/ Where Grandmasters Advise Young Players

Q & A: GM Eugenio Torre – Asia’s First Grandmaster in 1974

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?
Just as in any undertaking, starting young does give someone an edge over latecomers. It is best to start as soon as the child shows a willing interest in learning the game. The earlier the better. But never force a child to take up chess. One should try to stimulate their curiosity and enthusiasm for the game without imposing it. History has shown that a few world–class players like Akiba Rubinstein and Mikhail Chigorin were late learners – but that was before the age of computers! And so, for those who might be late in learning the game today, becoming a titled player is definitely achievable as long as there is the passion and dedication to achieve such a goal. Nowadays preparation and practice are doable in the comfort of your own home.

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?
All these departments are important. First the opinion and advice of an expert should be sought to assess one’s overall chess knowledge. It is only after a player realizes their strengths and weaknesses that it is logical to spend more time on the department in which they are most vulnerable.

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?
In the opening, the classical symmetrical approach, 1.e4 e5, 1.d4 d5, or 1.c4 c5, etc. are all worth studying. In the endgame, it is a must to know by heart the subtleties of king and pawn endings and their winning and drawing methods. Equally indispensable are the decisive themes in rook and pawn endgames, such as the Lucena position, and also the various concepts involved in surviving in difficult positions. Similarly, studying and understanding the numerous motifs in knight, bishop and queen endings are all important.

Not everyone can be a chess world champion. But how can chess be of benefit in life and business?
There are countless benefits one can derive from chess and some of these can be found by googling “the benefits of chess”. Many of our mental attributes are enhanced by playing chess. Lots of imagination is required to get the most out of the game. In fact Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. We can also try to identify our “kings” in life and business: family, health, education, profession and integrity. We should protect them and make sure they will not be checkmated! Vices and bad habits are the blunders and pitfalls of life. Many chess concepts can be very usefully applied in life: control of the center, time and space, harmonious positioning of pawns and pieces, and Philidor’s famous statement “Pawns are the soul of chess”, are just a few of the numerous instructive principles that are embedded in chess. Once appreciated by a practitioner on the chessboard, the real challenge is then to apply these in life.

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 would recommend chess to youngsters because just as we need regular physical exercise, so do we also need regular mental exercise. To be fully healthy, our body cannot do without the mind – and vice–versa. Chess is also one wholesome diversion that is easily accessible to everyone and can be an effective deterrent to the temptations of hazardous vices like drug–taking. In chess, as long as you give your honest best before, during and after a game in a tournament, the outcome is predictable. It can be sweet memories or a learning experience. Either way you come out a winner!

Read More in American Chess Magazine #09

Q & A: GM Eugenio Torre – Asia’s First Grandmaster in 1974
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