3 Different Chess Views You Need To Know
All three of these ways of looking at chess have merit.

3 Different Chess Views You Need To Know

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I get so many questions and statements about chess, but being old (yep, 108 years old…don’t worry though, the friends that are still alive tell me that I don’t look more than 98) means that all those questions have been asked over and over and over.

Seriously, I’ve gotten letters from members saying, “Oh my god! I thought you were dead!” Not so fast, Mr. chess guy. Not so fast! I’m still around!

So what are those “over and overs?” Opening questions, endgame questions, tactical questions, positional questions, chess history, etc. The most painful are those who, with ratings from 800 to 1600, don’t realize that their questions are pretty much the exact same questions everyone else asks.

chess lighthouse

That’s right, you are not alone! The vast chess masses are all begging for some magical trick that will make their brain suddenly light up and understand all that needs to be understood. Alas, it just doesn’t work that way.

Okay, okay, sometimes that magical flash does appear, but there’s a couple reasons for it:

1: The person, usually very young, is blessed with amazing TALENT. Too bad I didn’t have that.

2: HARD WORK. Many get angry when I mention this. Surely reading a book or two will propel the reader to greatness, right? Sadly, no. A couple books can be very helpful, but that’s just the start of your journey. Which means more practice and more study and more losses (all of us have to lose lots of games).


Seeking Excellence

5 stars

You might be asking, what about that “magic thing?” Well, when I was 16 years old I was about to quit chess. I had studied five hours a day (sometimes more), seven days a week every week (okay, I didn’t have a life), three years straight. (I learned how to play at 12 but didn’t immerse myself until 13.)

Yet, all my love for the game only bestowed an 1800 rating on me. Not good enough, and my brain continued to crash and burn in game after game. It was clearly hopeless. With a sad sigh, I decided to play one more tournament and, unless a miracle occurred, I would have to decide on another vocation. I still loved chess, but it hit me that when I got out of high school, university might eventually be useful!


The first game of the tournament (in San Diego) was pretty much par for the course. I won two games, but I realized that I played badly (again) against weak players. The next day I was given stronger opponents (experts and masters). And, somehow, I was a new person.

Here’s what I did against the expert:

I surprised myself! For some reason, my mind was clear and my calculations crisp.

In the next game I played a master, and after a hard battle I drew. I think I shared second.

Thinking that this was luck, I decided to play in Los Angeles. After drawing Larry Christiansen, I got Ron Gross, a strong master and a close friend of Fischer’s. Here’s that game:

How did this quantum leap happen? It sure wasn’t magic. Nonstop study was the “culprit” since, just at the right moment, all of that work blasted me (literally overnight) into a whole different understanding about the game.

So should you give up at chess if you aren’t making progress? NO! Don’t do it!

Studying and practice WILL make you stronger. In my day we didn’t have databases, so I put together an opening repertoire (something that would excite me), I studied lots of tactical puzzles, I quickly played over a zillion games every day (remember when I said that I didn’t have a life?). My brain started to bask in the all the chess patterns I saw, I made sure that I had all the endgame basics, and I picked out chess heroes (Alekhine, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Petrosian, Tal, and Fischer) and went over their games. Dedication and very hard work is the key.

But what if you don’t have the time for all that study? Who cares! Famous actors, billionaires, normal people that have to feed their families and fight to pay their bills, everyone of every race and every gender can enjoy chess.

Though there are many ways that people look at the game of chess, this article will only look at three (we just went over #1). Here are two more views of how people embrace chess.


Pondering About the Old Masters

old chess

Lots of people love playing over games from the 1800s and early to mid 1900s. Others go a bit further and dabble in chess history. In fact, I know players who love chess history, study it, but hardly ever play a game. To people like this, chess is history.

JustAnotherPatzer49 wrote the following:

“If Adolf Anderssen were alive today, with only the chess knowledge he had when at his peak (i.e., no knowledge of chess engines or chess masters after his era), how would he perform on's Tactics Trainer on problems rated 3000+?”

JS: I don’t know anything about's tactical trainer (sorry), but It’s clear to me that Steinitz, Anderssen, Morphy, and other top players in the 1800s were masters of tactics and attack. Yes, modern players are clearly superior overall since, as they say, they “stood on the shoulders of giants.” However, modern grandmasters and the old guys in the 1800s are equal when it comes to tactics.


Do or Die is the Name of the Game

do or die

Gwynn_fan is a very old friend of mine (I think I met him at 14 years old, though it might be a year earlier or a year later). At his peak (over the board tournaments) he was a low expert (2000+). Eventually he quit serious chess. Here’s what he wrote (to everyone) on his page:

“Hi! I haven’t played a tournament game since 1982 but thinking about getting back guys are surely improving my confidence.”

However, there comes a time in one’s chess where you no longer want to study endgames or learn positional details. Instead, all you want to do is play quick time controls and go after one and only one thing: mate the enemy king! Simple, brutal, and satisfying.

This shows us that there are many ways to enjoy chess. Tactics…sure! Or if you swoon every time you toss down a subtle positional move…heaven. Or if you lead your opponent into some interesting endgame…hey, if it’s your chess dream then milk it as best you can! But Gwynn_fan doesn’t care about any of this stuff; all he wants is your blood.

Here are a few of Gwynn_fan’s games. They certainly aren’t masterpieces, but they are entertaining.


A victory grunt and then a nice glass of whisky put a smile on his face. Then it’s time to try and do it again!

By now you’ve figured out that Gwynn_fan’s favorite opening is the Dunst (1.Nc3). In fact, he was playing that when we first met!

Too many moves? Okay, let's try for something faster:

As you can see, “real” chess is in the eye of the beholder. Other ways to embrace chess: a lifelong study of endgames, mastering openings, email games, bullet games, other forms of blitz, hanging out every week with a friend while sharing fine wine and smoking cigars (I knew a scientist and a famous musician who did just that.), chess boxing, wrestling a bear with one hand while playing chess with a friend with the other hand, etc. 

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