Grandmaster Chess Training and Opening Preparation

Grandmaster Chess Training and Opening Preparation

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Kkjimbo asked:

I am a low ranked club player (British Chess Fed 109) A fellow patzer at my club has agreed to spend some time with me in the close season training. We plan on a once a week 1 or 2 hour session. Have you any tips on how we could get the best out of this time.

Dear Kkjimbo,

What we would recommend is, to play a lot of practice games. Never mind about the result but try to give your best in each game. Take your game seriously and do not think that the player you are playing against is your friend. Try only to give your best in each game. Whether you win or lose you still have something to learn. After each game you both can analyze the game and share the ideas.  If you learn a new opening try to play those lines in practice games. You will gain lot of ideas before the real tournament game.

One more idea is, try to play blindfold games. One of you can play with the board and the other player will be playing blindfold. This will make you sharp if you are getting ready for a tournament. Try to solve as many tactical problems as possible. 



What does it take to become a grandmaster, how much training and how much dedication. And do you think everyone, regardless of talent, can become a Grandmaster?

Greetings from Denmark, Simon Seirup

Officially the GM title is the highest title one can achieve in Chess apart from becoming a World Champion. It cannot be said that everyone can become a Grandmaster. To become a Grandmaster you definitely require talent and proper training. I have seen a few IM’s who definitely play at a Grandmaster standard but still don’t become a GM. One of our friends who became a Grandmaster a couple of years back, missed the GM title in a single game in 2005. He just needed a draw against a GM in the final round to achieve his 3rd GM norm and cross the 2500 mark. But he lost that game and it took him another four years to achieve the GM title. It is clear that not just training and talent matter, but also strong nerves. 

A Grandmaster should have a good opening repertoire. Hence to be a good GM, opening training is also important. Opening theory is developing in leaps and bounds in recent times and it is essential to keep track of recent developments. It does not matter how many hours you work but it is important to do the necessary work. Kramnik in one of his interviews said “Chess training is like gym training:” no matter what you will have to train every day. If you miss one day then you will have to work several days to makeup for it.

Players who are pretty good in tactics and attacking chess might not be strong in positional chess and vice versa. If there is a weakness it is important to work on it and eliminate it.   


I know GMs and IMs play the opening differently from other players, but how differently do they play the opening, what is their intention in the opening?

GM’s and IM’s are usually well prepared in the openings. They have clear ideas about the openings they play and they often try to get the advantage in the opening itself.

They prepare the openings in such a way that they have analyzed all the possible ideas for the opponent and they know the exact way to counter them. They study the opening in a much more concrete way than the normal players. They know the piece placements and pawn structures for different openings.

That is why when a GM plays a Novelty against another GM, it is not really easy for the latter to play, since the player who introduces the novelty would have analyzed all the possible ideas his opponent can play and will be ready to face them. But the one who is facing the novelty has to work out everything over the board, which is really not easy. Unless you have analyzed the opening and know the games previously played and ideas used in that line you cannot even understand that the opponent has played a novelty, much less respond correctly.

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