Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Chess improvement

I've had a few requests recently for tips on how to improve your chess playing ability and start notching up those extra points. I'm happy to oblige and think it's a great idea for a series of posts.

I'll write one tip per week targeted at the club or casual player who'd love to get their rating up, or maybe just bag a point or two against the 'chess master' down at the park.

The post schedule: I'll post a chess improvement tip each Saturday, and a chess puzzle on Fridays. Other days will be the usual mix of reminisces, opening commentary, news snippets, player profiles and visits to the attic.

Let me have your thoughts and topics you'd like to see addressed.


Ryan Emmett said...

Hi Roger,

I have a few questions.

1. Is it better to focus on nothing but tactics until you are at least 2000 Elo? Is doing endless problems at the Chess Tactics Server an effective use of time, or is it better to play as many complete games as possible at a slowish time limit? What is the right balance?

2. Is playing against computers beneficial or can it be harmful? Is playing against humans a better idea if you want to become a stronger player?

3. Is it a good idea to have a mental checklist to go through when you decide on a move, or is this an artificial way of thinking?

4. Is playing 'causal' games ok, or should every game and every move be taken absolutely seriously?

5. What chess books would you recommend for a club player wanting to improve their game?

6. Is it better to play lots of different openings to get experience or should you stick to a settled repertoire?

7. In this era of computer chess, is joining a chess club a time efficient and effective way to improve?

Your thoughts are most welcome!

Roger Coathup said...

Hi Ryan,

that's a great set of questions.

Some I'll incorporate into the Saturday improvement tips, and others I'll try to answer at once.

Give me a couple of days to give them a proper review and get back to you.

Best regards,

Roger Coathup said...

Hi Ryan,

A little time now to answer your questions:

1. Tactics are important (more than 90% of the game if you believe some eminent players), but are often misunderstood and can't be taken in isolation. Tactics aren't just about winning material, a combination can also be used to gain a positional advantage, force a better ending, etc., and they tend to flow more naturally from a strong position or clear strategic plan (that's not to say a 'cheap' shot can't change the course of a game!). Let's come back to this in the improvement tips.

2. I don't like playing computers, because I like the battle between two individuals. Also, against computers we tend to play 'artifical' chess, e.g. by avoiding complicated positions.

3. Alexander Kotov details how you should think in some depth in his classic book, Think Like a Grandmaster. I take what he says with a pinch of salt, but there are definite benefits to putting some structure to your thinking. Again, we'll look at this in more depth later.

4. I take every game seriously... even 1 minute blitzes... because I want to win. But, you've got to enjoy as well.

5. I'll give a set of books in a post in the coming days.

6. Good question. The different openings (closed, semi-open, open) can give rise to completely different patterns of play. It makes sense to 'master' a few openings, but to have familiarity with all. We'll look at patterns, studying master games, and repertoires over the course of the improvement tips.

7. Another excellent question. I play a lot over the Internet, but it's a different sort of chess. I still need my club team matches for the 'bread and butter' long time limit games. Combine the two! I've got some thoughts on how best to learn the game, and will post on this subject, separate to the improvement tips.

I hope that helps for now,

transformation said...

where did your blog go???

new content, or--and i dont mean to pull your chain--or exhaustion or lack of interest, or other life callings?

look forward to update, dk

transformation said...

my sincere appologies. sarcasism is just not my nature, so, yes, i missed it. sometimes i google my own key ideas, to see how 'sticky' they are, and your blog came up handily. i failed to see that this link was to your post, not your blog.

lots of first class stuff. hardly the stuff of an intermitent blog.

five star, bravo!!!!!!!

warmly, dk


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