Author Archives: NigelD

About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in Southport in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days he teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has has new articles and video lessons posted on a regular basis. His students including his 12 year old son Sam.

Know Your Clock!

An often overlooked aspect of getting better chess results is to have a thorough understanding of how the clock operates and time limit, not to mention keeping your score sheet up to date. I’ve lost a game because I thought the clock was about to add me some time on when it didn’t! And I lost another one when I accidentally missed out a line on my score sheet at the bottom of the first column.

In the following encounter the clock goes wrong, but the players show their class in quickly noticing it!

Nigel Davies

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Magnus Carlsen in Conversation

Here’s an interesting interview with Magnus Carlsen which offers many interesting insights into computers and Carlsen’s rivalry with Vishwanathan Anand. I think their coming match will be much closer than the last one, not least because Anand has been freed of the shackles of being the Champion:

Nigel Davies

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Blindfold Chess: Good or Bad?

Last Saturday I played a couple of blindfold games at the Bradford Chess Festival. This isn’t as hard as it sounds for experienced and strong players, most players over 2200 should manage at least one. But is it good or bad for your chess?

Opinion is divided. In the former Soviet Union blindfold exhibitions were banned due to health concerns, other players swear by it as an improvement method. Those who have watched Knights of the South Bronx may recall that Mr. Mason insisted that all training was done blindfold when his team qualified for the nationals.

I tend to side with Mr. Mason’s view and used to use blindfold training exercises extensively as a teenager. But I’m not sure that it’s such a great idea to play lots of boards at the same time, this seems like showing off more than anything. So for this reason the Bradford organisers kindly let me off with just one game at a time, and it didn’t go too badly.

Here’s the second game in which I played an ‘Allies’ team of a couple of local players:

Nigel Davies

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A Reader’s Youtube Videos

My thanks to Michel Miro for sending me links to his Youtube chess videos. Nice work:

Tribute to chess through painting

Male and female World Champions (Rocky)

Alexandra Kosteniuk (Pretty Woman)

Nigel Davies

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Is Chessboxing Healthy?

Following up my post last Tuesday I thought I’d investigate whether the growing craze of chessboxing is healthy. Well probably it’s OK to look at but I wouldn’t recommend participating. Here’s a match as an example:

There’s clearly some good cardiovascular exercise involved but hitting each other in the head lots of times seems like a clear downside from a health perspective. Now I know they were using head guards but research has shown that this actually INCREASES the likelihood of concussion. There’s an article about this here.

Overall I’m astonished that chessboxing has been greeted with such enthusiasm whilst chess itself has question marks over its health aspects. Yet as boxing has been shown to cause brain damage (especially with head guards) shouldn’t chess plus a good brisk walk a day be rather better?

The answer seems clear, at least to me.

Nigel Davies

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Is Chess Unhealthy?

In the wake of two people dying on the final day of the Tromso Chess Olympiad there have been a number of articles speculating that the strain of chess is unhealthy. There have always been stories like this, for example Harry Nelson Pillsbury’s early demise was attributed to blindfold chess. In fact Pillsbury died because of syphilis and the deaths in Tromso were nothing more than a tragic coincidence. Of course Coincidence in Tromso would not make a good headline.

So is chess good or bad for your health? Well I haven’t seen real any evidence either way. Certainly chess is known to burn a lot of calories, at least if you’re concentrating during the game. I also have an untested theory that the goal of improving your chess can motivate people to become healthier and spend much of their time on a unique and powerful brain training method. These would seem to be very good and positive things.

Of course you need to take it seriously for these effects to kick in, pushing the pieces around over a few pints won’t have the same effect. And for me this is what makes chess a beautiful thing, it’s a means of developing human potential.

Nigel Davies

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Is It the Chess?

It was great to see a chess player, Sharon Daniel, win Child Genius 2014 on Sunday evening. Sharon actually mentioned that one of the reasons she liked chess so much was because the tactics and strategy helped her mind.

My impression whilst watching was that she was better under pressure than the other competitors and I thought she’d win after watching the early rounds. But can chess turn your child into a genius?

I’m fairly sure that it helps, though everything depends on degree. Doing an hour of chess a week at school may have some effect but this is in no way comparable to studying the game deeply for 10 or so hours per week and then testing your abilities in competition. I believe that the latter is where the real gold lies.

Actually I’ve had an opportunity to test this, and on my own son. Prior to teaching him chess he was languishing at the bottom of his year in every subject at school. His mental arithmetic and memory were very strong, but a dire weakness in English comprehension undermined his ability to grasp anything.

Four years on and he’s moving up strongly, getting glowing reports at school and becoming very interested in both academic and chess success. How did the ‘miracle’ occur?

Even members of staff at his school now put it down to the chess. Basically he has done something like 60,000 chess ‘problems’, from basic captures and material saving moves to forced checkmates. With English comprehension being taken out of the equation it gave him an opportunity to build his confidence by getting things right, and then competing on even terms with other kids. More recently he has been dipping his toes in adult tournaments and within a year or so should be well established there.

Knowing that we take it rather seriously I’ve had plenty of well meaning comments of the ‘as long as he’s enjoying it’ variety. Actually I can say that he would have enjoyed some XBox games much more, especially Grand Theft Auto and the like. But I’ve seen my job as helping him develop rather than providing entertainment, and it looks like it’s working.

Can other parents do the same? Well for chess it helps a lot if you know something about the game yourself and can at least supervise any training activities. But I’m fairly sure there are other fields that will work very well, for example playing a musical instrument, reading or developing mathematical skill. Many people have some sort of skill that can help their kids develop, but do they have the time and patience? In most cases it looks like they don’t.

Nigel Davies

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Rust Exploitation!

Many players see chess as a winter pursuit, packing up in June and then resuming in September. But in doing so they leave themselves very rusty for when the next season starts and also miss out on a golden opportunity. By staying in practice they could exploit the rust of other players and get off to a flying start!

How should someone keep their chess in shape during the summer? Well the obvious answer is to keep playing, but failing that there are other good ways to keep the engine ticking over.

First of all there are always tactical positions to solve and there are plenty of good venues for this kind of work. It can also be useful to read a good book on chess, something that you were always planning to read but never found time. Taking this with you on holiday can be a good idea; even if your schedule wouldn’t appear to allow it, what happens if you get some unexpectedly bad weather?

I recently posted a more extensive video lesson on this topic at my Tiger Chess site which full members can access here. Meanwhile let me wish you all the best with your summer preparations!

Nigel Davies

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A Modular Approach To Chess Opening Development

In the first course I made at my Tiger Chess site I presented a modular approach to building an opening repertoire. I have explored this idea before, for example in my Chessbase DVD, Build a 1.d4 Repertoire, which showed how you can start with a queen’s pawn opening such as the London System and then gradually replace the lines with more sophisticated ones. But now I’ve taken it way further.

Essentially you can play set-ups with White pawns on d4 and e3 (based around the Koltanowski Colle) and as Black have pawns on d5 and e6 (the French and Queen’s Gambit Declined). This sounds like a simple approach, and it’s certainly easy to get started with it. But if someone brings sufficient middle game understanding to this simple initial set-up, it’s quite enough to become a Grandmaster. If you don’t believe me then ask Magnus Carlsen.

This is the whole issue with openings, only a few players bring sufficient middle game understanding to the table to play them well. It’s this understanding that should be the main focus of a developing player, and a simple repertoire which leads to some nice pawn structures and plans is the best way to complement this development.

Here anyway is my Youtube video on the course explaining a bit more:

Nigel Davies

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