Changing Bad Habits

A major issue on the road to improvement is in changing bad habits. Chess is not the only sphere in which this is a problem as this article shows. And the proposed solution (specifying ways in which the new habit differs from the old one) seems very good.

How can chess players use this? Well the first issue is in identifying a flawed technique, no easy matter in a game as complex as chess. But let’s suppose that someone manages this (probably by taking lessons from a strong and insightful player) they should then consciously list comparisons between the old habit and the new one that they wish to acquire. For many club players it would look something like this:

Old Way

  • Look for a tactical idea.
  • Try to calculate whether or not the tactical idea works.
  • If it doesn’t work, look for the missing element that would make it work.
  • If the opponent stops it, look for a new tactical idea.

New Way

  • Look at the pawn structure in an effort to understand what the plan should be.
  • Place the pieces in a way that will help the implementation of this plan.
  • Use tactics and calculation to make sure that the strategic operations are tactically sound.
  • If the opponent prevents the implementation of the plan, reexamine the pawn structure to see what the next step should be.

The major difference between these two ways of thinking is in letting pawn structure considerations take the lead rather than being a vague afterthought. But knowing this is just the start of the process of change, it needs to be reinforced over an extended period of time.

Here anyway is a Youtube video showing that I’m not alone in this idea. One must gently redirect one’s attention:

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.