Smart Chess Training – How to improve your Chess by working smarter not harder.
INTRODUCTION: I have been asked many time by aspiring players and their parents about how to improve at chess, usually after they stagnated and came to me for help. Then there are beginners who know the basics but are clueless about what options are there, or even what type of study material to start training with. Very few players know about the Smart Chess Training techniques. Let me explain.
Most of the beginners and parents start doing something merely by looking at others like learning endings or openings and then wonder why they do not win games. I decided to write this article to help players who are aspiring to improve their chess playing ability and who do not have access to a professional coach or the time for a rigorous disciplined study.
Smart Chess Training
Success in chess is proportional to hard work and study, but it is more about smart chess training according to me.
- Also relevant to our topic – Milestones in Chess – How to identify and achieve them.
Keeping targets short and reachable: It is important to have a focus while training, decide what you are trying to achieve and then choose that training relevant to your area of study. For eg., if you are aiming to become a Grandmaster, you must work really hard and long at your game. But if you are aspiring to first become a strong player and remove your weaknesses then you are going to reach there without fail. That is my guarantee.
So what is ‘Smart Chess Training’?
Before we talk about the smart way to learn or train in chess we will discuss in this first part of the article the traditional approach to the syllabus of chess knowledge that every player must learn. Only then will we understand the smart way to chess training in proper perspective.
Classical Chess training has four main areas of study. Each of these areas provides the requisite knowledge and skill to a decent chess player.
Let us know them first.
THE most important ability of a chess player is to be able to visualize a certain number of moves without touching the pieces. This is called visualization or calculation in chess. The more we train our calculation the further ahead we can see, with greater accuracy and speed.
Tactics are common motifs in chess that can generally win the game. Some examples of tactics are “forks”, “skewers” and “pins”. The more a player studies these types of patterns and puzzles the easier it is for them to pick-up on these “quick winning” techniques during a real game and also set some traps for an opponent.
Solving tactics puzzles is the fastest way to improve as an aspiring chess player and is a core skill to master. You need to know them cold when they occur. And for that you must be familiar with many tactical devices like the back of your hand.
Tactical visualization requires two elements: Present – focus and Past – pattern recognition.
Advanced Tactics require the reverse-thinking abilities too. In fact the sooner you get to grips with reverse-thinking the better. Simply put – reverse thinking is the ability of deciphering why a certain tactic is not working and then setting about making it to work by removing that cause.
Some books that need to be read again and again: These are my personal favorites.
Strategy is the understanding of positional aspects present in any position that guides a player in formulating a future plan of action. For example one of the simplest strategy a beginner learns is that “we must never put our knights on the edges of the board”.
Strategy requires patient analysis and studious planning. It is more about conversions to a win.
- Read my review of Domination in 2545 Endgame studies – by Genhrikh Kasparyan
Studying endgames teaches the potential power of the pieces in isolation and with other pieces. The study of endgames aids brute force calculations as with fewer pieces on the board it is easier to visualize.
I believe endgame study is important to an aspiring chess player. Players who study the endgame tend to blow players away who do not study the endgame, even in positions that should be lost of drawn just because of a little understanding. But remember that the syllabus for the endgame training is not the same for every strength category.
Endgames require understanding of concept and memory of certain important thumb rules.
Suggested Endgame Work material:
Studying of individual openings and move orders is more of a tool only if a player is already extremely strong. It is of no use for a beginner. My simplest advice is – forget opening study if you are rated below 1800.
- My previous article on Chess Informants and how I recommend them to be read.
However the study of opening principles, and the different generic plans and structures relevant to any opening is beneficial. Make sure you have access to a coach who can guide you properly in this regard or quality training material if you do not have access to such a coach.
Openings require memory and general understanding abilities. Also the art of transpositions is a must.
Suggested reading (with a coach preferably):
How to Reassess Your Chess, Fourth edition – (also for openings)The Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White: A Complete, Sound and User-friendly Chess Opening Repertoire
Chess Openings for Black, Explained: A Complete Repertoire(Revised and Updated)Chess Openings for White, Explained: Winning with 1.e4, Second Revised and Updated Edition Chess Opening Essentials: The Complete Series (Volumes 1 – 4)
In a future article part I will be discussing about SMART CHESS TRAINING for coaches.
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