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:
I found this documentary interesting, especially the comparisons between chess and go in their applications to warfare. My view is that chess wasn’t actually designed as a war game at all, and that instead it evolved from fortune telling rituals. This would certainly explain why chess thinking doesn’t necessarily work so well if applied to military scenarios.
Here are a few tips from Magnus Carlsen. Worth watching and quite amusing:
One of the lost arts of the chess board is that of adjournment analysis. In the days before computers we used to adjourn games after the first session (normally 40 moves and 4 or 5 hours) and then continue them after dinner or on a separate day. And between the sessions it was customary to analyse the adjourned position as well as possible, recruiting what help was available.
There is an interesting chapter on adjournment analysis in The Art of the Middle Game by Paul Keres and Alexander Kotov, with this particular chapter being written by Keres. Alexander Kotov also discusses is in Think Like a Grandmaster and here there are some wonderful insights.
Kotov suggests that collective analysis tends to be inaccurate, something that was confirmed by my own experience. He suggests that an initial examination with friends can be a good thing, but after that you should work out everything on your own.
These days everything would be checked by a computer of course, but the idea that collective analysis tends to be inaccurate is interesting. I think that a lot of different voices will necessarily create an atmosphere in which participants want to outdo each other, and without their own game being at risk. It’s a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth, with one highly motivated cook being far more effective.
How can this help the improvement process? Essentially in immunising us against believing the unknowing collective and seeking instead to be independent. Your own ideas may not be right but thinking them through yourself and putting them on the line you learn something if they are refuted.
Here meanwhile is a funny video about receiving advice:
One of my early favourite openings was the Chigorin Defence with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6!?. I started playing it after seeing it recommended in Leonard Barden’s The Guardian Chess Book. And I then played it throughout my teenage years, long before Alexander Morozevich discovered it.
The Chigorin is a sharp and lively counter attacking line which has much in common with both the Gruenfeld and Nimzo-Indian. There have been some developments since Morozevich championed it, but by and large it will tend to surprise White players.
Here’s my Youtube clip about the Chigorin Video at Tiger Chess:
Here’s a nice blow for humanity. Note that computers can have trouble with closed positions and especially build-ups against their kings. And this in turn should help correspondence players who want to gain an edge!
Here’s another interesting Youtube video about one of my favourite players. I really miss Kasparov’s vibrant attacking style:
One of the greatest dangers of facing an unorthodox opening is psychological; it’s very easy to feel contemptuous of your opponent’s moves, or even insulted. And it has happened even to the best players, for example when Anatoly Karpov lost to Tony Miles when the latter answered 1.e4 with 1….a6.
Magnus Carlsen manages rather better in the following game, but mainly because he stays objective:
Here’s a nice documentary featuring interviews of different players. Among the featured players are Anatoly Karpov, Levon Aronian, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Elizabeth Paehtz.
Here’s an interesting video of the London Chess Classic blitz qualifier, won by England’s Michael Adams. I hasten to add that players of this level can play meaningful blitz games, but as you go down the rating scale it becomes ever more destructive to players’ thinking habits:
This great event finishes on Sunday, the official tournament site is here.