Chess Improver of the Week of March 2

Mar 10, 2015, 1:46 PM |

Greetings, fellow chess improvers. Each week, members of the Chess Improver group submit losses for analysis and I choose the most instructive submissions to feature as lessons at that level, as well as a showcase win by the submitter to show what good play at that level looks like. The submitter then becomes our Chess Improver of the Week.

Our Chess Improver of the Week is bishops-dottir, an improving beginner who says that she struggles when the endgame is reached. She complains that she plays the opening well enough, could be winning in the middlegame, but then it all falls apart in the endgame.

Without knowing anything else, I suspect that the real problem for bishops-dottir is not the endgame, but basic one move oversights. Before I present this week's games, let me first provide an idea of what an improving beginner should focus on learning.

A Curriculum of Study for the Improving Beginner

  1. The prerequisite knowledge for this level is a full understanding of the rules of chess and familiarity with algebraic notation.
  2. Furthermore, a student at this level should have already solved (successfully) quite a few mate in one problems and played at least one hundred games.
  3. The first thing to learn at this level is the chessboard and descriptive notation. In particular, the improving beginner must know the different regions of the chessboard (center, extended center, kingside, queenside, king's flank, queen's flank, king's wing, queen's wing, player's field, frontier line, enemy's field, seventh rank, back rank, etc.) and all three names for each square (eg, a1, White's QR1, Black's QR8). The improving beginner should begin to train the ability to visualize the board clearly in the mind, and various training exercises may be used to help this process.
  4. The most basic bare king checkmate endings: K+Q+R vs K, K+R+R vs K, K+Q vs K, and K+R vs K.
  5. One of the fundamental principles of chess strategy, the Principle of Material, including the relative values of the pieces according to the simplified piece value chart and basic tactical devices with which to win (or lose) material: en prise, focused attack.
  6. The three main tasks of the opening phase: development of the army, control of the center, and safeguarding of the position - especially the king.
  7. Winning endgames with a large superiority of material.
  8. More Basic Tactical Devices: double attack including fork and discovered attack, x-ray including pin and skewer, zugzwang, zwischenzug, pawn promotion, and breakthrough.
  9. The names of the major openings (the Queen's Fianchetto Opening, Queen's Fianchetto Defense, Queen's Knight Opening, English Opening, Valencia Opening, Queen's Pawn Opening, Queen's Gambit Accepted, Queen's Gambit Declined, Slav Defense, Mason's Opening, Dutch Defense, Van't Kruijs Opening, King's Pawn Opening, Queen's Bishop's Pawn Opening, Vienna Game, Bishop's Opening, Center Game, King's Gambit Accepted, King's Gambit Declined, Spanish Opening, Three Knights Opening, Four Knights Opening, Italian Opening, Scotch Opening, Philidor's Defense, Petroff's Defense, Sicilian Defense, Caro-Kann Defense, Scandinavian Defense, French Defense, Zukertort's Opening, Bird's Opening, King's Fianchetto Opening, and King's Fianchetto Defense) and how they achieve the three tasks of the opening.
  10. The overriding goal at this level is to eliminate one move blunders that result in loss of material, or, worse, checkmate.

The Games of the Week

These games are both characteristic of the improving beginner level. The opening bears some resemblance to something you might see played between two grandmasters, but the moves themselves display a lack of understanding. The rest of the game is riddled with errors of various kinds until one side or the other delivers some basic checkmate. Because games at this level involve frequent blunders, the outcome of the game is often a matter of luck, based on who makes the biggest mistake last.

How Improving Beginners Lose Games

Improving beginners lose games because they make one move blunders, either losing material or allowing mate in one.

How Improving Beginners Win Games

We can see a lot of sophisticated ideas developing in the thinking of improving beginners, but their games are dominated by one move blunders. Improving beginners most often win games by obtaining an overwhelming material superiority and then forcing their way to checkmate.

Lessons for Improving Beginners

  1. There is a lot to learn about chess, but it's important to master the basics first.
  2. The primary task at this level is the elimination of one move blunders. Everything else is secondary.