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Getting [Back] Into the Game

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  • Getting [Back] Into the Game

    Hey everybody,

    It's been a while since I've played a chess game, and an even longer time since I've participated in any kind of tournament. I've always enjoyed the game for some reason I can't explain, but I was never great or even good at it. I think I'd estimate my playing ability between 800-900, maybe lower now.

    My low rating was never really an issue for me, it was more the wall I hit in learning that dissuaded me from the game. Once I got to college the Chess Club seemed like an established clique that I never really meshed with like I did in high school, so I drifted from the game. For some reason, I've fired up my computer and come back to playing.

    My understanding of chess can bu summed up pretty easily. I know how the pieces move and I understand the very basics of an opening, and that may not even be true anymore since my time away.

    My problem with Chess is that I hit a brick wall very quickly and was unable to really learn or advance my skills. I always attributed this to my disability and being frustrated when I was younger, I never really got past it.

    The issue was that I could be taught a concept,, or see something on the board and understand what was being conveyed at the time, but I could never retain the information for the future. Positions escaped me and concepts fled from my mind very quickly.

    To make a comparison that I feel makes more sense. I've always struggled with the retention and application of certain types of information. I need a GPS device in my car just to navigate my home town. If I'm not going somewhere very familiar, I will get lost, easily.

    The same applies to Chess is a way. I am very familiar with the pieces and the concept, past that I fail to grasp anything advanced, and I'd like to get past that, for personal growth reasons. I'd be ecstatic if I could hit an 1100 rating, but that is merely a goal and not the end all be all of the game.

    I've tried several recommended books and some training software, which engages me at the time, but when it comes down to it, it's all about retention and future application, and I can't seem to get there. I've looked up a couble of things since returning, such as Chess Mentor and Chess Magnet School, but am unsure if those will really help.

    I'm also looking for a place to play. I'm torn between ICC and Chess.com. I'd like to get a membership to one place, and I don't know which would better suit my needs, although I can say I am enjoying my ICC trial, and I've heard they actually have USCF rated tournaments, so they might be a draw. I'm still searching locally, it's a bit tougher now that I'm out of the scholastic scene, but I'd like to get back into local tournaments. They were fun on a social level, never mind the results, although I did manage second place in one tournament.

    So that's where I'm at. I'm not sure what else to say, but I welcome thoughts and suggestions.

  • #2
    Based on your problem with learning new material, there's a particular learning method that I highly recommend.

    Google for an article called "400 Points in 400 Days" by Michael de la Maza. You don't have to follow his advice exactly. In fact, I have some changes to it that I'd recommend. Basically, he recommends getting a good set of tactics puzzles, chosen for their instructional value, not just random puzzles like you find on most web sites. Go through the same set of puzzles over and over (he says 7 times) until you can spot ths solutions instantly.

    Dan Heisman gave the same advice in his Novice Nook column. I've done it myself, and every time I finish learning all the positions in a tactics book this way, my rating shoots up at least 100 points. I'd recommend Heisman's "Back to Basics: Tactics" as the first book you should do this with.

    "Don't be afraid of ghosts! Always play the moves you want to play unless you see a genuine tactical drawback." --Grandmaster Neil McDonald

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bmbeeman View Post
      ...I've always enjoyed the game for some reason I can't explain, but I was never great or even good at it...

      ...My low rating was never really an issue for me, it was more the wall I hit in learning that dissuaded me from the game...

      ...I know how the pieces move and I understand the very basics of an opening...

      ...My problem with Chess is that I hit a brick wall very quickly and was unable to really learn or advance my skills...

      ...The issue was that I could be taught a concept,, or see something on the board and understand what was being conveyed at the time, but I could never retain the information for the future. Positions escaped me and concepts fled from my mind very quickly.

      To make a comparison that I feel makes more sense. I've always struggled with the retention and application of certain types of information... If I'm not going somewhere very familiar, I will get lost, easily.

      The same applies to Chess is a way. I am very familiar with the pieces and the concept, past that I fail to grasp anything advanced, and I'd like to get past that, for personal growth reasons...
      That's a good description of ME, up until 2010. In that year, I borrowed from a public library a book called The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess by Patrick Wolff, which changed me permanently.

      To this day, I don't understand strategy. Why is this move good in THIS position but not in THAT one? I don't know. But the Idiot's Guide taught me that there's one thing in Chess more important than strategy. Fromper mentioned it in his post above.

      In one word, the most important secret to playing Chess well is...

      TACTICS!!!

      It's been said that 99% of Chess is tactics, and while that's an exaggeration, the saying does have an degree of truth. You could have a great strategic position, but without tactics, you won't win. On the other hand, even if you have a lousy strategic position, your opponent might still make a tactical error, and if that happens, you want the skill to see it and understand how to exploit it. It could turn the whole game around!

      So I might suggest that book. (And let me make it clear that I mean The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess. I would NOT recommend Chess for Dummies, which may have excellent advice for, say, class A players, but which would go over most people's heads.)

      Within a year of reading that book, I was a different Chess player. I described that first year in great detail in this post.

      EDIT: In case you don't have time to read that long post to which I linked, let me recap two important points of it: (1) I learned to record my games for later study, so I could learn from my mistakes. (2) The tactics problems in chesstempo.com rated my progress, letting me see my improvement.

      Also, one quick way to estimate your Elo rating is with this test.
      Last edited by Black Dalek; 01-30-2015, 02:37 PM. Reason: Adding for clarification

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      • #4
        Welcome back to the game! I can’t say enough about ICC, it’s like my home away from home, though I do have memberships to both places and a few more that weren’t mentioned like FICS and Chesscube.

        Everyone’s different and I’m no coach but I can tell you that learning a couple openings pretty well took me from a 1750-1800 wall right up to almost 2100 like a shot. Once it all evened out I’m now bouncing between 1800 and 2000 on most servers but the mind is funny like that.

        Stick with it, the journey is a fun one.
        Alexander Alekhine is my chess hero.

        An eerie chess short story: The Empty Chair

        My newest chess story: Gamble: A Supernatural Chess Tale

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        • #5
          You sound like you're older now than you were when you were more involved in chess?

          Our heads change as we age, life experience and development. It might be that this time around you'll start grokking the game better. It's only natural to be quite rusty if you've not played much in a decade or so.

          There's a problem retaining concepts?

          My suggestion: don't play online right now, or do so only for amusement. Get yourself an actual little chess-board and set up the physical pieces and play games by yourself for a couple months...play both White and Black.

          Bobby Fischer did exactly that, so there's good precedent for the practice.

          Just play, making the best moves you can for both sides. Don't worry about books, don't worry about teachers. Just play self-games, as many a day as you care to. Play and play. Try to make the best moves you can figure out for each side, but don't sweat it.

          What will happen is that by playing both sides of the board yourself you'll slowly develop YOUR OWN understanding of what's going on in the game. You're playing both sides, and you're playing someone (yourself!) no better than yourself: it's an equal match

          You'll come to understand not concepts, but the actual realities of play itself.

          If you try your best to make a good move for White, but when you spin the board around to play Black and see that White's move wasn't such a good move, you will begin to learn--all yourself, your own experience, not concepts. Do this dozens of times (hundreds, actually), and you will develop a "feel" for the game. That "feel" won't be based upon concepts you're being told and not retaining, but will arise from your own experience.

          Just my two cents worth, but I expect that following this advice will help you.
          "They work at the pace of amnesia."--M. Bloch

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          • #6
            Solve at least 2 puzzles every day(minimum).
            Learn the basic of endgames and strategy. As the above me suggested The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess book is a good book that might help you. For Tactics book I suggest Tactics Time!: 1001 Chess Tactics from the Games of Everyday Player.
            " Deep calculation is not what distinguishes the champions. It does not matter how far ahead you see if you don't understand what you are looking at. When I contemplate my move, I first must consider all the elements in the position so that i can develop a strategy and develop intermediate objectives"

            -- Garry Kasparov--

            "Tactics must be guided by strategy"

            --- Garry Kasparov--

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            • #7
              The thing about chess, is that it can be enjoyed by any player of any level. Also, if you have a friend that is a better player, maybe he/she can help you with questions and such. I'm 61, and, when I first got into chess, I had nonoe to help me with my endless questions about the game.

              I teach beginnig chess for people of any age (as in from maybe 6 to 80!). One thing I like to do that, I hope, helps, is play what I call a training game. Tha is where I freely and openly discuss the game as we play it. I try to talk about what is going through my mind about the game, as we play it. Maybe saying what threats I see, what moves I considered, and why I chose a certain move and not others. I might even let my opponent take back a particlarly howler of a move.

              There are some great youtube videos on the web too. Some of the ones by GM Yasser Seirawan are very helpful. Here is one that I find helpful:

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1w7OrlnJLY

              Make sure you understand the algebraic notation, so you can go through chess games, and books. It would also be great to write down the moves in your games, so you can go through them and see where you went wrong if it was a loss etc.

              Want to see the quickest game I ever played? It was with a young man that I had already warned him about the weaknesses caused by moving your f pawn (the f2 pawn for white, the f7 pawn for black). He was playing white.
              1.f4 e5 2.g3??? exf 3.gxf??? Qh4 checkmate.

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