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Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor (Review)


Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor (produced by sivideo) is a DVD presented by well known American Grandmaster Yasser "Yaz" Seirawan. Seirawan is a 4-time US Champion, a respected author and a commentator for the world's largest chess company ChessBase. Dubbed "the best single chess DVD video ever created", Pro Chess, originally published as a VCR video in the 1980s, is a timeless classic. In 2002, Pro Chess was released as a DVD.

FM Eric Schiller once claimed he wrote a book in one weekend to a shocked IM Jeremy Silman. In comparison, Pro Chess was a video more than 2.5 years in the making.

Yasser says on the front cover: "You will improve your game after a single viewing. I guarantee it!" Of course, the guarantee is completely watertight since almost any player under grandmaster level will learn from this DVD (grandmasters should know the material off the top of their heads). In 3 hours and 46 minutes of video, with 44 separate lessons, Yasser aims to develop a "universal system of play". At the start of the DVD, Yasser talks about two separate segments - don't worry about this, you are not missing anything; it is just referring to the two separate video tapes in the 1987 version.

He first starts describing "The Board & Its Properties" for complete beginners (it is assumed the player already knows how to move the pieces). The DVD slowly increases in difficulty and I would say the end chapters of the DVD can be useful for players up to 2000 FIDE.

Apart from Seirawan standing in front of a display board explaining concepts, the DVD also captures scenes from the US Blitz Championship, the World Open and two of Yasser's simultaneous exhibitions - inspiring scenes for a beginner to watch! Yasser also interviews other famous American Grandmasters Walter Browne (6-time US Champion and poker player) and Larry Evans (first or equal first in US Championship 5 times and 4-time US Open Champion) in his video.

Basically every discussion in the DVD is still relevant to today, even the discussions on specific openings. As far as I can see from the search menu, Yasser covers 4 openings - Italian game, Dutch Stonewall, Pillsbury Attack and Hedgehog Defence (the last one is more of a pawn structure than an actual "defence").

Yasser covers a lot of practical topics. One of my favourite ones is "How to Find a Plan". Yasser says, "Should you base it upon where the king is, where the knight is, where the rook is? What to do? Many factors are temporary. What we need to do is find a factor that will be good, or valid, for all, or most, positions, and that factor is pawn structure. Pawn structures determine the nature of the position. They tell us what are the open files, open diagonals, whether the king is sheltered. They give us many, many clues." For more advanced players, the DVD includes discussions of the principles of attack and defence (two separate sections), how to acquire and take advantage of space, what to do when you're behind in space, and how to play with time advantages and disadvantages.

Yasser's explanations are clear and concise. Whereas many chess players are introverted and have trouble speaking, Yasser presents the DVD extremely professionally, like an actual TV host. The fact that the material was filmed in 1987 basically doesn't affect the visual quality of the DVD at all.

Here is a rundown on the DVD contents:

Study Segment I

The Board and its Properties
Book Reviews
Three Types of Positions
The Four Elements of Chess
Seven Basic Principles
Elementary Checkmates
Classical Opening
Three Types of Pins
Double Attack
Time Count

Study Segment II

How To Find a Plan
Weak Pawn Structures
Zwischenzug: An In-between Move
Fianchetto the Bishop
Balanced Pawn Structures
Pawn Storms and Chains
Dutch Stonewall and Pillsbury Attack
Dynamic Pawn Structures
Rooks Belong on Open Files
Protected and Connected Passed Pawns

Study Segment III

Advanced Pawn Structures
Windmill or Seesaw
Screened Backward Pawn
Pawn Triangle
Pawn Majority
Hanging Pawns
Quiet Move
Overworked Piece
Master Pawn Structure
Study Segment IV
The Principles of Attack
When Ahead in Force, Exchange Pieces
Forcing a Pawn Weakness
The Hedgehog Defense
The Principles of Defense
How To Get and Use Space
Attack Pawn Weaknesses
When Behind in Space
Time Advantage
Time Disadvantage

If you're deciding to buy this product, don't choose VCR version, as it apparently includes extra irrelevant scenes. The DVD is better value for money and is also designed to last longer. To purchase products, I recommend Wholesale Chess. They provide the highest quality chess products at the lowest prices (especially for US and Canadian players). They even offer to match prices with other chess websites! Even though I live overseas, this is where I choose to purchase chess goods.

For chess opening training and repertoire maintenance, I highly recommend the software I use, Chess Openings Wizard. This software was approved by Grandmaster Peter Svidler (FIDE rating 2744 as of January 2010) many years ago.

Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor is suitable for players from beginner level to FIDE rating 2000.


Posted by Webmaster on Sunday, January 31, 2010.


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