Monday, 8 February 2010

Chess Reviews: 128

ChessBase Magazine #134

ChessBase Magazine continues to go from strength to strength. In addition to all of the usual features, three top-level events receive the full treatment.

The FIDE World Cup was a great success for Boris Gelfand. He provides illuminating annotations for one of the crunch semi-final games, featuring an unusual sacrificial idea.

Karjakin - Gelfand

11 …Ra6!!

‘When I saw this move I immediately got excited. It would be a shame to see such a move and not to make it! But fortunately, I found out that this idea works!’

He planned 12 Bxd5 Qxd5 13 Rxe7 Rg6. Karjakin declined the sacrifice but lost after 31 moves.

The World Team Championship was won by Russia. The main talking point was the blistering form of Hikaru Nakamura on board one for the USA, with an excellent score of 6/8.

However, the real highlight for me was the coverage of the London Chess Classic. In addition to the annotated games, there is an incredible six and a half hours of post-game analysis in audio format - by the players themselves. This really is an extraordinary amount of material and it provides an excellent permanent record of a very important event. For fans of chess, the audio files are worth more than the price of the magazine on their own.

The games have written annotations too which really bring the action to life. Magnus Carlsen's honest notes to his first round victory over Vladimir Kramnik reveal that he wasn't entirely clear about his advantage at a critical moment in the game.

Carlsen - Kramnik
26 Bc1!

‘Bad bishops protect good (potentially at least) pawns, and I need this one to protect e3 and a3! Additionally, the knight might now turn out to be exposed on c4, as both Rd4 and Rb4 are in the air. However, I still don't think that White has any real advantage, especially in a practical game, as White is still a bit exposed.’
Issue #134 is a really good one. Given the extensive London content, it's probably my favourite of all the issues I have seen.

My Best Games
By GM Yasser Seirawan
Five Hours

It is very good to see GM Yasser Seirawan making his ChessBase debut. Of course, he is no longer an active player but for those who studied in the 1980s and 1990s he should still be memorable as a very stylish player who scored notable victories against all comers.

This DVD - the first in an intended trilogy - covers his years from a novice junior up to becoming a Grandmaster. Specifically, it features games from the period 1975 - 1982.

It starts wit some basic autobiographical material, from his birth in Syria to his moves to the UK and then the USA, where he was swept up in the Fischer boom of 1972.

The illustrative games are against top level opposition such as Karpov, Korchnoi, Larsen, Tal, Timman and Gligoric.

The presentation is excellent. Seirawan is a natural speaker and he really brings the games alive with his colourful descriptions and background anecdotes.

‘Have you ever had one of those games, where the big fish - I mean the really, really, really big fish - got away?’

This is from the introduction to the final game on the DVD is the first time he played a reigning World Champion - Anatoly Karpov. He is still frustrated about not finishing off his winning position. He is clearly certain that it should have been a win, saying at one critical point:

‘And this is it. The a8-Rook will come to the defense of the h7-pawn. After this move it is it. Game over. I'm not saying Black is a bit better or much better, I'm saying White is lost, dead lost, prepared to meet his Maker, Walking the Green Mile. Over!’

However, he failed to find the best plan a short time later...

Karpov - Seirawan
26 …Ka6?

'At dinner that evening, Bent Larsen said to me, "Yasser in the future, you can save yourself a lot of trouble. In such positions, you just play ...a7-a5, ...Kb7-a6, then you play ...b6-b5, opening up the b-file. You trade Rooks on the b-file and just win by promoting your a-pawn." How do grandmasters know such things? In any case, Bent was absolutely right. That was the right approach and would have won with just about no further effort!'

Anecdotes abound, as do witty comments. Up against Viktor Kortschnoi at Wijk aan Zee (1980), he comments that he was suffering from a bad cold ' punishment for playing at Hastings'.

Thee was a curious incident when he first played former World Champion Mikhail Tal.

'My first of ten Olympiads was Malta 1980. I was comfortably sleeping in my room when there was a loud pounding on my door. It was Larry Christiansen. He shouted, "Get up! We play the Soviets! You have White against Lev Polugaevsky!" I laid in bed for awhile thinking to myself, "What do I know about Polugaevsky's games?" I spent the whole morning poring through the Chess Informants replaying all his games in the volumes we had. I came to the board and there was Mikhail Tal. Whoops. My thoughts of how to punish Larry filled my head.'

Yasser made an inaccuracy early in the opening and he admits he was rather disconcerted to discover that Tal's right hand had deformed fingers. Later on he recovered his composure to win a fine game

In a game against Tony Miles, Yasser was a it concerned about the possibility if 1...b6 (a Miles favourite at the time) so he opened with 1 g3. This prompted the verbal response: ‘I just love these moral victories!’

This is an excellent DVD and one which should appeal to those who like to see full-blooded chess encounters from the highest level, delivered with wit and style.

I hope the next two volumes aren't too far away.

Power Play 12
The Hedgehog

By GM Daniel King

Five Hours

The Hedgehog is a tricky beast. When Black sets up the little spines along the third rank, it appears, on first impression, to be a declaration of eternally passive intentions.

GM King continues his highly regarded Power Play series with a deep investigation into the pros and cons of Black's strategy. Over the course of the introductory lecture (25 minutes) he makes it clear that The Hedgehog is a creature to be reckoned with: ‘…a benign and harmless creature, you might think…not so!’

The first illustrative game shows Black breaking out in typically dynamic fashion.

Polugaevsky - Ftacnik
Luzern Olympiad 1982

19 …d5! ‘It’s a bit like splitting the atom. One tiny pawn move releases all this extraordinary pent up energy into White’s position.’ And 0-1 (29)

It’s more about understanding typical hedgehog positions rather than learning a specific series of opening moves. As GM King shows, Hedgehog hero Ulf Andersson's understanding of the positions allowed him to reach the structure via many different openings, including the Sicilian, English, Nimzo-Indian and King’s Indian.

After the introduction, the viewer is invited to analyse 14 test positions. Then it's on to the theory section, which looks at two different systems: one in which White adopts a fianchetto with g3 and the Classical System with pawns on c4, e4 and f3. The illustrative games showcase the Hedgehog talents of an all-star cast; apart from Andersson we also see Suba, Larsen, Kasparov and King himself all in action.

The DVD concludes with the answers to the test positions, all delivered in the presenter's usual instructive manner.

I think strong club players will drive the most benefit from this DVD, which makes a fine addition to a strong range.

Shredder 12

The twelfth version of Shredder is now available.

The interface and layout are very similar to Fritz 12 (reviewed here: ).

Shredder is a successful competitor: ‘No other chess program has won so many world championship titles’. The list is impressive indeed, stretching all the way from 1996 Micro Computer World Championship to the 2007 Computer World Blitz Championship.

Now it’s even stronger. According to Stefan Meyer Khalen - Shredder‘s programmer - ‘The engine is 100 ELO points stronger than the predecessor Shredder 11’. This makes it a formidable opponent and training partner.

With a database of 1.5 million games and 12 months access to the Playchess server, this makes a very attractive package.

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