ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age

ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age

ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age
ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age is a remarkable book, a 356 pages guide that illustrates all aspects of using ChessBase. For those who have been using ChessBase Software (and I am pretty sure atleast 75% of chess players around the world have used it at one point of time or the other) for straight forward game collections and annotations or for mundane tasks like viewing a game or playing a game online, this book will show what ChessBase software is actually capable of doing.
Here I beg to disagree just one small bit – though he has done a very good job explaining key features with real-time case studies it can by no means be labelled as ‘complete’. However that does not take any credit away from the utility value of the book which is a path-breaking one.

I am sure most of you would have by now figured out a few basic functions in Chessbase, but a lot of the nerdy stuff features are not obvious unless you see them in the true perspective. You may argue that there is a user-manual in the program as is the case with all software, and pretty much is explained in there, but it’s written more with an eye for technicality than utility.  The how is explained but not the why and when.
When one opens Chessbase it appears as a mysterious piece of software that appears easy to operate but you get a gut feeling that it has some secrets that are hidden deep inside waiting to be unravelled.
After going through this book you will realize that you have been actually right all along. There were many functions that you did not even have an inkling of.

In other words this book is like the hitch-hiker’s guide to the Chessbase galaxy!

Showing hundreds of helpful screen shots from the program, Jon Edwards explains the following tasks with ChessBase:
    1. Effective Opening preparation is de-mystified with suitable examples.
    2. How to get a collection of important games in any opening, middlegame position type or even endgame positions
    3. How you can install and see what engines think about any given position.
    4. How you can perform an analysis and see where you and your opponents erred.
    5. How you can publish your games in a book or in the web/Facebook

      What the author Jon Edwards has done is to take pains explaining 14 general features (aptly called as  ‘scenarios’), such as training and teaching, position searches, opening preparation, playing on the Playchess server using ChessBase etc, and explains clearly how to go about accomplishing these activities. The fact is that this book is a ready-reckoner because Chessbase is one life-saving utility for 99% of today’s chess professionals.

      The book is full of screen shots, which are helpful so that the program need not be open in front of you (though that would be highly recommended) and he does not miss anything major. Every little function is explained to the point. I should add that this book is not a complete reference manual. The author merely elucidates how he uses the various features of ChessBase for his specific purposes (scenarios).

      That said however, if you are a serious chess player, this book should be on your desk. And although the book was written with Chessbase 12 in mind, it still works with the latest release of Chessbase 13.

      The only sore point is that the images used in the book could have been good quality colour images to better illustrate and engage the reader’s eye. Hence my half-star less in the rating.

      My rating of this book 4.5 out of 5.

      Get it here at Amazon (US)

      Get it at BookDepository (UK) 

      Get it at Amazon (India)

      Review: Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies

      Review: Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies

      Domination in 2,545 Endgame StudiesDomination in 2,545 Endgame Studies by Genrikh Kasparyan is a power-packed tome of chess positions in the endgame that show us what real chess ability is all about. A statutory word of caution to readers – this book is for serious chess players only – not for beginners or those who have a cursory interest in chess. That aside, welcome to the land of mysticism in the chess planet.

      Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies by Ghenrikh Kasparyan

      is a true treasure trove of many of the greatest chess compositions by various authors, including Kasparyan himself. – well organized and presented. No other book even comes close to its level of organization by topics such as ‘two minor pieces trap a Rook’ or ‘two Rooks trapping a Queen’ so that you can look up specific scenarios according to which game play is involved.

      I remember as a kid I was forced by my coach to go through some fancy endgame positions (later I came to know that they were called as ‘studies’. He would ask me to look at the positions for 3-5 minutes and eventually (impatient as he was to ignite my interest) he showed the answers to me. It did a lot to boost my imagination and I was hooked thereafter to Chess studies.

      Each one of the 2545 positions is packed with chess wisdom and offers valuable tips on how to force your opponent to lose material. Many positions that would be considered a draw in tournament play by average players, are shown as winning, with stunning calculated moves leading to a win (or a draw in hopeless positions) with the dramatic sequence of moves to capture of one or more of the opponent’s pieces.

      Some hopelessly lost positions will be shown as drawn or winning! Armed with this knowledge you will gain many new insights. You will realize that chess is not all about rules or mathematics. It is also an art of the highest order.

      This book will throw your self-limiting beliefs out of your mind.
      Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies

      geometry of the chess board

      If one analyses deeply the best works of outstanding ‘studies’ composers such as Troitsky, Reti, Averbakh, Platov, Kubbel, Rinck and others, one will deepen the knowledge of the geometry of the chess board. This is what is also known as ‘board vision. The greater the familiarity of each square’s correlation with other squares (and the effect of a piece on that square) the better will your strategy be.
      If you have never seen a chess study you will be dazzled by one. Get ready to see Chess positions in a new light! So let’s start with one of my favorites:


      Interference, in anything but chess, is considered impolite.

      Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies

      White to play.

      I know that the above position may appear to be simple for most of you but that was for the starters!


      I remember being entranced as a kid by a few Reti studies in this book, especially a few of those where a Knight dominated a Bishop on a somewhat empty board – funnily the bishop could not find a good square to move! Take a good look at the Reti studies if you choose to buy it.

      You might wonder – why are endgame studies important for calculation training? Can we not learn the art of calculation by solving Mate in 2 or 3 movers? The answer lies here: In my personal experience – I myself have never got to like many problems as mate in two or mate in three – what difference does it make whether you mate your opponent in two moves or three? But endgame studies are another matter.

      Not only do they create a sense of curiosity, but they are also useful in training you to think along different lines that might come up in your games and honing your calculating abilities by making you think about your opponent’s resources and more importantly making you think out of the box.

      An IM who is a good friend of mine told me that he rose in the elo ladder after finishing the Domination book not once but twice! And most of his opponents fell into his traps that he learnt from this very same book!

      My mileage was different. Domination will not make you a better player overnight. I was able to implement a few lessons only after a few months of looking up the Domination book. It takes some time as this is not your run-of-the-mill stuff. This one will embed in your chess psyche slowly but surely.

      No wonder many books refer to Kasparian as as the greatest Russian composer!

      Next article in this regard will be my review of Dvoretsky’s Studies for Practical Players – a hidden gem that needs to be brought to the limelight and which will be a worthy companion to the Domination book.


      Check out this book Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies here!

      Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies

      Domination in 2,545 Endgame Studies

       


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      Dynamic Chess Skills – Start playing the Sicilian Defense

      Dynamic Chess Skills – Start playing the Sicilian Defense

      Did you know that the opening knowledge is essential after you have achieved a decent rating? And what exactly is your choice of openings leading you to…? Are you content with a draw or are you a challenge seeker? If the openings that you play are not offering you practical chances to win, its time to take stock of them. I suggest all budding players to change their openings once in a while so as to have a feel for dynamics.

      Talking of dynamics I believe all club players and intermediate strength players need to understand that aspect before they try for a win. 

       And if they do not try for a win then its gonna end in a disaster. And what better way to learn to play dynamically than to play with the Sicilian Opening as Black against 1. e4 that will let you play to win from any position or variation or atleast give you a tangible target to play for.

      The Sicilian Defense is the most aggressive opening system that you can play as black. 

      One of my fellow coaches always advises his junior chess players to learn the core concepts of the different variations of the Sicilian Defense to understand most of the strategic middle-game nuances in chess.

      The resources in that direction are: –

      Dynamic Chess Skills - Start playing the Sicilian Defense

      Starting Out: The Sicilian (Starting Out – Everyman Chess)
      This is an INTRODUCTION to the Sicilian, it will give you an overview of the basic plans in the most common lines. I think it is well written, and does not go too deeply into variations. A back-to-the-basics book, with a lot of notes, tips, warnings and exercises to help the improving player. The illustrations are the meat of this book.

      Dynamic Chess Skills - Start playing the Sicilian Defense
      Play the Najdorf Sicilian by James RizzitanoIt is an introduction to the Najdorf Sicilian. Get your feet wet with this book and then go to the other books for the Najdorf.

      Dynamic Chess Skills - Start playing the Sicilian Defense

      Empire Chess Bundle ¨Sicilian Defense Mastery for Club Players¨the grand daddy of them all – this bundle will teach you an opening that the world class chess players throughout the ages have employed with great frequency at the highest levels of the game: check the databases of any GM and all would have regularly played the Sicilian Defense in the most critical moments of their careers. So there you are…

      Chess and Zen

      Chess and Zen

      Chess and Zen

      I read this parable on Chess and Zen as told by Osho. A young man, who had a bitter disappointment in life, went to a remote monastery and said to the Master, ”I am disillusioned with life and wish to attain enlightenment to be freed from these sufferings. But I have no capacity for sticking long at anything. I could never do long years of meditation and study and austerity. I would relapse and be drawn back to the world again, painful though I know it to be. Is there any short way for people like me?”

      ”There is,” said the Master, ”if you are really determined. Tell me, what have you studied? What have you concentrated on most in your life?”
      ”Why, nothing really. We were rich and I did not have to work. I suppose the thing I was really interested in was chess; I spent most of my time at that.”
      The Master thought for a moment and then said to his attendant, ”Call such-and-such a monk, and tell him to bring a chess board and men.”
      But the attendant said, ”Sir, that monk does not know how to play chess.”
      The Master said, ”Don’t be worried. You simply call him.”

      The monk came with the board and the Master set up the men. He sent for a sword and showed it to the two. ”Oh monk,” he said, ”you have vowed obedience to me as your Master, and now I require it of you. You will play a game of chess with this youth, and if you lose I shall cut off your head with this sword.”

      Try to imagine the scene…
      And the monk does not know much about chess. Maybe he can recognize the chessboard, or maybe he has played once or twice when he was young. But to put this man against this young, rich man, who has never done anything but play chess, is simply a death warrant. And then the Master says, ”You have surrendered to me, and you have told me I can do anything I want with your life or with your death. Now the moment has come. If you lose I shall cut off your head with this sword.”

      And a naked sword is there in the hands of the Master, and he is standing just close by. ”But I promise that if you die by my hand, you will be born in paradise. If you win, I shall cut off the head of this man. Chess is the only thing he has ever tried hard at, and if he loses he deserves to lose his head also.” They looked at the Master’s face and saw that he meant it: he would cut off the head of the loser.

      They began to play. With the opening moves the youth felt the sweat trickling down to his heels as he played for his life. The chessboard became the whole world; he was entirely concentrated on it. At first he had somewhat the worst of it, but then the other made an inferior move and he seized his chance to launch a strong attack. As his opponent’s position crumbled, he looked covertly at him. He saw a face of intelligence and sincerity, worn with years of austerity and effort.
      The other was a beggar – a BHIKKHU – his eyes were silent and calm. He was not disturbed even by the idea of death. He was playing because of the Master’s request, and he had surrendered himself so there was no problem in it. Even if paradise were not promised, then too, he would have to follow. He was playing calm and quiet. His eyes were very silent and very intelligent – and the young man is winning! and the monk’s moves are going all wrong! The young man looked at the monk – the grace, the austerity, the beauty, the silence, the intelligence.
      Chess and Zen He thought of his own worthless life, and a wave of compassion came over him. He decided: ”To let this man die is unnecessary. If I die, nothing is lost to the earth. I am a stupid man, I have wasted my life, I have nothing. This man has worked hard, disciplined his life, has lived a life of austerity, a life of meditation and prayer. If he is killed that will be a loss.” Great compassion arose in him. He deliberately made a blunder and then another blunder, ruining his position and leaving himself defenseless.

      The Master suddenly leaned forward and upset the board. The two contestants sat stupefied. ”There is no winner and no loser,” said the Master slowly. ”There is no need to fall here. Only two things are required, ” and he turned to the young man, ”complete concentration and compassion. You have today learned them both. You were completely concentrated on the game, but then in that concentration you could feel compassion, and sacrifice your life for it. Now, stay here a few months and pursue our training in this spirit and your enlightenment is sure. He did so and got it.

      A tremendously beautiful story. The Master created a situation and showed the whole path. This is DIRECT – showing the path. He showed all that can be shown! There are only two things – meditation and compassion. Meditation means being utterly absorbed into something, totally absorbed into something, completely lost. If you are dancing and only the dance remains and the dancer is forgotten, then it is meditation. If you are gambling and only gambling remains and the gambler disappears, then it is meditation. It can be any activity.
      Meditation is not averse to any activity. Meditation requires only one thing: be absorbed in it totally, whatsoever it is. If you are a thief and you are going to steal, and while stealing if you get absorbed utterly and totally, it is meditation. Who you are, what you do, does not matter! For Zen all that matters is totality, utter concentration, absorbed, lost, drunk into it. So much so that you are not standing behind aloof. This is the fundamental – meditation. And then a natural outflow of it, a natural by-product – compassion.
      Compassion cannot be practiced. It comes as a shadow to meditation. Now, this is the whole Buddha dharma, this is ALL. And this Master, whose name is not known, must have been a great deviser. Through the game of chess he expressed the whole Buddha dharma. He expressed all the fundamentals, all that is needed. No more is needed. This is enough for your whole journey. Means and ends – all are included in this small situation.
      Source: Message from Masters ” Zen: The Path of Paradox, Vol 3 ” – Osho
      Smart Chess Training

      Smart Chess Training

      Smart Chess Training 

      Smart Chess Training – How to improve your Chess by working smarter not harder.

      chess_logoINTRODUCTION: I have been asked many time by aspiring players and their parents about how to improve at chess, usually after they stagnated and came to me for help. Then there are beginners who know the basics but are clueless about what options are there, or even what type of study material to start training with. Very few players know about the Smart Chess Training techniques. Let me explain.

      Most of the beginners and parents start doing something merely by looking at others like learning endings or openings and then wonder why they do not win games. I decided to write this article to help players who are aspiring to improve their chess playing ability and who do not have access to a professional coach or the time for a rigorous disciplined study.

      Smart Chess Training

      Success in chess is proportional to hard work and study, but it is more about smart chess training according to me.

      Keeping targets short and reachable: It is important to have a focus while training, decide what you are trying to achieve and then choose that training relevant to your area of study. For eg., if you are aiming to become a Grandmaster, you must work really hard and long at your game. But if you are aspiring to first become a strong player and remove your weaknesses then you are going to reach there without fail. That is my guarantee.

      So what is ‘Smart Chess Training’?

      Before we talk about the smart way to learn or train in chess we will discuss in this first part of the article the traditional approach to the syllabus of chess knowledge that every player must learn. Only then will we understand the smart way to chess training in proper perspective.


      Classical Chess training has four main areas of study. Each of these areas provides the requisite knowledge and skill to a decent chess player.


      Let us know them first.

      1. Tactics

      featured imageTHE most important ability of a chess player is to be able to visualize a certain number of moves without touching the pieces. This is called visualization or calculation in chess. The more we train our calculation the further ahead we can see, with greater accuracy and speed.

      Tactics are common motifs in chess that can generally win the game. Some examples of tactics are “forks”, “skewers” and “pins”. The more a player studies these types of patterns and puzzles the easier it is for them to pick-up on these “quick winning” techniques during a real game and also set some traps for an opponent.

      Solving tactics puzzles is the fastest way to improve as an aspiring chess player and is a core skill to master. You need to know them cold when they occur. And for that you must be familiar with many tactical devices like the back of your hand.

      Tactical visualization requires two elements: Present – focus and Past – pattern recognition.

      Advanced Tactics require the reverse-thinking abilities too. In fact the sooner you get to grips with reverse-thinking the better. Simply put – reverse thinking is the ability of deciphering why a certain tactic is not working and then setting about making it to work by removing that cause.


      Some books that need to be read again and again: These are my personal favorites.

      Practical Chess Exercises: 600 Lessons from Tactics to Strategy

      Improve Your Chess Tactics: 700 Practical Lessons & Exercises

      1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations, 21st Century Edition (Fred Reinfeld Chess Classics)

      1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate (Chess lovers’ library)

      Sharpen Your Tactics: 1125 Brilliant Sacrifices, Combinations, and Studies


      2. Strategy

      chess brainStrategy is what is known as the real meat of chess strength. It is that knowledge which is used when there arises a need to choose, between what you want to do and what the position wants.

      Strategy is the understanding of positional aspects present in any position that guides a player in formulating a future plan of action. For example one of the simplest strategy a beginner learns is that “we must never put our knights on the edges of the board”.

      Strategy requires patient analysis and studious planning. It is more about conversions to a win.


      Recommended reading:

      Looking for Trouble: Recognizing and Meeting Threats in Chess

      Practical Chess Exercises: 600 Lessons from Tactics to Strategy

      The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played: 62 Masterpieces of Chess Strategy

      How to Reassess Your Chess, Fourth edition

      Chess Strategy for Club Players


      3. Endgames

      How to prepare for Chess Tournaments?Endgames are the study of positions consisting of very few pieces, usually without queens, such as pure Rook endings –or- King and pawn endings.

      Studying endgames teaches the potential power of the pieces in isolation and with other pieces. The study of endgames aids brute force calculations as with fewer pieces on the board it is easier to visualize.

      I believe endgame study is important to an aspiring chess player. Players who study the endgame tend to blow players away who do not study the endgame, even in positions that should be lost of drawn just because of a little understanding. But remember that the syllabus for the endgame training is not the same for every strength category.

      Endgames require understanding of concept and memory of certain important thumb rules.


      Suggested Endgame Work material:

      Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics: A Comprehensive Guide to the Sunny Side of Chess Endgames

      100 Endgames You Must Know: Vital Lessons for Every Chess Player Improved and Expanded

      Domination in 2545 Endgame studies by Genhrikh Kasparyan


      4. Openings

      babyStudying of individual openings and move orders is more of a tool only if a player is already extremely strong. It is of no use for a beginner. My simplest advice is – forget opening study if you are rated below 1800.

      However the study of opening principles, and the different generic plans and structures relevant to any opening is beneficial. Make sure you have access to a coach who can guide you properly in this regard or quality training material if you do not have access to such a coach.

      Openings require memory and general understanding abilities. Also the art of transpositions is a must.


      Suggested reading (with a coach preferably):

      How to Reassess Your Chess, Fourth edition – (also for openings)

      The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White: A Complete, Sound and User-friendly Chess Opening Repertoire

      Chess Openings for Black, Explained: A Complete Repertoire(Revised and Updated)

      Chess Openings for White, Explained: Winning with 1.e4, Second Revised and Updated Edition Chess Opening Essentials: The Complete Series (Volumes 1 – 4)

      In a future article part I will be discussing about SMART CHESS TRAINING for coaches.


       

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      One brick at a time


      One brick at a time. And a Mansion is built. We all know that going slow and steady is what it takes to reach a milestone. But what are the milestones in chess and more importantly, how to keep building and achieving them?

      Some important milestones in chess: 

      1. Grandmaster Title
      2. International Master
      3. Fide Master Title
      4. Candidate master and
      5. Decent Fide Rating.

      While striving to reach these milestones is desirable per se, understanding the way to approach these goals is essential to make the journey smooth and enjoyable.

      How do we reach (and cross) a milestone? What are the ingredients that make up for a successful accomplishment? How can we maintain the momentum that we had, when we first started?

      What I really believe in, is the idea that a real journey is no different from a psychological one.  

      Where there is fun, merriment and company and the journey becomes less tedious and less time consuming.

      1. So the first step is to make sure that you are passionate about this. Deeply passionate.
      By that I mean that your whole day must be focused on this single passion. You can relax and must to but at the end of the day if you did not dwell in your pursuit of chess goals then it is not an earnest endeavor.

      2. Form a group that shares your passion.
      Join a club or make one if there is none!That way the energy levels will be sustained. Back in those days when I was an amateur I used to invite a lot of chess friends and they helped me when my energy was low, due to stress from other aspects. That was actually a boon for me as if I had not had these friends to push me up I would have quit and stagnated, resigning to my fate.

      3. Teach someone.
      Yes… it may be strange to hear but teaching someone will give you a sense of what you have understood fully and what you have only a superficial understanding of. You will be morally responsible and that will bring sincerity to your efforts. I gained a lot by teaching some younger players a few things about chess training software and in return I was daily increasing my knowledge by conscious reinforcements and boosting my energy levels.

      4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
      Sometimes a stronger player will take the pains to teach you something ONLY if you bother to ask. Just try it. I have met quite a few good souls who later on turned out to be good friends in my chess journey!You can try it out in your club or during a tournament.

      5. Don’t be afraid of criticism.
      sometimes players who are far younger than you will chide you for your game quality. take it in your stride. After all that kid is giving you a free lesson! These nifty tips will be in your memory for a long time.

      6. Spend some time doing self-study.
      That is the most important tip I cannot stress enough. Too many students of mine need to be weaned off the spoon feeding that they undergo as beginners. When they reach a certain level they must be forced to study on their own for sometime daily. This will give them a sense of achievement that will drive them to higher pursuits. A coach can only act as a battery charger. The ‘capacity of the battery’ is what you will be increasing by self study. Its your prerogative.

      7. Meditate daily. It is the hidden compass in your life that will constantly guide you on your path.

      8. Take a break, once a week.

      9. Exercise regularly. While everyone knows that exercise is a good idea, the scientific evidence about its benefits in the old age is there for all to see.Remember that Chess has to retirement age. So if you love chess you will be playing it for a long time to come.
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