At the beginning of this year, I decided it was time to take up a new hobby. Something that would be mentally stimulating and require studying strategy (believe it or not, I enjoy reading about strategy and war tactics in general :D ). However, I'm very prone to picking up things and doing them passionately for awhile, feeling I had "conquered" the main concepts of the game, and move on to the next temporary passion. So I thought to myself, what game would require years of study before I could feel that I had "conquered" the game. And if you need help figuring out what I decided to pursue, follow my role-model Melik's advice and think from the end: you are reading this on chess.com ;)
So what was my knowledge of chess in 2009? I knew how all the "chessmen" moved, and I even knew that cool 4 move mate that every cool kid in elementary school knew. AND I had thought about the mate and discovered that the same tactic could be used with a knight instead of a bishop, throwing my 9 year old opponent off guard expecting the traditional bishop+queen f7 mate. Hah! Didn't expect that did you, Einstein??
So as you can imagine, I marched onto chess.com and started playing live chess games, to see where my elementary tactics would land me. I needed to know where I needed to start studying. I soon had an epiphany after being pounded down to 1000: I didn't know how to play chess, I only knew how the pieces moved. I made a plan to start studying from the beginning, and work my way up. I made a new account, (to track my progress after studying) and chose the dubious handle 'Bloodbeard' and bought Diamond Membership to watch the videos. If anyone would like to see my first 100 games getting slaughtered on chess.com, my account name was 'Zorlin' ;)
So I began watching the videos. I still remember the first video series I watched: Danny's lectures on Isolated Queen Pawn positions. I had watched the free video before I upgraded, and decided to continue on with the rest of the lectures. Then I watched Melik's lectures on converting a minimal advantage, since I had also watched a free video of his as well and wanted to "complete" the series. Unfortunately, I had no understanding of chess strategy before these videos, so I retained maybe 10%-15% of the lectures. Even though these video's were too advanced, I understood basic concepts during the lectures. If I have space, use it, put your pieces on good active squares. The more squares a piece controls, the more powerful the piece is. Pieces need to work together as a team. There was also a theme I hadn't noticed at the time, but picked up subliminally: develop your pieces protecting each other, don't hang pieces or tactics WILL happen.
Then I watched David's series on Development and Attack and Defense. Great lectures David, and some people do remember that tempi is always .5 (and that you can't avoid the invariable slip and say tempos :D ) These videos were much more in turned with what I needed to learn, and I saw a gradual increase in my ratings. I watched a lot of videos at first, and played very little. Then I started to grow more confident over time, practicing the principals I was taught in all the videos.
I watched so many videos in fact, I started running out of new videos to watch! And I was thinking to myself, "What am I going to do? I've watched almost every video and I'm only in the 1100-1200 bracket!" And one day I had another epiphany. I couldn't budget in my diamond membership bill one month ( $13? I know it's sad :P) and I had to go without it for awhile until my next paycheck. So, I checked to see if there were any new free videos that I could watch for the week. There's was 1 new one (If I remember correctly, it was one from Roman analyzing someone else's game, and claiming c4 is a bad move and can only be played on Halloween or something like that :D ) But alas, after that new video, the other's were the same: Danny's lecture on isolated queen's pawn, and Melik's lecture on nursing a minimal advantage.
I wanted to watch a chess video, so I watched them again. And you know what happened? I understood MORE the 2nd time than I did the first time. I learned more, and I started to recognize the patterns. I started to understand more advanced concepts, like compensation. And that tactic's form when you play positionally well. Instead of looking for the tactic, I looked for the position where the tactic could happen. I no longer looked at where my knight was, but where I wanted him to be. I thought from the end. I saw the forest through the trees. It clicked, and I finally felt like I knew how to play chess, not just how to move the "chessmen". And now I need to learn how to play it better.
I watched the videos again. And they were better. And I started to understand, the more I knew about chess, the more I understood when someone taught me chess. And I am positive I'll enjoy the videos even more the third time through. I'll learn more because I understand more.
Today is July 30th, meaning my 6 month mark of studying chess has arrived. So what's my rating today in live chess? 1305, signaling that I've crossed over 300 rating points in 6 months. I hope to keep the progress up and achieve 1600 by the end of the year. I just want to thank all the video authors for their hard work, and all the staff that we don't see too :) for providing us with such a rewarding program. I know that my conquest to become a grand master will always have its foundation in chess.com's education.
CJ aka Bloodbeard