My son is in a tournament next week and I thought it would be good if he did some intensive training in the days running up to it. I am joining him in this since it will hopefully improve my chess too.
The training is comprised of tactics training, turn based games, middlegame puzzles, chess mentor and videos. We have limited the openings to one (versatile) opening as white that should be solid enough to bring the game to a secure middlegame and two black defences to respond to either 1.e4 or 1.d4 and which should again be solid enough to avoid tricks and cope with other first moves. I wanted to limit openings to avoid learning to many lines which at our level is futile.
Tactics: tactics are fundamental to chess. It’s no good building up positions if you are unable to strike when there is an opportunity. We are therefore doing an hour of chesstempo.com tactics in the morning. A correct tactic gets one point an incorrect tactic loses two point (until we are at zero points) – for each point my son gets he earns a minute of extra video game time. The loss of two minutes video game time for a missed tactic ensures a good level of focus.
Turn based games: I entered a 24hr per move competition on chess.com where you play black and white against five other players. This means that we each have ten games to play. We do our move for each game after our morning tactics and then again later in the day after diner. Our openings and defences are limited to our three choices as described above. We are concentrating on the transition phase from opening to middlegame and focusing on positional opportunities. To help guide this process I have been reading Jeremy Silman’s excellent ‘How To Reassess Your Chess v.4’. The book examines how by ‘reading’ a chess board it is possible to find imbalances in the position and by understanding these imbalances it is possible to choose moves that exploit or hinder opportunities. By doing this the board ‘tells’ you what needs to be done and which plans you should follow. This turn based chess work takes about half an hour.
Middlegame puzzles: My son’s teacher at the Tuesday club believes that the next step my son needs to take is to take more time to look at different possibilities as the game gets complicated. My son can calculate and see tactics fairly well but sometimes fixes on one solution without taking the time to look for alternatives. The book my son’s teacher uses to tackle this is called ‘The Complete Chess Workout’ by Richard Palliser. In it there are problems that require a concrete assessment of a number of potential lines in order to choose the best move. I have bought the sequel to this book, ‘The Complete Chess Workout II’, to set up the same exercises that he does. I look at the answer section of the book and find solutions that show a number of moves and include a few parenthesised move options – these problems tend to be rich in opportunity. I then choose five of these problems and study them so I clearly understand them before giving them to my son. This exercise takes an hour.
Chess Mentor: on chess.com there is a chess mentor section there that gives a position and explains the background to the position and asks you to choose the correct next move. When a move choice you choose is wrong it will explain why. We do about 20 minutes of this.
Videos: I am choosing one video a day that shows an amazing games ideally based on the openings we have chosen. Games that relied on positional skill and tactics but which avoid sacrifices (kids love sacrifices and I don’t want to encourage this). Twenty minutes for this.
The rest of the time we boogy board.