Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The key to becoming a better chess player

Some improvement tips that worked for me
Finally on 14th May 2011 approx. 1 year after becoming a member of rated 1200 I achieved an ELO rating for online chess of 1602. An increase of 402 points in 1 year! To get there I had to prepare openings, study tactics and analyse my games.

Here are a few of the openings you might choose to adopt in your games.

GP Attack: When playing e4 decide on a system for confronting c5. An example might be the Grand Prix Attack because it is quite good for surprise value and avoids well trodden lines such as the Sveshnikov or the Dragon.

Scotch: When playing e4 decide on a system for confronting 1 .. e5 2. Nf3 Nc6. An example might be the Scotch game or even a sharper tactical line such as the Scotch Gambit or the Goring Gambit.

Alekhine’s Defence: When faced with 1.e4 decide on a system. For instance, learn a sharp line for Alekhine’s Defense. This can prove tricky for White to break down because there is a tendency for them to leap into the “chase” variation and become undermined by making one too many tempo losing pawn pushes.

Latvian: Be prepared for opening novelties such as the “Latvian” 1. e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5!

Reti/English: Be prepared to play a strategic battle against openings such as 1. g3 the “Reti”.
1. c4 the “English”.

Budapest/KID: Look for ways to confront 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 examples: 2. ...e5, Budapest
2. ...d6, Kings Indian Defence
2. ...g6, Pirc

Generally speaking if there is a gambit line in any of your chosen openings then it is necessary to learn it, whether that be for or against you. It is up to you how you approach this. Some players like to buy books and learn that way while others prefer to learn the hard way by playing hundreds of games and learning by repetition. Online discussions through email, blogs and forums can also be beneficial. It is simply a matter of what works best for you.

Bullet Chess
I was always advised not to play bullet (1 min) chess. I don’t agree entirely with this advice. I would say that there are occasions in Rapid-Play games when you may have only a minute left on your clock and your opponent might have considerably longer. You need to be able to ‘play out’ the remaining minute as quickly as possible to have any chance of victory. I have found that playing quickly in an ending can sometimes give you a significant psychological edge and throw your opponent off guard. I maintain that if you are only quick enough to find 3 good moves in the last minute, then unless it’s checkmate, what hope have you got of winning?!

Analyse your games
I have only recently started analysing the games I lose. In the past, this was always too much trouble, but now I realise it is absolutely paramount. If you don’t spend time looking at mistakes, then there is a very strong likelihood that you will repeat the same mistakes again and again. Use computers where necessary and always play the game back to yourself to find the move(s) where the error occurred.

I have to admit that my increase of 402 rating points in 1 year was mainly due to an awful lot of tactics study! I would say that 80% of my wins revolve around superior tactics. The remaining 20% is either due to advantage gained in the opening or superior endgame knowledge. I think, to make a similar gain of 402 ELO points in 1 year, you have to be VERY regimental about solving tactics on a daily basis for 3-4 month periods. This solving should amount to a minimum of 1 hour per day. In some cases I have spent 3 hours per day both on the train and in the cafe solving tactics problems – and this has been a very hard slog. Note: I have reviewed several tactics books on Amazon (see previous posts on this Blog).

I would say that the most inferior aspect of my game is that I am guilty of not conceiving of the correct plan, or indeed not having a plan at all. Hence I will be concentrating a lot more in future on strategy. The connection between tactics and strategy of course being that tactics are born out of good strategy!

So, having cracked this goal, I will now set the bar higher and aim for 1700 ELO. In summary, a year ago I was a weak player. I promised to myself that if I set myself a goal, I would do whatever means necessary to accomplish it! If I had to play more games, I would. If I had to study more tactics, I would. If I had to analyse my mistakes, I would etc. It’s been a long year of ‘trial and error’. During the rocky periods when my grade went down instead of up I felt like throwing in the towel, but now I’m a far, far more confident chess player than I was a year ago.

1 comment:

greg_b said...

I have an update. In March 2012 I achieved an ELO grade of 1702 on In April 2012 this increased to 1708 and stabilized at around 1649. The new target for me is 1750 on