by Steve Lopez

One of the most compelling images from chess history is that of Paul Morphy taking on all comers during his barnstorming tour of Europe. It's easy to imagine him destroying opponent after opponent, seemingly effortlessly, with his clever mix of brilliant tactics and sound (pre-Steinitzian) positional play. One can close one's eyes and see Morphy blowing away his French noble opponents in that box at the Paris opera, perhaps paying more attention to the spectacle on stage than the one he was creating on the chessboard before him.

What chess player wouldn't love to play like Morphy? Every game a brilliant miniature, every checkmate completely spectacular; it's the Holy Grail of chessplayers the world over.

Fast attacks and quick knockouts are the subject of Daniel King's new ChessBase CD: Attack! Using the new ChessBase 6.0 and Fritz5 training tools, King shows us the basics of how to launch terrifying mating attacks early in the game.

The CD opens with a nice text and video introduction from GM King. If you watched ESPN's coverage of the 1995 World Chess Championship you already know that he's an interesting and engaging speaker.

There follows some instructional text on how to use the CD. Then we get to the real meat of the disk: ten games, complete with test positions, selected to teach us to be fierce attackers!

Before we look at the disk, there are a couple of technical points I'd like to go over. First, there are several ways to start the disk:

1) If you don't own Fritz5 or ChessBase 6.0, you can still use this disk! A copy of CBLite (the ChessBase 6 demo/reader program) is included on the CD. In Windows 95, click the "Start" button on your Taskbar, and then launch the START.EXE file on the CD. CBLite will start, but in German. You'll want your menus to be in English. Click the "Status" menu, click on "Sprache", then under "Menu + Hilfe" select "English". Then click "OK". Your menus will now appear in English.

2) If you'd like a shortcut to CBLite to appear on your computer's Desktop, follow the instructions above, but launch the program SETUP.EXE (instead of START.EXE). The setup program's instructions will say something about installing fonts to your hard drive. Don't let that trouble you; the setup program is creating a shortcut on your desktop.

3) For owners of ChessBase 6.0 or Fritz5, just open the CHMATE01.CBH database on the CD as you would any other database. The text portion of the CD will appear automatically.

We have one more hurdle to jump before we begin. The initial text appears in German. You'll notice a set of buttons in the upper left corner of the text window:

Click on the button containing the letter "E" followed by a red dot. This will change the text from the German version over to the English version.

Once you've accomplished the preliminaries (setting up the database and choosing the English text) you're ready to begin using the disk. The only trick you really need to know is that when you're in a text window or a game window, hitting the [ESC] key will return you to the previous text window.

Someone once wisely said, "Life is a harsh teacher; she gives the test first and the lesson later". The Attack! CD follows that formula. It contains ten test games; each test game is then followed by an annotated review game plus some additional supplementary material.

Each test game is prefaced by a brief video clip in which King talks a bit about the theme of the game. There is a text section with some further elaboration. Then you can jump right into the test...

A box appears asking you if you'd like to do the training questions. Definitely do them! This is the entire point of the disk! Click the right arrow button to play through the initial moves, until you reach a spot in the game where three asterisks appear. These asterisks designate a point in the game where you'll be given a test question. Click on the right arrow once again, and a test question appears:

You're given a question asking you to find the best move. Notice the bottom of the window: these questions are timed. This is to simulate the pressure of a real tournament game. The amount of time you receive is determined by the difficulty of the question: the harder the problem, the more time you have to figure it out. The faster you answer a question, the more points you receive. If you need a hint, you can click the "Help" button, but this will decrease the number of points you can receive from answering the question. Wrong answers will also cost you points; each incorrect reply reduces the number of points you can receive from the question.

Incorrect answers can often be a learning experience themselves. Certain plausible answers will be replied to in the text window with an explanation of why the move doesn't work. Not all possible replies are treated this way, however. If the answer you give is way off-base, the window will just say that it's an incorrect reply. You'll also get some text commentary for correct answers.

Being tested in this way is very user-friendly. Just click the right arrow button until a test window appears. Make what you think is the correct move on the board. The text window will then tell you whether you were right or wrong. Once you've answered it correctly, given up, or run out of time, your score will be updated and you can proceed with the game. You'll soon hit another test question and answer again, repeating the process until you reach the end of the game.

Speaking of scoring, the CD provides a scoring chart to tell you what your score means. You look your score up on the chart to find an estimate of your chess strength. You're encouraged to not pay too much attention to scoring until you complete all ten test games (this gives you a larger statistical sampling and a better gauge of your true strength). However, those players who are burning with curiosity can check their scores as they go. You can see in the graphic above that I've scored 50 points after the first game, rating me as a "club player".

When the test is done, hit the [ESC] key to go back to the main text. You can then play through an overview game. It's the game you were just tested on, but with tons of text explaining the themes and ideas of the mating attack.

After this, there are other games to play through to give you an even better understanding of the key ideas. These games also contain a lot of commentary, both text and graphical, to help you grasp the important concepts. Now you know why I made the "life is a harsh teacher" analogy; on the Attack! CD, you're given the test first, and then you receive the instruction.

In my opinion, this is truly awesome stuff! This CD is actually an animated, interactive chess instruction book. The effect is very reminiscent of the Chess Mentor software series, with audio and video elements thrown in. Attack! is different, however, in that no other software is required -- the CD is entirely self-contained with the "reader" program included on the disk.

This is one impressive piece of work! I can't say that it will make Morphys of us, but it will instruct us and hone our attacking abilities (I say "us" because I'm a developing player, just like yourself), helping us to achieve our goal of winning more games. Attack! is suitable for all non-titled players (e.g. below Expert level).

If you'd like ordering information for Attack! by Daniel King, you can find it elsewhere on this web site. Or you can send a e-mail to Mark Chard at ChessBase USA to get some information on how to order this CD.

Have fun! I'll see you next week (if I don't see you on-line over the board first!).

You can reach me by e-mail with your ideas and suggestions.