Friday, May 30, 2008

Things You Must Do Every Day To Get Better

Here is a list of chess tasks that should be performed each day if you seek to improve:

1) Review Master Games within your Opening Repertoire
2) Specialization Position Training out of Opening Repertoire
3) Tactics Drills
4) Endgame Studies - R+P(s) vs R+P(s); R+N/B vs. R+N/B; K+P vs. K+P
5) Daily Play - G5, G10, G15. Weekly - At least 1 Standard Time Control Game
6) Review Your Losses!

This list covers all aspects of play: Openings, The Middlegame, Endings, Strategy, Tactics, Play and Review of Games.

#1 will help you develop a sense of the strategical themes in your choice of openings, and what types of positions to expect from those openings. #2, critical positions taken from #1, will help you understand the strategic elements of the opening/middlegame and the transitions into the endgame. #3 will keep your tactical eye fresh - it can get stale. #4 will naturally improve your ability to finish your opponent off and not fear transitioning into a won endgame from an advantageous middlegame. #5 will allow you to test your knowledge and gain feedback from your play. #6 You cannot improve if you do not know your weaknesses!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Efficient Opening Study

It's no secret here that I am a Chessbase user, and regularly, on a weekely basis, download new games from Mark Crowther's The Week In Chess, probably the best source of current games in the world. Each Monday I take a few minutes to get the new files and import them into Chessbase 8.0.

I recently began reviewing games from the weekly TWIC files in my repertoire, but got tired of setting the filter mask to various ECO codes each time. Out of curiosity, I discovered a really easy method that is virtually instantaneous to gather the games in your customized repertoire for review that I want to share with you. Here is how it works.

The first step you do is create a New...Text document in *any* database. Then, using the menu lists, create search masks for each opening that you have in your repertoire. For example, you might like to play the Ruy Lopez: C60 - C99. Create a search mask for ECO codes C60 to C99 and label it "Ruy Lopez - C60 - C99" or maybe something more specific like "Caro-Kann, Panov-Botvinnik attack". Create as many search masks as you need in this text document and save it into the database.

With this search mask repertiore text file, you have created a template to gather all games that are associated with each search mask. Simply create new blank text documents in each database and copy the original into it and save it into the new database. The search mask applies to the database that the text document is actually in. Therefore, on a weekly basis as the games become available, you can easily copy a previous 'Repertoire Search Mask Text File' into a newly downloaded database and review the games associated with your repertoire very easily.

I hope this helps streamline your study time and helps make chess more enjoyable for all!

Specialization #5

Here is yet another useful position to play against a computer or another like-strength opponent for practice. It derives from the Grand Prix Attack in the Sicilian Defense:

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb5 Nf6 6.d3 Be7 7.0-0 Diagram

Black to Move

[r1bqk2r/pp2bppp/2n1pn2/1Bpp4/4PP2/2NP1N2/PPP3PP/R1BQ1RK1 b kq - 0 7]

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Specialization #4

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Qc7 8.g3 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Bf4 Nfd7 11.Bg2 Diagram

Black has 2 moves here, and both should be investigated thoroughly for some excellent training:

A) 11...f6


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Specialization Position #3

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 Nc6 8.e3 e5 9.cxd5 Qxd5 Diagram

r1b1k2r/ppp2ppp/2n5/3qp3/3Pn3/P3P3/1PQ2PPP/R1B1KBNR w KQkq - 0 10

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Specialization Position #2


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be3 Qa5 9.Qd2 Bg4 Diagram

rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/3P4/8/PPP1PPPP/RNBQKBNR b KQkq d3 0 1

Specialize the above position for some excellent training. Post any games you played with it here!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Today I want to talk about something called Specialization.

What is Specialization? Online dictionaries carry the definition as "to pursue some special line of study, work, etc.", and that is the definition we mean for the most part. In our chess-world, we want to 'specialize', or study, a fairly common position in chess. By study I mean deeply analyze and play from both sides for an extended number of times until all facets of the position have been revealed. Let's look at an example straight from the Lev Alburt's book "Building Up Your Chess":

Position #1, Black to Move:

[r1bq1rk1/p3bppp/1pn1pn2/4N3/3P4/P1NB4/1P3PPP/R1BQR1K1 b - - 0 12]

This position can, unbelievably, be reached by a whole slew of different openings ranging from Queen's Gambit Declined to The Caro-Kann to The Scandanavian over to the Sicilian Defense and even the Smith-Morra Gambit! It is great practice on the Isolated Queens Pawn and the attack and defending of such a position. It's quite an amazing position to play out and analyze from both sides. It's Steak And Sizzle all in one!

Lev's recommendation here is to analyze out the variations and record them across several sessions, over several hours if necessary. Once you are finished, go over the analysis with a strong computer engine and note where you went wrong. Next, and this is the fun part, set up the position and play an entire series of games from both sides against a stronger opponent or against your favorite computer opponent. G10's are fine for this as the goal is not accurate play but to capture a memory of the types of positions that arise from this configuration, and to see what can happen across several different lines of play from both sides.

Repeat this specialization training with several other positions that arise out of the late opening/early middlegame in GM games that occur within your opening repertoire. Right about now a light has probably gone on in your head - yes! You are actually training for the middlegame and how to handle *types of positions* that can occur in your opening selections.

How cool is that? It's really cool, but even cooler is to use your own games and get to positions (again, late opening/early middlegame is best) in those games and do the same sort of analysis and play from both sides. Being your own games you'll have a better sense of what ideas came to you and you'll be able to better experiment with those ideas in your G10's.

Without a doubt, this training method - Specialization - will be a strong element to any player's training regimen, and it comes highly recommended by GM's and patzers like myself.

For practice, here are two more positions from one of my most recent games.

Position #2, Black to Move:

[r6r/pb2kpp1/1p1bpn1p/1Bq1N3/5P2/8/PPPBQ1PP/2KR3R b - f3 0 17]

Position #3, Black to Move:

[3r1k2/pb3p2/1p2pnN1/2qr2p1/5P1P/2PB4/PP2Q3/1K1R1R2 b - - 0 28]

1) Spend some quality time analyzing the position out, recording your analysis
2) Review your analysis with a stronger player or strong computer engine
3) Play out several games to the finish from both sides from the given position