Monday, October 6, 2008

You Don't Have Much Skill

"You Don't Have Much Skill" - came the comment from my opponent on after I beat him rather soundly.

Normally I don't really bother with post-match comments but this comment struck me, not because it was a snide remark but more because it struck me how true it was.

While not all of us can be a Kasparov and make good moves on a consistent basis, an average chess patzer like myself should know how to put the pieces properly. Most of the time, I find that my failure lies in middlegame play and finding the right square for my pieces so as to mobilise my pieces for maximum effectiveness.

The most frustrating thing was that I just do not know how to do it in an optimal fashion and on a regular basis. There have been enough books on middlegame play but it seems that the art of positional play is still beyond my grasp.

I shudder whenever I do a post-mortem in my games because it seems that I make moves perfunctorily. In chess, this is tantamount to suicide. All those rules like "Mobilise your worst piece", "Make active moves", "Create weaknesses" seem to go out the window when I am at the chess board.

Take a look at the following position from one of my own games:

Note that there is no "correct" answer here. What should I do in this position?

The correct idea is to play Nd8 with the idea of Nc6->Nd8->Ne6, putting the Knight on a more active square.

In the actual game, my Knight stood at c6 for a *very long* time and in the end got traded into a losing endgame position. Pathetic.

I can spot tactical shots fairly quickly but it seems that positional play is my main weakness and until I eradicate this weakness from my play, it will continue to dog me.

I've lined up a couple of chess materials and am planning on reading Nunn's Understand Chess Move By Move all over again just to understand and grasp the basics of chess playing.


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  2. lovely post.
    much love to you,
    my good friend!

    great faith in you.

  3. you only can get better by practise or solve exercise positions of the middlegame.

    So dont worry and dont get grey hair, after much 'training' you will somehow develop a way to think positionaly.

  4. Chessbumbus: done! :)

    dk: thanks for stopping by!

    chesstiger: thank you for your kind words. but i guess i just need time to settle down to improve my play. i have this tendency to rush things through and playing moves by rote. i am still working on tactical puzzles. right now, the best i can do is to learn from my mistakes and remove those errors in my gameplay.

    cheers :)

  5. I'm not sure Nd8-e6 is the only constructive plan. I agree that the knight is bad on c6 for the time being but Na5-c4 provoking weaknesses on the queenside and allowing you to play c5 which you need to play to break down white's center is more than sufficient.

    For middlegame planning I strongly recommend Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson. It may be just a tad above your level but it will give you examples of how to maneuver through the middlegame. The most important thing is to remain open-minded and really look at the unique features of the position.

    As far as piece placement goes, the best thing I can recommend is when studying openings instead of studying the moves, just look at about 20-30 games in that particular opening. Even without any depth just looking through them in quick succession will give you an idea of how the pieces interact with one another and what pieces you should exchange off and how. It will also show you maneuvers that you probably haven't considered but that are routine in that particular opening.