First of all a few facts about myself: I am an International Master,
Date: 29 Jan 2008 01:58:42|
Subject: Tazar - a coach's experience
an active chess player and for the last 10 years I have been chess
coach. I wish to share some of my knowledge and even to let loose the
anger I got from so many absurdities I have heard from weak coaches,
from some students and chess books. I will be posting in this thread
regularly from now, as well as on the blog which is hosted for free on
chess99.com. Still, I prefer keeping my anonymity.
My articles are addressed specially to the players with ratings up to
2300, who want to progress. These articles have all a certain
structure. I welcome any feedback but I'll answer to questions when my
spare time allows me to.
What to do to improve at chess?
In order to seriously and constantly improve, there are some things
that you need to do for you. So, first of all, I will write about what
you need to do/know, and further on I will talk about what the
training program should offer to you.
The goal is essential for anything you set to do in life. In a good
diet for losing weight, if you are constant and you do not deviate
from the rules, within one year tops you can reach the aim you have
long dreamed of. In chess things are different. Unlike many other
domains, the goal in chess has to be set for the long and very long
The first goal (an intermediate one) has to be fixed after one year.
The objective does NOT have to be measured in gained rating points,
but in finishing certain preparation stages.
The objective to become IM or GM in 2 or 3 years, as a beginner, is
completely unrealistic. As a coach, I encounter this situation in such
a large proportion that it frightens me. It must be clear to everyone
that, without a great memory, an inborn talent, 6 to 8 hours of study/
day, 7 to 10 serious contests a year and a 'cold' heart, these
categories cannot be reached in less than 7-10 years! The objectives
have to be set annually, according to the time available for chess
study, the number of games played in one year and the results obtained
the previous year.
A good objective for a year of study should look like this (note that
the order reveals also the importance that should be devoted to each
* Going over a complete material on chess strategy. It would be best
to choose a very complex material, well structured, with clear
explanations, thinking methods and tests.
* For beginners only: solving simple tactics exercises (like "fork",
* Going over, understanding and even memorizing basic endings (by
studying a book on endings).
* Creating an opening repertoire, even if at the beginning only the
main variants will be "worked upon"; understanding the ideas behind
the systems played. The "pet lines" are not recommended as they are
only a waste of time, as well as any repertoire which is too complex
and which needs a fantastic memory and practice that many cannot
* Studying a good material on king attack.
* This is optional, according to everyone's spare time: going over a
book with games annotated by former world champions. For the beginners
Capablanca is recommended, for the intermediates Alekhine, and for the
advanced players Botvinnik and Karpov.
A player's rating is usually relevant for his/her playing strength.
But this is only available for the players who have already reached a
2200-2300 rating. Still, for the players who are in their first
serious preparation stage, this is less important and that's why
trying to reach a certain rating is a trap which attracts many
students. During the preparation stage, the chess player is advised
not to think about the accession in rating but to play chess as well
Still, there is an advantage in the fact that the games played
influence a player's rating. The advantage is that this gives
importance to the final result of the game. Otherwise, how many of us
wouldn't play a very risky chess or would just give up quickly in a
As a conclusion, the player must play a tenacious chess, to much care
about the result of every game if he wants a higher rating. On the
other hand, rating does not reflect the level of knowledge, but rather
the "playing technique", the stoutness and the power to concentrate,
which, along with the experience will improve.
Many people want progress and for this they buy many books having in
mind to study them first and to start playing only when they would
have already become very strong. This is practically impossible and
one of the biggest mistakes one could ever do in chess! The chess
study must go hand in hand with playing games within serious
tournaments. I would say that without 3-4 annual tournaments the
progress is very difficult, if not impossible. For high performance
you need 5-7.
Only the direct confrontation with different opponents can make you
realize how to improve your play and that actually, even if chess is
great, it is very difficult. Playing a chess game brings you to the
real situation, it forces you to concentrate for 2-5 hours, things
that even the most intensive home-preparation cannot offer.
A lot can be said here but I will conclude with: play, play and play
more. Don't be afraid that you don't have yet an opening repertoire or
that you don't know endgames like you would like to. In a way, you
will never know... I'm sure you got my point.
The next paragraph does not address to those who are fans of "online
The only games which are taken into consideration for a "real chess"
player are the OTB (over-the-board) games and not the ones played
online. The online games have their good role but they do not
participate to the playing experience. I will be writing more about
this subject in a future article. So, the games have to be OTB and,
moreover: time control over 1 hour/player ("classical chess" according
to the existing FIDE rules), rating evaluation (or any other stake)
and part of a competition totaling more than 7 games.
4. Training method
Another grave mistake many people do is unorganized study. It doesn't
matter if you have 6 or 30 hours a week at hand for study, but how you
use that time.
A chess training session should last at least 2 full hours, preparing
the player also for the soliciting situation during a real game. So,
the chess training should also have as a goal "stressing" the brain
(in the good way, of course).
Moreover, within every training day, studying a certain material
should exceed at least one hour (besides the simple tactic exercises.)
An example of bad training in a day: 15 min of tactics, 1 hour to
study Alekhine's games, 30 mins to study a material on strategy, 15
mins watching some games online etc.
If you had 6 hours devoted to study per week, good chess training
would be of 2 hours in 3 different days:
Day1) 30' simple tactics; 90' strategy (2 hours)
Day2) 60' openings; 60' strategy (2 hours)
Day3) 60' complex tactics, 60' endgames (2 hours)
If you had 12 hours of study per week, a good training would be:
Day1) 30' simple tactics, 90' strategy, 60' endgames (3 hours)
Day2) 120' openings - study of variations (2 hours)
Day3) 90' complex tactics, 90' annotated games (3 hours)
Day4) 120' strategy (2 hours)
Day5) 60' complex tactics, 60' endgames (2 hours)
Of course, these are only some examples, but each student should have
his own study program according to the proposed objective.
The commercial products of nowadays and the different softwares are
extremely harmful. The study of chess must be done with the real board
in front and not on the computer with different "magical" softwares!
It's almost like you would learn to play billiards on the computer.
Our brain must "see" the chess board in 3D not in 2D and, of course,
it must "see" the real board and not one on the computer!
I am convinced that many people will contradict me because they have
seen some GM studying on the computer. That GM is situated at another
level, he plays a great amount of games every year and his preparation
is very different from the actual "chess learning".
The computer is an excellent instrument and a very important one in
our days but only for the following:
* The access to information through Internet;
* The chess engines which can show us certain mistakes;
* The games databases which have a great importance and are an obvious
* The possibility to play online, under certain circumstances;
* The possibility to create an opening repertoire without using the
old notebooks which, when a system evaluation changes, go easily to
BUT, and this is a big but, when you study chess you have to use the
board and not the computer. A printer can solve this problem. Some
good materials found on the Internet or on the chess database can be
printed out and studied as it has to be.
6. The apportionment of the openings/strategy/tactics/endings
There are a lot of bad hypotheses about this apportionment. All these
things are essential and need to be studied. I don't have to go into
details about the importance of each of them, besides the strategy. In
many of the false spread hypotheses, the strategy is situated behind
Actually, strategy is the most important in your training for
progress. Only by deeply understanding the strategical elements:
* You can well play and understand the openings;
* You can create favorable situations for combinations;
* You can get to an ending, let's say, normal.
As it is pretty difficult to study/comprehend or to find some
materials good enough, strategy is the last in the training program's
plan of many people.
So dust off the materials on strategy and consider it on the front-
rank in your chess study. Until you reach a value of approximately
2300 rating, you still have got a lot to learn.
7. The Study with Criticism and Analysis
As coach I am forced to own all the good books on chess, including the
ones which are only said to be good. When I create a good chess
material I take 5-10 books which treat that subject and I can hardly
come out with 2-3 pages with good ideas and good examples.
You will be amazed to find out how many stupid things there are even
in the most boasted chess books (rated at maximal rank). The student
is at that author's elbow and believes anything. Well, dear reader,
you must find out that a lot of books can mislead you. Many times the
author wants to prove certain "strategy"/"theory" but the examples
given are wrongfully chosen. So, with supererogation, the annotation
of certain positions can be erroneous just for the sake of that
Still, what is there to be done? I cannot and I don't want to indicate
to you the best chess materials but the main idea here is to be
critical about anything you study. It doesn't matter who that author
is, it may even be Kasparov, you just consider everything with
criticism. Try to deeply look into the position, take the author's
annotations as the annotation of a good coach, but do not forget he is
a human being nonetheless. Don't take anything for granted, analyze
positions, help yourself with the annotations and so, in time, you
will develop an excellent quality: the capacity to analyze a position.
I will be back on this thread and also on my blog from chess99.com
with more articles.
I don't really think that tazaring chess players will improve their
Date: 30 Jan 2008 17:58:07|
Subject: Re: Tazar - a coach's experience
play. But it might persuade them to improve their appearance, so I'm
all for it.
Date: 29 Jan 2008 07:58:24|
From: Chess One
Subject: Re: Tazar - a coach's experience
"chesstazar" <[email protected] > wrote in message
Tazar! A very good post! I have some questions for you on this point:
> 3. Games
> Many people want progress and for this they buy many books having in
> mind to study them first and to start playing only when they would
> have already become very strong. This is practically impossible and
> one of the biggest mistakes one could ever do in chess! The chess
> study must go hand in hand with playing games within serious
Right! Can you suggest to us your opinion on how people should best spend
their time ~ what proportion to studies and preparation :: and what
proportion to performance or play?
> I would say that without 3-4 annual tournaments the
> progress is very difficult, if not impossible. For high performance
> you need 5-7.
Yes - in the English league of my youth everyone played at least 30
games/year, and enthusiastic players 50 to 60 at full time control.
Contrasting that with USCF adult play, only 25% play even 10 games per year
> Only the direct confrontation with different opponents can make you
> realize how to improve your play and that actually, even if chess is
> great, it is very difficult. Playing a chess game brings you to the
> real situation, it forces you to concentrate for 2-5 hours, things
> that even the most intensive home-preparation cannot offer.
Isn't this the real test of preparation? [laugh] How much preparation is
actually useful when you play?
> 7. The Study with Criticism and Analysis
> As coach I am forced to own all the good books on chess, including the
> ones which are only said to be good. When I create a good chess
> material I take 5-10 books which treat that subject and I can hardly
> come out with 2-3 pages with good ideas and good examples.
> You will be amazed to find out how many stupid things there are even
> in the most boasted chess books (rated at maximal rank). The student
> is at that author's elbow and believes anything.
This is also the opinion of Timman, Adorjan..
For those of us who do not have a teacher, I think it is difficult to be
objective about what we get from chess preparation because we are shy of
studying our weaknesses.
As a youth I would, OTB, play into positions that I knew, but were not
objectively best. I did this for a long time! I had to abandon everything to
break the habit, adopt completely new openings, and learn them mostly by
having opponent teach me! After this, I was less shy of closed positions, or
certain pawn formations - and did not always opt for 5 move tactical
sequences, hoping opponent would go wrong ;(
Anyway - good post, and I see your message is also posted at Chessville's
forum where others will discuss it with you.
Cordially, Phil Innes
> I will be back on this thread and also on my blog from chess99.com
> with more articles.