Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: Practical Endgames Vol 8 - Practical Rook Endgames

I've finally gotten a chance to sit down and watch Karsten Müller's Endgame Vol 8 - Practical Rook Endgames.

It's taken him a couple of Chessbase DVDs but Müller now is able to smile on camera and is definitely very relaxed. He is in a particularly jovial mood and his presentation on camera is infectious.

There is no denying the endgame aspect of the royal game is definitely in his area of expertise and this time, he gives it in spades.

Mixing a bit of humour (for a German!) in between serious analysis and explanations, Müller is by now extremely comfortable in front of the camera. This is in stark contrast to his earlier DVDs where he can rattle off some complex variations and endgame techniques in a single breath. Here, Müller takes the time to pause and allows the idea to sink in (but not too long). He has definitely become a much better presenter, in fact, in spite of his German accent, his English is easily understandable and he has become one of my two favourite Chessbase authors (the other being Daniel King).

Ironically, one of the best segments was his commentary on an endgame between himself and fellow Chessbase DVD author, Daniel King. It was a team event in the German Bundesliga and Müller's team had by then lost. However, he explains how he wanted to play the endgame through to the end with King much to the consternation of his team-mates who wanted to go out and eat.

"Why go and eat when you can play a Rook ending?" was his reply.

LOL. The game lasted some 75 odd moves so you can imagine how long his team had to wait for him!

This DVD focuses exclusively on Rook endgames. Unlike his earlier DVD 2 (did I review this? I really need to find my old Chessbase DVDs in the closet), he expounds on important techniques such as how to deal with a blockading Rook, how to use the checking distance effectively, how to maximise the full potential of the Rook.

Chessbase has kindly provided a short video of this DVD. In this video, Müller adopts a slightly more serious tone but this video is typical of the rest of his videos, his explanations are always succinct and precise.

However, all this is not just fun and games. When you start the video, Müller fully EXPECTS you to pause the video in the beginning and study the position and decide on the best course of action to take.

I feel that this method is the best way to reap maximum benefit from this DVD.

The DVD is broken down into the following chapters:

Chapter 1: Rook v Pawn (5 videos)
Chapter 2: Rook techniques (9 vide0s)
Chapter 3: Protection against a series of checks (10 videos)
Chapter 4: The 4th phase of the game (3 videos)
Chapter 5: Activity counts most (5 videos)
Chapter 6: Defence (12 videos)
Chapter 7: Complicated cases (8 videos)

The majority of each video lasts between 2-4 minutes. However, do not be put off by the short length of the videos. What matters most important is the communication of ideas and how well the audience is able to absorb the lessons imparted by Müller. And it is here that Müller does not fail you.

There is one more thing I need to add. In some positions when Müller says this game is "theoretically drawn", he EXPECTS you to know HOW TO DRAW THIS GAME. If you're having trouble with this, please do get a copy of his book, Fundamental Chess Endings (or Nunn's Chess Endings) and read it. At the very least, get his earlier Chessbase DVDs Endgames Vol 1 and 2. These 2 DVDs will teach you the basic strategies and how to apply them correctly in endgames.

In summary, this is a top class video presentation given by Müller. He has IMHO, overtaken Dvoretsky as my favourite endgame author.

I am definitely looking forward to his next Chessbase DVD on endgames. Incidentally, if you haven't got enough of his endgame lessons, I encourage you to visit the Chesscafe website (where he produces an Endgame column every month).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moves You Should Never Play

Sorry for the long time in not updating my blog. I've been terribly busy with work and had not had much time with chess.

In the meantime, I've been playing the occasional online blitz games. Here's a collection of puzzles (no solutions! - I decided to put the solutions after all) that you might find interesting. These are snapshots of games that either my opponent or I missed and played a really lousy move that changed the course of the game! See if you can find out the response.

Diagram 1 - 1. Nd2?? ... The retribution was swift.

Diagram 2 - 1. Re1?? No more draws for White

Diagram 3 - 1. Ba3?? Asking for trouble
(this one is not that big an advantage for Black but
it ended up with White having to defend for long periods
before finally succumbing to relentless pressure)

Diagram 4 - 1.... Rxc3?? Black becomes a pawn grabber and
instantly regrets the decision

Update -Solutions added:
Hi LinuxGuy.

No problems. Maybe I'll give out the answer in a different colour (you can see the answer by highlighting)

Diagram 1: White suffers from tactics failure and instantly loses a piece due to 1....Nxd4 and the Knight is untouchable else White loses the Rook due to the pin on c2.

Diagram 2: White should have played the counter-intuitive 1. Kb2! and can salvage a draw because the Black king cannot approach the a-pawn without the Rook giving checks from behind. Now Black wins after 1. Rf1 due to 1... Re2+ 2. Kd3 (forced) Rg2 and starts gobbling the g-pawns. Black will win the pawns and the game later.

Diagram 3: The White king only has 1 defender. The Knight on f3 so that means the typical sacrifice 1... Rxf3! And White is in a heap of trouble after this move. In this game, my opponent tried. 2. Bxd6 Qxd6 3. gxf3 Nxh2 and if the White rook moves (else White is a pawn down for nothing) followed by 4... Nxf3+ with Qh2 and Black starts rolling his pieces out. For a rook, Black has 2 pawns and a Knight and an open White king under fire. More than sufficient compensation. White didn't survive long in this game.

Diagram 4: Again the typical sacrifice occurs with 1... Rxf6!! If 2. gxf6 Black is in deep trouble after Nxh6+ followed by Qh5.