Training and Grandmaster Evaluation

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Dear Mr. Prasad;

My friend refers me to this website as he told me I can ask questions to a grandmaster and they will answer in their article (very nice idea!). I had achieved expert strength last year. Then I took a break to study chess (daily schedule: 0.5 hr on tactics, 0.5 hr on going over master's games, 0.5 hr on either specific opening or endgame= total of 1.5 hr per day) to get to master's level. When I came back to tournaments recently, I suddently felt like I do not know what to do and at the end kept blundering. As a result, I lost many rating points. My questions are the following:

(a) Do you think there is a problem to how I study chess? Can you give an ideal chess studying program to expert/class 'A' player?

(b) How does a strong player recover from a bad result? After a bad tournament, I fear to go back to the tournament and suffer this experience.

(c) How can one improve on their focus on calculating chess lines? Also, I want to improve on my planning skills in chess. What would be the best approach to improving planning skills?

(d) I am known to play very bad in time trouble. How can one improve their thinking in time trouble (at least, not making easy blunder)? 

(e) I would like to know how does a grandmaster evaluate a position. Is there someway for an average chess player (like myself) can improve their evaluation of the postion to grandmaster strength.

Thanks in advance! Look forward to your answers, GM!

John Yan  


Dear John Yan,

Blunders happen due to several reasons. Usually the reason is lack of concentration during the game. But in your case I feel it is because of lack of practice. I myself have a similiar problem when I dont play tournaments and train for about 2-3 months, and when I get to play in tournaments I dont perform so well. It is because we are not mentally prepared to face the tournament tension. I personally know a player who trains a lot but ends up playing only very few tournaments. When he plays in tournaments, he does not perform to his potential. It is simply because of lack of practice. I would recommend you to play practice games along with your training sessions and also solve tactical problems as much as you can before the tournament. This will help you get into the tournament mode and increase your alertness level. 


a) Chess training: Begin your training session with a couple of tactical problems. Study opening, endgame and top players games. End your session with a couple of practice games. This will be an ideal chess training method.


b) Tournament Fear: It is not important that you perform well or not, it is much more important that you give 100% and at the end of the tournament you feel that you played well. I think this feeling is more important. If you end up having a bad tournament, go back and analyze your games and figure out the mistakes. Every player will have some weaknesses and if they are eliminated, their game strength will improve manyfold. Find out your main weakness and rectify it before the next tournament. I feel that, when we train ourselves well before a tournament the past tournament fear will not have its effect. It is just important that you feel confident before you play a tournament. So train yourself well till you get the confidence.


c) Planning and Calculation: First know the type of game you are playing. A tactical and open position or a safe and closed postion. Figure out the ideal plan. It may be initiating an attack or exchanging a vital piece etc. It differs across different openings and different positions. The best way is to study top players' games extensively. The more and more games you study the more ideas you get, and when you come across similiar positions in tournament games you already know what you have to do. Every opening has different game plans and if you know them it will be much easier to play. So when you study openings, figure out the ideas that are to be executed in the middle game as well. Calculating ability can be developed by solving tactical problems. Analyze your tournament games without computers initially and note down the ideas. Calculate long variations and then check them with computers.

d) Improving Time Pressure Play: Play a lot of blitz and rapid games in your pratice sessions. Also try to play fast in your tournament games before getting into time trouble. In order to do use your time efficiently, you need to improve your intuition. Intuition is nothing but knowing what to do in a given position. Instead of calculating several long variations, try to grasp the basic information from a position and do what you are supposed to do. Let us say, in a typical sicilian position with kings castled on opposite sides, it is quite obvious that you need to initiate an attack on the enemy king. So you can make all the necessary attacking moves like advancing the pawns and placing the Major pieces on the open files. These kinds of moves can be played quickly. To improve your intuition you need to study a lot of games by top players. You will automatically grasp the ideas and execute them with ease. Good opening knowledge will also help you save a lot of time. So prepare your openings well and learn the ideas to be excuted in the middlegame.

e) GrandMaster's Evaluation: In any given position a GM will have ideas. He knows what has to be done. This is because of the vast experience and knowledge. First he will find the strengths and weakness in the position. This will include the pawn structure, piece position etc. Every opening will have its own game plan. So he will know what has to be done in that specific opening. He will know the important games in the opening he plays and also the problems the players faced in that game. I would again recommend you to study top GM games. Try to figure out the moves played by the GMs. Calculate and assess the positions yourself and compare it with the GM's analysis.

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