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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Cheating in Chess #1

Cheating in chess has recently resurfaced with a well known player being caught for cheating.
This series will reflect on past events of cheating and alleged cheating in the past.

This first article in the series is not so much about a player , but rather about a man conning people into believing that he had created the world's first chess playing automaton.

The Mechanical Turk or Turk was created in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen , to impress Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The turk beat well known statesmen like Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin (now you know of at least two famous people who played chess) and was mostly undefeated.

Below is a representation of the turk


However the creator alleged that the machine played on it's own without human input , which was later revealed to be a lie. it turns out that a chess player of great skill would hide in the machine and that the machine would then be manipulated to move the pieces according to the moves calculated by this player.

The Turk was unfortunately destroyed in a fire , but it's legacy lives on
It wasn't until the 20th century that real chess computers would surface.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Planning to improve

If you want to improve your chess , you have to work consistently. This sounds easy , but you can train and train and not improve , because of incorrect traing procedure. Even coaching can leave you stagnant if the goals of the coach sets out to achieve is not done with small increments towards achieving a goal. So how do you improve?

Firstly you have to sit down and set realistic goals for yourself. For example , I want to raise my rating with 50 points , or I want to start mastering an opening. After doing this , you have to create a reasonable time line. 50 points in a span of six months for example. Or 3 years to master say a proper repetoire for white playing 1. e4. After this is done , you can set out to improve.

Failing to plan is planning to fail as the addage goes , and this is also true in terms of reaching the goals you set out to achieve. Creating a schedule of when you are going to practise on which part of the game , is important , as you will start training with a structure. A coach can help with this , but once again the schedule has to be realistic in terms of time available for chess.

Once a schedule is in place , mini goals can be created , to keep you motivated. You will not see immediate improvement , hence with small goals you still have the sense of achievement. It also goes without saying that you will not necesarily start winning more games immediately.

A playing schedule also has to be integrated in the training , as you have to play games to see wheter or not your game has started to improve with the training. Give it atleast 6 months after starting before really reassesing your progress.  You can assess your progress by analyzing your games and then asking a more knowledgeable player to go through your analysis to look for mistakes. Compare this to games analyzed 6 months prior to your assessment.

If you have improved , you know that you are on the right track. However if you are still where you were , then it is time to sit and rethink your strategy. Did you follow the schedule , or did you start deviating from it? Did you really put in the hours or was it still just meaningless hours spent incorrectly. Did you understand the material you used? These are all valid questions , but the solution is simpler thanit appears.

The solution is to go back to basics. Pick up an endgame book and play throught it , go throught the concepts and see whether or not you really know your theory. A  book like Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual is ideal for this. 

If you see that you know the theory and that your analysing ability has actually improved , but your game play hasn’t , you might need to rethink your schedule. There are numerous books on this topic. Think like a Grandmaster by Kotov is a good example. Another book which can really be recommended is Reassess your chess by Jeremy Silman. Silman is an international master , with years of coaching experience. He covers the basics as well as other factors which might be holding you back. 

 So if all else fails , pick up a book like the ones mentioned above , which really takes you through the game step by step. After going through a book of this type , which will also take a few months , you should once again reassess , and see wheter or not you have improved. If there is still no improvement , you should consider getting a new coach or getting a coach to assist you. In the end you will find a recipe that helps your game to improve.