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Bitter sweet august or how chess imitates football

Quote of the month - “Don’t be afraid of losing, be afraid of playing a game and not learning something” - Dan Heisman

August is almost over so it's time for my monthly update. It was a very interesting month, I've learned a lot of useful things and I'm grateful that I have discovered them early in my chess career. Why then bitter sweet you may ask.


The greatest Romanian football coach Emeric Jenei, who won the Champions League with Steaua Bucharest in 1986, was saying that he doesn't make illusions because he doesn't want to live disappointments. Some say that it's better to approach everything with a winner mentality but my opinion is that it always depends. If you're a person who doens't know how to handle downsides what will you do when you hit a streak of defeats? I've been there and I know it's damn hard to turn on the engines again. The passion and joy of playing chess is gone and you start questioning your hobby, wondering if there aren't any other pleasant activities out there.


I love to experiment new things so my approach starting September will be slightly different. I won't set anymore goals regarding my chess.com and chesstempo ratings. I'll forget about them and also about deadlines.

My only goal will be to focus each time I make a move and choose the best one. I'm pretty sure that this is a superior approach, I know where I want to be and I focus only on the steps (moves) that will lead me to my goal. I'm in this for the long term and the bonus of this method is that you can enjoy the road. 

Pep Guardiola, my favorite coach, was never thinking about winning The Spanish League or The Champions League trophy. He was focusing only on the next game and on how to win it. I guess I don't need to mention his results. 


Modifications in my study approach:

As you already know I spend 2 hours daily playing chess or reviewing my lost games and solving tactics problems. If this helps to get better there are a few tricks that can accelerate the learning process. Hicetnunc was kind enough to share them:

"I give my students to fight the chronic lack of focus that may affect you when playing online chess. Btw., this is a common problem, as the emotional involvement is usually low, and there's always the next game...

My recommendation is to have two separate sets of games : fun/training games and "serious games".

Fun and training games, you can play whenever you want and as you like. However, for "serious games", you can adopt a few rules :

- only 2 or 3 "serious games" a week

- longer time controls (30' is a minimum - I recommend 1hr +)

- time and date should be decided in advance (at least 48 hrs.)

- ideally, get a distinct rating for those (not easy on chess.com, but there are ways to do this by using other servers for those serious games)

This is meant to emulate real OTB competition, where the # of rated games is limited, and you must make those games count. If you arrive tired at your tournament games, well too bad for you, as you probably won't get the chance to play again before a couple weeks/months"

I'll try to follow as much as I can these suggestions and stop playing 
rated games on my mobile phone, at work or in pubs.

The other trick is about how to study tactics. The main goal of this is to memorize tactical patterns that might occur in a chess game. Instead of doing 60 minutes of problems I'll do only 45 minutes and the last 15 will be spent reviewing the missed exercises. Also, at the end of the week I'll dedicate 1 hour foe reviewing my missed puzzles, sorted by descendant rating. I think it's a good way to memorize them better.


My results in August:

As you may notice, after reaching the peak of 1321 I had a massive drop. I'm saturated of tactics problems at the moment and in the last days I've skipped them. It's strange that in this period my chess.com rating increased a lot. Breaks can be beneficial sometimes. My chesstempo rating is only 8 points higher than last month but I'm glad that I've reached that 1321 peak.

My chess.com rating increased with 154 points and I'm pretty sure that I'll reach 1200 pretty soon. This number is important because this means that I've doubled my chess knowledge. On 4th of July I had a ranking of 597.


I would like to thank Hicetnunc and gpobernardo for their help in analysis and for sharing their chess wisdom with me. Finally a big thank you for every person that defeated me online or OTB, you are one of the reasons why I continue to get better at chess. Thank you for awakening my competitive side!

See you at the end of September or in live games!


Later edit: I've just received an email from a friend. He is worried because I've skipped my rugby training, some drinking sessions related to this sport and he doesn't understand why I'm not attracted to rugby anymore. That's the bitter truth unfortunately, I'm not enjoying anymore a game like I used to do. But instead I can spend 4-5 hours analyzing a chess game and feel great after. One of the reasons is that I see many similarities between these 2 games: the pawns are the forwards, the bishops are the wingers, the knights are the centers, the queen is the fly half and the king is the full back. In chess you have tactics to break the opponent's pawn structure, same in rugby, you have pick&go to break the opponent defence line. I'll stop here and with the risk of being considered mentally ill maybe I'll post something in the future regarding this subject. 


  • 23 months ago


    You're welcome. Chess is usually more interesting when done with someone else, hahahaha :)

  • 23 months ago


    There are many ways to study these games. Simply replaying them is already useful, but if you want a little more challenge, try to organize some 'guess the move' session : one of you brings a game and the other tries to guess the moves of the champion (and you switch sides for the next game).

    When your move is different from the champion's move, you try to figure out if your move is as good, or not as good and why. That's where the annotations are useful, but sometimes you won't be able to figure out the difference between your choice and the champion's choice. Maybe it means your move is as good, or maybe something has escaped your attention. For some of these ? moves, you can ask in the forums, or use an engine if you're really stuck.

    Sometimes the champion's move will be a bit puzzling too : then you also try to understand what he is trying to do. If you can't it's okay - just put it at rest and tackle it later with some help, or forget it Smile

    At the end you can summarize a couple of things you've seen in the game (some patterns, some strategical ideas at work). You don't need to figure out everything : just try to learn a couple of new things in every game. Then, you can go over the game again 6-12 months later, and see if you discover new things with your improved understanding.

    If you enjoy tactics, you should be quite happy with Morphy's games too, as they are very rich in this area Smile

    Note that the guess the move exercise brings maximum rewards if you don't move the pieces while guessing (like in a real game). But of course, you can move the pieces when analyzing.

    This exercise (borrowed from the Russian school Wink) is one of the most beneficial for long-term improvement. Very few people do it even on a occasional basis. It brings rewards even if you look at games which are not directly related to the openings you're playing because simple looking how masters play helps you develop a natural feel for what's right or wrong in the game.

  • 23 months ago


    Hello Hicetnunc and thanks for your answer,

    I've listend to your advice and I've spent more time on each problem, sometimes even 5 min. My corect % is getting lover because I had some sleep problems and I couldn't rest. But now everything is on the right path.

    I've already listened to your advice and went through 2 games of Capablanca and Morphy together with gpobernardo. I have a question, I have some books with annotated games of these masters but how we should study them?

    I want to go through Morphy and Alekhine games, I love attacking chess. I hardly wait to gain some more knowledge in order to be able to go through Tal and Nezhmetdinov games

  • 23 months ago


    Hi Keyser,

    I'm pretty sure you're heading in the right direction. Don't be afraid to take some breaks and change your training from time to time as you do here. It's important that chess stays a fun activity : training like a pro sometimes make it unecessary dull, and that's not what we want.

    Actually, I've had the same problem than you and sometimes feel bored with strict training schedules. When it arrives, I just stop for a couple of days, let my mind wander and wait for chess to come back and bug me again Smile

    I also wanted to point out that your chesstempo rating is quite good considering you've started only a few months ago. As we already discussed, taking some more time to solve the exercises (2-3 mins. is what you have in a tournament game on average for each move) and reviewing the missed ones as you intend to do should greatly improve your tactical ability.

    I'd like to suggest adding an extra element to your chess diet, and I think looking at your recent games that you're ready for it now : it's going over some classical master games (Morphy, Tarrasch, Capablanca, Alekhine), preferably with notes (there are plenty of them on chess.com and on Internet). This immersion thing will prove extremely beneficial, as you're going to pick lots of tactical and positional ideas simply by seeing them and some of these games are so beautiful that it will also renew your pleasure for chess Smile

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