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Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor DVD
5 Star Review from Virtual Gamers Online.

Reviewed by Dave "Prophet" Williams, Managing Editor of VGOgamer.com

Filmed in 1987, (but newly arrived to DVD) sivideo.com's Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor makes for an invaluable and unique addition to your chess library. Hosted by International Grandmaster, and former US Champion, Yasser "Yaz" Seirawan, Pro Chess is divided into four main chapters covering 44 vital areas deemed crucial to winning chess.

While it won't (nor is it intended to) replace your dog-eared copy of My System, Pawn Power, or that venerable classic, MCO (Modern Chess Openings), Pro Chess: The Video Mentor will definately add muscle to your game. Seirwan's affable nature and above average communication skills places the sometimes complex and often intangible aspects of advanced chess within easy reach of the average player.

Seirawan lays down a solid foundation that can quite literally shave years off the standard learning curve for novice players. The time honored principles of control of the chessboard center, knights before bishops, castle early, and general descriptions of game conditions best suited to individual piece performance are explained in detail. Not only does Seirawan tell you what you should look for and what you should do in a given situation but he also explains "why" you should do it.

In short, he is able to demystify many of the idiosyncratic characteristics of winning chess and translate them into plain English. The end result is that players of all abilities will take away practical knowledge from viewing the DVD that they can then put to immediate use.

DVD technology is ideally suited to an instructional presentation of this type. The 44 concepts illustrated are accessed with a simple press of a button. It's heads and tails above video technology. I can't imagine winding and rewinding a VHS tape in order to find a particular lesson or spot on the tape; not to mention the wear and tear that would occur as a result.

I describe myself as an intermediate player (1645 rating) and I'm convinced that players with ratings ranging from 1400-1900 stand to witness the most dramatic improvement to their game. The reason is that players at this strength come into the presentation with a working knowledge of chess's fundamental rules and a pretty firm grasp of the basic tactical and strategic concepts needed to win.

However, Seirawan is able to refine your game by addressing crucial issues needed to take you to the next level. Many of us have an opening or two memorized with perhaps a couple of the main variations accounted for. Yet, how many of us feel greater confidence when playing White but a certain degree of trepidation when saddled with the Black pieces? What I particularly enjoyed about the DVD presenation is that Seirawan addresses these questions and speaks directly to the place where most of us live. For example, he answers the question: "What should you play in order to turn the tables on the guy who always seems to beat you?" He also describes how to develop an effective game winning plan. Too often I've been guilty of following basic and fundamentally sound principles yet oblivious as to the reasons why such an approach works. Usually, as the game unfolds I merely begin to take advantage of an opponent's weak moves yet all the while failing to truly understand all that is going on to cause the win.

Seirawan plays the role of spoiler magician. In a very real sense he becomes the expert that reveals the secret behind a seemingly miraculous trick or magical illusion. It is at once both sublime and revealing of his own mastery of the game and illustrative of his innate ability to teach. In that sense, Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor stands apart from any other instructional medium available to the would-be master.

Armed with numerous real-life examples, Seirawan calls upon the lessons learned from the great masters of the past such as Steinitz, Nimzovich, and Fischer as well as many of his own games against the best the world has to offer. He then uses these examples to illustrate specific points relevant to your own brand of chess regardless of playing level.

Perhaps of greatest personal help is the extensive section on pawn formations. As with most players of my strength I have a rudimentary knowledge of pawn formations. For example, like many of you, I have memorized the mantra "passed pawns win games." I also know that isolated, doubled, and backward pawns are weak. Nonetheless, Seirawan is able to instruct me on how to exploit these positions when they arise and how to minimize their negative impact should I happen to be in possession of them.

If there are any negatives to be levelled at the DVD it comes from its transfer from the original video medium to DVD. There are a few occassions where Seirawan is cut off mid sentence prior to the start of the next segment. It is important to note that none of the instructional content is missing. However, it's still somewhat disconcerting to hear Seirawan say something like, "Okay, let's move onto our next seg... Hi and welcome to our next segment, where we'll discuss closed games."

I actually called the video's production office to ask why the editing was so poor in these places. The answer I got surprised me but certainly made sense. Apparantly, back in 1987 the original video series contained approximately 15 minutes in commercial spots imbedded within the presentation. These scenes were deleted for the DVD release but their removal did provide some editing challenges. Moreover, the series was transferred direct from 1" tape to digital format and this also presented problems with regards to the editing process.

Apart from these few but somewhat awkward moments, the DVD presents a smooth readily comprehended and expansive treatment of chess that truly succeeds in its goal of making us all better players. While Seirawan never appears to be completely at home in front of the camera, he nevertheless manages to articulate the various points of discussion in a friendly and engaging manner. I found the DVD to be a highly motivational experience and I've since loaded up Chessmaster 7000 once more to put my new found knowledge to the test. Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor wins on every level and we at VGO can't recommend it highly enough. It is simply the very best instructional chess product available on today's market and its arrival to DVD...long overdue.

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Stan Nicotera - e-mail: stann@sivideo.com
Special Interest Video Sales Group, PO Box 63754, Philadelphia, PA 19147
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Pro Chess: The Video Chess Mentor
© Copyright 1987/2008 IVCC / sivideo.com / Stan Nicotera. All rights reserved.

© Copyright 1998/2008 Stan Nicotera. All rights reserved.
Copyright notice pertains to all documents, files, pages, processes and text contained herein.