OPENING LINES

by Steve Lopez

From the Ooops file: even those of us who use ChessBase nearly constantly can make mistakes, and I made a doozy a couple of weeks ago. In the Electronic T-Notes issue dated April 20th, I stated that ChessBase analysis modules did not have to be in the same directory (or folder) on your hard drive as your Windows ChessBase program. I was quite sadly mistaken. As it turns out, the "Select Analysis Module" command allows you to select a module located anywhere on your computer, but ChessBase will only recognize and use a module that's located in the same directory as the program. You can select a module anywhere, but it has to be in the same directory with ChessBase if you want it to work.

Ooops! Sorry...

Now we move on to this week's cool stuff.



MULTIMEDIA IN ACTION


ANDRE SCHULZ'S KING'S INDIAN WITH ...f5-f4


by Steve Lopez

A few years ago, when I first became serious about chess, I played the Black side of the King's Indian Defense almost exclusively. There was a good side and a bad side to this. The good side was that I learned a lot about tactics and playing closed positions. The bad side was that the lessons all came as my opponents lined up to butcher me, game after game. No joke; checking back over my tournament database, I see now that I never won a game as Black in the K.I.D. The butt-kickings smarted, but I learned a lot.

I suppose there are several reasons for my constant defeats. First I lacked the tactical and positional skills needed to handle this opening. Second, my reach exceeded my grasp: I was merely trying to parrot the moves of Garry Kasparov, who was then mowing down everyone in sight using the K.I.D. as his main weapon as Black. Third (and most important), I hadn't a clue as to the ideas behind Black's play in the K.I.D. I even tried reading Bellin and Ponzetto's excellent book on the King's Indian but I must confess that I didn't get much out of it. In their defense I'll also admit I've always been the type to respond better when shown something, as opposed to just reading a set of instructions. But there were no chess teachers nearby to show me how to play the K.I.D. and I had no PC and no database, just a few chess books and magazines. And a stack of gamescores that read 1-0 at the bottom.

It's much easier these days to get an education in the ways of a particular opening without suffering repeated butt-kickings. With the advent of personal computers and database programs like ChessBase, one can sit and play through dozens or hundreds of games in a relatively short period of time, learning something about the opening through osmosis if no other way. But it's so much easier if someone organizes the material first and even better if they have the tools to explain the opening to you in a graphic, visual manner.

I have a confession to make. When I first heard about the multimedia capabilities of ChessBase 6.0 I was pretty noplussed. I couldn't imagine much of a use for these features (unless it was to catch an occasional glimpse of Pia Cramling in a tournament video).

I'm here to say I was short-sighted and wrong, and to take my lumps. Oh, ye of little vision -- what were you thinking?

ChessBase's new CD title King's Indian with ...f5-f4 may just possibly be the most revolutionary step in chess instruction since Guttenberg invented moveable type. It is, quite simply, the most amazing piece of chess instruction I've ever seen.

The credit is due to author Andre Schulz who had the vision to use the new tools provided by ChessBase 6.0 to their fullest extent. He mixes games, text commentary, graphic commentary, and multimedia to provide the most complete and most compelling instructional work on the K.I.D. ever offered anywhere.

The hypertext functions of ChessBase have been redesigned in ChessBase 6.0. This allows for a more seamless integration of text and database than was possible in previous ChessBase versions (in fact, the new hypertext is very reminiscent in feel to the same format you'll find on World Wide Web pages). Schulz makes full use of this capability on this CD. The text is divided into fourteen hypertext chapters (Schulz numbers some of the chapters as subsections, making it appear to have only eight chapters at first glance). The introduction contains board diagrams, hypertext jumps to the other chapters, plus a link to a "model" game in which Victor Korchnoi gains a tempo and picks apart his opponent with clinical precision in a 1995 zonal tournament. The finer points of Korchnoi's play are explained by Vladmir Kramnik in a video clip following White's 18th move.

If you've never seen multimedia in ChessBase and aren't expecting it at the 18th move, you're in for a shock and a treat. A new window opens on the screen, covering the notation but leaving the board unobstructed. We see Kramnik's "talking head", the computer screen reflected in his eyeglasses, as we hear him explaining the game to us. We also get "graphic commentary" at several points during the game: colored arrows and squares on the chessboard, calling key tactical and strategic points to our attention.

Another chapter, called "Technical information", tells us how to use the instruction provided on the disk. This is where ChessBase's new hypertext linking really shines. The old hypertext only allowed links to games and other hypertext. The new hypertext format allows authors to provide us with links to keys as well. In this chapter, we're invited to peruse a variety of keys (or "indexes", for those unfamiliar with ChessBase terminology): openings, themes, tactics, strategy, and endgames. There are even specialized subkeys included, like "Heroes and Zeros", allowing us to see at a glance who is especially adept or inept at the King's Indian Defense.

Next, we're given a bit of history on the type of pawn structure covered on this disk. Here is the basic structure that the CD is concerned with:

We now play through several historical games, dating back to 1846(!), in which we see the evolution of theory concerning this structure in general and the King's Indian Defense in particular. In addition to the history lesson, we're treated to a large dollop of theory as well.

Then we get into the real meat of the disk. The next chapter is a general overview of the strategic themes involved in the "main line" K.I.D. This is an excellent introduction to the general strategic ideas employed by both sides in the King's Indian Defense.

The remaining nine chapters deal with specific plans for both White and Black. These chapters contain graphic instruction as part of the hypertext (board positions with colored squares and arrows) plus plentiful jumps to illustrative games and keys.

The hypertext on this CD is executed extremely well. The author has resisted the temptation to create "spaghetti" (jumps from any point to any other conceivable point) and has instead constructed the text to read just like a book with a logical progression from chapter to chapter. This makes the disk seem less like a disk and more like the familiar traditional printed text, creating a more user-friendly learning environment.

What elevates this CD head and shoulders above standard printed books on the subject are the various instructional features provided by the new ChessBase format. Judicious use has been made of the multimedia functions without overkill. Twenty-one games on the disk contain multimedia elements. My personal favorite on the disk (and my all-time favorite on any ChessBase disk so far) is the Danny King clip in Game 188 (Petrosian - Lutikov, Moscow 1961). It's easy to see from this clip why King was tapped by ESPN to be the color commentator for the 1995 World Chess Championship in New York. He's very personable and entertaining and I really wish he'd be used as the commentator more often on ChessBase disks.

Other ChessBase 6.0 features are used to great effect on this CD. Many of the games are marked by the new "medals", color-coded bars in the games list to call one's attention to games of particular significance. We're also treated to positions that call up a pop-up of the pawn structure or piece path. There's even a separate database of positions to test your knowledge of the material using the new timed quizzes featured in ChessBase 6.0.

The disk is indexed six ways to Sunday, using the new ChessBase indexing features, plus the old familiar standbys (such as the Theme keys).

Of course, all of the old ChessBase features from previous versions are put to excellent use here. The games make generous use of graphic commentary (colored squares and arrows) to illustrate key points. You will also find lots of English text commentary in the games plus the standard languageless Informator notation.

In short, King's Indian with ...f5-f4 by Andre Schulz could very well become the standard text for the Main Line King's Indian Defense for years to come. It's certainly a benchmark in chess instruction. Now even the most slow-witted amongst us (such as your truly) can learn to play this dynamic opening.

And next time I'll be administering the butt-kicking.