Friday, March 17, 2017

A Madness to the Methods

  iChess.net has been promoting a new series of instructional Chess DVD’s under the ‘Master Method’ brand. Even though the company (formerly known as Online Chess Lessons) treated me very poorly when I tried to use my web sites as their affiliate I still follow their YouTube Channels (here and here) and am on their mailing list. The company does a very good job as a clearing house of all the various chess DVDs on the market which I have occasionally purchased and reviewed. Some products are gems like the Anatoly Karpov series or the Ginger GM products by Simon Williams. Most of the in-house products I’ve seen show a few hours of watching a grandmaster or similarly strong player looking away from a webcam explaining some games grouped together by a loose theme using the computer screen from the Chessbase application.

  No matter the quality of any of the individual wares or their lack of payment to me as an affiliate I do appreciate that every week ichess.net offers a product sample and instructional webinar on their YouTube channel and the occasional samples that can be downloaded. In the past couple of months ichess.net has given out free samples of a series branded as the ‘Master Method’ along with half price offers if I wanted to purchase the entire set.

  On December 24th Carlos from ichess.net sent me an offer for a free sample from the Naroditsky Method along with a 50% discount on the $149 entire course. Carlos mentioned that by using the Naroditsky Method "I’ve already gained 150 points on my tactics rating and finally got my opening repertoire sorted!” Daniel Naroditsky was a chess child prodigy, world youth champion, and until someone younger publishes a chess book the youngest published chess author ever. I received an hour long lesson on ‘Becoming a Tactical Beast’ which gives Naroditsky’s ideas on how to get better at tactics. In addition to the free lesson, ichess.net put another lesson from the course on their YouTube channel featuring Naroditsky’s thoughts on opening play.

  I found the lessons interesting and reasonably easy to follow. Naroditsky didn’t sugar coat the hard work involved in chess improvement but his advice was practical. I was thinking about purchasing the course when on January 11th I received an email from Carlos at ichess.net offering a free sample of the ‘Lê Quang Method’ where super grandmaster Lê Quang Liêm explained the secrets of the Isolated Pawn structure. Carlos explained “grandmasters base every decision, every move on the pawn structure. Which is why learning how to play in the most common structures is the quickest way to developing your chess beyond 2000 Elo” as well as a 50% discount on the $49 course. I reviewed the lesson which was also available on the ichess.net YouTube channel.

  I found the Lê Quang method hard to follow despite or possibly due to his being one of the top 30 chess players in the world. The plans for playing with and against the isolated pawn certainly made sense but at some point the positions would break down into a tangle of tactics that probably seemed simple to the super grandmaster but were impossible for me to follow. I went back to considering the Narositsky method when on January 24th I received an email from Carlos at ichess.net offering me a free sample of the ‘Paco Vallejo Method’. Carlos explained that in the free lesson I would "discover exactly how to avoid blunders in your games" along with a 50% discount on the complete $99 course.

  I downloaded the two free lessons on the Francisco Vallejo Pons method and viewed the method of the 2700+ rated super GM. In one lesson Vallejo shows a game he lost from a great position because he didn’t understand his opponent’s ideas. In the other free lesson Vallejo makes a mistake and then makes another mistake which costs him the game, offering the sage advice to not follow one mistake with another mistake. This all made sense to me. Since I am not playing 2700+ super GM’s I should be able to understand their ideas and while I can certainly see the wisdom of not making mistake after mistake I would rather have had a lesson in not making the first mistake which would remove the possibility of following a mistake with another mistake. Another free lesson was made available on the ichess.net YouTube channel where Vallejo gets a great position and ran into time trouble where he only made one mistake but it was enough to cost him the game. Vallejo then offered the solid advice not to get into time trouble.

  I was pondering Vallejo’s method and was considering buying it when on February 20th I received an email from Carlos at ichess.net offering me a free sample of the ‘Alex Lenderman Method’ along with a 50% discount on the entire $119 course where I would learn “this course will give you a brand new skillset for handling dynamic positions of any type.” The sample I received was the chapter called ‘Opening Gambits Explained” where as Carlos from ichess.net wrote “he reveals the nuts and bolts of explosive gambit play in the opening”. I downloaded the free chapter in which the young American grandmaster mostly went over games played between computers to demonstrate how one computer would sacrifice a pawn for the initiative and win the game in computer-like fashion.

  I was pondering how the ‘Lenderman method’ seemed to require me to be able to think and calculate like a computer when on March 7th I received an email from Carlos at ichess.net offering me a free chapter from the “Sam Shankland Method” along with a 50% discount on the $119 course. Shankland is one of the top 100 players in the world and Carlos’ email said “The Shankland Method teaches you not only techniques, but the mindset required to become a chess champion.” and that I would “learn counter-intuitive skills and ideas that only masters understand”.

  I downloaded the course and it was pretty impressive. Shankland’s main idea seems to be that when you see a move that makes sense in a positional way but doesn’t work tactically to ask yourself “what happens if I make the move anyway?” and try to find hidden resources in the position that make the move work tactically. The idea makes a lot of sense and Shankland gives a number of examples (one of which is on the ichess.net youtube channel here.

  The Shankland method seems to work but only if you can calculate tactical sequences well enough to make the counter-intuitive moves work. Judging from the examples I was not quite ready for this level of tactical acumen. I was a little depressed on not being ready for the Shankland Method but luckily on March 11th I received an email from Carlos at ichess.net offering me 50% off the Naroditsky method…

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