How important is physical fitness for Chess?

Dear Coach.

I wonder if we must take into account the state of our health when we are about to play a chess game. Will it affect our performance and result and if so what are the precautions we need to take to maintain a balance?

Yours sincerely – Abhishek.

Dear Abhishek.

How important is physical fitness for Chess?

There is one important information that is missing in your question so I will attempt to answer in a comprehensive way. The missing information is regarding online/casual play, or in a serious Chess tournament.

Chess is addictive. We continue playing when given a chance regardless of how we are feeling. This is a sure recipe for a loss.In such cases I may not be able to advise you as you will be guided by your mind’s thrill-seeking aspect. Any advice will not be heeded unless you decide when and where to pull the plug.

So are my tips on achieving peak performance in Chess that depends on health.

1. My first advice is to play at a time when we are clear-headed.

We function better at different times of the day and it varies for person to person.For eg., I play better at night, while you may play at your best in the afternoon. We need to figure out our optimal performance times and play only when we are focused. So as far as mental health is concerned – yes. It is important to play only at high efficiency levels.

In case of a serious OTB (over the board) chess tournament game, the stakes are much higher. You need all reserves of energy and must also be psychologically focused and clear.

2. Another thing that is very important to remember is to play when free from distractions. 

That is because the human mind must not be disturbed while doing something that needs our complete processing power. as it could throw our concentration into imbalance. It also makes us to feel irritated and lose focus.

3. Do not stress yourself and train this outlook over a period of time.

Having kept this in mind the third most important advice I can give is to treat all training games such as online games or academic training sessions, as match games and all match/tournament games as training games. That way the pressure is taken off and the transition to a peaceful meditative state of mind is smooth. This state of mind is essential to harness the full potential of our minds.

3. The most important factor that helps is physical fitness.

Even though Chess is a mental game the physical condition of the player helps a lot in generating energy to keep calculating at sustained depths in a chess game. Talking of physical fitness I must say that it is very important to have good stamina and lung capacity to handle all the tension that arises during a serious chess games pressure. Try cultivating the habit of morning walks as it will provide the much needed oxygen for the brain to function clearly. One way to increase lung capacity is to blow rubber balloons that kids play with or do aerobic exercises for 10 minutes. In case these are not possible try climbing up and down a flight of stairs for 5- 10 minutes. Or even cycling.

physical fitness for Chess

To sum up:

  • Play only when your mind is clear and capable of clarity.
  • Play when there is no distraction (including that of kibitzers).
  • Take all training games as serious games and all tournament games as training games.
  • Make sure you build up physical stamina and lung capacity.
Chess Informant – the esoteric art of learning chess – hacking your chess brain.

Chess Informant – the esoteric art of learning chess – hacking your chess brain.

Chess Informant – the esoteric art of learning chess – hacking your chess brain. Why esoteric? Because it was not known publicly till now. And why hacking? Because we are using action instead of passive knowledge. And why are using this book to hack our chess training? Read more…


For whom is this article useful: For aspiring chess players with a penchant to learn new techniques. Not for the beginners and children below 7 years. Also for coaches who believe in trying new techniques.

Why only Chess Informant books: Any good book will do but my experience with the Informant was first-hand so I can speak with confidence and honesty. Also I believe that they have an edge as they have only the fresh and latest games for every quarter publication.

What will you gain: You will save a lot of time. You will hack your learning technique to climb faster in the ELO ladder. These may not have been mentioned in any book, atleast none that I know of.


So let’s get started with the esoteric art of learning chess

 

Chess Informant - the Esoteric Art of Chess Training

If you are here reading my blog post, you are a chess player on the path of improvement (atleast not a non-chess player, since all chess, players like to learn to improve their game). In addition, if you have been in the chess field for some time, you must have come to know or heard about the word ‘Informant’ or ‘Informator’ in the Chess book scene. Chances are you might have even glanced at the book in a tournament stall and either took a few minutes to go through it by flipping a few pages, or looked at the pictures and thought that it was a niche book for a thoroughbred professional – who was up there in the 2500 rating range which you were/are not. You might have even thought of quitting chess, if this was what you were going to be taught when you became stronger.

How wrong and misinformed you could be, (or I was…) !?

However, I won’t blame you for this. That is the initial impression that I had too, when I saw it, some 18 years ago. So I must start with a revelation here.

My actual chess improvement started only after I had included the informant in my regular chess discussions and coaching classes, some 15 years ago – when I was aspiring to come to terms with not just the opening stages of the game, but almost everything that was problematic: my repertoire, my Strategy, my tactical skills and my endgames.

On hindsight, I am wondering why I did not look at this book when I started seriously researching about innovative chess training!

Here are my suggestions – Chess Informant – the esoteric art of learning chess :

Chess Informant - Art of Esoteric Chess Training 1. People learn from mistakes and smart people learn from others’ mistakes.

Don’t make the same mistake as I did. Therefore, if you are a 1200 – 1500 player, I suggest you to look at these informant books with your trainer, in a way that suits your playing strength as outlined below.
I will be detailing my experiences with these informants and if you follow me you may be able to save some time and remove some misconceptions in the way.

Chess Informant - the esoteric art of learning chess2. Myth – Too many variations and diagrams that look like a PhD thesis submission.

First, take a deep breath. And do as I say.

Look at the diagrams one by one. Now look at the move printed below it. Usually this move would be given a symbol of either a ‘!!’ or a ‘!’ or in rare cases a ‘!?’. That is where the fun starts. Go to a real chessboard and stick up the position as you see it in the diagram. DO NOT worry about the game or annotations for now. Fire your brain’s neurons and understand why that move was considered GM class. This is where a good coach comes in.

Warning: When I first did so, I made the mistake of looking at the diagrams and then blindly looked at the continuation given in the book. And I thought that was enough. I was partially right – since I was initially learning at a rapid pace. Then when I hit a wall I came back and chewed the positions again, this time slowly.

Chess Informant esoteric training3. The secret on how to really juice up the esoteric chess knowledge from such diagrams:

They will measure your understanding over a period of time. I found that these diagrams were there for a purpose, but not all the explanations given in the book will help you.

It depends on your chess understanding or rating range.

In fact, there are no verbal explanations; only moves and these moves only skimmed the surface of the chess ocean. They were/are like a guidepost for the reader – to help him when he re-visited the book, after a period of time. In my case, I remember I found one strange fact EVERY single time I revisited the diagram:

I was able to see NEW layers of Chess wisdom each time I saw these diagrams.

The secret was that I got to see a new facet of chess knowledge every time I saw these diagrams. It was as though, whenever I added knowledge to my brain my eyes were endowed with special vision lenses. I could see a new layer of hitherto hidden information portrayed in these diagrams, whenever my brain absorbed stuff and my knowledge increased.

Words will not be able to describe this phenomenon, but you will understand where I am coming from, when you sit down and do as I did. In your case, I suggest a revisit after 2-4 months. You will notice that the diagrams speak a new language after such hiatus.

 

Chess Informant - the esoteric art of chess learning4. Listen to the book and the positions, at first. Each position is a story by itself.

Now when you do read the moves succeeding the diagram you will notice that they do not always mention what you discovered on your second sitting or third sitting. At best, they will tell you what is obvious initially, atleast for an approximately 1900 + rated player to see. And that, is because if they catered to all rating ranges then they would miss the quality of analysis.

learning5. One size cannot fit all. It is up to us to choose what we want from the ocean of chess treasure.

In other words if you are a 2000 ELO player reading these Informants you will not see the diagrams similar to the way a 1500 rated player sees. To explain it further – If you are rated say 1500, just ask a 1200 player what he sees in any diagram. Almost invariably, he will say something that is elementary for you.

************************************************************************************

If you are stagnating in chess I suggest you to read my previous article – Secrets of Positional Chess

And if you need a dose of motivation for chess training – Separating the wood from the trees.

************************************************************************************

Bottomline:

If you are interested in shoring up some hidden techniques, practice the Chess Informant – the esoteric art of learning chess method.

And dig deep.

Any informant will do; for that matter, the more recent ones are better for many other purposes that will be outlined in the later articles. It depends on your chess understanding or rating range. Whatever be your strength or class you will get something of value.

The trick is to innovate your learning. So – hack your learning process with the Informant.

Order your copy of Chess Informant 126 here
Order your copy of Chess Informant 125 here
Order your copy of Chess Informant 124 here.
Order your copy of Chess Informant 123 here.
Order your copy of Chess Informant 122 here.


If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or any experience to share, I am always willing to hear them. My email is ‘chessgolden’ at the rate of Gmail dot com.


*****Empire Chess is offering a huge discount on digital and hard copies! Make sure you get the deals while they last.


Note: the links in this article are affiliate links.

Secrets of Positional Chess Training – 1

Secrets of Positional Chess Training – 1

Secrets of Positional Chess Training – 1

 

secrets of positional chess training

In this series of posts I will be discussing about the secrets of positional chess training and why you must care for it as much as tactics and endgames. For those of you who have not read my article – An excellent positional sacrifice, I strongly recommend you to read it before proceeding further. 

How to increase positional chess knowledge?

if you are below 1600 FIDE rating, I would suggest focusing solely on tactics, tactics and tactics, and everything I’m about to say is not applicable until you’ve improved more.

So, if you’re over 1600, and mostly satisfied with your tactics, but too often you end up having no clue what to play next. Then what?

Now you need to know about about the imbalances in chess – how they affect your game, and how to take advantage of them by manipulating the factors.

This means learning about endgames, as having the favorable positional advantages will usually help converting into a favorable endgame.

This is a lengthy topic, far too large to explain in one article; fortunately, there are good books and resources out there. The best books for learning the basics of both of endgames and the middlegame are by Jeremy Silman.

Harvesting the positional weaknesses present in the opponent’s position requires deep strategic understanding.

What is Strategic Chess Understanding?

This strategic understanding comprises of two elements:

  1. Awareness of positional factors such as effective piece placements, quality of pawn structure and safety of the King
  2. Generation of ideas or plans to make use of these factors.

Foundation of positional chess training

Here, the first step is to build a base of understanding. That is where the part of a coach comes in and also a good criteria how a good coach can be identified. The base of understanding has to be built from the basics of endgames.

Start with

Pawn Structures

King and pawn endings,

Rook endings

Minor piece endings

Queen endings

and then the meat of the middle game, which comprises of

Chess dynamics.


Secrets of positional chess training – Combination of hard and smart work

When we talk of Chess dynamics, thematic attacks and configurations are what an aspiring player needs to be given.

I am referring to an aspiring player who has mastered the basic tactical motifs like pin, skewer, fork etc.

At this stage he is like a aspiring chef who has just learnt the magic of making a tasty recipe; his true test would come when he is able to juggle with the resources present in the refrigerator, that too with a sudden unexpected onset of guests to his home.

Here confidence also plays a vital role in bridging the gap between rote-knowledge and skill-knowledge. The trick here is to convert rote-knowledge into skill based on repetition and familiarity, by constant practical applications.

Merely knowing how to bake a cake doesn’t make one a good baker. Doing it properly when time demands makes one an expert; similarly in chess winning consistently and properly, makes one a GM.

In later articles I will be expanding on many techniques to accentuate this bridging of knowledge. So I request you to follow me on regular basis.

Pillars of positional chess training

The next step is to build familiarity by constant revision and repetition of information. This is the most hallowed part of chess training regimen.

It is here where many people stumble, fall or stop altogether. Some players skip this entire process due to wrong assumptions and false guidance. I cannot stress enough the importance of this revision process and there are many ways it can be done.

For example, take the case of tabiya’s, when we first learn a new plan of attacking the castled king or mating the the uncastled king we tend to look at a few model games. The trick is not only about remembering this plan but also being able to execute when favorable configurations arise on the board.

And doing so also requires a confidence which needs to be built slowly over time.

Ready for the test drive?

The final stage is executing a move taking into consideration the above discussed factors under test conditions such as time pressure situations or high-stake scenario. This is the true test of chess understanding.

Obviously, the initial routines are difficult and test our dedication. And this is what separates the masters from the amateurs.

⇒ Keeping yourself motivated – Separating the wood from the trees!

Part 2 of this article will discuss in detail the various aspects of Positional Chess and related glossary.


The Author Kish Kumar is a coach at Golden Chess Centre and is passionate about teaching Chess to beginners, intermediate level and advanced players.

 


 

From the Chess Coach’s perspective

From the Chess Coach’s perspective

from the Chess Coach's perspective

What I have experienced as a Chess coach observing the process of ‘UNDERSTANDOING’ 

Yes you read it right. It is not a typo and it stands for doing things right by understanding them first. I would like to share my experience from the Chess Coach’s perspective in coaching juniors, who are improving rapidly. They are also getting positively addicted to the game. I have been varying my training methods to ensure that the interest levels are sustained for a long time and compared to when I started some 8 years back, made some observations and corrections vis-a-vis my coaching/training regimen.

I believe that at present I there is a good amount of involvement and drive in the children, and that is due to the different approach to remolding their thinking.

Let me hear from you if you have had any similar experience so that we may learn from it and benefit.

Here are my observations on what I think are important factors to be considered when coaching children:

Difference between children and adults:

What I have found is that there is a difference between juniors and adults in terms of interest areas.

Juniors are way too interested in competition and thrill, while adults like to arm themselves with concepts and have a learning approach to the game.

I have also found that children who do not have any thing forcibly thrust on them tend to do weaker than the children who have a fixed homework schedule.  Not only fixed but studiously followed.

Some discipline is usually expected here.

From the Chess Coach’s perspective – Learning by teaching.

The Master and the student.

The meeting point when children sit with me is also not trivial (for me), in my experience. I have achieved a fulfillment when the entire class sits and contributes, rather than just the bright kids. In order to avoid this disparity I usually break down the position to make it digestible to the weaker or younger kids after having given everyone some time to think about a tactical position.

I make it a point to get a written answer rather than a verbal one as it helps maintain track of each and every kid while keeping the answer hidden as long as possible. And in the rarest cases when everyone falters in getting the right answer I follow the pattern of mental imaging and visual guiding.

There are a few kids who I consider as the brighter ones but they too sometimes fail to get the right answers after 10 minutes or so. In such cases two things happen.

  1. I take this opportunity to pamper a weaker player to perfect his answer if he somehow intuits the correct move but fails to see the follow-up continuation properly.
  2. My analogy is to see the chessboard like an eagle flying over it and approach any middlegame position after getting a grip on what actually is the problem in that position. This helps in understanding. I will divulge more about this method later.

 


Some books are great a must-read and learn to improve your chess.

from the Chess Coach's perspectiveAt present I have a few good books going. To generate interest I usually start with 1000 Checkmate Combinations that brings the stronger players’ forward and also is not that difficult for the weaker players to rub shoulders. I do around 10-12 positions at most to kick-start the momentum.

Then I move into the Chess School Series by Ivaschenko that is quite a handful for the entire group.

It makes everyone sweat!

After 4-5 positions of great difficulty the weaker players get the hang of it and they start chipping in with their intuition guiding them now rather than brute force calculation.

The internal dialog starts and then understanding sinks in after the warm-up session, by solving 6-8 positions. It’s akin to the people with defective eyesight getting a sudden burst of clarity by using some corrective lenses.

My job here is to make them see the position in its entirety.

Tip for fellow chess coaches: –

Sometimes I have to get my thoughts in focus and need some warm-up myself to answer or refute the wrong variations. It is fun to see children catching my ruse; the stronger ones need to have  proper visualization skills to see my ruse while the weaker ones don’t see it coming for a long time till they play it out manually!

Mistakes by stronger students:

I usually frown upon the ‘silly’ mistakes made by stronger players as it shows their weakest link in the chain. This area is where they will falter while in a tournament. In this regard girls are better than boys as they have a better discipline and understand the importance of good thinking habits. The books may vary – the orientation may vary but the mental self- discipline is something that I stress all students right from day one.

Then comes the playing part:

I make them play blitz and if the class strength is good they play a mini tourney. That way the session is lively and interesting. While they play I also remind them of the the “viewing from a higher vantage point” to separate the woods from the trees (‘see the chessboard like an eagle’ and ‘approach any middlegame position as a human’). That way they have a sense of satisfaction when they implement the tactics they have just recently learnt and it brings a big smile on my face.


My question to you is –

Should I allow take-backs and not enforce touch-piece rules while they are training? Also should there be a difference in this according to the strength of students?

Your comments are always welcome…


Oh BTW – Empire Chess is offering a huge discount on digital and hard copies! Make sure you get the deals while they last.

Correct Attitude to Learning (making it rewarding).

Correct Attitude to Learning (making it rewarding)

“You can lead a horse to a river but you cannot make it to drink”

Recently my son asked me, “Did you ever hate or bunk school, Dad?” It was then that I realised that the thought never occurred to me while I studied in school. This made me wonder why it was that so many students nowadays especially those in college routinely look for reasons not to attend class.

Maybe that’s because we enjoyed the classes thanks to our majority of the fantastic teachers, or we had a good bunch of friends to be spending time with — in class or outside. So does that mean that nowadays, students did not enjoy their classes? Or that the nature of the external influence like media and hi-tech devices are different? I guess both are true to a major extent. But it was also something more than that. 

It was that the school had nurtured a culture of respect for learning environments of different kinds, a culture where even if a child was bored or uninterested, she/he was never haughty or disrespectful. All this was done with subtle discretion by the Teachers and the Staff who never preached from a very high and lofty ground but appreciated whatever work we did. Of course there was healthy criticism involved here too.

Understanding the nature of this influence tells us something about how proper learning can be influenced. By valuing children and their work, the children slowly learnt to value their own work and themselves (self-esteem). Slowly as children entered higher classes they matured and became independent and responsible for their own growth. Teachers earned respect not because they were teachers but because of what they did. They learnt not to glorify one subject over another. Every subject was important and good marks in hindi was as much looked upon as in Chemistry or Maths. 

They learnt to question the text books, their teachers explanations, and other children’s efforts, and also defended their reasons for such scrutiny. Ultimately it came to taking responsibility to all their actions.

Lessons for life

Positive moral discipline are the beacon lights of our character. What are those moral disciplines

1. Reverence (respect where it is due)
2. Faithfulness (to all those connected to you)
3. Awareness of Responsibility (in any field that you pursue)
4. Truthfulness (Veracity to all)
5. Goodness (for self-satisfaction)

Clearly, these lessons will not learnt by everyone in equal measure due to a plethora of circumstantial factors that affects how much each individual learns (or not at all). But those who do take away these essentials from the school stage, are those who will find it easier to continue to progress in learning as they pursue higher education. Schools which foster such a learning are a rarity. But my point is that it helps to recognize what these factors are, so that we can help cultivate them even outside (and despite) the school. 

As long as we continue blaming other reasons (or other people) not to learn eg: boring teachers, complicated textbooks, faulty assessment methods, school infrastructure is bad, etc., education will always elude us. What we need to do is to have a small paradigm-shift; add importance to our roles in the process, take the bull by its horns (take charge of the textbooks), and then the learning will follow.

That was perhaps the biggest lesson learned by me. 

Ultimately its like Bhagwad Gita’s eternal call – It’s all about activity, without reference to the outcome. That takes care of itself, for sure. Maybe that’s why we didn’t miss a single class even when we could. Atleast the majority of us…!
Chess Training tip : #1

Chess Training tip : #1

How to train in Chess effectively 

(for Advanced Beginners upto 1500 ELO) 

Some recommendation on training methods and resources. If you are a novice and like to improve through diligent training and perseverance then this post is just an appetizer.

Some general tips for you.

  1. I recommend ‘600 plus winning chess themes and tactics by V.Subramanian‘, ‘1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate’ and ‘1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations‘ books by Fred Reinfeld as good training material to start with (of course with a good Coach to explain what is happening). Solutions given may not always be the best or the only correct ones but they roughly describe the theme and pass the crux of the message. 
  2. Trying to visualize the analysis will improve your tactics while imprinting them in brain will serve as an absolute foundation of your chess. Don’t memorize the answers but memorize the thought process.
  3. It is not enough to go through the problems and understand the solutions, but it is necessary to go through them regularly until the solution is recognized within a few seconds without any complex calculations…. To put it more practically... treat them as your maths multiplication tables and then see how you do complex numerical mathematics… in other words, you compare your game results before and after!
  4. It is better to train regularly, for a duration that is fixed for individual daily schedule. Start with as low as 15 minutes a day. Take stock daily. Set new goals for the next ‘weekly report’. It is advisable to take time to review the past performance without fail. Avoid excuses ‘I will catch up in the weekend!’ etc., Even if something is learnt in such a short duration, it will not enter your sub-conscious mind. 
  5. Using the Chess Informants as a way to hack up your learning and thereby increasing your strength. Read this: Chess Informant – the esoteric art of learning (hacking your chess brain).

More to come…

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