How to Become a Better Chess Player

January 19, 2008

To the beginning or intermediate player, becoming an Export or even a Master seems like a daunting task. In fact, it really is, but there are some steps you can take that will speed up the process, and dramatically increase your chances of success.

 Obviously, to become better at chess, you need some source of knowledge. Very few people possess enough insight to analyze their own games and discover their own weaknesses, let alone resolve them. In the past, the sources of chess knowledge were limited to books and other players.

With the advent of computers and the Internet we can now add software, e-books and videos to this list. Since the improving chess is mostly a matter of pattern recognition, it stands to reason that anything that is easily repeatable will be the best way to learn. Books and e-books are all very well, and may contain very useful knowledge, but it is hard to go back and repeat lessons without boredom setting in. Chess software allows us to repeat things easily, but unless there is a lesson involved that explains the point at hand, the lesson being “learned” may be too specific to ever come up in real play.

I recently bought Chad Kimball’s Chess Video Lessons and I was impressed with how well these lessons overcome the limitations listed above. The 14 streaming videos (17, really, since three of them are split in half) each address a vital aspect of chess with real and common positions. The commentary is clear and understandable, and more importantly leads to real learning.

So, after watching all the videos (which I did in one night — try that with an e-book, and see if you retain anything!), did I really learn anything?

Simply put: yes! I am already a strong intermediate player (about 1700 to 1800 in FIDE, estimated), but I not only learned new things, but I also benefited from the emphasis placed on certain aspects of the game that had recently evaporated from my play. To be honest, I already knew a lot of the material, but what I got out of it was worth every penny I paid.

So, what did I learn? First, I learned two new defenses to openings that have given me trouble as Black: the King’s Gambit and the Queen’s Gambit. This alone should improve my rating, as my win-loss ratio with these openings is terrible. But more importantly, I learned some opening principles, which are even more valuable, since they don’t depend on specific positions to be useful.

Second, there are some extremely helpful videos on end game strategy. If you can make it to the end game, and your end game skills are good, then you are going to win a lot of games!

And to tie it all together, there are sections that show how to transition from the middle game to the end game. These generally concentrate on pawn structure, which dictates the strategy that you need to employ to get a winning advantage.

<–Update!! Chad has added some new videos! I just watched the new lessons on the end game, and they were very informative, and more in depth than the previous ones. This is info that every player shouild have. There are some other lessons that I have not seen yet, but I will be soon. –>

Is there any information in this package that is not available elsewhere? I doubt it, since there are more books on chess than practically any other subject in the world. But the advantage of these videos is in the packaging. They can be viewed and understood with less effort than it takes to read a book and set up a board and play along with the moves. Also, it can be repeated easily, which is the key to real learning.

Again, if you want to check out these videos for yourself, go to  Chad Kimball’s Chess Video Lessons.