Starting From Square One

Since I've started playing chess on GameKnot (My username is templedf there. Come play me!) I've become painfully aware of what a disadvantage never having studied chess really is. While my opponents very often whip off the first four or five moves from rote memory, I start struggling with the first move. Same goes for end games.

To correct this problem, I've started doing two things. First, every time I play someone, I look their opening up on the web. I can then read about it, learn how best to play against it, and potentially use it myself in the future. A friend showed me a neat trick for finding openings on the web. Go to Google, and enter the opening's notation as the search text. For example, if you search for "1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5," you will discover this opening is called the elephant gambit, and that it's not used very often because it doesn't ofter enough in return for the pawn.

The second thing I started doing is reading chess advice on the Internet. There are a large number of chess sites out there, many of which have useful advice sections. About.com's chess site has a neat feature where you can play through an opening, and it will tell you what it is. Unfortunately, though, their library is pretty narrowly focused on the mainstream moves.

The best site I've found so far, though, is Chess Kids. Yep. I'm learning chess from a site designed to teach 8-year-olds. There are 9 classes, with each class divided into 6-8 lessons. The first lesson is what the pieces are called and how they each move. Not exactly useful for someone who's been playing chess for 20 years. Fortunately, though, the lessons ramp up quickly. I'm currently in class 8 learning about the Sicilian Defense and the French Defense. In class 7, I learned about how to win or draw an end game with just kings and pawns. If you can get past being talked to like you're 8, this site provides a really good primer/refresher in the study of chess.

Comments:

If you really want to improve, don't wast\^H\^H\^H\^Hspend any more time on the opening - study endings. Buy just one book, _Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual_, and learn all his key positions. That's the way to get better. Really.

You've got to get to 2200 (or more, I'm not there yet) before openings really begin to matter.

Posted by Ashish on July 26, 2005 at 09:33 AM PDT #

Just stumbled across your blog. Nice stuff -- I am in a similar situation, in that much of the material that I can grasp at the moment is targeted at junior players. You might check out the embarrassingly named How To Beat Your Dad at Chess by Murray Chandler, or his followup Chess Tactics for Kids. I have them both and they do a great job of presenting basic tactical themes in a manageable way. By the way -- have you considered play on Red Hot Pawn? Been playing online there for almost a year now, and enjoy it greatly.

Posted by Randall on August 10, 2006 at 07:37 AM PDT #

Have you tried freechess.org? I used to be on Yahoo! but for several reasons, freechess.org (with eboard or winboard) is much better. Gameknot is nice too, but a little slow for my liking.

Posted by xombie on February 08, 2007 at 05:00 AM PST #

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