Category Archives: Videos

Wise Words From Maurice Ashley

One of my favourite chess commentators, GM Maurice Ashley, packs an amazing amount of insight into this 2 minute Youtube clip. I’m not sure I’d have run through the moves of a Berlin Defence while doing so, though I’ve also run through some Ruy Lopez moves when interviewed for television.

Nigel Davies

More Benefits of Studying the Classics

Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick.

~Bruce Lee

I’ve written before about the importance of studying the games of the old masters (as have many chess writers). One of the benefits of doing this is that we can often see some of the essential strategic and tactical elements of chess in a very pure or perhaps primitive form.

As modern chess theory and the general knowledge of chess players developed and improved through the decades, some of the building blocks of chess have become buried in complexity. The initial purpose of a move originally played in the 19th or 20th century gets obscured as computer analysis and scores of chess masters analyze complications and tactical divergences to a degree that beginning and intermediate players are no longer aware of the fundamental purpose of specific moves. They play the move because their chess book or database says it is a good move.

Of course, good opening chess books, videos, and coaches hopefully can help in this matter. However, one enjoyable way is to study the earliest incarnations of these moves, as played by masters who paved the way.

When Magnus Carlsen or Wesley So plays a move, they have the advantage of having seen the first 15 or 20 moves in dozens (or hundreds) of games played by masters over the years. The early masters such as Lasker, Capablanca, and Alekhine were building on very new theory – much of which they created themselves! This is not to discredit the modern elite player, who have to both remember, understand, and synthesize these mass amounts of theory to compete at the highest levels. However, it is both pleasing and fruitful to understand the problem of a chess position from the eyes of a master who is seeing it for the first time, or perhaps only a few times before.

So don’t neglect your study of the early masters.

Here is an example from a classic game between Edgar Colle (well-known for his opening for the White pieces) and Ernst Gruenfeld (also well-known for his origination of the defense that bears his name – although it is not featured in this game). This game features many instructive points, particularly if you find joy in a beautiful attack.

Bryan Castro

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