How the Internet has changed chess: Part 4
Once again I must thank everyone for reading my new blog series, your time is precious. Those of you who know me already know I am here to give back to chess as much as I can for the lifetime of enjoyment the Royal game has given to me. I've been full-time with promoting chess for over a year now. I barely worked in spring and fall of 2012. Walking away from a career in public education was the best thing that ever happened to me.
One question I see asked often is how a player can best improve their chess skills on the Internet. Another good question players ask is can they make money at chess while they are at it. I address the methods that worked for me in my free video lessons program, and countless people have adopted my strategies and seen improvement in their chess game. I remember about a dozen years ago when I was dabbling with chess on some smaller Internet sites, I ran into a number of kids who played a lot of two-minute chess. They were absolute beginners to start out with, but a number of them kept at it and migrated to the premium sites and got some pretty impressive bullet chess ratings. This in itself is proof their chess improved, but in reality they did not develop the knowledge necessary to conduct a reasonable standard time control game. I still will forgo discussion of blitz chess on the Internet until a later article but suffice it to say that Internet blitz chess is here to stay. The smart premium chess sites, like chess.com, extend complementary premium memberships to titled players. This is smart business. A regular member can learn chess better in a multitude of ways simply by paying attention to what the titled players say and do.
As noted already, participation in standard time control events in real life settings is down today when compared to the pre-Internet days. In spite of this there continues to be an influx of young new strong players. I can't even begin to list the number of teenagers I have encountered who are not only better than I today but they weren't even born when I ceased playing over the board tournaments in 1996. How did they get good at chess? The obvious answer is they competed in chess tournaments and learned from their experiences. Standard chess play on the Internet does not yet have a lot of participation in the higher rating classes. Yet there are enough higher-rated players you will on the Internet to standard play to give a fair chance for any dedicated player to at least achieve a talent of say 1800 strength. If you get your skill to that level on the Internet and then take your talent to the real world of chess, I would say you have an excellent chance to continue to improve as long as you have the desire.
A good historical example to compare and contrast improvement of chess play on the Internet to the real world can be found just over 30 years ago in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. A rival group to the United States Chess Federation called Northwest Chess split with the USCF and begin rating their own events. A number of their players moved up to expert strength and then converged on the World Open in Philadelphia and took home some huge cash prizes with their original low US CF ratings. Fortunately the CCA got a clue and this is less likely to happen today. I suppose there is no defense to a player who improves his skill exclusively on the Internet, but just consider this: if you try this yourself in order to compete for some large cash prizes you're likely to have some similar competition. Also once your rating starts to rise, it will be given a floor that you cannot drop below and winning a prize will become much harder in your new class unless you improve. I do know of one player, future grandmaster Nick deFirmian, who won big cash prizes in Southern California starting at U1600 back in 1973 and kept on winning prizes all the way through the master class. Of course winning cash prizes is just a bonus if your goal is to improve your chess play. The more standard games you play the more likely you are to get better at chess.
I must pause a moment and send a shout out of thanks back to Internet chess guru Dan Heisman. He endorsed my teachings and group activities on his show here at chess,com last Friday. Dan supports standard chess play as he knows it is the way to improve your play, you need to be locked in competition as often as you have time for. You need to study and analyze your games after, ideally with stronger players. Dan’s group at chess.com runs standard events at a 45 45 time, which was made popular over at ICC. More on the history of 45 45 in my next blog. Dan correctly has pointed out many times that the shortest time control the USCF will rate for standard play is 30 minutes, which is the longest default time control here at chess.com, so his group is making an effort to let chess,.com know there is a market for long games on the internet. My new group
announced last blog kicks off June 1 and has already gained over 200 members. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive because of the ease and variety of scheduling. I know this summer will see many junior players, out of school, looking for as many games as they can possibly handle. When you want to play, you register ahead, or show up on time! I think Dan’s goal is to see chess.com add a 45 45 control to the default Live Chess settings, but would people play it regularly? Perhaps they would. Between our two groups I believe chess.com will take notice of the interest, and there is a simple, effective way to see even more standard time control games played here at chess.com than Dan’s or my group combined can hope to attain! I’ll reveal this soon, let’s get playing!