Once you start playing, you will find chess a lot of fun but it is serious fun, if such a thing exists. The fun that comes from any battle of wits is there in chess also. Where is the serious part? It is in your will to win. In different fields of sports, there are people who grandiosely claim that result is not important, playing the game is. Well, let them have their say but don’t believe if this comes from a chess player. Any player worth his/her name will always want to win at whatever level in which he/she may be competing. If you accept this truth, your only way to win is to take your game a notch higher than your opponent’s. Sometimes you may get away without raising your game but that is because your opponent played one notch lower than you. This happens because of mistakes, not due to any lack of will to win on the opponent’s part!
Given above, how can you keep improving upon yourself? Everybody is entitled to his opinion, here is mine.
1. Know thyself
People come in all shapes and sizes, not just physically but mentally as well. Find out which styles of play suit your temperament. If you like a slap bang type of game (the dominant style in earlier eras of chess) which certainly creates more spectator interest, you will possibly be looking for more tactical opportunities and select opening/defense techniques adapted to such games. But if you are a patient type who builds up advantages move by move through a lot of maneuvering and likes complex situations, your choice of opening/defense will be quite different. In a very broad way, King’s pawn openings will suit the former types and Queen’s pawn openings will help the latter ones.
2. Know thy opponent (if possible)
You are not playing in a vacuum, there is always one sitting on the other side of table. A preconceived set rule will not work against all opponents, so you must be able to adapt your game. If you are playing against someone you know, you should already have some idea about his style. Of course, if you are against a stranger you do not know much but keeping the first tip in mind, you can see what openings and styles he is following. In a tournament, go through your opponent’s earlier games to get this insight.
3. Keep records
Self-analysis is an essential part of improving yourself. No matter if you are playing with your friend or your club member, keep a record of all the moves played in the game. It may feel a little tedious to start with, but soon it will become a habit. When you lose, go through your moves to find out where you went wrong and why. If you win, do the same regarding your opponent’s moves. You learn both ways.
4. Select your strategy for opening/defense
This follows from the first two tips. But the problem is: which ones to choose from more than thousand openings (including variants) that have been identified, as your memory may not be up to the task of remembering most of them? Even if you want to concentrate only on those suitable to your style, that will also be quite a large number. But remember that your opponent will also have the same problem. So choose a limited number you are comfortable with and explore their more common variations. If you keep playing those regularly, they will soon become a part of your repertoire and you will be able to handle the opening phase satisfactorily. You can follow the same procedure to prepare for defense when playing as Black. What if your opponent goes into a territory uncharted for you? If you know your main themes, then such unknown moves will mostly be inferior and you can look for taking advantage of the situation. The other alternative is to mostly keep to your track and bring everything to familiar ground through ‘transpositions’ which often just involves changing the sequence of your moves.
Important point to remember during opening phase:
White is considered to have a slight advantage because of having the first move. When playing as White, you try to carry that advantage to the middle game. When playing as Black, your aim is to neutralize that advantage and once Black is able to achieve that, Black is said to have equalized.
continue to 10 steps to raise your game – part 2