Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chessbase Fritz Trainer: Powerplay 11 - Defence Review

GM Daniel King is well known among Chessbase with his Powerplay series and his commentaries on

Today, we'll be looking into one of his Fritz Trainers DVD. Powerplay 11 - Defence.

This DVD is a "bare-bones" DVD comprising of just the DVD and the cover. This suits me just fine since it's the material on the DVD inside that matters not the fancy presentation or leaflets etc. accompanying the DVD.

As is common with his other Powerplay DVDs, the material in this case concentrates on one aspect of chess - here, it is on the art of defence.

A total of 39 short video clips make up this DVD. Some of these video clips last between 2 min and 25 min. In all, the DVD has about a total of 2.5 hr video running time (English only).

Please note that GM King also presents in German as well so German viewers are also able to follow his lectures.

The DVD is presented into King's usual format, the test positions are given during his introduction. A total of 12 Test positions are covered. His main material coverage is as follows:

Premature castling
Highlighted games: Marcelin - Shirazi

Delayed castling
Highlighted games: Topalov - Ponomariov, Sveshnikov - Kasparov

The advance of the f-pawn
Highlighted games: Bareev - Filippov, Kozlov - Yemelin, Karpov - Kortschnoj

The h4/g4 advance
Highlighted games: Spassky - Petrosian, Kapnisis - Skembris, Morozevich - Ivanchuk

Passive Play
Highlighted games: Lamorelle - Fressinet

The weakness of the back rank
Highlighted games: Arlandi - Nunn, Kasparov - Karpov

The process of elimination
Highlighted games: Kramnik - Anand, Illescas - Andersson

In his introduction, King explains that defence is not a particularly positive title because "no one likes to defend in chess." Actually, this title is not about discussing tricky defence techniques but more about how to identify situations where one can fall into a defensive or passive position. But he thinks that the title,"How to avoid going on the defensive" is probably too much of a mouthful to put as a title. I would agree. :)

As I mentioned earlier, in this DVD, he gives his customary test positions in the introduction. In these test positions, King wants the viewer to setup the board and engage in some hard thinking on what candidate moves to play and to not analyse from the computer screen. Or as King says, "to let the ideas flow through your fingers".

With respect to the test positions, the maximum benefit from this DVD IMHO is to analyse the test positions, calculate the variations/responses and after going through the main chapters, to go back to these test positions and see if you might want to change any of the positions/moves before going to the test solutions.

The test positions range from positional play to strategic play, from complex middlegame positions to endgame play. In all, 10 test positions are highlighted but one game will be discussed in 3 separate videos. Calculation is of the utmost importance here. The viewer is definitely going to get a good brain workout. Oh and don't forget to close the notation window (so you don't inadvertently look at the answers).

As always, King's presentation is at a comfortable level and is clear in his explanations. He does not rush things and takes the time to explain the moves and possible side moves. He also makes very good use of highlights and arrows to explain his ideas.

King also highlights important parts of a good defence - which involves a good amount of careful calculation, the potential of creating counter-attacking possibilities, when to trade and when not to trade. He shows you typical scenarios and how to overcome them and how not to be afraid of "ghosts" (as they say in chess).

The presentation material is excellent but the scope of this topic is too big to present in under 3 hours.

One game I would have definitely like to see him cover was the incredible game, Kramnik - Anand, Belgrade 1997 where Anand displayed an incredible array of defensive skills but that game would've probably taken up over an hour to explain. :)

IMHO I would say that the target audience rating of this DVD is between 1200-2100.

Presentation style: 9/10
Material: 8/10
Length: 5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

This is not to say the DVD is poor. It's quite the opposite, the material is excellent but I feel that more material could have been covered to reinforce certain points. I come away from this DVD learning some new things about the art of defence but I also felt the coverage was light and not as comprehensive as a whole if you compare with some of his earlier Powerplay DVDs. If you are a player who constantly gets into trouble or falling into passive positions, this DVD will really help to open your eyes.

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