For those of you who have not heard of this book Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith – let me say that it aims to show new avenues for training for an already advanced player. The author presents a road-map of improvement in your Chess training.
The real value of this book is its instruction that is interspersed with lots of personal experiences from author and his chess colleagues. The book focuses mainly on increasing one’s strength at classical time control chess (more than 60 minutes per player per game). So if you are a casual blitz player you will not be benefited by this book.
Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith – who can benefit?
This book is for class A players (those who are 1800+ in elo) and above. For those who are rated below 1800 FIDE rated, it may help if you have a trainer working with this book. Remember that this book is for Tournament players and not for the casual blitz player.
Pump Up Your Rating – voted the ChessCafe.com Book of the Year 2013 – read here.
About the Author:
Axel Smith – Author
The author is Axel Smith is an IM (International Master) from Sweden and a FIDE trainer. Axel Smith is an upcoming Swedish IM, who is on his path to achieving a GM title. He is also a succesfull coach with many students climbing the success ladder, to his credit.
Smith talks seriously about his chess preparation; he prepares in detail for his opponents sometimes going to great lengths like looking at his opponent’s ICC games too check out their weaknesses. Now isn’t that a creative streak?
Nothing motivates him more than winning in chess.
What is shocking is that anything not related to improvement is not worthy of his attention as he feels that studying Chess history is unimportant – “I don’t think I have ever seen a complete game by Bobby Fischer,” he frankly reveals in the book.
Why should you read Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith?
I know for sure that had I read this book I would not have wasted my 3-4 years of chess training some 15 years ago.
This book is a labor of love and fills an important gap in an improving chess player’s library. It answers many questions that a budding chess player has or should think of like finding a good training partner for those who can not find chess players nearby and how to use chess software to aid in preparation.
During training, Smith reveals that he does not watch TV, or use smart-phones or the Internet; and he avoids reading books while playing in a tournament, as these are a cause of distraction.This may not appeal to some as each person has his own way of unwinding and relaxing.
He comes across as some one who has walked the talk and wrote it all down.
What does the book look like?
It consists of two big parts and each part is a book topic by itself!
The first part deals with How to think in Chess, pertaining to the basic positional ideas and strategy. He talks about pawn levers (and how they are the anchor of all planning), piece exchanges and imbalances, and finally the most important skill of all – calculation.
- Chapter one – Pawn levers.
- Chapter two – Exchanges and imbalances – art of exchanging and the timing so as to create an imbalance in the position.
- Chapter three – Critical decision making and questions that need to be answered while coming across such positions.
- Chapter four – Calculation (different from Kotov’s tree of calculation)
The Second part deals with techniques on training in Chess. This is the fun part of the chess book and will make you read everything in one go.
Here Smith explains how he improved by following what he describes in this second part, in four chapters:
- Analyzing your games and making a ‘list of mistakes’
- A program to study tactics;
- Openings training using Chessbase software for the creation of ‘opening files’ and looking at games
- Learning the most important theoretical endgames first – roughly 100 in number.
He comes across as a live-wire author who is teaching you what you must learn and what you may avoid, in order to save precious time.
- As a bonus, you get an Appendix that has a List of theoretical endgames – however they are to be downloaded in PGN format from their official site which is here.
The database discussed in Chapter 7 – Openings can be downloaded (in PGN format) here.
The book he recommends in the chapter 6 – The Woodpecker – Method Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else – by Geoffrey Colvin can be bought from Amazon or Book depository.
For anybody thinking about buying the book – I can wholeheartedly recommend this one; it has delivers on everything it promises.Jacob Aagaard described it on Quality Chess blog as “reminding him of his own Excelling at Chess, only better”! Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith is a refreshing new book for chess coaches and players who are trying hard to make progress and find that they are stagnating. Those who are in need a different set of training techniques that are not old school, will gain a lot from this book. Some techniques may sound radical but then it worked for him so who knows – it may work for you…
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There is always a dearth of quality chess material for training once you climb up the ELO ladder. When my students join they are raw beginners but later I find it difficult to set them challenging tasks as they slowly master the techniques. And therefore I keep looking out for new avenues for training them with. Today I have a reason to be thrilled. I have seen Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis that seems to have come after a long hiatus. Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis is something that most of chess books have been lacking and that is Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources: Developing Preventive Thinking which is by the way the title of Dvoretsky’s new book.
Victor Kortchnoi once said with great insight – If you do not check what your opponent is doing, you will end up complaining about bad luck after every game.
So understanding your opponent’s next move could be or what agenda he is trying to accomplish, is one of the most important core skills required climb up the ELO ladder. It is what makes a difference between a good chess player and a strong chess master.
The reason why many students stagnate is because they are aware of most of the direct methods of attack and will thrive in many a tactical melee, but give them a position where they are at the receiving end of the opponents’ blows, or where the tactics are not yet present on the board, they will be all at sea.
What is special about Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis ?
What is prophylaxis in chess?
I have a 1200 player who attacks ferociously with tactical claws that will tear any ripe position apart. One day when we played a game that was steered into positional waters, he was stuck for 2 hours in getting the best move! I had to reset the clock many times as he was floundering for a move and in exasperation he asked me (after having reset the clock for the 4th time) – “What is the move I must play here, Master?” – to which all I could say was “I think your best move is to resign as I myself do not know how you are going to disentangle from your mess”.
That is the power of prophylactic thinking for you.*
Dvoretsky is known for advocating the art of prophylaxis as a key to mastery in the higher levels of chess playing arena. To put it in his own words (Secrets of positional play), Prophylaxis or prophylactic thinking is “the habit of constantly asking yourself what the opponent wants to do, what he would play if it were him to move, the ability to find an answer to this question and to take account of it in the process of coming to a decision.”
Coming to the book under review – Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a collection of problems with underlying theme of prophylaxis.
Dvoretsky is very famous for his classical books that are considered as must-read for those beyond 2000 ELO upto 2400 ELO. In this book, Dvoretsky embarks on a classical but neglected training on this theme, with high-quality training material for independent analysis.
Contents of the book – on the subtle art of prophylaxis
Each chapter has a introductory theoretical section followed by plenty of exercises, from easy to difficult. Each chapter begins with a small explanation on the chapter’s theme, and this is followed by positions for solving with their solutions.
This book consists of four chapters, all dealing with identifying what your opponent’s next move or moves could be. They are:
- Pay Attention to Your Opponent’s Resources (180 problems).
- The Process of Elimination (106 problems).
- Traps (36 problems)
- Prophylactic Thinking (154 problems)
To summarize –
The best part is that among the approximately 500 exercises, there are opening, middlegame and endgame positions. This provides you with challenges in searching for a move and calculating variations as per the given pointers, that will help you at any stage of the game, be it the opening or the middlegame or the Endgame scenario.
The crux of the book is the solutions offered for the training position which are very detailed, as is typically expected of Dvoretsky’s work. Throughout the book, the author guides us by leading us through the schematic thinking for a solution in each position, to show how a player can come to the right choice of move at the board.
Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a must buy as it comes from the master himself. I suggest going through this book with your student if you are a Coach or Trainer – this will open up a few hidden insights in his/her chess brain.
*I keep harping on positional play many times and prophylaxis is my main forte while playing with some upstart students, as it is a complex concept. And whenever they start watering in the mouth with an upcoming tactical warfare and an impending win over me, I pull the plug, and play positionally to get the grip back. That way I enjoy the looks on their face when they hit a wall. This actually makes them understand that tactics has to coupled with positional concepts for chess mastery.
Order Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis from the Bookdepository if you are in the UK.
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Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics
It’s a known fact that has been stressed for long. Chess is 99% Tactics! And that is the theme of today’s Review: Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics. TacticsTime! 1001 Chess Tactics from the Games of Everyday Chess Player is different from other regular tactics chess books, in that the positions are all taken from everyday amateur games.
You just need to find a tactical solution without any hints whatsoever.
Some positions are dead easy while some are really difficult.
What appealed to me about this book is that each and every position, are typical of problems that the majority of the chess players are likely to meet either while playing on online sites like chesscube.com or chess.com or even in the weekend local tournaments or clubs.
Who is this book Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics aimed at?
For the post-beginner upto 1400 ELO rated player. So for those of you above 1800 ELO there are other good books like
Sharpen Your Tactics: 1125 Brilliant Sacrifices, Combinations, and Studies or
Chess Tactics for Advanced Players.
Chess Tactics for Students by Bain
One caveat though – this book is not for the rank beginners, since the problems are not arranged by any theme and the answers can be difficult and lengthy for them.
So if you are probably somewhere in the range of ELO 1000 – 1600, solving this book’s puzzles every day should help in your game play as they will simulate a real chess game.
This training method is best suited for the serious beginner and helps as a daily warm-up course. If you are using the Kindle version use it while commuting or waiting.
I know this sounds a bit difficult to understand as the usual perception is that the harder the problem the better the result. Trust me, it’s crucially important to master BASIC tactics.
It doesn’t matter if you can solve most of the 4-5 mover tactics if you are regularly missing on the smaller 1 and 2 movers. I hope this explains why people stagnate for years despite doing hard work studying tactics daily. You must burn in the basic patterns into your sub-conscious mind, so it doesn’t even require any thought.
In the well-optimized Kindle version, you get one problem per page with the answer seen on the next page. This helps to keep the answer hidden from prying eyes. If the answer is not possible just flip the page!
Pros of this book:
- Contains a huge number of chess positions (1001 to be precise)
- Diagrams are clear and easy to view
- Problems are not too hard just apt for post-beginners.
- Problems are taken from real games and are not composed.
- Each position has additional meta info like players names, ratings, date of the game etc
- Puzzles in this book are from many sources like blitz, correspondence, rated USCF games, weekend tournaments, scholastic tournaments, etc
- Solutions are easily understood.
- Affordable price.
- If you are a Kindle owner, you’ll love it as it is specifically for Kindle with problem and solutions on alternate page
- Random mix of tactical themes (pins, forks, skewers, double attacks etc)
Cons of this book:
- Has no grading of tactical themes.
- Not apt for higher levels as the positions may be easy for them.
Or get it from here – at BookDepository with free shipping worldwide.
Or from Amazon India if you are from India
➡ This Kindle eBook from Amazon.com is available at a price of less than $5 U.S, the Kindle eBook is a steal.
However prices are subject to change.
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Question: Hi Coach @GoldenChess! I’m a newbie in the chess scene and am from Madipakkam (near Nanganallur) in Chennai. I have a problem and that is – Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners especially. The doubt is: should I study all the major openings and if so which ones do I have to study as priority?
To be more specific, my concern is – I am very familiar about the Sicilian but after 1. e4 if my opponents do not play any Sicilian line but takes me into an unknown territory that I can’t manage, what must I do ?
Do I have to study all the openings in this case ?
Last week somebody advised me that I have to study the openings that fit my playing style. What is your take on this?
Thanks for all you tips! – Aadhithya (age 15)
Hi Aadhithya – First of all, I guess that your question is basically about building your White repertoire. In the long run, if you are serious about improving your chess, the answer is – yes! Hard work does pay. For example – you may start with 1.d4 and play the Colle system – or the Sicilian Grand Prix with 1.e4 as white. But there is every possibility that you will soon feel bored with that opening.
Also, after a few games, your opponents will start coming up with new tricks and ideas. To deal with that, you have to work harder… and smarter.
But – and that is a big ‘but’ – more than that, knowing key tactical ideas and motifs, and basic endgame positions helps a lot.
Being new to the chess scene doesn’t demand a lot of opening theory knowledge so spend less time on openings but don’t avoid it completely.
While studying Chess openings, pick up a nice annotated games collection that covers opening principles along the way, such as Chernev’s Logical Chess: Move by Move or a lighter reading like Understanding the Chess Openings
Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners (or how not to study!)
What openings you choose is up to you, and depends on your goals in chess and your personal tastes. So if you are already rated 1800 or thereabouts, you can pick theoretical lines to build your repertoire and polish it everyday.
However if you are lower rated – you said you are a newbie so I assume you are a post-beginner – then you need to only understand and remember the major lines in a selective set of openings and more importantly, improve your middlegame understanding.
Try completing the combination books selected from this link from Amazon.
Note however that you will not have a ‘style‘ of play until you have a quite decent understanding of the game by which I mean 2200 elo rating.
Until then you don’t have a style – what you have is a collection of responses and weaknesses.
So in summary –
- Study only the important openings that you will play and encounter and choose the 4 or 5 common variations of that opening, to begin with by reading books by the great Grandmaster of the past (I have listed some suggestions below).
- Play them regularly with friends or at online chess playing sites such as Chesscube.com, Chess.com, ICC or Playchess (ChessBase).
- Try playing with chess software like Lucas Chess (read a good review here)
- Don’t hesitate to change openings if you feel you are not enjoying it.
- Don’t waste your time on off-beat openings that are not important, you are not a master yet and
- I suggest to really master tactics by doing them daily on a real chess board rather than openings for your age and level because you will lose mainly by tactics and not because of the minimal advantage that was gained by that uncommon variation.
Book Suggestions: I suggest you to get a few books that are a collection of GM games annotated by the Grandmaster himself and go through them with your coach or another player who is stronger than you.
An example list:
My Chess Career – Jose Raul Capablanca (for Intermediates)
Alexander Alekhine’s Best Games – Alexander Alekhine (For Intermediates – constant revision)
One Hundred Selected Games – Mikhail Botvinnik (For advanced intermediates)
Smyslov’s 125 Selected Games – Vassily Smyslov (For Intermediates)
The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal (For advanced intermediates)
My 60 Memorable Games – Bobby Fischer (For advanced intermediates)
Bent Larsen´s Best Games – Bent Larsen (For Intermediates and constant revision)
I Play Against Pieces – Svetozar Gligoric (For advanced intermediates)
I have avoided providing the latest Grandmaster’s book list as the above list of older books gives a good understanding of an opening’s evolution. These books will discuss about the opening plans and ideas and that will be a good foothold to begin with. I hope I have answered your question on Chess Openings – how to study – for beginners
Once a grasp of these ideas are absorbed in place, we can then continue our learning with the later day Grandmaster’s books such as those by Shirov, Anand, Gelfand, Karpov and Kasparov.
In addition to this list, there are older annotated tournaments with analysed games in book format that are classics such as:
Alekhine’s New York 1924,
Bronstein – Zurich 1953
Najdorf’s Zurich 1953
The Hague-Moscow 1948: Match / Tournament for the World Chess Championship
These above 4 suggestions are only for helpful additional reading and are not absolutely necessary if you are not very inclined for self study.
Why is self study important?
If you like videos you may try Roman Dzindihashvili’s collection in this regard. He is one author who works wonders for ‘beginners’ understanding.
Additionally, I would request you to share some of your OTB (On the Board) games or online games to make this discussion more meaningful.
Do drop in at Golden Chess Centre at Nanganallur (Chennai) and we will see how to guide you in your self study.For others who have found my suggestions useful why not visit my Facebook page and follow it by liking it so that you can be notified for more such articles like this?
Note: The links in this page are affiliate links which means I earn a small commission from any purchases. Prices are exactly the same for you if your purchase is through an affiliate link or a non-affiliate link. You will not pay more by clicking through to the link.
For those of you who are not aware, Roman Dzindzichashvili (Dzindzi for short) was the coach of Garry Kasparov and trained him during the Karpov era in the World Championship Chess match series.He is also famous as a strong GM who has beaten Botvinnik, Bronstein, Tal and Hikaru Nakamura and many more GMs in the US. And why am I talking about him?
Because right now, there is a huge discount on Roman Dzindzichashvili Chess DVD bundle – for 1 day, you can get an absolutely insane 60% discount on the complete chess course DVD collection he has authored for players who are interested in improving their chess.
Roman’s Lab is a collection of 117 DVD downloads covering every chess topic from individual openings, Repertoire suggestions for long term and short term planning, pawn structure science, to calculation training and endgame mastery. He also is famous for being a tech savvy player who uses the fullest potential of Chess Engines and software in improving Chess training – that is one reason why I like him a lot!
One thing I discovered watching his DVD is that he loves to teach.
And that is a quality you too will discover when you watch him. He will start with a brief intro and slowly raise the tempo to draw you in to a state of focus.
All this will happen silently.
And soon enough you will find that you are glued to the screen. More importantly you will have some doubts that you wished Roman could clear and that is what happens very soon. In those rare instances when he does not seem to solve your doubts that is because some things are to be done by the student himself.
You are a improving chess player who has passed the spoon-feeding stage and therefore this collection will be a meal served on a platter. It is up to you to gobble what you want and keep choosing one menu every day till you are familiar with the terrain.
For more information on the DVD collection click here.
The concepts he teaches will remain for a long time. That is because of his elocution style. A sort of dramatic pause and the characteristic foreign accent that endears him to us (my personal opinion which I guess may be yours too).
Some years back I read his books – Opening repertoire for White explained and Opening Repertoire for Black Explained co-authored by Eugen Perelshteyn. They really blew me off in terms of the diagrams and analytical tips that I felt were quite innovative those days.
How to avail the package?
Just click here
to go to the product page.
You will get instant access to all 117 volumes by digital download – no waiting times!
P.S – The links in this page are affiliate links.
Why is Center control important in chess?
Are you a chess player who has mastered the basics but seem lost in limbo land when it comes to winning Chess games? Here is an instructive post-beginners’ course material that will help you attain a decent level of understanding and a rock-solid foundation before entering the club-level and advanced level field. The first question that needs to be understood by a post-beginner is – why is Center control important in chess?
Def: A post-beginner is one who has learnt the basic concepts of chess.
In my career as a coach spanning 10 years I have seen that there is a dearth of structured syllabi, for beginners in Chess. Either they are too complicated/too basic for the post beginner or they are not coherent – meaning that they do not answer the questions from a novice’s point of view. However the evergreen rules are still relevant for a generic approach in learning.
My advice for a post-beginner is just one simple sentence –
Play simple chess – control the centre!
The simplest advice to beginners is – Control the center, develop your pieces actively, create problems for you opponent and you will soon be winning many games. Make your opponent to think and let him stress out. After all Chess is a mind game.
Why is this control of the center so important? Controlling the center limits your opponent’s mobility and hinders the relationship between his pieces. Advantages like these lead to attacking chances.
Now last week I received an email asking me to comment about the relevance of Center control and why many of the games are based on this one singular aspect of chess theory.
In case you are interested there is a DVD by Damien Lemos which is relevant for our discussion. Here is my take on this DVD and why this is a really good material in case you are around or below 1500 FIDE rating strength.
What if you do not have an official FIDE rating? If you do not have a FIDE rating yet, but regularly play online then remember that 1500 FIDE approximately corresponds to 1800 rating in online sites such as Chesscube or Freechess and 1600-1700 in case you play in ICC or Playchess.
Mastering Control of the Center –
The biggest headache for all post-beginners in chess is they do not know why is Center control important in chess
The reason why they miss out on this point is that they tend to either get carried away by some impromptu tactic or forget its importance or lose sight of the opponent’s ambitions in the center.
I always tell my students to keep it simple. Control the Center – this simple advice will fetch you points or save the lost points to a minimum draw.
Broad benefits of controlling the center:
- Greater mobility of pieces. Often, if the central pawns are advanced to the central squares, then the mobility of the pieces is greatly increased. Thus, pawn moves such as e2-e4 frees the bishop on f1 and d2-d4 does the same for the bishop on c1. Later on, these moves also free the queen on d1 and the rooks.
- Greater influence over the whole board. For e.g., a centralized Knight on e5 generally controls more important squares inside the enemy camp than a knight passively placed, say, on a4.
- Limit and push back the strong pieces of your opponent or restrict mobility of enemy pieces.
- Break his defense of the central squares to give you a free pawn as bonus.
- You can use this central control to establish make your own pieces placed on better squares called as outposts.
In his instructive chess DVD, Damian Lemos focuses on the basic concepts and common themes of successful central control for beginner chess players.
He explains the concepts using model games listed below so as to showcase the concepts.
1. Capablanca vs Anonymous
2. Alekhine vs Casielles
3. Shabalov vs Smylov
4. Tal vs Benko
5. Landa vs Purtov
6. Schlechter vs Wolf
This idea of using model games is good and the games he chooses are classic examples. See them and remember to see it many times till it drills down to your subconscious mind.
Let the concepts and ideas become second nature for you, when you play chess. Try your ideas while playing chess online and see your wins increasing… And most importantly – have fun!
Buy it here – Mastering Control of the Center – Empire Chess
The above product download now includes PGNs of the analyzed games!
Additional games for you to see check out:
Karpov vs Kasparov World Championship Match (1985), Game 16 – Kasparov places a black knight on d3 which was famously described as the ‘octopus‘, controlling several key squares in White’s position and throwing White off-balance. White’s knights on the other hand are passively placed and have no control on the center.
Paul Morphy vs James McConnell, 1849 – Morphy follows simple chess opening principles; develops pieces towards the center, advances pawns to e4 and d4, empowers his bishops and tortures his opponent!
Karpov vs Kasparov World Championship 1986, Game 5. – Karpov shows how pawns in the center can block a fianchettoed Bishop making it bite on granite.
Fischer vs Myagmarsuren, 1967 – Bobby Fischer pushes a pawn to e5 to drive the Black knight from f6 and then launches a King-side attack. Shows that when you control important squares you have the ability to push your opponent’s pieces when time arises.
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