Working in a COVID unit for one year has left its mark over me, and I do need something to bring me back to earth, relax, and take my mind elsewhere, anywhere very far from work. Now OTB tournaments are starting again, and I’d like to be ready in few months to re-enter the chess arena, after more than a year I don’t play chess.
The only real training tool I found, which was comprehensive, and covered all the phases of the game is Chessbase Magazine (from now on abbreviated as CBM)
I’d like to share some positions and games I found interesting from issue 200 of CBM.
This CBM issue began with a section where all CBM authors’ annotated 22 games of the young Carlsen!
The first game is annotated by GM Adhiban Baskaran, notice the game begins like a French Winaver, but by move 4 becomes an exchange French, and the move 6.Nge2 reminds me of some games/ideas played by IM Waitzkin and given as lessons in that wonderful historical chess software called Chessmaster.
Here the game fully annotated to give the reader a chance to appreciate how great CBM is, especially for the serious chess amateur who wants to improve his own chess. I added some of my comments after “Nastasio” to show the difference with the comments written by GM Adhiban. Notice also the importance of watching a game but actively asking oneself questions in order to improve. Watching a game passively and being fed all the answers by the annotator will not do us much good.
I’d like to challenge the reader of this article (yes, the one who believes he can become a GM in a couple of years of hard training) to annotate the other 21 games played by Carlsen and selected for this historical CBM 200, and then of course, buy a copy of this CBM 200, and see the difference in the way a GM annotated the same games.
This exercise will give a wealth of ideas upon maneuvers, tactics, plans, and definitely make everyone who has spent the time annotating a chess improvement.
Here the games:
Paper magazines can’t give 22 annotated games, just for one player, even when celebrating their 200 issue. 3-4 pages for each game would mean 80 plus pages! But Chessbase has refined its magazine over the years, and the quality content it’s really high.
I continued my training with the “ideas for your repertoire section” also in this case there is wealthy of material: 11 theoretical articles, and then a section about opening videos, and opening traps. The videos in this issue treated: the Sicilian Moscow variation, the Italian opening, and the Sveshnilov variation of the Sicilian.
Here few positions coming from the opening traps, try to find the right move, since this article is all about chess training. I’ll give the complete games after the diagrams.
Black just played 4…Be7 how does White punishes this mistake?
White played 5.e5 with the hope Black would play 5…dxe5, and Black did, how does White gain material advantage?
The next section is top tournaments, three tournaments were dissected: Tata Steel 2021, Russian Superfinal 2020, Skilling Open 2020, I made a selection of 10 games from these tournaments, games I like very much. Some of them are well annotated, (for example the game Giri vs Tari is quite important to read Giri’s annotations, I admit my limitations I would have never understood it without Giri explaining it move by move in the critical moment of the game. But also Grandelius vs Harikrishna, the annotations open our minds to what a top GM knows and think at the board) hence the need to have this magazine to increase our chess knowledge.
At the cost of resulting boring, please annotate these games, then when you have CBM 200, it will blow your mind to read the annotations of the GMs involved. In some cases one can understand the importance of move order in the opening, in other cases there are some titanic strategic maneuvers one would not imagine the player thought of!!
The next section: coaching by experts is made by 3 videos which comment deeply 3 games. The one made by GM Williams is the one I like most, because it’s in a guess the move format.
The “Tune your tactics” section is prepared by Oliver Reeh, and in this issue it’s made by 34 games, which are opened in specific positions. Reeh presents the situation and ask how to continue. This in my opinion is the real deal. The tactics trainer we can find online are just a mindless training. They generally use engines to farm these positions. Instead Reeh selected these position for some interesting teaching moments.
The question asks: what happens if after Bb3 Black plays Nf6, and I’ll add the same in case Black would play Ng7! Can you see why?
The tactics begin as simple positions, and then the complexity of the questions increase.
This is a difference of quality between CBM, written by coaches and top chess players, compared to the online tactics training made by a bot. Here we need to use visualization, and answer a question a coach made for us. I honestly cannot afford to pay a GM or IM to coach me, because I have mortgage, insurances, and all the adult stuff usually to pay… but I can definitely pay for Chessbase Magazine! There is a total of 34 games/position for the tune up your tactics section.
Karsten Mueller, the real Capablanca of the endgame, is the one selecting the endgame position for the section: Excelling in endgames. I must admit that if one day I become a millionaire, surely one of the items on my bucket list is going to Germany and train under Mueller, because I am 100% sure my game would reach a new level thanks to his expertise and love of the endgame.
In this issue there are more than 90 endgame positions, yes, if one doesn’t improve doing this kind of training I don’t know what can actually help!
The theme of this issue is Magnus seen under the light of GM Mueller latest book on chess players styles
I really need to learn German well! When I asked GM Mueller he told me the book has been translated in English!
As previously mentioned I want this article to be used for training. Here a series of positions from Excelling in the endgames, which can be used for sparring with another chess player or against an engine.
White just played 31.g3?! how would you win as Black? Notice this is not a tactic, one must understand how to restrict the opponent pieces.
Black just played 31…Ra3, next comes the decisive regrouping which brings the black setup to the point of collapse, how would you continue as White?
White just played 58.Ba6, now Black needs to be creative and use the king to achieve the win!
As you can see I didn’t give any solution or moves, because I believe Mueller’s work needs to be rewarded. He surely spent hours on selecting these positions, and write the commentary. But to do the work on these positions, will help to expand and better understand Mueller’s explanations.
The last section of CBM is called: Practice Makes perfect, and it’s based on 50 positions which trains strategy, endgame, tactics and definitely imagination.
Final thoughts: while in this article I put the accent on the training, I must admit I was impressed with the annotations to the games, because often the human side of the grandmaster annotating the game was coming out. The thoughts, the psychological tricks, the pain for previous defeats, the opening preparation against a particular opponent… all of this and much more have made Chessbase Magazine a real pleasure to read, and given me more energy for my training as well as to look for other older Chessbase Magazines, where I could find more annotated games. One GM I spoke with mentioned that watching, and studying about 2000 annotated games would bring a player at master level.