what i learned so far?!

  • #1

    I read somewhere that a German once said he taught his son chess so that "he would know joy in life". Actually I think there are multiple paths to joy in life (i.e. eurogames) but the point is that very little can compare to the depth of satisfaction one receives from a well planned and executed game of chess, hard fought, but ultimately successful. Losing, on the other hand, can be painful.

    Actually, I am not that strong a chess player. But I did become a better player, and now can usually beat most of the players in my group (except last week, when a player showed up who was far stronger than I). Anyway, this is how I did it, and what worked and what didn't.

    Openings. It has been said often that the beginner should not study openings. You will not improve by memorizing sequences of moves. That said, many beginners play the opening very timidly, especially against an opponent they perceive to be stronger. That won't help them at all. Their opponent will simply seize the uncontested space on the board and take an early advantage. So, I think it does help to learn the first four or five moves of a few openings. Try to improve from there with as many games as possible.

    The next thing to study is tactics. Keep in mind is that chess is essentially complex pattern recognition. An experienced player can look at a formation of pieces and see multiple possibilities (strengths and weaknesses) at a glance. The beginner is thinking: well this might go there.. and then.. this there.. That is about one percent of what the other player sees at a single glance. The experienced player has recognized patterns on the board. 

    Chess problems are the best way to study patterns. You can study them on your computer if you like, or in a book, which is my favorite way to do it. My very favorite chess book of all time is a funny, quaint little book called 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations by Fred Reinfeld. It is in print and would probably cost you $10 used. I like to take this with me when I go out. I can amuse myself on the bus studying chess problems. It is in the annoying descriptive notation (algebraic notation is much better), but it doesn't really matter. The book is mainly pictures anyway. Thats the whole point: you become better by analyzing the pictures, not reading the words. Reinfeld doesn't tell you if the solution is to go for a sudden checkmate attack, or simply scheme to capture a bishop. This is much like the sort of dilemma you will face every single move when you play chess. There are other great books on chess problems. Lazlo Polgar's massive tomeChess, 3554 Problems, Combinations and Games is outstanding, but far too big to slip into my messenger bag.

    It helps to learn the basics of positional chess also. And for this one does need to turn to words. Concepts like a strongly posted knight, or a good bishop versus a bad bishop, are keys to the game. Unfortunately, there are a lot of books out there that write about chess that are not helpful to a beginner. You can read for weeks on end and come away utterly baffled and no better when you face your current nemesis over the board. There are a few books that have helped me so far. The simplest book on positional chess that I know is Sunil Weermantry's Best Lessons of a Chess Coach. This book is written for kids but is not condescending. It is a great introduction to basic positional concepts. It is also a good introduction to modern fianchetto openings, such as the King's Indian. These are fascinating and beautiful ideas that one can study for years at one's leisure. Weermantry is just getting you started, but there is no rush. Another book at about the same level (beginner) is Irving Chernev's classic Logical Chess: Move by Move. This book does for queen's pawn openings what Weermantry does for the fianchetto. They are both available in algebraic notation. 

    I spent a lot of time reading (or trying to read) annotated games of grandmasters. This didn't help me at all. Most of the variations were simply far beyond my tactical vision. I just got bogged down in details and couldn't follow the overall theme of what the player was up to. The most advanced book that I do like is Reassess Your Chess by Jeremy Silman. This book is still challenging for me and I like to re-read it. I re-read Weermantry too, for that matter.

    Another way to strengthen your game is to write down your games. This may seem a little odd in a casual setting, but your opponent won't mind. The point is that you can go back to your play later and see just where you screwed up. You can even analyze with a computer, which is very helpful. 

    These notes are just the very basics of chess study. It is a lot easier if you find studying chess enjoyable, of course. I do. There are other ways to study chess, for example playing against a computer can teach you a lot. I can't stand playing against the computer. But other people I know improved their game a lot mainly by playing against, and studying with, a computer. So, whatever works is good. But the key is to study chess. And when you achieve a difficult win, it is so very worth it. When you crush your opponent like a bug, you might find joy in life.

  • #2

    Good read. Maybe except the last sentence, I find it a display of poor sportmanship.

  • #3

    Thanks for sharing your methods with us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • #4

    Good read... I enjoyed reading this.ty.

  • #5

    yes mr george, seems sportmanship in chess has died

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