Chess and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Chess and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

| 9 | For Beginners

(An article on Chess improvement. An adult beginner’s perspective.) 

When men turns forty, they buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle and start wearing black leather jackets that go with the new biker image or they trade in the family sedan for a Porsche boxster. Me, I started playing Chess. Even if the financial common sense not to cash in all my hard earned savings on the first instalment of a Porsche boxster override the middle age urge then, surely I could still like that Kevin guy in the movie American Beauty quit my job, start smoking weed and annoy my wife,… but start playing Chess? 

Well frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. I am hooked on Chess and that’s it. My current chess odyssey started when an internet blogger friend introduced me to the site. I have now bestow the title of “adult beginner” on myself, a term I came across reading Dan Heisman’s articles aimed at chess improvement for beginners. I like the description adult beginner as I think it is descriptive of many players like myself that learnt chess from a parent or sibling many years ago, never belonged to the school chess club or got any form of formal instruction. I played friendly games against friends and was reasonably good at it but haven’t played for many years after school or University. I really re discovered my earlier love for the game on the internet chess sites. I quickly realised that my game maybe rusted also lack in many aspects and need improvement if I would like to continue playing a reasonable competitive game and have fun doing so.

So I embark on this path of improving my chess and I thought it well to share the experience through written articles on The articles should be aimed at the adult beginner whom I suspect would be players in the 900-1400 rating. For these players at least the rules are known and the most basic of fundamentals of chess understood.  

The focus of the articles would be chess improvement, a beginner’s perspective. I will be sharing my chess journey to improving my game and share some of the theoretical knowledge I picked up along the way that I found helped me. Hopefully the articles would spark comments from coaches and experienced players as well to further this quest for improvement. 

I think many players asked the question like I did “How do I improve my game?” Would I improve by just playing a lot of games? Would I improve by discovering the secrets of chess hidden in one of the many chess books available. Perhaps I should do mental exercises and solve a 101 puzzles.  Capablanca in his book “My chess career” claim that up to his first match against a master, in his case Marshall which he won, he never opened a book on openings and what a feat it was, his arsenal only his own stock of knowledge and experience. Kasparov said the following about the study of chess : “I am convinced that it is necessary for both the grandmaster and the amateur who wants to improve his game and get some pleasure from his play in tournaments to study the game. The grandmaster spent thousands of hours studying hundreds of games, his talent would not have developed without this amount of work. If you want to beat your friends you will have to spent dozens of hours over the chessboard.”  

My approach was similar to many other aspects or projects I attempt and I don’t see any reason why chess improvement should be attempted differently..

Firstly any discipline, sport or activity require a mixture of theoretical knowledge and actual practise and playing.  

Secondly I believe in a purposeful life. You should have a goal. The goal must be realistic. You should have a plan to achieve your goal. You should be able to reflect on your progress and re evaluate where you are and adjust your plan accordingly. I rate myself reasonably 1250-1350 ( ratings) and my goals are simply to achieve  1500 perhaps 1600  in a year’s time . Thereafter to join a chess club and then world domination.  

Thirdly I believe there are stages in a process of development You should know at what stage you are. We learn to crawl before we can walk and ultimately run the 100 metre sprint. Similarly it is important to know what to assimilate first before taking the next step. Every discipline have basics or fundamentals that has been proven by masters in the past. Don’t skip to the advance it would leave holes in your development. 

Fourthly one should possess some of the following attributes for success in chess.Dan Heisman says : 1. The work is fun (The ability to absorb chess theory and knowledge in great volumes over a long period of time) 2 The ability to tolerate losing just right. ( Losing does not bother you so little that you don’t care and keep making the same mistakes and not so much that you are paralyzed by losses. 3.  Mental abilities (Spatial relationships, memory, deductive logic) I am sure one can add some more. 

 I have now made twice reference to Dan Heismann. When I started looking for the right chess books to read I found an avalanche of books for beginners that start at learning the movement of pieces to highly theoretical philosophical books for very advanced players. After struggling through some books and articles and learning bits and pieces. I was still looking for something that was specifically aim at me and at chess improvement. I did not wanted to jump from the one approach to the next. I found it in the articles Dan Heisman write in his column the “Novice nook” on the chess café some 70 articles dating back to 2001 are archived in pdf format for down load. I down loaded them all in zip format . I am working studying slowly through them from the first one. I would really recommend them. I find his approach very easy and it feels like having your own coach reading his stuff. 

If anyone got some alternative good references that really help your chess to the next level it would be welcomed. 

So this is my first article. My next article will reflect on my first 100 games played on and point the mistakes most beginners and myself made.

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