12 January 2014

DVD completed: Viktor Kortchnoi - My Life for Chess, Vol. 1


I recently completed Viktor Kortchnoi - My Life for Chess Vol. 1, one of the Friztrainer series DVDs that come with video analysis and an accompanying database, in this case of 1,799 of Kortchnoi's games from 1946-1979.  I purchased the DVD in the mid-2000s shortly after it came out; after a couple of different tries over the years, I finally finished it, having reviewed it again from the beginning.

The multiple tries required was the result of my previous low level of seriousness about chess study, rather than any fault of the DVD.  In fact, it is very well set up for study purposes, with each of the nine video segments running a half-hour or less and except for the introductory interview, focusing on a single key annotated game.  Kortchnoi has a great facility for explaining strategic ideas, ranging from basic to sophisticated, in a natural way as part of his explanation of each game.  While he can chop through move series rather quickly on the board, he does take care to explain the analysis behind what he considers the key moves.  Digesting one of these analysis sessions is easily done and in fact pleasurable, given the high quality of the narration and Kortchnoi's good humor.  The benefit of the database format is that you can also go over each game afterwards, at your leisure, if you want to delve into it further.

As is the case with other top grandmasters such as Carlsen and Kramnik, Kortchnoi demonstrates during his discussions an objective view of his games, painting the correct impression of chess as a game which can be mastered but never fully perfected or necessarily understood, especially when in the middle of a fight over the board.  Speaking of Carlsen, it was interesting to see that during the DVD interview (recorded in 2004), Kortchnoi was asked about the best future chessplayers and the one person he endorsed wholeheartedly was Carlsen.  (The only other name he mentioned was Karjakin.)

Kortchnoi has had both a remarkable life and chess career and this DVD manages to capture some of the magic in both, even if it does not try to be comprehensive with either.  I would say that as a training resource it is also quite useful, as is the case with any set of well-annotated games by a top player who was one of the participants.

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