Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Other Gap

There is in general a second documentation gap. That is for that group of players that have just "learned" to play chess. And that can include all if us.

This group of people are dying for the helping hand. The pathway of information that will help them improve their game. You have tons and tons of literature, but it is written for grandmasters by grandmasters. It is some sort of bizarre payoff for having mastered the game.

The Silman books don't really help, nor the ; books. If the best we have to look forward to is the Chesskids website the understanding of education is just totally behind.

There is two standouts to this. Heisman's continual tirade about Real Chess. There have been about 200 articles that give slivers of information. While I understand the need to keep selling the same info, this doesn't really jibe with my need to consume the right amount of info. There needs to be about 3 well formatted articles.

The other big standout is the cornerstone to the Knights is de la Maza's 400 points in 400 days. Which gives a clear plan of work to improving your chess strength. Something that works for even those that have stalled.

There is one other work, I will talk about tomorrow.

But ultimately, there needs to be something that is written specifically for this groups understanding, that is sensitive to what they don't know and what they do, that will actually help provide a general understanding of chess. It is beyond the maxims (knights are worth 3, develop to the center, always castle). A master or grandmaster *understands* what is going on, but it seems that information is protected, or solely to be gleaned from the masters game, or from your teacher. I know this book can be written. I don't know why it isn't. But I do know it would sell a ton of copies.

More later


Loomis said...

I have found your recent posts about scholastic chess and the struggles of beginners very interesting. I have some unfortunate observations regarding scholastic chess from my experience as a tournament director for a few scholastic events. The most frequent question from the kids to the directors is "Is this checkmate?" The rate at which the answer is "no" is alarmingly high. Moreover, if you just watch the kids make moves, the rate of illegal moves is alarmingly high. Can you imagine putting a basketball team on the court that doesn't know you have to dribble the ball or sending your kid out onto the baseball field and not telling him which way to run around the bases? So why do we send kids to chess tournaments when they don't know how to move the pieces, or even worse, the don't know how to end the game! It's no wonder they don't come back.

It may seem like there is a lack of chess instructional material for the beginner, but the problem is that there is no deep insight to help the beginning chess player. From my experience, there are two things the beginner needs to do to improve, 1) Learn how to checkmate, and 2) Don't let your opponent take your pieces.

When I say learn how to checkmate, I don't mean learn the rules of checkmate. I have seen scholastic players whom I am certain know the rules of checkmate chase a king all over the board unable to actually play checkmate. One of the most helpful books I got when I was starting out was a book of checkmate exercises, mate in 2, 3, 4, etc. I couldn't do past 3 moves when I was starting out, but this helped a ton in actually being able to win a game.

Don't let your opponent take your pieces means, at the beginning, you just have to look one move ahead, "are any pieces attacked and not defended?" If you're careful with your own pieces and snatch up anything your opponent leaves hanging then, in combination with being able to checkmate, you'll knock the socks off most scholastic competition. Not letting your opponent take your pieces eventually means you have to learn about pins, forks, skewers, etc. I think there are plenty of books that discuss these themes very simply. You don't have to understand something deep about these ideas, just how they can be used to take your opponents pieces.

hisbestfriend said...

Thanks for the comment loomis.

Yeah it stuns me as well. And you are right about your answer. One of the first difficulties I had was disabusing my son of the belief that if he can beat people that don't know how to play chess, that somehow he knowshow to play chess!

But I am reminded of a quote of MacEnulty(sp?) where he said "They just know more chess than you do", and I suppose there is some validity to that.

As to the no big insight. I think kids should be taught KvKQ chess first, before anything else. This simplest of all games, forms the basis of so much of the rest of the game, and probably gains that most important brain function the ability to see ahead, and appreciate the consequences of your action. Imagine if you learned that first, instead of like 10th and only after you struggled for a year.

It is a shame for many of the folks at that point. Because they are not getting what they parents want which is a deeper form of thinking, and I just can't think it is that much fun.

likesforests said...

I don't believe GMs have any "secret knowledge" besides their opening preparation. Recent scientific studies have suggested that the primary difference between grandmasters and patzers is that they've stored more tactical, endgame, and opening positions in their longterm memory. In other words, they can see what we have to calculate. A brilliant chess tactician named Tarrasch said it long before the scientists: "You must see!"

From beginner to expert, there are more software and books written than one could ever read. For example: Chess Tactics for Beginners, Personal Chess Trainer, Winning Chess Tactics, Beat Your Dad At Chess, etc. These are all good titles teaching tactics!

"The Silman books don't really help"

His books have helped many players, mostly those who've mastered basic tactics and endings already. It helps you figure out what to do when there are no obvious tactics.

"If the best we have to look forward to is the Chesskids website the understanding of education is just totally behind."

Many kids between 0 and 1150 USCF love it. If you don't like cartoons, Learn Chess Or Call Me An Idiot!! is another option. With so many books and videos out there, you'll find something you like if you keep looking.

likesforests said...

Anyway, good luck with your studies!
I'll check back in a month or two to see how it's coming along. :)

chessloser said...

hey, hows it going? the hiesman articles have helped me out tremendously. the silman books, i don't mind them, they help. but you have a great point. most of the books seem dry, academic, and too advanced for a large number of people, myself included. that said, i think a large part of it comes down to experience. playing and playing and playing. also, like heisman says, play through master's games, just to see how they move the pieces. i've found that helps considerably.
good luck my freind...

takchess said...

ah I know. Alburts Secret of the Russian Chessmaster volume 1 and 2
and Alburts Comprehensive Chess Course start with volume 2 is appropriate for someone just reaching the beyond beginner stage. Then you can march through his various books.

Blue Devil Knight said...

You have tons and tons of literature, but it is written for grandmasters by grandmasters.

There are lots of exceptions to this. However, even the beginner books, beyond the 'first' chess book (e.g., Idiot's Guide), will tend to focus on a specific topic (e.g., openings, strategy, tactics).

For example, your criticism applies to specific opening repertoire books (e.g., of the 'Play the XYZ to win' variety), but there are lots of general opening books for beginners out there. The same goes for tactics, annotated games (Euwe's Master vs Amateur is written for novice post-beginner players, as is First book of Morphy, which I discussed in comments on previous post), etc..

One of the worst books for a novice would be a GM-level set of annotated games, where the game is basically a dead draw until some subtle positional factor kicks in and leads to a nice endgame for the winner. Heisman pointed this out to me in our phone conversation.

The stuff is out there, but you have to work to find it sometimes. I have found the Knights to be a great source of information for books and software aimed at my novice level.

Finding a decent novice book on king and pawn endings, now THAT is another story :) You often end up with a position dump with no systematic treatment.

Loomis' comments on scholastic chess are very instructive: I can imagine you need a wee bit of patience to be a TD at scholastic events :)

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