How To Become An Advanced Chess Player

How To Become An Advanced Chess Player

| 134 | Tactics

There are many ways to work on your chess improvement. You can study opening variations or typical endgames, solve tactical puzzles, and learn chess strategy. Also, it is extremely useful to analyze the games of the greatest chess players as well as your own games. So, what should you do? For an inexperienced player, the choice can be overwhelming! 

Throughout the years, I tried to answer this question in my articles. In this article, I wrote:

"Beginners don't need to remember any openings or have even basic endgame knowledge. It is also a waste of time for them to study isolated pawns or weak squares. At this stage of their chess development, all they need to learn is to capture as many of the opponent's pieces and pawns as they can!"

But what if you are not a beginner anymore? What should you do then to improve your chess? I discussed this situation in this article, where I tried my best to imitate Yogi Berra by saying, "chess is 90% pattern recognition, and the other half is calculations."

Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees. Photo: Unknown author/Wikimedia, CC.

Unfortunately, here you can encounter another problem: there are literally thousands of different patterns in chess, so which ones should you study and how should you study them? In the aforementioned article, I discussed this problem:

"We have a wide variety of different chess patterns: tactical motifs, strategic ideas, endgame positions, etc. What should you study? While all of the patterns are essential for your chess development, the tactical patterns are obviously more important due to the simple fact that an executed mating combination will end the game instantly, while an executed minority attack will just give you a better position."

So, here you have it: first, you need to learn tactical patterns. Over ten years ago I wrote a series of articles "Typical Patterns Everyone Should Know", which might be a good place to start. But what if you are not a beginner anymore and know the basic tactical patterns quite well, what should you do to become an advanced chess player?

When I was a kid, I was very impressed by the method of a famous Soviet coach IM Mark Dvoretsky. Every single article that he published in a chess magazine was a real treasure! He managed to explain difficult concepts thanks to numerous examples that demonstrated a certain pattern.

So when I saw a very interesting position from a grandmaster's game, I took a notebook and drew a diagram with the most interesting moment of the game. Then, when I analyzed another game and something intrigued me there, I drew another diagram in my notebook. Slowly but surely, my collection of interesting positions grew. You'll be disappointed if you think that these diagrams feature some unbelievable combinations. Here is just one example:

And here is the game:

I know what you are thinking: what's the big deal with the move 17. Rab1 that you went for all the trouble of drawing a diagram? Well, it's not the move; it's the grandmaster's thought process that impressed me so much. At that point in my chess development, I wouldn't think about a move like 17. Rab1 in a thousand years!

Drawing hundreds of diagrams was very time-consuming. Nevertheless, my ancient approach had one benefit: when you manually draw a diagram, you remember it much better! This way not only did I memorize hundreds of patterns, but also I learned to see those patterns. These days whenever I see any chess game, patterns literally pop up in my mind! Here is a simple example.

I am sure my readers noticed that I am following the games of Uzbek chess players and particularly GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Here is a position from his recent game:

Of course, I immediately saw a familiar pattern: this is the exact combination I executed over 30 years ago to beat legendary GM Lev Polugaevsky:

Here is one more recent game from my favorite player:

And again I see a very familiar pattern: a middlegame with opposite colored bishops. In situations like this, an attack against a king is usually decisive. The explanation is quite simple: when you attack squares of one color, your opponent's opposite-colored bishop is completely useless for defense. Therefore, it is almost like you have an extra piece in the attack!

No wonder that in the diagram position, Black can resign despite having even material. Again I had a similar pattern in my game almost 40 years ago against another legendary chess player. This time the memory is not that pleasant:

I used my games to illustrate these patterns, but of course, they have happened in the games of other players too. For example, here is a game between elite grandmasters that proves the same concept about middlegames with opposite-colored bishops:

So, if you want to improve your chess, should you start drawing diagrams as I did in the last century? Of course not! But I would strongly recommend starting to learn chess patterns. For instance, after you play your game, try to find out the most important turning point of the game. Something that you would want to remember for your whole life. Then put a note, explaining the pattern and save the game.

Do the same when you analyze games of great chess players. Identify the key elements of the game that you would love to use in your own games, put a note explaining why this is an important moment of the game, and save it. When your collection of chess patterns grows large, you'll notice the difference in your own games. You'll start seeing patterns and it will make you an advanced chess player!

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