If your attention span is so short that you have absolutely no interest in wanting to read up on the basic concepts of Chess Strategy to improve your game, then you need not ask why you suck at chess. The analogy is similar to asking why you suck at math and cannot solve simple math problems. Like math, you need to build a knowledge base foundation of Strategy chess basics in order to have an understanding of how chess games are won on skill not luck, time controls or Opening knowledge.
After much contemplation and pondering about which plan of study would be the most productive to use in a chess course of study to quickly improve one's chess skills, I finally concluded that the main problem is not how to assimilate such a vast amount of different concepts, even though this could be a daunting awesome task, but that the real problem is how to best utilize this material once learned to become proficient in each basic chess area that you study.
A real problem in using what one has studied is that no one has perfect recall. After a few days in reading about some subject most of it is soon forgotten. Another problem is that few will make any concentrated effort to consistently put to use what they have just read about.
A good example of this concept is when one plays a game of chess, seldom will one say to his self, I am going to utilize the point count system I just learned about to create an imbalance in my opponents position. There is 19 plus point ideas to create an advantage for me and 11 minus point ideas that I could consider to try to use to create this imbalance against my opponents position. Even though you may, have a general idea about this plan and what needs to be done along these lines, seldom will you concern your self with this type of plan. Most just try to find the best advantageous tactical move or avoid some dangerous threat that promises to destroy your position or end the game against you.
Why is this? If one is trying to solve a complex math problem in geometry, algebra or calculus you will need to utilize all of the basic math skills you had to learn previously in school to come to the one and only correct answer. There just is no other way to achieve this no mater what plan you use.
In spite of the fact that chess uses raw logic much like math, Chess unfortunately has no one or single formula that one can utilize to apply all his basic chess skills to use so that he can easily reduce it to the sum of its parts to arrive at the so called correct answer, a decisive checkmate!
Each person has his own unique way to play chess and if you were to ask a hundred people on FICS on how they play a position, each would probably give you a different way on how they do it. Even GM's have no single concise plan on how to achieve a winning position, although masters and GM's do share one common way of thinking about a position and this is through the use of calculation. This is essentially their main way to examine both the technical and practical aspects of how they think ahead for the evaluation to find the proper move order of end games for example. They can select moves, visualize, and evaluate their consequences using a wide variety of calculation methods.
But this still does not tell us or give us a sound logical method to use similar to solving math problems on how to make good use of all the chess skills one can learn about through the reading and learning of basic chess training materials such as we have here to study when you are actually playing a game of chess. Just like you did for math in school.
Is there a simple answer to this dilemma? The American Heritage Dictionary defines Dilemma as:
A situation that requires a choice between options that are or seem equally unfavorable or mutually exclusive. 2. A problem that seems to defy a satisfactory solution. 3. An argument that presents an antagonist with a choice of two or more alternatives, each of which contradicts the original contention and is conclusive.
After looking at this definition we may conclude that dilemma is a good choice of words to use to find a satisfactory working method, because it is true that there are many possibilities and none are what all would say is the best method. Any one method may have its faults, plus sides and minus sides. What may be a good or satisfactory method to one user may not be to another. In other words, there cannot be any one conclusive single method that will be a satisfactory one to all.
But just like making plans any plan at all, even a bad one is far better than no plan at all in playing chess is what we have learned about making plans.
Is this not what most people do when they study chess materials? It is mostly a chaotic state of great disorder and jumble of confusion. A disorderly mass of jumbled bits and pieces of information. So it is no wonder that little of it is remember or used to their advantage in playing chess games.
How to Use My Method
In 1930 Aron Nimzovich was the first to reduce a welter of arbitrary ideas to a definite number of inter-related principles, when he came out with his book titled MY SYSTEM. His system gave an analysis of the principles governing the Blockade, the Pawn Chain, his qualitative theory of pawn majorities, the elastic center and his most famous one on using over-protection, in his teachings about Positional Play "An energetic and systematic application of prophylactic measures" Many never played Chess the same way after this system was revealed.
When I discovered and developed what I call "MY METHOD" I was doing research on putting together a training module that would give a good deal of insight in how to create weak squares in your opponents camp and use these weak squares to get strong outposts for your knights and bishops for a superior developmental position.
The idea came to me that if one were to just place his focus and concentration on utilizing just this one powerful concept of trying to develop a strong outpost for a knight or bishop in playing all your games for some time, you could become somewhat of an expert in just this one basic idea. Why do this when there are so many other concepts to utilize playing chess?
Unless you are a Master or GM, most of your opponents are going to be somewhat inapt and incompetent about developing outposts, because they pay so little attention as how and why to develop one. If one presents itself, they may or may not utilize it. But rarely do they know how to actually plan and intentionally create one purposefully. They do not go about playing chess with a plan in mind that they will win this game by developing some holes in your pawn structure that they can use for a powerful effective knight on the sixth rank for example. That would indeed take a lot of planing and forethought early in the game.
Most people on FICS play chess games by concentrating on their memorized opening moves in the beginning of the game and then just play a tactical game from then on.
Usually average players are only interested in learning more about the complexities of tactics and learning new openings rather than with the strategy of the game. However, it is learning about strategy that is the essential ingredient for success in chess. Skilled chess players like masters know this and they are able to exactly calculate variations quickly find combinations correctly estimate a position and make a plan for the game that is based on his opponent's weaknesses. The calculating and combinational abilities belong to tactics, whereas the skill of assessing the resulting positions and making an appropriate plan is the essence of strategy. In order to make your plan work you must have the necessary basic skills at hand, tactics alone is not enough. You must know how to exploit an advantage or weakness. You must know how to limit your opponent's mobility of his pieces and pawns. This is why learning about such things as weak squares and outposts are so important, because that is exactly what it does. If you want to improve your game significantly, you are going to have to spend the time achieving the skills of strategy. Our focus will be towards this end for your success.
What is the purpose of trying to be an expert on just this one concept of developing outposts?
In stead of being like most of your opponents, being somewhat inapt, incompetent, or mediocre in most areas of chess why not strive to have the distinction to be above average in knowledge from the ordinary run of the mill player in several areas of chess?
You are never going to become first-rate or an exceptional player in many areas of basic chess unless you start some kind of program of study to learn about them. In MY METHOD, you take each of the most important basic chess concepts and try to decide which is most important to learn about in a descending order. Personally I feel that a good first subject to excel in is weak squares and developing outposts, because it is a subject that you can be confident about mastering in a reasonably short time unlike trying to master pawn play for example. Also it is a very important area of study in Strategy.
THE EIGHT STEPS TO SUCCESS
1. Put the subjects you have decided are the most important to study down in a new spiral notebook you have purchased just for this task in a descending order and then start at the top of your list, and put your focus for study on just this one single area on the first subject. Use a separate page for each chess area and place the date you started on this chess area. Now use the next pages for taking notes on this area. Or use your word processor and make a file on your hard drive for this project. Copy and paste all the material you can find about it there. Put in any notes there that will help you to fully understand its details. By doing this, you are going to ensure that this will further improve your memory on this subject for a long time.
2. Next break down this area into smaller areas to study and learn about. Then place your focus and concentration on developing a good working feel about how to use them when playing chess.
3. This next step is the most important one. The main reason chess players rarely become very proficient in any one chess concept is that they rarely make any conscience effort to utilize this material they have just learned while playing chess. When you get deeply involved in a chess game, and are concentrating on finding your best next move and avoiding your opponent's threats it is exceedingly difficult to stop to think about trying to put into practice some new chess concept that you have just recently learned about. Here is a good way to make sure you do just that.
The power of the index card
Buy several packs of index cards. You are going to use some of them to develop your opening repertoire too. (See the training module, Progressive Training Opening) At the top of one, label it with your first chess subject to concentrate on. Like Weak Squares and Outposts. You might even highlight it with a florescent yellow marker to make it really stand out. On the card put in the main points in outline form that detail on how to go about achieving weak squares that will allow you to utilize an outpost for your knights and Bishops. You might even number them according to their logical order or importance.
4. This next step is the one that will ensure that you actually put in to use this material to practice on to become proficient in its use. Decide now that you are going to play a game of chess only for the sole purpose of practicing to use this material.
5. Now put that card in front of you on your keyboard and monitor. It will sit nicely in front of your F keys and resting on the monitor. It is now sitting in such an obvious spot that it is almost impossible to ignore it. Remember that old adage of out of sight out of mind?
6. Play a long standard unrated game using plenty of time with liberal increments or no time controls at all. A minimum of 45/45 is necessary. You must do this so that you are not caught up in time pressure and then forget all about why you are playing this game. Playing a long game this way will allow you to place your concentration on practicing to use the subject material, not trying to win a chess game. Remember you are not trying to win a chess game, your only playing this game to practice one subject of chess to become proficient in it. Do not worry about losing. In fact, you probably will when doing this at first, because your focus is not on your game to win it. But then there is a good chance you will if you become successful in achieving your goals.
7. Keep at this, playing these types of games until you are satisfied that you are above average in knowledge in this field of study from most of the people you play chess with. Then place a date of completion on your study page that you started. How long you spend on this area is entirely up to you but just remember that your not going to become very proficient in any area unless you spend enough time in it to be able to say that you can outplay over 75 percent of the people you play in doing just this one thing. And that you now feel confident that you have mastered this topic well enough that you will now be using it automatically with out the help of your index cards and notes. Remember that it does not matter if you are losing games, only that you are outplaying most of your opponents in just this one area of chess. Bobby Fischer did this several times in outplaying his opponent in the opening but still lost the game.
8. Then go on to the next chess concept on your list and do the same thing all over again. Soon you will have several powerful chess weapons at your disposal that you can feel competent about that you now know more about these subjects than most of the people you play chess with and probably most of the people who play chess on FICS as well. If you keep at this going down your list one subject at a time, eventually you will know more about the most important chess basics than most of the average players do on FICS and should rise above them in rank.
Your greatest problem here is going to be trying to stay focused on going down your list and trying to become proficient in all the subjects you decided on learning well. So my advice is not to bite off more than you can chew. Look for modest gains, and set realistic goals.
Putting in Openings or Endgames, for example would be a foolish fruitless task for example. These are not basic weapons of chess to learn well to build on or for learning more advanced topics. The ART of Attack for example is not a subject to list either because its success depends on utilizing all the other chess basics.
Learning about pawns however could be a more advanced and ambitious project. You would have to break it down in to its basic parts and take each one separately as a task to master. Like Understanding the various types of pawn weaknesses, how to avoid them and how to create them, pawn structure, using dynamic pawn play, pawn majorities, pawn chains, pawn skeletons, pawn centers, etc. Trying to master this topic could take years and the purchase of a lot of training books and Cd's! Our three training modules give quite a bit of basic information on pawns.
This method makes perfect sense in that there is no way anyone can become proficient in most of the important chess area basics unless they have developed and put into use some sort of plan of study and know how to ensure its success. Not even paying a coach is going to do this. It is similar to going to collage to get a master's degree in some subject. If you do not put in the time, you are never going to master anything.
Here is a list that contains some of our Club's training materials that would be good candidates for your study list in no particular order of importance. They all have one thing in common, and that is they all stress the basic concepts of creating an imbalance through using Strategy. Just remember that Strategy is the foundation we use to achieve a particular plan for a players moves.
1. Weak Squares and Outposts
2.The Secrets of Calculation
3. Making Plans
4. Gaining Space (From the Point Count System)
5. The Point Count System
6. Positional Play
(See Rukavina vs. Tal. Game 3. in classic games also for more Positional Play)
7. Principles of Center Control (How to take control of the Center)
8. Creating a Lead in Development
9.Taking the Initiative.
10. The Blockade
11. Control a Key File
12. Ranks, Files and Diagonals
13. Convert a Weak Square into a Key Square
14. Convert a Weak Square into a Outpost
15. Use of Prophylatic Play
16. Creating a Passed Pawn
Don't make the mistake of doubting the power of this method. If you are truly interested in improving your chess skills and raising your rating significantly then you must engage into some method that forces you to actually use any new learned chess training materials while you are playing chess. At present I know of no such method. All other training materials assume that after you study them that you will remember it and use it in your play. True, you will to some extent but you will never become truly proficient in its use unless you put all your efforts into just that one area that you just studied, to make you significantly more proficient in its use than your adversaries and that is what can make the difference.
Also you must consider what is going to be your advantage over your opponents when you do this. Many of the people you play will have spent time in memorizing a few different openings and since these are the only ones they use they may be more familiar with them than you are. And since you can never be an expert in all openings you may suffer some setbacks in an opening you are not entirely familiar with. But you can over come this if you study the ideas behind the openings, something your opponents probable have not and never will do.
Most average players just don't have the patients, motivation, or interest to study much of anything beyond trying to find some unorthodox opening to win a game quickly in just a few opening moves. But unorthodox openings are mostly a waste of time to use. Check out our Module Understanding the Unorthodox Openings and see why. We have a lot of material here in our Club to help you with learning about opening play and understanding the ideas behind the openings. Basic Ideas In The Opening, How to Develop a Opening Repertoire, How to Master a New Opening, Opening Training, etc.
In our "Progressive Training Openings" we say that the true purpose of the opening is to create an imbalances and develop your army in such a way that your pieces, working together can take advantage of these imbalances. That is the key to the opening, not the memorization of them. The key to out playing your opponents in the openings is to fully understand the strategy of opening play not try to out memorize your opponents. One great strategy to study to put your opponents at a disadvantage in the opening is to study "Creatomg Weaknesses" in Category four to get an imbalance right away in the opening. Find out more about how to create an imbalance by reading Making Plans We say there that it is pawns that are at the root of most weaknesses. We have a lot more about how to gain a advantage in the opening by creating weaknesses. Read The Point Count System for a whole gala of ideas and imbalances. In Category Four we have a article on only Imbalances called "Creating Weaknesses" One of the strategies of getting control in the opening is to fight for Center Control. Find out more with our Principles of Center Control and then go to Center Control Practice,
Of course if you really want to study the openings we have in depth analysis games for you to study. You can become somewhat of an expert with the Queen's Gambit with Understanding The Queen's Gambit There are 52 games to study in The Ten Most Common Chess Openings and there are many more openings from Games from the Classics to specific games from the masters in Category Four. Want to develop a very sharp opening weapon? Study Understanding Grecos Sacrifice I will guarantee you that few if any of the Players on FICS know how to play this or even want to know how to use this deadly weapon of chess.
And this leads us to our conclusion about what kind of advantage you can develop over your opponents. Masters play the man not the game. Most Masters have developed a unique style of play. You can check out some of the styles of the masters at How to Develop a Opening Repertoire.Just scroll down to the middle of the page and see the many masters and what style of play they use. Have you thought about what kind of style of play you would like to develop? What kinds of style of play do you think that the average players at FICS have developed? Most likely none! They don't even think about such things. But you should because then you can concentrate on the development of those kinds of Openings and other areas of chess that best suite your style and thus gain a distinct advantage over your opponents by having a unique style of play that would be very hard to beat.
Most players at FICS are somewhat inapt, incompetent, and mediocre in chess basics and most of the other important areas of chess as well. They have absolutely no desire to read most anything at all about them.
Not only do they not understand the value of reading and learning about them, for the most part they simply are too lazy and do not have the patience or motivation to do so.
These players are only interested in tactics and learning new openings. Any chess knowledge that they do have is mostly a chaotic state of great disorder and jumble of confusion. A disorderly mass of jumbled bits and pieces of information.
Most people on FICS play chess games by concentrating on their memorized opening moves and then after that they are at a loss of what to do next. They have no conception of what a plan is or how to make one. They have absolutely no interest in learning about deep end game strategy because they don't have the patience to play a game that long.
What makes me think this way is from observing the games of many average players and because when ever I ask others or even friends of mine to join the club to be able to improve their chess skills by reading about chess basics I usually get the same answer. Here is a typical reply: "It's a wonderful looking site and an excellent idea. At this time though I cannot dedicate myself to the club due to other interests & responsibilities Thanks for the invite though" But these same players have the time to yak on and on into the wee hours of the morning about all kinds of inane things.
The point is that because most FICS players are so irresponsible and inapt about chess basics you are going to enjoy a tremendous advantage over most other average players if you do study only a limited amount of material and for only a short time. You will start to see a significant improvement right away with only spending a hour or two a day reading and practicing with MY METHOD!
Note: Please don't tell all the average players at FICS that I think that most of them are: inapt, incompetent, mediocre, lazy, irresponsible, have the patience of a 5 year old, don't have a clue about most chess basics, and have a chaotic disorder of chess infomation. This is privileged information for your motivation to study harder :-)