Secret of Chess

Welcome to my article on the secret of chess. Chess is a very popular recreational and competitive game. It is one of the great mind games which our ancestors have invented. The current form of the game emerged in Southern Europe during the second half of the 15th century after evolving from similar, much older games of Persian and Indian origin. Today, chess is one of the world’s most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide in clubs, at home, by correspondence, online, and in tournaments. This is the variant I’m talking about today.

I wanted to talk about the much-discussed “secret of chess”. So, how do we solve this seemingly simple recreational and competitive game, played on a square chequered chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight square between two players? The answer of course, is not that easy to find, however in my constant practice and research, I believe I have found at least one answer.

There are many possible hypotheses for the “secret of chess”. I will give my opinion on some of the myths I think are busted (I’m not sure if there’s a reference there to some TV show there) and which hypotheses I think are plausible.

1. Computers will solve the game of chess.

Computers are strong opponents and the best analyse many millions of positions per second (e.g. Rybka), however, simply look at the statistics – there are 318,979,564,000 possible ways to play the first four moves of chess. In addition, America’s Foundation for Chess found that there were 169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 ways to play the first ten moves of chess. For a computer to solve the game of chess, it would have get through every possibility for a whole game, and it would also have to assess every single position correctly.

On another note, if a computer solves the game of chess, a person could not possibly remember what to do against any possible move in order to beat someone – it’s just too difficult. The use of computers to try to solve the game of chess is inefficient, see hypothesis number 4 for a better use of computers.

Assessment: Busted.

2. Secret of Chess: Maximise the opportunities for your opponent to make mistakes.

In a 2003 article concerning the world’s strongest nonagenarian (the strongest active player in chess in the world aged ninety or older), the authors gave a possible answer. The information was provided by writers Neil Sullivan and Yves Casaubon. The strongest nonagenarian in ChessBase’s opinion at the time was Arkadiy M. Gilman (rated FIDE 2237 in 2003), who hails from Russia and lives in Canada.

Anyway, in the analysis to “Gilman,A – Grondin,J [D02], Le Bolduc II – A Montreal CAN (6), 08.10.2003”, which was a win for Gilman is 23 moves, the authors subtly slipped in the secret of chess. In my opinion, this is the best practical way to utilise one secret of chess. By allowing your opponent to make mistakes, you can exploit their inaccurate moves. And by maximising their possibility of making mistakes, you have more opportunities to exploit them.

One way this can be utilised is through opening preparation. By surprising your opponent at the board, your opponent will likely not react with the best response and there’s a chance he will slip. Of course, you cannot count on this happening.

Assessment: Plausible.

3. Secret of Chess: Dress like a grandmaster and you start to play like one

This is my personal favourite. GM Nigel David Short MBE is often regarded as the strongest British chess player of the 20th century. He became a Grandmaster at the age of 19, and became challenger for the World Chess Championship against Garry Kasparov at London, 1993. Still an active player, Short continues to enjoy international successes. He is also a chess coach, columnist and commentator.

After an extraordinary comeback in 2008’s Commonwealth Chess Championship, Nigel Short said, “Anyway, I was struggling at this point. I obviously couldn’t play like a grandmaster, so I decided that I should at least dress like one. I started putting a suit and tie on, although everyone told me it was too hot. But it apparently put me in the right frame of mind. I think I am a bit of a sluggish starter, and in this way I managed to dig myself out of the hole.”

It could be that the formalness of dressing with a suit and tie can put someone in the “right frame of mind”. Just see from Nigel’s games in the tournament.

Anyway, here’s a snapshot of the crosstable:

1 Short,N 2655 9.5/11

2 Ganguly,S 2631 9.0/11

3 Hossain,Enam 2489 8.5/11

4 Arun Prasad,S 2492 8.0/11

5 Sengupta,D 2454 8.0/11

Now I have my own experience with this hypothesis. Recently I played in the Australian Schools Teams Championships and our team scored 19.5/20 (it was a four-player vs. four-player match system) against tough opposition. We were all in full uniform with tie and blazer. So this hypothesis worked well for me.

Assessment: Plausible.

4. Secret of Chess: Analysing your games using computers and having access to millions of chess games for preparation and general study purposes.

This is a logical “secret”, but one which was subconsciously so obvious to me that I forgot to put it in my draft to this article! It has long been said that the key to improvement is to analyse your chess games. This was stressed out in a whole book called The Road to Chess Improvement by American GM Alexander Yermolinsky (2000). Additionally, the concept of thoroughly studying your own games is also discussed and strongly recommended in many other pieces of chess literature. Perhaps GM Edmar Mednis said it best, “playing without a concurrent critical review of one’s skills will simply get you nowhere.”

It is now the computer age and it is quite typical to use a chess database program to store and analyse your games. This is where ChessBase is the world leader in chess software and innovation. Their Fritz and ChessBase interfaces (which have little differences between each other) are the most comfortable chess database programs I have had the pleasure to use. They provide the perfect “aquarium” for your chess study and analysis.

Having access to millions of chess games through the Fritz database or a “Mega Database” (a ChessBase product purchased separately from Fritz) is also essential for study and preparation. Players can survey the new developments of their favourite opening systems by examining recent games and they can prepare for their opponents by looking up the database. This fairly obvious “secret” can be employed by both the world champion or by your budding next door neighbour.

Assessment: Plausible.

5. Secret of Chess: Chemistry.

When asked, “What is the secret of success for this US Women’s Olympiad Team?” Zsusza “Susan” Polgár replied, “For one, chemistry.” She also noted, spending “a lot of time together” with the team, working hard, learning to “know each other well”, having a “team captain and a head coach that also know and understand” them, and having a “good chief theoretician”.

In late 2004, the US women’s team made history at the Chess Olympiad by capturing silver, the first ever Olympic medal for the United States. The player and driving force behind this success was Susan Polgar, who came out of a seven-year hiatus with a stunning performance.

When playing on a team, it’s important to have chemistry with the other members of your team. Knowing each other’s style of play and continually encouraging one another is important. I experienced this in the Australian Schools Teams Championships, as well as other international events.

Assessment: Plausible.

6. Secret of Chess: Have enough coffee in the house.

In 2004, third place of the qualifier for the Canarias en Red Internet Chess Festival went to Chess Today author GM Mikhail Golubev who has told his readers the secret to success in these Playchess events was to “have enough coffee in the house”. Apparently, he was out of the “sustaining brew” and lost a previous ACP Inaugural. In this tournament, he had plenty and was rewarded with a fantastic Buchholz to easily qualify for the finals.

I’ve always liked to drink at the board, although not coffee in particular. I have experimented with drinking Milo, Sustagen, Up&Go and Multi-V at the board (I’m not sure if these brands are native to Australia). Many of these work well as they wake you up at the chessboard game. I know IM Jeremy Silman has recommended apple juice and chewing on ginseng.

Assessment: Plausible.

7. Secret of Chess: XiangQi

What is the reason for the remarkable success of Chinese players in international chess? According to Prof. David H. Li it is due to the fact that they are all experienced in XiangQi, the combative and fast Chinese version of the game.

According to the professor, “When one is accustomed to playing a game with a higher manoeuvrability ratio, one has an advantage in playing a game with a lower manoeuvrability ratio. Moreover XiangQi introduces synergy into your thinking process and playing style. By broadening your horizon, you start to think more creatively; by improving your grasp of spatial relationship, you are visualizing more dynamically; and by deepening your analytical skill, you play more imaginatively.” Of course, there is more. Simply check out the article about XiangQi and chess.

I also played XiangQi when I was younger, shortly before I started learning chess. I had some flair for the game and I liked to play it against my grandfather. Sometimes I played it online, but I haven’t played in years and I don’t recall ever playing it while I was playing “international chess”. I’m planning to re-learn the game and play it online occasionally. I’ve always thought, having learned it before I learned the rules to international chess, that it has helped me in developing my chess skills.

Assessment: Plausible.

So these are the hypotheses I put forward to you. You can decide which ones have merit and which ones are totally busted, and I have given my own opinion on all of them. If you have learned something useful today, I would have done my job.


Chess Strategies

If you are a chess student or even an experienced player, the power of the Internet to improve your game cannot be denied.

However, anyone who has typed “chess strategies” or “chess tactics” into a search engine will agree with me that the results can be confusing. Where do I start? What kind of chess strategies websites are out there? Are any of them useful? Which chess strategies information is accurate, and which of it is misleading, incorrect, or erroneous? Which chess products are worth buying?

Well, there are a few crucial pieces of information that I’d like to give you to simplify your search for chess strategies. This information will enable you to use the Internet to the maximum, so you can find the exact chess strategies information that you need to increase your chess rating.

The first thing to remember, is to do a quick bit of research on the author of the text you are reading. Have they posted their chess rating? If they are a coach, how long have they been coaching? Have their students demonstrated success at the chess board? Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

The second thing to do is to do a quick search at the chess exchange forum for the writer’s name or the resource that you are recommending. I’ve found the chess exchange forum to be a great resource. There are a large number of experienced players posting chess strategies, chess tactics, and tips on this forum. Again, you can’t believe everything you read, meaning, just because someone said it on a forum doesn’t mean it is 100% accurate. However, if a majority of forum posts are positive about the resource or author in question, you can usually trust the majority consensus. You can also click on the forum poster’s profile (usually if you click on their name to the left of the post) where they often provide their experience level, chess rating, and other information. This information can help you evaluate the validity of their post. (You can access the Chess Exchange Forum by going to my chess strategies site, scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking the “resources” link.)

I’ve also found the chess exchange forum to be a great place to discover new resources for chess improvement, as well as a great place to ask chess strategies related questions. The forum contributors are very generous with their time. They will often discuss your questions at length, providing great answers that you won’t find anywhere else (especially for free).

The third way to leverage the Internet to improve your chess game is to simply play chess online! One of the best places to play is the Free Internet Chess Server (FICS). FICS requires that you install a small program on your computer in order to play, but it is well worth it. This allows you to gain experience at the chess board whenever you have a free moment: lunch break, late at night, after work. Study is important, but in order to improve you must actually play chess against real opponents! (You can find more information about the Free Internet Chess Server by going to my chess strategies website, scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking the “resources” link.)

Online chess coaching is the forth way to utilize the Internet to gain valuable chess strategies and chess tactics. A simple Google search can bring up many chess coaches who will charge you a fee to analyze your games and coach you to improve. Often you can email them your previous chess games, and they will respond with a written analysis of the games, including tips for how to improve. Again, remember what I’ve shared already about evaluating information you read on the internet, and apply those principles to choosing your chess coach. The chess exchange forum is a great place to research and contact prospective chess coaches.

The last way to use the Internet to improve your chess game is by downloading chess software. There are a few pieces of chess software that are crucial to have:

ChessBase. The ChessBase format is quickly becoming a standard on the Internet. Many resources, annotated games, tutorials, etc… are being produced in this format. ChessBase has a full version that you can purchase online, but they also provide a free, pared down version which is more than enough to open and view resources that are in ChessBase format. (Download ChessBase by going to my chess strategy website link provided above, scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking the “resources” link.)

Finally, a Good Chess Engine is also essential for improving your game. A chess engine refers to the part of a chess program that deals with the intelligence of game play. Chess engines can analyze games, moves, mistakes, and more. Most chess engines use the common approach of attempting all possible moves from a given position and then choosing the best one with the help of a search. (Access a long list of chess engines by going to my chess strategy website link above, scrolling to the bottom of the page, and clicking the “resources” link.)


How To Play Better Chess – Start Improving Chess Playing Skills NOW With This IMPORTANT Tip!

How to play better chess?

The answers to that question would be so varied:

– Some would recommend drilling those basic tactical motifs in yours head day in and day out.

– Other would say start with chess endgames…claiming that doing so will help you realize the pieces’ full potential and how to coordinate them.

– Some chess coaches believe that the key to play better chess is to master the positional side of the game and develop your eye for plans and long term strategies.

– There are players, mostly amateurs, that believe that it all boils down to your opening choices and chess opening repertoire. Pick the right openings and you should be on your way to playing better chess and even mastery.

– And there are some who don’t really care about what you read and insist on playing more games and analyzing those to help you improve chess playing skills.

And we haven’t touched even the tip of the iceberg fellas!

All are valid points. You can’t take that away from them. HOWEVER, these solutions to the question: “How to play better chess?” forget to tackle one important factor: that chess is a thinking game.

And if you want to succeed in chess, you should know how to think properly – whether you are facing a position that requires long term planning, one that needs forcing moves to be resolved, or a combination of both.

Surprisingly, the subject of having a good chess thought process is hardly tackled in today’s chess books and resources.

You will find a wealth of books on chess combinations, on basic endgames, on how to play the Sicilian Dragon or some obscure and tactical 1.e4 opening…BUT you will have a hard time finding a good book on how to think in chess!

BUT don’t worry: there are a couple of guidelines that you can use to help you device a good chess thought process. One that you can practice over and over again in your training sessions and games until it becomes automated. And one that allows you to understand the position in front of you.

How To Play Better Chess – Thought Process Guideline 1

Always take a closer look at your opponent’s moves and opportunities. The primary reason why chess amateurs blunder away pieces, allow back rank mates, allow double attacks (and basically, remain amateurs) is that they don’t consider the possibilities that the opponent has.

Get this: you and your opponent has an equal ‘say’ in the game. Appreciate your trumps but learn to respect what your opponent have at his disposal. Be aware of what moves he may be threatening and that should help you eliminate blunders and play batter chess.

How To Play Better Chess – Thought Process Guideline 2

There are many factors in chess – development, initiative, open files for your rooks, diagonals for your bishops, outposts for your knights, paths for your queen, king safety, pawn structures, and those are just to name a few.

We are NOT even discussing the MORE advanced factors in chess success that are common in top level play like psychological motives, maximum resistance and defense, etc. I hope you see the point by now. It is impossible to cover all of these with your chess thought process. If only it was, then we would all be masters by now.

HOWEVER, to improve chess playing skills, you need to consider the main driving forces…the primary principles in a chess game when you are thinking of a move or a plan.

How To Play Better Chess – Thought Process Guideline 3 Last BUT not the least, your chess thought process should be structured for practical use…for tournaments and over the board chess games. This is especially true now since we have faster time controls.

If you are struggling to play better chess, if you are baffled of what makes a good chess thought process, The Grandmaster’s Secrets – a course written by a well known chess coach, psychologist, and grandmaster, might be the game changing resource you need.

Coming with practical advice on chess thought process: the main principles I was pointing out, how to avoid blunders, how to think in chess if you are facing a tactical or a positional situation, etc., you are sure to learn how to Play Better Chess!


Why Kids Should Learn and Play Chess?

Chess is a game played by everyone including kids, adults, old age people, men, and women. There is no age barrier or physical strength required to play the game of chess. There are numerous individual’s who have written about the advantages and disadvantages of playing chess. Some individuals tend to think that chess improves analytical thinking or aptitude whereas other thinks it is just a waste of time or people who don’t have social life play chess.

In this article I am going to discuss why parents should teach their kids to play chess based on different surveys and research carried out across the world. Several researchers have studied the importance of chess since early 1950’s till date globally. Below, I discuss some of the important studies that were conducted to validate the significance of chess in kid’s thinking, analyzing, and intellectual development.

A four-year study conducted in early 1980’s in Pennsylvania, USA showed that chess-playing group, time and again surpassed the control group, and also betrothed in other thinking development programs. In a survey carried out by New Jersey State Department of Education in 1990’s, found that chess constantly advances self-esteem after a year of exposure. The results also show that many students’ self-images improved significantly. In a study carried out in New York City school, results showed that chess playing improved reading performance of students. In an another study carried out in New Brunswick, Canada, using fifth grade students divided into three groups, testing with the inclusion of chess to the math syllabus, showed increased gains in math problem-solving and knowledge balance to the amount of chess in the syllabus.

In a study carried out Dr. Albert Frank in Zaire (Africa), which involved 92 students from an age of 16-18, showed that the chess-playing children group showed significant (based on statistical analysis) development in numerical, spatial, and administrative-directional abilities compared to control group (non-chess playing). The chess playing group also showed high verbal aptitudes compared to the control group. The enhancements were true in spite of the absolute chess skill level achieved.

In a study conducted by Dr. Yee Wang Fung (Chinese University) in Hong Kong showed that kids who played chess have 15% improvement in their test scores for math and science.

In a study carried out by Dr. Adriaan de Groot in Belgium with the fifth grade students playing chess to the control group, results showed that the chess playing group had significant cognitive advancement in comparison to the control.

Based on the research studies and survey from above it can be concluded that playing chess in kids can; i) improve thinking development, ii) enhance self-esteem and self-image, iii) improve reading performance, iv) improve math problem solving, v) boost logical and analytical thinking, and vi) accelerate IQ.

Researchers have tried to find out what are the reasons that cause the above mentioned development and enhancement in children. I will discuss the same in my next article.

You can click on the links below to learn the basics of chess, learn advance strategies, watch videos, and find exclusive collection of books, games, and chess sets.


How to Play Chess and Win

Chess is a very exciting game played with two opponents positioned on opposite sides of the chessboard consisting of 64 squares of different colors. Each Chess player uses Chess sets that have 16 pieces: 1 queen, 1 king, 2 rooks, 2 knights, 2 bishops, and 8 pawns. The final goal in the game consists of checkmating the opponent’s king. This checkmate occurs when the opposing king has been forced to a position where it can be captured and is unable to escape.

Nobody is very sure of the origin of the game, but it dates back to about 2000 years ago. However, most people believe that Chess came out of games similar to chess being played in India about that time. Today’s Chess game has existed since the 15th century when it developed popularity in Europe.

If you wish to learn how to play chess, then you should be interested in knowing the best ways to learn chess. It is a game of skill that anyone can easily learn how to play in a short time.

Read Chess Books

You can pick of a lot of the basics and rules of Chess by reading books on the game, which can be found in the local library. The basics, such as the Chess sets, Chess boards and the fundamental moves of the game, can be learned from books. Some books that can help you to quickly pick up the game are; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Chess by Patrick Wolff, Chess For Success by Tony Gillam, Beginning Chess by Bruce Pandolfini.

Chess in Cyberspace

There are a lot of places on the Internet where you can learn how to play Chess; you can easily learn the basic rules of the game such as tactics, the theory of the middle game, the end game and opening.

Also, on the internet, you have the opportunity of playing with both stimulated online opponents and real live opponents to quicken your learning speed as well as sharpen your skills.

Chess Programs

You can buy off-the-shelf Chess software that you install in your computer. This will tutor you on the game and generate computer chess opponents at different skill levels to match your skill. This is perhaps the fastest way of learning the game as you do not have to be online to play against stimulated opponents.

Ultimately, the Chess game is best learned by playing it and becomes more challenging and stimulating the more you participate in it. You can learn different strategies and observe the chess patterns as you progress. Improvement in the game is always picked up gradually. Chess is a game that has a lifelong learning; you can never really know it all, not even the gurus.

It is a game of sheer tactics, strategies and ultimate test of skill and intelligence. It has the ability to increase the mental strength of the player. It is because of these qualities of the game that endeared it to many all over the world, while withstanding technology and time, which in fact has aided the game giving it more appeal to the modern world.

An investment in Chess education is worth it. The game commands the respect of the elite; and it’s fascinating. So what are you waiting for? Get some chess sets, and Chess boards, and then go find somebody to play!