This review is about a wonderful new multi-media product, Fitz Trainer – Master Class Vol. 2: Mihail Tal. In our times we are fortunate to not only have books to help improve our play, but also audio, video, or various multi-media software to engage all our senses and different methods of learning.
The first DVD in the series begins with Grandmaster Dorian Rodriguez analyzing Robert James Fischer, rightly the greatest world champion of all time. In the second of the DVD series, Dorian Rogozenco, Mihail Marin, Oliver Reeh and Karsten Müller comment upon Tal’s openings, his understanding of chess strategy, and his impressive endgame play. In the third installment of the series, Alexander Alekhine is profiled.
I bought the DVD on Tal because, while I love Fischer, I consider him above and beyond my level at the moment. Although I even consider Tal above and beyond my skill level, in this case curiosity took advantage of me! I’ve always wondered whether his tactics and combinations were correct based on this phrase in one of Winter’s books: “If Tal sacrifices a piece take it, then think. If Botvinnik sacrifices a piece, look it over carefully before accepting. If Petrosian sacrifices a piece, decline the sacrifice.” Hence the interest in this product, which, as boasted in the advertisement, included many games full of tactics.
Tal was born in 1936, just a few years before the beginning of one of the bloodiest wars in human history. At the age of seven his father taught him to play chess. His first great tournament was the 23rd USSR Championship, which was held in 1956 where he reached 6th place (that tournament was won by Spassky!). Then, just one year later, in the 24th USSR Championship held in 1957, he wins first place followed by such illustrious names as Keres, Bronstein, Spassky, Kortchnoi, and Petrosian. In 1958 he won the Interzonal held in Portoroz and this gives him access to the Candidates Tournament in 1959, where Fischer also played. Notice that Tal is at the top of his form, for in that time he played four games against Fischer, winning all four. Tal’s career reaches the apogee in 1960 when he wins the World Championship againstBotvinnik in a very exciting match. Unfortunately chess is a very hard sport and in 1961 Tal loses the world championship, partly also for health problems, as he had to undergo surgery many times for his kidneys. This then becomes a trademark of his career, for when we reach 1979 Tal wins against Karpov in a super-tournament in Montreal; however, without good health it is impossible to remain at the top. In 1988, at the age of 51, Tal won the Second World Blitz Championship. His last great performance was beating Kasparov in a blitz tournament in Moscow in May 1992, just one month before he died.
The Mihail Tal DVD includes:
–Tal’s openings, strategy, tactics, and endgames
–all Tal’s games (around 2900), of which many are annotated—about 350 in Informator style
–an interactive tactics test with video feedback
–tactic training with 245 questions
–a short biography
Openings (3 videos by GM Rogozenco) In the first video GM Rogozenco explains that Tal was mainly a 1.e4 player and had a preference for open games, but like every world champion, he could also be universal and use 1.c4 or 1.Nf3. With Black he would mostly answer with the Sicilian to 1.e4. The second video comments on Tal’s opening preparation for his matches with Botvinnik. The third video shows how Tal improved his opening repertoire enormously thanks to a cooperation with Karpov in his later years.
Strategy (5 videos by GM Mihail Marin)
In the first clip GM Marin shows Tal at his best and describes how the other chess players saw him in the 1960’s. In the second clip Marin provides a thorough analysis of the 11th game of the match Botvinnik vs. Tal in 1960. In the third video, GM Marin outlines how Tal could be a strategic player and he comments extensively on the game Tal vs. Timman to prove his point. The fourth and fifth videos are a recollection of Marin’s meeting with Tal and demonstrates Tal’s brilliance through showing some games and some of the thinking processes behind Tal’s moves.
Tactics (20 videos by IM Oliver Reeh) IM Oliver Reeh shows the critical point of 20 games played by Tal, where his creative efforts led to brilliant combinations. IM Oliver Reeh is the author of the Tactic section of the Chessbase magazine, another interesting product.
Endgames (12 videos by GM Müller) GM Müller, a leading authority in endgames and famous for his Chessbase books and videos series, outlines the work on Tal in 6 videos called Magic Moments, followed by 3 videos on rook endings, and 3 videos of Tal’s most famous endgames.
The last section has 245 games with training questions.
I believe the DVD is worth the time and cost not only for the 245 games with training questions, but also for the experience of looking through the 300 annotated games. Tal has created many masterpieces during his life, it would be a waste if, as chess players, we wouldn’t watch them.
Here is a small sample of a few of Tal’s brilliant games played against world class champions.
Davide Nastasio is a novel chess aficionado, who has made of chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: “Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment…” He has contributed previously to Georgia Chess Magazine in 2013 and is now a contributing writer in this new exciting media format.