If you’re an active club player then it’s all too easy to start feeling ‘chess withdrawal symptoms’ during the festive season. A couple of week’s without a ‘proper’ game of chess can feel like an eternity when you are immersed in local leagues and the congress circuit. Of course for others, the Christmas period is a welcome break and a chance to re-charge the batteries and prepare for the second half of the season.
If, like me, you are a member of the first group, then I thought I would share with you (as I did last year) some of the online content that I revisited or discovered for the first time during the recent Christmas vacation to try and alleviate the pangs until the new chess year. During the course of 2016 I stumbled across a range of You Tube channels, videos and other sources of chess entertainment and instruction and I’d like to introduce you to a few of those that might enjoy.
For those of you who, like me, still pine for the Full English Breakfast podcast you’ll be pleased to hear that there is a very different, but very interesting new kid on the block. Pittsburgh resident, Ben Johnson got fed up waiting for someone to develop quality chess content that he could consume ‘on-the-move’ and which gave him some insight into the personalities in the game today. So, he has bravely taken matters into his own hands and started the Perpetual Chess podcast.
Ben intends to post a weekly interview with the ‘movers and shakers of the chess world’ and he has started well with interesting and entertaining interviews with International Master Greg Shahade (who is never backward in coming forward), Chess24 presenter (and recently outed Magnus Carlsen second) Grand Master Jan Gustafsson and 2016 US Women’s Champion, International Master Nazi Paikidze.
For his first podcast of the new year Ben posted a great interview with English Grand Master Simon Williams (A.K.A. the Ginger GM) which I found particular interesting because it illuminated Simon’s serious side as well as plenty of the light-hearted moments you’d expect. Normally we only really get to see the entertaining GingerGM alter-ego in his videos and live commentaries so this was something a little bit different.
I’ve listened to several of the others already (this week’s podcast was published yesterday and is with GM Jon Ludvig Hammer – another Carlsen second) and found them all to be engaging and fresh. This podcast is definitely something that’s worth down loading or streaming for any car or train journey you might be facing. We should support Ben’s efforts to provide us with something new by subscribing to it on iTunes – it’s free! One to watch (or rather, listen to) in 2017!
Earlier this year I chanced upon Lucas Anderson’s YouTube channel. It’s an absolute treasure trove of chess history. Coaches and trainers say that it’s important to know and appreciate the chess classics. Of course, Garry Kasparov has done his bit to educate us all with his ‘My Great Predecessors’, ‘Modern Chess’ and ‘Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov’ series but, brilliant though these are, there are eleven weighty tomes to consume at a not inconsiderable financial cost.
So, if you feel you don’t know your chess history as well you should but don’t have the time or the finances available to get these books then I can guarantee that this channel will serve you very well. It’s a perfect blend of well researched history and game commentary on some of the greatest players.
Below I’ve embedded a recent addition to the series on Wilhelm Steinitz, follow either of the links above to get to all the videos.
The videos are reasonably meaty (up to a couple of hours long) and come in a straight lecture format all being recorded in front of an audience at Houston’s ‘Center64’. The historical biography element of each talk is delivered by Lucas Anderson who describes himself as a librarian by day and a chess coach and chess historian by night. I find the biographical sections to be really interesting and well researched and they provide you with an interesting context on the characters. As any good academic should, Anderson shares the source material he’s used to develop the narratives too, in case you want to find out more.
The biographies are punctuated with a selection of illustrative games analysed by FM Warren Harper who manages to skip through the games at a pace which is very instructive and entertaining but not too detailed. He also encourages a bit of audience interaction so you can test yourself by trying to find the right moves in key positions.
I really can’t recommend this series highly enough!
In February last year I had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Grand Master Danny Gormally who came to give a simul in Hebden Bridge for flood relief fundraising. He was excellent company and I subsequently started following his YouTube channel on which he recorded some ‘banter blitz’ sessions and commented on some games, including the ‘best game’ from the Hebden Bridge simul.
Unfortunately the channel was discontinued at some point but now GM Gormally is back on You Tube with this new channel – The Retreat – and he seems to have a more carefully considered format in mind where he reflects on classical games that he’s played and sometimes on the games of others. His two most recent posts (My Chess Hell – parts 1 and 2 – Rise of the Juniors!) are characteristically doom-laden as he seems to have suffered from a run of poor form at the recent Hastings and Harrogate tournaments.
Danny isn’t the type of player to shrink from providing a ‘warts and all’ view of his own play, the chess world and the life of the modern chess professional.
If you like his You Tube channel (or if you prefer the written word!) you might enjoy his series of blog posts for the Ginger GM website. As well as game analysis and opinion, Danny also does some very useful posts on opening theory.
…and finally, it’s well worth me recommending his most recent book ‘A Year Inside the World of Chess’ which is not your average chess book and is well worth a look if you fancy something entertaining, interesting and different.
Now, bringing us right up to date, if you are interested in following the Tata Steel tournament currently taking place in Wijk aan Zee which bills itself as ‘the Wimbledon of chess’ – I thought that was what they used to compare Linares to! – then here are some useful links to live coverage and re-cap videos that you might enjoy.
- • Live coverage with commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan
• Chess 24 re-cap videos with GM Peter Svidler and IM Lawrence Trent
• Powerplay Chess ‘Game of the day’ summaries with GM Daniel King
These are a few of my favourites at the moment. There are still 9 rounds to go at the time of writing.
… and finally… I wanted to draw readers’ attention to the inaugural PRO Chess League which started last Wednesday on Chess.com, has it’s second round tonight, and continues weekly until the end of March I believe.
This is the first online team competition of its type and in my opinion it is a very exciting and innovative new format which has enormous potential. I won’t go through all the details about it here. If you want to find out more you can check out Chess.com’s website.
Suffice it for me to say that some of the teams are taking the competition very seriously and it should come as no surprise to find that the Icelandic outfit, the ‘Reykjavik Puffins’, are enjoying the opportunity to take on international opposition and bringing some serious intensity to their matches! Here’s a video of the closing stages of a very tense opening match with the Hamburg Swashbucklers as IM Bjorn Thorfinnsson secures an all important win to tie the match. Very amusing!
‘Yorkshire Terriers’ outfit for the 2018 competition anyone?