Friday, October 17, 2008

Nosce te ipsum

The phrase "Nosce te ipsum", which in Latin, is translated generally as the common phrase "Know Thyself".

One of the hardest things to do as a chess player is the ability to recognise, acknowledge your own faults and weaknesses and to work hard to remove them.

All chess players suffer from one deficient aspect of the royal game one way or another, be it, a 1200 player or an elite 2700 grandmaster.

Looking back at the 20 odd games I've played over the board, I've identified 3 main weaknesses.

1. Weak in opening
2. Weak in positional play
3. Weak in time management

1. Weak in opening

I am very unsettled in openings. I tend to lose my way quickly when players diverge from the main line. Concepts and ideas are far more important than rote move orders. I need to address this seriously but I can only gather that mastering an opening is going to take time. Two-thirds of my losses have come from poor opening play.

2. Weak in positional play/seeing positional ideas

Knowing where to put the pieces -so to speak- so as to maximise their effectiveness. I can see tactical shots but in order to know where to put my pieces, I need to be more conversant in tactics and in the art of defence and strategy. I am planning to scour my local library for such books and doing more tactical puzzles. I have also been leafing through GM games.

3. Weak in time management

Like many before me, I have a tendency to make moves too quickly. Dan Heisman, writer of ChessCafe's Novice Nook articles once said,"Never make a bad move quickly". This summarises my Achilles Heel.

I am now trying to make a mental reminder to myself during a game to pace myself against my clock. I've been doing this at home with my own digital clock albeit with some success. This has a rather calming effect on me and I find that I think far better and tend to choose better moves if I spend more than a minute of thought. This also highlights to me that my thought process is not as efficient as it is. Quite a number of times, a better move seems to prop up after I finished searching through my primary branch (ala Kotov's method) in my head.


  1. Play the opening according the three golden rules, 1) one pawn in the centre, not more then two, 2) develop your pieces, only move them twice when needed, otherwise think development and grabbing space in the centre, 3) put your king in safety by 0-0(-0)

    Positional play you learn by playing and going over GM games where the opening is 1.d4 (tends to be a more positional opening, other half open or closed openings are also good). Ask by each move what it does in gaining space and development of the pieces.

    Good luck

  2. Two-thirds of my losses have come from poor opening play.

    This really surprised me to read this, especially since I would estimate we are not that far in strength.

    In my experience, there are only a few games where someone close in rating to me won primarily because of superior opening strength.

    Most games are decided by tactical shots instead. Even if someone has a large opening advantage, there's no guarantee it will be converted.

    Obviously, you know your own games better than I, and maybe the Australian chess scene is different. But I'm wondering whether attributing most losses to bad opening is a red herring.

  3. hello chesstiger,

    thank you for your comments. those are very sound advice and i've been guilty of flouting rule (3) in 2 of my losses. i'll definitely make a mental note in my next game. :(

    hello LEP,

    "Even if someone has a large opening advantage, there's no guarantee it will be converted."

    Isn't that the truth! :)

    So far I've lost only 1 game where I had an opening advantage and lost (tactical slip).

    My chess history is unfortunately not very long. I've played some 20 odd games now (I've only started playing tournament chess this year) and I notice that my opening preparation is fast becoming a problem.

    What I mean by opening failures means that by move 10 or move 15, I can objectively say if my opening has been a success or not. Most of my losses stem from the fact, that at that stage, I was around 1.5 to 2 pawns disadvantage.

    I myself was frankly very surprised by my findings as well but the computer evaluations do not lie.

    I am a firm believer of the adage, "tactics flow from superior positions", in that, once one has a good position, tactical shots abound. after a recent game, i turned the board around from the view of my opponent in a game where i was worse off in the opening and i can honestly say that it's so much easier to play because the tactics just present themselves.

    in this sense, i guess you can say that the game was decided by tactics but if the opportunity hadn't present itself in the form of a bad opening position, the tactics will not be there in the first place.

    my unfamiliarity with opening knowledge is main my Achilles heel at the moment.