This is for all you chess hacks and wood pushers out there who are beginning to gain the awareness that real chess is a completely different animal from what you’re doing on the board. I was a chess hack in the worst of all possible ways and I stayed that way entirely too long because I didn’t have someone to tell me what to do and even if I had I probably wouldn’t have listened. Hopefully you’ll listen to an ex-wood pusher and wise up.
- Stop playing rapid chess games. This is pretty much all I did when I first started actively playing chess (February 25, 2012). I would get on chess.com, play live chess and never play a game with a time limit of more than five minutes. I’d move pieces super fast and move more pieces and briefly look at what my opponent had done and then move more pieces. Calculation? Who needs it. Visualization? Lame. A plan? Planning is for Mormons, I play wild sporadic chess. I was pretty dumb. It took me at least six months before I tried my first game of correspondence. I was horrible. Then I bought a tournament chess set and started working out combinations over the board before I played the moves in the game. I started getting better. Actually, no, I take that back. I wasn’t getting better but I took the first step. I became aware of how much I sucked. I went from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence. Which, in all things, is an important first step to take. If you want to start putting art on the board the first step is to play longer games.
- Tactics. Everybody says this. Why? Because it’s true. When you feel that urge to play speed chess, play tactics instead. Try Chessimo which you can get as an app on your phone. Or do what I do and shell out the ten or fifteen bucks a month for a paid subscription to chess.com and then tear through their Tactics Trainer. I’ve spend 92 hours on there so far. No joke. In a future post I’m going to write mad ill reviews of the tactics books I like and that I’ve found most effective.
- Master games. It took me even longer to realize the value of these. Who wants to play through master games? What’s the point? Well, you won’t become the next Jimi Hendrix if you never listen to anyone but yourself play guitar, so why was I so idiotic as to think I could become a strong chess player without an understanding of who the masters do it? I don’t know. Maybe my mom dropped me as a baby. Now I own quite a number of awesome games collections: Morphy, Capablanca, and Logical Chess Move by Move which you need to buy this very second. Right now. It’s the best games collection for bad chess players and helped me improve a lot. Every single move has annotations explaining the value of the move. When you’re still a weak player and you can’t appreciate why Tarrasch moved that Knight to f6, you need as much explanation as pssible. Chernev’s Logical Chess Move by Move is the undisputed champion at this.
I went from about 650 to 1350 in a little over a year. I’m pushing myself much harder this year to improve, playing a lot less chess and studying master games and tactics a lot more. Slower games, lots of tactics, and master games are the three things that have helped me improve the most. I wish I had someone to give me this advice when I was starting out.