Should I Play Tournaments? Advice for New Chess Players, Part 3

Is competition the next step in your chess endeavors?

Czech Open Pardubice
The Czech Open, held annually in Pardubice, CZE.

Playing in a few tournaments does not commit you to becoming a “serious” chess player. There is no requirement to study extra (or at all) if you don’t want to.

I recommend trying at least a couple of events to see if you like it. I tell kids that they should try at least one tournament — if they hate it, they never have to compete again. You can even drop out early if you really want to!


Do choose the tournaments you play in wisely, however! We’ll discuss how, below.


What are your ambitions?

Obviously, if you want a chess title like Expert or Master, you need to play in tournaments. Likewise if you want to be recognized as Champion of a particular event. Otherwise, there’s no need if you don’t want to.

But if you don’t play in official, rated tournaments, you’ll never know for sure how good (or not) you really are. Crossing the barrier from casual player to tournament competitor is a serious step the overwhelming majority of chess players on Earth will never take.


Small tournaments vs. Big tournaments

Some players live for huge tournaments like the World Open, U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur Team East or, for scholastic players, NationalsI imagine it gives them a big adrenaline rush, and they like to socialize with other chess players.

Others prefer small club events perhaps because of friendly rivalries and familiar surroundings.

I guess I’m somewhere in the middle.

I am not as fond of smaller events because people who know you can observe your play and it can feel like they are judging you — even when they’re probably not! On the other hand, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in a huge playing hall with several hundred players.


Choose your time control

Note: I will only discuss standard (regular) time controls here. Rapid and blitz are separate categories.

If you want to play in American tournaments — those sanctioned by the United States Chess Federation (USCF). the games must be played with a minimum of 30 minutes (per player) for the contest, or slower. Most commonly, this is achieved with a minimum time control of 25 minutes plus a 5 second time delay.

Delay provides free seconds before your main thinking time begins to count down. Based on a 60-move game, a player would receive an extra five minutes of thinknig time, which is why “G/25 d5” counts as a 30 minute game.

There are also events that can go as long as 40 moves in 120 minutes, followed by 60 minutes to finish the game (if it goes past move 40). This is often written as “40/120, SD/60” or “40/2, SD/1.”

And everything in between! Experiment and play the time controls you like.

It’s very unlikely a new player would compete in a FIDE (international) competition but, allowing for a few technicalities, the minimum time control for such events is 90 minutes (per player) for the entire game with a 30 second increment starting from move 1.

Increment (or “bonus”) adds time to your clock after you have completed your move — it is possible, for example, to finish a game with more time than you started with.


Choose your section

If you’re rated, my advice is to stay in your section, or play up no more than one section. If you’re a 1400-rated player, it doesn’t make sense to play in the Open section “with the big dogs.” You’re not there yet. Play in Under 1600 or Under 1700 instead.

Similarly, if you’re unrated, play in the lowest section you can, or no more than one section higher than that.

Please note: if you have a rating from another country, you must disclose that to the tournament director. Don’t worry about any online ratings you may have; they’re meaningless.


Handling wins and losses

You won’t know how you’ll deal with this in games that count until you experience it. So study hard, and then get out there and play! If you do, you’ll already be ahead of a vast majority of the world’s chess population that will never step into the arena.


Questions? Comments? Leave them below!

How to Defeat a Superior Opponent! Advice for New Chess Players, Part 2

If you read my earlier post on Edmar Mednis, you know that How to Defeat a Superior Opponent is the title of the Hall of Fame Grandmaster’s 1989 book (effectively a reprint of his 1978 title How to Beat the Russians).

The idea of defeating a stronger player appealed to a “weakie” like me, so I devoured Superior Opponent in my early years. Unfortunately, I did not score upsets that often…

But over the years I learned a lot. Now that I have more experience, I’ll give you some of my own advice on beating players better than you.


Good psychology only goes so far.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you there is a formula to consistently beat players rated 500 points higher than you. Exception: anything goes if we’re talking about players rated under 1000.

The tips I’ll discuss can give you a slightly better chance against such opposition, but luck is your best friend here: hope the opponent underestimates you, miscalculates something, or has a bad game.

If you are a massive underdog, just play the best moves you can … for as long as you can … and don’t get too far behind on the clock. This last guideline is important: an experienced, higher-rated player will just keep the game going in your time pressure, shuffling pieces until you collapse.

For the rest of these tips, I’m going to assume you’re facing someone rated 1000+ and roughly 200 points higher than you. This is a steep hill, but not an impossible one: statistically you should score about 25% against such a player (one win and three losses in four games, or two draws and two losses).

For context, with a 300-point rating difference you’re expected to score 1 point out of 10.


Don’t change your playing style.

You have certain strengths as a chess player. Don’t abandon your strongest weapons based on who you’re paired against. If you’re an attacker, attack. If you’re a good endgame player, trade. If you know a certain opening well, play it — don’t be afraid of the opponent knowing it better than you do. Sidebar: targeting the weaknesses of a peer or an inferior opponent is often a good idea!


Believe in your ideas, and don’t try too hard.

It’s tempting to make “extra” efforts to beat stronger players, but I think the best you can do in this area is to make sure your concentration is as good as it can be for the game.

If you think you’ve found a good move or plan, and don’t see any flaws, go for it. Maybe you’re wrong and missed something, but don’t assume this is the case! That’s called “seeing ghosts.”


Calculate until the evaluation is clear.

chess symbols
The most common chess evaluation symbols, for moves and positions. Image:

If you’re a good calculator, this is not a problem. For others, like me, calculation is not our strong suit.

Don’t go crazy trying to see everything till the end, unless mate or a decisive material balance is at stake. Otherwise, just use the Chess Informant classification that I discussed previously.


Don’t offer draws to higher-rated players.

I’m not one of those coaches who says you should always “play till bare kings!” There are a number of situations in which offering or accepting a draw makes sense, or when aiming for a more drawish position is a good idea.

However, there is almost never a good reason to offer a draw to a higher-rated player. There are two rather obvious reasons for this:

If you have the advantage, you shouldn’t be offering a draw! Doing so communicates fear and increases the confidence of your opponent, who might be on the ropes. If you’re really afraid of messing up when better against a higher-rated, you can play solidly and safely, avoiding risk. Just strike a confident pose at the board while doing so!

If you are worse — or even equal — your opponent won’t accept your draw offer. Moreover, it again shows weakness. Whether your opponent is torturing you or merely shuffling pieces back and forth, just keep finding the best moves you can while not showing any frustration. Imagine you are at a picnic on a warm summer day!

Wait for the higher-rated player to offer the draw (or, if you’re playing against a peer, the player with the superior position has the “right” to make the peace offering). Only when you’re playing against a lower-rated player can you offer a draw in an inferior position.


Experienced players: are there any other general tips I didn’t mention? Leave a comment!

Chess Position Evaluation: Who is better, and by how much?

Chess Informant popularized a classification system that is now universally used in chess literature and when discussing positions. Who is better, and by how much?

When I was struggling to learn chess, I didn’t really feel what these meant. Now, I hope others will be a bit less confused!

This is a short post, and I’m not giving any positions here: but use these guidelines the next time you study a chess position — I think you’ll have an “A Ha!” moment.

Of course, I’m only talking about human evaluation during a chess game! I only care about what the computer says in ICCF games.


White/Black has a decisive advantage

An unstoppable attack; too much extra material without compensation; an opponent with hopelessly bad pieces; or an endgame edge so big the win is straightforward.


White/Black has a large advantage

This is the most important category!

I would define it as any of the above, but to a lesser degree — a dangerous attack that isn’t clearly winning; an extra pawn or exchange with the opponent having some form of compensation; awkward but not hopeless pieces; or a solid endgame edge that still requires decent technique.

Two or three of these smaller edges together can be considered a decisive advantage. This is what I believe is meant by the so-called “accumulation of advantages.”

This category is much closer to decisive advantage than to small advantage! When you get your opponent here, your advantage will likely grow if you simply suppress any counterplay.


White/Black has a small advantage

A lead in development, space (more central presence, control of an open file), pawn structure (lack of pawn weaknesses, or less than the opponent has), or piece placement (in the center or near the “action zone”). Two or three of these together can add up to a large advantage.


The position is equal

The chances are balanced, and if both sides play well, a draw is the likely result. Be careful: this doesn’t necessarily mean the position is dry or boring! Usually, you need to play actively. Simply shuffling your pieces around and waiting is usually a recipe for disaster.


The position is unclear

You can think a position is unclear or “I don’t know what’s going on,” but this isn’t helpful. Decide on one of the categories above, and also decide if you will play for a win or a draw.


Good luck in your chess evaluations!

Advice for New Chess Players, Part 1: General Tips

No matter why you decided to pick up chess, Congratulations, and Welcome!

I played my first chess tournaments in 1995-96. While I started teaching beginners as early as 1997 (when I was not much past 1000 USCF), I didn’t become a full-time chess teacher and coach until 2005 (I had surpassed 1800 by then).

I’ve seen and learned a great deal over the years, and I’d like to share some of my best advice.


How you perform against friends and family means nothing.

Just because you can beat your dad, your friends, or your co-workers in chess says absolutely nothing about how well or poorly you play the game. The only way to know where you stand in the pecking order is to play in official (rated) tournaments. And no, online ratings don’t mean anything either, whether you play on ICC, lichess, or anywhere else. Online is just practice.


Expect to lose a lot of games. A lot.

No one becomes a strong chess player without losing hundreds, no, thousands, of games. People who say otherwise are lying. The sooner you accept this, the better off you’ll be.

Related to this: genius is exceedingly rare in chess. Unless your name is Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, or Ivanchuk, you are not a chess genius and your kid isn’t either. If someone tells you otherwise, they’re only after your money.


Academic achievement and chess aptitude? Probably unrelated.

I’ve already written about this here. I’m not a scientist or a researcher, but have worked with thousands of students over the years, age 3 and up.


Endgames are overrated.

Most games between non-experts (97+% of the chess population!) will be decided before the endgame is reached. You should know some basics, but don’t spend more than 20-25% of your study time on this phase of the game.


Openings are underrated.

Don’t listen to people who advise you to ignore openings! Effective opening study is well worth your time, even as a new player.

The opening gets a bad rap because it is often presented very poorly. That’s the fault of the material, not the phase of the game itself! I recently reviewed a book that presents the opening pretty well for inexperienced players.

I have also long believed that openings can drive your rating improvement, in large part because so many of your adversaries are too lazy to work at it.


Don’t Worship Your Chess Engine!

You can’t play like a chess computer 100% of the time, so a lot of its post-mortem suggestions will not help you in real life.


Experienced players: are there any other general tips I didn’t mention? Leave a comment!

French Defense, Part 4: Steiner Variation

A Resource for Chess Francophiles

The Centre Pompidou in Paris. Photo: Andre Harding

About a year ago, I wrote a multi-part series on the French Defense (first part here), the opening that I often cite as having saved my chess career. I played it from 1998-2008, and would not have reached 1900+ without it.

Subsequent parts of my series can be found here: 2a2b, 2c, and 3.

While not a complete survey, I think it gives the aspiring Frenchie enough to get started. Anti-Frenchies should take a look as well.


Endre Steiner
Endre Steiner (1901-1944)

Recently, I received a donation from NYC-area chess coach Nikki Church (thanks, Nikki!). When I asked her if she had any topic requests, she asked me what to do about annoying sidelines such as 2.c4 in the French, apparently called the Steiner Variation. Her students like to play this against her, and it proves once again that the French is an opening people either love or hate. There’s little in-between!

So, it seemed I would have to revive my series! I promised Nikki I would inflict some pain on her students’ schemes!

Let’s start!


French Defense, Steiner Variation: 1.e4 e6 2.c4

My feeling is this move should be a welcome sight! I believe black should play 2…d5, preparing to exchange center pawns and liberate the pieces, especially our light-squared bishop.

Well, not so fast. The challenge is that we won’t end up in a very French-like position after the following moves … and I know French players can be very formulaic …

Variation A: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5

Variation B: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 exd5

Variation C: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.e5

Variation D: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.d4


A: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.cxd5 exd5

Now there are two main choices — A1: 4.Qa4+ and A2: 4.exd5.

A1: 4.Qa4+

As a cautionary tale, the great Savielly Tartakower was barbecued by Endre Steiner himself!

Ugh. This kind of game sends shivers down the spine of a French devotee, as we’ve all had accidents like this! Nevertheless, I have a few points to make.

First, I think 4…Bd7 was already dubious, in light of the strong reply 5.Qb3! This compelled the awkward 5…Bc6, making the cleric a bystander from early on.

I would prefer 4…Qd7, or even 4…Nd7 5.exd5 Nf6 followed by …Bd6 or …Bc5 and kingside castling.

I really didn’t like 7…Nfd7?! Just look at that queenside! Maybe 7…Ne4 was already forced.

After 8.Qg3! Tartakower’s position was critical, and Steiner was off to the races.


Moshe Czerniak showed a simple and good way to deal with white’s play:


A2: 4.exd5

Against this, the French player has to be comfortable developing their pieces to more aggressive posts than usual. I know from experience that such “comfort” is not a given. Still, it’s the only way.

If you don’t believe me, would you trust Viktor Kortschnoj? Against ex-World Champion Boris Spassky?

Let’s move on.


B: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.exd5 exd5

This doesn’t really have independent value. 4.cxd5 transposes to A2, and 4.d4 is not part of the Steiner Variation, it transposes to the Exchange Variation covered in Part 3.


C: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.e5

White’s most challenging lines against the French mainlines involve squeezing the second player with an eventual e4-e5 advance, clogging up kingside development. With the black king knight barred from f6, there’s always danger of a strong attack.

So why not use this idea in the Steiner Variation as well?

I think this is a sensible approach by white. I would advise black to play 3…c5 gaining space in the center and preparing to develop in a similar fashion to the Advance Variation.

You could do a lot worse than emulate the play of GM Schmidt:

That leaves one more possibility.


D: 1.e4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.d4

This is not actually part of the Steiner Variation, but the Diemer-Duhm Gambit (DDG). I think this continuation is unlikely because white can reliably get the same position after 2.d4 d5 3.c4.

Just take the center pawn and develop comfortably, as GM Santos Latasa does here:

That should conclude my coverage of the Steiner Variation. Did I leave anything out? What do you think of this line? Please leave a comment to this post!

Good luck, Nikki!

Sherlock’s Method: The Working Tool for the Club Player

Authors: GM Elshan Moradiabadi, WGM Sabina Foisor

445 pages. Thinker’s Publishing, 2020

List price: $39.00, $31.69 on


Read This First!

This book is comprised of three parts, each broken down into two subsections. The parts are as follows: simple positions, endgames, and complex decisions. There are one hundred fifty (150) positions in the first part, one hundred twenty (120) in the second part, and forty two (42) in the third part. The targeted readers for this book are players rated between 1700 and 2300. This range may seem rather wide, but the variety of concepts addressed makes it possible for players in the aforementioned range to enjoy and learn from the book’s content.Sherlock's Method, page 12
Sherlock's Method
Photo: Sabina Foisor’s Twitter: @Foisor_Sabina

First, I believe 1700-2300 is an appropriate range for Sherlock’s Method. Second, the authors are being too modest about what they have created. Having gotten to know them a bit personally, I’m not surprised as they are both very down-to-earth.

Also, full disclosure, they sent me a copy of the book to review. [Other authors or publishers can do the same; just contact me: infoATchess-essentialsDOTcom.]

Now onto the review!


Sherlock’s Method is Exactly What Most Players Claim They Want!

After spending a few hours with the book, my conclusion is this: Sherlock’s Method has removed most of the typical excuses a wide swath of the chess population gives for being unable to improve:

  • A thick workbook aimed at “normal” players, not just masters or budding stars.
  • Puzzles with only broadly defined themes that don’t “prompt” the correct answer.
  • Exercises from mostly recent games: tactical, strategic, and endgame.
  • Plenty of good explanations that help a player with their thinking process.
  • Enough variations in the solutions to satisfy the computer jockeys.
  • A rich selection of challenging material that would take months to work through, at least.

Sadly, I think these are reasons Sherlock’s Method will not become as popular as it should! Bad for the authors, but good for readers …

Use this book to reach 2000+. It will train your brain to come up with good ideas when you reach parts of the game that cannot be prepped.

I imagine your chess will become more natural and enjoyable, too.


Contents and Sample Pages




A Thinking Game?

In 2015, I gave this prescription for players trying to reach 2000 USCF:

Know your openings thoroughly. Know the most important middlegame plans that arise from your openings. Know your technical (book) endings cold. Play through lots and lots of multi-piece endings until some typical playing methods “stick.” Try not to blunder too much. Pick the right tournaments for your playing style/temperament.Another Method to Reach 2000 USCF, Part 1

I still believe this method is effective, but it is brutal and in some ways a crime against chess:

I didn’t say the method was exciting! I will warn you that this method requires something of an obsession about chess, or maybe a chip on your shoulder. But the point is, even a person with no talent, like me, can overcome their talented peers. You might become a robot, but at least you’ll have a 2000 rating.Another Method to Reach 2000 USCF, Part 1

Often I talk about grinding, memorizing, solving tactical puzzles till your eyes bleed, and most of all: studying openings.

Effective, yes … but I would not encourage someone to start playing chess to become a flesh-and-bones machine. If I could start over, I wouldn’t have become a serious chess player if I knew this is what it took.


A New Hope

I resorted to the methods above because I wasn’t talented, and recommended them to other players with a lack of talent but a burning desire to improve raise their rating. Players who didn’t start playing chess right out of the womb and didn’t have extensive (and expensive) coaching to make playing chess natural for them.

Is this attitude too negative or defeatist? Probably. And it may be outdated as well, with the release of the Moradiabadi and Foisor book.

Sherlock’s Method: The Working Tool for the Club Player will develop your ability to use your brain to solve chess problems, and not be merely a programmed computer that can keep a 2000 rating by exploiting gaps in the preparation of others.

I encourage you to take the authors up on their offer. Maybe, after reaching the 25 year mark in my chess tournament career last week, I will as well.

Chess School 4: The Manual of Chess Endings

Chess School 4 by Sarhan Guliev (Russian Chess House, 2003) is the last volume in an amazing series, and the only one that isn’t a tactics manual.

Last year, I reviewed Chess School 1a and Chess School 1b by Sergey Ivashchenko. Chess School 2 (for 1600+, also by Ivashchenko) and Chess School 3 (for 2000+, by Alexander Mazja) are also recommended for more advanced players.

Chess School 4The Manual of Chess Endings is just that: roughly 600 instructive technical endgames you should know how to play, including “Test Yourself!” positions at the end of each Part. Pawn endings, rook endings, minor piece endings, queen endings, endings with unbalanced material…it’s all here.

There are no words, only variations and symbolsAnd that is a positive! If you don’t believe it, give this book a try. You will be astonished by how much you learn and understand without the distraction of words!!

Too many chess books, including a lot of modern endgame books, are too wordy. Never forget: more words does not automatically mean better commentary. This is the main problem I have with certain popular authors whose chess books I never recommend.

Ambitious players rated 1000 and up would benefit greatly from Chess School 4. It’s also great for coaches.

Bobby Fischer the Opening Model

The Never-Ending Influence of Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer (1943-2008). Photo: Encyclopaedia Britannica

Since today is Bobby Fischer’s birthday, I felt I had to write something about him. Last year, I started this blog a bit after March 9.

He’s a controversial figure, shall we say … but there’s one thing no one can deny:

Fischer’s chess career basically ended 50 years ago — his 1992 match with Boris Spassky notwithstanding — but he is still the biggest name in American chess.

There’s much we can learn from the games of the 11th World Champion, but I’ll discuss how one of his famous victories has brought me points in my own praxis.

After all, no matter how much we study chess for pleasure, we want results!


A Nagging Problem

On one hand, I find the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6) and related Modern Defense (1.e4 g6) to be among the trickiest openings to face. Fortunately, Black sits back for awhile and lets you choose the setup you prefer.

When trying to learn an opening, I look for models: games from master practice I can emulate. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with traps that arise in your openings.

In 2017 I needed something against the Pirc. I’ve pretty much always used the Austrian Attack (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4), but strangely enough hadn’t chosen a model! Then Bobby Fischer came to my rescue.


When in Doubt, Steal!

Pal Benko
Pal Benko (1928-2019) in lovely Budapest. Photo: ChessBase

I rediscovered this well-known miniature Bobby Fischer won against Pal Benko in the 1963-64 U.S. Championship where the future Champ scored a clean 11-0:

Ok, now how can we use this game to fight the slithery Pirc?


You Must Memorize Sometimes!

Yes, memorize. The game above is short, but we should learn most of it. I’ll reveal what worked for me.

FIrst of all, remember this setup: f2-f4, Ng1-f3, Bf1-d3:

At this point, Black has a few choices: 6…Na6, 6…Nbd7, or 6…Bg4 (as in the game).

Note: 6…c5?! doesn’t work here: after 7.dxc5 dxc5 White has too much center. And if 7…Qa5? White can safely play 8.cxd6. [If White’s bishop was on e2 instead of d3, Black could strike with 8…Nxe4!]

A. 6…Na6

White can play 7.e5 as the game notes suggest, but I prefer 7.0-0 c5 8.d5 establishing a nice space advantage and asking Black what he plans to do with the Na6. If he wants to play …Na6-b4xd3, let him. You can consider c2xd3, after which Black will never break down your center.

If instead Black goes for something like 8…Nc7, looking at breaks with …b7-b5 and/or …e7-e6, just play 9.Qe2 and calmly centralize. If Black goes for …a7-a6 and …Ra8-b8, aiming for …b7-b5, I recommend playing a2-a4 and leaving a rook on a1 to use the a-file if it opens.

B. 6…Nbd7

This time, I think 7.e5 is best, otherwise Black will play this himself. Moreover, the second player’s pieces aren’t the most comfortable. I won a couple of games in The Right Move tournaments in the late 1990s with a quick e5-e6 thrust in similar positions, and after …fxe6, Nf3-g5. I seem to recall having my light-squared bishop on c4 in these situations, reminiscent of Velimirovic vs. Rajkovic, but my memory is hazy.

C. 6…Bg4?!

Surprisingly, I face this move most often! Well, if it’s bad enough for twice-Candidate Benko…

In a word, we’re going to clean Black’s clock.

7.h3! Bxf3 8.Qxf3

Then, Black won’t resist developing the knight with a hit on d4; your response is simple:

8…Nc6 9.Be3

Being that you’re now ready to play e4-e5, Black needs to get this move in first:


Most importantly, memorize the following sequence:

10.dxe5 dxe5 11.f5!


What Now?

In summary, your plan is a pawn storm on the kingside with g4-g5, etc. If Black doesn’t allow this by capturing on f5 immediately, a la Benko, capture with the queen and prepare a kingside attack by using the open lines/squares available to your pieces.

All in all, I recommend learning the whole 21-move game, but getting this far will give you much improved results against the Pirc.

Have you tried learning model games or fragments from the games of Bobby Fischer or other greats? Comment on your experiences!

Chess Tactics: Mariya Muzychuk — Goryachkina, 2019

Mariya Muzychuk
Mariya Muzychuk. Photo: @MariyaMuzychuk

Mariya Muzychuk was born in Lviv, Ukraine in 1992.

The Ukrainian Women’s Champion of 2012 and 2013 has won a pile of medals in European and World Team Championships, and in Chess Olympiads.

Still, her greatest achievement was becoming Women’s World Chess Champion in 2015! Simultaneously, she earned the International Grandmaster title.

Mariya’s older sister Anna Muzychuk is also one of the top female players in the world.


A Brilliant Finish

Aleksandra Goryachkina
Aleksandra Goryachkina (born 1998). Photo: ChessFIDE

Recently, FIDE reinstated a Candidates Tournament as part of the Women’s World Championship. The eight-player double round robin for this past cycle was held May-June 2019 in Kazan, Russia. 

Aleksandra Goryachkina clinched the 14-round marathon two rounds early in a dominating performance, earning the right to challenge reigning Champion Ju Wenjun.

However, it was Mariya Muzychuk who ended the tournament with a bang: her crushing victory over the winner was awarded the Brilliancy Prize of the Candidates Tournament! Goryachkina was undefeated in the event until this final round game.


Black is trying to hang on, but White dashes her hopes. How? White to play.



One Round Too Many

In conclusion, just one more thing needs to be said: Happy Women’s Day!

Learn Chess in 40 Hours

Great for adult novices

Things are tough for the older player who has taken an interest in chess: most books are either written for children or for experienced tournament competitors.

Learn Chess in 40 HoursGM Rudolf Teschner (1922-2006) gave this forgotten crowd much help with his well-structured course Learn Chess in 40 Hours: A Self-tutor for Beginners and Advanced Players. It was originally published in 1993, but re-issued in 2004 by Edition Olms.

As I’ve said before, Edition Olms produces beautiful, high-quality chess books. I have such confidence in them that I would be willing to buy their volumes sight unseen.

Learn Chess in 40 Hours is broken into blocks of 1-hour chess lessons:

  • Hours 1-6 on the basic mates and the most basic endgames. A good treatment overall.
  • Hours 7-21 cover the most important openings, giving just the most important information and insights. This is beautifully done! He also includes a table of openings for reference.
  • Hours 22-30 cover tactical ideas very nicely. Go elsewhere for puzzle practice.
  • Hours 31-40 focus on strategy, with lots of good explanations.

I definitely recommend this title ahead of, for example, Chess Fundamentals. Teschner doesn’t hold your hand, but he guides the reader very efficiently. There is plenty of prose, and all the important variations are there — though the novice will need to stretch themselves a bit to make all of it stick.

No need to rush. Instead of 40 hours, don’t fret about taking 60 or 80. It wll be worth it.

I believe a motivated novice who seriously works through Learn Chess in 40 Hours two or three times could reach at least 1600 — maybe 1800 if they have a bit of talent and lack bad habits.

Highly recommended.