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10 Things About Chess You Thought Were True That Aren't E-mail
Written by Yury Markushin   
Monday, 19 December 2016 00:00

10 things you thought were trueChess is one of the most popular games in the world, with hundreds of millions playing it around the globe. At the same time, it is one of the most complicated and confusing sports, with a lot of written and unwritten rules. There are many questions being constantly asked about the game. Chess players often get confused and surprised when common knowledge about the game turns out to be totally false. In today’s article we will try to answer some of the things about chess you thought were true, that aren’t.

1. Memorizing openings is useless

Everyone heard this phrase, and it even makes some sense. Why would you memorize something if you have 0 understanding of it? There is nothing wrong about memorization of opening moves. Computer does it and plays very strong chess. Computer uses an opening database which is basically a collection of moves that doesn’t make any sense to the machine. Machine simply follows those moves believing them to be the best.

Grandmasters also memorize a lot of opening lines. If you’ve ever observed a GM game closely, you’d notice that they start thinking after move 5 or 10 trying to remember how to best proceed in a position. Sure, they do understand what’s happening on the board, and can play strong chess even if they magically forget all their opening preparation. Memorizing moves cannot hurt your chess and is in fact useful because you will be able to at least reach a playable middlegame position. If you add some understanding component to the memorization skill, you have a bright career ahead!

2. Playing too much blitz will hurt your game

Playing blitz will not hurt your regular chess. What it can do is help develop bad habits, which in turn may affect your regular chess results. For example, you may start making moves quickly without thinking deep, as required in long time control games. It is important to realize what type of time control you are playing, and don’t make moves rapidly in classical chess. If you learn to do that, you will only benefit from playing blitz. For example, good blitz skills could save you tons of games when you’re out of time. Blitz teaches you to be aware of the clock at all times and find tactics as fast as possible.

3. Solving truckloads of tactics will make you a master

There is a common belief that solving a lot of tactics is the main requirement for becoming a chess master. It’s almost like if you solve 100’s of tactics puzzle a day, you’re guaranteed to become 2200 rated sooner or later.

Indeed, solving tactics helps at improving your game. However, to become a master you need to develop many more skills such as opening preparation, middlegame understanding, positional awareness, endgame mastery, psychological stability, etc. A chess player needs to be balanced and proficient in all elements of the game to earn this title. Simple tactics training won’t do.

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4. Playing a lot of chess will help you improve

Most players believe that quantity will one day turn into quality. That is, if you play many games you will improve your chess. It may be true to some extent, but only if you actually learn from the games you play. Otherwise, playing an extra 10,000 games will not help you a bit. There are players with that many games who started as 1300 rated and did not add any points to their elo. Three years and 10,000 games later they’re still at 1300 level.

5. You must have a coach to become a good player

Coach is definitely a useful someone to have on your team. He will help you to improve faster, will suggest what and how you should work on the game and will help at avoiding most common mistakes that prevent players from reaching their chess goals.

Is it the only way to improve your game? Of course, not! There are many chess players which reached master’s and even grandmaster’s level with virtually no dedicated coach. With the right resources, dedication and some patience you can improve your chess with literally no coach.

6. You need to spend hours a day on chess to see any progress

Many chess players believe that without spending at least 2-3 hour a day on studying chess it is not possible to make any significant progress. That’s indeed not true for majority of chess players. It is much more important to work on chess on regular basis, rather than work on it for many hours a day.

Chess training is not a sprint, but a marathon. You need to have patience before you start seeing the results. After a first week of training, you may not notice any difference. But then, the results will come. In our 21 Day Course each training session is only about 30 minutes long. If you stick to the routine for the whole duration of the course and take it seriously you will see the results, without spending hours per day on training. We have many successful students to back up this claim!

7. You need the strongest chess engine to analyze games

Many club chess players are trying to get hold of the strongest chess engine possible. They believe that with its wizard eye of analysis they will be able to improve their game in no time. There are always those debates about what program is stronger: Houdini, Stockfish, Rybka or the newest version of Fritz. One is 3200 rated, the other one is 20 points higher, that must be the right choice?

The truth is, most under 2200 chess players don’t even need a super-strong chess engine, or perhaps any engine at all. Unfortunately, strength of the engine used for analysis of games doesn’t translate to one’s elo, unless we are talking about 2700+ club. Grandmasters are using the strongest engines because for them “+0.3” difference in position evaluation is a significant margin. For the rest of the field, that is a negligible fluctuation in a position which doesn’t mean much.

8. Following grandmaster’s game will help you improve

Does watching professional basketball or football games make you a better basketball or football player? Hardly. Chess is no different. Simply watching GMs play won’t do much for your own chess. It may inspire and motivate you, but you will hardly learn from their ideas and techniques. Those players are from a different league. Oftentimes, amateur players don’t even realize why one player lost or won. They need an explanation or commentator’s clarification.  GMs games can be used for improvement. But those are usually well-annotated, hand-picked games with a lot of analysis and explanations after each and every move.

9. You need a photographic memory to become a chess master

Photographic memory is definitely a plus when it comes to chess. It adds to ability to memorize and recognize various chess patters, games and opening lines. But is it a must-have skill for a 2200 rated master? Indeed not. Unless you are aiming for the GM-level competition, you don’t need any special abilities that an ordinary human lacks. Those who say that their memory isn’t good for chess, or IQ isn’t high enough are just looking for excuses to justify lack of trying.

10. Chess is a purely mental sport

In chess, the action happens on the board. Does it make chess 100% mental sport? Chess players use their brains to figure out what move to make.  However, if the body is in bad shape it is nearly impossible to play your best chess. Chess games can last up to 7 hours, requiring total concentration and focus from the players. It is well known that physically unfit players perform worse than physically fit ones. That’s why top players always engage in physical exercises and play active sports to keep their body in shape.

If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chess you need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:

  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

That seems to be like a lot of things, and that is. But no worries, we have made it easy for you. Our comprehensive training course covers it all and much more. Sign up for 21 Day Training right now!

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 December 2016 23:52


0 #2 bill hooper 2016-12-19 12:15
can i get the course in a downloadable format in stead of a cd
is there support if i have trouble downloading and accessing it
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+1 #1 Fasulye 2016-12-19 12:15
When you play a chess tournament it's indeed very important to be physically fit! I have planned to play one with 2 rounds of games a day and 2 hours rest 30 minutes per game. Now I am sick and I have to become healthy again to be able to perform the tournament.
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