Thursday, December 16, 2010


Sometimes I wonder to myself what would be the most satisfying moment for a chess trainer? Is it the huge amounts of money that he can get from dishing out lessons, or rather, just the joy of the students' faces when they have achieved their goals?

So far, 2010 has been a good year for me. Most of the students that were with me for more than a year have achieved mostly 50-60 rating point increases. The ones that joined me this year, some for just 5 months or less, have also performed well.

I would rather not mention their names (mainly to protect the innocent) but display their photos.

S has been with me for more than 2 years now, he has seen steady improvement from the days of scoring 3 to 3.5 pts out of 7 back in 2008.  His latest  SCF rating stands 1358 as compared to 1008 when he started. 350 pts in 2 years. He has just scored 5.5/7 and finished 6th place out of 120 registered players at the recent Toa Payoh West CC Primary School section. 

The chief factor that propels him is his diligence. He has played over hundreds of online chess games, made many mistakes and learnt from them. Well, not always, but he did correct many of his bad habits he had prior to studying with me.

I had N recently for the last 3 months. Though he is only 8, he displays great determination to succeed and has the competitive instinct. His last result at the Cairnhill Under 8 tournament? 6/6! He won it and now he's really hungry for more.Though he scored 4/7 in the Toa Payoh West  Primary School section, last  Sunday ,in all fairness, there were games he had to play with U12 or U10 boys. That's really quite an achievement. 

SH (no photo) was a son of a long-time chess junior friend of mine who recently switched to private coaching. He has managed to score 5/7 at the Major Rapid section in the Cairnhill tournament. I was really amazed as he only averaged 3.5-4 pts for every tournament result previously. After a drastic change of opening repertoire, he plays now with confidence, though not completely tuned into the thought process I showed him as yet. But I'm sure that in time, he will be ok as he already possesses a good endgame foundation taught to him by his father. 

These are 3 of my most-improved students for this year and I want to commend them here for their good effort. Well done boys!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Art of Chess Thinking

Apart from the books that I have recommended, there's some works that the aspiring chess-player should at least read, once, in his career:

This is the pioneering work by GM Alexander Kotov that explores the idea of how one should conduct his game in terms of thinking. Though a little dated in approach perhaps, one should at least attempt to start thinking systematically first before branching out into other methods. The Tree of Analysis indeed gives one a structure to organise a player's thoughts. So I highly recommend this book as a starting treatise before venturing to other books.

It is indeed puzzling to see some marvel about joint analysis of positions as a possible training method. Kotov has explained that he embarked on this discipline, filling his notebooks with variations he calculated (without moving the pieces of course) over complex positions derived from actual games. It is propelled him from a finalist in the Russian Championships to GM. So honestly, deep analysis of games is not a new thing.

However, techniques in choosing a move have been discovered and here Andy Soltis gives a comprehensive summary of methods currently used. He points out to the shortcomings of the Kotov method, but honestly, this applies mainly to games of higher level say from FM to GM level. For club players, they should still attempt to apply the Kotov system first. 
This is also an interesting book, however I would recommend this to players who have already been playing in international competitions to consider working on it. It is rather complex and not that easy to understand.

 Dvoretsky's manuals are of course among the very best there is in terms of sharpening one's analysis of positions but then again, I believe one can learn a lot more by deeply analysising one's own games first before attempting to do games played by others.