Munich alias Kag_moon improved as an adult (39 yrs) about ~400 Fide Elo points .


When I (= know as Munich) started training for chess, I was already 39 years old. Before that I had not played for 12 years. My old rating back when I was 26 years old was 1812 DWZ (german rating), and that was my all-time-high back then. Stupid as it is, this "high" rating was one of the reasons why I stopped playing, because I didnt want to lose a 1800++ rating.

Meanwhile, I am playing in England, and have a 192 ecf, and the tendency is still going upwards. 

It is difficult to compare those 2 ratings exactly. But it is a gain of about 400 fide elo, or from roughly 1800 to 2200 fide elo, dependend on what rating conversion formulars you use.

I trained a lot of easy tactics at chesstempo. The way I trained is now called "the saltmines". More about that to follow in a seperate thread here.

I improved in tactics, however, this improvement is maybe worth "just" 150 fide elo.

The rest I improved with endgame studies, looking at statistics of various openings and trying to understand why some openings are statistically more promissing than others, and I adjusted my openings repertoire according to statistics. Those who played me can often confirm: I get out of the opening in a good way, with an easy life, whereas my opponent had it tough. I play the "Turtle" style against weaker opponents, which are meanwhile --> most players I come accross! At I am better than 99.8% (there are 42K and more active players at lichess).

I am tactically still not that strong, and many A-class players are able to beat me in blitz. (Blitz is mostly about tactics).

I will write more about openings, endgames, general tricks (including middlegame) in seperate threads.


So how did you manage to open up a topic while it didn't work earlier?




it works now, that's all that matters.


working fine for us too


Even though I (and others) did work a lot in the Saltmines, this seems only to be part of my improvement.

I improved about 150 CT Blitz rating points with my tactics training. Which is worth maybe 100-150 elo point.

However, OTB I improved about 350-400 elo points. Where do the other 200-250 points come from?

Aoxomoxoa analyzed my data and found that I have a high "k-factor", which means: doubling my thinking time yields more for me than it yields for others. The one thinks the better the moves, of course, but in my case the moves are much better than the better moves of most others.

Aox never found what trains a K-factor, because he couldnt explain how it works. But recently (I think) I found out finally:

I use much more general principles ("rules" or "guidlines") that aid me in finding the right move. 

Most tactics in a game arent that deep, especially if it is rather a "calm" position (Turtle play). My CT Blitz of 1900 is more than sufficient for these shallow tactics.

More tactical ability isnt needed, like a car that can drive 300 km/h doesnt really go faster than others in a traffic jam.

I looked at the errors my opponents did against me, and thought if I could have done their errors. This is easier to answer, because we can hardly tell why we did our own errors.

But why dont I do many of my opponents errors? I discovered that only part of their errors had been of tactical nature. About half of their inaccurate moves come from not knowing the rules and guidlines that I know (most prominent rule not known is "To take is a mistake"). For instance in endgames, I follow the rule: "Activate the king and pieces first - pawn moves later".

I follow this principle, while many of my opponents dont. Instead they try to "gain space" with pawn moves - and then they lose 10-20 moves later miserably against me. Engines can find their bad moves often as "inaccuracies", because they can look 10-20 moves deep.

Or take the principle in rook endgames: "the King should block passers, not the rook. If the rook blocks, on the long run that means getting into zugzwang".

So these rules tell me the right moves, or let me only consider right moves, and in doing so I need much less thinking time because I dont even start thinking about the wrong moves.

So rules and guidlines cut away a lot of thinking. 

Chess isnt 99% tactics. And in fact, if you go for turtle play, the amount of tactics get in my case to below 50% (cause my improvement measured in elo attributes just ~100-150 points to improved tactics).

I also noticed that if you are in a worse position, the game usually goes all downhill. Most simple example: you are a pawn down in an otherwise balanced position. Chances are high that the game trades down to an endgame and your eval goes down from -1.0 pu to -50.0 pu to check mate. 

It is hard if you are "behind" in a game. The further you fall behind the more difficult it gets. If you are a piece down - you can (in a calm balanced game) simply forget about it and just resign.

This means that getting out of the opening is pretty important. 

There is a common wisdom that says that most players spent too much time on openings. However, this leads to the idea, that openings arent that important. This is probably wrong. Openings are very important. But what people do wrong is: they dont learn "good" openings, but rather would like to make their old opening work.

I switched my opening repertoire to statistically promissing openings - and that really boosted my results a lot. I think 80 or those 350-400 rating points I gained was due to improved openings. I switched from the weak 1.e4 to the much stronger 1.Nf3.

I switched from the medioce scandinavian to the related Nimzowitch defense (1.e4 Nc6), which can lead to an improved Scandinavian defense.

Some people play already the sicilian (=one of the better defenses), but even among the sicilian variation, there are better ones (for instance the O'Kelly) and just mediocre ones (the hyper accelerated dragon).

I guess that 80 elo points stems from improved endgame techniques. 

So in total I improved

~120 elo due to tactics,

~80 elo due to endgames

~80 elo due to openings

~80 elo due to improved rules and guidelines (many of them come from discoveries made in endgame and opening training, but others come from GM Smirnovs lessons, most importantly the "to take is a mistake" rule)


Very interesting background to your progression and chess success. It comes across that statistics form the basis of at least some of your decisions. How do you balance statistics with personal preference on an opening? Or do you just let the statistics decide? The reason I ask is because chess is an expression of oneself?


Your guiding mantras I think are genius and so useful. For me having a list of these for different phases of the game would I think be very useful.

Starbuck wrote:


How do you balance statistics with personal preference on an opening? Or do you just let the statistics decide? The reason I ask is because chess is an expression of oneself?

My Style is "I like to win - no matter how".

Which means - if it is not good for me to seek tactical skirmishes - then I dont like tactical battles, especially if it makes me lose.

There is always some style adaptation possible, even if you follow rules and statistics. I wouldnt be able to say what my style is, though. I only know that I like the Nimzowitch defense (1.e4 Nc6) more than "The Modern" or "sveshnikov sicilian (the sicilian with a d6 backward pawn)" - all of them are statistically very good defences for black. 

I guess it is a bit of a style question if you like the "Modern Benoni" more than the "Rat Defense" (=my choice) or "The Modern" (a defence that is possible  for all 1.e4 and 1.d4 and 1.c4 and 1.f4). So there are several options to chose from. You will pick what looks nice to you, and that is then your style. If it is "style". Can this be called style? I dont know.

Some rules will influence what others will think is then your "style".

For instance the rule "to take is a mistake" tends to let your opponents think that your style is the Steinitz Defense Passive Hard Core Style.

This is what people think if they see me with black in this opening: 1.e4 Nc6 --> this looks like the least aggressive move to others. Overly passive. The Aljechine is at least attacking the e4 pawn - but Nc6? - what does that really do? It only seems to block the  c-pawn, which is often useful to be pushed, isnt it? You can hardly play more provocating than this...

Little do those people know. I am not passive, I am trying to gain tempos from my opponent by making them take me first (encourage them to do "the mistake and take".

You know the rule "to take is a mistake?" - if not, here is an excellent video of GM Smirnov: "The most common mistake".

Even if you know it - maybe it is a good opportunity to watch it now again. In the very first position that Smirnov presents, I like the backward move 1.Ne5-f3. This is "my passive" style. I avoid exchanges (like it would happen after 1.Bf4), and others think that moving things backwards is "passive". That is why I have the reputation as somebody who is a provocating overly passive player, who is very solid.

But it isnt my style - it is just sticking to rules. Rules that help me to find the right moves and to win more games.

You want more guidlines like that?

Hm, I think Smirnov´s "breaking stereotypes" are very valuable. After you have seen it, maybe your style will start to be more often to fianchetto your bishop on g2 instead of moving it to g5 or b5?

You see, all these insights will probably lead to play in a certain way, and that is why I dont believe much in "style" anymore. Sure, I still favour some positions over others, but often I have no real choice, so style isnt that important anymore. I play a lot of endgames, mainly because I wasnt able to win before, which has its real cause probably in my "turtle play" way - I am not trying to hard, but wait for mistakes of my opponent and while they dont happen, I try not to do mistakes myself and play safe, calm moves. So my "style" could be described as "turtle style"? But really, this is just a neccessity due to my lack of tactic skill compared to other expert/master players.



I like your style. I will watch the Smirnov content and respond to these ideas.

I want to play chess with sacrifices because in games where I have done so I've felt exhilarated and alive.

Your chess guidelines remind me of Reuben Fine's 15 Endgame Rules.