Eugene Perelshteyn is a chess god

by admin on June 16, 2008

If any of you who read this blog are not members of yet, I would like to give you two reasons why you need to join up immediately. Those reasons are:

  1. Jesse Kraai
  2. Eugene Perelshteyn

You don’t need any more reasons than that!

I’ve known for a very long time that Jesse’s lectures were something special, and I have mentioned him many times in this blog. He is so good that one subscriber told me his mother (who does not even play chess) likes listening to Jesse’s lectures! He is such a voice of calm reason that he makes it seem as if you, too, could play like him, if only you could only just be a little bit calmer and a little bit more rational.

Eugene is different from Jesse, and it took me a while to appreciate him at first. First, he has a funny Russian accent — a surprisingly strong accent for someone who has spent most of his life in the U.S. — which takes a little getting used to. But actually, it’s actually quite wonderful. My wife says he sounds like Father Guido Sarducci, the fictional character played on Saturday Night Live by the comedian Dan Novello. (Even though Father Guido is supposed to be Italian, and Eugene is supposed to be Russian.)

Also, my first impression of Eugene was that he had a little bit of the star-professor syndrome. Let’s face it, grandmasters are not always the best people to learn chess from. Think of Alexander Alekhine, or Garry Kasparov. Their annotations sometimes do not seem as if they were written to educate you — instead, they seem designed to impress you with the writer’s brilliance. Instead of making chess seem easy, as Jesse does, they make it seem overwhelmingly difficult.

But three of Eugene’s lectures have completely made me into a convert. The first was “Losing to Boy Genius,” where he shows a game he lost to Roy Robson. To me, this was a major step for him — to come down off the star-professor pedestal and actually show a game he lost. It’s a great game. And the title gives you a hint of Eugene’s wry humor, his quirky way of saying things that pops up now and then and makes his lectures fun to listen to. You never know quite what is going to come out of his mouth next.

The second knockout lecture was “Taming the Hippo,” or as Eugene says it, “Taming the Kheep-pah.” Once again, his struggles with pronunciation provide some comic relief, but the game itself is pure magic. Out of a few quiet moves, a blistering attack emerges. At one point Eugene has a chance to win a pawn and go into a won endgame. He comments that of course if you want to play boring chess, you can do this, but naturally he wanted to play for the attack. The thing that was so impressive was that it took several moves for the win to become clear. In fact, at one point I thought his opponent might be coming out of it with an advantage. If I were playing this game, I would have been tearing my hair out and saying, “Why didn’t I take the pawn when I had the chance?” But Eugene plays with calm conviction in the soundness of his attack, and wins beautifully. To me, the game vividly illustrated the difference between grandmasters and amateurs, or even ordinary masters.

Today, I listened to Eugene’s most recent lecture, “Weaving Mating Nets in the Endgame,” in which he goes over a game from the recent U.S. Championship where he defeated GM Alex Yermolinsky (a former U.S. champion). Eugene gets a typical good position in the Queen’s Gambit Declined, a position where White can toy with Black like a cat playing with a mouse. Yermo eventually gets impatient with this treatment, and he plays a move that opens up his kingside a little bit. Just a tiny bit … Actually, to you and me, it looks as if Black is finally getting some activity, and with queens off the board, what could be wrong with loosening his kingside a bit? But out of thin air, Eugene concocts a mating net with  just two rooks, a bishop, and one little pawn that is like a stake in Yermo’s heart.

This game is sheer artistry. It is an absolute blueprint for beating a super-GM like Yermolinsky. The secret is: You beat him by superior artistry. There are no short cuts, no simple ten-step programs. You beat him with a grand scheme that leaves even him shaking his head in disbelief. Perelshteyn said that after the game, Yermo just couldn’t believe that he had no way out of the mating net, because it was woven so slowly, with so little material, and Black’s pieces (two rooks and a knight) were so curiously helpless. They could do all sorts of things, but they just couldn’t defend the king! This game was one chess virtuoso outplaying another chess virtuoso.

So I forgive Eugene for the fact that his explanations are sometimes just a little opaque, and he doesn’t make it completely clear where his ideas come from. Apparently they come from the gods. I now think he is a necessary counterpoint to Jesse. Jesse makes grandmaster chess seem accessible. Eugene reminds us that there is a level of artistry that goes far beyond what you and I produce in our stumbling, imperfect way. Jesse shows us the path, Eugene shows us the goal.

Everything else on ChessLecture is secondary, the Paschalls and the Vigoritos and some guy named Mackenzie. There are two reasons to subscribe to ChessLecture: Kraai and Perelshteyn. End of advertisement!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carina June 16, 2008 at 10:56 pm

I agree with everything but the last statement, to my mind (guess who I learned that expression from) you’re all priceless reasons to join 😀


elizabeth vicary June 22, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Thanks for mentioning Perelshteyn’s Mating Nets lecture. I watched it after reading your post and really enjoyed myself.

Overall, Kraai and Perelshteyn are also two of my favorite lecturers, but Vigorito has some gems too. His game against Corey Acor (a Petrov) comes to mind, and his opening lectures are phenomenal.


Logan MacGregor October 6, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Another good thing about is Jesse’s training program. I have followed this program and have gone from 1000 to 1400, after years of struggling and making no progress. Also, my understanding and enjoyment of chess has increased as a direct result of these lectures. I highly recommend

P.S.: Dana’s “Learn from your fellow amateurs” series features wonderful games from mortals.


thadeusfrei November 14, 2008 at 10:48 pm

I really liked jesses blockade series.


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