There’s an old saying that goes “Those who can’t ‘do’, teach”. It’s also said that sometimes the people that excel at sports or games can’t explain how they do what they do at such a high level. Neither of these statements applies to Garry Kasparov, the recently retired chess Grandmaster, former world champion, and arguably the greatest chess player the world has ever seen. Kasparov begins his attempt to pass on his knowledge of the game to the masses through Kasparov Teaches Chess Volume 1: The Queen’s Gambit.
The problem with this combination DVD/DVD-ROM is evident from the very beginning. It misses the mark entirely on its core audience. Produced by Chessbase, maker of Fritz 8, the most recent PC chess game linked to Kasparov, The Queens’ Gambit is clearly marketed to those with an interest in chess, but not necessarily a solid base of knowledge. Unfortunately, to even begin to understand what Kasparov is trying to explain, the user needs to have a grasp of not just the fundamentals of chess, but also the structure and terminology of chess strategy.
Kasparov leads the user through a tutorial of an opening book, or series of repeatable opening moves. The Queens’ Gambit is an opening book that has been around long enough to come into and fall out of favor several times throughout the history of chess. It’s a solid opening series, and learning it is certainly an amicable goal for any developing student of the game.
What’s truly sad is that the content is top quality. Whether viewed via a PC or on a television through a DVD/DVD-ROM player, the video presentations by Kasparov are high quality MPEG movies. The audio quality is likewise very good, and the lack of distortion adds power to the demonstrations, giving an almost interactive feel to the recordings of the chess grandmaster. The top-down view of the digital chess board Kasparov uses to display the moves is a bit bland, but I think the information provided overcomes this small flaw in the presentation.
In addition to the tutorial, Kasparov provides a partial move history from some of his matches in which the Queens’ Gambit has been utilized, whether by himself or his opponent. This provides little new information, but shows the practical application of the series, which is nice for those who intend to employ the tactic.
Another feature of the package is the fact that a basic version of the Fritz engine is included on the DVD, allowing for some experimentation with the new tactics the student is learning. While it is not a full featured engine, it allows the user to interact with the Fritz AI to practice initiating or defending the Queens’ Gambit.
In conclusion, this DVD will likely find a niche market with those chess players who latch onto anything linked to Kasparov, and perhaps aspiring chess students once word of mouth on the content filters through the serious chess community. Sadly though, it does not provide much value to the casual PC chess player.
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