Tips For Improving Your Game

May 1, 2016, 12:26 PM |

Over the past few years my play has improved dramatically, much more than I thought it would at this stage of life. For what it's worth, I've zeroed in on some of the reasons and would like to share them.

  • Don't fear losing. This is perhaps the biggest one of all, and it took me a long time to appreciate. If you've lived for a while and accumulated some scar tissue, you realize there are far worse things in life than losing a chess game. Fear paralyzes you and discourages you from taking chances. Let go of it and make that crazy move. What's the worst that can happen? You finish early and go have a beer.
  • Look at everything on the board for every move. I don't care how close you are to winning, how long you've prepared your strategy, or how tired you are. On each move you need to review what everything on the board is capable of doing, for the situation is constantly changing. Pay special attention to all checks and all possible attacks on major pieces.
  • Take a closer look at your "bad" choices. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and players with a little experience tend to form prejudices about moves that are "good" versus "bad," often writing off the latter prematurely. Behind the "bad" moves are where many of the great ones are hiding. Ask yourself what happens after the "bad" move is made.
  • Be flexible, and improvise when necessary. Unless you're a computer, you cannot calculate everything that's going to happen or maintain control of the game. Control is an illusion. Embrace the chaos and think short-term. In other words, be a guerrilla warrior who is ready to mix things up at any time, rather than a uniformed soldier marching lockstep with a dogmatic strategy regardless of circumstances.
  • Never understimate your opponent. I've lost to people with a much lower rating, as well as beaten people with a much higher rating. Don't get caught up in the "tortoise and the hare" syndrome.
  • Find your own style, and embrace it. I steadfastly reject the notion that there is one "right" way to play chess. Chess is partially science, but for us humans it should remain mostly art. A move that is technically "wrong" can often win the game, since human psychology is in the mix and makes for a very non-Euclidean universe.
  • Read Aaron Nimzovich's "My System." Being creative does not mean you should ignore fundamentals, and this book gives you a solid grasp of those fundamentals. It's not a light read, but it's worth the effort.