Upgrade to Chess.com Premium!

The Grandmaster's positional understanding, by Igor Smirnov

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #141


    So… there are many questions about the courses of Mr I.Smirnov and i understand that in regard of the price he ask to download his lessons, and in a certain extent, it‘s also true that the marketing-thing around his products are in my humble opinion… a little too much regarding his target audience J (I’m a marketeer)   A few words about me to set the chess-background of my following comments…  I’m a 1750 fide player, 1700 belgian national ELO, and play now in a club for 7 years.   Going from my first rating of 1300 ELO to my actual one, my biggest leap in rating was due to Mr Heisman’s recommendations that I found in his chess café articles and his book(s). I played and studied for approximately 4 years and went to 1450 ELO. Then I discovered Mr Heisman’s and I worked VERY HARD to follow his recommendations (don’t think just read it is enough) and saw my ELO going constantly up for 18 months before going a little step back and stabilize around the 1660. I didn’t played a lot last year and began to study again in September this year, playing 10 OTB slow control time games with a progression of around 45 points, breaking in the 1700+ club J   In the same period I bought Mr Smirnov course and began working on it. I didn’t found on the web any objective review of it and I decided to give it a try and judge by myself one of his “cheapest” course The Grandmaster’s secrets.   It’s really hard to tell you if my last progression is mainly due to his course or not, but it certainly helped, and in which extent is also hard to tell, a bit ? a lot ? I personally think that it has to do with a combination on factors. One of the most important being how much time do you have to put in the study of the game and studying the right topic regarding your playing strength.   In his course GM secrets, Mr Smirnov gives 5 videos lessons. For my rating, the lessons about how to prepare against tournament opponent are pointless. Because the main recommendation are to look up his games in a database ( which 1700-2000 are to be found in a good chess database ???) and then to analyse his games to point out his weaknesses and strengths, drawing at the same time his style of play.   Well, sorry, but I’m not able to point out anyone’s weaknesses / strangths at my rating level + I also have a life aside from chess, understand almost enough time to work on my own games ! J   Would be any 2200 + reading this review, then those advices could help you, but I’m sure you already know how to prepare against your next opponent. Right ?   So much for those two lesson’s, the second one being linked with your opponent preparation by giving advices about your opening selection to take benefit of his weaknesses. Proof me wrong when you want but I challenge any 1300 to let’s say 1900 change do all this work for one specific encounter, based on analyses of his opponent’s game… be my guest. I think anyone @ this rating could benefit more about working on other topics, unless they have an unlimited amount of time for studying.   The three other one’s are much more interesting. The first one gives you tips for the selection of your candidates moves, the second one is about technique to calculate tactics efficiently and the third one puts it all together by presenting you a ready to use Think process for your real games. (see more details on his site, I won’t tell you here the content of his course, not because it is worth nothing, but by respect for his work)   To be honest, much part of this all is told by Mr Heisman as well. But here, it’s done in a different way and some new stuffs are told as well. I’m convinced that working on the course would be benefic but I’m a little bit more concern to do it before Heisman for anybody below my rating. I put the lessons learned in practice in my last games, but all mixed up to with things I learned from Heisman.   For example, Mr Smirnov gives advice about your time management but in a less extended way than Heisman do. But, Heisman’s topics about pieces activity are covered in another way by Sminov, and I found that way better.   Along with the theoretical part you’ll find practical task to learn the material given in the lessons. This is a real good point that you won’t find (besides if I missed something) in Heisman’s articles. Sure he will almost always illustrate his article with some examples but then it’s up to you to collect the material to deeper your study. Once again, nothing wrong with it, but it can be time consuming.   In my eyes, this is the only point that justify that mr Smirnov charge for his courses while those from Heisman are free. (but I see recently that you have to pay now for his last artcles). By choosing for mr Smirnov lessons you got an all in one package with the theoretical lessons and the exercises that emphasize your learning of the key ideas.   Now, don’t be fooled here. You get two types of exercises, strategic ones and tactical ones. I won’t give my opinion about the strategic ones because I feel of myself that I m not sufficient good to judge them. Let’s just say that they illustrates the theoretical part of the course. But for the tactical ones, don’t expect them to be easy. So, If you are not familiar with the simplest tactical patterns Heisman recommend to know by hart first before going deeper, pass your way. But maybe not, because here you we’ll practice your way of thinking when tactical situations arises on the board, to make your way through tactical complications.   To short it a bit, let’s say both are complementary. By following Heisman advices about doing simple tactical patterns over and over again, I trained my pattern recognition. By solving way much harder tactical puzzles, you maybe won’t find the solutions, but you we’ll work on your thought process in those situations and also important, on your visualization skills working your way through the overwhelming branches of the solution. (I saw one 15 moves deep, 30 ply! Good luck to solve that one J )   I made a parallel between Heisman and Smirnov because when it come to chess self-improvement, I didn’t find anyone coming close to those 2 teachers. I don’t claim one is better than another, both has their ways and styles of teaching to the large audience. What I well want to say is that for any player between 1100 to 1700 Heisman is a sure way to go, it won’t hurt your game or your wallet to follow his advices. For people who thinks that they came at a level where they need something else than going through (WITH ALL MY RESPECT for them) games of 1500 players to improve now, then Mr Smirnov lessons are worth a try, and then judge by yourself if you can afford one of his cheapest course.   I would also like to say that I sent a few questions to the support desk of the site from Mr Smirnov. He nether answered personally, but the people working for him answered very fast. I disagreed with the answer given about a specific comment from me (lack of feedback in one particular task of the course) but by no means, all this marketing-thing around his products are synonym of swindle or intellectual fraud from their side. I don’t feel like a fool buying his product for the moment.  That’s what refrained me the most of buying any of his course, plus the fact that you find many “made” comments on the net, at least in my eyes, I don’t buy that kind of sh*t like “hey, buy his course, my rating went up 300 points in 1 month”, yeah, for sure man, and your wife left home J   Getting better ask time… and others factors are involved. I study much less now than I did when I began to play. But I still make progress because I study the right material for my level and to address my (chess) problems.   Let me say it this way : Time + efficient way of learning + best available material = progress guaranteed. I read many, many, many things written by Heisman. Not everything, plus he also have huge interesting videos on ICC… but I think I can say I have a clear idea of the content of his lessons. Smirnov is at this point only familiar to me for one course, I think I ll buy The Grandmaster Positional understanding soon, and let you know about it.   -        If you think Hesiman gives you this formula actually, stick with it. -        If you think Heisman as given you this formula but you are actually stuck, maybe it’s time for a change in your habits or training material. I don’t say you should try Mr Smirnov here, maybe getting a coach if you find one decent will do, or anything else, or maybe not J -        If you are looking to fulfill this formula and haven’t tried Heisman yet, give it a try or choose Smirnov. By choosing Smirnov you have to pay, but you also get the practical tasks you’ll have to collect the other way… -        if you began with Smirnov to follow this formula and still make progress, keep on the good job. If you’re stuck, depending your level, try Heisman.   But always remember too that everybody has different problem to address, depending on many different things. I made this leap by fixing mostly my thought process and my time management. Maybe you need something else you won’t find in Heisman or Smirnov…   I hope this comment will help… any questions are welcome J I tried to give insight at a higher level than saying “blab la bla, he is the best” “blabla bla, no, he is the best” and so on… I was looking for this type of comments before buying Smirnov course, what I didn’t found then.
  • 17 months ago · Quote · #142


    Sorry about that long post. But i wanted to be complete. Plus, yes it takes time to read but it will save your time at another point, hopefully. Does everybody wants everything instantanetly in our days ? ;)

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #143


    I have used his "Openings Laboratory: Part One" and his method of writing up a short summary of key positions and ideas for each opening in my repertoire has helped me understand openings better.

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #144


    blueparrot12345 wrote:

    I have bought FOUR of GM smirnov's courses, and have not regretted them at all. I have just gotton A 2200+ USCF performance at the World Open, which will probably boost my rating by almost 200 points, getting me to the clear expert level.

    People who say that the course is too small to fit all positional understanding simply have no idea about how to study chess effectively. In chess study LESS INFORMATION is usually better than more information. His base course the GM secrets explain how to study chess properly and get fast results. Chess knowledge has almost nothing to do with chess ability.

    Yeah... his marketing strategy looks very sleazy, and yet he delivers just what he advertises.

    Again, chess is not about who knows more information. In fact, knowing more will just confuse you, since you don't even know what to think about.

    Can you tell us what are the four courses that you have bought?

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #145


    Use paragraphs We R Pawns. Make it readable! 

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #146


    My idea for white would be to apply pressure on blacks isolated pawn in the centre.

    I'd probably start with Rook to c2 preparing Rd2, so I can relieve the queen from it's duty of protecting the d-file.

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #147


    The_Cosmologist wrote:

    I have read a few comments and came to know that there are many people who doubt the ability and level of Mr. Smirnov as a teacher.

    Okay then, I have a test for you. I found this game on Igor Smirnov's website.


    I believe that anyone who has studied Grandmaster's positional understanding deeply (deeply means really deep, not just watched) will have no problem finding the correct idea for white.

    It's a challenge to those who think that his courses are for beginners: #46

    Also to those who think that his courses are overpriced: #126

    It's a special challenge to those who think that the strategic principles provided in his courses are a simple rule of thumb: #125

    This game is between one of the best players of their time and anyone can find the answer by searching in any online database (and many would cheat, I know), but you not only have to tell the answer but also explain the reason of the move.

    Don't think that today's top engines would let you find the correct strategic decision in this position. They are of no use here.

    Those who already know the answer, whether through Smirnov's website or any other source, please do not post.

    And by the way, I know the forum and most of the posts here are quite old, but, I came to know about this forum recently and for me it's new.

    I like these posts!  Okay, we have a classic e3+f2 g2 h2 tabiya against isolated d-pawn, the weak b5 hole is plugged by a pawn, I don't like that, pawn nicely blockaded by the knight, but threatened by the bishop, with black to play maybe Bxd5-exd5 mutual isolated d-pawns favor knights.  Bishop pair vs. knight pair, I want to trade off minor pieces and pressure that d-pawn. 

    I'd say the position is equal, maybe slightly better for white.  Knowing that 1...Bxd5 2.exd5,Ne4 is strong for black my first candidate is 1.Nce2 opening the file for the rook while reinforcing the square in front of the isolated pawn.  What would black's plan be?  Maybe trade off lightsquared bishops or knight for lightsquared bishop leaving me weak on the light squares?  I don't see how he can viably do that anytime soon. 

    f5 looks like a good square for the knight, but after Qc7 it doesn't really do much.  To avoid the knights becoming dangerous black will need to play ...g6 covering this vital square.  A defender should defend his weakest points with the bare minimum needed and no more and make sure he keeps defensive concessions to a bare minimum as well.  By itself, this weakening isn't significant enough for an advantage, but the kingside could use further work.  Principle of two weaknesses: kingside and isolated d-pawn, need to work with these for optimal winning chances. 

    1.Nce2,Bxd4 2.Nxd4 is great for white, he likely won't exchange but it never hurts to see all checks, captures, and threats before proceeding.

    If black shuffles around doing nothing then

    1.Nce2,Kh8 2.Nf4,Kg8 3.Nf5 is quite strong, but black is in the game too and also looking for his best move. 

    1.Nce2 doesn't lose material and helps transfer it to a more active square while reinforcing the d4 point in front of the isolani so pushes clock.

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #148


    The position looks equal and quiet enough.  I know one should control the square in front of the isolated d-pawn and the knights support eachother and is more flexible from e2 than c3.  The d4 pawn is pretty solid and Nc5 is quite strong, but the lightsquared bishop is important for white or else he'd be weak on the light squares. 

  • 17 months ago · Quote · #149


    Or converting your advantage when you're winning.  Like an old saying goes it isn't what leaves that matters but what stays on, if trading an active rook for passive one leads to a winning pawn ending the trade should be initiated, but if it leaves it equal avoided. 

  • 16 months ago · Quote · #150


    I don't know. I haven't bought them, but I've looked all his videos in Youtube. While very instructional, it didn't add me anything to, say, MI Silman's "How to Reassess your Chess" book, just to name an example. I think maybe people sometimes live like... a fantasy -I'm not saying anyone here does-, but I've seen in my club players that dream of getting that "magic pill" [or any metaphor that means just not put up all the hard work], or magic book or magic course, or whatever, and then suddenly become an expert.

    I suggested to those players to be honest, look in the mirror, like myself, and accept you're not José Raúl Capablanca. You MUST put the hard work. The long hours. The countless exercises. The skip-the-friday-party-endgame study.

    Yes, it's true, GMs understand chess different from us, mere average players. But there's no magic pill to that understanding, only hard work. If you're in the middle game and you see a possible endgame that requires precise technique, how would you know if you want to drive the game into that endgame if you haven't perfected endgame technique. Maybe you could improvise or have the "intuition" that it's winning, maybe you even win the game by sheer brainpower and improvisation. BUT, like GM Smirnov himself said in a video, that's hardly the CONSISTENT way of playing.

    That means that before discarting all this HARD work just because someone [even a GM himself] told you it was easy to understand the game better, you should carefully see the life ot other GMs, and how they got their craft done. And you should do this especially if that someone is going to charge you.

    I'm not saying GM Smirnov's courses are phony or whatever. Like I said, I didn't buy them. What I say is that if you want to be a strong player, you first forget of the easy way and the quick way, that is, forget the lust for ego or recognition. And be prepared to long hours.

    And, well, by the way, this space was not paid by MI Silman, hehehe. But, really, his book about imbalances of chess, along with his workbook, REALLY oblige you to understand the game better. Minor piece imbalance, space, initiative, material, development, all the sound concepts are there.

    I remember that after reading the book, I went through some of the games of my favorite player, Tigran V. Petrosian, and... it made sense. His games now made more sense. It didn't happened in a blink -you probably have to read that book several times-, but supported with other books from other guys, like John Nunn, or Angus Dunnington, and, above all, PRACTICE, you make huge progresses. Practice, practice, practice.

    So... I think I'll pass GM Smirnov's courses. Hey, but his Youtube videos, those are great! hehehe

  • 16 months ago · Quote · #151


    Wise words... however i must add that GM Smirnovs courses provide HOURS upon HOURS of tasks...homeworks...that help you..but go ahead and pass :)

  • 16 months ago · Quote · #152


    I agree with topo. I don't see anything in Smirnov's course that is worth the money he is asking for. 

    Everyone knows, in their heart of hearts, what needs to be done to improve. Smirnov's courses are pre-packaged and yet as expensive as individual lessons. To me, it would make more sense to invest in a live coach than to pay for Smirnov's courses. 

    But most people can improve even without a coach. It just takes hard work and dedication.

  • 16 months ago · Quote · #153


    Tope, you needed a mirror to realize that you are not Capablanca?

  • 11 months ago · Quote · #154


    SmyslovFan wrote:

    I agree with topo. I don't see anything in Smirnov's course that is worth the money he is asking for. 

    Everyone knows, in their heart of hearts, what needs to be done to improve. Smirnov's courses are pre-packaged and yet as expensive as individual lessons. To me, it would make more sense to invest in a live coach than to pay for Smirnov's courses. 

    But most people can improve even without a coach. It just takes hard work and dedication.

    I was curious about these courses, and bought them.  Igor Smirnov doesnt present anything new, and there is no "magic pill".  But for me at least, what he does do, is present things in a different light.  Obviously using only myself as a testimonial, i am 51 and started playing in 2009, after a 25 year break.  I study openings, middle games, and end games, buy books, watch videos, study tactics, etc.  I bought his courses last November.  I started with The Grandmaster's Positional Understanding, and am currently on his Endgame Expert course.  My rating has gone from USCF 1644 to 1805 in that time (nothing phemomenal for most die hard players).  But please keep in mind that before that i floated around the 1500's to 1600's before that. 

    I would like to stress this again...His courses offer nothing new, and they are not a magic pill for improvement.  For me, he simply presented things that "clicked" much faster, than all the other studying i did. 


    I am the occasional tournament player, so would my improvement be even better? or worse? I dont know...

  • 11 months ago · Quote · #155


    hello every one, I have not purchased Smirnovz's book, hovever I have watched several of his tutorials on youtube, and I have personally found his videos to be extremly helpful, and my chess game has improved dramatically! His tutorials has given me a deeper understanding of the game in it's entirety. although I am not participating currently in any rated tournaments, I do have the opportunity to play against very strong players and I must say that i am amazed at how well i am playing. I will be purchasing his material and I am hopeful that his work will continue to be beneficial. ps I would hate for my oponents to get a hold of Mr smirnov's videos, LOL!

  • 11 months ago · Quote · #156


    nobody is saying Smirnov's stuff is useless. what many people are saying is that it is advertised as the magic pill and, to be honest, there's no magic pill. just HARD WORK. Being really good, border elite, means many hours going through the fundamentals, with countless GMs games you have to look at -at least-, and a deep, proper understanding of Endgame, not to mention the thousand of Tactics excersises you need to be in really good shape. You can get all these with a couple of books, a free online game database (like chessgames.com, for example, or 365chess.com), a good and comfortable chair, and a nice desk lamp.

  • 11 months ago · Quote · #157


    Yosriv wrote:

    Hi everybody!

    Has anyone already bought Igor Smirnov's chess course "The Grandmaster's positional understanding"? (Igor Smirnov is rated 2496 Elo, look here


    I have Smirnov's course: "The Grandmaster's secrets" and I found it simple to understand and very practical. But if you have any ideas about the previously named course, it will certainly help me a lot. Thank you in advance

    I totally suggest it...I'll give you my testimonial :)

    After I finished the course my rating went from 1900 stable to 2000 stable.

    For your convenience, here's the link of the course


  • 5 months ago · Quote · #158


    Long thread!

    I went through all of it and here is my take. Smirnov puts people off by his advertising methods. This isnt necessarily bad, but it makes a bad impression on lots of people. I used to trade forex and its full of people trying to sell you snake oil.

    I think the problem is with chessplayers, not necessarily Smirnov. We all want quick success and Smirnov clearly targets that. But nothing will make us succeed unless we put in hard work.

    The truth is, if you pick just a few good books, work hard on them, and improve your calculation and evaluation skills, you will surely become a strong player. Its slow going, but it can be achieved. Most of us (myself included), have great chess knowledge, but not  great chess skill. There is nothing radical in what Smirnov is saying and there is hardly any radical thing anyone can say. The issue is that we acquire theoretical knowledge but not practical strenth.

    I know more about chess than some of my opponents, but they beat me.

    I would also like to say that Smirnov isnt that highly rated http://ratings.fide.com/card.phtml?event=14110482  Elo 2496 but then again, Kasparov is so way above my level that Smirnov might be the better teacher.

    I recall, reading Bent Larsen saying that Euwe's books were good up to a certain level but that once you climbed higher, you felt that everything he wrote was a lie. Well, chess is about exceptions to the rule. I got punished for underating an opponent who refused to castle. Now when I see my opponent is not willing to castle, I become wary. I have also learnt not to castle automatically (this is what I mean by theoretical knowledge versus practical strength).

    I also lost several blitz games against a player who always played h4, a4, or h5.., ...a5, as his first moves. I couldnt understand it but when I later thought of it, it was clear what he was doing. He was starting a flank attack with his first moves and any attempt I made to open up the center, he would block it and continue with his attack on my castled king. I did everything the books said and I kept loosing (he was rated 2141).


    In conclusion, if we pick good material, study and practice we will become good. Even Smirnov can help.

    I wrote this for others, but also to encourage myself.

  • 5 months ago · Quote · #159


    Few said it is worse some other said very nice but if u check the rating s of other who said the course is awesome they are worse.

  • 9 days ago · Quote · #160


    The fundamentals of Smirnov's courses are that they make you think by yourself. Hence your learning is slower but it is not artificial. For example, "fork" is a chess tactic. It takes half a minute to learn this for a newbee. A GM also knows what a fork is. The difference between them is that the newbee's knowledge is artificial. 

    To learn anything in a way which is self-satisfactory you have to think yourself. Yes chess books will impove you, videos will improve you, but the improvment will REALLY be coming from thinking yourself not by the stuff that you use. 

    Smirnov takes you on a trip back into proactivity and self-learning, traits that one is born with, but unfortunately loses over time.

    The thing is that grown-ups always like to "study" something which actually just means to read, write, listen, watch some stuff etc. Whenever grown-ups get serious about something they think: 'how do I "study" this'?. Uncle philosophy I'd say.

    Keeping in mind that the real grownup meaning of "study" means reading, writing, listening etc, but not doing, not doing. Again: not doing.

    Ok, doing, but in the opposite ratio to what it should be against reading, writing etc.

    Irony being that children who are the best of learners only lose their flair when promted for "study". Its Ironic that study=losing your independence in self thinking whereas it should be = increasing your ability in self thinking.

    In a nutshell, Smirnov takes a route in which the goal is to reach a point to discover knowledge yourself, naturally, to reach the point where the teachers learned stuff. It takes you to the source. And it is subjectively more novel, original and a long term proposition.


    In the end, it depends on where you want to go. If you want to win with some friends and family, and just be called "good" you don't need Simrnov. If you want to become a titled player, learn till you become happy, and your current rating is 1200-1900 then this stuff is definately for you.

    Again it depends what your assumptions and presumptions are. In the long term Simrnov is best. In the short term he isn't.






Back to Top

Post your reply: