In these days of computer based preparation is there any benefit to using a board and pieces? It can certainly seem harder, especially if someone is used to whizzing through dozens of games using the right hand arrow. Yet there could be hidden benefits of the sort that makes many brain experts suggest that we write things down. One theory is that the physical act of writing things down helps activate the brain.
Actually I use a chess set myself whenever it is possible. This is not the case when teaching over the internet but it certainly is when I work on chess with my son Sam. We rarely use a computer unless we want a second opinion from an engine or need to map out some opening lines.
Not convinced? There is quite a lot of stuff on the internet about doing away with laptops, so do your own research and consider giving it a try.
Despite recent events in Berlin, the Candidates Tournament in Zurich 1953 is still known as the greatest in history. Fifteen players took part with the format being a double round all-play-all, and ultimately it was Vasily Smyslov who emerged the winner, two points clear of David Bronstein, Paul Keres and Samuel Reshevsky.
Why is this the most famous Candidates Tournament? Largely because of David Bronstein’s book on the event which has become known as one of the best ever written. Bronstein’s insightful remarks give a real insight into the mind of top Grandmasters, from opening to endgame.
Here is a video on the event by the prolific Lucas Anderson:
Here’s another nice video from Lucas Andersson, this time about the Soviet School of Chess. It’s also worth reading Alexander Kotov’s book with the same title, which showcased Soviet chess talent together with a large dollop of propaganda!
Another nice Lucas Andersson video, this time on Akiba Rubinstein. Rubinstein was one of my favourite players in my teenage years and his games influenced me a lot.
Here’s another in Lucas Anderson’s wonderful series of videos on great players. I must admit that I’m a big fan of Anatoly Karpov’s chess, as are many other strong players. His games are very subtle.
Here’s another nice video by Lucas Anderson, this time on Wilhelm Steinitz. Steinitz is worth studying so as to better understand the development of modern chess strategy.
The new ECF grades came out this week which would have had a lot of UK players in the UK checking their latest number. Of what significance are they? Well they do give a fairly good indication of playing strength and you can see whether you are improving or not. A larger number of games will give a more accurate figure, a smaller number is less reliable.
My own grade came out at 247, up from 240. It was based on just 12 games so I don’t think it will be very reliable, though it does perhaps indicate that I did not completely go to seed during my long layoff from competitive chess. My son Sam stayed about the same, his standard grade going down slightly (153 from 157) and his rapid grade going up (147 from 144). I think he reached a bit of a plateau after moving up steadily from his first rapid play grade of 33 in 2012. I figure he’ll be moving up again before too long.
These long term trends, over a large number of games, are what best indicates where someone is heading. Many older players suffer a slow, long term decline, though not all. Checking players over 70 for ‘standard improvement’ shows that it is never too late to get better. It was good to see a Tiger Chess member occupying one of the top places on this metric.
Of course grades can be taken a bit too seriously and can become something of a distraction. So I would recommend not thinking about them until a list comes out, and even then take a very long term view. Things like moving house, a change of job or trouble at home can play havoc with someone’s playing strength. But these issues eventually come to an end leaving the big picture as what really matters.
Magnus Carlsen’s round 8 game from the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee was a good example of not giving up. He blundered a piece away in the opening but fought on and eventually won. Here’s an interview with him after the game.
As for the entire round, here it is with expert commentary. Coverage of the Carlsen game can be found within..
There’s some nice coverage of the Tata Steel tournament on Youtube right now. Here’s the round 5 video:
With New Year approaching, many of us will be making resolutions. Some of these will concern chess improvement, so how should these be formulated.
If someone wants to become good at something, the key is to establish productive habits that can be continued over a long period of time. Any resolutions will need to reflect this so they should not involve an unmanageable schedule. Decide how much time you can reasonably spend on chess and when this will be done. Is a commute a good opportunity to work on your game? Or perhaps getting up earlier?
Once a time slot has been established, how should it be used? Personally I’m a firm believer in fundamentals, which is why I developed the courses on strategy, analysis and endgames at Tiger Chess. Regular tactics practice is almost always a good idea and there are a number of web sites (such as Chessity) that make such practice relatively easy.
I would estimate that an hour a day is a basic minimum for chess improvement, so if someone does 20 minutes tactics practice that leaves 40 more for everything else. Effective chess training should certainly include endgame training due to the great value this has. And at this point it starts to become clear that two hours is better than one and the plan to learn to Sicilian Najdorf may be flawed!
So good luck with your improvement efforts and all the best for 2018. Keep it simple, focus on fundamentals and try to build a practice habit.