Thursday, January 5, 2017

Simple Chess: A Solid Foundation

A Course in Chess Improvement

To improve as an adult chess player it is crucial to have a solid foundation upon which you can build. Our time is already limited as an adult so having structure is of utmost importance. A lot of adult players jump around between books, videos, and other resources and never really get to put everything together. If you are tired of feeling like you are not improving even though you spend a lot of time studying and playing then my method may be for you.

There are two books which claim to bring a person from beginner to a Class A player (1800-1999) if you fully grasp the material presented in the two books. So far these books have brought me from Class C (1400-1599) to a Class B player (1600-1799) in a very short period of time.

Those two books are Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Comprehensive Chess Course by Roman Pelts and GM Lev Alburt. These two books are designed for teachers to be used in a classroom environment. However, they also make ideal self-study materials.

A solid foundation

Several people will be quick to bypass Volume 1 because it's main objective is to teach someone who doesn't know anything about chess how to move the pieces. However, do not bypass this book. If you don't know the color of the g6 square without thinking or looking at a chessboard then you should go through Volume 1. Or if you can't move a knight from h1 to a8 without looking at a board then you need to go through Volume 1. Just a quick look at the different lessons:
  • Lesson 1: The chessboard and the starting position. How pawns move and capture.
  • Lesson 2: Chess notation.
  • Lesson 3: How the Rook and Bishop move and capture. The center.
  • Lesson 4: How the Queen and Knight move and capture.
  • Lesson 5: How the King moves and captures. Check. Checkmate.
  • Lesson 6: En Passant pawn captures. 
  • Lesson 7: Castling.
  • Lesson 8: Relative values of the chess forces.
  • Lesson 9: How games are drawn.
  • Lesson 10: How to record moves.
  • Lesson 11: How to open a chess game.
  • Lesson 12: Tests. 
 Each lesson covers material and then at the end there is homework. Each lesson is meant to be once a week. For adult players that already know the game of chess, the lessons could be done one a day. The best thing about Volume 1 is not only does it teach how the pieces move but it also works on developing one's visualization. One also needs to play slow games and analyze them afterwards while working through both of these books.

Some of the most memorable homework exercises included the following positions. Spend about 10 minutes trying to answer the questions. Work from the diagram with your efforts and when going over the solutions. It is better to discipline yourself now by trying to visualize moves as much as you can. This by itself will increase your overall playing abilities.  If you haven't figured it out, then scroll down to the solution and work through it on an actual board or your favorite chess playing software until you fully understand it.


Puzzle 1:
White wins.
1. Rh5, b4
2. Rxc5, a4
3. Rc4, b3
4. Rxa4, b2
5. Rb4, b1=Q
6. Rxb1

Now move all the pawns to the 4th rank and with White to move, who wins?

Puzzle 2:
White wins.
1. Bd5, e3
2. Bc4 and the black pawns will fall.

Now move all the pawns to the 3rd rank and with White to move, who wins?

Volume 2 will build upon these basic skills. Here is a quick look at the lessons included in this book:
  • Lesson 1: The rules of play.
  • Lesson 2: Abbreviated notation. Some chess terms and concepts. Attack and defense. Trades.
  • Lesson 3: More symbols and terms. How to start a game. Mating with a Queen and Rook in the endgame.
  • Lesson 4: Mistakes in the opening. Mating with two Rooks in the endgame.
  • Lesson 5: Opening traps. Mating with a Queen in the endgame. 
  • Lesson 6: The concept of planning. Exploiting a large material advantage. Mating with a Rook in the endgame.
  • Lesson 7: Tactics. Double attack. Pawn endgame. The rule of the square.
  • Lesson 8: Pinning. Endgames with King and two pawns versus King. 
  • Lesson 9: The skewer. How combinations are created. Endgames with King and Rook pawn against lone King.
  • Lesson 10: Typical mating combinations. The back-rank mate. Endgame with King and non-Rook pawn versus King.
  • Lesson 11: Typical mating combinations (continuation). Mate by a major piece (Queen or Rook) helped by other men. Endgame with King and non-Rook pawn versus King (continuation).
  • Lesson 12: Tests.
Lesson 2 is the most important lesson in Volume 2. It actually teaches you to count attackers and defenders. It also teaches to pay attention to the relative value of the attackers and defenders. This is such an important skill that most players never fully learn. For example:


Puzzle 3
No. The pawn on e5 will have six defenders. There are also six attackers. In addition, the defenders and attackers are of equal value. Therefore, playing 1. ... e5 is safe.

Puzzle 4
No. This position is different from puzzle 3 because Black's h-pawn is on h7 instead of h6. Therefore, Black cannot safely play 1. ... e5. The sequence of exchanges on e5 will leave Black's back rank exposed. For example:
1. ... e5
2. fxe5, Bxe5
3. Bxe5, Ndxe5
4. Ndxe5, Nxe5
5. Nxe5, Rxe5
6. Rxe5, Rxe5
7. Rxe5, Qxe5
8. Qd8+, Qe8
9. Qxe8#

These two books combined are going to teach you not only chess knowledge but also give you the skills you need to fully grow into the best chess player you can. Pick them up now and start working through them.

No comments:

Post a Comment