Video Review: Roman's Lab, Volume 1

Video Review: Roman's Lab, Volume 1

| 9 | For Beginners

Freaky fast forward, Batman!  Danger, Will Robinson!  And as Chessmaster is wont to say while analyzing my chess games, “Yikes!”

By the time I had finished watching the first volume of Roman’s Lab I was all geared up to rip this video lesson a new one.  Luckily, I decided to let it lie for a bit, began watching the second volume in the series, and a cooler head prevailed. 

So, first things first.  Roman’s Lab is a 36 volume set of chess tutorials on DVD starring Grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili.  The first volume is entitled "Learning Openings The Easy Way: Traps And Novelties."  Well, that much is certainly accurate, except maybe for the “easy” part.  The cover of the copy that I have says it’s for all playing levels, and that’s where it gets into hot water.

Before I continue, I want to point out that I’m a chess beginner, and my articles are written for beginners.  Keep that in mind as we go along.

Right.  So where was I before I so rudely interrupted myself?  Oh yes, what’s in this DVD?  Here’s the list of lessons:

  • Lesson #1 - Learning Openings the Easy Way - Guide to worry-free openings, based on understanding rather than a memory contest.
  • Lesson #2 - Avoiding & Creating Opening Traps - The secrets to avoiding and creating opening traps without damaging your position.
  • Lesson #3 - Dangers & Advantages of Choosing Sharp Openings - Tactics you can't live without in sharp modern openings.
  • Lesson #4 - Punishment for Delaying Development in the Opening - Punishment meted out for typical materialist at the expense of development.
  • Lesson #5 - Creating Opening Novelties - Important updates on a number of novelties introduced in previous Roman Forum tapes.

This is all presented no-fuss-no-muss-style, just Roman behind a chess board on half of the screen and a view of a computer chess display Roman is controlling on the other half of the screen.  Pretty straight forward production.  Unfortunately, and somewhat annoyingly, Roman’s voice only comes out of one speaker and, since I was using headphones while I watched the DVD, that fact was pretty distracting.

There’s another rather small point I’d like to get out of the way.  As far as I can tell, the number of times Roman’s name is pronounced on this DVD is precisely zero.  I’m just your average North American cracker and I don’t come across names like “Dzindzichashvili” very often. It would be nice to know how to pronounce it.  As I say, it’s a small thing, but its absence is a bit grating.  Sort of like reading about “fianchetto” and “Pirc Defense” and never quite being sure how to pronounce them properly.

Roman makes no bones about how slack the viewer is for not being properly prepared for tournaments.  In particular, he gives advice about playing openings for those of us who have not developed our opening repertoire, and explains clearly that if you need this help you’re a lazy bugger.  Thanks for that one, Roman.

The claim is that this video is all about openings, and it surely is.  However, Roman motors through all this stuff fast.  And I don’t mean kind of quickly.  I mean blurry-vision-inducing kind of velocity.  It’s fairly clear, at least to me, that if you haven’t done quite a bit of work studying openings, you won’t be able to follow this DVD easily, if at all.  If that’s the case, you best get your grubby little hands well attached to the pause button on your DVD player remote, because otherwise the information will go past you with a great wooshing noise.

Let me explain it by way of an analogy.  Back when I was in university I often attended lectures given by visiting profs.  I learned  interesting and useful things from most of those lectures, but every once in a while I would be treated to a lecture given by someone whose field of interest was intensely niche and far over my head.  Despite thinking during the talk that I sort of understood what was going on, the only thing I might remember from it afterwards was the name of the prof and maybe what the fanciest powerpoint slide was about.  That’s pretty much my experience with Roman’s Lab: Volume 1.

The entire DVD races past you at light speed and this is where my real complaint is.  Although this video claims to be accessible by all levels of chess-fu, it quite clearly wasn’t in my case, and I don’t imagine most other beginners will get much out of it either.

Is there any information on this DVD for beginners?  Well, actually, there were a few things I picked up, but only a handful, and I don’t think that spending four hours of my time to ferret out a handful of nuggets is a useful expenditure of my time.

I’ll reiterate an early point: I am a beginner and I write for beginners.  It would be great if some of the more advanced players on would chime in with their remarks because I am in no way qualified to appraise this video for anyone other than beginners.

I mentioned earlier that I also watched the second volume in this series, "Sacrifices, Tactics & Traps that End Games in the Opening."  I won’t bore you with the details, but the level of skill needed to find this DVD useful is about the same as the first volume.  It seemed that the pace of the second volume was a bit slower than the first volume, but I may have just become acclimated to the velocity by the time I hit the second DVD.

Aaaaaanyway ...  I borrowed these DVDs from my local library (are you seeing a pattern here?) so I didn’t waste any money, but quite frankly my time would have been better spent grinding away at the Tactics Trainer.

I'm Stick, your humble reporter, and I'll see y'all out there on the gridiron!

If you found this article interesting, you might want to check out some of my other articles on  And, if after all that, you still have some time on your hands, stop by my blog and microblog.

Oh, yes, just one more thing.  If you'd like to have some say about future articles, please leave your feedback in response to my forum post.

More from menofsticks
Book Review: Chess Tactics For Champions

Book Review: Chess Tactics For Champions

Book Review: Back To Basics: Tactics

Book Review: Back To Basics: Tactics