Garry Kasparov game form a simultaneous display, GM Davies goes on to cover an aggressive set-up for White over the course of 31 video lectures.

The modern way of playing involves White avoiding an early clash in the centre and preferring 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d3, with the intention of castling on the Queenside.

The logic is that at club player level, where defences are weaker than at higher levels, the player who seizes the initiative will have excellent chances of victory. So castling Queenside and launching an attack has more chance of success at this level than it would against a Grandmaster.

The Two Knights Defence (3 ...Nf6) and The Hungarian Defence (3 ...Be7) are covered too (generally transposing to earlier lines), as if the move order of 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 for White.

So the recommended move order is:

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d3 d6 6 Bb3 a6 7 h3 Ba7 8 Nbd2 0-0 9 Nf1 d5 10 Qe2

It's very similar to Steinitz's treatment of some Ruy Lopez lines.

The first illustrative game with this line shows GM Howell whipping up a speedy attack.

Howell - Parry
WYCC Boys U-18 2008

The game didn't last much longer: 19 ...h6 20 h5 hxg5 21 hxg5 fxg6 22 Nh6+ 1-0

Black has numerous ways to deviate from the opening sequence given above and White often has to change tack and castle Kingside anyway.

Club players are the target audience and the delivery is pitched accordingly. Understanding the themes of the opening is more important than learning a lot of theory and GM Davies handles the task in his customary style.

Tricks and Traps
Volume 2
1 d4 Openings
By GM Nigel Davies
4 hours

The Tricks and Traps series is also aimed at club players, with those on the more inexperienced end of the scale being the ideal audience.

GM Davies runs through a variety of essential traps, familiarity of which will provide a good grounding for practical players looking to tighten up their game.

Some of the traps are relevant to specific openings, such as the Budapest Gambit and Albin Counter-Gambit.

A famous trap form a Budapest Defence
Black to move - what would you play?

Others are arranged by theme instead, such as various pitfalls on long diagonals.

Experienced players should already know the majority of what is on offer here but it will be all useful stuff for those lower down the food chain and juniors should be able to quickly memorize a number of new weapons to try against their fellow youngsters.

Finally for this review column, we have two updated DVDs. The main body of the material remains the same, but both enjoy '2010 updates'.

The ABC of the Benko Gambit
2nd Edition
By IM Andrew Martin
6 hours

The Benko Gambit has nine new videos, taking the total to 31. The new ones feature games from 2006 (3), 2008 (1) , 2009 (1) and 2010 (4).

The game with the highest profile sees Magnus Carlsen using the Benko to beat Van Wely at Wijk aan Zee in 2008.

IM Martin concludes that Black is 'in good shape' in the Gambit Accepted lines but the Gambit Declined variations are 'proving more irritating'.

A World Champion's Guide To The King's Indian
2nd Edition
By GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov
7 hours

This one has more updates, stretching the original content from 10 video lectures to 23. GM Kasimdzhanov present the latest theoretical games and developments in the King's Indian Defence, with the focus mainly on the efforts of GM Radjabov.

The Classical Variation receives good coverage, with a modern emphasis on 7 ...Na6 and 7 ...Nbd7 to add to the earlier analysis of 7 ...Nc6.

For further details of ChessBase products, please pop along to their website.

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