Where Grandmasters Advise Young Players
What is the advantage of someone starting to play chess at an early age? When is it best to start? And for those who might be late in learning the game, are they able to get back on track to becoming a titled player?
Nowadays school teachers are discovering that there is no better tool to teach logical thinking, intellectual passion and appropriate decision–making than chess. And chess in schools is currently booming all over the world. The best age to instill these qualities is when kids are between the ages 6 and 8, as it is then that they have the greatest influence. Nevertheless, if some kid starts later but is a real aficionado of the game, then it’s not a problem as he/she can still become a strong player. Indeed, many of these ‘late starters’ have gone on to become top players.
If there are three main departments of the game – opening, middlegame and endgame – what portion of our time should we spend on each? And what is the most important?
The most important quality is to spot the inter–relationships between the chess pieces and their functions. We call it tactics. And, as great players have told us – tactics is 90% of the game!
Many young players devote too much time to openings, but we should spend no more than 30% of our training time on it – then 20% on the endgame and 50% on the middlegame (strategy and tactics). If young kids are good at tactics, they can improve very quickly, but the teacher must not forget about strategy and technique!
And kids should not neglect practical play, but not too much blitzing! I know from experience that it can be a lot of fun but then after 6–8 games the quality of play decreases rapidly.
From your own experience can you recall any specific type of opening position or endgame theme that an aspiring chess player should be sure to study because of its particular importance?
Of course, when I was young I played closed positions badly. But nowadays trainers know all the typical plans that can be adopted in the various openings. One example is the Mar Del Plata Variation in the King’s Indian Defense where both players must attack fiercly on opposite sides. Nevertheless the main task for the aspiring player is to study and cultivate dynamic play – how to be faster than the opponent when the position is opened up. As Bobby Fischer stated: “Chess is a matter of timing!”
Not everyone can be a chess world champion. But how can chess be of benefit in life and business?
That’s an easy one – Yoko Ono said that everything she did in life was planned as in a game of chess. Even such figures as Winston Churchill specifically recommended persons who knew how to play chess for responsible posts! But it is not only the qualities gained during chess study that are important. Simply playing the game or just watching top players in action at online tournaments can be source of great intellectual enjoyment.
Why would you recommend chess to youngsters? What joys may they expect to experience on this thrilling journey, in addition to those you have mentioned in your previous answer?
First of all there is the joy of winning, as one celebrated hockey trainer proclaimed. But, on the other hand, he added that losses teach you how to improve and not to repeat your mistakes. Moreover, learning from your mistakes will help you to understand that improvement in every area of life can be achieved by hard work. Or, as the great basketball trainer Pat Riley used to say: “Hard work does not guarantee success, but without it success is simply impossible!” Be prepared: one day you are the professor giving lessons, the next day the pupil. Do not lose sleep over a loss, rather be critical of your own play and see where you might have played better.
Read More in American Chess Magazine #03
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