How to Improve at Chess: Tip #12 - Work on your Memory

Aug 11, 2007, 8:30 AM |

Why waste (energy) when you can save (it)?! Why work harder and under stress, under time pressure, when you can work comfortably and at your leisure? That's the decision you have to make. Working from memory is an easier way to do things - most of the time. Just a quick example, when you learn to play Chess, you struggle to think about how the pieces move such that you don't enjoy the game. Once you "know" how the pieces move, you just focus on the more fun thing, which is to play the game and be creative. Some people don't like "Memorizing", preferring "Knowing". Whatever the case, what we are after is spending less time and energy and money, thinking about things that you should have known by the time you sat at the board. Either from knowledge or from memory.

So, let's look at ways in which you can work on your memory/knowledge:

1. Set up positions from your memory. If you are playing through a game and you reach an interesting position, remove the pieces from the board and try to recreate the position from memory. If you don't have a board with you, try to think about the position when you are waiting for sleep to come or for your computer to reboot(!). If you see a recurring theme, for example, a piece sacrificed on f6/f3 in order to create a blockade for mate, know/memorize the positions and/or create your own, so that if similar positions happen while you are playing, you just "know" what to do. You may not pull if off, but you will be glad that you knew what to do. May be you will change a thing or two to pull it off. You may have seen/read/heard that GM's, usually World Champions, are shown positions for famous games and they are asked whose game it is/was - and most of them can tell you a lot of the details about the game. Knowledge? Memory? Both?

2. Replay whole games/sequence of moves: If you are studying Openings, it pays to replay the moves - (preferably from memory/knowledgeWink). When you are playing somebody, you don't have a book or some sort of reference next to you. All you have is your mind. Knowing a bunch of moves before hand gives you some time to calm down, warm up, before the actual thinking starts. If somebody takes you out of the book right away, well, what does it hurt? If you had not studied you would have been out of the book from move one, anyway! If you have studied games by GMs or other strong players, you may have noticed their comments that go like: "This game followed 'Chessiq - Chessbuff,, june07, where chessiq continued ..." It pays to "know" what's already out there. Why reinvent the wheel?

If you want to memorize whole games, it is easier and better to start with Miniatures. You can start with 10 moves or less, then move to 15 moves or less, then move to 20 moves or less. It is also easier when you focus on one Opening first, that way you don't have to "think" about the first couple of moves. 

3. Play blindfold Chess: I will address how to play Blindfold Chess in another post. For those who do not know what it is, you play the game without sight of the board. You just announce your moves. Blindfold Chess has several benefits, (from my experience).

First, you resort to things that you know well or think you know well. Most people will play 1.e4 than 1.b4 when playing blindfold Chess. Most people will complete their development before launching an attack when playing Blindfold Chess. So, it reinforces the basics/fundamentals.

Second, you work harder, think deeper, focus more, when you are playing Blindfold Chess, than you would in an OTB game. I suspect that the reason is that you feel "handicapped", so you overcompensate. The benefits from playing Blindfold Chess carryover to Over The Board Chess.

Third, it is easier to recall the moves in a Blindfold Chess game than it is an OTB game. I don't know why it is like that. May be it for reasons listed in the point above. Thus, your memory improves with Blindfold Chess.


For tip #13 click here.

For tip #11 click here.