What Are Shortcuts To Rapid Chess Improvement?
- Stop training tactics, middlegames and openings isolatedly.
- Combine chess opening training with chess tactics training.
- Learn chess openings by studying frequently occurring tactics in your openings.
- Constantly test yourself by solving exercises (active learning).
Why Many Ambitious Chess Players Don’t Improve
There are numerous chess books, chess videos, chess DVDs and chess articles which deal with the topic of chess improvement. Plenty of strong chess players and authors share their thoughts on effective chess training with the chess world.
Still, 90% of all club players read all these articles and watch countless chess videos, but their ELO rating does not improve at all.
The truth is that most free articles only provide a superficial knowledge on the question of how to improve at chess.
They come up with a list of improvement strategies including bullet points like regular chess tactics training, decent opening knowledge and preparation, powerful endgame skills and understanding middlegame structures.
However, it is no secret that chess tactics training and opening knowledge are important to become better – every ambitious chess player knows this.
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But it’s not sufficient. The decisive question is to explain how to work on your tactical abilities and chess openings. Most articles don’t give you any clue on this essential question, because sometimes even the authors aren’t sure.
That is why we want to present the most effective chess training technique to you in this article. There is one concrete and highly efficient possibility to combine chess tactics training with the opening you play as well as the resulting middlegame structures and typical endgames.
Implementing this chess training approach into your training routine will not only skyrocket your chess rating but also your overall chess understanding.
The Problem Of Forgetting Opening Theory And Failing To Spot Tactical Motifs
What is it that holds talented club players back from real chess improvement? First of all, many club players devote the little time they have for chess training to memorizing special opening lines.
However, they often lose themselves in long, complicated sidelines. They no longer see the forest for the trees.
Instead of getting familiar with recurring key patterns and tactical, as well as strategical themes, in their opening, they dive too deep into the opening theory.
On top of that, they don’t regularly repeat their variations or if they do, they tend to do it inefficiently.
Eventually, they sit at the chessboard and get mad about themselves as they can’t remember the lines in their chess book or on their computers.
A second issue many ambitious chess players have is that they solve many randomly selected tactical puzzles and still fail to see tactical ideas in their own games.
Of course, solving chess puzzles should be an integral part of every player’s chess training routine. However, it is not an efficient approach to solve any chess exercises.
If you work on a series of chess exercises featuring positions which arise from the French Defense, although you always play the Pirc Defense against 1.e4, you’ll widen your chess horizon.
However, you won’t benefit from solving them like you would by investigating frequently occurring chess tactics in the openings you regularly play.
The Most Efficient Chess Training Technique
Considering all the issues of the previous two paragraphs, we want to introduce you to a highly effective chess training technique that combines studying openings with studying tactics, middlegames, and endgames.
Properly studying openings does not only include memorizing the first 10 or 15 moves in different variations, but it also implies becoming familiar with tactical and strategic motifs that frequently occur in your opening, typical middlegame structures, and endgames which can arise.
High-quality chess training is aimed at delivering a structured, intensive, and systematic approach to learning the key positions in a certain opening system as well as knowledge of a number of the opening’s tactical finesse. It’s key to note that it’s worth improving your calculation proficiencies on top of spotting tactical patterns. Chessable author Bryan Castro notes this in his article on easily overlooked strategies in the training of chess. We recommend the section Building Your Calculation Muscles.
The Science Of Correct Learning
On top of that, you can’t expect to internalize a certain theoretical line or a common tactical idea if you look at it only once. You can compare learning opening moves with learning vocabulary at school.
Most people try to learn facts and concepts by simply reading the material in the hope that their brains will automatically register what they’re studying. However, memory research shows us that this is a slow and ineffective way of learning new things.
In order to get a bullet-proof opening repertoire and to memorize all your variations, you need to repeat them over and over. And what’s more, you must try not to just sit back and wait for the solutions to be presented on a tray, but to try to find the right moves on your own.
For efficient learning, it is essential to repeatedly test yourself. Tests do not only tell you how well you’ve learned your opening, but they also give a boost to your memory if you pass them.
Chess improvement demands real learning. Learning demands ‘studying’, which means taking an appropriate length of time when you can truly concentrate on it without being distracted by other activities.
Combining Openings and Tactics – An Example (The Accelerated Dragon)
Imagine you want to learn a new chess opening against 1.e4 and decide to play the Accelerated Dragon.
The Accelerated Dragon is a fascinating opening and an ideal choice for players who like to play a strategically and dynamically complex opening full of tactical possibilities.
Thanks to the asymmetrical pawn structure, both sides have a multitude of tactical shots and ideas at their disposal.
Chess Tactics and Strategy in the Opening:
After the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4, there is a famous theoretical line for Black which starts with the move 7…Qa5 (see the diagram on the left). 7…Qa5 is not the most logical move to play.
If you don’t know the theory in the Accelerated Dragon, you’d probably play moves like 7…0-0 or 7…d6. The move 7…Qa5 is connected with a deep strategic idea – Black wants to stop White from castling queenside and launching an attack against Black’s king on the kingside.
Hence, in order to remember the move 7…Qa5 in our next game, we should not only learn it by heart. We can combine opening theory with chess strategy and chess tactics here.
We have to ask ourselves what happens if White still follows his plan to castle queenside and plays 8.Qd2.
In this position, Black has the strong reply 8…Nxe4! A tactical motif justifies Black’s strategic opening idea.
If White takes the knight with 9.Nxe4, he simply loses a pawn after 9…Qxd2+ 10.Kxd2 Nxd4. If White is cleverer and goes for 9.Nxc6, attacking Black queen on a5, Black has the beautiful queen sacrifice 9…Qxc3! (see the diagram on the right). Black is a healthy pawn up after 10.bxc3 Nxd2 11.Kxd2 Nxc6.
Associating the theoretical move 7…Qa5 with the nice queen sacrifice 9…Qxc3! helps us to memorize the whole variation and introduces us to several tactical ideas in the position.
Conclusion – The Best Chess Training Technique For Rapid Chess Improvement
There are many misconceptions about rapid chess improvement. One key chess training technique in order to improve your rating and results is to stop training certain aspects of the game like tactics, openings, middlegames, and endgames isolatedly.
Try to memorize your opening moves by getting familiar with the most frequently occurring tactical patterns in your openings. Furthermore, it is important to start learning new moves, tactical ideas and strategic concepts in the right way.
It is essential to constantly test yourself and to try to link opening moves with tactical shots and deeper underlying positional and strategic considerations in your head.
You can read more about chess improvement and the Science of correct learning in our next article. Stay tuned!
If you want to combine chess tactics training with the study of openings, you can browse our new 80/20 Tactics Multiplier series. For example, you can watch Sam Shankland’s (2717) brand new chess DVD on the Grunfeld Defense.
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