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New chess instructional videos

Oct 17, 2008, 8:48 AM 0

I am currently in the process of creating a commercial instructional chess videos site.  Normally I would give it away for free, but right now I need the money.

You can look at my profile or at http://www.zenchess.com to see other instructional videos that I have created. 

These new videos, however, will be quite different.  They will not be annotated games in the normal sense.  I will be offering a chess 'course' in which I try to impart everything important I think you need to know and understand in order to get the idea of chess I currently have.

I'd like to reiterate this again:  I am not going to be offering analysis, tactics, and commentary on games.  I am going to be trying to explain high-level principles and "paradigms" of the game as I now see it.

My inspiration for my current view of chess came from a combination of different chess sources and my own insights into games and positional play in general over a wide variety of games. 

Like most western students, I was taught to learn things by rote memorization instead of understanding.  When I first started studying chess, I would memorize little rules like 'capture towards the center' and 'a knight on the rim is dim (grim)'.  While these were fine at first, eventually what I had was a huge set of conflicting rules, and a ton of confusion.  If a position seemed to conform to one of my rules, for instance, if I could win bishop for knight, or open the position with the 2 bishops, or leave the opponent with a bad bishop, I would do it.  It worked reasonably well; it got me to a certain level.

A long time ago, sometime around 2000 or 2001, I was playing a game called Subspace.  I was one of the best players in the game, and I thought I knew everything until I faced a player who played in a completely different style.  I beat him a few times, but then he started dominating me completely, such as that I had absolutely no chance to score a single win against him anymore. 

I didn't understand how he could beat me.  I could aim bullets better than him (tactics in chess), I could deal with complicated bouncings off walls better than him, I could face him toe-to-toe better than him in almost every situation.  Yet he would continously dominate me time and time again.

Eventually, after thinking about how he was beating me, I realized that he was never confronting me at all.  His ship was following entirely different principles than I understood.  He always had a superior position in terms of centralization and relative movement. 

Later he started teaching me some of these principles.  He taught me the concept of 'centralization' in a subspace duel.  I didn't understand it at all.  It seemed very vague.  Wouldn't the winner just be the one who hit the other guy?  Why would some super-abstract idea like centralization lead to any advantage? 

Pondering over this after a period of time I realized that the centralized player had a couple obvious advantages in terms of potential that the non-centralized player did not.  For instance, if the centralized player was attacked, he would have much more time to run away from the opponent than usual. 

If the centralized player was attacking, he would trap his opponent against the wall much quicker as well. 

I began thinking of games in terms of potential, flexibility, etc.  You can see some of this in a couple of my chess videos, where I mention that certain moves just give me the potential to do something, except I do not want to clarify the situation immediately.

Even though I had come to these insights by myself, I did not start applying that concept to chess.  I had this idea that chess is some huge super-complicated game that just cannot be understood unless you learn something from a book.  I was disempowered to think about the game critically and therefore I continued merely learning new rote facts, learning new tactics, etc.

That eventually changed and I started applying the same concepts and process to the chess game.  I was helped enormously by sources such as 'my system' and the joshua waitzkin lectures and the concept of 'maintaining the tension' which Josh learned from Gregory Kaidanov. 

My goal with these lectures is to give my customers a complete paradigm shift in terms of how they think of the game.  This is not an incremental change that I am trying to convey, but a revolutionary one.  I am going to try to explain it as simply and as thoroughly as I can.  Hopefully by the time you are done watching the lectures, you will have a completely new perspective on the game and can start thinking of moves in terms of it. 

Every opening I was playing I started re-evaluating in terms of this new perspective of the game.  It was literally like a guide to understanding these openings and playing new moves.  Sometimes I end up playing theory quite deep just because I have this perspective, and sometimes I play moves that no one I know has ever seen before, yet successfully. 

My chess strength made a huge increase once I started playing in accord to this new paradigm.  My rating almost immediately started increasing.  In fact I went from having a high of 1900 in icc 5-minute chess, to having a high of 2100 in icc 5-minute chess.  This means I went from never beating an IM to being able to compete with GM's and actually beat one (Eugene Torre).  I have several Im wins now and many, many FM and WGM wins.  I know as an absolute fact that this is directly attributable to my new way of looking at the game. 

Sure, you still need tactical prowress, and some opening knowledge.  But I am also able to compete by improvising in the openings as well.  I do this regularly, if you were to see records of my ICC games you will see at times I do not play an opening in my repetoire for dozens of games and yet still maintain my rating.

The main key here though is that once I had this paradigm shift, I was able to re-evaluate everything I knew about chess in terms of it.  Every opening, every tactic, and every new book I read I looked at it in terms of this.  I am still refining my ideas and learning, but as before when I felt 'blind' and 'lost' on the chessboard, now I feel that I am going upstream.

These videos will have a much higher quality than my previous videos.  My previous videos were basically ad-hoc improvised lectures.  These new videos will be heavily researched and edited for maximum quality and clarity.  There is literally no comparison to how different the quality is between an improvised session and an edited one.  Since all of my videos will be ordered and themed in order that I can try to impart this concept to the customer, it will be more like a 'video book' than a disjointed series of video lectures that each annotate a game.

You will be able to find updates about this at http://www.zenchess.com and here on this blog.  I'll try to accept as many forms of payment as possible, but almost guaranteed paypal, credit card, and money order/personal check.  I will probably try to advertise on chess.com, though I have no idea what the price is.  If anyone has any good ideas on how to advertise or spread the word of this once I get rolling, please let me know. 

My rating is 1920 USCF.  I am going to be playing a match soon against a 2000+ plus player and I fully expect to be rated over 2000 soon.  Regardless of that, what I am trying to teach has nothing to do with ratings.  It's a concept, a conceptual model.  It has, imo, given me lots of room to expand.  Even strong players who have never thought of the game in this way before would have a lot to gain from watching these videos.  They may be able to apply it immediately to their games, and because they are already tactically and positionally much stronger than me, it may improve their strength. 

In any case, it is always good to have a new way of looking at the game.  We know many things subconsciously, but when you begin talking about them consciously it can make a huge difference.

In addition to that I will be relating much practical advice that often gets skipped over in chess instructional books.  Simple things like: If you attack a knight with your king from a diagonal it can check you.  These will be simple, practical 'tricks' that usually a person has to realize themselves.  Many of these tricks I did not realize until years after I had been playing. 

For example, in certain tactics, you may get the idea that you need to calculate every move in your head.  In reality, many tactics have tricks that you can use to solve them almost instantly instead of calculating.  For instance in one common tactic, you just need to know whether at the end of your knight's tour, it has an escape square or not.  You do not need to calculate complicated variations.  This is why many strong players have an advantage in tactics because they know mental shortcuts that give them an edge in how quickly they can decide what is possible or not.

Thanks- Jacob Wagner

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