Category Archives: Videos

Using Checkmate Training to Improve Your Chess

I think sometimes people underestimate the value of studying and training checkmate patterns. Like other patterns, such as pawn structures, basic tactics, or opening moves, checkmate patterns have many benefits.

Here are some of the benefits of studying and practicing checkmates.

  • Being able to spot checkmate patterns frees your mind from the burden of having to calculate it “from scratch” – leaving you with more mental energy and more time in a tournament game.
  • Many checkmates contain tactical themes such as discoveries, pins, and removal of the guard. Practicing checkmate problems will strengthen those tactical patterns as well.
  • When you practice mates that involve more than one move such as mates-in-two or mates-in-three you develop your calculation and visualization skill. In some ways, this is advantageous because you aren’t spending your resources evaluating resulting positions, so you can isolate the calculation and visualization aspect.

My advocation of this type of practice stems from playing in a big tournament – the New York State Championship Under 1600 section – twenty years ago. I did all of the usual stuff – opening practice, tactics, endgame study. However, I also did 10 checkmate problems daily. Although I can’t attribute my victory solely to checkmate practice – I scored 4.5/5 for first place, I do believe that the training sharpened my tactical eye as well as gave me confidence.

Here is some advice to include checkmate practice into your training regimen:

  • Get a copy of Renaud and Kahn’s The Art of Checkmate. Study it and do the exercises. This will provide you with all of the patterns you will ever need.
  • Then get Polgar’s massive Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games and go through the checkmate problems therein. This will help reinforce those patterns.
  • You don’t have to dedicate a ton of time to it. After you have absorbed all of the patterns, then occasional reinforcement will maintain this skill and knowledge for you. For example, I do checkmate problems once every couple weeks. However, I do encounter checkmate solutions in my daily tactics training.

I know there are a lot of aspects of chess to study, including openings, middlegame, and the endgame, along with tactics and strategy. Checkmates may seem like an insignificant addition to an already crowded training program. However, if you’ve never taken the time to build up your library of checkmate patterns, you will benefit greatly by doing so.

Here is a video I created with six common checkmate patterns – think of this as an appetizer!

Bryan Castro

US Championship Roundup

For those who haven’t seen this coverage earlier, here’s the last in a great series of videos on the US Championships. This has now taken over from the Russian Championships as the most important national championship in the World. And this is largely due to the trio of giants, Wesley So, Fabiana Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura.

Nigel Davies

2017 US Championship

With the United States being the Olympic Champions their national championship is one of the most interesting events on the calendar. And it’s especially fun to follow it using the internet commentary. Here’s the latest edition:

Nigel Davies

Staying Active on Defense

Chess is a game of give and take. If you take the initiative, sometimes you have to give a pawn or some other positional concession. If you take material, often you have to give your opponent counterplay. If you take a square with a pawn, you give your opponent the square next to the pawn. I think you get the idea.

So the question is whether what you take is more valuable than what you give to get it. When you find yourself on the defense, if you haven’t blundered, then your opponent has given you something. The key is for you to stay active and find out what that something is.

In the video here, Paul Keres gives his opponent an attack. In return, his opponent gives him a target (the d4 pawn) and the exchange. That’s enough for Keres.

Enjoy this game with my commentary.

Bryan Castro

Carlsen Vs So?

I don’t know about everyone else, but this is the match that I’d really like to see. I think that Wesley So needs to develop a bit more before he’ll be able to beat Magnus Carlsen, but he’s improving all the time.

Here’s a preview of the kind of thing we might expect with Carlsen coming out on top. At least on this occasion:

Nigel Davies

Carlsen the Grinder!

One of the players I most admire is Magnus Carlsen. He likes to grind people down in the endgame from what often look like drawn positions.

Here’s a good example from youtube in which he beats Sergei Karjakin from what looks like a drawn position:

Sam Davies

More On Chess Benefits

Despite the doubters I thought it time we had another post on the benefits of chess. I feel a massive debt of gratitude to the game because sure the game helped me a lot as a youngster. Meanwhile my chess project with Sam has coincided with leaps and bounds in both his confidence and how he’s doing at school.

Here’s a neurologist on the benefits of the game:

Nigel Davies

Karpov on the Minority Attack

Anatoly Karpov was one of the all time greats. He was known especially for his positional play and accuracy in the endgame. One of the positional techniques he was particularly good at was the minority attack. He has several sparkling victories in which the minority attack was a featured contributor.

In this first example, Karpov saddles his opponent with the characteristic weak pawn. However, in this case, he doesn’t actually win the pawn. However, it’s presence is a constant reminder of the technical flaw in Black’s position, and Karpov engages in an endgame technical melee which ends when his own passed pawn threatens to promote.

In the following game, Karpov shows a couple common themes within the minority attack. First, he trades off his opponent’s light-square bishop. This bishop often defends the weak c-pawn. Second, Karpov brings his queen’s knight to a4, where it can often find a home on the c5 square. In this case, it gets traded off quickly, but Black subsequently loses the weak c-pawn and the game.

In our final example, Karpov shows that the weak pawn doesn’t have to be the c-pawn, as his opponent’s chooses to leave the a-pawn by exchanging first with his c-pawn during the classic minority attack’s b4-b5 advance. Karpov then gives us a master class on the proper use of the rooks in the endgame. Enjoy this video with my commentary on this beautiful game.

Anatoly Karpov is a master at many aspects of chess. However, his skill in executing the minority attack in all of its nuances have given us many masterpieces to study to improve this particular positional plan.

I hope to have given you a good start, but continued study of Karpov’s games will be rewarded both aesthetically and with a better understanding of the minority attack and positional play in general.

Bryan Castro

Politicians & Chess

Regardless of one’s political persuasion this makes for interesting viewing. The leader of the Lib Dems, Tim Farron, plays a game on live television and loses in just 36 seconds.

In his defence I should point out that his opponent, UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott, is a pretty good player with a current ECF grade of 187.

Nigel Davies

Chess and Simpsons

With Hugh away this week I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to fill in for him. Rather than attempt to match his brilliant articles I thought it better to offer some light entertainment in the form of Chess and Simpsons. And no that’s not the famous Simpson’s restaurant in the Strand but rather Homer Simpson and family.

Here are some Simpsons youtube clips featuring chess. Enjoy!

Nigel Davies