11596 Players currently online!
Man vs. Machine - good luck!
Turn-based games at any time!
Vote for the best move to win!
Do you have what it takes?
Sharpen your tactical vision!
Get advice and game insights!
Learn from top players & pros!
View millions of master games!
Your virtual chess coach!
Perfect your opening moves!
Test your skills vs. computer!
Find the right private coach!
Can you solve it each day?
Bring it all together!
Beginners, start here!
Make friends & play team games!
News from the world of chess!
Search all Chess.com members!
Find local clubs & events!
Who's the best of your friends?
Read what members are saying!
Here’s a not so quick blurb about myself and then I’ll get on with the topic at hand. I am a 43 year-old internet chess player who has been playing for several years. I first got interested in chess when a fellow officemate posed one of those "nature versus nurture" questions during our lunch hour. Somehow we got on the topic of chess: can you learn to be grandmaster or are you born to become a grandmaster?
For the record, I think the answer is some are born with innate talent that must be nurtured to achieve greatness. Tiger Woods comes to mind. In other words, the answer is both.
One of the ubiquitous chess myths is that you can’t achieve greatness in chess (master status would qualify in my opinion) if you start as an adult. I have done nothing to disprove this myth, but I refuse to believe that I can’t improve.
I am very average at bullet chess and I am so-so at blitz chess and I am decent at standard chess. My goal is to either improve overall or if I have to lean one way or the other, I would prefer to be better at standard, longer time interval chess. Over the course of a year, my standard rating on chess.com has improved from roughly 1400 to 1500 (I have reached a 1573 rating once but then fell back down to my current rating). I am pleased about this level of progress but not quite satisfied. I’d like to make it to the next level (1600 would qualify as the next level of chess for me). I am sure most of you have the same mindset judging by how aggressively you play!
For those who are interested in how I got to this level of play (I am always interested in this question when I read about other chess players), I will quickly spell that out but feel free to skip this part. The list will exclude the junk that didn’t help (the dead-end things I’ve done to try to improve). I have played very little OTB chess. All my experience comes from internet chess. I began playing on Pogo.com and moved on to chess.com, when I got more serious about it. I’ve played maybe 2000 games or so.
Here are the books that have helped the most in order that I read them. My recommendations are similar in content to Jeremy’s Silman’s recommendations in the reference section of How to Reassess Your Chess.
Step 1: Everyman’s Improve Your Opening Play by Chris Ward (this is an overview of your standard chess openings – d4, e4, English, etc) that helped me understand the fundamentals of chess openings. Before this book I had no clue what I was doing and would often get wiped off the board in 10 moves or less. Before this book, I had a 1400 rating on pogo.com. I think this might equate to a 1200 rating on chess.com. It helped me improve by about 50 rating points.
The 2nd book of relevance was an overview book on tactics called Starting Out: Chess Tactics and Checkmates, also by Chris Ward. After reading this book and doing the 100 puzzles in the back, my rating jumped about 50 points.
Step 3 was an overview of Endgames called Improve Your Endgame Play by Glenn Fear. Before I learned basic endgames, I always forced the game. In this period of my chess life, it was checkmate or bust because I knew if I got to the endgame, I would lose. The endgame study freed-up my game, allowing me to take less chances on unsound attacks. Strangely, this both helped and hurt my game. I lost of a lot of my aggressive tendencies (which often won games). My number of drawn games climbed to around 5%, my games, on average, lasted longer and overall I improved maybe 50 rating points. It allowed me to consistently peak above 1500 on pogo.com.
Step 4 was a stronger tactics book called Killer Chess Tactics. This was an exciting phase as my play dramatically improved and this made the games more exciting. My rating also improved about 50-75 points give or take.
Step 5 were two opening books by Everyman, one on the Sicilian and one on Queens Gambit declined. These allowed me to dramatically improve my opening lines and reduced opening mistakes. Games where I was wiped out in 17 moves rarely happened after these books. My rating on pogo.com was 1550 – 1650 after reading and absorbing these books.
Incidentally, I still have a Fukushima-like disaster every once in a blue moon. I had one the other day when I fell into a trap that I had never seen and got mopped off the board in less than 10 moves. It was humiliating, especially since my opponent learned about it in some cheesy chess traps book. Oh yeah, I asked about it and was glad to hear I wasn’t the only sucker who fell into it.
Step 6 was Jeremy Silman’s Complete EndGame Course. JS is simply the best chess teacher on the planet. The way he divides the book according to your rating level is simply brilliant. I’ve worked my way up to and absorbed all the material up to the 1800 level. I’ve read the remaining sections up to and including the master section, but I have not mastered the material above 1800 and would probably fail most of the tests above that level. The material gets very challenging above 1800, especially when you play against a chess engine and try to win the position.
Step 7 was learning positional play with Jeremy Silman’s The Amature Mind and How to Reassess Your Chess (HTRYC). These books were eye openers on strategy, positional play and assessment. These books are not easy to digest. It’s been a while since I read them and mentally, I am still digesting the information and learning to incorporate that information into my play. The words of JS are still knocking around in my mind, but not all the advice has made it into my games. These books are designed for 1400-2100 players. Correct chess calculation and strong tactical skills are essential to strong positional play. Your ability to accurately assess and calculate moves in your head before making a move, are critical. At this stage you must wok very hard to banish "Hope Chess" where you make a move and hope it is good. You have to know it is good because you have calculated the outcome.
Step 8 is tactics training on www.chesstempo.com. I’ve used other sites, but this one is my favorite. I try to knock out 15-25 problems a day and have a rating of 1720-1775 in standard mode with no time limit and 1550 rating in blitz mode where you are penalized for slow play. I just started the blitz mode and I’ve used other sites for blitz. What’s startling about playing blitz mode tactics is that the thinking process for blitz is different than standard mode. In standard mode at the higher level of tactics, you have to check and recheck your moves in your mind and be very patient before making your move. Some problems take 10 minutes to properly solve. The site penalizes your rating for not picking the best move (even if you pick a winning move) so you must be very careful before you move.
In blitz mode, your thought process is fast, almost instinctual. Blitz mode and Standard mode thought processes are contradictory! After playing 150 blitz mode tactics, I got pretty good at it. Then I switched to standard mode and watched my score go down by 70 points! I think the blitz mode tactics on this site match the speed you need to calculate when you play 15/10 chess, even though 15/10 chess is standard not blitz! We’ll see if my overall rating on chess.com improves after getting really good at blitz problems. Incidentally, there’s a wonderful comments section that you can open after each puzzle. You can contribute to these comments by showing why the correct solution is the correct solution or read someone else’s reply or just complain. The comments section is very therapeutic.
Overall, steps 7 and 8 improved my standard play over the last year by 100+ rating points in standard mode on chess.com. My standard rating on chess.com fluctuates between 1475 and 1575. Steps 7 and 8 are still a work in progress for me.
So, here we have arrived at the game I want to show you (a humiliating loss for me) but very instructional. It left an indelible imprint in my mind of how the game went and what my thought process was, even if my thinking during the game was flawed.
Redglove6 1495 (that’s me – a reference to boxing which I sometimes follow) vs. CountZugzwang 1532
1.e4e6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 exd54.d4 Nc6 5.Be2 Nf66.O-O Bd6 7.c4 dxc48.Bxc4O-O 9.Bg5 Be710.Qd3 Na5 11.b3 Nxc412.bxc4 b6 13.Re1 Bb4
The game is pretty even at this point. I’ve got a very strong center, a pin on the f6 Knight and for now, control of the e-file. I’ve also got a slight lead in development and my Queen is nicely developed on D3. Material is even. My plan should be to develop my b1 Knight to strengthen my center, help complete my development and connect my rooks. My next plan should be to play actively on the open e-file and half open b-file. I should also seriously consider swapping off one of my Knights for one of the two black bishops.
Black has the two active bishops in a very open game and a better pawn structure. With Bb7, he will own a very strong diagonal. The bishop pair is very strong because it can cover both colors. Played correctly in an open board, two bishops can be as strong as two rooks. The white a-pawn might move up the board to control some key space. Count Z’s plan is to complete his development with Bb7, taking advantage of that long diagonal and attempting to overload my Queen, which is currently guarding both center pawns and my f3 Knight with a possible Bxf3 to mess up my kingside pawn structure. Moves like Re8 are in the air to possibly equalize control of that file if the black Queen can free itself of the back rank. Note if, Re8 goes right away, then Rxe8, Qxe8, Bxf6 and I’ve messed up Count Z’s kingside pawn structure.
A longer term plan for black might be to challenge my center with a6 or possibly c6 (c6 would block the bishop on b7 so maybe a6 is preferred) and then b5 which will pressurize my c4 pawn. If I respond by pushing my c4 pawn, it can create a weakness of my d4 pawn which would now be backward (and open up the d5 square for a minor black piece which can be very strong on that square because it can’t be threatened by an adjacent white pawn. If I take on b5, it will leave me with an isolated d-pawn, again, a possible weakness, especially if he can get a minor piece safely to d5.
I was only vaguely aware of these imbalances when Count Z played Bb4. On the surface of things, Bb4 struck me as a very poor move, a weak one-move attack that could not last. I can easily kick the Bishop out with tempo with a3, a move which I might have planned to take anyway since it gives me more room on the Queen side and it restricts the scope of the dark squared bishop, but this move should probably be delayed until after I’ve developed my Knight.
However, the more I thought about Bb4, the more it worried me. My rook is attacked and like it or not, I’ve got to deal with that. My brain needed to kick into calculation mode and it was not ready for it. I really needed to settle down and use up some clock to contemplate the position and all its little nuances but my brain simply refused to do it correctly. I think the correct process after considering all the positional characteristics noted above would be to follow this line of thinking.
Can I capture the B4 bishop: no
Can I ignore it perhaps by threatening something greater (checkmate, queen, rook, etc): no
Will the exchange leave me with an overwhelming positional structure: no
These first three questions got answered quickly and I was down to two basic choices: move the Rook or block the attack. For those of you who like to use candidate moves, Nc3, Nd2 and Rd2 (any place along that file above d2 looks a little suspect. Rd3 and Rd4 – might get attacked by a minor piece and above that may eventually invite an attack by the f7 pawn.
Actually, I’m not crazy about moving the Rook off the back rank in this position, this early in the game because it weakens the back rank and is vulnerable to attack by a minor pieces (and most importantly, I haven’t completed my development), but I wanted to double the rooks and dominate the e file once I kicked out the bishop.
I think the correct move should be Nd2 which develops a piece, connects the rooks, blocks the attack and once the pin on the Knight is relieved, frees the Queen from guarding the f6 Knight.
Honestly, I didn’t even consider Nd2 (why, I don’t know). I ruled out Nc3 because I was inexplicably worried about the pin and the piece being overloaded. But what is there to overload the piece? A3 is coming and the pin will soon be relieved. The f6 Knight is pinned and even if it weren’t and moved to e4, I could take it with the Rook. Here’s what worried me: if the B7 bishop takes on f6 and I don’t want my pawn structure blown, I take back Qxf6, then Qxd4. I’ve lost a pawn and the Queen attacks the rook in the corner or overloads the Knight. But this turns out to be a ghost – a figment of bad calculation – a phantom attack. 1. Nc3 Bb7 2. a3 Bxf6, 3. axb3 and I’ve removed one of the bishops from the board (one of goals anyway), strengthened my center and kept the initiative since the black bishop is under attack on f3.
So what the heck happened? My brain viewed the Knight on b1 and never really moved it for the calculation (if that makes any sense). So, let’s say that black’s bishop is already on b7 and let’s say it’s black’s move (that’s two moves my brain gave black – why, I don’t know – makes me wonder whose side I’m playing for). Then 1…..Bxf6 2. Qxf6, Qxd4 3. Nc3 Bxc3 and white is down a piece, both rooks are under attack and white is completely lost. Instead, Bxf6 gxf6 and I’ve got a wrecked pawn structure but at least I am surviving.
I remember my brain locking up somewhere in the process, even though this is a very simple calculation. I should have settled down and recalculated the position. Instead, I moved the rook to D2 and continued with the game. I don’t think that Rd2 is a bad move but let’s talk about why psychologically it’s not a great move. When black moved his bishop to b4, he is saying, hey, I know you just moved your rook to that wonderful file and you had plans to complete your development and connect your rooks, but guess what? You must move it again and you’re going to chew 2 minutes off your clock contemplating my brilliant move and you were stupid for moving it to the e file in the first place.
Essentially, you must fear the bishop. Black expected me to move the rook, I spent 2 minutes thinking about it, then I gave into the demand and that was the start of a bad sequence of moves. Now, why this happens, I am not really sure, but the problem is a common one. Jeremy Silman describes this phenomena in chapter 4 of HTRYC. His advice is to avoid these zombie moves at all costs. Once you start down that path, forever will it dominate your destiny….or at least until the end of the game and the spell wears off.
When I moved the rook and dropped my own plans (development of the Knight), not only did I give my opponent a confidence boost, but I’ve taken a back seat to his plans. I can’t say it strongly enough, never give in to your opponents demands. Don’t buy what he is selling. Nd2 fulfills all my plans and rains on his parade. Rd2 is OK, but not the best move.
So the game continued:
14…..Bb7 (played instantly and why not, I gave him two minutes to think about his next move). Now Nd2 is tactically a must (15. Nd2 – if Bxf3, I can reload the position with my other Knight, if Bxd2 I can recapture with the rook and my d4 pawn is covered.
15 a3?? (this comes a move too slow and now everything I feared before comes to fruition)
……….Bxf6 (with tempo on my d2 rook which is now attacked.)
If Qxf6, then Qxd4 and my undeveloped Rook in the corner is attacked and my position is a mess, so I took back with gxf6 (good grief, I am thinking, have I learned nothing?).
Miraculously, I mentally gave my opponent two moves when I was calculating the position in my head and then I gave him two soft moves (Rd2 and a3). Here’s the rest of the game starting with move 14. Note how one bad move begets another. Note too how passive and reactionary my moves become. 14. Re2 Bb7
15. a3?? Bxf3
16. gxf6 Bc5!! (the d4 pawn is pinned to my Queen and attacked twice)
17. Bxf6?? (probably played with the intention of protecting the d4 pawn by freeing up the e4 square for my Rook – but pushing the pawn might have been the smarter way to go.
…..Qxf6 (amazingly, the d4 is still pinned even after the black Queen moved to take the bishop. This time the white rook in the corner is in trouble).
18. Re4?? (played with the dual intention of protecting the king and protecting the d4 pawn)…now you can smell black’s next move from a mile away.
……..Qg6+!! – pinning the white rook to the white Queen so it can’t move over to g4 to protect the king. Good lord, I thought, make it stop.
19. Kh1 Bd6 (my exclamation button is broken so I’ll leave this move naked. The bishop has moved 3 times and each time caused me problems. This time h2 is under attack).
20. Nd2 (finally developing this piece, but its a wee bit late.
………….Qh5 (threatening CM on h2)
21. h4?? (why not Nf1 when white might be able to hold it together for a while?)
………..f5!! (ok, my exclamation point is working again, just in time).
22. Re5 (White must give up material and frankly I gladly gave up my rook for that bleapin’ bishop. (If 22. Re1 Qxh4+ 23. Kg1 Qh2 + 24. Kf1 Qh1+ 25. Ke2 Re8+ 26. Kd1 Rxe1+ 27. Kc2 Rxa1 and the end is near, my friend.)
23. Kg2 Bxe5
24 dxe5 Rd8 (attacking the Queen, black’s game is on auto-pilot)
25 Qe3 f4 (the Queen can’t catch a break)
26 Qc3 Rf5
27 Kf1 (time to run) Re8
28 Ne4 Rxe5
29. Ke2 Re6
30 Rd1 Rg6
31 c5 Rg2 (the white Knight is pinned to the king, so the threat of Qxf2 is real).
32. Kd3 Rd8+
33. Kc2 Rxd1
34. Kxd1 Qd8+
35. Kc2 Rg1 (threatening mate in 2)
36. cxb6 (Nd2 delays the inevitable)
……….Qd1+ with mate to follow so I resigned.
There are a couple of points to sum up this game and the lessons learned:
(1) We’re all guilty of employing the one-move threat. Try to avoid these moves unless they truly improve your position in the process. If your opponent makes a one-move threat, it’s your job to calculate a strong reply. If you lazily move your piece, you risk weakening your structure, giving in to your opponent’s will and you risk transitioning into a reactive, passive game. Work really hard to play the move you want to play. How do you do this? You’ve got to calculate and assess not only the soundness of the move, but also the positional merits. Does it work tactically? Does it improve your central control or your mobility? Does it develop a piece? Does it set up a strong tactic? In general, does it progress your plan? If not, look for a stronger move. I can’t stress it enough: once you find a move that is strong, stop and take a look around and find a better move. If you see a move that captures a piece, sit on your hands until you prove to yourself that there isn’t a stronger move (checkmate, better combination, better position, etc). You’ll be amazed at what you are leaving on the table.
(2) Many chess players generate repetitive attacks that force you to calculate over and over again. They do this not necessary with sound attacks but simply because they want you to weaken your structure, or force you to use up time, or because they are hoping you will crack under the pressure or they are hoping to luck into a good move. They know that once your time runs low, you will play worse because you have less time to calculate the correct move. I am not a big fan of this style of play, but it can be challenging to play against it. These types of players are constantly trying to change the structure of the pieces. Good, strong, accurate calculation is essential to beating this type of player. You must find the flaws and advance your ideas despite your opponent’s hyper-activity. If you find that all your energy goes into defending a pawn, consider giving it up for more active play.
I am of the belief that it is worth investing more time earlier in the game to find the right moves and to understand the position. Try to reach deeper into the position than your opponent. Once the board simplifies, often your calculation load is reduced and you can make up time towards the end of the game. A lot of time can be squandered when you make a lazy move and then have to scramble to undo what you have done.
(3) When you select moves try to pick ones that not only advance your goals, but also take away squares that your opponent wants to occupy. Always try to get at the root of opponents ideas. Where does he want to move? Can I take away those squares? Often you can choose moves that both advance your strategy but also refute your opponent’s ideas or reduce their effectiveness. Find moves that serve more than one role (both defensively and offensively and square control).
(4) Never buy what your opponent is selling. Calculate to the best of your ability to prove your opponent is wrong. You should assume that the move is bad until your precise calculations prove otherwise.
This is a nice game, Chess starts with precise calculation and ends with it. You need to look further how to improve your calculating ability and avoid blunders. It is great that you analyse your games and know your mistakes.
Why not take f3 with the queen instead of the pawn?!! I don't get it at all. It all went downhill from there imho. And why take the knight on f6 with the bishop when your king is open i would keep the knight pinned for now. Instead of knight to d2 why not get the queen out of the pin so you could then go rook g4? If you started with the knight why not keep going and place it on f1 to protect h2 instead of pushing the pawn to a black square?! After his pawn attacked your rook it was over for you imho since your pieces had no space to move around. To be honest i have not read your analysis since it's too long but wanted to mention that my rating is tiny so i might be missing something here but i doubt it. Games like this make me feel that 1500 rating is within reach! :) Was this a blitz or a standard game? I'm really curious. Don't mean to knock your game i'm sure you're much stronger in your other games.
How long did it take you to write this "not so quick blurb"?
A Lecture by GM Igor Khenkin on calculation is here:
I found it really useful:)
To the point....but too much point.
Wow, Instructive analysis.. Thanks.
I think you are overthinking things.
Bb4 then Nd2;
a3 is not so bad;
Bc5 then Rd2 and next N on go;
Bxf6 very bad move;
and so on, and so on.
Conclusion (coming from my experience in chess): you are very bad positional player.
Really. First positional mistake was Qd3.
Second conclusion: if you better your positional play, you will get 100-200 ranking points in no time.
How? You should play slow chess. 30+30 at least. You should play in some tournament with that tempo OTB, because you will see how people think. Really, one can see it OTB on game with slow tempo.
That's my advice.
One more think (if you would like to answer that), could you try to quess why i said, that Qd3 was positional mistake?
what the #$%^was he playing and how did he win?
by Somebodysson a few minutes ago
Analyse this game please
by Britiannia 3 minutes ago
Mastery of Mating Pattern
by Breakthrough_Man 3 minutes ago
Why Russians are so good at chess.
by tankster0434 4 minutes ago
Chess.com's Computer Rating
by nameno1had 8 minutes ago
Brutal Queen Sacrifice
by clunney 9 minutes ago
my awesome program is invincible!!!
by macer75 9 minutes ago
Who is the best chess player ever?
by christophersudargo 11 minutes ago
Stuff Non-Chess Players Say
by akafett 11 minutes ago
How to find a coach?
by gambit-man 13 minutes ago
Why Join | Chess Topics |
Help & Support |
© 2013 Chess.com
• Chess - English
We are working hard to make Chess.com available in over 70 languages. Check back over the year as we develop the technology to add more, and we will try our best to notify you when your language is ready for translating!