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To Learn Chess, Study Chess, Not “About” Chess…

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Many Chess handbooks have been written trying to explain how Chess is/should be played. All of us have read a lot of general precepts like “…the best action against a flank attack is to counter it with an action in the center”, and so on. These are the sort of popular advice like “you should eat/drink less of this or that and more of this or that and you will live a hundred years”. Really?. To how many flank attacks have you succumbed because you do not have a damned d-Pawn to play on the center????. “To play against/with an isolated QP you should…” But then you get the damned isolani and try to follow the advice but the position is not the same as in that book and your opponent finishes you off with a mating attack… “If you have an inferior position you must create as many problems as possible to your opponent; see how Petrosian , Tal and Karpov do it…”  (Several beautiful games follow suit).  And then you lose one time after another because you fall in one inferior position after another and there are no those damned threats to conjure up because every time your stupid pieces are scattered threatening nothing or you need a Knight not that fat Bishop and your King is on h8 instead of e8 as in that Petrosian game and so on…  “Forget studying openings, you must study endgames, as Capablanca said and did”… And you buy all the Averbach endgame volumes and spend months studying them (those ideal but irreal positions with pure Knight or Bishop endgames, etc) simply to lose all your games in the first tournament you play because your opponents catch you on the hop in the very opening and you beat a record by being the only player to lose all his games before the 15th move… And then you start to believe Chess is not for you because it is an arcane game only understood by super-humans who can calculate tens of moves in advance, learn millions of opening variations and keep them updated day after day, and so on.  FAR FROM IT. If you are feeling very ill with these symptoms,my simple advice is :

1.- Don’t get nervous or anxious.

2.- Chess is a difficult game, even for professional players.

3.- Buy or get a copy of the following books: Rowson: “Chess for Zebras”  . Rowson : ” The Seven Deadly Chess Sins” and Hendricks “Move First,Think Later”  and read them very carefully .

After that, you can continue studying your favourite authors, your opening books, etc. 

The tale of all this is easy to understand: to learn Chess, study games and positions. Most of us have read tens of books on general principles. It is time to devote ourselves to dissect the games played by the great and to work on positions. Take for instance the following game by Tal:

W.: Rohde (0)

B.: Tal (1)

New York 1990

1. d4, Nf6/ 2. c4, e6/ 3. Nf3, d5/ 4. Nc3, c6/5. e3, Nbd7/ 6. Be2, Be7 (Apparently this Bishop belongs to  d6…I would like to explain something :I don’t know how they -the super GMs- do it, but they always manage to reach positions full of possibilities. Unless they make an opening mistake, they never fall in “dead” positions without active possibilities. Nor even Karpov when playing the ultrasolid Caro-Kann. This is the type of details you have to study, I guess. I suppose it has to do with the famous concept known as “insight”...) / 7. 0-0 , 0-0/ 8. Qc2, b6/ 9. e4, dxe4/ 10. Nxe4, Qc7/ 11. g5, c5/ 12. d5 (Rohde is out for blood against an attacking genius. Tal will have to withstand the attack and find a way to start a counterattack) 12…, exd5/ 13. cxd5, Nxd5/ 14. Bc4, N7f6/ 15. Rfe1, Bg4/ 16. Bxf6 (The American has spotted a sacrificial combination on f7. Well, now Tal would have spent a lot of time assessing it and trying to decide whether there is a way to counter the attack. In these moments you have to consider at least two types of possibilities: 1)The combination takes place but I can find a defence to level the game; 2) I can find not only intermediate moves to deactivate the attack, but also aggressive continuations to make the attack rebound on my opponent. What happened here was:)

16.., Nxf6/ 17. Nf3-g5, Nxe4 18. Nxf7!?, Nf6! (18. … Rxf7/ 19.Qe4)19. Qb3, b5!/ 20. Nh6+ , Kh8/ 21. Nf7+, Rxf7/ 22. Bxf7, Rf8/ 23. h3, c4!/ 24. Qxb5, Rxf7/ 25. hxg4, Nxg4 (and now it is Tal who is posing threats)/ 26. Qh5, Qf4/ 27. Re2, g6/ 28. Qh3, Bc5/ 29. Rf1, Nxf2!! / 30. Re8+ , Kg7/ And White resigned.

Now you should try to solve the following three positions. They have been taken from Karpov’s games (yes, Karpov also played beautiful combinations and I must say they may be even more complicated to spot than those by players with a combinative style!)  :

Karpov -Ungureanu

1.- Karpov-Ungureanu, Skopje (Ol) 1972

Karpov-van der Wiel

2.- Karpov-van der Wiel, Amsterdam, 1980.

Alvarez-Karpov   (Position from the Black side)

3.- Alvarez-Karpov, Skopje (Ol) 1972


1)  1. Be3! , Bxe4/ 2. Bxe4, Qxe5/ 3. Qxh7, Kf8/ 4. Bxa8, Ke7/ 5. Qe4, Qc7/ 6. Qb7 Black resigned.

2)  1. Rxe6!, Qxa6/ 2. Rxf7!, Kxf7/ 3. e8Q, Rbxe8/ 4. g6, Kg8/ 5. Rxe8, Bf8/ 6. Qe6 , Black resigned.

3) 1…, Rxg3!/ 2. hxg3, Neg4/ 3. Rde1, Rxe1/ 4. Rxe1, Nf2/ 5. Kh2, N6g4/ 6. Kg1, Ne4 / White resigned.



Written by QChess

January 31, 2013 at 7:55 am

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