Guidelines vs. Rules

By CEO National Master Evan Rabin

The king moves one space in any direction; that is a rule.

Develop, control the center and castle as soon as possible; that is a guideline.

In a podcast episode with business coach Sharon Richter, we spoke about the important of knowing the “rules of the game”. Of course, in addition to how to move the pieces, we were also referring to the position evaluation and basic strategy. While one should follow basic guidelines like developing knights before bishops, trading when up material, etc., it is important to think at the board and not automatically rely on them. 

In this easily winning position, my student Luke decided to use the guideline to trade when you are up material and played 19…Bh3. While he did eventually win the game, it would have made more sense to think at the board more and realize that white has a king near the center that can easily be attacked. Better would have been to not rush to trade and play 19…. Bf5+.  A sample winning variation would be:

20. e4 Rad8
21. exf5 Rxd4+
22. Kxd4 Rfd8+ (winning a queen)

In the Sicilian Defense, there is often a tension with the white knight on d4 and black knight on c6. The general guideline tell us that you want to let your opponent be the one to relieve the tension; i.e, white does not want to play Nxc6 and black does not want to play Nxd4. However, in this position, Grandmaster van der Wiel played 7.Nxc6 against Grandmaster Ulf Anderson. His idea was to get some quick development and a strong attack….. Several moves later, they got to this position:

In this position,  van der Wiel played the crushing blow 15.. Nxd5 and found himself in a winning position. See the full game here.

This position arises from the 150 attack against the Pirc Defense, a variation I read about in Attacking With 1.e4, a book described in this post. According to basic opening principles, black should castle kingside in this position. However, if he plays 5…0-0, he will be walking into trouble. White will play 6. Bh6 and black will have a tough time defending against a quick attack after a simple plan of exchanging bishops, marching up the h pawn to trade on g6, and playing for mate. Black is much better off delaying castling with 5….c6.

One should distinguish guidelines and rules. Do not play an idea just because it is the type that a chess teacher would fundamentally recommend. Do not forget to analyze of the board and make the best move. Disability Lisa Cunningham, once shared how when on deadline and or trial, an attorney needs to learn how to take everything he knows about law and think on their feet. On or off the board, be confident, distinguish rules and guidelines and use your intuition and you will be successful.  

3 Ways to Build Confidence

By CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

Last weekend I was screaming on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It was my first time in years riding a roller coaster and was certainly out on my comfort zone. The truth of the matter was that I did not have to scream; while the ride can intimidating, thousands of people take it each year and almost no one gets hurt. Later that day, I rode several other thrilling rides and I started to feel fine; the biggest challenge is taking that first big step! Confidence was a key topic of my recent podcast episode with Grandmaster Alexander Shabalov. On or off the chess board, here are three tips to become confident: the 50 point rule, repetition and self-reflection. 


On my first day working at Oracle, my sales trainer Bill Petersen taught an important business phrase: “Underpromise, overdeliver.” It is a lot better to forecast a smaller dollar amount of revenue and exceed it than the opposite. Chess players need to focus on appropriate expectations; one way to do that is use my famous 50-point rule. No matter what your opponent’s rating actually is, play as if he is rated 50-points higher rated than you. That way you give them a little respect and are not overconfident but do not get nervous and play passively.

On our last Annual Make a Difference Teaching Chess in Africa Trip, Luis Cuerdo asked a kid “do you know your name?” in front of the whole class. Confused as to why Luis would ask such a simple question, the student said, “yes, of course.” Luis thank asked the student what a a pin is in chess. While the student knew the answer, it took him a while to figure out how to explain it. It is not enough to the know what a pin or any other tactical theme is; it is important to review ideas many times to make sure they we know them, almost just as well as we know our name! Some good ways to repeat these ideas is to solve lots of puzzles and review whole games. You can find some good books for game collections here.

In this podcast episode, Elliott Neff shared how in chess you “win, draw” or learn.” There is no such thing as losing in chess. As long as you have a growth mindset and constantly self-reflect, there is no need to have any fears. One area I have always struggled with is last-round situations where all the money is on the line. Often a win will equate to a substantial prize and a loss will leave you with nothing at all. However, U.S Women’s World Champion Grandmaster Irina Krush recently shared on a Facebook post how you should treat each last round as any other as there will always be more last rounds. Compared to other masters, I have read very few chess games but I have improved in the game and gained confidence by playing in over 950 tournaments and reviewing all my games, by myself, with coaches and using the engine.

Draw the curtains I don’t care ’cause it’s alright
I will get by I will get by
I will get by I will survive
As the Grateful Dead teaches in “Touch of Grey”, if we set our mind to it, we can get by! The highest rated player in a tournament often will not finish in first place; the winner is usually the one who controls his emotions the most. As our close education partner Michael Deutsch tells his basketball students, they just need to say “we can do it” and the magic happens. Now, go ahead and use the 50 point rule, repetition and self reflection to be confident and win! 

Chess and ADHD: For Therapeutic and Educational Purposes

By Andrea Elrom, Certified ADHD & Executive Function Coach

The Pandemic has allowed me the luxury of watching way more Netflix and Hulu than I ever could have imagined. A year ago, I would not have seen this as a positive but now I can confidently say that it has opened my eyes into new worlds and has sparked interest in areas that I would have never taken the time to see.

“My Octopus Teacher”opened my eyes to a love story between a mollusk and a man on a journey of self discovery, “ Unstoppable” the one armed surfer who proved with determination almost anything is possible and “The Queen’s Gambit,” bring a focus to the game of chess.

As an ADHD coach and an Adder myself, this opened up an awareness to the incredible impact chess can have on the ADHD brain. Spending most of my coaching career on teaching and strengthening Executive Function skills, I am intrigued by the power that chess has on attention/concentration, decision making, problem solving, flexibility, sustained effort and self

Why had I not thought of this before? I am always looking for ways to gamify Executive Function skills, to find interests to ignite the brain, find passion and increase self
esteem; maybe Bobby Fischer was on to something.

I do believe that the treatment for ADHD/ADD takes many shapes and sizes but one shape I am looking forward to getting acquainted with is that of the — king, Queen pawn bishop and other pieces of the board. Having had the pleasure of working with Evan and Premier Chess,
my son and I are awaiting the beginning of the
Winter Rookie class. I am not sure I will be the next Beth Harmon but  am anxious to learn how to focus and solve problems.

Although Chess will not take the place of medication, it may be a component of strengthening executive functions. 

Learn more about Andrea Elrom’s ADHD and Executive Function consulting here.

Gratitude for Coaches: Part 2

By Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin

Last week I wrote about the chess coaches that helped me make master and allow Premier Chess to be a company. On December, 6, 2020, Grandmaster Max Illingworth, asked “Which non-chess skills are the most important for playing your best chess?” in the Facebook group. To improve in chess, one cannot just learn more openings, middlegames and endgames; he needs to learn business and life lessons regarding thought process, confidence, health and much more. With that in mind, I would like to express gratitude to some of the other coaches that have helped my business and I: Levi Welton, Mark Wildes, Mike Papapavlou, Michael Deutsch, Joe Rojas, Richard Pierce and Nilcee Schneider.

Three years ago I was searching for every single Jewish event in the country, asking the organizers who was providing photography and marketing material, on behalf of On the Spot Photo Magnets. While 99% of my business focus is on Premier Chess, I still do actually have a relationship with that company.

One day I sent a cold email to Rabbi Levi Welton about a young professional event he was organizing on the Upper West Side. While he didn’t need photo magnets for the event, he offered me a complimentary ticket for the event. I went and the rest was history…. He and his wife Chavi are dear friends and 1`mentors. Levi has become one one of my go-to spiritual and relationship coaches. I already even promised him that the day I get married, he will be the one officiating! Through Levi, I know that sometimes you need to go with your instincts, on or off the chess board. He and our mutual friend Reverend Gregory Livingston happen to also be great podcast guests.

I also learn a lot from Rabbi Mark Wildes, The Founder of Manhattan Jewish Experience where I am in the Senior Fellowship program. Each week I learn for three hours, one learning the weekly torah portion with my 1-1 partner Yosi Merves, another learning various topics with Pinny Rosenthal  and last but not least a class with Wildes. While I am often exhausted after a long day during fellowship, which ends at 10:15 PM every Wednesday night, I am also motivated to mow through the inspirational material. A few weeks ago Rabbi Wildes shared how during his first year of yeshiva in Israel, he learned how little he knew about Judaism from his years studying in Jewish Day School as a youth. As chess players grow, the less they are often sure about the evaluation of a given position and the more they realize they need to learn.

I first met Mike Papapavlou two years ago through the Astoria NY Entrepreneurs Club, a great group run by Pauline Zammit, Founder of Ceramic Creations. As the two people there that were not moms, we instantly became friends and referral partners. Mike has truly helped me unleash my inner rock star, as the Guitar Guide Guru tag lines alludes to. For the first time in many years, I’ve been playing guitar again; he’s taught me songs including “Ripple” and “Smoke on the Water.” As Mike and I often say “pame” (“let’s go” in Greek), just do it! Don’t hold back.

In July 2018, Michael Deutsch and I wore both promoting our services in the UWS Mommas Facebook group and realized we should join forces. We had a coffee meeting after our summer camp one day and the sparks were lit. He joined forces with Mike Papapavlou and I and we’ve become the three musketeers of education. Our three companies are providing extracurriculars for pods:

Much more than a colleague though, Mike is a health coach and accountability partner. He inspired me last year to start having green juices or smoothies for breakfast each day. We also keep each other accountable for our goals. For instance, he inspired me to hire Star Organizers to organize my home and I encouraged him to start Hands on Hoops Skills weekly newsletter.

Thanks to my good friend and podcast guest Raphi Salem, I have the privilege of joining Joe Rojas‘ Thrivers 360 mastermind group. While I’ve been to many business training and networking groups, none have been as productive as this one. Through this group, I am accountable for producing good video content, writing, introductions, etc. As he says at the end of each weekly meeting, “You are loved”. A good coach should build rapport with his client and be a friend but at the same time, constantly push him at the next level, sometimes requiring some tough love.

Through Joe Rojas’s group, I have had the honor of working with my other business coach Richard Pierce. Richard has helped me re-prioritize my goals and create a work-life balance. He is the driving force that inspired me to come up with my five whys. He also enlightened me that a lot more is in my control than what other’s think. I explained to him how COVID-19 is affecting our revenue as many of our school programs are not currently operating. He replied “It’s not the economy. It’s your economy.” We need to continue to think outside of the box, innovate and succeed. Thankfully, we have been able to and have had 300+ people signed up for our virtual classes so far.

Last but certainly not least, I want to thank Nilcee Schneider, a meditation and reiki another great friend I met in the Astoria, NY Entrepreneur Club. As Francine Steadman wrote in this recent  post, half the batte to becoming a successful chess player is gaining the potential to control one’s nerves and have the proper mindset. Nilcee always helps me relax and lose any stress indicators I may have. When you do not know what to do it in a certain situation, on or off the chess board, the first step should always be to take a deep breath and cool down.

Thank you Levi Welton, Mark Wildes, Mike Papapavlou, Michael Deutsch, Joe Rojas, Richard Pierce and Nilcee Schneider and many other great friends/mentors for always being there for me. Our successes aren’t our own; it is important to thank all that guided you along the way. Which coaches have inspired you the most? 

How to Log into a Tournament

By National Expert Brian Wilmeth, Director of Virtual Programs and Programmer

In a lot of our virtual classes on Zoom, students have struggled to join Lichess touraments. Here are step-by-step instructions students and parents can use:

See video instructions here.

  1. After your teacher sets up a tournament move your mouse to the bottom of the screen and click on the “Chat” button.
  2. A chat box should pop up. Click on the link you see in the chat box. Example

  1. You will be taken to a Click on the “Sign In” button.

  1. Next you will sign in with your username and password.  If for any reason, this login information does not work, it means you need to click “forget password” and retrieve it by email or create new account.

  1. You will be taken to the below screen. Click on the “join” button.

  1. Now simply wait until you are paired up ! Please be sure to keep this window open while you are waiting as it may take a little while until you get an opponent.


Development of a Chess Expert and Programmer

By National Expert Brian Wilmeth

I recently started managing another programmer after being the sole programmer for my company for a long time. Premier Chess CEO National Master Evan Rabin asked me for some similarities between programming and chess. Here are my thoughts:

I learned chess at the tennis club after my tennis lessons. In the beginning I would lose pieces easily and fall for the four-move checkmate repeatedly. I usually took about 3-4 times of the same mistake over and over to register that I was doing something wrong.

Let’s contrast that to the time I started programming which was during my junior year of high school. My favorite part of programming was drawing colors to the screen in the form of pixels. This is how most games are done. You could say I had a love for the gaming part of programming.

Later on I decided to tackle the harder stuff and I got a book on programming video games…

I gave up. It was too hard so I did not revisit that until my senior year of college. With chess I never gave up on it and started entering tournaments when I went to high school. Unfortunately, I played a lot less chess when college started.

Why did I give up? What causes anyone to give up in a pursuit of something they enjoy? It was too hard for me I think. Video game programming seemed too hard and reaching beyond my chess rating of 1900 seemed too hard.

What do I mean by too hard? Well in the case of video game programming, I worked from a book. I figured in order to learn this I need to get through this book. Is that really true? Perhaps there was another way. Perhaps my limited thinking of how this must be done was creating the feeling of too hard.

In the case of chess I started to analyze openings very deeply. I looked at how to play against the Grunfeld Defense and looked into that opening very deeply.

I wanted to play as good as the computer. During this time of trying to perfect my anti Grunfeld I thought chess was too hard. Perhaps I was just approaching it wrong? The Grunfeld was just a small part of chess and yet I was putting all my energy into that.

Now I approach chess and programming differently. I have goals that I feel comfortable with in both of them. How good do I want to be? I’m not looking to be a world champion chess player or the best programmer. For chess, reaching a specific rating would be nice and for programming, releasing a Nintendo Switch game would be nice.

Now that I am clear on what I want from these two pursuits, I am less likely to fall in the trap of hating the process, which could just be a sign that I am not clear about what I want and I am going in the wrong direction. In any pursuit, one should be clear of what he wants out of it and he will enjoy it more and get farther.

National Expert Brian Wilmeth manages our virtual classes and program at New American Academy Charter School. He is also a programmer and web designer. He recently did some consulting for KWR International. To learn more about his programming services and coding classes, send him an email at .

The Pecking Order of Rooks

By CEO National Master Evan Rabin 

When young novice students play chess, they will often count the number of pieces on the board to determine who is winning; they forget that pieces have different values. The rook is worth 5 points.

However, if an employee does not actively contribute to the company, he will not be worth his salary. To live up to the value of 5 points, a rook needs to be activated.  Most pieces like to be developed to the center, as they have more mobility there.  For instance, a knight in the corner has two squares it can go to, compared to eight in the center.  Contrarily, you can place a rook anywhere on the board and it will control 14 squares:

If that is the case, how should we develop our rooks to optimize their performance? Here is the pecking order of rooks from worst to best:

Bad: Close File

Rooks least enjoy sitting on closed files, where both sides have pawns. For instance, in this position black’s rook on f8 does not have any possible options. At the right time, black will likely play an f5 break so that the file can open up.

OK: Semi- Open File 

The next best thing for a rook is a semi-open file, where only one’s opponent has a pawn. In this position, white will likely develop his rook to d1, where only black has a pawn on d6. One should note, he is also forming a battery with his queen as the two pieces are operating on the same file.

Good: Open File 

The best type of individual rook is one an open file, which has no pawns on it. The white rook on c1 has free range of the whole c-file.

Great: Two Rooks Doubled up on a Open File 

They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for-or each other

Helplessly Hoping, Crosby, Stills and Nash 

If the rook has a friend on his open file, it is doing even better! In this position, I would certainly take white any day of the week, with his dominating rooks on the c-file, compared to black’s rooks on the closed a nd b files. What makes matters worse for black, white has annoying bishop on h3, which prevents black from playing Rc8 in attempt to trade rooks.

Excellent: Rook on the 7th Rank 

Even better than two rooks working together, is one rook operating on that color’s 7th rank, where most of his opponent’s pawn live, as exhibited by the white rook on e7.

The Best: Pigs on the 7th Rank 

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”


White’s two rooks on the 7th rank are most certainly worth a lot more than the 10 points, you’d value them, solely based on the point system. “These hungry pigs will eat everything they can get their snouts on.” (Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan, Winning Chess Strategies)

As Bruce Pandolfini often says, “Be excellent!” My coach Grandmaster Leonid Yudasin often suggests “If you don’t know what do in a given position, improve your piece.” At the very least, a rook should try to develop to an open file; however, it most certainly should not stop there. Just a person needs to continuously grow, rooks and every other piece should always work to improve their positions.

Bobby Fischer Ultimate Chess Set

By Shelby Lohrman, Director at American Chess Equipment 

As all of you should know by now, we here at American Chess Equipment and Wood Expressions are always striving to bring you, our customers, the best products on the market.  If that product is not on the market, we will do our best to make it for you.  In that line, we would like to introduce our New and Improved Bobby Fischer Ultimate Chess Set with the “Infinity” weighting system.

Ever since people have been making weighted plastic chess pieces, there has been a huge problem that no one has ever been able to tackle.  No matter what they did, the weights always loosened up and fell out.  Right now, weighted chess pieces are all made the same way.  Pieces are molded and then they take a weight slathered in super-glue and put it in the bottom of the piece and place a felt over it.

Our revolutionary Infinity weighting system incorporates the weight into the piece itself.  It is near impossible for the weights to loosen up, much less fall out.  How do we do this?  It’s a trade secret.  Let’s just say the is no more glue.

This set is triple weighted and weighs in at 3.8 lbs.  We listened to you and it is now made in off-White/Black.  The box went from corrugated cardboard to a high-end presentation box.

Might we be shooting ourselves in the foot by making chess pieces you’ll never have to buy again?  Maybe, but we feel that is more important to get our customers a quality product that reflects the name on the box.

Product is expected around the first week of December.  Use code:  PREORDERCHESS to get 15% off your pre-order of this item at checkout.  This code is only good for the first 200 sets of the New Ultimates sold.  After that, you will have to pay the retail price of $44.95.


Chess for Seniors

Here are some of the reasons why seniors should learn chess:

1) Chess keeps one’s mind sharp as it is mentally stimulating.

2) Chess helps relieves stress.

 3) There is some research that shows chess lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

We have a great senior class as part of our fall virtual class series.  In addition, we are currently facilitating a workshop for high school students and seniors in Westchester, in conjunction with DOROT USA.

Questions: Reach out to Evan Rabin, CEO of Premier Chess at or (917) 776-1306.




Why Taking Standardized Tests is Like Playing Chess

By Kenny Tan,  Founder of Kenny Tan Test Prep 

Taking standardized tests is a lot like playing chess.

  1. There are usually multiple ways to win. Just as there’s no perfect strategy in chess, there’s no perfect strategy for standardized tests. It varies based on individual personalities.
  2. We use process of elimination. Chess players consider the implications of individual moves just as test takers consider each possible answer.
  3. The ending isn’t obvious at the beginning. The end game in chess cannot be predicted by just examining the players. In the same way, solving a difficult test question often requires completing one step at a time.
  4. If you want to do well, you need a good coach. The best chess players are mentored by experts. The best test takers are taught by great teachers and tutors.
  5. You don’t need to win every time to do well. Just as your chess rating can go up if you win more often than you lose, you don’t necessarily need to ace every question to do well.
  6. The game is much easier with proper rest, nutrition, and preparation.
  7. You opponent can look formidable from afar and even more intimidating up close.
  8. Mistakes may hurt your pride but probably not cause permanent damage.

In what other ways might you compare a standardized test to chess?