Grandmasters Posts

Chess Basic Tactics Series #8 – Final Thoughts and Motivating Words

During the last few weeks we have been learning basic tactics. In this post I’m going to change the pace a bit and write a few words on topics that I believe are overlooked in competitive activities.

Besides chess I have several other hobbies. Many of these are hobbies that I have dedicated myself to for many years. Over the years I’ve noticed that the things that hold people back from improving are almost always the same no matter what the activity.

First and foremost many people underestimate the time required to become proficient. They’ll take up chess, play for a few months, realize it’s difficult, and then quit. It’s important to realize that there is a direct correlation between time invested and skill level. I’m sure if there were studies done, we would find that most grandmasters have studied more than masters, who have studied more than experts etc. etc.

The second thing that holds many people back is the failure to practice correctly. The way to improve your skill level is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you are forced to adapt. You must increase the difficulty level and push yourself. If you are studying a tactical problem and the answer doesn’t come to you study it further. The corrolary to this to get out of your comfort zone and practice playing positions that you are uncomfortable with. For example, if you primarily play 1. e4, try playing 1. d4 for several games. We must work on our weaknesses if we want to be complete. This is true in chess or anything else.

The fear of losing is also something that can hold someone back. My answer to this is to lose your ego. Even the best players in the world lose sometimes. What separates people is the ability to come back and keep fighting.

The last thing I want to say is that it’s you and only you who can determine your potential. For someone who really wants to do something there’s nothing holding them back. A lot of people want certain things, but they aren’t willing to change or put in the hard work to get there. When you feel like quitting say to yourself; I have to keep going no matter what. Chess history is filled with games where a player turned around a losing position to win or draw. History is filled with examples of people coming back from extremely difficult situations and succeeding. Use these examples as inspiration, and remember, never stop, just keep going.

 

Chess Noob #20 – Ratings

As has been previously mentioned, most tournaments pair you with players of similar ratings.  But what exactly IS a rating?  What does it mean?  How is it tabulated? Can YOU become a Grandmaster?

A rating is a 3-4 digit number associated with a player to showcase their playing strength.  The higher the number, the better the player… the lower the number, weaker the player.  The lowest possible rating is 100.  The highest possible rating (in theory) is 3000, although the highest rating any chess player has managed to achieve was 2851 which was held by the World Champion at the time, Garry Kasparov.  Pretty straight forward right?  But with such a huge difference in highest possible and lowest possible, how can you tell if your rating is any good and where you stand in the grand scheme of things?

FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation) and the USCF (United States Chess Federation) use similar ratings for classes of player.  Those classes are as follows:

2600 or more are World Championship Contenders.  2400-2600 are where most Senior Masters (SMs), International Masters (IMs), and Grandmasters (GMs) are rated.  2300-2400 is the ratings for most FIDE Masters (FMs).  2200-2300 are ratings where you’ll find most National Masters (NMs) and FIDE Candidate Masters (CMs).  2000-2200 is considered Expert.  1800-2000 are Class A.  1600-1800 are Class B.  1400-1600 are Class C. 1200-1400 are Class D.  In FIDE, anyone under 1200 is simply considered a Novice, although in the USCF, the classes continue. 1000-1200 is Class E.  800-1000 is Class F. 600-800 is Class G.  400-600 is Class H. 200-400 is Class I.  100-200 is Class J.  As mentioned before, 100 is the lowest possible rating a chess player can get (I’d thought that while 100 is techncially possible that nobody with a 100 rating existed… but at the World Open in the U900 section there was one player with a rating of 101 and another with a rating of 104… I was surprised to say the least).

Despite the above, a high rating is not the only thing you need to achieve a Grandmaster title.  You also need to get Grandmaster Norms.  Norms are hard to get.  There are very specific rules to get norms, which you if  can find out for yourself by visiting this link:  http://www.fide.com/component/handbook/?id=58&view=article  but basically you have to do very well in a long tournament against at least 3 other Grandmasters.

So how are chess ratings figured out?  Well, I don’t want to bore you with a big equation (because, frankly, the actual equation used boggles my own mind), but basically at each tournament, you’re give a “K-factor” number which is based on your rating at the start of the tournament and how many rounds there will be in the tournament.  Then, each round, there is a table that’s used (that you can find if you check the USCF rule book or the FIDE rulebook out of your local library) where each round you find your K-factor, then find the point difference between you and your opponent (so if you’re rated 1100 and your opponent is 1200, you’re looking for a difference of 100).  It will then tell you how many rating points each player will gain or lose if a) the higher rated person wins, b) the lower rated person wins, or c) the game ends in a draw.  In the case of a draw, the higher rated player loses points and the lower rated player gains points, bringing the two players’ ratings closer together.

There’s not much reason to know exactly how to tabulate your ratings, though, as most tournaments will post results (and new ratings) to FIDE or USCF and will soon become viewable.  The USCF, for instance, posts results and new ratings within 2 days after every chess tournament.

The USCF publishes new official ratings for players every month.  FIDE publishes new official ratings every 2 months.  So you’ll never have to be a certain rating for very long (good news for those trying to get over a certain rating “hump”).

Hopefully all this wasn’t too confusing.  If it was…. don’t sweat it… just go and play chess with the knowledge that your rating will get better the more games you win!

Have a question or topic you want me to cover in a future edition of Chess Noob?  E-mail me at flannelmann@yahoo.com

Gary Kasparov Arrested Outside Pussy Riot Trial In Russia – Breaking News

Gary Kasparov Arrested

Gary Kasparov being arrested by Russian security

A shocking development in the ongoing saga of the Russian show trial is the arrest and beating of one of the worlds most respected intellectuals, Gary Kasparov. Kasparov is a long serving pro democracy leader and campaigner who was attending the trial today, Friday the 17th of August.

The Trial Of ‘Pussy Riot’ has been featuring strongly in the news lately. A controversial feminist punk band who had created a music video that the Russian authorities found offensive. They have spent months in custody awaiting trial and today were sentenced to two years in prison for their ‘crimes’ against the state.

The whole sorry saga opens up a huge debate on the state of Russian politics and their stance on human rights. Some commentators have stated that we are seeing a return to the old Russian ways.

There is little doubt that the chess world will be rocked by the news that one of our greatest champions has been arrested in this way, lets hope and pray for a sensible resolution.

Useful links:-

BBC Video of the actual arrest

Article on Chess Base

 Sky News Report on the Pussy Riot Trial Verdict

Are Chess Masters Born or Made?

Chess is an interesting game because the skill level that is involved is completely measurable. In chess, a rating system is used that determines the chances that a certain player will win the game. For example, if two players have equal ratings, each player has a 50% chance of winning the game.  If one player is rated 200 ELO points above the other, he has around a 75% chance of winning the game.

When we encounter a highly rated player it’s natural to wonder how he or she became so good at chess. Two master level players can play a blitz game in a few minutes that resembles a work of art. It’s admirable to watch each of them making beautiful moves in mere seconds. To us mortals we tend to wonder to ourselves: ‘How can I do that?!’ Despite these thoughts, studies have shown that much of what makes up skill is actually a result of continuous practice. Even if someone is born with great talent they still require hours of practice and dedication. It is obvious then that great talent without work ethic is worth little.

A famous psychologist and chess master, Adriaan de Groot showed that master level players were able to recognize patterns of pieces on the chessboard much faster than non-masters. When masters were asked to memorize a pattern of pieces that resembled a real game they did considerably better than non-masters. However, when they were asked to memorize a random assortment of pieces they did no better than the amateurs. He found that masters had thousands of patterns in their head from previous experience. This subconscious database gave them a big edge over lesser skilled players. So how do you build up our chess memory? Study tactical and strategic patterns. As you study these patterns over and over, they will become part of your memory. Then during the course of one of your own games suddenly you will get an idea or inspiration. That’s your previous experience at work. As you learn more patterns, your skill level increases, and then maybe you too will play a game that’s a work of art!

About the lecture/analysis (sorry it’s late)

I know I said I was going to post a blog right after the lecture by GM Sam Palatnik.  I was unable to find the time, however, to even turn my laptop on (partly because of how long some of my chess matches lasted, and partly because my laptop is an ancient piece of machinery that LITERALLY takes over 10 minutes to load and another 5 minutes to even open an internet browser.

That being said, I also didn’t bother to take notes on things from the lecture to rehash for you, dear novice chess playing reader, because it quickly became apparent that the lecture was not geared toward the beginning chess player.  This blog is!  The lecture would have been over the heads of many of my readers for the simple reason that it was mostly about various systems and how to deal with them… and since you may not know any openings yet (I know I haven’t discussed any openings yet in this blog… partly because openings are not my strong point) the lecture would not have been all that useful to you.

I also attended some of the analysis the grand master provided for player’s games.  I wanted him to analyze a game I had just lost, but there were several people ahead of me and by the time it would have been my turn, he started packing it in to go to lunch, so I never got my turn.  *sad face*

I will say that GM Sam Palatnik is a very good speaker despite his thick Ukrainian accent.  For a man his age, the great chess player was very good at being relative (and fun) to the modern (younger) chess player.  He would make amusing quips that had everyone in the room laugh out loud and was very good at demonstrating his ideas in concise and understandable ways.  It’s a shame he didn’t have the time to analyze my game (luckily a few friends of mine at the tournament went over it with me and we found the move I should have made – rather than the mistake I made that in my opinion lost the game for me).

So I apologize I didn’t get the article up when I said I would and about what I said I would, but what you CAN take from the lecture you didn’t attend is this: Buy GM Sam Palatnik’s books (they can be found on Amazon.com) to learn about various systems of play (including the Sicilian and the Tarrasch) and chess strategies and tactics planning for the tournament player.