Recovering from Defeat and Improving Calculation

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Dear GM Prasad and GM Panchanathan :

I am grateful to see the revival of this weekly column after IM Silman. Thank you! Hope you can answer a few of my questions below:

a) I understand that in order to become better one has to accept losing many games. I, for one, cannot recover losses as quick as some of my friends. I am wondering how does grandmaster recover their loss and sometime manage to win the tournament after a bad start.

b) I can calculate lines very deeply, but not accurately. May you please suggest how can I improve in calculating accurately? Some of my friends tell me to play blindfold; others tell me to play more slow games. 

c) Some of the masters in my club go over many non-annotated games and suggest that this is one of the way to improve. This does not seem to work...What sort of things does master do when going over non-annotated games?

d) I know the importance of endgame studies; however I do not know how to study this part of the game. May you suggest a method?

e) I cannot afford a I am trying to improve from website (i.e. chessbase, etc), library chess books. Do you think it is possible to get to master category by oneself? Can you suggest what one can do by themselve to improve in the game of chess?

f) I am wondering is there "Explore Opening Ideas" on the French Defence and Nimzo Indian Defence.

Thank you, GMs..Sorry for my bad English grammer.

Kaiyue Wang


Dear Kaiyue Wang

a)      I personally feel that any game should be played only with the aim of playing a good game. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, at the end of every game you must feel that you have given your 100%. If you think about the result when you are playing the game, it is obvious that you cannot give 100% of yourself, and the desired result cannot be achieved. This problem occurs more when players get a better position or winning position-- immediately they start thinking about the prize or the effects of winning the game, while the game is still going on. Meanwhile your opponent who is on the verge of losing will concentrate even harder and try to create some counter play for himself to escape his awkward situation.

So don’t think about the result, just try to play a good game; if you win, it is good, but if you don’t, you still have something to learn from your defeat. Take defeat as a process of learning which will eventually lead you to victory! If you lose one game, take it easy and move on to the next game. Try to learn something from the game and make sure you don’t make the same mistake next time. Anand once said in an interview that he usually goes for a long walk when he loses a game. You can do that or listen to some music. Basically you have to do something that will make you happy and recover fast and move on to the next game.

b)        Calculating long lines is not important in chess. In most cases you will find complex positions where length of the lines are not important but the width of the lines are important. Let us take the case of Human vs Computer matches. Why do computers manage to beat humans? Why are computers better? The answer is simple, computers don’t miss any moves. When computers play with the depth of 18 or 19 (when you run an engine like Fritz or Rybka you can see the depth), they are calculating 9-10 moves. A computer calculates 9-10 moves ahead with all the important branches without missing any candidate moves within seconds. Humans cannot play with such accuracy due to time limits.

In the book “How to think like a Grandmaster Kotov” suggests calculating the candidate moves in any given position. Candidate moves can be any 3 or 4 choices in a position that you feel to be the most important choices that have to be analyzed. Check all these choices one by one and then you can come to a conclusion. This is the proper method to calculate in a position. It is necessary to check all the candidate moves when you go through long lines. If you can calculate 4-5 moves with all the candidate moves calculated it is not easy even for a Grandmaster to beat you. Try to discipline your calculation which is more important than lengthening it.

c)      Going through non-annotated games means analyzing those games yourself by calculating all the possible lines and variations. It is one of the methods to improve your understanding. When you go through the games, calculate the possible moves and variations just the way you play in tournaments. But here you have lot of time to calculate, so try to calculate long variations and the candidate moves accurately. Check with the computers for possible errors after the analyses are over. One of my friend who is a 2700 Grandmaster once told me he analyses a game for a minimum of 3-4 days, and still there remains so much to analyze. Analyzing your own games with this method is also essential.

d)       Endgames are an essential part of the game. Once Capablance said “ In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the endgame can be mastered by itself, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame. I recommend you to study “Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual”. Concentrate more on Rook endgames as they are the most frequently encountered endgames. Spend more time on endgames, and you will find yourself scoring several points using the endgame techniques. I have found Practical Rook Endings by Victor Korchnoi to be very useful in understanding Rook endgames especially. Basically any ending book is good, but the only thing is you need to work on it: all these books require a very active reader to benefit from them.

e)       Well it is definitely possible to improve by working yourself. A coach can only show you the direction to work, but it is you who has to do the work. If your are ready to work I am sure has lots of material to offer to make you work on and we are here to guide you if you have some doubts. To start with I would recommend you begin with endgames as I mentioned earlier. Solve tactical problems to keep yourself sharp. Analyze your games without fail. This will help you improve considerably.

f)       The following are some of the articles written on the French Defence and the Nimzo Indian Defence. I am sure there are articles on every opening in the opening section:

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