Friday, 13 June 2008

Chess Reviews: 48

GM Roman Dzindzichashvili is one of the game’s real characters. There is no doubt that he has really lived chess. His output for 'Chess on DVD' is considerable, as evidenced by the volume number (55) of his most release recent release.

All of the Roman’s Lab products can be played on a normal TV and DVD player, without the need for a computer and/or any additional software.

Roman’s Lab
Volume 55: A Tribute to Bobby Fischer (parts 1 & 2)
By GM Roman Dzindzichashvili

Chess on DVD

Main Contents

Roman’s Tribute to Fischer (38 minutes)

Roman’s Game Analysis (102 minutes)

Bonus Material

Anatoly Karpov on Fischer (25 minutes)

Rare Footage From 1992 Fischer-Spassky Rematch (10 minutes)

The first section features an overview of Fischer’s life and achievements, with a remarkable collection of archive footage played out silently as Roman speaks. There are filmed snippets from all parts of his life, from his very young days all the way through his two big matches with Spassky to his final arrival in Iceland. Some of the footage was new to me; it's all very watchable, albeit emotionaly bittersweet.

Roman very sensibly steers well away from the major controversies that were one of Fischer’s great trademarks and concentrates instead on the greatness of his chess. Naturally, this doesn’t lead to a fully balanced picture of the 11th World Champion’s life but this DVD takes the ethos of celebrating his extraordinary achievements rather than analysing the more confusing and unsavoury aspects of his personal life.

There are plenty of new anecdotes alongside the broad-brush stroke biography. Roman reveals that following Fischer’s (in)famous default of game 2 in 1972, Mikhail Tal had suggested that Spassky should consider not turning up for the third game. Force-feeding Fischer some of his own medicine would have almost certainly brought the match to a premature end and Spassky would have kept the title. However, Roman goes on to explain that Spassky was determined to play chess instead of politics and such decisions were out of his hands anyway, with the Kremlin definitely pulling the Soviet strings from a distance. Additionally, Spassky must have been very unwilling to jeopardise such a massive payday (regardless of result).

Roman tells the story of how he met up with Fischer in 1980, when they played blitz chess and analysed recent games. Showing one of his own games to Fischer, he was astounded when Bobby corrected his move-order to how it really happened. Fischer’s intense level of preparation greatly impressed Roman; even though there was little chance of a return to actually playing chess it was as if he was ready to play in a top tournament at any time.

The game analysis section features several games which may be unfamiliar to most viewers. Roman admits that it was not an easy task to select which ones to show and opts for a personal selection rather than a standard trip through his best-known masterpieces.

The game Fischer v Schweber (Buenos Aires 1970) is one such game and features a particularly brillaint combination.

Fischer has just played 22 Re3. Black must have fancied his chances after the tempting 22...e4 but must have been somewhat surprised by the subsequent play. 23 Rxe4 Qxg3 24 Rxd4

Astonishingly, Black's Marshall-like Queen is trapped! Fischer's Bishops and passed pawn went on to dominate the Rook pair and he won in fine style. The commentary on this DVD really brings the game to life.

The first chunk of bonus material is taken from a volume of the DVD series ’Karpov on Fischer’.
Karpov gives his opinion of Fischer and comments on game three of the 1972 World Championship match (the famous Benoni - Fischer’s first ever win against Spassky).

He recalls joining Spassky’s training camp for the last 20 days before the big match, and recounts that Spassky did virtually nothing other than play tennis. A single training game between the two - a Spanish game - was decided when Karpov blundered in an excellent position. Spassky (mistakenly) concluded that he was excellent shape and saw no need for further preparation.

Part of the report on the 1992 match by Cathy Forbes from Grandmaster Video volume 8 is presented here, taking the viewer up to the start of the match. Rare footage is again utilised.
This is a real treat for Fischer fans, with over three hours of material. It is one of the very best of all of the Roman’s Lab series. Highly recommended.

Focusing on a single player was a new departure for Roman (but hopefully we will see a lot more - especially if a similar amount of historical footage is included). The majority of his DVDs feature openings, often highlighting his own ideas and novelties.

Roman’s Lab
Volume 7: Think and Play Like a Grandmaster (parts 1 & 2)
By GM Roman Dzindzichashvili

Chess on DVD

It’s time to take a good look at a randomly selected volume from much earlier in the series.
Thinking and playing like a Grandmaster is something we’d all like to do, but how exactly should one set about such a task?

Over the course of over four hours, Roman analyses a plethora of games by top Grandmasters applying particular emphasis on the opening stages of the game.

In the introduction, Roman explains that for a player of any rating, the important thing is to maximise one’s own knowledge and to adopt the thinking methods of the great players. He goes on to say that he has chosen the games he understands the best, whether they are his own efforts or of strong players he has worked with. His credentials to use this criteria are very strong; he was worked with the likes of Karpov, Korchnoy and Kamsky.

The presentation of material is very good. The screen is split, with Roman playing through the moves on a real chess board, while speaking to the camera, on the right hand side and there’s a digital demonstration board on the left hand side. He is not afraid to show simple, one-move variations among the more detailed and deep analysis but never talks down to the viewer. This makes the DVDs suitable for players of all standards.

The first three illustrative games feature GM Karpov in his best positional style. The first shows him eventually invading a weak e6 square against an Alekhine Defence, the second is his classic Maroczy Bind versus GM Kavalek and this is followed by a lesser known game against GM Mecking (Hastings 1971-2).

The available plans are scrutinised in this position.

Karpov v Mecking

At first glance, Karpov’s doubled pawns and the fact that his own Bishop appears to be hemmed in by his own pawns seems to suggest that Black is fine.

A short time later, White is doing well. The d5 square is under his control, the opposite coloured Bishops (something Karpov always handles very well) turn out to cause Black extra problems and the doubled b-pawns are not weak; indeed, they can be undoubled fairly easily with b3-b4-b5.

At the very end of the game, White’s extra space and pressure proved too much to handle.

34 Rg7 1-0

The explanations from start to finish are extremely instructive . GM Karpov’s games are deceptively tricky; just try guessing his moves and it will become apparent that his outwardly simplistic style is actually very hard to mimic. Roman’s common sense commentary sheds a lot of light on the great champions mysterious methods.

Following a master class on Karpov’s best positional style, Roman then puts one of GM Korchnoy’s games under the microscope.

Part 2 continues in the same style, and adds some games by GM Kamsky to the list of ‘Special Ks’.

Sensible guidelines abound, helping the viewer to assess, plan and successfully handle a plethora of positions. Roman offers constant reminders to be on guard for tactical refutations of sloppy and inaccurate play.

Here’s the chance for you, dear reader, to test your skills.

Korchnoy- Yusupov
FRG Cup Cologne, 1990

Following the moves:
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.e4 d5 4.e5 d4 5.exf6 dxc3 6.bxc3 Qxf6 7.Nf3 e5 8.Bd3 Bd6 9.0–0 0–0 10.Be4 c6 11.d4 Bf5 12.Bg5 Qe6 13.d5 Qc8

….Roman invites the viewer to analyse (without moving the pieces) the position after:
14.Bxf5 Qxf5 15.dxc6 Nxc6 16.Qxd6

Now does Black’s intended 16...e4 regain the piece or has there been a miscalculation somewhere along the line?
There’s just under four and a half hours of (virtually) private tuition from a very experienced Grandmaster on this impressive DVD. If you don’t learn a lot from it then frankly you can’t be trying.

Learn Chess in 30 Minutes
Chess for Absolute Beginners

By GM Susan Polgar
Chess on DVD

This DVD runs for 80 minutes and is split into several chapters. Namely:

Chess History

GM Polgar and FM Paul Truong narrate a brief history of chess, showing some historical archive material from the World Chess Hall of Fame in Florida. One of the features on show is a table used in the Fischer v Spassky match; another is a magnificent display covering the life of GM Polgar herself.

The Queen of Chess

The full tale of GM Susan Polgar’s remarkable life and chess achievements could, of course, fill several DVDs. This is a neat little summary of her story so far.

Excel Through Chess

This short section looks at the benefits of chess for children. A number of brief interview snippets with juniors all reveal a positive attitude and an enjoyment of chess competitions. The importance of a sporting attitude is highlighted too. This is summed up by GM Polgar with one of her favourite phrases: ‘Win with grace, lose with dignity’.

Let’s Learn Chess

When it comes to teaching the actual chess, Susan is helped by her friends ‘Champion’ and ‘King Harold‘, two animated characters; one is a horse, the other a King. The graphics are great and clearly designed to be attractive to children.

Let’s Play Chess

Fine Tune Your Game
Basic Tricks and Advice
Captures in One Move
Checkmates in One Move
Chess Terms and Notation

This is an excellent DVD package and one which should prove especially useful to junior novices and their parents. 'Fun Facts' pop up throughout the lessons and the bite-sized chunks keep the presenation fresh and interesting.

One particular aspect to come across is the way the presenters are not afraid to highlight the achievements of GM Polgar. It’s something we are particularly bad at, here in England, where supporting the underdog is a fine art and maintaining an ambivalent to champions is de rigueur. If we could cultivate positive, successful role models in this country we could improve things immeasurably. Meanwhile, we’ll just have to watch DVDs such as these.

MasterChess 6000 + Nalimov Table Base + The Ultimate Game Collection 7

Chess on DVD

There’s an incredible amount of material on this disc. The playing engine, Ruffian, is estimated at 2671 (standard) and 3000 (blitz). It’s easy to load on to you computer; just a couple of clicks and the set up is well under way. Ruffian crushed me repeatedly at blitz chess, latching on to the slightest tactical error with a lightning fast refutation.

It is very easy to set up positions and search the massive database. There are a staggering 1.4 million games here and although they are not annotated, they are generally of a very high quality and go all the way up top the 2006 Kramnik - Topalov World Championship Match.

The Nalimov Table base produce perfect analysis of all five (and less) piece endings.
One of the great selling points about this particular DVD is the budget price. With an r.r.p of £19.95, this collection, extraordinarily all on a single disc, represents excellent value for money.

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