How to be a Better Chess Player

Getting ahead in the game of chess is not an easy feat. The world’s most prized chess champions like Magnus Carlsen has dedicated years of research, practice, and tournaments to get to the number one spot. Getting into the Grandmaster category is what every chess player is aiming for; but you have to be patient with the ladder. You must go through every step from Class C to get to the Grandmaster range which has a rating of 2600 and above. Magnus Carlsen with its current rating of 2876 makes people realize that this is fairly doable for a human – but it takes a lot of work.

If you want to be better at chess, you must aim realistically high and take the leap. Work on your numbers by focusing on the little bit of details that make up a champion. Remember that there are no known shortcuts to success. Here are the tips and tricks on how to be a better chess player:

  • Knows the basics and jargons of the game. While doing research can be tasking as compared to just playing it, this is absolutely necessary if you are dead-serious on becoming a world chess champion. Don’t be a slacker and read on the basic and up-to-date winning techniques. Also, know and understand chess jargon and so as the relevance of pieces, theories, openings, and variations needed to ace the game. Knowing the basics and how the game is played (rules and all) will help you play better in every round. You will definitely get the hang of it and move with the tempo as you learn from one game to another.
  • Play with different people of all categories. You can learn from virtually anyone who plays chess. The variations in styles and timing would certainly give you the training on how to strategically move your pieces. You also pick up some pointers or tricks from opponents which you can improve on in your game. A variety in playing portfolio also diversifies your chess experience. You can learn from both good and bad players as you are able to see and recognize more chess movement patterns.
  • Practice is the key. You can play alone or with your coach. The key is to make it a routine and to practice like a pro would. Follow a schedule and make sure you strike a balance between chess games and the rest of your life to avoid feeling burned out in the process. Practice definitely makes a better chess player – so make it a habit.
  • Review your own games. If you happen to be playing in chess tournaments or even at home with your coach, videotaping your games would be a great aid for improving your strategies. Review your games and take note of what you have done right and what you can improve on for the next chess sessions. You sure are your best critic, so learn from your blunders and work on becoming better at your game.
  • Do a lifestyle check. Eat healthy, get lots of sleep, be active and exercise, as well as avoid the bad stuff like drinking alcoholic beverages or cigarette smoking. You can sleep better with the use of a humidifier which is perfect for the winter cold months to combat the dry air that wreaks havoc to your health. Lifestyle modification is needed if you want to be better in the game of chess. If you think you want to look into a humidifier, check out this list of best humidifiers.
  • Discover and maintain new moves. The best chess players have their own famous chess moves. You must innovate with your own moves while also learning from the pros. Watch videos of chess icons and see how you can create your own distinct pattern.

The key to becoming a better chess player lies on no one else but in you. You have to work and train hard. While this may be a cliché, it still is the blueprint of success in chess. Having the drive and hunger to make it to the top ranks will ultimately get you there given the right mindset and a lot of practice. You have to take it one match at a time and learn the ropes while you can especially from the pro. Think like a newbie but play like a Grandmaster – that is how you become better at chess.

15 Summers Ago – Best Birthday Presents Ever!

It was like 15 summers ago, at my 13th birthday, and still I can’t help but smile at the thought of how that was made memorable by my mom and dad who showered me with not just presents but a lot of love and attention.

The morning of my birthday, I woke up bubbly because I just turned 13 and it is the jumpstart of my teen dream. I went downstairs with utter excitement only to discover that I was all alone on my birthday– yeah that Home Alone-flick-type of feeling. Of all days to be alone, they chose to desert me at this hour. Mom and dad left the house and left me no breakfast (which was the first time in history) and I had to fix my own pancake with bacon and eggs (my favorite). Good thing, I can cook. (I chuckled) I thought there was something fishy going on but I just can’t quite put my finger on it.

It was a weekend, so I just stayed at home and decided to kill time with a book and some munchies. I was startled when my mom, dad, sister, and best friends jumped into my bedroom door with a surprise birthday cake and balloons. I was bellowing in tears and hugged my parents to my surprise and delight. “I thought you guys forgot about my big day!”. Dad whispered “How could I forget this special day baby?” He hugged me tighter. We feasted on my favorite birthday treats like spaghetti, hotdogs and mallows on a stick, blueberry cheesecake, and a whole lot more mouth-watering picks.

We then opened presents. Dad gave me a rectangular shaped gift and I excitedly tore off the wrappers – it revealed a chess set! I have always wanted one of my own (because dad has his own chess set) so this was like a dream come true for a chess whiz like me. I gave dad a quick peck on the cheek and showed off my chess set to Cassidy and Dianne, my best friends. Next gift is up – it was a Stearns Infant Life Jacket. I shrieked with surprise, my best friends told me it’s supposed to be a prank. “I’d place my baby doll in here when we go out to swim”.

I opened another gift and it revealed a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone book. For a book nerd, this is a sight for sore eyes. I had a crush on Harry Potter back in the days so this was a treat! Dad eased me into the entertainment room and showed me the grand finale of surprises – a Warrior Foosball table. Being a dad’s girl, I have always loved soccer so we watch soccer and foosball tournaments or I would tag along as he plays foosball with friends. So, finally we’ll be able to play foosball at any time we want right at home.

Looking forward, I would want to give my kids the same gifts when they reach the age of 13 alongside their wish list. My 13th birthday was certainly a blast! It was not at all about the gifts alone (although I had the best present back then); but it was about the entire family and my friends teaming up to give me this amazing memory around 15 summers ago.

6 Popular Chess Tips and Tricks

Chess is the art and science of mind strategy. It’s almost 90% mental and 10% a physical game of sorts. Knowing how each piece moves and the rules of engagement is just the tip of the iceberg when playing chess. You have to learn to strategize and control the chess board from that very first move. Nothing on chess is carved on wood – there are no specific strings of movements that you have to memorize to be the next Kasparov or Carlsen.  It’s all about how you control the game both visually and mentally.

Here are 6 popular chess tips and tricks that you can try for your next chess game:

  1. Focus on the center. You have to take control of the center squares in the chess board. Take a look at the four (4) squares located right at the middle of the chessboard. You need to focus on these four (4) squares to dominate the game. The center is crucial (even in Geometry) in order to maximize mobility of your pieces. It is important to take central occupation and control to get the most of the board when you attack, decapitate the other pieces, and capture the opponent’s King.
  2. Start strong and dictate the game. You need to take a strong lead to intimidate. Get each of your pieces into the game in a rapid but systematic fashion. Play each piece into its best squares when opening. This will help you easily dominate the central squares. Keep each piece on the defensive to block attacks from the opponent side. Initiate threats when moving your pieces, limit the movement of your opponent; and you will get to dictate the course of the game.
  3. Castle your King. Once the King is captured, that’s the end of it. Be sure to protect your King by castling him at the onset of the game. Get the King behind the wing pawns even at the early phase of the game. The goal is to keep him away from the central squares to avoid capture or checkmate. This tactic also helps develop your rookies while you’re out safeguarding the King. You can capture the King at an early stage especially if the opponent fails to castle the King early on.
  4. Open the game with a pawn. Maximize the function of the pawn by moving it in the opening phase wherein the pawn is allowed to move 2 squares. This can open the gates for the Queen and bishops to take over the central squares. Limit the movement of your pawns and make each move count because this can also weaken your defenses when done in the wrong way. Do take note that the pawn cannot retract its moves.
  5. Figure out the right swaps or losses. You win some and lose some while battling wits on the chessboard. You have to know the points for each piece to determine which are worth losing and saving.
  6. Finish strong. The pawns took the lead at the opening phase, stage a strong finish by letting it advance to the farthest row that will make it a Queen. Let the King and Queen play the endgame but be sure to protect the King from capture.

There you go – these tips and tricks will surely come handy for retaliating on a lost game. In the game of chess, it is important to toggle rapid moves but it also pays to think on your toes. Timing is everything – hack into the mental state of your opponent and make your every move count at the time and place where it matters – right under his nose.

 

Top Chess Players in the World

The greatest think-tanks in the world have time for play indeed. Chess is said to be the game for the great minds because this board game entails a lot of focus and strategy to outwit the opponent make the best out of every calculated move. The chess arena has its own entourage of the most-coveted royalties that wowed the world for years with their wit, mind mastery, strategy, and even dashing good looks. Here are the top 2 Chess Players in the World.

Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen

He is not hailed as the 6th undisputed World Chess Champion and Norwegian Chess Grandmaster for nothing. The “Mozart of Chess” a young breed at 25; currently holds the highest rating at 2882 which also makes him the number 1 ranked player in the world. He has been holding the number 1 spot since 2010. Did you know that this Matt Damon lookalike locked in a spot as one of the sexiest man of 2013 for Cosmopolitan? He really is not your average World Chess Champion. He may be pushy, stubborn, lazy, and easily gets bored – yes imperfect and very human; but Magnus’ spirit and mindset is what makes him lead and ace every tournament. He is an intuitive player and knows chess like the beating of his own heart. He is more into speed chess or “playing with the hand”. He first played chess professionally at the age 8, mentored by his own dad who was also into chess at that time. He has an exceptional memory even as a child – this is precisely why he was cut out to be a chess champion.

Carlsen

A very intimidating player indeed without even trying, he lashes out an incredulous pressure on his opponent with his relaxed and daunting demeanor on the table. He has beaten some icons of chess – that fact alone is very nerve-wracking. His unscrupulous grin, childlike demeanor, love for his family, cold brilliance, mental toughness, and sincerity makes him one of the most well-adored and credible names in the chess industry. His winning streak is not by accident or pure luck – He was born to dominate chess while his sisters (his lucky charms as he puts it) keep him grounded.  Magnus Carlsen is certainly a household name and a trustworthy brand – ask Microsoft.

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov

He is an icon of chess – the best of his time at a rating of 2851. The Russian former World Chess Champion is a jack of all trades as he is also a famous celebrity, author, and a political activist engaged in varied humanitarian conquests. He multitasks pretty well while keeping his eye on the chess board. He also runs his own Kasparov Chess Foundation which aims to expand chess in classrooms worldwide. This 52-year-old Russian Chess Grandmaster has been a top-rated chess player for 20 long years (from 1984 to 2005). He declared his retirement from competitive chess on March 11, 2005. He is now mentoring Magnus Carlsen. The “Brain of the Year” awardee by Brain Club & Synapsia is certainly a multi-faceted personality. His contagious laugh, curiosity, humanitarian drive, passion for politics, kindness, and knack for writing and public speaking made him the greatest chess player of all time. He has not just won 10 years in a row at the Linares Super Tournament but has also captivated minds and hearts with how he amplifies chess as a way of life or as his famous book puts it – “How Life Imitates Chess”.

Kasparov

The cerebral game of chess is certainly not for everyone. Only the greatest minds can decipher the movements and jagged tricks of the chess board game – or is this an accurate assumption? Is there a secret formula to succeed in chess and be like Carlsen and Kasparov? The younger generation seems to have a palpable edge in terms of playing chess as both these players started young.

Chess can be a very intimidating sport not just for the amateurs – but even the pros get momentary jitters that keeps them pumped up during the game. It could be the chess board or your own neurons playing tricks on you but the world’s best chess players would certainly attest that this presumably sport for the demi-gods is a game that can train your kids to put the fun back in the game while keeping your mental intuition amplified.

Best Chess Piece

Chess is a sport played by two. Each player gets to control 16 chess pieces – 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, and 8 pawns. Every piece moves and captures opponent’s pieces following certain rules of engagement. The value for each chess piece differs in accord to their level of important in the game as well as its capacity to capture opponent’s pieces.

Every piece is significant. It ultimately varies on their range of motion or the number of squares that the chess piece can move on to. The value of each chess piece changes depending on placement as well as the pieces that surround each.

The value of each piece increases as more chess pieces are eliminated from the board. The less crowded it is, the more powerful the remaining pieces become because it has expanded in range of motion.

Although the value of every chess piece varies over time, it carries with it an absolute value. The potential value is quantified by its range of motion alone on the chess board (without the other pieces affecting its total value). There is indeed a hierarchy to things – even in the game of chess.

Every piece increases or decreases too depending on the phase and pace of the game. Value points are relative. These points aim to assess the value of each piece strategically or depending on the point of exchanges.  Here are the standard valuations for each chess piece:

  • Queen – 9
  • Rook – 5
  • Knight – 3
  • Bishop – 3
  • Pawn – 1

The King’s value is considered undefined as it cannot be traded or captured in the course of the game.

What is the strongest chess piece? Players vary in opinion as to what the best chess piece is. Every piece is important but varies in significance or degree.

The second best chess piece for me is the Queen. Being a femme fatale, it is considered as the most powerful piece in the chess board mainly because of its wide range of mobility. It can move along files, ranks, and diagonals eating up opponents. She can move on as much space or squares as she pleases without forbidding. The Queen is most often used as a bait to lure the opponent into a dead end by way of a “queen sacrifice”. The Queen is also teamed up with a rook or bishop to intensify her power against the opponent. More so, the Queen is also used to threaten or intimidate the opponent’s Queen forcing her to retreat and break down animosity and power of the opponent.

The King still reigns as the best piece because he holds the most important position in the chessboard. He has limited movement but once captured – it’s the end of it all. Every piece is on guard to protect the King.

In the early times, the ancestor of chess – “shatranj” – excluded female figures in the board game. The male pieces dominated the table which means the female piece or what was referred to as “vizier” was considered a “weakling” – the weakest spot in the chain.

There was a power shift in the 15th century, giving equal power to women which also paved way to the reign of the Queen in chess. She holds formidable strength and considered to be a favorite piece.

Behind every successful man is a woman. This adage may prove to be true as this is exactly how the King and Queen complemented each other’s power in this medieval game of chess.

Chess as a Child

Chess is an intimate sport for me. It reminds me of my childhood – of the days when I would wrestle minds with my dad in my attempts to outwit him whenever we play chess. He always gave me a hard time winning. He made me realize that my charms won’t work on him especially when in game mode.

Chess is said to be an art as much as it’s a science – a little bit of both I think. I only remember that it can make you look smart and that has what initially attracted me to the sport.

Recent studies conducted by the American Chess School are in support of this claim as this revealed that playing chess which is similar to working on computers or taking up creative writing is said to harness both creative and critical thinking skills in children. Kids who actively play chess have been found out to rank 13% higher in critical thinking and 35% higher in creative thinking as compared to those who are non-chess players.

The perks of playing chess are that it does not just make you look smart – it actually sharpens your cognitive skills and makes you brilliant. This is exactly what my dad told me. My mom would say I’m too young to be exposed to chess but my dad would say “now is the perfect time”.

The mind of a child, as young as 4 or up to 8 years of age, work virtually like a sponge; and that’s the best time for kids to learn because they absorb almost anything. My dad taught me chess at the age of 6. He taught me the moves of each piece. He said the King is the most important piece but paradoxically, this is also the weakest because of limited movement as it can only move one square. Once you capture the King – then the game is over.

The Queen, on the other hand, may be second in rank, but is regarded to be the most powerful piece because she can move in any straight direction. She would often tell me that is precisely how they (mom and dad) work together. They do not overpower each other because they each have specific roles to play. Instead, they aim to complement and bring out the best in each other.

My mom would fix us snacks while playing chess. I miss the smell of coffee that she prepares for dad and ice-cold orange juice for me. She would pair it up with our favorite sandwiches and join us in our chess tournament. She says “I can never beat your dad in this game”. My dad would quip “You can always beat me in the kitchen”. My mom is a fantastic cook by the way.

I have always been daddy’s little girl. I still play chess online but playing it with my dad on a real chessboard is a memory I hold on to frame by frame. My dad passed away 10 years ago but he has prepared me for life even in our quiet (or sometimes rough) playtime.

Playing chess with my dad taught me that decisions are crucial. You must weigh things before deciding on one thing. He also taught me the value of patience and teamwork. People are too much in a hurry nowadays that they don’t want to wait in line and resort to pushing or pulling and at times shoving people just to get ahead.

Think before you act. Chess is a mind game for the strategist. There are a whole lot of jargons around chess; but to me – chess is all about me and my dad. Every time he says “Checkmate!” it’s always about challenging me to be a better version.

He could always pretend to lose just so I win. But, he taught me that life offers no shortcuts. He taught me a lot more than just the rules of the game. He taught me that life has rules too – and that sometimes you win or lose the game but the most important thing is that you become a better person in the end.