Here are a few things I have started doing in my epic quest to improve my chess game:
Playing live Chess online against other players on Chess.com.
I play chess against real people rather than playing against a computer because my goal is to eventually play chess against people face to face, so this seems like better preparation. Also, playing against a computer just seems lame when there are so many people out there wanting to play chess!
Just to give you a bit of background on ratings – Chess uses an Elo rating system, which basically means your level is represented by a number. When you win games, your rating goes up. When you lose games, your rating goes down. Simple enough. However, when you first start playing you are given a provisional rating (an approximation of your level) and the increment at which your rating goes up/down is much larger. (If you win, your rating goes up a lot, and if you lose, your rating goes down a lot.) This helps you find your legitimate rating.
Anyway, I am trying to find my legitimate rating, and it SUCKS. Chess.com starts you with a rating of 1200, which is a way above average chess rating! So basically, I have to keep losing games (and therefore, losing rating points) until I can find my level and my legitimate rating. After losing my first game, I was so frustrated… You have to watch this video in order to understand my situation.
Picture me as the adorable baby elephant, trying so hard, even though success is clearly hopeless… The dog is all the awesome chess players I am forced to play against. Amused, they easily dance around me. All I can do is make frustrated noises, as bystanders laugh. (I apologize for the dramatic interlude, but would appreciate your sympathy regarding the discouraging beginning of my quest.)
2. Doing Tactics Puzzles on my Chess.com account.
Tactics puzzles are basically where Chess.com throws you into a possible chess game situation and you look at it and pick the best move as fast as you can! So it’s a short sequence of moves that usually involves an attack or a capture. With my basic account, I get 5 free tactic puzzles per day. I’ve been doing my 5 every day, and I like it because it’s fun and it doesn’t take much time to do. At first, being timed stressed me out but now I try not to pay attention to the time and to just focus on whether or not I can find the move.
If you’re brave and want to try a few tactic puzzles, this link gives you 10 free demo problems to try!
3. Watching instructional YouTube videos.
Here is the first one I watched:
This is the first video in a five video series called “Everything You Need to Know About Chess.” It focuses on openings. Now, there are thousands of chess openings out there and you could probably read chess theory on specific openings for decades; however, I liked this video because instead of focusing on specific openings (such as the Sicilian Defence), he focuses on the overall goals of the opening and gives some general guidelines for openings. Here are the guidelines he gives:
- Develop, develop, develop! (get your pieces off their original squares)
- Control the centre
- Don’t move a piece twice
- Castle early (before move 10)
- Don’t bring the queen out too early
- Develop with purpose
- Think about your opponent’s moves and threats
- Connect the rooks
These guidelines were really helpful because they made me realize that I don’t need to memorize specific openings. Instead, I can just play solid moves following these guidelines… What a relief!
That’s all for now! I will keep you updated as I move forward on my quest. Next step? Playing in a chess tournament at the University of Regina tomorrow. I imagine I will feel much like that poor baby elephant again, but I hope it will still be a good learning experience.