Chess Programs: How to Learn Actively

As chess gets popular in the United States, the opportunity to participate in chess camps or school programs also have increased.

Parents and coaches can us the information from this post to encourage students to actively learn in chess.

Chess programs can be grouped by age or, more commonly, chess levels. Here are three common chess levels:

1. True beginner:  learning the rules for the first time
2. Play-at-home level: knows the rules; ready to learn basic tactics and strategies
3. Tournament-play level: competed in tournaments; has been working on chess study; wants to increase chess rating.

Regardless of a student’s chess level, the following five points should be the focus to get the most out of a chess chess program.

 Asking Questions
• Playing Games
• Trying New Ideas
• Teaching Others
• Making Friends

Asking questions

Schools are moving toward more instruction and less interaction. Chess programs should not follow this pattern. Instead, questions during a lecture will bring ideas both for the students and the instructor.

It helps to encourage students to answer instructor’s questions without being afraid of being wrong. Questions can be general ones, like questions about chess world champions, chess history, etc.  Or they can be knowledge-based, such as how to checkmate with two bishops.

Playing games

Like many other activities, chess is a numbers game. Grandmasters generally play many more games than a beginner. Chess programs is an opportunity to play multiple games in a day.

A beginner should learn to not be afraid to play against stronger players. This is the chance to train and ask questions. At the same time, playing against less-experienced players is a chance for your child to teach what they know.

Either way, they can use the camp to increase their chess experiences.

Trying new ideas

In my lessons, I ask students to try out ideas at home (online), then learn from these experiences and apply them in tournaments.

Camp or school clubs are the best time to test ideas. If they want to learn a new opening, they can try it during these programs. Then they can ask questions about it.

Not only is this a low-stake environment (results don’t matter as much as in tournaments), but they can also immediately ask for feedback.

Teaching others

                                    If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

–Albert Einstein

Encourage a child to teach what they know. We live in an era where knowledge has become more of a commodity, and information can be easily found on the internet.

Not only are they helping others to learn new ideas, they’ll also clarify their own thoughts in the idea. For example, once they have learned how to checkmate with two bishops, showing others the process will only help them to understand it better.

Making new friends

This may be the most important of all. Going to chess camp or club will give a child the opportunity to make new friends with other chess players.

After all, chess is a game that shows off the competitive spirit on the board, and friendships off the board.

When a child  interacts with other kids and works with them to solve problems, it will help them work during the camp, and more importantly, form a friendship for their chess careers to come.

Whether your kids are just picking up the game or are ready for tournament play, I hope this post will help you and them to gain the most from any chess programs.

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Game Analysis: How has Computer Changed Chess

Imagine learning to drive a car today versus learning to operate self-driving cars in the next 20 years.

And now compare how top level chess are played today versus when it was in 1995.

We are just at the inning 1 of this evolution. And the speed of change will only increase.

In today’s game analysis, we’ll look thru a sharp game played between two strongclass B players.

Here is the COMPLETE GAME annotation, and below is two interesting moments I’ve been pondering about.

Ambition Everywhere

comp1White has just played 12.g4

In 1999, I would have said this is a crazy move. White’s king will have nowhere to castle, all black has to do is break through the center and then game over.

Today I say this is a very interesting move, black will need to struggle a bit to break through the center, and if white has to keep the king in the center, so be it.

King Safety

comp2

White has just played 24. 0-0

The 1999 me and myself today will agree on this position. And that is I have no clue which king is safer in this position.

That is the agreement. The difference would be

1999: How can this position happen, the players must be out of their minds.

Today: Just another day in the chess world, and I should study this position a bit more closely.


So how could I study chess today with the help of computers

1.Play more tournaments

Experience matters a lot. If you have seen complicated games like the above many more times than your opponent, you have an edge.

2.Question dogmas

From the first diagram, my 1999 dogma was don’t go crazy on the wings if my own king is not settled yet. There are some truths to that, and I’ve learned about these from Kotov’s Play like a Grandmaster book.

However, because more examples are practiced and the computer gives us more insights, the exceptions are increasing so fast, that when we hear any new ‘rules’, the first reaction is to ask are there counter examples.


That’s all for now. Here’s to another week of entertaining chess adventures!

What can you learn from blitz games?

There is an interesting debate on the value of blitz tournaments and games.

Whether it’s useful to play blitz games to improve your chess, or from a broader point of view, does blitz attracts more audience to the chess game.

My answers to both of these questions are resounding yes. I’ll leave the debate and my own opinions for a different time.

However, regardless your opinion, what you should definitely consider is to review and learn from your own blitz games just like a standard game.

We’ll review three snippets of my recent blitz games played both over the board (at CCSCATL) and online. Below are three themes we’ll discuss in this post:

  1. Learning to thrive in Complications
  2. Improving Intuition
  3. Searching for unexpected tactics

Complication

blitz1

White to Move

After an unsound sacrifice in the opening, I got into the above position.

Here I can feel there are compensations, as black’s king is not able to castle, thus hard to connect the rooks. Plus all of white pieces are ready to jump in for any impeding attack.

White has two choices:

  • Bxg7
  • Rxe7

I took on e7, because I wanted to keep the dark square bishop. However, with closer inspection, possibly Bxg7 is a more objective try.

After a few more moves, we reached the next critical point.

blitz2

Black to Move

Question: would you play:

  • Bb5 or
  • Bg4

Blitz games give many opportunities to make mistakes. And it’s helpful to train your own tolerance of complications.

Intuition

In the position below, I pushed my pawn b3-b4, feeling good about the sacrifice.

blitz3

Black to Move

Here I thought Bxb4 is not possible due to Qa4. But my intuition failed and I missed the critical variation.

Question: can you calculate the variation to the ensuing endgame after all the trades and evaluate why black is clearly better in that position?

Unexpected tactics

blitz4

White to Move

I was playing black and feeling confident about the position. The game continued with Rxd2 exd2, and then Qe3 winning white’s e2-bishop.

However, when I entered the game into the computer, to my surprise, Stockfish told me it was +0.4 in this position.

Question: what did both side miss for white to counter attack?

———-

There are many instructional moments in blitz games, and the value is in understanding the nuance just like reviewing standard games.

Next time you get a chance to play blitz, make sure you can extract value from these games.

P.s. Feel free to answer the questions in the comment section.

Quiet Struggle in Orlando

Welcome to the 2018 Chess^Summit Journey!

To start off, we’ll take a look at a game from the K-4 Grade Championships in December.

A contrast to the chaotic roller coaster game analysis last time, this game is a quiet struggle between two up-and-coming young scholastic players.

You can find the game Annotations HERE. Below are a two quick diagrams.

1                                          Avoid creating long term weaknesses (b7-b5)

2

Black to move. Rfd8 or h6?


To summarize, below are two take away from the game:

  1. Avoid creating long term weaknesses from short term attack (15…b5)
  2. Look for prophylactic moves when the position is calm

Hope you enjoy! Happy New Years!

Step out! The world is a lot Bigger than we think

Have you ever watched Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween Prank Segement? When they hear the “bad news”, you can see many of the kid’s reactions as if the world is ending.

We all have bad days, bad games, or something that doesn’t go our way. These things happen to anyone. But when it happens to us, we feel the world is dropping on us.

My USCL game

I played a couple local tournaments in Atlanta in 2015 as my mini-comeback, and then chatted with the Atlanta Kings team to play in the USCL. My local tournaments had some ups and downs, but they all ended well.

I played two games for the Kings. The first game was a complete whack, I played 1.e4 e6 2. b3?!. Possibly due to too many blitz games at home, I thought this was a good opening choice. Needless to say, I was punished swiftly.

That game didn’t bother me too much, as I was more in a ‘let’s give this thing a try’ mood. And my game was not the determining factor for the team. But after this game, I got serious, and wanted to contribute more for the team.

Before the next game, I prepared for the opening, which was something I haven’t done since 2007.

The game was played on a Wednesday night. I had a normal work day, and then drove over 45 minutes to the playing site, not unusual for Atlanta traffic. A little tired, but excited to play.

The game took close to three hours, I got to use what I had prepared, and it was up-and-down until we traded queens.

Around move 40, the feeling of ‘all that work is gone’ started to sink in. It felt like déjà vu again. I resigned soon after.

We lost the match 1.5-2.5. And yes, my game mattered a lot.

The drive back home didn’t take 45 minutes, but it felt much longer, because of my mood.

Step Out

I run my first Spartan competition a week after the game, which was physically hard and painful. But mentally I gained more perspective.

IMG_0268

While jumping over each hurdle, I knew I joined this competition as a choice. Whereas many people in the world are running in much worse conditions to escape.

My thoughts became broader, and I realized a bad game, or a bad day is really nothing compared to many tough battles in the world.

Chess is just one example. I’ve had unsatisfied school experiences, bad job interviews, or even just an annoying drive that typically takes 10 minutes turned into an hour due to road constructions (happened to me this week).

At that moment, it’s hard to swallow. But by practicing to look at the big picture, I feel more at ease, and whatever is bothering me is not much of a problem.

So the next time you have a tough day: Please try to do the following

Look at the Sky.

Enjoy the Ride.

Step Out from the problem.

——————

Happy Holidays! And I hope 2018 will be the best year yet for you.

If you have enjoyed any chess^summit articles, please checkout Chess^Summit apparels.

Free Game Analysis: Roller Coaster Ride in Philly

Do you enjoy roller coaster rides? If so, our reader Varun provides a thrilling ride in a game he played during the 2017 National Chess Congress in Philadelphia.

I’ve provided diagrams to highlight three ‘don’t hold your breathe’ moments, two out of the three were “oh-no” moments. Try to answer the questions yourself before read thru the game notes.

You can play along the GAME HERE.

dec03_analysis_a

Black to move. What does your sacrifice instinct say?

dec03_analysis_b

Why was black’s last move 25…d4 a blunder? White to move, find the best move.

dec03_analysis_c

White returns the favor and the game by playing 53. Ke4. Why is that the case. Black to move and win.


Whewww. Not a game for the fainted heart!

This game clearly shows that our reader, Varun, was ready to battle, and he did not consider calling it a day after early mishaps. In the end, he was rewarded handsomely.

To summarize, below are three take away from the game:

1. Opening: activate the c8-bishop before playing e6

2. In winning positions: slow down, make prophylaxis moves to avoid unnecessary chaos

3. Be tenacious to the end, and turn the table when your opponent provides the opportunity


We’ve observed an exciting game here, now it’s time for us to produce our own thrilling experience.

If you have a game that you’d like to be analyzed. Please head over HERE and submit the game to the chess^summit team.

Good Luck to the next ride!

Role of a Chess Coach

How to find a chess coach?

This is one of the most popular questions from chess parents.

The short answer:

A coach should provide

  1. Knowledge Transfer (KT) – Showing a new player from basic tactics (fork, pins, etc.) to advanced strategies (prophylactics, piece activity, etc.).
  2. Habit Transfer (HT) – Ask students what s/he does to study and improve in chess, then make further suggestions.
  3. Psychological Preparation – Help students to acquaint the ups and downs of winning and losing.

Now the longer version.

1) Knowledge Transfer (KT)

In the old days, this is a chess coach’s main job. But that has changed in our information-world today. What Bobby Fischer had to search in Soviet-language chess books can be found online in a couple of mouse clicks today.

If you want to learn Knight and Bishop checkmate 20 years ago, your coach will need to setup a specialized training session. Then you and other students will practice for half a day until it is mastered.

In today’s world, a five-years old student can open Google Chrome and type in Knight and Bishop mate and watch the video. Then launch Stockfish, play against the the engine for a few games, and practice until s/he becomes very confident.

Chess coach can still help for (KT), as there are 100s or more chess concepts. The coach’s role for KT is to point out specific focus based on each student’s need, so students are not drown into the sea of information.


Pure Knowledge Transfer is being commoditized. Technology such as AI may one day organize all the themes in chess. Hence, coaches need to provide value in two other aspects.

2) Habit Transfer (HT)

In most of our work-place or schools, we have heard of KT, however, rarely had I hear about HT.

I believe that needs to be changed. Google can provide 80%+ of KT today, but it is not ready (or at least not as competent) in telling you what you should work on yet.

HT is a quest for a student to become a life-long learner. And a coach is the ‘tour guide’ to provide encouragement, focus, and support to help the student build and maintain the desire to learn more in chess.

3) Psychology Preparation

Experience and feelings of playing chess. A coach has stories based on his/her experiences from playing chess.

Psychology preparation is  the furthest from being automated by a machine.

A coach will LISTEN to a student describe his/her feeling and thinking from a game or a tournament. Then discuss together and tell stories from previous experiences or encounters to help student build psychological muscles for chess.

I hope this helps. Feel free to provide comments, I’m always happy to have an informative discussion on this broad topic.


Happy Thanksgiving week to everyone in the U.S!