Many people don’t really appreciate the importance of training in chess—whether individually, as a team or getting a trainer to do the job. The benefits of a structured approach to chess training are immense, and if one has to improve, then there is no short cut but hit the books.
As a novice player, when the idea of studying chess was first mooted to me, I scoffed at it as a big joke for I didn’t quite understand what was there to be studied. I was given my first book to read, and my mind was blown apart as to what I needed to know.
A game of chess is basically divided into 3 phases; the opening, middle game and endgame. Different rules and principles apply to each phase and one has to know what to do at every stage, as the seemingly easy-to-play game progresses and morphs into an intricate web of calculations that call for sharp analysis and timing in executing one’s moves.
For instance, the rule of thumb in the opening is to fight for the control of the centre of the chessboard (battlefield), develop your pieces, castle as early as possible (for the king’s safety and connecting the rooks) and avoid moving the queen early in the game or the same piece more than once before developing others.
The middle game presents one with the opportunity to execute the plot you have been hatching to checkmate (trap the opponent’s king). Here tactics abound and traps are laid all over the place and one has to be very alert to them— it is like walking in a minefield. It is in this phase that one expresses him/herself on the board, unlike in the opening where specific lines have to be known and followed, with slight variations known as novelties, if you have to get into the middle game unscathed.
Endgame understanding is also a critical arsenal in one’s overall repertoire as an accomplished chess player. This is a territory one enters into based on the dictates of the middle game, and success is inevitable if one aspires towards and creates an advantageous middle game that leads to a favorable endgame.
It is also helpful to study games of accomplished chess players and try to figure out their thought-process if you are to improve. It isn’t easy but who said anything worth getting comes on a silver platter?
Puzzle: Find the best move for Black (M. Bellido) against White (S. Barrientos) in the 38th Badalona Open, 2012.
Solution: 1….Rh1+ 2.Bxh1 Qh2+ 3.Kf1 Qxh1+ 4.Ke2 Nf4+ wins.