Intermediate chess player study tips for improvement in chess – Part 1
What to do when playing against a master?
Last week I received an email from an old student of mine asking me on what next to study. He said – “Dear coach, I am stuck and I’ve been thinking about taking your advice on what to do to improve my game. I have been going steadily from 800 to 1300 for the last 1.5 years and now it’s been 6 months since I am able to raise my rating levels. Should I be worried that I am not doing something correctly? And if that is the case what am I doing wrong? Any resources for me to pursue?”. I knew that like him there were many intermediate chess players who were feeling lost in limbo land (and I myself was there some 13 years ago, so I know well enough what it’s like with no proper guidance).
So if your answer to the following questions –
Are you an upcoming intermediate level chess player also wanting to improve at chess after being stuck?
Do you think that there is some vital information that you are missing in your chess training?
Are you feeling guilty of wasting away your time reading or doing things that just seem to be a waste of your time?
is YES, then the answer lies in – introspection. And a new approach – Self study.
Let me explain.
This post is for intermediate chess players who want to improve their chess skills to the next stage. At this stage, most of the chess enthusiasts start losing hopes of improvement.
Why does this happen? Some of them simply do not want to do any more work. However, most of them do not have proper guidance to quality chess manuals for the needed push to the next levels.
The big question for every intermediate chess player is what to study to further improve at chess.
But to answer that correctly you need to take stock of what you know, and what you are yet to learn!
After acquainting yourself to the ideas of basic game play in your chess games, you must be now ready, to understand how long-term factors actually dictate the outcome of chess games. I will be listing some resources for you to read and understand.
Take notes and mark what you think is important from these books.
As an intermediate player, you are probably able to spot certain typical and basic tactics and defend against the same tactics. Now it’s time to develop the positional side of your game for further advancement.
Here are some resources I would suggest going through if you are really serious about improving your positional chess knowledge. I had read them many years ago and found them very useful for greater clarity and understanding from my then existing levels. I still refer to them to keep myself primed up.
So this is a kind of going back to the basics approach for improvement.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #1 –
Click on the image to know more.
Click on the image to know more.
My System and Chess Praxis
both by Aron Nimzowitsch. Two great books by a great player. These take you through important themes of positional play. The books gives concrete theory and gives proof-of-concept demonstration games. Though they are old school, the teachings still hold ground for the budding players. I consider them as a must for chess. I remember as a frustrated player having taken to these books like a fish to water. Aron Nimzowitsch was an excellent writer and an elite master. If there was some book unanimously labelled as a classic this would come pretty close to it.
On a personal note I found the Praxis book better in the long run but that was only after I understood his ‘My System’ book. You can use the Praxis book as a reference manual to better understand the concepts in the System like I did or you can read just the System book for now.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #2 –
Click on the image to know more.
Click on the image to know more.
Winning Chess Middlegames – An Essential Guide to Pawn Structures by Ivan Sokolov. This one comes as a surprise for many when I suggest taking this book seriously. In fact I am myself guilty of having sidelined this book when I first bought it. It was only when I read a few chapters that I discovered that it was a treasure trove of ideas in an area that is often neglected – viz pawn structures – doubled pawns, isolated pawns, hanging pawns and central pawn majorities.
I am sure you will find the study of this book is rewarding and will throw an added layer of understanding to your chess. One small word of caution: the book is only about 1.d4 openings, however the ideas Sokolov explains are applicable for all openings than the ones used in this book.
Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide by Mauricio Flores Rios – A new book that is exhaustive and is one of the best for explaining many pawn structure based themes and plans. A companion to the Sokolov book, a blog about the book, Mauricio Flores is including recent (or old) games where you can see how the theory of the book are applied, and how even sometimes GMs don’t find the best option – read his blog
How Purdy Won: 1st World Champion of Correspondence Chess – Purdy is among the best chess writers I have read at par with the likes of Dan Heisman or Irving Chernev (for beginners and intermediates).
When I first heard his name I though Purdy… who? And that is because his books are now quite old and almost forgotten. But he writes in an easy to read and understand format and his annotations are easy to follow – he writes for us. The reason I singled this book out is because it covers basic theory and examples of openings, middle games, and end games.
However if you are lingering in the 1350-1400 range try attempting this book by the same author – The Search for Chess Perfection. The reason is that he discusses in detail his thinking technique which is akin to Silman’s techniques.
Purdy’s passion and dedication to chess is seen in his writings. Very few authors are able to explain the concepts in layman terms. And most importantly, Purdy’s writing style is so wonderful that it can visited again and again; this helps to reinforce his teachings. Trust me, you will not be disappointed. And what better way to learn about chess truth than a Correspondence Chess Champion?
I suggest reading his other books too. For a detailed listing look hereat Amazon.
* Intermediate chess player study resource #4 –
How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances.
Reassess Your Chess Workbook.
Both these by by Jeremy Silman are worth their weight in gold. The reason I am suggesting both books is because they are connected in terms of teaching the concept and reinforcing them. However if you intend to buy only one I would suggest – How to Reassess Your Chess: Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances (though I am sure you will get the other books after reading this one). There is one caveat though – if initially you feel that he is way above your head despair not. do a re-run and you will see that he sinks in slowly. And one more caution – Don’t play blitz while reading these books – you will almost always lose on time as your mind grapples with Silmanesque techniques – that is what Silman does to the reader!
So do not worry about the stagnation and what an intermediate chess player study regimen is all about. When you are happy doing something without worrying about the result, then this is a moment of celebration.
Watch how the students dance to a song that they have no idea about. As Isaac Asimov said – Its all in the mind!
As usual comments and feedback are welcome. Please let me know if you found the suggestions useful!
If the books are out of stock – try buying them at the Bookdepository(with free shipping worldwide!)
When not playing or teaching chess at Golden Chess Centre, the author Kish Kumar spends time learning the fine art of cooking! Contact him at his Facebook page.
Golden Chess Centre conducts regular training sessions for upcoming chess players in Nanganallur, Madipakkam, Adambakkam, Moovarasampet, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam, Puzhuthivakkam, Ullagaram and Pazhavanthangal – Chennai, as well as online sessions for those players who live out of Chennai. Get in touch to know when the next batch will be starting, in case you are interested!
Recently I came across a two year old child and after observing his daily activities, I was amazed what we can learn from him. Here is the list of practical tips, that I learnt from him – the 6 Things Chess players can learn from 2 year old baby! Chess playing is a habit which once made will not be easy to quit. Because, apart from playing in tournaments you can also play online with the other players, not only from your own country, but also can the whole World.
Being a chess player is in itself a big achievement, because very few people in the world have the playing acumen and skill needed for Chess.
You can learn the tactics of Chess from your daily life activities like, say while watching TV or watching movies; all it needs is just a keen sense of observation, that is all!
6 Things Chess players can learn from 2 year old baby
1. Never ever complain.
Have you ever observed a two-year-old child going about his daily routines? If anything, he’ll never complain. Wait… you’ll say that he can cry, but that is not complaining! He is only expressing his emotions by either laughing or crying. The same thing we can do in our chess growth process – that is we can take all our responsibilities for our losses (and wins) on our shoulders. So that we never complain about any shortcomings or bad luck, for lack of success in Chess. Friends, no one is going to spoon-feed you, even a good coach will not want to do this – he will and must, guide you. The rest is your own work. So be a responsible person and keep concentrating on your goal of better chess.
2. Just One Target.
A two-year-old child has just one target – once he/she asks for anything, then come-what-may, that ‘thing’ is the most wanted object for him. When you started playing chess, what was your target and what was your dream? Remember that, all the time. There is an Indian mythological tale in the Mahabharata (a revered lore in Indian tradition), when the famous teacher Guru Dronacharaya asked his best desciple Arjuna, what he was seeing when he ordered him to attack the target with his arrow. Arjuna answered coolly – “the only thing I am seeing is the sparrow’s eye”. The same thing is also applicable for our chess pursuits. Single minded focus.
A child has the greatest bonding with his/her Mother, if he/she can feel her touch or her voice, then he is at peace. The same affection will have to be there for your Chess training! Yes, you will have to love the game if you want to succeed in your Chess. Chess is all about dedication and passion and the only person to succeed in this, is one who has the passion, minus the stress.
A child has fixed timing for getting up early in the morning, taking food at a fixed time and then sleeping at the fixed time. If you don’t have time for your chess training, then you are not going to make any progress, which you were thinking at the start of learning chess. This is all about doing the same thing daily – and – finally one day you become the expert in any field. There is one good saying – “to become an expert in any field you need to put in just 10000 hours of intense practice”. Do it daily and see the leap in your performance after 6 months.
5. One baby-step at a time.
Have you noticed how a child is always living in the present moment? The child only takes one small baby step at a time, and does not crave for immediate success in whatever he wants. If he observes a toy in the far end of the room, he does not run. He takes whatever is possible in small steps towards that toy, and goes with a one-minded focus. That is how we must be in our chess preparation and training. Small steps are needed daily. Science has proved that anything done on a daily basis for 3 days in a row becomes a habit and if you start small it is easier to create a habit.
A small child doesn’t have any worries, like when to eat or how to eat etc. You should also not have any worries whether you can achieve mastery or not. At Golden Chess Centre, we ask parents and the students, not to look at the results. The game quality is what the coach looks into, not the game points. In Chess, results depend on just the one last mistake and if the student keeps training persistently in a disciplined way, even that mistake will be removed by sheer dint of hard work. Let not success excite you, or failure pull you down.
When the players see that they are not able to win a particular opponent then they go into a QUITTING mindset. Quitting is a very easy thing. But my principal of life says – “WINNERS NEVER QUIT AND QUITTERS NEVER WIN.”
By Ashok Jain
Ashok Jain is a life coach at Golden Chess Centre, Nanganallur, in his spare time when he finds his work needs a time off.
Golden Chess Centre conducts regular training sessions for dedicated and upcoming chess players in Nanganallur, Madipakkam, Adambakkam, Moovarasampet, Kilkattalai, Kovilambakkam, Puzhuthivakkam, Ullagaram and Pazhavanthangal – Chennai, as well as online sessions for those players who live out of Chennai.
Learning from Chess Champions and World Chess Championships
Question from VM: I have a doubt regarding learning from Chess Champions and World Chess Championships. Reading all games from world champion is really time consuming process and also tough to understand without the help of annotations. Also many opening lines played before are dropped at high level due to suggested improvements by chess engines. Do you still recommend it? If so what is the order to read? Are there any sites that have world champions games annotated (or at least all world championship games games annotated). What learning process can we can follow (for 1800 player) – VM (Coach and player).
Answer: Whoa! That was a beautiful questionnaire raised by you VM! In fact if I understood you correctly, it has four questions embedded in it.
Is it a recommended practice (even nowadays) to look at annotated games of World Chess Champions and Championship matches given the fact that many old points of analysis have taken a change with new lines overtaking the old ones?
What is the order to read/look at World Chess Champions games?
What learning process would one have to follow if he/she is around 1800 rated chess player?
Are there any Websites that have these games with annotations?
Before I jump into my suggestions – keep in mind that more books have been written on Chess than all other sports and games combined!
And even though I have approximately 2000 to 3,000 chess books, some of my friends have far more than that! In fact, my collection is considered to be just average!
Okay… but why I am talking about this here?
Just to drive home a point that chess is not dogmatic and fixed – in parameters. There is so much diversity, that it is mind-boggling.
And since you asked from a 1800 rated player’s point of view I will suggest answers based on that point of view.
Question # 1: Is it a recommended practice (even nowadays) to look at annotated games of World Chess Champions and Championship matches given the fact that many old points of analysis have taken a change with new lines overtaking the old ones?
Answer: Depends on your objective. First off, a few basic facts so that you and I are on the same platform of understanding.
At at 1800 Fide Rating you will be pretty decent tactically and also have a decent idea of strategy in action as far as your repertoire is concerned. So if your interest in World Champions is merely for documentation purpose then by all means go through their games in chronological order – or – as per your favorite players list.
Opening lines may change but middlegame/endgame ideas and tactical themes will never change.
You said – “Reading all games from world champion is a really time consuming process and also tough to understand without the help of annotations”.
It’s crucial for all chess players to find something that they like, that they are passionate about, and that, they truly enjoy learning and playing Chess and try to become better at that, every single day.
That is how you attain your goals, and so when you choose to look at World Champions for inspiration it is a commendable decision. It may be difficult and time consuming. But it is worth every second when you see the results coming.
So, find your passion, set your goal and make good, healthy choices along the path like learning from Chess Champions and World Chess Championships, and you will find success following you like a shadow.
The way to learn from un-annotated game(s) will be outlined in a later article.
But if you have access to a good source of annotated games such as
then it is easy to understand the advanced strategy of these high level games.
You said – “Also many opening lines played before are dropped at high level due to suggested improvements by chess engines”.
Let’s worry about the high ground when we get there and let’s not worry about the Engines’ suggestions – that can happen when we are beyond 2300.
The Engines may be very strong tactically – they can find the best move in a messy position but they cannot explain why it is a good move!
If you were to blindly follow only the top theory then you will be deeply disappointed when you play against a club player. Because you will be at a loss on what to do in case your opponent deviates from the main lines which is what usually happens in the below 2200 rating ranges.
Coming to Engines suggesting improvements, those suggestions will work well for them not for us humans who cannot play like an engine every time.
So use the Engines with great deliberation – better still to avoid them studiously and leave that to the trainer.
If however your purpose is learning from Chess Champions and World Chess Championships and brush up your thinking abilities in Chess, then why study just just World Champions?
Why not learn from a 25oo rated Grandmaster’s games or a 2300 International Master?
In fact you will be motivated when you are able to solve positions or guess their moves since theoretically you are playing far above your level of understanding. And gain much needed confidence that is essential for chess players.
You will see that even Grandmasters are human and are liable to make mistakes.
So the answer to your first question is a broad yes, with a caveat. That means, to look at only champions’ game may actually deprive you of much needed practice which you strongly need as your opponents may not be GMs or IMs too.
So look for the learning wherever you find it. Don’t restrict yourself to just the cream. After all the GMs have all been there through that path and learnt it the hard way. So you may not be an exception. Of course I am not suggesting you look at games played by players lesser than 1800 or even 2000. I would suggest as a general rule of thumb to look from 2200 upwards.
You can learn from almost every game and everyone above your rating level. But that does not mean that greater the difference the more you can learn! There is a limit to everyone’s grasping power and you need to go step by step.
This way you will be pulling yourself up from a length of 400-500 elo and that will be your GYM Stretching exercise regimen for successful chess muscles.
Question # 2 – What is the order I would suggest to look at World Champion games?
Answer: Very simply put, in the exact chronological order that they were champions. Once more I would suggest looking at the bigger picture, by looking at the top 10 players of every WCC era. It will provide you will all the necessary fodder in your chess training regimen. Prepare a dossier of interesting positions or points of analysis and that will be your ready-reckoner before your next tournament.
For example if you start with Steinitz then also look at (not necessarily in the same order as below).
The reason I suggest looking at the same chronological sequence of champions is because you will then understand the evolution of Chess thinking, that actually simulates a chess player’s evolution from an amateur to a Master. In those days there was no technical help in the form of computers but trust me, when you look at their games you will wonder how deep they could play.
Question # 3 – What learning process would one have to follow if he/she is around 1800 rated chess player?
Answer: I would suggest that first of all any learning must be consistent. No huge gaps in the schedule and no jumping between books. You can read as many books at a time as you want, but remember to finish them. As far as the learning process is concerned the answer is huge so it warrants a separate article by itself.
Question #4 – Are there any Websites that have these games with annotations?
Answer: The immediate one that comes to my mind is www.pgnmentor.com. You have all the players games listed and you can use a firefox addon like Down them all or Flashgot which helps in downloading all the files from a page automatically.
Bottomline: You can learn from almost every game and everyone. Play against people from all different levels at different time controls from all around the world. It’s when you go beyond the 2300 stratosphere that you will have to change the training schedule and syllabus.
Let me know if you have any further questions about learning from Chess Champions and World Chess Championships or any other points that are unclear! I will try my best to answer you in coming articles.
Some of the books I have enjoyed personally are listed below.
Explaining the hiatus in articles and posts here –
This post today aims in Explaining the hiatus in my articles and thoughts here. Many of you may be wondering why the site suddenly went static and stopped moving some 6-8 months ago. The truth is that it was hacked. Not this site but another sub-domain that was parked inside the same web host account of this one and it took a lot of time to clean up and re-host that site on a dedicated web-space of its own, to prevent any similar collisions in future.
Then after that was taken care of we decided to revamp the looks of our site and this was done assuming that it would be a breeze! Nothing could have been further than the truth. It took some inordinate amount of time to configure properly and to compound our problems it we had exams to contend with.
Sometimes we felt that this was passe what with our priorities looming large and our passion getting a hit on account of being torn in the urgent-and-important-quadrant of priorities. However we sat tight and waited till everything settled down to a minimum.
When intuition is strong, doors open automatically. Keeping a balanced mind amidst problems will sometimes just be enough. There is nothing you can do about things beyond your control. If the flame of passion is strong you will eventually find a way to do it. If it is positive it is a good thing. If not, God bless you…!
Always give priority to long term commitments. And do not plan anything that is long term, without a really long and hard think about it. If you are confused ask friends. Never beats getting friendly advice. Human mind is frail and weak. It will succumb easily to temptations and distractions. If that is the case I suggest not taking up anything that will demand a long dedicated effort on your part.
Anyways, the end result is that we are back, and we are good! We are rarin’ to go and to start updating you with the latest in the world of chess, as and when they happen!
The Author Kish Kumar is a coach at Golden Chess Centre and is passionate about teaching Chess to beginners, intermediate level and advanced players.
8 Year old CEO woos security experts in Delhi, and how!
8 year old CEO woos security experts with wit and aplomb. Barely out of his milk teeth, this kid knows what it is like to be a CEO and also has his head clear on what he wants to become. No wonder he was invited to speak at the Ground zero summit in Delhi in November.
And since he could not reach for the Mic he was made to sit on a chair thereby being aptly named as the ‘Chair person’ of the event! Meet Reuben Abhishai Paul – Cyber Security expert and CEO of his gaming company called Prudent Games.
His other interests are Kung Fu, Gymnastics, Swimming and Music.
His company creates educational apps for children, combining knowledge and fun in a way that keeps children interested and involved. One of the applications by Prudent Games teaches children how to create strong and secured passwords. Another application teaches the basics of Brute Force technique to children, which is a popular method of hacking.
His presentation, titled: “Developing ROOt-Kidz: The future of Cyber Security” was about the importance of cyber security, and why parents should learn to implement and teach their children basic cyber security paradigms for keeping their computers and laptops safe.
Demonstrating his skills and knowledge, he displayed to the the audience how easy it is to hack into any website or computer using ‘click jacking’ and ‘Java applet’ attacks.
Later, fielding questions from the media like a pro, Reuben explained that it all started a year-and-a-half ago.”My father trains people in the area of software development and cyber security, and I used to be listening in and one day when he was on a business call and seemed to have forgotten some terms, and I prompted him from back. He then began training me.”
But there’s much more to Reuben than gaming or cyber security – at the age of two, he was crowned America’s ‘Most Beautiful Baby’. ‘RAPster’, as his friends call him, because his name forms the acronym RAP.
Watch 8 year old CEO Reuben Paul speak amidst experts like a Pro!