Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

How to get good at chess

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Stephen Moss, author of The Rookie: An Odyssey through Chess (and Life), writes in the Guardian:

The first thing to say about chess is that we are not all natural geniuses like Beth Harmon, the star of The Queen’s Gambit, who is taught the game by grumpy but lovable janitor Mr Shaibel at the age of nine and is very soon beating him.

The daughter of a maths PhD, she sees the patterns and movement in chess immediately, can visualise effortlessly – being able to memorise moves and play without a board is the sign of chess mastery – and sees whole games on the ceiling of her orphanage dormitory. She is a prodigy, just like world champion Bobby Fischer, on whom Walter Tevis based the novel from which the TV series is drawn. We are mere mortals. So how do we get good?

  • First, by loving chess. “You can only get good at chess if you love the game,” Fischer said. You need to be endlessly fascinated by it and see its infinite potential. Be willing to embrace the complexity; enjoy the adventure. Every game should be an education and teach us something. Losing doesn’t matter. Garry Kasparov, another former world champion, likes to say you learn far more from your defeats than your victories. Eventually you will start winning, but there will be a lot of losses on the way. Play people who are better than you, and be prepared to lose. Then you will learn.
  • If you are a beginner, don’t feel the need to set out all the pieces at once. Start with the pawns, and then add the pieces. Understand the potential of each piece – the way a pair of bishops can dominate the board, how the rooks can sweep up pawns in an endgame, why the queen and a knight can work together so harmoniously. Find a good teacher – your own Mr Shaibel, but without the communication issues.
  • Once you have established the basics, start using computers and online resources to play and to help you analyse games. lichess.orgchess.com and chess24.com are great sites for playing and learning. chessbomb.com is a brilliant resource for watching top tournaments. chessgames.com is a wonderful database of games. chesspuzzle.net is a great practice program. decodechess.com attempts to explain chess moves in layperson’s language. There are also plenty of sophisticated, all-purpose programs, usually called chess engines, such as Fritz and HIARCs that, for around £50, help you deconstruct your games and take you deeply into positions. But don’t let the computer do all the work. You need to engage your own brain on the analysis. And don’t endlessly play against the computer. Find human opponents, either online or, when the pandemic is over, in person.
  • Study the games of great masters of the past. Find a player you like and follow their careers. Fischer is a great starting point – his play is clear and comprehensible, and beautifully described in his famous book My 60 Memorable Games. Morphy (Harmon’s favourite), Alekhine, Capablanca, Tal, Korchnoi and Shirov are other legendary figures with whom the aspiring player might identify. They also have fascinating life stories, and chess is about hot human emotions as well as cold calculation. Modern grandmaster chess, which is based heavily on a deep knowledge of opening theory, is more abstruse and may be best avoided until you have acquired deep expertise. The current crop of leading grandmasters are also, if we are brutally honest, a bit lacking in personality compared with the giants of the past.
  • Children will often find . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 November 2020 at 11:39 am

Posted in Chess, Games

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