After thinking about which openings to play the next stage is how to prepare them. And for older players this is fraught with difficulties, largely because we started playing chess before the computer era. For many of us our idea of preparation was to play through a few model games in an opening and then start trying it out. These days this is not enough, certainly when you get over 2200 level.
Last weekend I was talking to an older player who is on his own comeback trail. He had spent time preparing an opening only to be totally outgunned by a younger opponent. I quipped that Bilguer’s Handbook was no longer enough and that older players needed to fully embrace the computer revolution to survive. I suspect that the older players who remain competitive, and most notably Vishwanathan Anand, have done just this.
Here’s a recent game in which Anand uncorked some stunning preparation against Veselin Topalov. Apparently when he finds an interesting move he leaves the computer on overnight to take a look at it, and this may well have been the case with his 12…b5!.
The London Chess Classic has started and I’ve been looking at some of the games with my Dad, GM Nigel Davies. He’ll be going to London next weekend to commentate.
Here meanwhile is a Youtube video on some of the first round games:
There are some interesting analogies between board games and martial arts and at many different levels. I noticed quite a few of them when I took up internal martial arts (Yiquan and then Tai Chi) around a decade ago and continue to be reminded of them all the time.
Here’s an interesting video in which these are explored. I might add the learning process is similar to chess in that you layer your understanding on what you already know. And that great patience and determination are needed on the part of the student.
A precursor of the chess computer was the chess automaton. The best known of these was The Turk, a fake chess playing machine that had a human chess master hiding inside. This device had quite a colorful history, defeating Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin during it’s active playing period of 84 years.
These days there’s no need for fakes, which seems sad in a way. No deception, no employment for diminutive chess masters and no awed spectators. Just a highly sophisticated machine wiping the floor with its human opponents.
On the subject of sadness and chess automatons I came across some music entitled Laments of a Chess Automaton. Actually I rather like it:
Positions in which the kings are castled on opposite sides often feature a violent race of attacks. Alexander Kotov wrote a chapter on this subject in the book he wrote together with Paul Keres, The Art of the Middle Game. He described how he used to practice playing such positions as a boy and later formulated a series of rules. One of them was that success in such attacks usually goes to the player who manages to force his opponent on the defensive.
Here’s a nice example of opposite side castling from the Baku Olympiad. Mato Jelic provides some great commentary and his other Youtube videos are worth checking out:
The members of the Denver Chess Club, all veterans of the movie focus group wars since “Pawn Sacrifice”, have been invited to a preview of “Queen of Katwe”, a Disney biopic s the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess prodigy from Katwe who becomes a Woman Candidate Master after her performances at World Chess Olympiads.
Chess seems to be getting better and better educational press as mainstream pedagogues tout its virtues with regard to the formation and maturation of intellectual outlook. It’s scene almost as a panacea for the young who are somewhat detached from the learning process
I teach chess to elementary school students in the public school afterschool enrichment programs. I’d have to agree with the experts here, especially in light of recent experiences where four autistic youth were enrolled in my class by their advisers. Noted for disrupting their mainstream classes, the four immediately took to chess and are perhaps the most focused of the students in my class.
I look forward to seeing the film and reporting back here.
Setting goals is a vital part of the improvement process but what should they by? The key is to set process goals rather than outcome goals, which is nicely explained here:
What are some good process goals for chess? Reading particular books, learning particular openings and solving a certain number of tactical puzzles every day certain qualify. On the other hand goals such as winning a particular tournament or championship do not as their aim depends on things such as competition.
Improving your chess is really all about practice, but how do people establish the practice habit? Here are some interesting tips from another field that chess players in general are not familiar with:
In these days of very serious opening analysis and theory going well into the middle game in many lines, people often forget the importance of core skills or don’t have time to practice them. Tactical vision is of course absolutely essential, as most people realize. But endgame skill is often underestimated or even overlooked altogether. Who needs openings if they can win equal positions against the World’s top players.
Here’s Magnus Carlsen providing an object lesson in this art, winning a more or less equal endgame position against Teimour Radjabov. The commentator is the ever lucid and calm Jan Gustafsson:
Here’s a nice documentary on the candidates tournament, won of course by Sergei Karjakin: