Monday, March 26, 2012

Talent, training and tournaments

The wish to improve your chess is natural and understandable. Many grandmaster games and decisions seem to be strange and mysterious. Step by step you can learn to understand the ideas are hidden behind those moves and games. Many players seem impossible to beat. Step by step you can learn how to play well enough to win against those players. There seems to be three big components in the success formula: talent, training and tournaments. Talent is the most difficult topic to discuss so we will leave it for last.

Training. Why train? The goal is to get knowledge from the experience of strong players. It is "to climb the shoulders of giants". What can you train? You can learn opening systems, opening variations, endgames, middlegames, tactical combinations, positional play, chess psychology, etc. You can learn "patterns" by going through commented and uncommented grandmaster games. How can you train? You can solve chess problems on different themes, read great chess books, play practice games, watch great videos and training DVDs, meet others and train together, join an organized training group, train with a private coach.

Tournaments. Why play tournaments? The goal is to win against other players and win tournaments and enjoy winning and success; to enjoy the heat of competition and the atmosphere of chess tournaments; to become better at competitive chess. What kind of tournaments should you play? Chess with classical time controls is considered to be the "real" chess. To become better at playing with classical time controls, you should play tournaments with classical time controls. To improve in chess it is probably best that at least half of the contenders have a higher rating than yours.

Why are tournaments difficult? Well, if you play 9 games with classical time controls and play 1 game per day, then of course it will be tough. Small things will become important. Food habits, sleeping habits, preparation, body temperature, fluid intake during the game, toilet visits during the game, your psychological (emotional) reactions before, during and after the game, etc. To be great at chess and to be great at winning tournaments can be two different things. To be in full focus and great fighting spirit in a tournament is a skill in itself.

Talent. What is talent? Probably a too big and subjective topic to cover here. What can a talent contain? Well. It seems like players with more talent can more easily and quickly find interesting moves and ideas in almost any position. They seem to learn faster than others when they read books, watch videos and play games. But don't forget. They still have to train and play tournaments, just like everybody else. The secret to success seems to be hard work and strong nerves. So it seems like the circle is complete and we come back to two skills, hard work and strong nerves, that are important for virtually any success. Perhaps there is no great mystery behind becoming a great chess player.