Category Archives: Nigel Davies

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


Tiger Chess Is Now Open!

After a lot of hard work I’ve finally opened my Tiger Chess site to the public, rather than just my students. It’s been my goal for quite a while to create a site which integrated my articles, video instruction, book and software recommendations and offers an online booking system to students. I’ve also wanted to create material that is both suitable for the target audience and of genuine benefit.

The first course, Building an Opening Repertoire, is now online and weighs in at over 21 hours of detailed instruction. Not having a offices to rent and staff to pay allows me to price this at just £19.95 to those with Full Membership. Those who’ve bought this course are very happy with it.

I have another four major courses planned as well which will essentially be video versions of an expanded Power Chess Program. This was originally a correspondence course I ran in the 1990s which later got published in a two book cut down form by B. T. Batsford. After much ado I got the publication rights back and am now in the process of revising and expanding the original material.

Besides offering Tiger Chess Full Membership, which is essentially aimed at adults who want to get better, the site has a membership level aimed at young players and their parents, the Annual Tiger Cubs Membership. Since becoming a chess parent myself I’ve seen widespread confusion about how to improve, what one’s goals should be, how to find a coach etc. Those with a Cubs Membership (priced at £12.95 per annum) will find resources that should help them navigate through this morass of confusing information and get more from their foray into the chess World. As with Full Members, anything that’s not up there they can ask me. And this all helps build the growing FAQ section.

Here anyway is a Youtube video explaining more about the site and how to go about joining:

Nigel Davies


Deception in Chess

A common fallacy is that chess, by virtue of having all the pieces in view, does not contain deception. But this fails to consider the fact that each and every position from a chess game is interpreted by two human minds, each with their own idiosyncrasies. So when you play against someone you often get a sense of their beliefs and preferences, which may or may not be objective.

This is where the possibility for deception arises, by preying on the beliefs of your opponent and presenting them with the opportunity to deceive themselves. Some players who have been very good at this, including the legendary World Champion, Emanuel Lasker.

In the following game he is quite happy to let Janowsky obtain the bishop pair (a preference of his) knowing that his opponent would then be optimistic about his chances. Too optimistic in fact, and Black’s position gradually deteriorated:

Nigel Davies


The Joy of Solid Openings

Players often start out their careers by playing really sharp openings but switch to more solid lines over time. There are good reasons for this, not least of which is the improved positional understanding borne of experience. Once that’s in place the need for memory diminishes.

A lot of players give the sharp Gruenfeld Defence (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5) up, almost certainly because of the level of maintenance required. And I noticed the other day that Lubomir Ftacnik seems to be among them, turning to the ultra solid Queen’s Gambit Declined.

This is actually a very good choice as understanding is far more important than a knowledge of variations. And in the following game he comprehensively outplays Gennady Timocenko.

Nigel Davies


England’s Retired GMs

After a recent burst of tournament activity it looks like I’m going to be back on the bench again, at least until my son gets used to long play tournaments and will be OK waiting around should he finish well before me. I haven’t retired and have no plans to ever do so, it’s just difficult to get to play.

This got me thinking about English GMs who have most definitely seem to have packed in playing; John Nunn, Michael Stean, Raymond Keene, Julian Hodgson, William Watson, James Howell and Darshan Kumaran. That’s quite a lot when you consider that there’s only 36 in total.

One of the first to leave was Michael Stean who quit chess at 29 years of age and went on to pursue a successful career in accountancy. Here’s his brilliant victory over Walter Browne that won the Turover prize for being the best game of the 1974 Olympiad:

Nigel Davies


Advice For Vishy

With Vishwanathan Anand having qualified for a rematch for the World Championship, not many people think he has much of a chance. I am one of few who disagree, but I think he needs to do things very differently this time round.

First of all let’s think about what happened last time. He went straight into Magnus Carlsen’s strength of endgame play and beat his head against the Berlin Defence to the Spanish (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6). He looked tired and worried throughout, perhaps partly because he was playing in front of a home crowd as the defending champion. The pressure was on.

This time he’s going in as the challenger and the underdog. That means the pressure should be off him and firmly on Carlsen. Carlsen also seems confident, very confident in fact. And that makes him vulnerable…

So how can Anand win? Well the biggest factor may be that Carlsen is weak in the opening. Since he became World Champion a lot of people have started to believe that this doesn’t matter. But it does, even if it might have been overrated in the past.

To exploit this Anand needs to shift the emphasis of the struggle to this part of the game, choosing the sharpest lines and avoiding premature simplification (just to be 100% clear that means avoiding the Berlin endgames). If his seconds still think they need to win Berlin endgames he could do with a different team. They may be nice guys to eat dinner with but that won’t help him win. He needs to keep some ideas men in the back room (possibly in a different town), players like Igor Zaitsev or Yasha Murei, but younger versions. And then he needs someone who’s good at linking lots of computers together so they generate MASSIVE computing power. Then you get the ideas men to feed their concepts into the supercomputer and see how bad they are. Even if they’re bad this kind of prep could be deeply disturbing to Carlsen. He’ll find himself frequently conceding the advantage in order to ‘avoid preparation’, and this could be just the kind of edge that Anand needs.

Short matches should, in theory, be better for the underdog and the older player, but in any case Vishy should be practicing his yoga. Maybe he should also look at stepping things up a level so that he can control his nerves whilst having his brain fire on all cylinders. If he doesn’t have a really good yoga teacher he should get one. As with tai chi and qigong teachers, they’re really not expensive.

What about the venue? Well if Norway offers to host the match then Vishy should ACCEPT. Plus he might think of getting a log cabin there to train in, this Rocky IV vid shows the way:

So Vishy, that’s how to do it. And if you succeed using my suggestions you know where to send the cheque!

Nigel Davies


Candidates Review

Unusually for me I’ve been taking a look at some of the games from the Candidates Tournament with the official web site being here. There’s certainly been plenty of fighting and original chess, the following game quickly leaving the beaten track early on (11.f4 looks like over the board inspiration). Shakhriyar Mamedyarov must have missed 14.Nde4 as that wins his queen for inadequate compensation:

In the following Youtube video Magnus Carlsen offers some nice insights and seemed to be enjoying watching the scrap to get to face him.

Nigel Davies


Chess Books That Don’t Need A Set

In an effort to get my son to combine reading practice with some chess, I recently started looking round for instructive chess books that don’t need a set. There are plenty of books with chess problems and no text and quite a few written about the game but without any meaningful chess content. Could I find some which combined the two aspects?

I did find some, but not that many. In fact only one that was really suitable. Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess got the gold medal as it explained a lot of concepts and ideas just with diagrams and text. And a copy should be with me by the time you read this.

What about the others? Well new contributor Steve Giddins wrote quite a good one with his 101 Chess Endgame Tips, though you’d need to be a very strong player to get through some of the endgames ‘blindfold’. There are some old books that are suitable too, such as Fischer-Spassky Move by Move by Larry Evans and Ken Smith, which has a comment and a diagram after every move. But there really aren’t that many when you look at the total number of chess books that have been published.

This strikes me as being strange as it’s hard work to get a set out and follow the moves in a book like that. Most amateur players have little stomach for using their leisure time like this and would much prefer to skim through something and ignore the chess content. And this won’t do their chess much good.

What may eventually happen is that chess books will be replaced by software and e-books, but perhaps not quite yet. Whilst many e-books are very good, and take full advantage of the new media, there are others, such as some kindle offerings, which do not. Putting a conventional chess book into kindle format, without adding extra diagrams, will make things a lot harder for the reader rather than easier because books printed on paper are more robust and easier to handle. Of course they could have put a diagram after every move in kindle versions, but then that would have added to the production costs in an attempt to exploit an uncertain market.

So meanwhile I’m still in the market for printed books that don’t need a set. And if anyone knows of one then please leave a message under this post at the Facebook page for The Chess Improver.

Nigel Davies


Some Reasons Why Talent Fails

When talented kids go on to succeed it always seems like it was bound to happen, and most great players showed considerable early promise. Accordingly it seems natural to assume that adult success will inevitably follow early successes, yet this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Many top juniors actually give up the game or fail to follow through. All we see are the winners and not the original line up.

In fact I think that childhood ability may actually serve to sabotage adult success in a number of subtle ways. First of all it sets up very high expectations that will turn into frustration if progress slows down or stops. Early success is also unlikely to foster the kind of rigorous self analysis that tends to be needed as you get to higher levels. Bad habits are likely to persist rather than get eradicated.

How can prodigies stand a better chance of success? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Avoid the press like the plague.
  2. Give them the opportunity to get crushed by someone stronger rather than score hollow victories.
  3. Foster an attitude of continual self-improvement.
  4. Avoid stroking their young egos.
  5. Try to get them help in developing a balanced and mature chess style.
  6. Prepare them for disappointment.

Here’s a Youtube video about how child stars can be horribly affected by a surreal early environment. And whilst early chess success is hardly going to have the same effect I think it serves to show some of the dangers:

Nigel Davies