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    Entries in Mark Dvoretsky (9)

    Thursday
    Nov102016

    Book Notice: Dvoretsky's *Maneuvering: The Art of Piece Play*

    Mark Dvoretsky, Maneuvering: The Art of Piece Play. Russell Enterprises 2016. 215 pp., $24.95.

    Unfortunately, Mark Dvoretsky is with us no more, but he has left the chess world a rich literary legacy. When it came to finding top quality training material for strong, ambitious players, his work was unsurpassed (at least among those who published their findings), with probably only Jacob Aagaard nowadays giving him a run for his money.

    This book, his latest and probably last effort, is also one of his more accessible works. His most challenging material could leave even titled players screaming in agony, but the topic of this work, maneuvering, is one where the ability to think in pictures is more important than the ability to find incredible tactical resources in the middle of long variations in a thicket of analysis. The key idea in maneuvering is simply this: to find better squares for one's pieces, both individually and as a whole, in harmony with each other. This can be build on in various ways (e.g. by thinking about ways to transform the structure to make this harmony possible, and of course considering how to ruin the opponent's harmony), but that's the heart of the matter.

    There are 10 chapters of exercises, with 10 accompanying solution chapters, plus a Foreword and an Introduction. It's a slim volume, but not too expensive and well worth it: the material is excellent, and what's just as important, there aren't many (any?) other books on the topic - certainly not puzzle books.

    Saturday
    Oct012016

    This Week's World Chess Column: Remembering Mark Dvoretsky, the Player

    The late Mark Dvoretsky has received lots of praise this week for his work as a trainer and author, and rightly so. He was also a very strong player before he essentially gave up active play to become a full-time trainer around the age of 30, and it's this part of his legacy that is examined in my latest column.

    Monday
    Sep262016

    Mark Dvoretsky (1947-2016), R.I.P.

    The famed trainer and author Mark Dvoretsky unexpectedly passed away earlier this week at the age of 68. He had been actively engaged in his usual occupations with no clear signs that anything was too terribly wrong, having published a book earlier this year and recording a couple of video series for Chess24 in the last couple of months.

    I've mentioned Mark Dvoretsky many times on this blog, generally and maybe invariably praising him for his work as a trainer of serious students. Many of his students reached a very high level, including Artur Yusupov, Sergei Dolmatov, and Alexei Dreev, all of whom reached the Candidates on one or more occasions. He worked with many other great players on a more occasional basis, including Peter Svidler, Viswanathan Anand, and even Garry Kasparov.

    His publication legacy is also quite impressive. His books were never derivative, but covered new topics with fresh examples, always very carefully examined. Where some authors barely review their work before sending it out into the world, Dvoretsky always analyzed it carefully and then checked it in training sessions as well. Even then, after it was published, he would engage in further revisions and produce new editions of his books. His magnus opus, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, was dubbed the best book of all time by Jacob Aagaard. Certainly it is the most influential book in this century, at least among professional players.

    While not what he's going to be remembered for, he was a fine player as well, at one point in the top 50 in the world (and apparently ranked as high as #20 on the ChessMetrics scale). He never got the GM title, but that wasn't due to either a lack of strength or rating. During the period when Dvoretsky was an active player, there weren't many opportunities for Soviet players to get the grandmaster title, and by the time there was more access he had essentially retired from play.

    The original posting of the bad news was here, and there are some nice tributes to Dvoretsky collected on this page.

    Monday
    Aug222016

    Mark Dvoretsky Endgame Videos

    There's a nice video series by Mark Dvoretsky (hosted by Jan Gustafsson) on endgame play (on Chess24) that's worth your while, especially (as is generally the case with Dvoretsky's material) if you're at least 1800-2000 in strength. (Of course you can learn plenty from him even if you're not yet of that strength, but he does pitch his material higher rather than lower.) His elocution could be better, but the material is excellent.

    Friday
    Jul152016

    Dvoretsky Q & A

    Should you watch this question-and-answer session with IM and famed trainer Mark Dvoretsky? It depends. What is the weather there, what is your personality, what are your strengths and weaknesses...you'll see.

    Monday
    Nov162015

    Book Notice: Dvoretsky's *Recognizing Your Opponent's Resources*

    Mark Dvoretsky, Recognizing Your Opponent's Resources: Developing Preventive Thinking. Russell Enterprises, 2015. 355 pp., $24.95.

    Describing this book is very easy: there are four chapters, each beginning with a few examples illustrating the theme followed by a long series of very challenging exercises. In three of the chapters the focus is on what one's opponent can do, and in one we are given a technique for handling what our opponent is up to.

    Chapter 1 (I)  has almost the same title as the book: "Pay Attention to Your Opponent's Resources". Dvoretsky helpfully elaborates in the chapter introduction:

    The key word in the title of this chapter is "attention." It is no accident that a significant proportion of the mistakes (we call them "oversights" and "blunders") are by no means associated with your own failed ideas, but with strong opposition on the part of your opponent. You do not notice them because your attention is mainly directed towards looking for and studying your own strongest moves. You should put yourself in the position of your partner a little more often, and think about how he is going to react to the idea you have in store for him. However, this very important skill that forms the title of this chapter (like any other skill) does not appear by itself.

    If there is anything true of Dvoretsky's books, it is his belief that skills can be developed with suitable training, and he aims to provide it. Even the positions given in the introductory portion of the chapter are in effect offered as exercises (diagrams have W? or B?, sometimes with a question below the diagram), and then there are 180 "official" exercises after the ten or so "friendly" pages. Even the initial exercises are moderately difficult, but by the end they are really, really, extremely tough. Dvoretsky's books are meant for very strong, serious and ambitious players - I'd say 2000 at a bare minimum, with 2200 or so probably a more suitable entry level for this work. Of course, anyone who wants to see for himself ought to do so, and at worst those who buy the book will be treated to some fantastic ideas and variations.

    Chapter 2 (or rather, Chapter II), "The Process of Elimination", is the one chapter that is more focused on one's own possibilities than the opponent's. The technique in question is especially useful for perfectionistic time-trouble fiends, but we can all benefit by it regardless of our skill at handling the clock. There's a famous Sherlock Holmes quote that offers an apt analogy: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Sadly, we're not always right when we evaluate this or that thing impossible, but in the chess context we don't have to analyze a particular move very deeply when we know that all the alternatives lose, particularly if they lose pretty straightforwardly. If the idea isn't clear yet, it will be after his intro and another 107 exercises.

    Chapter 3 (III) is on traps, a skill that also takes one's opponent into account in that a good trap is based on trying to anticipate what our opponent wants to do. A particularly subtle sort of trap occurs when one appears to miss the opponent's trap; this sort of trick was one of Mikhail Tal's specialties. (Indeed, two such examples are given in the introductory part of the chapter, with one more in the exercises.) As the subject of traps is already very well-known, there are only 36 exercises this time around.

    Finally, chapter 4 (oddly, the Roman numerals cease, and it's given as "Chapter Four"), "Prophylactic Thinking", centers on a concept that Dvoretsky didn't invent, prophylaxis (the term goes back to Nimzowitsch, I believe, and the reality described by the term surely goes back to the first great players), but no one has done more than he has in recent decades to bring this term into the general consciousness of the chess community. One need not always prevent the opponent's ideas; additionally, sometimes the prophylaxis is against an idea that will only arise after we execute our own plans. Nevertheless, it is crucial to think about what one's opponent wants to do and will be able to do, and it's often very helpful to snuff out those ideas before they see the light of day. This concept is one of his favorites, so it's no surprise that there are 154 exercises this time around, bringing the grand total to 477, not counting the implicit exercises in the chapter intros.

    A note on sources: some of the material, but (I'm pretty sure) not all of it, came from articles published in his monthly Chess Cafe column from July 2010 through November of 2012. (More specifically: chapter 1 material came in part from columns from July-September 2010, Elimination material from August-October 2011, Traps from March-June 2012 and Prophylactic Thinking from September-November 2012.

    Highly recommended to the relevant audiences!

    Friday
    Jul032015

    Book Notice: Dvoretsky's For Friends & Colleagues, Volume 2: Reflections on My Profession

    Mark Dvoretsky, For Friends & Colleagues, Volume 2: Reflections on My Profession. (Russell Enterprises, 2015.) 257 pp., $29.95.

    About eight months ago I wrote a short notice on the first volume of this series, which was more straightforwardly autobiographical. This second volume isn't autobiographical at all, at least not in any overt sense. What we have instead is a collection of articles, many previously published in Russian and/or English over the last decade or so, offering both training material and reflections on training, training material, chess literature past and present. If you've read and enjoyed his Chess Cafe articles over the past 10-15 years or so, you'll enjoy this work, too, and if you're just interested in some fascinating and challenging material to enjoy or work on, this is a book you'll like.

    As usual with Dvoretsky's material, it's pitched at a very high level, so unless you're over 2000 and maybe at least 2100-2200, you're likely to find most of the analytical material a bit too challenging. (Sometimes IMs and GMs say that about his exercises, though most of the material in this book is only set to "stun", maybe "maim", but not "kill" or "vaporize".) There is a lot of "talky" material though, so some of his suggestions and reflections may be of interest even if you don't intend to work through the games and game fragments.

    In general though, I'm sticking to what I've written above. If you're a Dvoretsky fan, you'll probably like this book; if not, and you're not a strong (at least near-master and up) and ambitious player or a trainer, it's probably not the book for you.

    Thursday
    Dec252014

    Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, 4th edition

    It's remarkable that Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual is already in its fourth edition, but therein lies the clue to its tremendous success. The author, Mark Dvoretsky, may not be a perfectionist, but he is a very honest laborer and when there's a mistake in his analysis or some other improvement comes to light, he emends his work. The third edition came out in 2011 (I reviewed it here), and what was true of that one is true of this one as well. Here is what Dvoretsky says about the fourth edition:

    Readers familiar with previous editions of the Manual have probably noticed that the new edition is larger than the previous one. But it is not because its content has been significantly increased or is more complicated - it is not. On the contrary, I have tried to make it more accessible to study, adding about 200 new diagrams to the text. Those who read the book without a board (there are many players who are able to do this) will find it easier to follow complex examples. In addition, the new diagrams will draw your attention to many interesting and instructive moments previously buried in the text and variations.

    As always with new editions, I have revised the text with clarifications and corrections which were found since the release of the previous edition. Significant revisions have been made in some aspects of the theory of rook endings. For that, I would like first and foremost to thank the author Vardan Pogosyan. In 2011-2012, I actively corresponded with Pogosyan, and he showed me many of the discoveries he had made, leading me to rethink some important theoretical concepts. [DM: Most of Pogosyan's contributions to this edition seem to have been in the section on rook endings with 3 vs. 3 on the kingside and a passed a- or b-pawn for the strong side. This is an area where endgame theory has really developed over the past 10-15 years.]

    Relatively recently the computer database "Lomonosov" was created; it accurately evaluates seven-piece endings (previously only six-figure endings were available). Naturally, I checked the book's seven-piece examples with the "Lomonosov" database and corrected any errors found.

    For those of you who are unfamiliar with this monster work (421 large pages), it's a combination of a theoretical treatise and a practical manual. Dvoretsky covers all the theoretical basics and then some, with an emphasis on what practical players need. (He does this not only by choosing the right positions, but by illustrating the right techniques and expressing the relevant principles in a brilliant way.) That's just the beginning, however. What makes this book special is the way he builds on that structure. Having presented the essentials, Dvoretsky then provides example after example where the theoretical material serves as a guide and is often at least part of the key, but is rarely enough by itself to solve the problem. The diligent reader gets a tremendous workout, and in the process learns how to apply that theoretical knowledge, and how to apply theoretical knowledge in general, to the context of a real game.

    In 2003, when writing the preface to the original edition of the work, GM Jacob Aagaard, himself no slouch as a player, analyst, trainer and writer, called the work "[t]he best chess book ever written." It's possible that he has changed his mind in the meantime, and maybe he thinks that one of the books he has written or published for Quality Chess surpasses it. (Many of them are very good, but I suspect he'd still put the Manual at number one.) Even so, even if Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual only ranks at #2 on Aagaard's all-time list, it's still a book you should rush and get if you don't already have it - at least if you're say, a 1600+ rated player with any ambition at all. (I'd add that there's a great deal of beauty in the examples, so even if your attraction to chess is primarily aesthetic rather than competitive, it's still at least worth considering.) If you've already got an earlier edition of the book, then unless you're super-serious about your endings I don't think you need to make the upgrade. But to everyone else who fits the description above, have Santa get you the book: if any chess book is a must-have, this one is it.

    Saturday
    Nov012014

    A Book Notice for Dvoretsky's For Friends & Colleagues, Volume 1

    Mark Dvoretsky, For Friends & Colleagues, Volume 1: Profession of a Chess Coach. Russell Enterprises, 2014. 384 pp., $29.95.

    Mark Dvoretsky was a fine player in his own day, making it to around 35th in the world rankings, but he is best known as one of the world's most successful trainers and the author of some of the most challenging training material ever written.

    This book is not of that sort, and is not meant to be. Dvoretsky has written a memoir, of which this is the first part. (The nature of the forthcoming second part isn't especially clear.) In it he first discusses his playing career, then his work as a trainer of such stars as Artur Yusupov, Sergey Dolmatov and Alexey Dreev, and then spends some time talking about his writings (which primarily flowed from his work as a trainer).

    The book has some chess content, but it's mostly a pleasant trip down memory lane. At least the trip is pleasant for the reader; for Dvoretsky, remembering some of the disagreeable aspects of living in the Soviet Union would naturally be less of a delight. Dvoretsky has critical things to say about a good many people, but there are others he praises - and some individuals are recipients of both sorts of comments. There aren't any training "secrets" in this book, though he has some insightful things to say about the training process - both in terms of nuts-and-bolts and psychology too.

    The writing (or perhaps the translation, or a combination of both) is occasionally a bit dry, and there are chunks of the book that will be of more interest to those with a deep knowledge of chess and life under the Soviet regime. Nevetheless, if you're a Dvoretsky fan and/or a fan of chess history, you'll enjoy and want to get the book. If you like chess stories and a bit of "dirt", you'll probably also like this book. Also, while the chess content is light by Dvoretsky standards, there are around 90 lightly annotated games and game fragments in the book, and as one would expect they are interesting and often instructive as well. It's not a perfect book, but I think that many readers of this blog will want to pick up a copy.