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!
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:
You might have heard that Carlsen can remember numbers of positions and recall them over the board in a limited amount of time. In the book GM-RAM, by Rashid Ziatdinov, the author emphasises remembering key positions and games and claims that “if you know just one of important classical games, you will be able to become a 1400 level player, to be world champion you will need to know 1,000 such games”. This may be too much but we can’t deny fact that remembering these games cold will definitely help you towards chess improvement.
I tried different ways to remember games, for example playing them over the board many times, guessing them move by move, using Chess Position Trainer etc. But they didn’t work that well for me.
Then I tried one more thing and succeeded. This method uses lots of time but definitely works; after a month without playing them through a second time I am able to remember the games and their critical positions.
The way to do this is to take a book of your favourite player where he has annotated his games. Now we are going to annotate his games in our words rather than going through author’s annotations first. You can use different software but a pen and paper works best for me.
The most important thing is that your focus must be on one direction but with inherent flexibility (if your opponent blunders you must be able to punish him). This tends to be missing from the play of amateur play as they fight in different directions. Write down your ideas for each move (for both White and Black) and don’t worry if you repeat the same thing over a series of moves. Once you finish it (normally I take 4 to 6 hours) go to the experts annotations and compare. You will find that now it is very easy to understand the author’s points and your mistakes, this wouldn’t have happened if you went directly to the author’s annotations .
It is also wise to go for a second opinion also, if someone has explained the same game. Players who have the time and work like hell will definitely get benefit from this!
If you find this is very hard and time consuming, first watch this video:
There was an interesting endgame between the FIDE World Champion, Carlsen, and former World Champion, Anand. Carlsen uncharacteristically went wrong in an ending. In taking a pawn with his knight he missed a simple rook move that skewered his bishop and knight. Anyone can make such mistakes, especially in rapid chess, but when the World Champion does it, it’s called a blunder! Despite this loss, it wasn’t enough to stop Carlsen becoming the 2014 World Rapid Champion. You can view the ending play with commentary on the clip below.
With the sad passing of English comedian Rik Mayall, it would be remiss not to repeat the chess clip from the BBC TV series Bottom. Rik’s character plays chess with Adrian Edmondson’s character, but it quickly deteriorates into a fight. It never fails to make me laugh, but I can’t claim it will improve your chess…
The Gibraltar International Chess Festival is widely hailed as the world’s premier Open chess tournament. This year’s festival was the 12th and was the biggest yet, with over 70 Grandmasters participating from all over the world. All week the tournament features interesting side events, including Masterclasses from some of the players. There are video clips available for the following Masterclasses here:
1) Nigel Short & Elisabeth Paehtz discuss their round 2 games.
2) Vassily Ivanchuk discusses his games in the FIDE candidates and other interesting ideas.
3) WGM Natalia Pogonina and GM Li Chao discuss their round 7 games with Tournament Director Stuart Conquest.
4) Maxime Vachier-Lagrave discusses a game from 2013 with Stuart Conquest and takes questions from the audience.
The Ivanchuk one features a fascinating analysis of five games he played in a match in Riga in 1991 vs Leonid Yudisan and lasts 1 hour 37 minutes.
Chess players don’t like to be surprised – unless it’s a pleasant surprise of course like a massive blunder from an opponent. Knowing what to expect is important – information increases confidence. A whole industry has grown in the chess world devoted to preparing players for battle. For example, chess databases – to prep for your opponents and learn using instructive games; and chess openings trends/surveys, like Chess Informant and New in Chess SOS.
Some players make it their game-plan to surprise their opponent as much as possible and disrupt whatever plans they had in mind. For example, playing off-beat openings, choosing unusual plans, playing some home-brew opening that departs from theory early. But these strategies are in themselves predictable to a degree, particularly if you know what your opponent is like. So, you can even prepare for the unexpected… or try to get in your surprise first.
However, in general I don’t think improvers and intermediate players need to worry about preparation of this kind. It is probably unhelpful to think in terms of tricking your opponent in some way (forget the Fried Liver Attack), instead just play logical moves according to what the position demands. Focus on solid plans and forget the one-move cheapos that lead nowhere. Of course this is easier said than done – but young players learn with enough practise against decent opponents that one-move cheapos won’t work, they need to think further ahead.
Using databases as a learning tool to find instructive games can be useful for improvers though. Finding the right example games can be difficult – rather like trying to fill a little cup from a tsunami of games. The most recent games are not necessarily the most instructive. You either need to be prepared to search for quite some time, or preferably rely upon a coach or very strong player to find the most instructive games for you to study, or refer to books that have done this for you.
At club level it is important to make sure you learn from mistakes in your games – and develop strategies to avoid the same mistakes happening again. This comes from analysing your games with your opponents, with other club players, with a coach, or at home with the help of a chess engine. With experience, it will become much more difficult to surprise you.
As players improve and get into the very strong/master level, putting in a little bit of time to prepare for opponents can pay dividends. You can make use of the resources mentioned above and it might assist you with reaching your goals. But make sure you don’t wear yourself out in advance – you need plenty of energy at the board itself in case the unexpected still occurs!
This short film about Kasparov mentions his dislike of surprises.