DON’T Let Your Chess DIE!

DON’T Let Your Chess DIE!

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Pressed for time? Fatigued? Need a little extra motivation for your chess? I’m in the same boat and this blog is for you. I’m going to share what’s been working for me for the past year to keep my chess alive, while I scramble to find the time, energy, and occasional motivation for it. My assumption is that you, like me, can find 15-30 minutes a day, on some lucky days … But, what to do with such little time?

Diving right into it:

Focus On Active Thinking Rather Than Passive Learning

Prioritize playing a game or actively solving chess puzzles. This will keep your mind sharp. Learning will come as a by-product of thinking. Gone are the days when I would sit with a Mark Dvoretsky book and analyze a full game with all its intricate variations for two hours. Na-ha, no more! If I scramble for time and mental energy, I want to dive right into action!

Bite-Size Learning

Find bite-size chess materials which you can work with and that only requires 15-20 minutes of your time. Or, less! My two favourite books I am currently working with are these:

They consist entirely of puzzles (active thinking!). And the solutions have just a few, easy to digest variations/lines to follow

My all-time favourite book is: Chess: Middlegames, by Laszlo Polgar. The entire book is just chess puzzles grouped by various themes. How juicy is this?:

There are some tactics and lots of strategy. Simply amazing!

If you are commuting and are not the driver, go ahead and tear off the pages. Solve the puzzles during your ride. I did that on my subway rides on the way to work. Yes, I got stares, but whatever.

I also love lessons. They are 10-20 mins long and they always have recap puzzles to practice your new knowledge. Awesome resource! You will have to browse a little to find what suits you best, though. (And no, I don’t get paid for writing this, I genuinely like these lessons!)

Some YouTube channels are also great for such things and are free! Although, you gotta dig much harder to find good stuff!

State of Mind: Giving vs Receiving

No more planning in advance. For me, chess happens sporadically. I find the key to these moments, oh, this will sound weird, is to tap into my inner self and ask how I’m feeling: Am I in the mood to play/solve puzzles (giving), or am I too tired and depleted, and just want to listen (receiving) to a chess lecture? I find if I can match my chess activity to my state of mind – it goes very smoothly. It’s very hard to play when my brain is at the receiving end … or to focus on a lecture when the day’s adrenaline hasn’t worn out and all I want is to just play, crush and burn!

Choose Videos over Books

If there is a particular topic you want to study, be it an opening, or a middle/end-game concept, try finding an instructional video on it first, rather than learning it from a book. There is a lot of back and forth going on between looking at an instructional chess book and the chessboard in front of you. You need to read all the moves and play them out on the board. Then you need to read the explanations and concepts behind those moves. All of this takes your eyes away from looking at the position. This is very time consuming, and to me, very distracting! I much rather watch an instructional video and listen to the explanations while keeping my eyes on the position at all times. Less work, more pleasure, higher efficiency and knowledge retention.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for in terms of videos/lessons here on look elsewhere. I have recently purchased a neat instructional bundle on And that’s as far as I had to look!

Find Gaps in Your Schedule

Look at your day. Are there moments of inactivity which you can dedicate to chess, or maybe just one puzzle? Dinner eaten, dishes done, whooping 20 minutes to go before kids’ bedtime and everyone in my family has had enough of me … yeah – that’s MY chess time! The laundry will have to wait!

Peer Group or a Club

I have grossly underestimated this point for a long time, but being a part of a casual chess group or a club will do wonders for your motivation. Also, finding an enthusiastic chess-buddy that can bring you up, up, UP, is a blessing on its own. And somehow, a little time will magically appear in your schedule too! Just watch.

Belonging to a chess club/group really helps me choose chess over other leisurely activities because I know that I will play live chess once again soon! Human connection is so important!

Sharing your chess journey and reading others’ also helps. A lot!

View Chess As Leisure

At this point, it’s important to view chess as a fun, leisurely activity and not as work. As such, it will be something you can look forward to, like reading a book or watching TV. The following things help me keep it fun:

Environment Variety

We, humans, LOVE new things. If your home permits, find new, cozy corners to play/study your chess, every once in a while. It’s amazing how the novelty of the environment can boost your little mundane chess sessions! Especially during the pandemic! I love playing chess in my (home) office, in the kitchen, on the couch, on the floor by the fireplace, in the basement by the window … These days, I’m going for the Parisian Café feel. Flowers, hot chocolate, croissant, and a background Parisian Café music – and I can’t get enough of my chess sessions! Oh, wait, if you are a dude, try going for the Martian or the Transformers feel. 😉

Material Variety

Vary the material you work with. Books, topics, lectures, lessons, players (if possible) … This will help your chess stay fun and not seem like work!

I even vary the chess sets I play with! I realize it’s a bit extreme, but I love it! (And yes! I got another beautiful chess set last Christmas, at my own request!)

Watch Your Body Language

What makes reading or watching TV so relaxing, aside from being entertained? It’s the fact that we can melt into our soft, plushy couches, extend our legs and relax! If you are solving puzzles, or watching an online chess video, I suggest you do just that. Melt onto your couch and extend your legs. This is particularly amazing if you’ve been slaving at the desk all day in a sitting (or standing) position.

Get yourself a tiny, magnetic chess set, so that you can put it on your lap, preferably propped with a pillow in between, and you are all set!

What used to make chess so unappealing to me after a whole day’s work, was the idea of another session of sitting on the chair at a desk. Do not do that! Relax your body instead and enjoy!

Having said that, if you are burning to play an online game, then I do not recommend being in a semi-horizontal position! You gotta sit at the chair properly, almost in a warrior position. Back straight, ready to fight. I’ve studied enough body language to know that it sends tiny messages to our brains, making us feel a certain way. How you sit with your chess is important!


Proper sleep, exercise, and good nutrition, should come before chess. Managing these well will give you the necessary energy for chess. Enough said.

It’s Not All Or Nothing

I used to think that if I can’t fully commit to something, then it’s not worth doing it at all. This is probably a good attitude towards work, or starting a family, but not for chess. Today, I realize that it’s ok to go a week, or a month, or even a year, if need be, without touching chess. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves, people. Chess will always be there for us when we want it! Just come back to it when things settle down. It will all be ok.

I wish I had realized this when I was much younger …

Final Remarks

I let my chess die for sooo many years, sooo many times. Looking back, I can see that it was not necessary. Hell will have to break loose, twice over, for this to ever happen again!

I hope you, too, will keep your chess alive! I wish you all to embark on this wonderful journey and stay on it for life!  

My best wishes to you all!

Former Canadian Girls Chess Champion (1999 tied for 1st, 2001 1st place)

Busy mom of two

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