Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Starting Over

I had a chat with a former student of mine, who's very passionate about chess. He lamented that he was not getting his results in spite of spending a lot of time playing chess, that his playing strength was stagnating.

Many years ago, it happened to me as well. I could not get past players 150 rating points above me. I could not figure out what seemed to be wrong. My routine of solving problems, reading as many books as I can get my hands on,playing in tournaments did not yield any breakthrough. I lost thread of the game especially in the late middlegame and endgame.

It took a lot of soul-searching to decide what was wrong. In the 80's I was mildly teased by stronger players, including IM Tan Lian Ann, that I was the best player in Singapore for the first 20 moves (mainly because of my opening knowledge). I realised that he was hinting that my chess fundamentals was not well laid and that I should review them first before anything else.

Following the advice, I stopped reading opening books. Rather, I started on chess endings. Averbakh's Chess Endings : Essential Knowledge was really hard, especially relearning the basic mates, but I stuck to it. Next, Kere's Practical Chess Endings. Then Capablanca's Best Chess Endings by Irving Chernev. It was then that I realised how pieces come to life, struggling over every square , line or diagonal, clearing them for pawns to queen. My playing strength took on a new dimension when the book Endgame Strategy by Shereshevsky was published. What a gem of a book..the themes of Do not rush, Schematic Thinking, Principle of 2 Weaknesses were firmly stuck in my arsenal.

Positional chess then took on a new meaning after reading Nimzowitsch's My System, then Suetin's 3 Steps to Chess Mastery. Max Euwe's MiddleGame Vols and Pachman's Complete Chess Strategy Vols 1 and 2 made good sense once the endgame goals are understood. Mednis's out-of-print From the Middlegame to the Endgame gave lots of good advice in simplifying positions for the advantage.

My advice to my student? Re-learn the basics, start with the endgame, then slowly plough through the positional classics and tackle the tactics. Worked for me.

1 comment:

  1. Shall i add, to re-learn the basic, a good book to use is Capablanca's Chess fundamental, a classic for overall understanding of the position/game.