Author: Andrew Martin
Publisher: ChessBase (Fritztrainer Series)
Level: Advanced Beginner / Intermediate / Advanced Intermediate
Forgive me Caissa for I have sinned! I was vain and I was a snob but I shall be like that no more.
IM Andrew Martin and ChessBase helped me redeem my chess soul. But let me start the story of my redemption from the beginning.
I always believed that the way to start learning a new opening is by buying a book and studying it carefully, analyzing every game with the help of my good old chess set, first understanding the book and then trying for my own improvements and novelties.
Well, I was right and I was wrong. I was right because in order to master a chess opening you must do your own analysis and have your own opinion on what is going on. This deep understanding can only be achieved from sitting by the table with a chess set and moving the pieces. Yet, I was also wrong, as I learnt from Martin’s “The Scandinavian – The Easy Way”. I was wrong because my ideal of sitting by the table for hours, filling notebooks with my ideas was good only for the chess professionals of the 1950’s, the likes of Botvinnik. In real life, I have no more than a few hours of chess per week (usually during the evening) and in the little time that I have I cannot invent that many groundbreaking opening novelties.
So I started looking for an “easy way” for chess improvement (and hopefully a few easy wins on the internet). For that reason I decided to break my routine and try a chess DVD. “If ChessBase can stand up for what they promise on the back cover,” I thought to myself, “this may be just what I am looking for.” (Mind you that the back cover says “This DVD will be a boon to all chess players, but particularly to the busy person with limited time for study or those who wish to incorporate a new defense into their Black repertoire with the minimum possible hassle.”) Yet a tone in me, a more severe one, said, “there is no easy way to learn an opening. You must work hard, Chessbug, and not hope for easy wins after watching a three-hour video.” So before I share with you my extremely positive experience let us see what the contents of the DVD are.
Main Lines 6th moves:
6.Be3: 23:23 min.
6.g3: 13:43 min.
6.Bc4: 13:43 min.
6.Bd3: 14:21 min.
6.Be2: 08:00 min.
6.Ne5: 14:25 min.
6.Bg5; 6.h3: 13:12 min.
Summary of 6th moves: 00:39 min.
Various other moves:
5.Bc4; 6.Nge2: 06:44 min.
5.Be2: 12:06 min.
Various 5th moves: 06:01 min.
4.g3: 11:11 min.
3.Nf3: 11:51 min.
3.d4: 10:58 min.
Miscellaneous 2nd moves: 06:18 min.
Outro: 00:35 min
Total Time: Three Hours and 10 seconds (3:00:10)
So how much can you learn from three hours?
Well I decided to make a small experiment. Since I never played the Scandinavian before, I figured I would be the perfect subject of the experiment. I decided to watch the introduction, play the Scandinavian as Black on the net and then go back to the DVD and watch the relevant chapter whenever I tackle a move I did not see earlier. So I started executing my plan by watching the first two chapters, this was also my first meeting with the video and interface and it was a great first-date.
ChessBase made an excellent choice in taking Martin as the “host” of the video. Martin is friendly and charismatic, his speech is clear and he communicates a lot of confidence in the repertoire he suggests (by the way, the Scandinavian that he teaches in the DVD is the 3…Qd6 variation). The Fritztrainer interface is also good and convenient though I would strongly suggest fiddling with it until you find the visual most convenient for you. The default looks like this:
I reordered the interface to look like this:
Note that I also flipped the board because I play Black so I do not care how things look from White’s side! I do not know if there is a way to save the preferred “look” of the interface – I did not find a button that will help me save my preferences for the rest of the chapters of the DVD. One more complaint that I have is that whenever I closed a chapter and tried to watch another one, the program crashed when I clicked on the new menu. This is not a major problem because the Fritz reader can be re-opened immediately and there is no need to restart the computer. Still, this is not the ideal behavior.
Going back to my experiment, in the first games I got reasonable positions but lost my first three encounters. I remained optimistic because on the second game I had a mate-in-one which I missed and on the third game I encountered the Blackmar-Diemer gambit (1 e4 d5 2 d4) which I never played before so this should not be counted. On the fourth game I arrived at a totally won position but my time ran out before I mated White’s lone king – a draw. At that point in time my real life demanded my attention so I had to call it a day.
I started the second day of the experiment by watching the chapter about second moves (including the Blackmar-Diemer gambit) and some of the 6th move options. I found the “6 Ne5” chapter to be a real delight. In this chapter Martin shows you a super-creative attacking game by Black, not the only beautiful game in the DVD but my personal favorite. After I watched these chapters I felt ready to go back “to the laboratory” and test myself against the best and finest of the internet. In order to have more time for the opening I changed the time control to 5 minutes per game instead of the three-minute games I played on the first day. The results in the second day were quite amazing and this is when I changed my mind about “the easy way” in chess. I like the easy way! I could not believe how many White players went for 6 Bc4 only to give me a tempo with b5 soon to be followed by the thematic c5. I never believed achieving equality in Black was so easy. Now it only remains for me to master the middlegame and endgame and I am going to crash my rivals ;-). Seriously, about 90% of my rivals’ answers were covered in Martin’s DVD (a painful exception was 2 Nf3, Tennison-Lemberg gambit which Martin did not cover). I still believe that if one is serious about taking the Scandinavian 3…Qd6 as his or her main weapon one will have at some point to work with a book and with databases but as a “road test” I think this DVD works better than any book (Oh! How many years did I waste in vain!) It is enjoyable, it is easy to follow, does not take too much of your time and gives surprisingly good results.
After four days I watched all the chapters (some of them more than once) and played about 30-40 Blitz games in the Scandinavian. My results remained as good as in the second day even though I caught a cold (or was the cold just an excuse to stay home and play chess?) As I said I miss the Tennison-Lemberg gambit and the chapter on “Other 5th moves” was also too rushed for my taste though none of my rivals used any of these moves so far, which means it practically does not matter. It is also worthwhile to mention Martin’s self humor when he mentions how he lost miserably (the “6 Bd3” chapter). I guess in these DVDs a lot depends on the master’s personality and Martin is a great performer and teacher. One day, when I grow up I will buy a Scandinavian book and check Martin’s variants in depth but as a practical guide to first time Scandinavian players this DVD, except for a few minor flaws mentioned above, is quite close to perfect. “The Scandinavian – The Easy Way” lives up to its word.
The Good Things:
· Andrew Martin is a charismatic and enjoyable teacher
· The material is well organized and easy to follow
· There are enough options in the interface for the viewer to make his choice but not too many options
The Bad Things:
Quote: “Emms [in his book on the Scandinavian] felt that this formation for White is bound to give at least a small edge. Well, I am not so sure and I believe that Black can play to set White’s strength in this line by allowing him to play Bf4 and then countering this bishop by playing …Bd6 at the right moment, planning to neutralize that bishop, and now I am going to show you how…”
The Bottom Line: This product promises what I thought would be impossible and it keeps the promise. I highly recommend “The Scandinavian – The Easy Way” to anyone who is not a chess professional and would like to experiment with a new repertoire against 1.e4.
Rating: Interface – 9/10, Content – 9.5/10
Caissa – The goddess or muse of chess. This legendary figure was first mentioned in a poem composed by Sir William Jones in 1763. back to top
Review written by Chessbug.
© All Rights Reserved to Chessbug 2006