First of all, I’d like to say that for this review I took a more active approach to show that I actually learned a lot from this DVD. The feeling of involvement helped me to grow a lot in my chess level. I shared some of the games and positions I found thanks to the themes treated throughout the DVD. I hope this review will become, for the reader, a learning experience, like it was for me to watch the actual DVD.
GM Nick Pert, being the head coach for the English Chess Federation, spends a lot of time coaching and watching games by young players who are in the 1600-1900 range. The focus of this DVD is to look for those mistakes which happen repeatedly. This DVD is extremely important for likely 95% of chess players in the world. Why? Because the reality is that GMs and professionals are likely 1% of chess players, while the biggest amount of players are those rated 1200-1900. So the DVD can become useful to every level of play in this range, and we are speaking about millions of players. I’ve watched all the DVD, and unfortunately my pride has been hurt; I thought I understood some concepts, or would easily find the correct move, but instead I was schooled by GM Pert! I felt the difference between Pert and me in the area of evaluating some positions, and that alone was worth the price of the DVD because it gave me good feedback on where I’m deficient. The DVD wasn’t made for learning tactics, but for learning about different positions, and the thought mistakes we commit when playing them.
In this journey of self-improvement, I’d like to share some games which also exemplify the mistakes shown by GM Pert, but made by higher-rated players. Because in the end, the only important goal of this journey is to help each other as chess players to reach the maximum of our potential.
I also would like to point out the “label” of the mistakes, because as always I strive to become an active learner, and once I saw all the videos and exercises, guess what I did: I reviewed all my tournament games, and also tournament games of friends, to see if such patterns would come out.
Chapter 1: Not admitting a mistake (2 videos, 1 test)
The title of Chapter 1 is pretty self-explanatory, however, I’d like to show the importance of such a concept in a heavyweight game, compared to an amateur one used by GM Pert throughout this DVD.
In the following game, pay attention to how GM Judit Polgar at move 28 makes a positional blunder, but later she understands it is a mistake, and she corrects it at move 29! The idea is that the right square for the knight was D7 covering F6. This is what made her a great player; she understood the mistake and corrected it, while many of us don’t, hence our poor results and consequently this quite insightful chapter made by GM Pert.
Chapter 2: Failed Sacrifices (3 videos, 1 test)
In this second chapter, GM Pert shows some sacrifices which were not calculated correctly, or deep enough. But again, we are all humans, like the next game can prove!
Again another game with failed sacrifices, which however shows the power of these GMs fighting. It is like a fireworks show.
Chapter 3: Be aware of opponents’ threats (6 videos, 6 tests)
I believe it was Kortchnoi who said, “If you do not check what your opponent is doing, you will end up complaining about bad luck after every game.”
The following game shows that also at high level, there are examples of not being aware of the opponent’s threats. In this case, pay attention to the big blunder made by White on move 21, and relative comment.
Chapter 4: Standard Endgames (4 videos, 2 tests)
This chapter is likely the most important of the entire DVD. Today with shorter time controls we don’t have time to figure out some endgames, while we definitely need to be able to play them in order to win a game, especially one in which we were able to create an advantage thanks to meticulous opening preparation. GM Pert in this chapter shows how elements of the previous three chapters can be found in the moves played in the endgame.
I’ll give some games as an example of the games shown by GM Pert, because I believe the entire idea of learning is reinforcement, so if a serious student will watch and try to study these games, then when he will watch GM Pert’s videos the mind will see what was learned and understood, and what is still lacking.
The following game is important from move 54, when they enter in a rook and pawn vs rook endgame.
Akiba Rubinstein was famous for his rook endgame mastery, but this is a basic rook and pawn endgame. The idea behind it is that a student needs to know if he can win such an endgame. If in the final position (move 63) one thinks it is a draw, then there is much more work to do on the endgame technique.
In the following game, another from the great Rubinstein, we have a difficult endgame of queen, rook and pawns from move 57. In this case it is not a question of knowing some rules, but being able to formulate the right plan.
Chapter 5: Too materialistic (2 videos, 1 test)
I find the way that GM Pert teaches to be really terrific. In the following position he highlights the strongest Black pieces, and then asks, “What should White play?”
The answer is obvious. But if a player is too focused on the value of the material, he could miss it. The exchange sacrifice is nothing new, but it is a step every player must accomplish in order to improve.
This is a game every serious player must know. Of course, there are many themes in it (for example, move 17 by White shows Karpov’s ability of placing his pieces on squares which would help piece coordination), but the exchange sacrifice is well represented by move 35, which is also a tactical blow sealing the win for White.
Also for this chapter the title is pretty self explanatory. Mainly the problem appears with miscalculating tactics, and in particular with captures and checks. Pert points out that not calculating correctly forcing lines happens to all players.
In the following game is a strong GM who doesn’t find the right move. I gave a test to two friends rated around 2000, and both found the right sequence within 5-8 minutes, and would have played the winning move.
Chapter 7: Exchanging Bishops for Knights (5 videos)
This game shows us the importance of knowing the games of the strongest players in the world, and in particular the strongest of all time, because there are examples of themes spoken in the videos made by GM Pert that can be found inside. This game in reality has two different teaching moments. The first around move 9, when Fischer decided to exchange the Nf6 for the Be3 to create a weakness of the dark squares. And the second around move 14, when Fischer shows that it is not important to have the bishop pair advantage, per se, but exchanges the light square bishop for a knight to stop White from castling, and keeps the enemy king in the center.
Chapter 8: Pawn Structure (2 videos, 1 test)
In this section GM Pert gives good advice on different pawn structures and how they affect or reflect the need of the moves we play, depending on the pieces we have on the board.
A classical example can be in the case of opposite bishops and how the pawn structure can make one bad.
It is important to watch the following game from move 41 when Black plays Ne7, and immediately White swaps his bishop to exploit the weakness in Black’s pawn structure.
Notice how White will place his pawns on dark squares to fix the enemy pawns on light squares, and consequently make the enemy bishop bad. Then obviously White just needs to put the enemy in zugzwang to win.
In these videos GM pert tells us that a common mistake amateurs commit over and over is to try to do too much with the pieces we have already developed.
However the theme of improving the activity of the pieces, and in particular the one that is not active at all, is not a new idea, since it can be seen in some Chessbase DVDs made by one of the best FIDE trainers: Adrian Mikhalchishin.
I’d like to share the following position because it is a good example.
Here we see that White needs to activate a piece, in particular the Bf1, but where to develop it, and why. The move chosen was 17.Bc4, and the idea behind is quite indicative of the way we should learn to think. White wants to activate the light square bishop, and eventually to go to B3, which better protects the White king and eventually could go to A4 for increasing the pressure against D7. But what happens if Black takes in C4? Nf6 is the next target, since White could give checkmate in D7 if such knight wouldn’t be present. So we can see how activating one piece which was doing nothing on F1 has now created some imbalances in the position, which can actually bring us nearer to victory.
Chapter 10: King safety (3 videos, 2 tests)
These videos are quite interesting because the king has been thought of as an attacking piece (Steinitz) or as a weak piece to protect at all costs (modern school of thought). There are many instances in the games of the last century where one player would lose due to a misunderstanding of this subject. And in fact, the problem of evaluating a position is often based on the understanding of how the king is safe or not.
Just to illustrate the point, I’d like to show how difficult it can be to evaluate a position where clearly the king is not safe, and still one of the best players in the world is not able to win.
Clearly Black’s pawn structure is quite damaged. All Black’s pawns are isolated, and possible targets. The Black king is cutting the connection between the rooks, and most importantly the king is positioned on the open E file, which is controlled by the enemy rook. The White pieces seem well developed.
But now watch the game after move 21, and see how Black is able to draw!
Chapter 11: Overestimating opponents plan (2 videos, 1 test)
Often this is the result of not looking far enough.
Like in this position presented by GM Pert, here White’s mistake was not to play 1.Re4, because of the fear of Black’s 1…Pd5; but if one goes on just for a couple of moves further, he can see such a threat is an empty one, and White can maintain his rook advantage. Instead the White player made a mistake, and like cherries they come in couples. So at the end the game was drawn when White should have won.
The DVD also comes with a database of all the games (more than 70) used in the examples and in the tests, so one can study them and add their own comments.
Commenting on other people’s games can seem pointless, but let’s remember that Bent Larsen wrote that he reached GM strength by commenting on games (he commented on all the games from Zurich 1953, one of the most famous tournaments) The same was said by Botvinnik, encouraging players to comment on and publish their own games.
For those who don’t know GM Pert, I’d like to share two games I’ve seen, played recently, which show a fighter that in my opinion belongs clearly to the top 10 players in the world. His games are full of creativity and amazing attacks.
I loved the following game because it kind of breaks the rules. We learn that, as soon as possible, we should castle. Instead, in the following game, Black evaluated that the pawn chain in front of his king was strong enough to let the king remain in the center throughout the game!
This second game is even more interesting. Pert shows his combinative mind in a 4 move knight sacrifice, beginning at move 11, and actually performed at move 13.
In conclusion, I’ve been entertained by this product, but I’ve also been trained. Listening to GM Pert has helped me to internalize some thought processes. Now I look forward to when GM Pert makes a DVD on typical mistakes by 1900-2200 players, which would let me grow further.
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.