A Guide to Chess Improvement features the very best of Dan Heisman's multi-award winning chess column Novice Nook, which ran for over ten years at the popular website ChessCafe.com. This book is full of valuable instruction, insight and practical advice on a wide range of key subjects: general improvement, thought processes, planning and strategy, tactics, endgame play, technique, time management and much more besides.
Heisman has thoroughly revised, expanded and updated his work to produce an easy-to-navigate guide. He has also included brand new and exclusive columns. Any player from beginner to expert who is serious about improving their chess should read this book!
Many players are serious about their chess but become stuck at a certain playing strength. It’s rarely a lack of talent or practice or opening knowledge that holds them back. Usually they get left behind because they don’t know how to make best use of the time they have available to study chess.
This book addresses this problem and is your self-improvement plan. It shows you how to work on your own games to root out mistakes. It will sharpen your calculation of variations. You will be challenged to find the best middlegame strategy. Endgame technique is also covered in detail. All topics are discussed with numerous examples and puzzles from the games of modern players such as Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana and Viswanathan Anand. If you want your chess to leap forward it’s time to Coach Yourself!
How does one achieve the unique ‘sound’ and distinct technique that are absolutely necessary to become successful at the highest level? It can only be done via a deep understanding of the chess player’s personality and the unique talent that distinguishes him from other soloists. It is here that the role of a coach is of the utmost importance. First, it is necessary to understand the nature of your student’s chess talent, and second, it is important to identify the player’s character and personality traits. His style ought to be harmonious, so that the essence of the human being matches the characteristics of his chess talent. Since it is the same emotionless computer that is now in charge of the purely chess component, it falls upon the coach to deal with the chess player’s personality, mysterious and unknowable as it might be.
Yes, a lot depends on the number and power of dependable cyber assistants, on the size and quality of various chess databases, on the enthusiasm of the seconds and on the ability to work with modern electronic gadgets, but at the highest level, almost all elite chess players have the same tools at their disposal. Thus, as always, everything is decided — as in the ‘good old days’ — by the player's talent, by his unique ability to create. The coach's task is to help his student develop this unique creative side to the maximum. It has so happened that in recent years I have been able to work closely with great chess talents who were at the same time outstanding personalities. I hope that an inside look at this kind of work will be of interest to both specialists and chess fans. I faced several ethical problems when working on this book.
Many of the chess players who appear in these pages are still young; their whole life, including their sports career, lies ahead. That is why I tried to avoid purely personal details and did not reveal any professional secrets. I hope that these players, like me, will be curious to reflect on their own achievements and mistakes, and to take the reader on the difficult journey that allowed them to become prominent chess personalities.
During my chess career I have played almost 4000 classical games, a good deal of them against grandmasters, including world's top players, a number of which I managed to defeat. A lot of these games are interesting and instructive, and studying them will definitely help any player to get new expertise, learn new ideas and therefore improve their chess skill. This book is divided into three chapters. The first part is a brief description of my life and career. The second chapter includes 54 of my most memorable victories grouped by their main contents (tactics, attack, positional play etc.) while in every section games are arranged in chronological order. The third chapter is specifically devoted to endgames and contains analyses of the 12 most interesting, often amazing endgames, I had in my practice.
Some of the games and endings were published (mostly a long time ago) in various chess magazines. All my earlier annotations have been fully revised for this book, with the help of more modern computers and analysing engines. I don’t understand the strange approach of some chess commentators (mostly those providing online coverage of games), who decline using chess engines in order to give more "human" commentaries (which leads to numerous mistakes and blunders as they can't fully concentrate on the games in the same way as players do). I don't see any contradiction between human explanation of decisions taken in the games and their verification with technical aids. On top of this, computer analysis often reveals fantastic possibilities hidden in the position, which are as instructive as details of human thinking.
Imagine you are a club player who has been given the opportunity to talk at length with a famous grandmaster. How would you make the most of this opportunity?
Club players are unaware of the subtleties in Grandmaster chess. Great players can analyze chess at a depth that is unfathomable to amateurs. However, having reached such a high level can make it difficult to understand what is lacking in the mind of the amateur.
Lessons with a Grandmaster bridges this gap between grandmaster and amateur through a series of conversations between teacher, the renowned Grandmaster Boris Gulko, and student Dr. Joel R. Sneed, a professor of psychology and amateur chess player. The lessons are based on Gulko's own battles against fellow grandmasters, and there is particular focus on strategy, tactics and the role of psychology in chess competition.
Solving studies is well established as an effective method of chess improvement. In Practical Chess Beauty one of the world’s greatest study composers, Yochanan Afek, shares his finest creations.
Chess has very strict, but also fairly simple, rules: rapid development, control of the center with pawns or pieces, timely castling and defense of the king, the creation of various weaknesses in the opponent’s position, attacking those weaknesses, and control of open lines. At the same time a player shouldn’t get his queen stuck in the enemy camp, or ruin his own pawn structure. Those who know these rules will succeed. It is necessary for a chess player to know opening and endgame theory, standard combinations and motifs, as well as pawn structures and many other things.
A lot of the topics listed demand a very straightforward type of thinking or approach. However it also happens that chess players often discover significant resources which formally exist outside the typical rules of chess. Those who know how to break all the rules and work around those specific guidelines reach the very top. Currently, when thousands of chess books dissect the same standard ideas in great detail, let us remember that first there were those who originally discovered them, implemented them, and made them standard, as well as those who broke the rules and created completely new ones.