I was asked recently by a fellow chess.com member (chessmaster102) who is writing an article for his local chess club newspaper to answer some questions about my chess. Since I’d spent the time anyway…I thought it might make an interesting blog. Hope you enjoy reading it and that it might be helpful to those trying to go through the process of getting better at their chess. (The questions are in regular letters and my answers are BOLDED):
“If you had it to do all over again, looking back, now that you know, what would you do differently to get from your beginning chess strength to where you are now both quicker and easier?
This is a tough question! Of course I am sure there are improvements to what I could have done better, but today it seems like they all really brought it together for me. I do feel like one of the things I could have done better was to study the classical games more. I didn't do this a whole lot until more recently, so that would probably be the main thing I would change.
Since you were about  ELO what kind of training did you do?
What I have done to train since then... has changed quite a bit. One of the things I have been pretty consistent about (since 1600) was tactical training. Maybe not always the most intense tactical work, but the consistency I think has really helped my calculation. I also have tried to play consistently, I used to make sure I was playing at least one standard game a day, and when I could I would play in tournaments. More recently I have been setting up some longer games with some strong players around my rating. Right now my training schedule is about 6-7 hours a day and covers Openings, Middlegame Study, Endgame Study, and Tactical Solving.
How did you get started?
Both my websites , and my story , cover a lot about how I got started and how I progressed. Here is a paragraph from my blog that covers how I got started:
"Kayden learned to play chess at the age of 3. His father wanted someone that he could play chess against so he taught Kayden's older brothers, Jeremy and Zachary, to play chess at an early age. Kayden silently sat on his dad’s lap and watched as his dad and brothers played. When he had just barely turned 3 years old he announced to dad that he was ready to play. Dad thought that he would be a good sport and humor “the baby”. So, he set up the board and had Kayden give it a try. The whole family was amazed that Kayden knew how all of the pieces moved and he knew how to attack with them without ever being taught."
How old were you when you got serious about chess ?
As I said in my answer to the previous question, I got started when I was about 3 years old. I played around with Chess, all the boys in our family kind of did, but it wasn't until I was 6 that I started to become more serious and more involved in tournaments. I played in Scholastic tournaments, but my first USCF tournament I played was about a month and a half after my sixth birthday. I played in several USCF rated tournaments in the state of Utah in the two years that followed, and then when I turned eight I played in my first National Scholastic Championship and I have just continued from there.
Are you self taught in chess or did you get lessons from a master ?
I definitely owe a lot of the credit for my coaching to my dad as he has spent countless hours trying to help me, but I have had several professional coaches along the way to where I am now. My first coach was GM Igor Ivanov back in 2004, my dad and all the boys (me, and my two older brothers, Jeremy and Zachary) went down from West Jordan to St. George to take some lessons from him. That was my first coach, and my first time really getting to see the knowledge these titled players have. Right now I am mainly working with GM Alex Chernin, but am grateful to all those who have helped me along the way.
What do you think are the primary ingredients in a chessplayer?
A lot of people characterize Chess into two different categories, Tactical and Positional. I think a lot of people understand tactical to a certain point, but in my opinion positional is much harder. This, of course, is a very detailed question, but without making it too confusing, I would emphasize a combination of both with probably more focus on positional. Really understanding positional play, takes a lot of hard work and probably a coach that can guide you. Start by doing tactical positions now, and learning classical games now.
What do you do nowadays to get better at chess ? How do you train ?
As I mentioned I work about 6-7 hours a day, but what I do... well I start from the beginning of the game. The Opening work I do is working on those lines maybe I don't know or just don't know as well, but if I have a game that the opening didn't go so well I definitely want to focus on that. My Middlegame work consists a lot of studying games and working on my calculation. I have begun to work more on endgames lately, studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and other endgames studies. Then covering all of the stages of the game, I try to play long games consistently if possible.
What is your favorite chess game ?
Well my favorite game I've played is probably my game against GM Yury Shulman at the 2012 SPICE Cup Open. I liked how I played overall, but I was able to make some key decisions under a minute to win the game.
Whats your favorite part of a chess game ?
I have always enjoyed the middlegame, it is usually the most exciting, in my opinion. You have some crazy complications and fun tactics! Not all middlegames are super exciting, but it is still probably my favorite part of the game. Of course, if we are talking about an entire game then having the end result be a win for me is definitely enjoyable too :).
How do you deal with the stress and strain of chess sometimes ?
This is possibly the hardest part of Chess for most chess players. I think almost every single professional player will struggle with this at some point in their career. Stress is definitely a part of life. I have had a hard time with this at points, but I feel like I have done a lot better with it this past year. I think the best thing is to play your best, have fun, and put everything else out of your mind. I've found that the less I stress the better I play. At the 2012 North American Open, I had a plus score, but somewhere in my play I felt was lacking. I think I was allowing myself to be a little more stressed that tournament and that was one of the reasons I didn't play as well. At one point in the tournament the pairings were changed right before the round, and I was a little panicked and I remember Norwegian GM Jon Ludvig Hammer saying "Why are you panicking? I didn't think Americans panicked that much" My next tournament I did better with the stress and played better. I think it really takes experience to get used to the stress, and one of the main things I would consider is (unless you are dying or some emergency like that) to not withdraw from a tournament. I think this will help with the stress of Chess in general, but mostly the stress of losing.
What’s your favorite chess book ?
This is a hard one, I am reading a few different good ones right now. There are many great books out there, covering a lot of different subjects. GM Mark Dvoretsky is a very well known author and a very good one, I have read several of his books and enjoyed them. I also enjoyed IM Daniel Naroditsky's book Mastering Positional Chess. It is a good book, but also I enjoy reading from someone who is around my age. There are many good books out there, but it is hard to separate one from the rest.
Other than chess what hobbies do you have?
Other than Chess? Is there such a thing? I do a lot of Chess, of course, but I also enjoy stuff like video games, different sports, scouting, sleeping (a hobby many people share), bowling, I like snow activities (we get a decent amount of snow in Utah), etc. I enjoy a lot of things!
What do you ask yourself before making a move ?
This really depends on the move. On a few occasions my opponents have made a move and I stop and give them this look like "What...?" or I might say to myself "Wait a second I thought they couldn't do that!?... Ohhh... Oops..." As many people will tell you, ask yourself “After I play this what is my opponent going to do?" and of course I ask this! If you are asking whether or not your Queen is hanging or not after this move, it is very important to ask that question and find out. Of course there are many other questions I ask like "What is my plan?", "How does this move improve my position?" "What am I trying to accomplish with this move?" and others depending on the position.
What was the best advice given to you in chess ?
It is hard to take one piece of advice and say "Bam! All my Chess problems are solved!" One time though I was given some advice from another young talented player David Adelberg, who is a friend of mine, and he said "Play a good move every move" Short... sweet, to the point! Though some of the best advice I was given can't be summed up as a quote, but more as a certain concept in Chess. The most useful advice is usually someone telling me something I did wrong and how to fix it.
How do you think technology has impacted chess the most ?
I think technology has impacted Chess the most in Openings. With the stronger and stronger computers, I see more and more Opening novelties.
What is the best type of tournament to you ? (Round Robin,Knock Out,Swiss or something else)
I like small Swiss tournaments, but I do like it if the pairings are up a decent amount of time before the round. These are the type of tournaments I have seen my best success.
What is or was your favorite type of opposition to play against ? (up 1 section your own section someone 400+ stronger)
I like playing higher rated players. I enjoy playing 100+ players (above me) the most out of anyone.
What games do you like to study ? (your own,someone else, the elites) HAVE NO BARRIERS
I really enjoy seeing (or studying) those really crazy tactical games! Whether they are mine or someone else’s, I enjoy (like I would guess most people do) those just absolute brilliant games!
What’s your style of play ?
I think I am more of a calculation, tactical type of person than positional. I like to calculate to the end, more than play by the feel of the position.
How is your chess time divided?
My Chess is divided equally 1/3 Openings, 1/3 Middlegame, 1/3 Endgame for the most part. The amount changes based the necessity and I would not recommend everyone just divides their attention equally because it really depends on where you are at.
How do you prepare for an opponent?
Mostly I prepare openings. Depending on how much time I have before the game, I might spend up to 3-4 hours preparing on openings. There are occasions when someone I talk to, or me personally know my opponent's style of play and I can maybe cater my play a little bit more to that.
How does your family life affect your chess?
I go to tournaments with my mom (occasionally my dad), and I have found that their attitude or their level of stress really affects me. My mom is very good about making sure the environment I am surrounded by doesn't hurt how I play. I think for young players especially it is very important that their parents help with the environment they are surrounding them with. My entire family is very supportive of each other in all our different activities.
If you could go thru time and play any player (past or present) who & why?
I think it would be fun to play all the World Champions! I have met Garry Kasparov on several occasions, but have never played him, so that would definitely be fun! Bobby Fischer would also be fun, since he was and still is THE Greatest American Chess Player ever. I have so much respect for the talent the World Champions have so I think anyone of them would be great to play!
What’s a personal accomplishment your very proud of in chess?
My two accomplishments that I consider to be my best happened in the past six months. I won the U14 section at the World Youth Chess Championships and I earned the International Master title! These, for me personally have been my favorite.