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Q&A with Coach Heisman Aug 30, 2013

  • NM danheisman
  • | Aug 30, 2013
  • | 6844 views
  • | 19 comments

"How do you know which candidate move(s) to analyze first, especially in non-tactical situations?"

This is the kind of question that you can write an entire book (or at least a big chapter) about, such as Soltis' How to Choose a Chess Move. However, let's start out by saying in analytical positions you likely start out by examining the most forcing moves:

  • Checks,
  • Threats of mate,
  • Captures, and
  • Other threats.

I usually shorten this to the catchy "Checks, Captures, and Threats" such as seen on the logo of this cap that I have. (In general you can buy chess merchandise in the store at the Chess.com Dan Heisman Learning Center and the net proceeds go to our chess charity).

If it's a mating attack we can suggest starting your candidate search with the following:

  • Safe checks that bring the queen closest to the king, and
  • Checks that bring a new piece into the attack,
  • other checks which bring pieces to cover more squares around the king, and
  • Moves which don't check but block all (or almost all) the opposing king's escape squares, promising a quick mate on following moves.

For non-analytic positions it is more tricky. Let's over-simplify and say:

  • In openings which piece is next to activate and how do I best get it into the game? 
  • In the middlegame, what are my and my opponent's strengths and weaknesses (imbalances) and which (safe) moves I maximize my strengths and his weaknesses while minimizing my weaknesses and his strengths?
  • In the endgame, am I playing for a win or a draw? Which (safe) move(s) best accomplishes the goals to do that, such as threatening to promote a pawn, activate the king, tie down the opponent's pieces, etc.?
  • Someone asked how fast one's game deteriorates with age. Firstly, that's a much bigger issue for someone who became a GM at a young age and is trying to make a living playing chess. They hit their peak in their mid-20's as the brain deterioration curve (peaks about age 19 for males) hits the increasing knowledge curve. But for the average amateur it's not much of an issue. You can begin at 90 and be much better by age 93. Kasparov retired in his early 40's but Korchnoi played in big events til he was almost 80. What are some of the factors that determine what the curve might look like?
  • Genetics - some age faster than others
  • Diet: Food and drug intake - oxidation, etc.
  • Physical Exercise - more is better
  • Mental Exercise - more is better
  • Environmental factors like exposure to toxins, stress, etc.
  • Effect of disease - some are more unlucky than others and catch illness that may affect the brain
A viewer asked if my online videos were free. The answer is partly - the first five minutes of each of my 225+ videos are free to anyone via this link (just click on "Preview" - you would be surprised how much you can learn from the first five minutes of 225+ videos even if each averages about 25 minutes!). However, the ultimate answer is yes, you have to be a member of a rival internet server to see the entire videos for free, and, like Voldemort, that remains He Who Must Not Be Named here at Chess.com Smile.

A viewer asked about learning the endgame. As I have stated repeatedly on the show, learning most things about chess, including endgames, is expedited if you hang out with strong players, or at least stronger than yourself. Going over your games with your opponents is important, even if your opponent is slightly weaker. Reading endgame books is certainly part of the equation. On the show, I decided to show a typical set of knowledge one might learn via the example King and Pawn vs King.

Showing the King and Pawn vs King example did raise a relevant, interesting question I have talked about quite frequently (the situation occurs often in actual play) but never written, which is the differing use of the term "opposition". I think everyone uses that term to describe what is happening when you have a king directly in front of a pawn that is on the fourth rank or lower, with the opposing king across (Diagram 1):

     

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     However, if the pawn is similarly not far advanced and the offensive king is not in front of the pawn (Diagram 2), I think most authors realize it does not matter who is to move, and again are fairly unanimous in not using the term "opposition":

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     The third diagram might result from Black moving back diagonally 1...Kc7-Kd8? once the pawn reached the sixth rank. Yet many authors will write that this is an error because "it gives White the opposition" after 2.Kc5-Kd6 (Diagram 3) and Black loses after 2...Kc8 3.c7 zugzwang 3...Kb7 4.Kd7.

    However, I feel calling this situation "the opposition" is incorrect since those same authors, faced with Diagram 2 and a similar situation with the pawn lower than the 6th rank, don't call it the opposition! This is due to the fact that in Diagram 3 it matters who is to move and in Diagram 2 it does not. I think calling the situation in Diagram 3 "getting the opposition" is confusing and inconsistent. I would prefer to reserve "opposition" to only those cases where offensive king is in front of the pawn. In positions like Diagram 3 where it matters who is to play, but the king is not in front of the pawn, then it is a matter of tempos but not (IMHO) "the opposition" since then we would have to extend the definition of "opposition" to include those times the king is beside a pawn but it matters whose move it is - and possibly other situations as well.

     So it's all a matter of semantics but, whenever I see someone explain Diagram 3 as Black "giving up the opposition", I grimace a little since they would not say that if Black had moved back diagonally earlier. I think my definition is more consistent for the reasons stated above. Check it out with your local author and/or master and see what he says Smile.

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     Thanks again to the Chess.com staff for inviting me to NY this past Wednesday. They took wife Shelly and I to lunch and then to the Stature of Liberty - I had never been there despite my age and living only 90 miles away! Great to meet the owners and developers.

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     The next show, Friday Sep 13 (superstitious?) will be Open to All. Cya there.

Comments


  • 11 months ago

    PedoneMedio

    Just in order to give one more personal opinion.

    While I'm watching (and asking a question in) Heisman's show, what I'm waiting for is not the magic formula which answers all the questions, some kind of "abracadabra" combination of words. And I don't expect to hear a new point of view nobody noticed or expressed before.

    What I'm waiting for, and usually what I get, is the typical understandable practical examples at the demo board which are the size and weight my limited personal Chess experience allows me to chew and digest: those are the things I can remember the next time I play a game, the notions I can use in order to reduce the number and gravity of my mistakes at the board.

    So, if I can make a request, I'd like to see as many practical examples as possible, as answers to the spectators' questions.

  • 12 months ago

    Da-Waaagh

    There are no questions you could ask in a Master Q&A session which are relevant to chess which haven't been answered over and over in articles, books, videos and any other recorded media  - all easily and cheaply available.

    I find Dan's shows more entertaining and useful than any other because he's talking at the level of his audience instead of explaining how Kamsky blundered to people who cannot understand chess on the level which top Grandmasters play.

    I sincerely hope that Dan never does a show where he doesn't repeat at length his point about Real Chess vs Hope Chess and his justification for playing mainly Slow Chess. If by repetition,  he can get his audience to believe the latter and implement the former, their rating would rise by several hundred points.

    And yes, please try to criticise in a NICE way! :-)

  • 12 months ago

    tucumcari

    @ Ghetsemane "maybe I was unlucky as Gold member to only see the show open for all"

    I don't think so; easily the worst show I've ever seen of Dan's, in terms of participants behaving like miscreants (completely obnoxious off the wall "questions" to Dan, requiring heavy moderation) was in fact a show exclusively for the Platinum members of the site. That was odd; even Dan was scratching his head as to why people would pay $100 for a membership just to go and get themselves kicked off a chess.com tv broadcast lol..

  • 12 months ago

    Ghetsemane

    Okay, well the articles online of Dan Heisman are great. The problem is the chess.com-tv show.

    The problem I have is that the format is not working, because all general questions have been answered again and again and in depth in articles.

    I watched the show a couple of times and here come the questions -

    1. How can I improve my chess

    2. Should I play 1. e4 or 1 . d4, because I like tactical play

    3. Will Magnus beat Anand

    4. Should I study endgames or openings

    5. Which books or video would help me improve in chess

    6. I love rapid-blitz, but should I play more slow chess to improve

    etc etc..

    Altough all are valid questions, but the answer is online in a FAQ, so probably it´s more interesting to get into concrete stuff.

    Maybe I was unlucky as Gold Member to only see the show open for all. But the show did not got me anything. It just seems the same questions, same answers and mr. Heisman already wrote an extensive article online about it.

    The same today at the World Cup, when someone asked what Garry thought about Karpov. His book is filled with many pages about Karpov, so what´s the point asking with a tweet, buy the book and read it!

    I think it´s more interesting to explain where Kamsky blundered and explain the ideas behind it to chess dummies. Because all general questions have been in depth answered in articles.

    So I have serious doubt if this Q&A show is the right format. But all who enjoy the show, please keep watching it. You will get some obvious answers and maybe a link to a online post with a bit profoundness.

    So my conclusion.. Dan Heisman wrote some pretty interesting articles online, I think 1 on 1 he´s probably a good coach and the Q&A show is a bit lame.

  • 12 months ago

    oleppedersen

    As a student of Dan this spring, I can safely testify to his quality. One round from the finish in an open tournament in Barcelona, rating performance 1750 after one serious year of chess study. Dan's methods and advice have been crucial.

  • 12 months ago

    MarioChessNiraj

    Nice job with this article, Dan! I've been reading your Novice Nook for a while now and I am now trying to get into the habit of looking for checks, captures, and threats. Ever since I read the first Novice Nook, it got me into playing better! Nice job!

  • 12 months ago

    Da-Waaagh

    LOL - Guys, if you take a look at Ghetsemane's home page, you may suspect as I do that he had a childish grudge against Dan. Be quick before he deletes the message!

    I rate Dan as the best teacher I've read (and I've read a lot!) for players up to around 1800 F.I.D.E.

  • 12 months ago

    TomHaegin

    @Ghetsemane

    OK, so just go back sniffing Simen Agdestein's crotch instead of insulting Mr. Heisman.

  • 12 months ago

    TomHaegin

    Dan, you should just ignore people like Ghetsemane who not only have nothing constructive to say, but also say it in a most offensive way.

    Thank you always for all your hard work and enthusiasm to make us better at chess!

  • 12 months ago

    DP_Droopy

    Handled with class, Dan.

  • 12 months ago

    NM danheisman

    Ghetsemane - Thanks. It is a Q&A show and naturally I will get some of the same questions as on previous shows, mostly from players who did not ask (or see) the question before. I can't just reply "Anyone asking this question should just watch a re-run of an earlier show" or ignore every question that was covered on an earlier show. I have to be polite and address the question, sometimes trying different angles to generate interest. Of course, if you don't like the show, then simply don't watch it.

  • 12 months ago

    tucumcari

    So many wounded egos around chess.com; is this typical of chessplayers in general? From 1300 level players disparaging the work of a coach who's dedicated 40 years to the game (LOL).. to the endless posts of "easy" following the daily puzzles.. to the incessant cheating.. seems like there's a lot of whining, butthurt, bruised egos around here. Strange.

  • 12 months ago

    Incredibletactic

    Why did you even bring this up to me and not to Ghetsemane? Geez, I don't care if you think I'm playing too fast, I know a person that is my age and plays so slow, in a tournament (playoffs) five minute games. He lost terribly.

  • 12 months ago

    JRTK73

    I don't really want to get into an argument with you. You are winning - congratulations. It is pretty clear though that the slower you play, the better you will play. If you are this good playing quickly then your rating would be a lot higher if you did take the time to look for checks, captures and threats.

  • 12 months ago

    Incredibletactic

    I doubt you can do any better

  • 12 months ago

    Incredibletactic

    yeah but I'm winning.

  • 12 months ago

    JRTK73

    Incredible tactic I'm watching you play a 45/45 game right now and you have 57 minutes left on your clock! I feel you have a lot to learn from Dan Heisman.

  • 12 months ago

    Incredibletactic

    It's obvious stuff. Not very interesting

  • 12 months ago

    Ghetsemane

    [COMMENT DELETED]
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