secret of chess
Welcome to my article on the secret of chess. Chess is a very popular recreational and competitive game. It is one of the great mind games that our ancestors have invented. The current form of the game emerged in southern Europe during the second half of the 15th century after evolving from similar, much older games of Persian and Indian origin. Today, chess is one of the most popular games in the world, played by millions of people around the world in clubs, at home, by correspondence, online and in tournaments. This is the variant I am talking about today.
I wanted to talk about the much discussed “secret of chess”. So how do we solve this seemingly simple recreational and competitive game, played on a square chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight by eight square between two players? The answer, of course, is not that easy to find, however, in my constant practice and research, I think I have found at least one answer.
There are many possible hypotheses for the “secret of chess”. I’ll give my take on some of the myths I think are busted (I’m not sure if there’s a reference to any TV shows in there) and what hypotheses I think are plausible.
1. Computers will solve the game of chess.
Computers are strong opponents and the best ones analyze many millions of positions per second (eg Rybka), however just look at the statistics: there are 318,979,564,000 possible ways to play the first four chess moves. Furthermore, the American Chess Foundation found that there were 169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 ways to play the first ten moves of chess. For a computer to solve the game of chess, it would have to go through all the possibilities of a complete game, and it would also have to correctly evaluate each individual position.
On another note, if a computer solves the game of chess, a person wouldn’t be able to remember what to do against every possible move to beat someone, it’s just too hard. The use of computers to try to solve the chess game is inefficient, see hypothesis number 4 for a better use of computers.
2. The secret of chess: maximize the chances that your opponent will make mistakes.
In a 2003 article on the world’s strongest nonagenarian (the world’s strongest active chess player aged ninety and over), the authors gave a possible answer. Information was provided by writers Neil Sullivan and Yves Casaubon. The strongest nonagenarian in ChessBase’s opinion at the time was Arkadiy M. Gilman (rated FIDE 2237 in 2003), who hails from Russia and lives in Canada.
Anyway, in the analysis to “Gilman,A – Grondin,J [D02]Le Bolduc II – A Montreal CAN (6), 08.10.2003”, which was a victory for Gilman in 23 moves, the authors subtly slipped the chess secret. In my opinion, this is the best practical way to use a chess secret. chess. By allowing your opponent to make mistakes, you can exploit their imprecise moves. And by maximizing their chance of making mistakes, you have more opportunities to exploit them.
One way this can be used is through opening preparation. By surprising your opponent on the board, your opponent may not react with the best response and there is a chance that they will run away. Of course, you can’t count on this happening.
3. The secret of chess: dress like a grandmaster and start playing like one
This is my personal favourite. GM Nigel David Short MBE is often regarded as the strongest British chess player of the 20th century. He became a Grandmaster at the age of 19 and became a World Chess Championship contender against Garry Kasparov in London in 1993. Although an active player, Short continues to enjoy international success. He is also a chess coach, columnist, and commentator.
After an extraordinary comeback at the 2008 Commonwealth Chess Championship, Nigel Short said: “I was struggling at the moment anyway. Obviously I couldn’t play like a grandmaster, so I decided I should at least dress like one. I started putting on a suit and tie, even though everyone told me it was too hot. But apparently it put me in the right frame of mind. I think I’m a little slow to start with, and this way I managed to get out of the hole.”
It could be that the formality of dressing in a suit and tie can put someone in the “right frame of mind.” Just watch Nigel’s games in the tournament.
Anyway, here’s a snapshot of the cross table:
1 Shorts,N 2655 9.5/11
2 Ganguly, S 2631 9.0/11
3 Hossain, Enam 2489 8.5/11
4 Arun Prasad, S 2492 8.0/11
5 Sengupta, D 2454 8.0/11
Now I have my own experience with this hypothesis. I recently played in the Australian School Team Championships and our team scored 19.5/20 (it was a four player versus four player match system) against tough opposition. We were all in full uniform with a tie and blazer. So this hypothesis worked fine for me.
4. Secret of Chess: Analyze your games using computers and have access to millions of chess games for general study and preparation purposes.
This is a logical “secret”, but one that was subconsciously so obvious to me that I forgot to put it in my draft of this article. For a long time it has been said that the key to improvement is to analyze your chess games. This was emphasized in a comprehensive book called The Road to Chess Improvement by American GM Alexander Yermolinsky (2000). Furthermore, the concept of thoroughly studying your own games is also discussed and strongly recommended in many other works of chess literature. Perhaps GM Edmar Mednis said it best, “playing without a simultaneous critical review of one’s skills just won’t get you anywhere.”
It is now the age of computers and it is quite common to use a chess database program to store and analyze your games. This is where ChessBase is the world leader in chess software and innovation. Its Fritz and ChessBase interfaces (which differ slightly from each other) are the most comfortable chess database programs I have ever had the pleasure of using. They provide the perfect “aquarium” for your chess study and analysis.
Having access to millions of chess games via the Fritz Database or a “Mega Database” (a ChessBase product purchased separately from Fritz) is also essential for study and preparation. Players can examine new developments in their favorite opening systems by browsing recent games and can prepare for their opponents by consulting the database. This rather obvious “secret” can be used by both the world champion and your next door neighbor.
5. Secret of Chess: Chemistry.
When asked, “What is the secret to the success of this US Women’s Olympic team?” Zsusza “Susan” Polgár replied, “For one thing, chemistry.” She also noted that they spend “a lot of time together” with the team, work hard, learn to “get to know each other well,” have a “captain and coach who know and understand them too,” and have a “good lead theoretician.”
In late 2004, the US women’s team made Chess Olympiad history by capturing silver, the first Olympic medal for the United States. The player and driving force behind this success was Susan Polgar, who came out of a seven-year hiatus with an impressive performance.
When you play on a team, it’s important to have chemistry with the other members of your team. It is important to know each other’s style of play and continually encourage each other. I experienced this at the Australian School Team Championships as well as other international events.
6. Secret of Chess: Have enough coffee in the house.
In 2004, third place in the classification for the Canarias en Red Internet Chess Festival went to the author of Chess Today, GM Mikhail Golubev, who has told his readers that the secret of success in these Playchess events is ” have enough coffee at home”. Apparently he was out of the “sustaining brew” and lost an earlier inaugural ACP. In this tournament, he had a lot and was rewarded with a fantastic Buchholz to easily qualify for the final.
I’ve always liked to drink at the blackboard, although not coffee in particular. I have experimented with drinking Milo, Sustagen, Up&Go and Multi-V on the board (not sure if these brands are native to Australia). Many of these work well when they wake you up at the game of chess. I know that IM Jeremy Silman has recommended apple juice and chewing ginseng.
7. The secret of chess: XiangQi
What is the reason for the remarkable success of Chinese players in international chess? According to Professor David H. Li, it’s because they all have experience in XiangQi, the fast-paced, combative Chinese version of the game.
According to the professor, “When one is accused of playing a game with a higher maneuverability ratio, one has the advantage of playing a game with a lower maneuverability ratio. In addition, XiangQi introduces synergy into your thought process and style of play. By broadening your horizon, you begin to think more creatively; by improving your understanding of spatial relationship, you are visualizing more dynamically; and by deepening your analytical ability, you play with more imagination.” Of course, there is more. Just check out the article on XiangQi and chess.
I also played XiangQi when I was younger, shortly before I started learning chess. I had a certain gift for the game and I liked to play it against my grandfather. Sometimes I played it online, but I haven’t played it in years and I don’t recall ever playing it while playing “international chess”. I plan to relearn the game and play it online from time to time. I have always thought, having learned it before I learned the rules of international chess, that it has helped me develop my chess skills.
So these are the hypotheses that I present to you. You can decide which ones have merit and which ones are totally blown, and I’ve given my own take on all of them. If you had learned something today, it would have made my work useful.