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Review: The Chess Player’s mating guide: Vol. 1 – The King in the centre, by Robert Ris

By Davide Nastasio

When the blood pressure rises and the heart beat begins to race, we are close to giving checkmate to our opponent! Robert Ris has selected a lot of games and examples from his professional coaching practice following this exact theme.

I chose this DVD because I had to spend 7 hours inside a car while going to Florida, and since my wife is a total control freak, I cannot drive! And of course we can only listen to radio programs she likes, so total utter boredom!

 

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This is an educational DVD, because it treats many topics which are important, yet often misunderstood, like the lead in development. In fact, Ris begins the DVD with a beautiful example from the Smith-Morra Gambit, where the final position, a checkmate, shows all Black’s pieces still on their original rank!

 

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But there are many more important topics treated, like the different kinds of sacrifices, for example, when it is correct to sacrifice in order to destroy the shield of pawns in front of the enemy king; when to sacrifice a pawn to create space for one’s own pieces;  when to sacrifice to destroy a closed center.  Other topics include the importance of the E file, and more esoteric topics like how to exploit the complex of weak squares.  There is a total of 10 different chapters with one or more illustrative games per chapter.

The subject treated in this DVD is of the utmost importance, because we all continue to miss chances in our games, and some of those missed chances could lead to amazing wins.
In fact, it was quite interesting to see Ris’ human side: while commenting on some won games, he showed the many times he missed playing a stronger move which could have ended the game much sooner.

The DVD is made up of 20 videos (plus one for the introduction) and 10 videos of tests in which Ris presents us with some positions.  He asks us to find the right move, giving feedback when we don’t find the strongest one.  He offers feedback on the reason the right move was the one to choose, in case we just found it out of luck.

Here an example from the Quiz 1,

 

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Ris commented on the game from the beginning, and then when he reached the critical position, he used the Fritz interactive training system to pose the following questions:
How do you proceed with White? How do you take advantage of White’s development?

Take this opportunity to find the right move from the position above, it will be quite surprising!

Here is the game with annotations by GM Motylev; however, Ris commented the game till the end, so it is quite pleasant to watch the video and learn from him.

 

 

The DVD comes with a database of 80 additional games, some annotated by Ris, which can be used to learn more about the themes treated in the chapters, which are recurrent in everyone’s games.  I’d like to show you a couple of these games, because I was not aware of them.  I’m sure also the readers will find them exhilarating, after all, when do we see a world champion lose in 12 moves?

 

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GM Emanuel Lasker

 

 

 

I think the selection of games was particularly important, because in the beginning I saw them using famous names as the selection criteria, but then I began to watch them in chronological order, and I discovered that Ris followed the themes he was teaching in the videos.  It was quite stimulating to discover I could understand what the theme of the game was, and what Ris was trying to teach with that game!

I try to make the reviews somewhat instructive, otherwise it is quite boring to read them passively. For example, one of the games in the 80-game database was by Morphy, one of the best players to learn about development, universally advised to all beginners. However, there was a suspicious annotation in the following diagram:

 

morphy_vs_alonzo

 

In the annotation the following was given: 17. Rxe7,Kf8; 18. Re5,c5; with decisive advantage for Black.

Obviously I disagreed, because I thought all Black pieces are on the wrong side of the board, the White pieces are centralized on open files, it is impossible that Black is winning.  For example, I asked myself if there was a better move than 18.Re5, and I thought of 18.Rb1.  But I also thought how would I play after 18…c5; and found 19.Nd4, now, I’m not claiming my moves are the best because I didn’t check them with an engine, but here is the point I’m trying to make: if one thinks he can learn chess just being force fed on Ris’ videos, or just watching passively the games he collected, this person is in for a bad surprise! Learning chess cannot come in that way. One needs to be involved in the material. Hence, I took notice of all these positions that I didn’t understand, and next week I’ll meet with my studying partner and show them to him!

Everyone can use the position above as a training position, like if he was in a tournament game.  Please don’t use an engine: that would stop your development as player.  Instead, if one has a chess club where he goes once a week, or a friend to study with, he can play it against him.  That will surely help!

Another reason for watching the games on the DVD is to stimulate our own attacking skills.  For example, Morphy’s games are like watching Tal on steroids (or for the millennial generation, Hulk on a rage spell!).

 

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In my opinion, this kind of DVD, with many topics, especially of general interest to amateurs, can also be used by chess coaches for giving some interesting positions to their students.
But the most important part is that thanks to Ris’ videos, especially when he points out some important moments in the game, we become more skilled in analyzing our own games.  We understand what went wrong and when, and eventually learn to recognize some maneuvers played by professionals in their games.

This DVD is part of a series, and Chessbase just published the second volume which likely I will acquire before the trip back from Florida!

 

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In conclusion, this DVD is great to teach the use of the open e file against the enemy king in the center, or to reinforce such knowledge if one has already studied such material.  The DVD teaches also how to destroy a closed center, with many games from Kasparov as example! Many amateurs spend most of their time studying books on the opening, but then once they get an advantage from the opening, they don’t know how to exploit it. This DVD will help you to build the knowledge on how to attack and win once you have a lead in development, or when your opponent mistakenly left the king in the center thinking it was safe! The DVD is really good for all classes of players, and for coaches who want to have some interesting material to illustrate important concepts for their students.

 

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