I suppose there are those who like to read chess books and those who don’t. I love reading chess books. I like to think I read them purely for pleasure but at the back of my mind there has always been the dim hope that one day I might benefit from all the reading I was doing and become a better player.

For years it didn’t happen and I’ve come across the same complaint from other people. For twenty years they had read chess books and followed master games but their chess skill remained largely unchanged.

Last year I found myself in the position of having no spare time. By January the situation had improved slightly but reading chess books was still out of the question. However, I was missing chess badly so I decided to buy some videos from Chessbase. I found I could spend between 10 and 20 minutes every night watching a video clip.

Something miraculous occurred. I got better at chess. I could measure this in two ways. First of all, I could play rapid games against Shredder at increasing levels of difficulty and occasionally win. And secondly I got pretty pleasing scores when I played against test positions or games of the sort provided by Igor Khmelnitsky, Daniel King and Jeroen Bosch.

I suspect my chess has also got stronger because I have stopped using Fritz. I used my own judgement instead of checking everything with the computer. I used to be always in the habit of using Fritz to check what I read in books. I have always been sceptical about experts in the past but the players who present these videos are chess legends: Nigel Short, Viktor Kortchnoi, Alexei Shirov, Garry Kasparov. I’ve learnt to trust them. I’ve also found that it is easier to find strong moves if you are trained in human chess thinking rather than trying to follow the correct but sometimes unfathomably complex advice of the computer.

But another measure of how much I’ve improved might be my growing taste for endgames. Endgames are difficult, in my view, because you need to calculate precisely. You can’t rely on instinct or strategic concepts.

There aren’t many good chessbase videos on endgames. Not that I’ve found so far anyway. The best endgame lessons I’ve come across have been in the collected games of Kortchnoi and Short. Short’s commentary is particularly clear.

But I’ve recently started to read a book that I bought because it was half price. It’s called Endgame Virtuoso Anatoly Karpov by Tibor Karolyi & Nick Aplin. It’s not as effortless as watching a video but neither is it as dry as I expected.

Here’s a position that arises from analysis of Karpov’s game against Vaganian in Leningrad, 1969.

Black to move

Karpov was Black. The correct moves, according to the book’s authors are

49…e4! opens the passage for invasion. In opposite-coloured bishop endings you often have to play aggressively. 50.fxe4 Ke5! (White must go one way with the king, then the Black king invades in the other direction. Just like taking a penalty in soccer).

Like soccer, yes. Pretty easy, really, isn’t it?

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Comments
  1. Ryj Hope says:

    Can I translate this article and post in an my page of facebook?
    anyway i like very much your post
    RYJ from Mexico

  2. E says:

    No good ChessBase endgame video’s? Karsten Müller’s endgame DVD’s are supposed to be the bomb!

    Btw, you’ve got a great looking chess blog, and ur posts are great. I’ll add you to my blog’s sidebar. I haven’t yet start posting myself, but i definitely will in the future. Keep up the good work!

    • Joseph says:

      Thanks for the comment. Karsten is an expert and his lessons are geared towards grandmasters I think. He is very impatient and skims over quite complex positions that he understands but I don’t. His contributions to the Chessbase magazine are quite stimulating, though.

  3. E says:

    Hmm… Sounds like those endgame DVD’s aren’t suited for me either then. Didn’t Daniel King do a PowerPlay volume on endgames? That should be good…

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