Thursday, June 5, 2014

How To Start Your Chess Training

There are many different types of chess players in the world, and there is a certain level of love for the game that is required if a truly high level of play is to be achieved. Although applicable to all players, this blog is geared toward the advanced player; 1500-1800 strength who is looking to improve their game to 2000 and beyond.
Through the trials of chess training it is not uncommon to plateau. No matter how much you play, your game simply goes nowhere. Some players read book after book, play countless hours and never improve. This is a topic of interest because it is probably the most experienced phenomena in chess, but it is almost never addressed.
What separates an advanced chess player from expert and master level play?
It is an interesting question, because the answer could be a lot and a little. If a player has outstanding tactical ability, but lacks other knowledge they could still play at a high level. That being said, a very strong player can play at a high level with almost intuition alone. A chess master is typically one who has acquired exceptional ability in all areas of the game. What separates an advanced chess player from a chess master is not just the level of their mental ability to calculate and understand a position, but more importantly the holes in their chess knowledge. The stronger a player becomes, the more important chess training is; more specifically study rather than playing.

Assessing Your Game

            A common question asked by a beginner to an advanced chess player is, how many moves do you calculate ahead? It’s always funny to see the confusion on their face when you answer, “ehh a few.” It has been said that grandmasters don’t necessarily play complicated chess, but rather they play good chess. The truth of the matter is that knowing what to focus your chess training on is more than half the battle on your road to improvement.

An advanced chess player by this point has most likely at least developed:
  • Solid opening fundamentals (development, castle early & often etc.)
  • Decent opening theory knowledge
  • Decent calculation and tactical abilities
  • At least basic positional understanding
  • Basic endgame theory knowledge (probably mostly king and pawn)
            The first thing any player should do is figure out what they don’t know. All areas of your game could undergo improvement until the end of time, so it is important to not only focus on one thing. An example of this is those who spend all their chess training focused on opening theory; constantly looking for better ways to approach their game. Another popular example would be those who almost skip endgame study all together. That which is measured improves, so do an evaluation of those mad skills of yours. There are lots of ways to do this, but a good way to start is by getting your hands on “Chess Exam and Training Guide” by Igor Khmelnitsky.
It’s not perfect but, pretty good. The reader is presented with chess positions and then asked to choose the best move from a selection of the statistically most played moves. Each position in the book was given to players of different rating strength; the most frequently chosen moves were used as an answer to choose from. After answering a problem, on the flip side of the page there is a description of each move, and of course the correct answer. The ratings that the book presents to you may or may not be accurate; however it is an outstanding book to show you where the holes in your game are. Be warned that this book will take a while to get through, but it is insightful, and will no doubt enhance your chess training. 

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