Kids are have a better chance to improve at chess compared to to adult players. There are many reasons behind this but the most natural reason is that kids have a lot of time at their disposal compared to most adults, who have a limited amount of time because of their responsibilities. So what you’re doing during your limited time is vital.
So what should you focus on, the opening, middle game, endgame, tactics, positional play or strategy? Perhaps the best is to study masters’ games which serves all purposes. Here the key question is which games should be studied, and the best way to decide this is to find a coach who can analyse your games and define your playing style. Based on that you can choose a player and study his games. For example when I started taking lessons from Nigel I told him that I liked Garry Kasparov, but he advised me that my role model should be someone else as my strengths and weaknesses made Kasparov unsuitable. Afterwards I started to study Capablanca’s and Geller’s games, and the results have been quite positive for me. Another thing you should do is to select games which have been annotated by the player himself.
Another major benefit of game study is that it gives you a feel for position, a kind of intuition about what should be played. For example in this game it is easy to calculate out Qe2 and Nb5but the problem is in finding these moves in the first place:
So if you study these sorts of games you will find similar kinds of moves in such positions. Moreover it will become your second nature if you do it seriously.
When you read the title of this post you might think that I am going to talk about candidate moves, the tree of analysis or concrete variation. But actually that’s not true.
One day Nigel told me that human thinking appears disorganized, everyone has their own thinking style and it’s difficult to think in an organised way as if we are a machine! I must say that I agree. I believe that calculation skill is very closely related with your habits and that is not only related to chess but also to life. Some people tend to take risks whilst missing simple moves in their calculations and others who, like me, believe in the simple life, often miss complex or tactical moves during whilst calculating.
Another problem I’ve seen is that if you habitually move quickly it automatically means you will be calculating badly. I had previously tried a lot of things to overcome this habit but without success. But in my last tournament it seems that I finally did it.
The only thing that helped me was strong determination. Before the tournament what I did was quite interesting and might help you. I wrote down a few questions which, according to the experts, should be asked before making a move and added some my own based on my swot analysis (here you need a mentor). I also tried playing one game a day on the internet, not to directly work on my chess but just to make a habit of playing slowly and answering the questions before making a move.
What was the outcome? Well I can say that I didn’t achieve everything I was aiming for. Instead there was just a very slight improvement in my calculations, but even this was enough to pocket me 47 rating points! Accordingly I will keep doing the same exercise in order to achieve further improvement. And the moral of the story is the if you want over come your weaknesses you should create good habits, and these won’t come over night but rather by strong determination and hard work.
Recently, I played in the National B tournament in India and got a 47 point rise in my rating. I experienced a few things that I would like to share with you. Hopefully it will you help you in improving your chess.
Keep your opponent under pressure:
We all know that chess is a game of mistakes, but nobody will make them for free. You have to provoke them. The more you put pressure on your opponent, the more chance there is that he will make mistakes. Here are the examples:
This is my game against a 1951 rated player (225 points higher rated than me) and we reached this position after move 37:
In this game I had caught a player who is 281 points higher rated than me.
So I came to the conclusion that if you generate small threats, your opponent will definitely come under pressure and be more likely to make mistakes.
Try to read your opponent’s mind: This is a very useful technique. In the following game I saw that my opponent wanted to win the game and he was very interested in not exchanging the queens. Using this fact I set a nasty trap and he falls into it. Chess is a war between two minds and board is only reflection of our thoughts. We reached the following position after move 27.
Like the Greek Gift and Windmill, the Double Bishop Sacrifice (Known as Lasker’s Double Bishop Sacrifice) is a typical attacking pattern against a castled king. But here too there are some guidelines which should give you an idea about whether or not it will work:
- The opponent’s king must not be able to run away from via the f to e file and further, I mean to say that flight squares are either be blocked by his own pieces or restricted by your pieces.
- The basic idea behind giving up two bishops is to checkmate the opponent king along with g and h files, so Rook lifts must be available for you.
- Your Queen must be able to reach to h4/h5 or at least have access to the h- file.
- The defender should not be able to exchange queens.
Here is the famous Lasker game in which this sacrifice was implemented:
A similar pattern was creatively used by Tony Miles creatively in the following game:
The Reverend John Owen was not as creative as Miles.
You might have heard from your coach that rooks and bishops coordinate very well with each other or that queen and knight perform well together. What is the best attacking formation that you can produce by coordinating your different pieces? Well you might have guessed right that I am going to talk about a typical attacking pattern called the windmill, which is also also known as the see-saw.
The windmill is a kind of series of discovered checks and checks where one piece gives check and another piece is free to eat anything. Here is an example in which Alekhine sacrifices his queen to set up a windmill attack which ends with checkmate.
Even when the windmill does not end with checkmate you often get a huge material with it. Here is the most famous example:
Sometimes you can use this technique to save the game even. Short did this against Kasparov in the following game.
The main thing you need to watch when setting up a windmill attack is not to leaving the piece that gives check in danger. And there should be no possibility to block the discovered check without it being very costly. Here are two hypothetical examples.
For more exercises you can refer to Boost Your Chess by Artur Yusupov.
Chess is all about pattern recognition and today I am going to talk about a typical attacking method on the castled king with the bishop sacrifice on h7 or h2. Yes, that’s the Greek gift sacrifice. In the following discussion what I will try to explain is when there are more chances that you will succeed with the attack and when the Greek gift fails.
Ideal Conditions for the Greek Gift
- Absence of the natural defender (knight)
- Stable center
- Availability of g5/g4 square for your knight or Possibility of opening up the h file.
- Pawn on e5/e4
If the majority of these conditions have been fulfilled then you must calculate deeply to check if it works. Here are some illustrative games:
Normally when the defending side is able to defend the h7 square then the Greek Gift. Here is a game which illustrates this:
These are general points that can help assess whether the sacrifice might work, but of course concrete calculations are needed before taking the plunge.
For the last few days I have been reading about classical war strategies after reading the sections ‘Practical Chess Strategy’ and ‘The Art of War’ from Rashid Ziatdinov’s book, GM Ram. I have summarised a few points for myself which could be useful in improving my chess game and thought I’d share them with you.
1. In order to win, you must have a more powerful army compared to your enemy: This is the most basic principle for winning a war. In chess too, if you’re attacking with few pieces where your opponent has more pieces to defend it is quite obvious that you can’t win. Unfortunately in chess you can’t have more pieces than your opponent in the beginning of the game, so you must create some sort of virtual majority of the forces on the side where you are planning to attack.
2.Resources (yours and your opponent’s) must be evaluated before launching an attack: You can’t have success with a Greek gift sacrifice when your opponent has obvious or hidden resources for defending the h7 square.
3.Whoever comes first in battle field has better chances to win the battle: This is 100% true as if you’re first you will get more time to establish your resources at key positions. In chess we can relate this to the rapid development of our forces.
4.If you prevent your enemy from getting help, you have better chances to win. The simplest way to understand this is in rook endings, if you successfully cut off the opponent’s king you will have better chances to win if you have a material superiority and defend successfully (for example in the Philidor position) with a worse position.
When you try to see chess as war, rather than merely a game, you will see the board and pieces in a new light.
In my last article I discussed a few points which we often ignore while working hard at chess improvement. But those were chess things, so today I would like to highlight some points which are not chess but yet very important. They can also have a huge effect.
The first things that come to mind are to stay self motivated and balanced. Not every day is a good day and when you got negative results or less than you expected, you can become frustrated. This in turn can badly effect your planning. It happens to me a lot when I lose a winning game or especially an equal end-game. I become frustrated and play lots of blitz, which tends not to help. Sometimes we can blame some outside source such as chess books. In these situations it is very important to be balanced and get motivated. How one could do that? You might read some motivational books, articles or movies. For example Knight of the South Bronx is my all time favorite.
Another thing is not to expect too much from yourself. I just read Anand’s interview after winning the candidates tournament in which he clearly mentioned he was not expecting much, yet his results speak for themselves. Whenever you expect a lot from yourself you put yourself under pressure, and this in turn creates all kinds of emotional instability that stops you from playing naturally or sensibly.
One more thing I would like to add is to ‘keep the momentum’. If I talk about myself, after reading some stuff which inspires me I usually work very hard, positively and energetically. But most of the time I don’t keep the momentum because of laziness (hard to admit, but true!).
These are simple things, yet if you maintain them they can have a powerful effect on your chess.
Every chess player wants to improve at chess and for that we already have books suggested by coaches, playing games, doing tactical exercises, endgames etc etc. Yet I have observed a few things among the people who are working hard but failed to improve as much as they might have wanted to or deserved. What are the reasons? I will try to answer.
Here is a position:
Looking at the position you might be wondering what is new in it? It is the Lucena position. It can be won by building a bridge and most of the players know this very well. But how many of you really know that how to reach this position? Are there any rules which can be used? What are the exceptions? My point is that rather than reading too much it’s better to learn few things but try to master them. Quality is always better than quantity.
Now following this example let’s say you have learned everything that has been discussed above for this position. Yet in practical games you don’t reach it for a long time so there are more chances that you forget the ideas/rules. So repetition is a must, but it is often ignored. If I talk about myself, I have read many books but haven’t repeated the process, and I can see that this accumulated knowledge is wiped out with time, not completely but partially.
Accordingly we should look at developing a strong bedrock of knowledge rather than trying to learn lots of new things all the time. And this is achievable if you focus on knowing a few things perfectly and then revise them periodically so that they’re never forgotten.
In Hinduism we have an expression that we should try to overcome certain human weaknesses. Here my intention is not to start a spiritual debate but rather show you how this also applies to chess when you are serious about improving.
Attachment: It is something like you’re playing what you like rather than what position requires. For example a person who loves attack on king will sometimes try to launch an attack when it is inappropriate. If I talk about myself, I prefer endgames, and because of this attachment I have missed many opportunities to launch a winning attack on the enemy king.
Anger: This is related to emotional instability and we all know that a person with unstable emotions can react badly. So I think there is no need to discuss this further.
Fear: This works on all levels. For example if you are going to play match against a stronger player there are more chances that you start playing with some fear rather than playing naturally. How many of us have had this feeling? Probably everyone. But the best way to proceed is to treat your opponent as an opponent rather than IM, GM or super GM. I mean to say that it’s best not to overestimate your opponent.
Greed: There are many examples where even GMs get greedy, and amateurs do this quite often.
Pride: Here it is closely connected with arrogance. Again, rather than giving the example of someone else suffering from this, I will start with myself. I lost so many games against weaker opponents because I took them casually. So don’t underestimate your opponent.
I’m going to ignore ‘lust’ as I can’t correlate it with chess. But what are the solutions? Pranayam, meditation and yoga all fall under the solution list but if you want to dig deeper you may find my other article interesting as we often ignore basics.