By Davide Nastasio
Let me tell you a story from the long forgotten past! On May 24, 2016, I had one of the best surprises of that year, what we could define as Christmas for a chess player. The candy shop (also known as Chessbase) was giving away candy for a 25% discount!!
Who could resist? I couldn’t. First thing in the morning I renewed my subscription to Chessbase Magazine and Chessbase extra, and that gave me a 40-euro voucher to spend!!
After long time in deep thought, half a day going back and forth on different products, I bought this DVD on, of course, the best player of all time: Bobby Fischer.
But why did I buy this DVD? After all, do I really need tactics? In the last few years, I’ve done at least 10,000 to 15,000 tactics a year on different commercial sites and some apps.
But as chess a player I often follow my feelings, and I felt that GM Karsten Müller and FM Meyer definitely know their jobs. They have huge credentials and they know the subject quite well.
But is the subject really about forks and skewers?
Not really. As you can imagine these two high-level coaches selected material which will make every player grow. But yes, I do have a reservation to share: this material is not right for every player. A player who is rated 1100 (maybe up to 1500) may find this material too difficult or beyond his/her understanding because they show some examples in which one must go beyond the mere material aspect and learn how to win the game from a small advantage which may not be so easy for the average amateur.
Our two amazing coaches speak of “transformation,” a kind of esoteric term which I found is quite appropriate.
But before reviewing the DVD allow me to introduce these two remarkable chess players who are fundamental for learning tactics in a way we will be able to use them in our games.
Meyer Claus Dieter is a FM with an long and amazing career, especially in what is considered one of the strongest world tournaments: the Bundesliga. Of course he isn’t only a player; chess as a sport is such a complex and varied human activity. FM Meyer is also a chess journalist, chess translator, and a passionate chess analyst in that time before chess engines when one had to really use the brain.
How do I present someone who had such a rich chess life? Well, I let their games speak for them! I found the following game interesting, not because of the sacrifice at move 16, but because it shows us how to exploit and win when the enemy king is left in the center for too long!
This was typical in Morphy’s games His opponents would leave the king in the center, and he would sacrifice and win brilliantly. In modern times, we ascribed the result of such games to the low quality of his opponents. But this game was played in the year 2000, and Black is rated around 2300+!
I didn’t know GM Müller was born in 1970, making him younger than me. Typically one wrongly associates wisdom, especially the deep knowledge Müller has for the endgames, with old age. He became GM in 1998 at just 28 years old! Müller has written several books on endgames, such as Fundamental Chess Endings. Although I bought the book, I must admit I didn’t read it all. Mea culpa!
Another of Müller’s books is on Bobby Fischer, the greatest champion of all!
Now I cannot mention all the columns, books, and contributions that GM Müller gives or has given in the past, simply because there are too many. He also made a series of 14!! Yes, you read it right. DVDs on the endgames, just for Chessbase.
Thanks to one of his DVDs, I learned how to give checkmate with Bishop and Knight. He broke such endgames in two parts, and his explanations were quite clear. To test myself, to see if I was able to win such an endgame, I played it against an engine with just 5 minutes on my clock! So he is clearly a great teacher.
However, if you just read my opinion you could dismiss it, because I’m not a famous titled player or chess author. But what if someone who is over 2700, among the top 10 players in the world, and a possible future candidate had also learned from GM Müller? Müller also has a show on Chessbase online called Endgame Magic.
On Endgame Magic there are always new guests and interesting endgames analyzed from their games. In the 100th episode, super GM Wesley So was the guest.
GM Müller asked So how he learned the endgames. So replied that he read some books, but he added that he also studied endgame DVDs made by Müller. So mentioned specifically the DVDs on rook and pawn endgames.
Here is one of Müller’s games that I found particularly pleasant!
Now finally coming to review the DVD. Chess is a sport which is quite rich in history. Thanks to the endless production of books, we can witness ideas, games, and positions from 300 to 400 years before our time as if they were happening today. In the introductory video, Meyer shows a study from 1600!! He then introduce the esoteric topic of “transformation.”
In this position clearly White would lose if the pieces were exchanged, because Black has two passed pawns. How does White draw? Obviously this is why chess is such a great spiritual activity, because one must have creative ideas to win or draw in desperate positions.
In this case it could help to notice that the Black bishop has control of the light squares, and if White could make the Black pawns transform magically and go on to a dark file square for promotion, then the chances of a draw would be quite high. Nowadays we have computers which can analyze and find the draw quite easily, thanks partly to their brute force power. But for the human mind, it becomes an exercise in seeing the desired outcome more than actual calculation.
I’m not giving any solutions because I believe one should play chess with friends. It would be nice to take this position, bring it to the nearest chess club, and spend the evening playing it against some other club members. That is how we really learn chess.
Let’s go to an easier example from a game between two titans: Sokolov and Ivanchuk, in 2006. How does Black win?
Here we understand the deep meaning of “transformation.” How will Black transform the game and win? Will it become a good bishop vs. bad knight endgame? Or a rook endgame once the minor pieces are traded?
As we can see there are many possible candidate moves for Black, and with the quick time controls we have today, one must prepare at home for these kinds of positions which would make us lose on time. I must admit that I love pawn endgames, so for me this position was a no-brainer. I decided to exchange all the pieces and transform the position into an endgame with opposition, which could be easily won if one has the correct knowledge, since at a certain point one reaches the following position:
Now, at this point I’d like to show why I believe the Chessbase training system is superior to all other commercial sites. I have a Chessbase Online account which gives me access to videos, tactics, etc. But what is most important is that it gives me access to Fritz Online! I have my Chessbase 14 in which I’m seeing the DVD. I click on the training tab (highlighted in the image under here) and then I click on Play Out Against Fritz.
What happens? It opens a new browser window, and I access my Chessbase Online account with the app dedicated to the Fritz engine!
And now I can play this position against the engine. This way, if I don’t have a chess club near, or a friend who wants to study with me, I can still learn chess and prepare for the next tournament when I could eventually enter into such an endgame, and I need to know how to win it.
But why did I say this DVD is for the more experienced player more than someone from 1100 to 1500? Because as in the above position one must have a knowledge of triangulation in the endgame or the theory of corresponding squares in order to win, compared to the common knowledge of the opposition.
After Meyer’s introductory video there is one by GM Müller. But let me explain, the DVD is divided into four parts. FM Meyer has created a database with 400 interactive questions based on more than 280 games, where one is exposed to many different chess themes like material/positional unbalances, structural defects, weak squares, pieces badly placed, and many others. I don’t know if it was a glitch in my system, but on some of the positions in this database the explanations were in German instead of English.
GM Müller has taken Meyer’s huge body of work and explained it in a series of 29 videos, using many different examples from a huge database created by Meyer. Then Müller has created 14 interactive videos testing your knowledge of the material explained. Müller has also used material from his own databases to better explain some points made in the huge work done by Meyer.
The topics are really too many to list here, but they are clearly addressing the needs of the tournament player who is looking for a course for improving his overall chess persona. More than a course, I’d call it a camp! Where at the end one can test the knowledge acquired and exit as a better player.
The work has been tested by another Chessbase partner, and the content of the questions and tests has been improved following the feedback given. All in all, this product is clearly the work of an entire team of people whose love for chess will enrich us and improve our play.
Final thoughts: I like how these two German gentlemen took their time to introduce me to their world of interesting positions and ideas. Honestly, I find the price of their effort ridiculously low. I used a voucher to pay for the DVD, but in dollars it was something like $25. Just 1 hour of coaching from a GM in the US is between $70 and 100$. In total here I have 6 hours of videos. That would be like spending $400 to $500 of coaching from a GM. In the 6 hours of this DVD, there are in reality hundreds of hours of concentrated chess wisdom which these two players are sharing with us. Obviously, to really gain something one must be actively be engaged in learning the material. That unfortunately leads to frustration, because we must fight and strain our visualization, as well as our chess understanding, to reach these advanced attacking techniques, which will bring our games to another level.