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Grandmaster Q&A part 2

July 7th, 2014 5 comments

In the autumn of 2013 I gave ten hours of training to a GM who has been struggling for years, unable to improve his play and slowly bleeding rating points. I felt he had certain problems in concrete positions, but in general needed to work more on improving his play.

After the sessions he sent me a long list of additional questions that I agreed to answer, if I was allowed to share them with the readers of the blog. As long as I kept his name confidential, he saw no problem with this.

As we are talking quite a lot of material, I have decided to cut up the Q&A session into five posts that will come over the summer.

This post continues from last week’s post.

3) I have been suffering from Openings for many years.

It can be categorised in many aspects

i) Unable to remember existing theory and also what I have seen my own analysis or some GM’s games

It is a common misconception that the strongest players are much better at remembering their analysis than other grandmasters. I used to believe this as well, while now I am not so sure. There is of course a tendency in that direction, but it is probably more like 10-20% better recall on average than 100-200% better recall.

So how do the best players manage to remember the theory much better? They spend a lot of time on memorisation. They do it in various ways; for example with training games and so on. I have personally found that using the TRAINING function in ChessBase is quite useful. If I want to remember something, I go through my files a few times over 1-2 weeks and say the move aloud before pressing on the arrow to see if I have remembered correctly. I only do this with my own moves.

I am sure there are more useful techniques out there, but this is the one I use.

ii) Don’t have any new idea / interesting novelty ready. Just following some games played by some elite players.

A lot of players are like this. I am not sure Carlsen has many great ideas in the opening. I think it is more important to understand the ideas available to you in the openings you play. Studying the middlegame seriously might easily earn you more points than finding a subtlety in the opening.

Obviously things change to some extent when you get past 2600. The difference in level often decreases and in order to win a game, it is very useful to start the game from a better position.

iii) Often I have mixed up ideas of one opening with another or forgot the correct move order

Again you have to invest time in order to gain the benefits. You forget things because you have not invested a lot of time in understanding the nuances of the various lines.

iv) Facing more problems with lower rated opposition in terms of choosing right opening. Always getting into some sort of positions which are unpleasant for me to play. Unable to choose any effective lines.

I suggest that you spend a lot of time, finding players that have similar strengths and weaknesses to you and who have a high score against players rated lower than themselves. I guess it would not take too long to work out. See what openings they play and find out how they win the games. Is it persistence? Is it knowledge of the opening? It can be a lot of things; you will need to make it a study to work it out.

v) Spending too much time even in known positions. Spending lots of time after facing a new move and therefore approaching nasty time trouble.

Learning to make decisions is an important part of chess. One of the ways to do this is to understand what it is that makes you spend too much time, when you should be making a decision instead. If it is fear, as it often is, know that you will need to change your behaviour. Even if you are afraid, you need to act as if you are not. You cannot expect that the tension of a high-level chess game will have no effect on how you feel. What you need is to get to a place where you feel the tension, but act as if you did not.

It gets easier with time.

4) What is the ideal way to study openings?

Read more…

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