Improving Tips

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People find it very hard to improve from year to year. Chess is such a vast game, and people sometimes hit limits on their grade beyond which they cannot seem to improve. The evolving advice presented in this section is centred around possible methods of improvement. We may not reach the playing standards of a Karpov or Kasparov, but we may hope to improve our game to be the best player in our chess club!

BCC's Advice (after discussions with the club's top players :-) )

Self-Analysis

Analyse your games with the opponent afterwards
Draw conclusions from your games

Stronger players

Try to play with slightly stronger opponents
Try and analyse your games with stronger players
If you are rich get some grandmaster to coach you!

Experience

Experiment with different ways of gaining experience
For experience sometimes play in a higher section in a weekend tournament

Resources

    Books

        Play through the games collections of strong grandmasters
        Find chess books which excite you and meet your needs

    Software

        Find computer software which might be of benefit
        Analyse with computer software for tactical mistakes

Feedback mechanisms

Do not be obsessed with grading systems

Knowledge

Improve your middlegame as a priority over opening knowledge
Know the endings!

Self-Analysis

Analyse your games with the opponent afterwards

Even if you lose the game, analyse it with the opponent afterwards. This is psychologically hard to do because you may feel upset. However, if you want to improve in the long run, you must try to use this opportunity to gain deeper insight into chess. Even if you feel that your opponent is a complete hacker with no positional understanding, you may extend your grip on practical techniques relevant to the winning process.

Draw conclusions from your games

If you lose in a certain way, try to recognise this, and other game instances where you have lost in that particular way. Draw conclusions from your wins and losses. They maybe the wrong conclusions, but at least you are making attempts to draw conclusions which can be tested in further practice. Improvement is only possible through the process of learning and abstraction.

Each game should be treated as an example, and not just treated on its own. Ideally you should be trying to improve your game fundamentally with each game, not just gaining insight into another opening variation. You may for example have misplayed against the opponents isolated queens pawn. Look over the game, and see methods which could be better. Try and apply these methods to future games.

In order words try to reap the maximum benefits from your experiences by looking more globally at your games, not just accounting for your losses by for example, not knowing certain moves in certain opening variations.

Stronger players

Try to play with slightly stronger opponents

If you play an opponent which is much much stronger than yourself, you will be probably not be able to relate their insights in after game discussion to your current understanding of the game. If however they are only slightly stronger than you, then you are more likely to assimilate everything that they have to say about the game.

Try and analyse your games with stronger players.

Even if you have won a game, there may be lots of mistakes which will be exposed by the stronger player. Don't assume that just because you have won that you have played well. Join strong chess clubs if necessary to be get your games analysed with strong players at those clubs. If you confine yourself to just your immediate circle of friends for example, you may think you play an excellent game, but only in the context of those immediate friends this is necessarily true.

If you are rich get some Grandmaster/ International master to coach you!

A very strong player will have a good balanced outlook of chess. They should be able to determine your weaknesses and work out a plan for systematically building on your strengths and removing your weaknesses.

Experience

Experiment with different ways of gaining experience

Five minute chess might be both enjoyable and also a way of gaining confidence in your chess. It may also give you the confidence to play in longer time limit games and gain more solid experience. It might also give you a feel for openings.

Rapid chess (1/2 hour chess) is good because it allows you to experiment with new openings and ideas.

Postal chess might be enjoyable and be a very good opportunity to improve your opening knowledge and ability to find resources systematically in a chess position.

Internet chess may be enjoyable, and may stimulate you to read around openings where you have bad results.

For experience sometimes play in a higher section in a weekend tournament

Even if your grading implies that you should be playing in a certain category of tournament, you may feel yourself that you have improved fundamentally. If this is the case, consider the possibility of playing in a higher section than you would normally.

Resources

Books

Play through the games collections of strong grandmasters

Try to get insight into how top level chess operates. "Bobby Fischer's 60 memorable games" is a classic book showing deep insights into Bobby's games for example. "Kasparov: The Test of Time" is another excellent book showed depth of insight into Kasparov's games.

Find chess books which excite you and which meet your needs

Good chess books which both teach and are exciting to read and challenging are rare.

"Test Your Positional Play" by Bellin and Ponzianni is recommendable in this respect becauses it asks the reader to decide the best plan from certain positions. The rationale behind each plan is given at the end of the book, and points are awarded based on the readers choice and the variations they considered.

John Nunn's books are generally excellent combining deep analysis with a logical explanation of the underlying ideas.

Sofware

Find computer software which might be of benefit

ChessBase might be very useful for games collections by opening or by player. Chess Tutor by Aficionado takes a more direct approach geared towards computer assisted chess learning. A points system is employed to stimulate the user to do well.

Analyse with computer software for tactical mistakes

Computer software such as Fritz are very good for going over one's games, and can even automatically annotate them. Computers are especially good tactically, and will find unexpected tactical resources sometimes where both players do not suspect they are present.

Feedback mechanisms

Do not be obsessed with grading systems

Be aware of the fundamentals of your game and the efforts your are making to improve these. The measurable results, e.g. chess grade should come naturally from this. Perhaps in the future chess playing software will present a report of playing a match against you, and produce a detailed report of one's strengths and weaknesses that one can work on!

Knowledge

Improve your middlegame as a priority over opening knowledge

People can spend many hours learning opening variations. However if you are a more resourceful player than your opponent, it does not matter if they get a better position out of the opening than you. You may be able to outplay them from the resulting position,    tactically and positionally. If their opening knowledge is strongly linked with middle game plans and tactical motifs, then you should be a little more worried! However in general, if one is better tactically and positionally than the opponent, then one is more likely to win in practice, than by knowing more opening variations than the opponent. Opening variations become more important as one increases in strength.

Know the endings

Rook and Pawn endings are very common (50% of  all endings!).

Further Reading

Improve Your Chess Now (Cadogan Chess Books)
Jonathan Tisdall / Paperback / Published 1997
How to Improve Your Chess
Israel A. Horowitz, Fred Reinfeld / Paperback / Published 1972

Contributed by Tryfon Gavriel of Barnet Chess Club

 

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