Q & A: GM Boris Gelfand is a six-time World Championship Candidate, and one of the top players in the world for almost three decades.

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?
I started to play chess when I was 5 years old and I think that is a good time to begin. Kids at this age can absorb information and learn things easily and in a natural way. We know that Magnus, for example, started to play later, but caught up quite quickly!

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?
I think that first of all one should learn the basic principles of the
opening – how to develop pieces, the importance of open lines and initiative, etc – and to develop an eye for tactical vision. It is also very important to learn the basic principles of endings quite early. I was taught some basics about rook endings at the age of 9 and I always feel grateful to my first trainer Edward Zelkind for doing this.

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?
I think that it is important to study rook endings and opposite coloured bishops endings. It is also important to study openings with active piece play. They say that studying the Ruy Lopez is very important and I regret I never managed to do this…

Not everyone can be a chess world champion. But how can chess be of benefit in life and business?
I think that most important are the qualities which are developed by chess, such as logical thinking, the ability to plan ahead and to take someone else’s ideas into account. Also the capability to win and lose, while retaining one’s dignity.

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?
I think the capacity to learn something new and constantly improve oneself are among the biggest joys in life.

Read More in American Chess Magazine #08

American Chess Magazine

American Chess Magazine