Jonnalagadda's school of chess

NM smalugu

If you are having trouble speaking the name of the chess school, well you are not a native Telugu speaker. But every serious player in Andhra pradesh knows and fears the Jonnalagadda family. Actually they never named their coaching institute as such but I am doing for this blog's purposes :)

They are my most influential coaches, their entire family is in chess all of them atleast of FM standard and easily could've been IM's. FM Rama Krishna, called JRK is well known player in AP chess scene, he might have won more than 100 state championships and have even a national championship to his due. Venkata Ramana(JVR), who didn't apply for FM title but crossed 2300 several times ocassionally wins national opens but many times fail to win small tourneys. Its all in his mood.

Behind these two masters is the Patriarch, their father, whom for the rest of us is 'Sir'. These folks pretty religious Brahmins who perform sandyavandanam's (daily prayers) and music afficiandos, all of them can play several instruments pretty masterfully. Their mother and sister are vocal musicians who professionally train students.

So, once you step into their house it will be a completely different world. Kids playing chess against kids and other kids practicing ragas. They have so many prizes and shields that they have to use gunny bags for storing them.

I have spent my better part of adolescent life at their place from 15-19, I  not only learned about chess, but about math, philosophy, homeopathy(yeah 'sir' is also a homeopathy certified doctor) and life in general. I went to tournaments along with JRK many times and we had loads of fun movies, cricket, ping-pong and yeah ofcourse chess.

Well instead of expanding on our fun part let me stick to chess and try to explain their coaching methodology.

  • First they teach basics, how to move, mate with major pieces and basic tactics
  • Then they let students run free. They won't teach openings, middle game or strategy but let them first play. 
  • They interfere minimally and let students battle amongst themselves. They teach points only from the game.
  • Only after the students seem interested and improving they would start the advance training.

Advance traning to which I and 3-4 other students are subjected to involves

  • Tactics - all of us are pretty good at them. We practise them using problem books and their pet problems. Its not about number of them but the speed at which we can find a solution. We keep repeating the same problems over and over, till they become our second nature
  • Aggresive openings - at least in the starting stages of our careers we all play King's gambit, french advance, sicilian morra gambit, sicilian dragon, benko.
  • As you can see our opening selection is maximum activity and material down :). Their rationale is that we improve a lot if we play complicated positions.
  • Our guru is Mikhael Tal - we study his games, openings and style and you can observe traces of his style in all of us.
  • Then we study games of famous players - Alekhine, lasker, larsen and others, to understand strategy and to learn to attack.
  • Our endgame study is meagre to speak less, we learn general principles and try to figure things out over the board.
  • But best of all we play, we play a lot of games. All of them seriously, 1 hour games. This is where we try our ideas, openings and tactics.
  • One interesting we do is play colloborative chess its 2 vs 2. Their pair 1+4 against 2+3, so that 1's ideas are understood by 4 and 2's ideas by 3. We talk with our teammates to find best moves. I could gain a lot by understanding JRK's intention to sac a pawn and I could help him calculate sub variations and wild things.
  • Another mode is in which we won't discuss but play alternative moves. This way we are forced to understand our counterparts ideas.
  • We also used to play 'vision chess' where we start from a complicated position and move the pieces every four moves and in between we play blindfold. Through this we improve our vision depth and calculation. 
  • We usually go to tournaments together and analyze our games after the rounds or travel home.
  • Finally they ask us to analyze our games to the best depth and their will critic the analysis. Personally this has helped me a lot.

These are some of the awesome things we used to do, like I said else where most of us are in it for full time, which means 9-9. We have intermixing of cricket, ping-pong but we spend around 5-6 hours of quality time on chess.

Our coaches placed less importance on results on more importance on quality of games, if you have standard you will surely win one day! This has enabled us to play freely during a tournament without fear. Ok now some of their famous students.

  1. Rohit who is currently 2450+ and GM elect, well he had other coaches and he was with them only till his rating was around 2250 but he had a major foundation with them.
  2. Praneetha who only after 1.5 years of coaching won Under-9 national championship and state women second
  3. Kavitha, who was a strong women player but never got place in men. But after 3-4 months with them she was 2nd in a strong state open.
  4. Well me :) I attribute all of my achievements to them. I never had another coach after them.
  5. And other Kids after I had to leave the country.

Since I want to keep the post readable let me stop here. One thing I learned from them to do always is to enjoy chess, no matter what the result, if you are not enjoying it you will not improve.