One of the useful things about playing the French is that it can be fairly easily turned into a low maintenance universal repertoire. A few years ago I made a DVD for Chessbase on this topic in which Black would combine the French with Bogo-Indian type lines, meeting 1.d4 with 1…e6 and then on 2.c4 playing 2…Bb4+. The emphasis here was on solidity rather than anything else and the French lines I gave featured the Romanishin System with 3…Be7 against 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 or 3.Nd2 together with super solid lines of the Bogo. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s a good way to get a universal 1…e6 repertoire up and running.
For more adventurous souls I recently made this one in which the Owens Defence is used as a supplement to the French. I don’t recommend the Owens against 1.e4 because of 1…b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nd2, but it can be playable after 1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6. Here’s a sample that’s on Youtube:
Finally there’s a more traditional option for Black is to combine the French and the Dutch, and this you can do with playing 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5, which has the advantage of avoiding gambit lines like the Staunton (1.d4 f5 2.e4!?) plus other anti-Dutch ideas. If you’d like to go this route I show the ideas on this video at my Tiger Chess site:
Remember that players at club level really just need plans, ideas and concepts whilst they get on board an opening, in my opinion it’s plain madness for them to buy a huge tome full of variations played and analyzed by top GMs. I do explain this and more on my Tiger Chess site with some video lessons that are available to both full and video members.
Here’s a video I made on pgn (portable game notation) files, explaining what they are and how to use them. Hope you find this useful!
One of the most popular features at my Tiger Chess site is the recently introduced Analysis Training feature. It is very different to tactical chess problems of the ‘White to play and win’ genre in that the positions may be tactical or strategic in nature and call for a quite different type of thinking to the usual calculation of forcing moves.
Here’s my Youtube video about it:
This new film by the Israeli film-maker Yossi Aviram looks interesting. Meanwhile it’s interesting to reflect that all three sisters are now retired from tournament play.
Further to my post yesterday on the Tiger Chess Strategy Course, here’s how the Tiger Chess Endgame Course works. Once again it is included with the £4.95 Full Membership fee and provides an easy and very thorough way to learn the endgame:
I’ve been introducing a lot of new features at my Tiger Chess site with the aim of making it a one stop improvement venue for those who’ve had enough of gimmicks. Amongst these is a 160 week strategy course which aims to provide an in depth education in chess strategy.
Each lesson addresses a particular subject which is then illustrated by two videos of relevant and interesting games. At the end of the lesson members are asked to consider when and how this theme featured in their own games, a process which helps digestion of the material.
Here’s a Youtube video which explains more, this and many other features are included in the modest £4.95 monthly membership fee.
Chess fans, myself included, are no doubt looking forward to the release of, Pawn Sacrifice, new Bobby Fischer movie. It looks pretty good from the trailer:
A controversial improvement method is to play blindfold chess. Blindfold exhibitions were banned in the Soviet Union in 1930 because they were thought to be a health hazard, though I have yet to see any evidence that this is true. And I’ve found that it has helped my own game to practice visualizing ahead in my mind rather than moving the pieces on the board.
Here’s a recent blindfold exhibition by Magnus Carlsen in which he takes on three opponents simultaneously. A bit of a walk in the park for him, but entertaining nonetheless:
Something that chess improvers rarely consider is the quality of their chess environment. Who are they playing against and mixing with? And are these influences good or bad?
This can be a huge factor in an overall improvement plan, it’s important to be part of the best peer group you can find. Without this a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings can creep in. Are the Latvian Gambit and Morra great for improving because they develop tactical skill? Are you sure about that?
For some there’s no such problem of course. A nationally recognised talent will, in many countries, be well looked after and groomed for success. They’ll get the best trainers, be flown to the best tournaments and receive a good helping of support. At least they will in India!
With this in mind here’s a name to watch out for, young Nihal Sarin. He’s been blazing a trail at U10 level and in a country that loves and respects chess talent he’s an odds on favourite to do very well.
One question that occurred to me during recent controversies about the ‘female brain’ was whether chess required intelligence in the first place. There is a widespread assumption that it does and there are many players who are very smart. Yet on the other hand I’ve met many excellent players who are not particularly clever at all.
Searching around for studies I came across this one by Merim Bilalic and Peter McLeod. Amongst their surprising findings they discovered a negative correlation between intelligence and rating in their ‘elite group’. On the other hand there was a strongly positive correlation between rating and practice.
This is what I figured, the essence of skill is dedication and practice. This in turn will be most significantly affected by the drop out rate, and it does seem that chess is not always a girl-friendly environment.
Here anyway is a documentary from National Geographic which features Susan Polgar. Interesting: