Solving and guessing

April 25th, 2017 14 comments

The last four weeks I have been travelling through Asia, visiting 12 cities in eight countries. Sometimes for less than 24 hours, arriving at 6 in the morning in Manila, for example, and flying out at half past midnight the same day…

On my trip, I have talked a lot about Thinking Inside the Box and the core ideas in the book. It has been an amazing experience, seeing how the ideas have resonated with people of all ages and all levels, from young kids to top grandmasters. I wish I was going to write the book now, as the ideas are so much clearer in my head and the diverse ways I have found to explain them would have improved it.

One thing I realised along the way is to emphasise the difference between guessing and solving. When I was an improving player, I struggled a lot with solving exercises. I would find ideas and then my concentration would crumble. I would flick to the solutions page and see how close I was.

Because close was the best I did – for a long time. Discipline was always a problem for the younger me. I had a spine similar to cooked spaghetti, according to a friend.

What I needed to do was to get into a habit of solving positions. When we are talking about tactical exercises, you should calculate all the variations till the end, working out all the details. This is an important skill to develop in training. It will take you far.

But this does not mean that guessing is all wrong. In my model there are four types of decisions.

1. Automatic Decisions
2. Simple Decisions
3. Critical Moments
4. Strategic Decisions

I deal more with this model in both Grandmaster Preparation – Strategic Play and in Thinking Inside the Box. And in previous blog posts, most likely. (No, I do not routinely look through them!) For here it suffices to say that only automatic decisions and critical moments require a high level of accuracy. Simple decisions are often taken on an intuitive basis and are as such, a pure guess. Strategic decisions include more calculation and logical thinking, but will in most cases include guessing as well.

This is important, because we simply cannot work everything out till the end. If you try to solve every move, you lose on time. For some people this is their existence.

The average player is directed by impulses and his inability to stay concentrated. The great practical player finds a good balance between guessing and solving and is always aware of which tool he uses. Moving from the first category to the second is a big jump and one the Grandmaster Preparation series is all about (as well as a few other things).

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

FIDE changing?

April 10th, 2017 6 comments

The “What do you think about chessboxing?” poll ended sooner than planned due to server issues, but it lasted long enough to give a clear verdict. ‘Piece of nonsense’ won by a knockout.

A reminder of the ‘Who will win the 2017 US Championship?’ poll result, as Wesley So will face Alexander Onischuk in a play-off for the title this evening. Wesley So is still the favourite, but it was fine work by the one person who voted for “other”.

Normally I steer well clear of anything political, but there is at least a chance that recent FIDE manoeuvres could affect world chess. Today Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is still nominally FIDE President but the real power seems to belong to his deputy Mr Makropoulos. Maybe a less controversial leader than Kirsan could lead to bigger sponsorship opportunities for top-level chess? So it’s a good change, bad change or no real change at all?

Categories: Polls Tags:

Chessboxing?

April 3rd, 2017 3 comments

One of the minor irritations of being a chess fan is that when chess is mentioned in the mainstream media, it is usually because a chess player did something odd, not something brilliant. Recent mainstream chess stories include a player losing on purpose to protest pairings, and Kirsan resigning/not resigning, though at least that is less toxic than some of Kirsan’s previous headlines.

Over the weekend, chessboxing made some headlines in the UK as a UKIP Member of the European Parliament (no political comments thanks!) Jonathan Arnott  made a highly unsuccessful debut. There is a Quality Chess connection, as Andrew was at the bout as a spectator, and Mr Arnott is in the same 4ncl squad as Colin (though usually in the second team, while Colin is of course in the first team).

The basic idea of chessboxing is that two players/fighters play chess for a while, then box for a while, then back to the chess game, and so on. Checkmate or knockout ends the contest.

You can see a video of the boxing part of the Arnott bout here, though it might be best avoided if you like proper boxing. The chess part was not pretty either, but from Arnott’s opponent.


One undoubted plus of the chessboxing event was that Mr Arnott was raising money for a Spinal Muscular Atrophy charity (link to donation site). So full credit to Mr Arnott for that.

So what do you think about chessboxing? Fascinating hybrid sport? Piece of nonsense for two people who are no good at either sport?

Categories: Polls Tags:

Federation transfer to Scotland

April 3rd, 2017 No comments

Dear friends,

From the 31st of March, I will once again represent Scotland as a member of FIDE. This is not only to do my bit for keeping up the FIDE finances, but due to the continued interest in chess shown by both of my daughters. I am no longer an active player, so the shift is entirely optical. I will not become less Danish and I hope my connection to Danish chess will remain undiminished.

I have been highly critical of recent priorities by the Danish Federation and have felt that they were not only unfair, but also going to end up with an entirely different effect than desired. The main problem was the lack of debate and interaction with the highest-rated players. The goals were to a great degree shared by all, but the lack of understanding of what it takes to develop great players did not hold the Federation back. They clearly believe that removing obstacles for kids will make them stronger chess players. Even without the rude behaviour towards Danish grandmasters, this is a bad decision.

In that connection, I cancelled some unpaid work I was going to do with young players in Denmark; I simply felt sick of the whole thing and needed to get out of all commitments for a while.

My decision to change Federation however was taken a long time ago and has simply been delayed. It has nothing to do with anything else than my personal circumstances and desire to commit to the place I have called home for 13 years now. I am sure I will work together with the Danish Federation in the future and I have no intention of playing any chess tournaments, including Olympiads or other team events for Scotland, at the moment.

Jacob Aagaard
New Delhi

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Grandmaster Preparation on Forward Chess (and the poll result)

March 27th, 2017 35 comments

Last week’s poll question was ‘Who will win the 2017 US Championship?’ As expected, the Big Three collected almost all the votes. Wesley So was top, getting over half the vote, with Caruana on 30% and Nakamura on a surprisingly low 10%. The games start a couple of days from now, so we shall see.

I will take a break from asking poll questions this week to announce that four of Jacob’s Grandmaster Preparation books – Calculation, Attack & Defence, Endgame Play and Strategic Play – are now available on Forward Chess. The remaining two books in the series – Positional Play and Thinking Inside the Box – will appear on FC in due course. So if you prefer ebooks to physical books (they do take up less room) then now is your chance to catch up on Jacob’s series.

Jacob is of course on his Asian tour, and we will keep you updated on where he is and what he is up to.

Categories: Forward Chess, Polls Tags:

Inside the deep planning at Quality Chess for Jacob’s Thinking Inside the Box book tour of Asia

March 22nd, 2017 18 comments

Categories: Publishing Schedule, Vlog Tags:

Talking to Yusupov about the Yusupov challenge

March 22nd, 2017 7 comments

2017 American Champion?

March 20th, 2017 3 comments

Last week’s poll asked ‘Has your rating gone up or down since a year ago?’ The ‘almost unchanged’ answer was unsurprisingly most common, but when you add up the other answers you see 87 gained significantly, while 79 went down significantly. And the big gainers (up over 80 points) are an impressive 10% of the vote (I know it says 9% below, but that’s because the poll software decided to round 9.963% down to 9%). So not bad at all, especially as I suspect that many blog readers here are not young kids who might expect their ratings to increase naturally.

But compare the real results on rating changes with a poll question from the start of 2016: ‘Do you think your rating will go up or down in 2016?’ The optimists vastly outnumbered the pessimists.

Next week the US Championship starts in its now traditional location in St Louis. With 3 of the top 6 players in the world competing – So, Caruana and Nakamura – I find the US Championship the most interesting national championship in the world. The strength in depth is also there, with Kamsky, Robson, Shankland, Onischuk and Xiong in the 12-player event. If So has a ridiculously brilliant tournament he could challenge Carlsen’s World Number 1 position, as the gap is 16 Elo points. But my question is: Who will win the 2017 US Championship?

Categories: Polls Tags: