Rating Points On And Off The Board

Let’s say that there is someone who’d be rated around 2000, and who’d want to improve at chess and so to feel a certain increase, in any way, shape or form, in his or her own chess rating. It’s probably normal to feel as somebody whose rating is probably not quite right, or high enough. Like we might have already witnessed a chess player saying that “ratings don’t matter” or that chess blitz is just “more fun”,and not that both statements aren’t just merely emotional and perhaps associated to the fact that usually, the “chess player in question” is just a mere expert, but perhaps that the reason why 2300+ rated players are more likely to consistently outplay 2000+ rated ones are primary associated to the amount of time one’s been putting into learning about his/her game. So let’s say that for someone who would feel like ratings are justifiably used and even more importantly, somewhat representative to his or her understanding of the game, then there might be a specific “chess routine” to develop around our daily habits to be able to better ourselves, through Chess.

  • Puzzles matter

I’m not a great fan at looking at a diagram for hours and going over lines that might never actually occur, but that’s not the main source of my reasoning that leads me into believing that doing puzzle isn’t really the thing that’s going to impact my rating, in any meaningful way at all. As a 2000 player, I try not to rely too much on them but they still come in handy to convert a dominating middle game position into an actual winning endgame.

  • What is winning and what is not?

Based on my rating I might think that I might outplay a, let’s say 2100+ player, right? I mean as far as being 100″ USCF ratings points over my USCF ELO” I could still end up with the more “convenient middle game”.

Well,I believe that whether or not you can memorize plenty of chess openings, chess endgames or just generally chess patterns, tactics show on and off, and it’s not too much about how many diagrams you can shove into your brain cells, but it also comes down to what kind of “chess routine” one follows.

  • But “What Is Chess Routine”?

Well (FM) Mike Klein pretty much said that it’s really not so much about what you know or what you enjoy doing, it’s also what goes on around you and what makes you into what you’ve become. The DOE might allow a certain amount of money, that might benefits one’s learning access into becoming a proficient chess player or not, but as far as being apart of a chess club, or  a school district’s project, you don’t have to just rely on the city’s initiative to naturally hand out money every now and then.

In our case we might once in a while, try out a certain Gambit and beat a 300- lower rated opponent in a certain opening we don’t know so much about, but that doesn’t mean that one truly master it.

That’s why we’re trying to level out the different kind of access one might get as far as being able to learn about chess, rather that just deliberating whether or not one could just get. So there is nothing wrong with practicing puzzles every now and then just to kind of hope to improve on how much we could get done during an actual “OTB” game.




How Does Chesskid Empower Scholastic Chess? With (FM) Mike Klein!

It’s no easy task to stay relevant in the Chess Business nor World, for more than a decade if not just years. Kids grow up, mentalities evolve, for the better or for the worse, but Chess remains one of the most marvelous and perplexing sport. And nobody understands this better than Fide Master Mike Klein, who has been playing chess since he was four years old, and “can’t remember not being able to play chess”. In fact Mike was North-Carolina’s best Junior player, and went on to become a successful and prolific chess teacher as well as chess ambassador of chess.com’s growing interface : Chesskid. What are the shifting behaviors from the components of the Chess Culture and Sport that he’s noticed, and why his association with Chesskid is decisive in bridging the social-economic gaps around the access to Chess educative and learning resources?

Like many others, M. Klein ended up in New York City, trying to follow his passion, and started out working with Chess In The Schools by 2001. Back then he was just a competitive chess player and had no idea what teaching was really like. That’s why he was a perfect recruit for this organization, since Chess In The Schools’s trademark is to basically fabricate professional instructors out of non-teaching chess enthusiasts who just want to understand how teaching work. As as a matter of fact, Mike thinks that if it was not for all that training, he wouldn’t have been as successful as he is today.

In retrospective “there wasn’t many different powerhouses around the U.S” while “nowadays we have really strong programs in Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, Seattle. But back then, even though it was the National Championship each Spring, it was really just a question of which New-York-City school will win.” However he kept on practicing, playing, improving and eventually becoming a FIDE Master, which for those who don’t know, is just one step away from International Master. Even though “Fun Master Mike” didn’t have a lot of “big tournament wins”, he kept up with chess throughout his youth, successfully taking over North Carolina’s high-school chess division, remaining its champion for five consecutive years (1993-1997).

Fast forwarding Master Mike moved back where he grew up to start his “own chess teaching organization, called Young Master Chess and over the years that grew to about 15 schools.” Eventually he started using the Chesskid’s website which wasn’t as completed as it now is, and part of that reason was Mike Klein’s original experimenting with the platform, and spontaneous communicating to its developers. He “was giving the website so many ideas, for features and how to improve, that they eventually they basically hired” him to work on the back end of their product, and develop it into the subtle and ingenious program that it’s become.

Introspectively “nowadays if you’re not a master by ten, then you’re no one” and “there’s probably a chess club in the majority of the elementary schools in New-York-City”. That being said practice makes perfect but daily practice makes better. So “even if you’re in an active club, in order to improve at anything you need to do it more than once per week[..]”. That’s why Chesskid’s role is even more primordial now that Scholastic Chess has become a thing. However kids tend to quit the game when they get to Junior-High or High-School just simply because they’re not as absorbed, challenged and satisfied with the Sport as they were when they first picked up Chess. In some cases they go to their weekly Chess Club, but after a couple of years, their leaning curve slow down and they move on to a different sport.

“Chesskid is just trying to be an auxiliary resource for kids that are already getting coaching once a week, but also to be the main resource if you’re in an area of the world that has no chess culture. We’re trying to level the accessed information just like Magnus Carlsen did, playing online growing up, but for kids.” Perhaps not every chess scholar thrives to become a profusely accomplished chess player, and turn into the next youngest American Chess Master, but “whenever you’re good at something you’re much more likely to stay with it”. Try it out yourself and create your kid his/her own Chesskid account. You can also unlock special features, and support Premier Chess by getting a discounted Gold Membership, just follow this link! We are currently in the process of handing over free Gold memberships to all of our students. Thank you Chesskid, and (FM) Mike Klein for your time and consideration.

Fide Master Mike is a great teacher
(FM) Mike Klein teaching a ChessKid lesson

Act Naturally.

They are going to take me to the movies and all you have to do is act naturally! On Friday, November 1, I was doing a hike to the Griffith Observatory before the Los Angeles Open began. As I approached the Hollywood sign I couldn’t help but start singing the Ringo Starr song “Act Naturally”. This made me start thinking about the importance of going with one’s instincts and not overthinking it. The portion Lech Lecha says “Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” There, G‑d says, he will be made “ While it is important to calculate for every move you make on and off the board, one should strongly consider his instincts.

One exercise I have done with students several times is showing them certain positions. Once I would show a position, I would ask the student what move he would play on the spot. While he would hesitate to give an immediate answer, I would ask him to pretend he had only 1 second left on the clock. Often the answer he would give would not be any different than the move he suggested after thinking for a few minutes.

The day after the Los Angeles Open, I went outside my comfort zone, paddle boarding in the Pacific Ocean by the Santa Monica Pier. While I have paddled several times before in Boston, Seattle and elsewhere, it was the first time doing it on the Ocean in the waves. I had difficult standing up on the board, not because I could not do it, but only because I kept overthinking the process and kept telling myself I had to remain kneeling on the board. Sometimes you need to abide by Nike’s suggestion and just do it.

In that vain, we should get inspired by the famous words of Hands on Hoops Skills CEO Michael Deutsch: “Say yes and figure it out later.” While one most certainly need to do some preparation before agreeing to do something, one needs to be confident and move forward without too much thought. I constantly remind students that I rather them be confident about incorrect answers and then I confident about an incorrect answer. One expert student constantly finds himself in time pressure. While he often does get good positions out of the opening and middle game, he almost always has to blitz out his remaining moves, not giving him much of a chance. When I’ll ask him why he spends so much time in relatively common basic opening positions, he will say that there were all these complications. However, he generally just wastes time just second guessing himself.

To the contrary of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote “Failing to Plan and planning to fail”, one should not go overboard with precautionary measures. I know too many entrepreneurs that spend way too much time preparing their corporate collateral, fancy logos, documentation, team, etc. Many businesses will take 1-2+ years to get off the ground before they generate revenue. To the contrary, I did not incorporate Premier Chess until we had a check we could not deposit because it was written out the company name. Then through a ton of emails, calls and networking, after 2 months in business in September 2017, we were in 14 schools and had 10 instructors on our team. Now we have 43 instructors on our team and run programs in 69 schools and several companies, including the law firm Kramer Levin. While its most certainly important to maintain a high level of product/service, for a business to grow, it’s also important to remain confident and not waste too much time doing non-revenue generating activities.

While it is important to conduct blunder checks to make sure your instincts are sane, you shouldn’t necessarily over think every thing you do, whether that be in life, business or on the chess board. While an attorney knows the law in and out, at the end of the day when he is on trial, he needs to make quick decision! In the words of Guitar Guide Guru CEO Mike Papapavlou, “Pame” (let’s go)!

CEO of Premier Chess in Los Angeles
(NM) Evan Rabin at the Los Angeles Open

Practice in Chess ?

Chess requires consistent practice and an objective state of mind to keep on getting to the next level. Unlike other sports where presuming that you’re the best may give boost your self-confidence and push you to greater heights, doing so here is probably going to do more harm than good. I’m not saying that believing in you is bad, on the contrary we should believe in ourselves but similarly to other activities, doing something over and over again will get us to where we want only if we employ the right methodology. But which training technique is going to make us improve and should we all have the same approach to become stronger players ?

Opening knowledge is quite primordial when it comes to getting a decent middle-game position and our comfort level with the position we get. For instance at club level the dragon is quite popular at and the likelihood to reach some Tabiya is pretty likely. So you’re an e4 player and you’ve noticed that you’ve been getting this exact same position in the Sicilian and you decide to do some homework, which is a wise thing to do since the Dragon is a dangerous opening.

After a while you memorize a couple of more moves and you go back to your local club and end up with a nagging edge around move 20. But how did that happen ? Remembering moves and just re-playing a line in which White ends up with a slight advantage has allowed you to get good position out of the opening but now what ? And is this chess is supposed to work, just pure memorization ? Anyway your clock is ticking and we must dive back into the game as the you’re out of the opening in even deeper water.

Now you and your opponent traded a few more pieces, you’re a pawn up but the position looks even more unclear to you as you’re not familiar at all with this situation since you’ve never played so good against Jeffrey. Then what are the conditions to be considered an experienced and knowledgeable competitor who is able to convert some sort of advantage into a winning endgame. Well since there are less pieces at this point of the game brute calculations and forced lines should be popping in and out out of your brain. Whether it’s figuring out the best way to bail out of a dangerous situation where your opponent’s pieces are dangerously aiming at your King or thinking through how to rightly put in motion the combination of moves that will allow you to simplify the game into a simple and much better endgame, calculation will be a big part of the equation.

At this point your clock is ticking down to a few remaining minutes and you’re struggling to even remembering if you know how to win this rook endgame. A pawn up but it’s your king is somewhat far away from it and your opponent’s King is getting closer and closer to your only hope for winning. Well in times like that experience may be of importance as far as not feeling overwhelmed by the time pressure and just losing your ability to play right, but more importantly your knowledge of endgame is quite primordial, and nothing better but to do endgame puzzles for that.

The Art Of Learning Chess

Being a kid I remember being told quite a few times that this was the best instant of my life, and I never knew for sure what they meant, and probably would just nod away whoever was expressing their own bit of bitterness to a child. Looking back, being a chess player myself, I realize that perhaps they were somewhat right. Quite possibly our younger years (12-18) are extremely relevant to what a good part of our life is going to look like. In my case I stopped playing chess at 12 and tried out other sports, and now that I work within the chess industry, I have to catch up the time loss in which I didn’t study chess, so I could become a prolific chess enthusiast again.

I was a somewhat quiet and jovial kid, started coming regularly to the chess club of my hometown at an early age (so early there weren’t any tournaments available for me yet), and eventually went through the different stages of basic understanding of Chess. Once I knew how to move the pieces, I was able to remember certain openings and basically gain 100 rating points every year. I was 12 years old and one of the higher rated of my category in my country, but I stopped training, competing and improving in any meaningful way.

Our destiny isn’t predefined, or at least I like to think mine isn’t. So every effort put into a positive direction will come back at you, and brighten your life, at some point. On the other hand, laziness and not getting involved within our community might have a tremendous impact on the dynamic of your future. Now that I am an adult, I still believe I can start learning again and investigating the sport of chess again, while self-consciously noticing and realizing the different course of actions that my learning curve is taking.

For kids attending chess programs, we want them to realize that on their own. With time, patience, kindness and the right mindset we teach them the way of life while learning how to get chess. Once they get there, that’s when their mindset becomes of the utmost importance. You can show a group of kids an opening, or even a game, and hand them over more knowledge than 10 hours of private lessons could. It’s possible, everything kind of is.

Memorizing, Understanding And Drawing Conjectures

At a job interview I’d set up two different positions. My interviewer asked me to come up with a lesson plan, or at least something that they could learn from. After quickly introducing ourselves we set those up (see below). Black’s arrangement is the same in both diagrams, but White’s one differs a little. In one he’s already castled while in the other he’s not, and the c2 pawn is occupying the c4 square.

Black can play e5

[fen flip=true csl=Yc4,Ye1 cal=Ye7e5]rnbq1rk1/ppp1ppbp/3p1np1/8/2PPP3/2N2N2/PP2BPPP/R1BQK2R b KQkq – 0 1[/fen]

If you know a little bit about the King’s Indian then you probably know why playing e7-e5 is fine here. White is controlling that square twice and you are defending it only once. However Black’s dark-squared Bishop is x-raying the h8-a1 diagonal. So if White goes pawn grabbing, Black will be able to play Nxe4, at the right moment, and get his pawn back with an equal position.

Black shouldn’t play e5

Why is Black unadvised to play that exact same move here ? Isn’t the g7 Bishop still there, ready to jump into the game at the right moment ? He surely is but White has castled and his c2 pawn is still on c2.

[pgn flip=true navigation_board=above]
[SetUp “1”]
[FEN “rnbq1rk1/ppp1ppbp/3p1np1/8/3PP3/2N2N2/PPP1BPPP/R1BQ1RK1 b – – 0 6”]
[PlyCount “9”]
[SourceVersionDate “2019.11.18”]

6… e5 7. dxe5 dxe5 8. Qxd8 Rxd8 9. Nxe5 Nxe4 10. Nxe4 Bxe5 {[%csl Rb8,
Rc8,Rf6,Yg1,Rg7,Rh6][%cal Gc2c3,Yc1g5,Ye2c4] Compared to the first diagram, where White’s King wouldn’t be castled and his c2 pawn would be on the c4 square, here White stands better. Black got his pawn back but Black is not quite developed yet and White’s pieces can get positioned optimaly. The fact that White’s c2 pawn is still on his starting square is a big deal. Not only
we can move it to c3 (which will protect the d4 square) but it also doesn’t
restrict our light’s square Bishop’s prospect.} *