Appropriate Levels Of Material

A hilarious comment on one of my YouTube videos makes me want to broach an awkward topic; what are the appropriate levels of material for different strengths of players? My take is that most modern top GM games are going to be beyond average club players and totally incomprehensible to beginners and rainy day players. Of course many will be reluctant to admit this which is why the idea of ‘chess as a spectator sport’ wasn’t killed and buried long ago.

Players learn chess by layering increasingly subtle concepts on top of each other and Richard Reti put it nicely when he argued that the development of each player should follow the development of chess history. Of course this isn’t the way most people want to do things, after having been weened on instant gratification they want to do it all right now, bottled expertise. So they miss out the first few hundred years and go straight into openings, ‘preparation’ and the latest efforts of Magnus Carlson, Vishwanathan Anand and co.

This is highly destructive to the improvement process as when someone swims rudderless in this sea of complexity they don’t put the core skills in place which are the foundation of chess skill. They might know the latest news and be able to chat on bulletin boards about openings and such like, but it’s all just empty waffle that’s built on nothing but sand.

So rather than study modern GM games most people should be going back to Greco and thoroughly acquainting themselves with typical attacks and mating patterns. After that it’s on to De Labourdonnais, Morphy, Steinitz, Tarrasch et al.

As an exercise for the reader today’s game is supplied without notes so you can work out what would happen after 14…Kf8, 16…Rxe8 etc. And I won’t be supplying any solutions, just do it to your own satisfaction.


Author: 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. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon:

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