Roman Dzindzichashvili comes to Rochester!

15 06 2012

As many of you already know, Roman Dzindzichashvili (one of the most famous coaches in the world) is coming to Rochester. He has worked with many world champions and is/was even good friends with such legends such as Karpov and Fischer, in addition to at one time being the #4 player in the world. Recently, he is most popular for his Roman DVDs series.

He’s coming for a one day workshop. Although all the details are not yet firmed up, the date is now set for July 15. We’re looking for players between 1800 and 2000 and it will be all day. The cost of the event has not yet been determined but will probably be around $10 an hour per player. The location will be at 221 Norris Drive, Rochester Chess Center.

People who are wanting to participate and are able to attend on that date, we’d love to get confirmation it in the comments below or at my email address. More details will be shared as they become available.


Interview on!

15 06 2012

Recently there was an interview with Erik on! You can check out the interview here. We talked a bit about my book review site, but mainly about chess. It was a fun interview to do and Erik is definitely a very nice person (he’s only 10!). Check it out and tell me what you think.

Chess Speech: Motivation and Making Winning Decisions

9 04 2010

A few weeks ago, I’d TD’d my first event at a local scholastic tournament. Before the start of the first round, I read the followings speech. I think you might enjoy reading it:

Hey guys, most of you probably know me. For those of you who don’t, my name is Daniel Johnston.

A chess tournament; this is a chess tournament. So why do we play chess?

There are many reasons. Perhaps because of the competition, meeting your friends, stuff like that. But the main reason we’re here is to play chess. Why? Because chess is fun.

So what makes chess fun? Yes, there are all the usual suspects. I talked about this on my blog, But what I didn’t say there was the real reason that I like to play chess, and probably for a lot of you, too: Winning. What can possibly be more thrilling than just outwitting your opponent in a match, being congratulated, and feeling great? There’s really just no better feeling.

And we all know how fun winning is. But some of us don’t realize that the conscious choices that we make directly effects whether we win or lose. Some people will argue that discipline is most important, but what makes us discipline is really the most important thing; motivation. Are you motivated enough to make the right decisions; be patient, take your time, develop, castle? Realize that if you abide by rules like those and ones that you hear all the time from coaches that are a lot older than me you will win games.

Recently, I started taking more seriously some of the concepts. They are a cover-up for me until I learn the exact science of chess through studying, but although I may not be playing the best moves, I am playing better than before. Remember that advice from players better than you will make you better in the vast majority of cases.

But above all, have fun! And remember; chess is cool! Thank you.

At a later date, I’ll post a video of me saying the speech and share about my TD experience.

Play to Your Strengths in the Opening, or Play the Best Openings?

2 04 2010

In a recent post about How to Study, I mentioned I thought it was better to play openings reflective on your chess strengths rather than play the best openings out there.

This is a very debatable topic and one that needs some explanation about why I think that.

The reason why I have the opinion that I do is that the opening is not what determines the game. Sure, you can occasionally catch your opponent with a refutation (always play those), but will happen only rarely, and even if you get a good position out of the opening, if you aren’t comfortable with it, then you won’t play well and you’ll lose the game anyways.

The argument (I guess) is that you will get in a bad position if you play an opening that possibly isn’t the best, or that perhaps anyone could play well in a good position.

To deal with the first one, I have to say that I agree completely; with the part about getting a bad position. Only play openings with positions that you feel comfortable playing in. If you play a “bad” opening but get in a position that you like more than in a “good” opening, then the opening is better for you.

The second one is just bogus to me. It seems silly to think that anyone could play well in a “good” position. Only if you’re comfortable with it.

So the best openings for you are the ones which you’re most comfortable playing; that’s what I think, and that’s what I think makes sense. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

How to Study

26 03 2010

A little bit ago, I wrote a post on getting a study schedule. However, just having a book to study and having the time to study isn’t quite enough; you need to know how to study. If you’re doing it wrong, then you’re wasting your time, and I really don’t want that. Each genre has a different method you should you to study, so I’m breaking it up into those sections.


Know that just because I recommend playing the lines of a certain opening or a certain book or DVD about the opening doesn’t mean that you’ll want to actually play it. Every player has different styles. I would recommend using the test that I tell you people to use so often on this site to measure their chess skills: Opening, tactics, positional, calculation, strategy, and endgame. Certain openings require different strengths. For example, the Caro Kann and French are both positional, while the Dragon or Grunfeld is more tactical, calculation, and strategy. I obviously recommend playing to your strengths, and that’s something I’ll talk more about in the future.

I’ll do my best job relaying you the information on what type of play you get from the opening, and hopefully you’ll heed that and only buy things to your strengths. However, if you somehow miss it or are buying it from another recommendation (I’m far from the only reputable source out there), skim through it and check out the positions you’ll get from the opening and if you’re comfortable with them.

Once you’ve got an opening that you want to learn, you now have to memorize it; or at least its ideas. You don’t have to memorize every line, but you should at least memorize the few main ones and some side variations so you’re comfortable with the position.

The main problem that I’ve found is that most of the advice out there is simply not the best possible. So I enter the line into Rybka, analyze it, and if it thinks there’s a better move, then I’ll leave it alone for a while, have it analyze deeply and play some engine matches. I will then study the material Rybka provides, as Rybka is the strongest player in the world and is perfect. You may have to recheck if the lines Rybka provides would still give you a comfortable game. If not, then I’d recommend going back to the original.

I have a photographic memory, so memorization is pretty easy for me, but here’s what I do:

I sit at the board and play through the first two moves of the line off a printed paper. I then set the board back up and try to play them without the paper. I keep doing this every two moves until I’ve memorized the line. Repetition is great for memorization, so I think this is best way.

Finally, load up ChessBase and look at games in each line Grandmasters played. Go over these games on a board, and you should get a good feel for the position.

I redo my openings every sixth months, including starting from scratch with choosing my openings based on my current chess skills (luckily, I usually am able to stick with the same openings).

Middle Game

The middle game is easier to study because the materials out there on it are simply much more comprehensive.

I skim over the book first to see if it’s worth reading. If I decide it is, I go through it very carefully, and take notes on the lessons I learn. I admit this is partly so I have some more guidance for when I write my own books (I’m not copying; I add my ideas to those notes), but mainly so I can read my notes instead of all that conversational talk and blah! in the book.

If it’s a really good book (and I’ve only done this with a few), I label it in my “classics” shelf, and every sixth months, I take it out and read through it again. I put the books which I won’t be looking at again into my chess collection, though I do go through the notes periodically, because I only take notes on things which will help. The books that are really good, though, I will read them again, every six months.


For the endgame, I simply study two books every sixth months, Silman’s Endgame Course and the Dvortsky book or however you spell it (I don’t have it with me). I’ll tell you how to use those when I review them.

Begin Already!

So I’ve told you why you should study, how I study, how to set your study goals, and now I’ve told you how to study. Not only that, but I’ve given you some book reviews of books that I’ve read. Now you don’t have any excuses to go out there and start studying! I give you the best of luck.

Setting Your Chess Goals

19 03 2010

See full size image

A while ago, I wrote some posts about studying. I mentioned how important it is in chess to have goals, and I briefly explained how to set the goals.

Today, I want to talk more about that subject.

What is a Goal?

Most people set rating goals. However, I think that is a very bad idea.

The first reason is that it is simply impossible to calculate what will happen with who you’re playing and good luck trying to figure out the USCF algorithm. Some people do have an idea, yes, but an idea isn’t good enough; the only ones who really know work for USCF, and they aren’t talking.

You also have to remember that your rating isn’t really a good indicator of your strength. It’s a rough estimate, and when I saw rough, I mean very rough. I’ve been out here playing for over five years now, and my rating still isn’t even close to being where it should be. If your rating is pretty reflective of your actual skill, it means one of two things: 1. Your rating is over 2300 (the points become much harder after that) or 2. You’ve hit a plateau. I think it’s safe to say that most of you are below 2300, and hitting a plateau is obviously something that nobody (aside from the World Champion) would be happy about.

When you give yourself a rating estimate, it also puts a lot of pressure on you to win games. Most people will fold under the pressure, and chances are good that they won’t meet the goal. Then they start doubting themselves.

Just because your rating isn’t going up doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting better. I’m about 100 points below where I was a month ago, but I’m much stronger. Learning about the opening is great, but just getting a good position out of the opening doesn’t guarantee you victory. If your opponent previously had a skill rating of 1500 and you had one of 1200, then even if you get to 1350, you’ll still lose most of the time, but the games will be closer.

Finally, a rating goal is just too general. Saying that you want to get to, say, 1600 in sixth months doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t take the steps to actually do it. Instead, you need to set goals of what you’re going to do to actually get there.

Setting a Study Goal

I recommend setting a study goal. Studying is a great way to get better, so the more you study the better you get.

I will warn you that if you study for a while out of the blue, your rating will suffer and you’ll get worse at the beginning. However, after that, it will take an enormous jump, and you’ll be a much stronger player.

How to Set the Goal

So how do you decide what your goal will be and how to set it? Well, here’s what you do:

First, you look over your past ten or fifteen or so games and see what has been going on. Then, rate yourself based on opening, tactics, strategy, positional, calculation, and endgame. You should study all aspects, but the ones which you rate yourself lower in, of course, you should study more.

Next, take a look at your schedule and how much time you have for chess. If you don’t have much time, ask yourself if there’s anything you’re willing to drop in order to play better chess? If you just can’t find time, then be aware that you will probably never progress much in chess.

You have to choose what cycle you’re going to use. I use a weekly cycle, because I have the time each week to get to all of those aspects of the game. However, for many of you, that will be impossible. I would recommend that there should be around ten hours in each cycle, and then you split that up accordingly to your schedule.

You can study in small periods of time gradually to get up to those ten hours, but if it’s possible to study for longer periods, that would be much better, as I think it takes people a while to get into the groove.

So a three week cycle might look like this:

Monday: 20 minutes: Openings
Tuesday: 30 minutes: Strategy
Wednesday: 45 minutes: Tactics
Thursday: 35 minutes: Positional
Friday: 25 minutes: Calculation
Saturday: 25 minutes: Endgame
Sunday: 20 minutes: Free (on Sunday, I always like to either study whatever or just spend that time doing something else. A different day for you might be appropriate.

So you could just repeat that three weeks, and you’ve reached ten hours. Remember that the more you study, the better you get.

Note: Here is my current personal study schedule.

Changing Your Study Schedule

After every fifteen games, I recommend to reevaluate your skills (something I’ll talk more about at a later date) and change your study schedule in accordance to your new skills in certain areas.

How to Find Study Material

A great study plan is great, but it won’t do any good if you don’t have anything to study. If you can’t afford study books or DVDs, then you shouldn’t be playing chess; it’s a pretty expensive game.

I know how tough times are; I don’t want you to waste your money, and I want you to get better at chess. So I’ll be reviewing the books and DVDs (good and bad) that I read/watch and telling you if they’re worth it or not. Every other month, I’ll publish a list of the top ten books and DVDs to buy, so you really are getting the very best for your money. So get studying!

Book Review: The Best Chess Book in a Long Time: You vs. Fischer

17 03 2010

It has been said there are more books written about chess than all the other games in the world combined. I’ve heard before that there are over a billion chess books out there on the market right now. A simple Amazon search reveals it’s definitely in the 100 millions.

With all of this clutter, it’s a tough decision to decide what books to buy—especially in this economy. So we go on the search for “classics.” That’s why most of the current books are overlooked; the mass publishing is just too much. And instant classics are very rare.

However, I’ve found a gem; a book that is undoubtedly one of the best books to come out in years.

1900 to 2350

When I first started that book You vs. Fischer, the first fifth of the book pegged at a rating of around 1900 USCF.

My average performance rating after that was 2350.

I’m not saying that this book alone was accountable for so big an increase; I probably wasn’t in the groove the first part of the book, and I was in a slump when I first started that I broke out of (I think due in large part to reading the book).

However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the book improved my skills by at least 300 points. Just from a week or two, that’s more than most people gain in five years.

What’s the Deal with You vs. Fischer?

With all the chess books out, it is hard pressed these days to write a book completely different from all the others. However, that’s exactly what author IM Igor Khmelnitsky did with You vs. Fischer.

Inside the book, there are a total of sixty games, broken into five twelve game matches where you take the place of an opponent of possibly the greatest player of all time, Bobby Fischer, who requires no introduction.

You get a position, and you’re asked how you evaluate it. After answering that, you get four moves to choose from as the best move. You may want to change your answer to the first question after the second, and in fact I choose the move before making any decision on the position because to know that, you need to know what move is the best move, will be played, and what will happen.

Then you flip the page, and you’re given a score (0-10) on your selection, what result would’ve happened (used to track a match with Fischer and who would win the page), and analysis on each of the moves. The games are purposefully not categorized in order of difficulty or game type, as in a real game, you will never know what to expect.

With most chess books, I get bored after a while and have to take a break. But with this book, I rolled through it very quickly. It’s very enjoyable to play these games, and the time will go by fast.

What’s so Great About the Book?

The reason why this book is so good is because of multiple reasons. First is that you get sixty real game situations where you have to calculate the position and decide what move to make. Practice is some of the best learning, and surely that helps a lot.

Second is the analysis. Khmelnitsky gives his thought process and what he analyzed, so you’re able to correct your thought process, which is very important.

Third is that you get to beat Fischer! What could be a better confidence booster? You’ll probably get at least a draw with him, and if you do well, you should be able to win. The truth is that he made a lot of mistakes, but his opponents were so afraid of him they were afraid to capitalize.

My Chess Book of the Year Pick

I don’t say this lightly, but I strongly support this book as the chess book of the year in 2010.

I realize it came out in November, 2009, but I’m pretty sure it must be entered into 2010, because I read the book that won (Revolutionize Your Chess(fantastic book)), and I don’t think it really compares to You vs. Fischer when you look at the results and the novelty, which I think is more important than a theory on the game.

Highly Recommended

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend this book to anyone over around 1200, because it is highly instructional, and the content shouldn’t be over many peoples (if anyone’s heads).

The convenience of this book is also amazing. The chess board is right there for you to analyze from, so you don’t need a board. This was extremely useful for me, and I did a lot of the book on the go.
So why don’t you get it?