Random Chess Thoughts

Jan 9, 2016, 5:35 AM |

Found this in a forum earlier, thought it was good advice.  Particularly the bit on Tactics.

A post by IM David Pruess on a chess forum relating to how chess players respond to advice (good or bad): 

Thought you mind find it interesting...(Dan H added bold for the parts related to The Four Homeworks)

"As a teacher, my impression is that there is precious little advice the student actually wants to hear. Almost anything about how you need to work to improve is disregarded.

For example people write in to Jeremy Silman's column and ask him how to become a master. He'll list many things including "playing over 10 000 games" (I forget the exact number). Rather than starting to look over games, they'll reply in the comments section that he's lying, making it up.

"You should analyze your own games: losses and draws particularly." So, I've been doing this program "your games analyzed" for over 20 weeks now, in which a chess.commember has the opportunity to select any game of theirs and show it to me, and i'll go over it, ask about their thought process, and give my comments and feedback on the game. I believe I have seen 1 loss and 1 draw submitted out of ~25 games.

"Don't use computer engines until you are over 2400." but you see, a computer can "analyze" a game in a few minutes without any effort from the player-- who cares if they won't learn A SINGLE THING? and it's cheaper to ask a computer what you did wrong than hiring a master-- never mind that after the computer affixes a ? (or two) to one of your moves and provides an alternative, you'll be none the wiser as to why your move is not best, why the suggestion is better, what principle(s) is in operation, why you made the mistake you made, or what you'd have to do to produce the computer's move in a future game.

or when i give players in the 1000-1800 range advice on improving their tactics, viz: 10-15 min per day of solving simple tactical puzzles. the goal is to increase your store of basic patterns, not to work on your visualization, deep calculation. remember that is your goal. you are not trying to prove that you can solve every problem. if you don't solve a problem within 1 minute, stop. it's probably a new pattern or you would have gotten it by now. (with private students i'll take the time to demonstrate this to them: show them through examples that they can find a 3-4 move problem in 10 seconds if they know the pattern, and that they can fail to find a mate in 2 for 10 minutes if they don't know the pattern). look at the answer, and now go over the answer 3 more times in your head to help the pattern take hold. your brain can probably take on 2-3 new patterns between sleeping, so you should stop once you've been stumped by 2 or 3 problems (usually will take about 10-15 min). there is no point in doing more than that in one day. and any day you miss, you can't make up for. a semi-random estimate on my part is that you need about 2000 of these patterns to become a master. so you need to do this for 2 years or more.

i would guess that less than 1 in 100 of the people i have given this advice to have followed it to the letter. if they enjoy it, they'll waste their time doing it for 1.5 hours in a day, choosing to ignore that it's not helping them [after 15 min]. or some with ego issues will insist on trying to solve every single position (if only they linked their ego to their self-discipline Tongue out).

following up, here's the summary of the "four homeworks" mentioned above:

students are assigned four types of homework:


1. Play as many slow games (45 5 or slower = 45+ minutes for the game with a five second time delay/increment) as possible, augmented with some 2 5 speed games to practice openings and time management. Always look up your openings after the game to see where you could improve next time.
2. Do tactical (or other) problems appropriate to your level, like John Bain's Chess Tactics for Students (for more information on all homework books and how to obtain them, see my Book Recommendations page)
3. Read as many annotated master game books as possible, starting with instructional books like Logical Chess Move by Move and Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played both by Chernev, etc. Read them quickly (20-40 minutes max for each game) and go to the next game, and then the next book.
4. Read "talky" chess stuff like Novice NooksPawn Power in ChessAmateur's Mind, etc. appropriate to your level.