After a rather long stretch away from tournament chess, during which I focused on mundane activities like work and family, I’ve decided to make a comeback! As I’ve always wanted to write a blog too, I thought it would be great to combine both endeavours.
In the past few days, I’ve tried to figure out the best way to get back in shape – chesswise bien entendu! After mulling over various options for some time and weighing up the pros and cons, I eventually had some kind of epiphany! Let’s start again from scratch!
I’m going to pretend I’m a ‘weak’ club player (say rated around 1500) eager to learn and progress, which in reality is not the case since my last FIDE rating before I quit was 2080. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend I’m a rookie. As a coach, I’d suggest I start with mastering the basics (tactics and basic endgames) before moving on to more complex areas like positional play and opening theory. The beauty of this approach, i.e. pretending you’re a ‘patzer’, is that it’ll enable you to fill the gaps in your chess knowledge and understanding. And maybe to correct some mistakes your ‘old you’ has made in the past (like focusing too much on opening theory). On a personal note, I remember reaching a 2100 FIDE rating with a very patchy – and that’s an understatement – knowledge of basic endgames. And I’m convinced it has held me back tremendously.
Besides, I’ve noticed that a large proportion of games played between club players (and even in higher spheres) are decided after a player makes a basic tactical and/or positional mistake.
So in the coming months I’m intending to focus on the basics. For that, I’ve started studying Artur Yusupov’s series of books (published by Quality Chess, more here). At this stage, I can’t yet review the books as I’ve just started reading the very first book in the series, entitled Build up your Chess, The Fundamentals. Through a series of hanpicked positions, Yusupov first introduces the topic – for instance Forced Variations or Simple Pawn Endings – before presenting the reader with a test made up of 12 exercices. My first impression is that the examples are well-chosen and instructive. Even if I sailed through most exercises in the first few chapters, I noticed that even basic pawn endgames caused me some difficulties. As you can see, going through the basics again can help you identify some of your weaknesses!
I know that some chess fans have started their own Yusupov Challenge which consists in reading the whole series (9 books) in a set period of time. I’m not a big fan of such challenges since I’d rather enjoy studying the books without being under pressure to finish by a certain deadline. The first book is pretty straightforward so I expect to finish it soon but the following books might be more challenging and require more time.
In my next post, I’ll address the issue of openings. Here too I’ve figure out a practical and not too time-consuming way of studying this phase of the game. Stay tuned!