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How to Get Good at Chess, Fast (gautamnarula.com)
326 points by gautamnarula on Nov 24, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 149 comments



> "One big mistake is to rely heavily on computers for chess analysis. Computer analysis should be done only after you analyze the game on your own."

This isn't correct information anymore, in my opinion. Chess engines have improved tenfold over the last four years (when the author says he stopped playing). The increase in the strength of chess engines has subsequently caused an increase in the "humanity" of chess engines, meaning that, instead of playing bizarre moves that are strong yet incomprehensible to humans, they play principled, sound moves that are strong tactically and strategically.

The main thing that you will miss as a sub-2000 player (or ever, really) is tactics, which is exactly where computers excel. A computer will be able to tell you tactics you missed and will allow you to experiment to see how different moves would have improved your game.

I agree that you should analyze games with your opponent after the game (and also with stronger players), but keep in mind that, if you're both sub-2000, you'll both miss obvious tactics even as you review the game, which doesn't really improve your chess thought.

One last thing: the 400 points in 400 days training comes from the book Rapid Chess Improvement, which I do not recommend for the beginning player (the knight exercise is good, though). In it, Michael De La Maza wastes time blasting Jeremy Silman and the strategic approach to chess games. Some people like the book for the mild drama it started, but the tl;dr is "tactics, tactics, tactics," which pretty much everyone will tell you.


Excellent points all around.

> I agree that you should analyze games with your opponent after the game (and also with stronger players), but keep in mind that, if you're both sub-2000, you'll both miss obvious tactics even as you review the game, which doesn't really improve your chess thought.

This is very true, although there might be an additional benefit to that. If you miss something during a game, you can always write it off as "time pressure / momentary lapse", but if you miss it again during a subsequent analysis, there may be something deeper going on (i.e. you are probably not considering certain types of combinations, etc). Knowing this allows you to ask "why did I miss that twice, even without pressure?", which may lead to good insight into your thinking process and an increase in playing strength. Of course, this may not necessarily mean that it's the best way to spend your time, it's just an additional thought.


Ah yes, you should give yourself another shot to figure out different possibilities. It gives u better insight into whether or not you are getting better at identifying tactics


> "This isn't correct information anymore, in my opinion"

It looks like you hastily condemned the writer as a means to justify a parallel insight. The writer is clearly not against computer analysis, even in the quote that you have extracted. It does make sense to analyse without the aide of a computer then afterwards using one. Your insight still stands.


How is that a condemnation?


Would you mind naming some good chess engines for Mac, Windows and Linux? (I know this can be googled, but I value the recommendation from a credible source).


Stockfish (ranked #2 on the various computer rating lists) runs on Mac, Windows, Linux, Android. It's also free and open source!

http://stockfishchess.org/

https://github.com/mcostalba/Stockfish


The Stockfish team has made tremendous progress recently, thanks to 1) putting the code on Github and accepting patches, and 2) building an open, distributed testing framework that tests every patch by playing thousands of games.

http://tests.stockfishchess.org/tests


OMG, that is cool! Testing by playing 1000's of games, like QuickCheck for chess.


By the way, matches are currently ongoing to determine if Stockfish should be ranked #1 or not.

http://tcec.chessdom.com/live.php


What's the best open source GUI for it?


Arena and Lucas chess are good. I like Lucas for it's simplicity though. And it is fun for my kid to play with. It comes with a tutor option also.

http://lucaschess.pusku.com/

http://www.playwitharena.com/?Download

Edit: Not sure if all of these are Open source though. But they are free.


Try 'Scid vs PC' or ChessX. You'll get a good-looking GUI, plus some cool database features.

http://scidvspc.sourceforge.net/

http://chessx.sourceforge.net/

A cool feature people may not know about - many of these GUIs allow you to play two engines against each other. It's fun to watch two strong programs slug it out. :)


As far as I was able to tell, when I was interested in chess a few months ago, there is no acceptable Mac GUI for Stockfish.


It also works with GNOME Chess.


Google "Scid vs Mac"


Stockfish is amazingly strong. It's the world's second strongest engine (after Houdini) and completely free and open source. On average modern hardware (say core i7 CPU) it's rated around 3250 ELO.

I also have HIARCS chess (rated 3190 ELO on my hardware) which is notable for its human like play, but Stockfish kills it almost every single time.


Houdini is the best now. v 1.5 is free

http://www.cruxis.com/chess/houdini.htm


The point is that having the missed tactics pointed out to you by the computer doesn't do much to improve your chess. It won't help you find a tactic the next time an opportunity comes up. Whereas analyzing seriously and finding tactics yourself (albeit fewer than the computer will point out), _will_ improve your ability to find them over the board.


I differ from you in that regard. I learn tactics by seeing them played out. Once I see the pattern, it gets burned into my memory a bit, especially if I missed a tactic that led to my defeat.


The idea that "computer analysis should be done only after you analyze the game on your own" does not come from the notion that computer analysis is not accurate enough (which is obviously wrong, as you pointed out), but that you develop your skills way better if you put effort into working the solution out on your own rather than having it served on a plate by the chess engine.


And for those that are interested in building their interest in chess in a way that is more entertainment than education, I highly recommend watching "live commentaries", IE chess players playing against other people online while commentating it live.

My personal favorite is IM Greg Shahade (aka curtains), who has hundreds of these videos online [1]. There are also a bunch on youtube from other sources, but in my opinion curtains is the most entertaining (he is also quite good, the 49th ranked player in the US).

[1]: http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-video-search.php?q=curtains+...


IM Jerry who runs Chess Network is my favorite. Check him out if you haven't here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChessNetwork


I really like Daniel King's game reviews. You can find them here: http://www.youtube.com/user/PowerPlayChess


I like Mato Jelic's videos - short and regularly released with his own style.



I've developed a better 'feel' for the game by watching Andrew Martins lectures @ http://www.youtube.com/user/YMChessMaster/videos


Greg Shahade's videos are great. I particularly enjoy his solitaire chess games, where he attempts to guess the moves of existing games by great players of the past and present.


Not as exciting as watching the brown trouts swim but close enough.


Will anyone here besides me admit they've never won a game of chess, ever, not once? Even against some random little kid who only knows how the pieces move, at Thanksgiving?

I have this suspicion that some part of my brain is damaged and I'll never be able to play chess. I've made many attempts at learning, but have never improved over randomly moving pieces around the board.

Any advice on a resource that will help me at least not embarrass myself, even if I still can't win? "Play more chess" doesn't seem to be the answer. I don't think practice helps if you are practicing poor chess.


If you are really interested in chess then there are certainly ways to improve. All of them take work, but you don't have to give over your whole life. A little every day is enough.

I can't recommend http://www.chesstactics.org enough. Tactics are crucial, both for offense and defense. Read this for understanding, not to skim, and do the exercises. Again, do the exercises.

While going through the above, or after you've finished, do tactics on chesstempo.com or another site. You will miss a lot of them in the beginning, but practice makes perfect. It's crucial to your game to be able to just see certain positions jump out at you, and timed exercises will help immensely.

For playing practice, find an online site and be willing to suffer through some losses as your ranking settles in. Maybe you have never won a game, but believe it or not you are not the worst player ever. As your rating is found, you can match up against others on your level. There are several big sites, and a ton of others. I use chess.com.

Another thing to try is "correspondence" chess, where you can play out a game over days, weeks or even months. Why? Because you can play many such games at once, you can play a bit when you have time, you can play people all over the world (no time zone issues), etc. But perhaps the biggest thing is that when you have 6 or 12 games going, you have to be able to look at a board and find the best move essentially from scratch. This ability to look at a board for what it actually is right now (instead of in the context of your plans from 5 moves ago), is a very good skill to have.


I will definitely take a look at chesstactics.


On any of my commutes I'd just be doing chess tactics on my phone. After like a year I played some 100~ games. Won like 75 of them because I got really good at predicting moves and recognizing patterns. Seriously just nail out tactics day in and day out.

They are micro puzzles that increase in difficulty and isolate specific parts of the chess game, be it beginning, mid, or end game. Once you do a couple thousand of these, move on to a real board where every piece is in play.

Trust me, you'll get good fast, it just depends how much time you're willing to put in. Also, go to chess clubs. I go every Monday in my city and it's a huge help to get insight from veterans and pros.

Once you start even remotely understanding strategy and moves, you will get so addicted. Just need get over that beginners hump. I'm still shit by the way.


nice site - thanks


Hear, hear. I've instead tried to get better at everything but chess. e.g. playing StarCraft helped me learn basics of strategy that I wholly didn't understand the first 20 years of my life.

I've "known" how to "play" chess since I was young, so I couldn't see the forest for the trees. Learning strategy via a different vehicle helped me get past those roadblocks.

I haven't played a game of chess in probably 10 years but I know that if I came back to it, I could approach it from a much better informed viewpoint, since now I understand the high-level strategic elements that 7-year-old me didn't realize existed.


I started looking at openings, thinking that if I just started out with a well tested, accepted pre-canned opening, I'd be in a better position to start seeing some strategy.

It looked promising at first, but I still get creamed. At least it looks like I might know what I'm doing for the first few moves.


Except for a few traps, the opening is largely irrelevant to beginners.

Study endgames first, you learn how the pieces move.

Then study middlegame tactics to see how they work together.

Lastly you study openings to get to your preferred middlegame.


Just came to this thread to say how much of the article reminded me of my process of learning Starcraft.


I understand how you feel. I only learned chess properly when I was around 30 years old. Anyone should be able to at least learn chess to a standard where they can enjoy playing against other casual players.

See my previous comment for my recommendations on learning chess.


I'm in a similar boat: my brain just doesn't enjoy chess. I tried studying it, and it bored me to tears. Go feels better to me because it has far simpler rules, but significantly greater depth. (Or maybe I recognize the patterns more readily.) Poker feels better to me because making decisions in the absence of perfect information models real life.


http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1889323233/

Amazing beginner course. Read this book and Vol2 and you will be ahead of most tournament players on the fundamentals. USCF 2100+ at my strongest.


Practice helps if you can learn from the good and bad moves on both sides of the board. The article mentions analysis, have you tried that? Great players draw from a big pool of previous experiences and not only their own.


You should try playing Losing Chess then: http://www.chessvariants.org/diffobjective.dir/giveaway.html


Speaking of getting better at chess, someone on Reddit pointed out that Shredder for iPhone/iPod and iPad went on sale at half price ($3.99 [1]) for the world chess championship.

There are stronger chess engines for iOS available for free (Stockfish and Smallfish), and Shredder has some interface annoyances (the move list only shows the last couple of moves, making it annoying if you want to jump around while analyzing a game), but its saving grace is that it seems (both from what I've read and what I've experienced after a few games with it) to be better at playing at a lower level.

Many engines, when asked to dumb it down to give the human a chance, play like a grandmaster and then suddenly make a dumb sacrifice or ignore an attack on a piece--and then they go back to playing like a grandmaster.

That doesn't give the human a good game. It gives the human an ass kicking, then a brief moment of hope, and then teaches the human that even if the engine gives him rook odds or more it will still destroy him.

Shredder's lower levels seem to me to actually play pretty much like humans of that level. It keeps track of how you do against it at various levels, and by default automatically adjusts its level based on your performance.

[1] the sale is still on. I have no idea how long until the price goes back to $7.99. Also note that unfortunately Shredder for iPhone and Shredder for iPad are separate apps.


I wrote a website (http://nextchessmove.com/, GNUChess-backed) and corresponding iPhone app (Stockfish-backed, $0.99, mostly covers website hosting). Both let you drag pieces around "freestyle" and ask the engine for a move.

I've gotten absolutely clobbered with traffic lately, presumably tournament-related. I'd love to hear what you all think about the site's applicability to learning the game.


That's a pretty cool idea. will check it in my free time. Btw Does it just give ONE next move? or a series of moves until a significant accomplishment? because sometimes a move is only epic because of the subsequent moves it allows you to make. A sacrifice on its own doesn't seem like a good move. Its only when you see what opening that gave you, that you truly appreciate it.


Thanks! It does indeed only give one move. I'm really just standing on the shoulders of the chess engines (GNUChess, Stockfish) and they simply tell me what the computer would do given a position. I'd like to get more insight into why the engine prefers one move to another, but my understanding isn't quite there yet.


Umm, i suppose u are using an API for this, well why not use a series of API calls? Is there someway to detect some sort of accomplishment? (like piece captured, or check?)


I remember the days when Shredder was practically unbeatable in computer chess tournaments and ratings but now it's not even on the top 15 in terms of strength (Check CCRL: http://www.computerchess.org.uk/ccrl/4040/). Oh how the mighty have fallen! The strength of chess engines have improved immensely in the last 5 years and none of that has anything to do with processor speed.


I love Shredder for exactly that reason. It makes a huge difference for us lower rated players! Also, there are not 100 knobs to twiddle to get the playing level dialed in. Instead, there are a few "styles" (solid, aggressive, etc) and a rating. There's also a setting for Shredder to automatically adjust its level to give a competitive game.


I'm part of this "renewed interested in chess", as I've played competitively when I was in high school but then stopped for several years until I came across this year's championship a few weeks ago.

I've tried several things to get back into chess but so far I've gotten the most "bang for the buck" on http://chesstempo.com/ , go to Training > Chess Tactics. It's fabulous, it feels very useful and it's even highly addictive. And for chess videos I warmly recommend ChessNetwork on YouTube. Lastly, I found a really nice app on iPad just called "Chess", which lets me squeeze in quick games in-between events and it's optionally computer assisted, which can help find interesting moves.


Chessmaster - not that great of an app by itself - shipped with video tutorials by Joshua Waitzkin, now these were truly great


Read Nimzowitsch's "My System": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_System

Everything you need is in that book. It's not too long, and very readable. It has a very common-sense approach. Look for the 21st century edition at used book stores or your chess club: http://www.amazon.com/My-System-21st-Century-Edition/dp/1880...

chesstempo.com is good for practicing tactics between games.


Umm. 'My system' is worth reading but only so you have an understanding of what you are unlearning as you get stronger. In this day and age it is a long way from all you need to know, chess is much less dogmatic and more objective. The demands of the position trumps nimzowitsch's rules.


> Error establishing a database connection

For the love of god people. Please stop requiring a database connection to serve static content.


It's running on Wordpress. Do you know of static site generator that is similarly easy to use for non-technical people?

I use Jekyll, but when I tried teaching it to someone I realized that the learning curve was too steep and switched them to Wordpress.


What about http://scriptogr.am/ or http://calepin.co/ ?

Also, I think the problem is needing a database to serve content, not to generate or store it. Many people would be happy with a system where the database is needed only by the author, generating static pages from the database content and then serving those even if the database is down. I even wrote a bunch of scripts to use Wordpress as a static site generator, before I switched to Pelican. With a little more work I probably could have turned that into a turn-key solution that would still insulate readers from database problems.


wp-super-cache


yes - this or w3tc - either of them have an enhanced disk cache that keeps the generated html for each page on disk and apache/nginx will bypass php if you have the rewrite rules in place.


Existing platforms suck. Some of them have plugins or hacks for this, but mostly it's the fault of the developers for not making their tools more robust. So my comment is partly to blog users, partly to blog developers.


Too lazy to move off tumblr, but heard good things about blogofile.


Anyone care to provide similarly practical tips for Go?


http://www.kiseido.com/go_books.htm

Pick up "Tesuji", "Life & Death" and "Attack & Defence". Use "Tesuji" and "Life & Death" to learn the how and why of basic go tactics and to prepare yourself to study problems in general. Keep "Attack & Defence" for when you are ready to learn how to actually play go on a strategic level.

Pick up the "Graded Go Problems for Beginners" vol 1 - 4. Pick up "1001 Life & Death". Pick up "501 Tesuji Problems". If you play games and grind through most of this material, your strength will be around 5 kyu by any standard and rising. "Attack & Defence" will be here now to help you climb to the gate of the dan ranks and begin crushing your way upwards.

I'd consider Ishida's "Dictionary of Basic Joseki" to be the definitive guide to how to think about corner patterns. The updated edition, "The 21st Century Dictionary of Basic Joseki" is much more up to date but suffers from shallower analysis and a narrowed scope. Dip into those books when reviewing your games and for regular study. Combine that with collections of professional games, commented and otherwise, to develop your sense of the opening and early to late middle game.

I love to read go books (I own or have owned nearly every book on that page, as well as books from many other publishers...) but all the periods where I've increased in strength the most have been when I've played games and worked go problems on a regular basis. Still, "Attack & Defense" and those 3 volumes of joseki were instrumental for my progression from the weak end of single digit kyu up to 1 dan.


What's the best place to play online, for an absolute beginner?


For an absolute beginner, try running through this first:

http://playgo.to/iwtg/en/

Then register an account on KGS - http://www.gokgs.com/

Play games with low time limits (something like 5 - 10 minutes main time and 5 x 30 s overtime) and play a bunch! Ask for reviews on the KGS Teaching Ladder (a discussion room on the server), if you can get a good teacher or two to help early on you can figure out what the game is about with less pain.


I've followed your advice and have been playing quick 9x9 games on KGS while I'm working through the first "Graded Go Problems for Beginners" book. Thank you.


Do tons of tsumego. There are a variety of websites and smartphone apps for this.

Play a ton of games. At least 50 9x9 games, then transition into 19x19. Play fast games at first. You don't have the intuition or knowledge to read 25 moves in when you're only 20kyu (ladders might be an exception). I ripped through 30 games in a week and dropped from 9 to 5 stone handicap against gnuGo a while back.

There's a ton of books, but it helps to be cognizant of what you really need. In the early stages "Graded Go Problems for Beginners" is pretty good, as is "The Second Book of Go". Then there are a few titles in the "Elementary Go" series that are quite good. http://senseis.xmp.net/ is a tremendous reading resource.

Videos: baduk tv (some free, mostly paid) baduk movies (some free, mostly paid) http://www.youtube.com/user/nicksibicky (tons of free, not super duper structured though)

Honestly, put in the time. Look at your games, especially your losses. Analyze the bejesus out of them. KGS is quite good for getting others to review your games too.


The Graded Go Problems for Beginners (http://www.amazon.com/Graded-Problems-Beginners-Beginner-Ele...) has four volumes of increasingly difficult tactical problems. For the strategic side of things, I enjoyed Janice Kim's Learn To Play Go series, which has five or more volumes (http://www.amazon.com/Learn-Play-Go-Masters-Ultimate/dp/1453...)

And, of course, with Go you have a nice progression from learning to play on the 9x9 board for tactics, the 13x13 board to begin learning strategy, and the 19x19 board to play the real game. And thanks to the handicapping system, you can play much stronger players with both of you playing your hardest and both with a chance to win.


I'm not good to give quick Go learning tips but I think it's interesting that the general consensus is that Go and Chess quire significantly different "mindsets". Both are games of perfect information but it seems that the greater complexity of Go yields quantitatively different requirements for good play - in Go, people teaching generally talk about having the right attitude, avoid "greed" and similar "fuzzy" criteria.


I wonder if it is still the case that Japanese Chess (shogi) is also considered "too hard" for AI. I'm by no means a proficient shogi player -- but found it a refreshing "variant" of chess. The main difference from chess, is that the board is 9x9, and crucially, that you get to play captured pieces.

I like the idea of Go, but I'm afraid it's a little too simple for my tastes...


If you begin playing Go, you will find that strategic complexity go well beyond most people's ability to calculate so simple mostly applies only to the rules.

Anyway, I think games wind-up being hard to program when one is allowed many moves each turn. Go allows hundreds of potential moves and it is not easy to prune the tree or estimate the relative situations. I remember Shogi being described as similarly hard - I think the re-played captured pieces might be what makes the tree explode.


Oh, I absolutely know go is a complex game, I was talking about the "surface simplicity". It does appeal to me, but at the same time it strikes me as being too bare bones to really be enjoyable -- for me.

Maybe it's just that I think board games should be played on a proper board, with tactile feel of the pieces -- and I don't know anyone that play go (or shogi, for that matter) where I live. Also the main reason I don't play chess -- I can't really say I enjoy any of these games as computer games/internet games.

When a computer is involved, I fell I might as well play something with complex rules that leverages the computer, like Planetside ;-)


I feel like playing Go helped my chess and vice versa.


I'd suggest the list here [0]. And I'd add a couple of my own notes:

- For replaying pro games, it's actually far easier than it sounds. I'd suggest to pick a pro with a "peaceful" playstyle: Shusaku, Shuwa for old go, Lee Chang-Ho or Go Seigen for more modern games. Try not to copy their opening/ joseki blindly, but getting a feeling of the conventional/ good shape in play is always good. Strong players with a aggressive play style and lot of brilliant moves can be a bit hard to follow.

- There is the smart go apps for iPad, which is very useful for both tsumegos and game replay (it has a large collection of games)

- I'd suggest the book "Lessons in the fundamentals of Go" by Kageyama Toshiro. I'm not sure if the book is out of print, but it helps a lot to get a sense of the game (ie. all those "fuzzy" criteria as joe_the_user mentioned).

[0] http://senseis.xmp.net/?BenjaminTeuber%2FGuideToBecomeStrong


> Lessons in the fundamentals of Go

It's worth noting that, like many books with words like "fundamentals" in the title, that (excellent) book is not really intended for beginners.


play, play, play, play.

A lot of videos and guides aren't hugely useful until post <10kru since you are still mastering the very basics such as move order, counting liberties, basic structures.

Still videos are good. There are dozens on youtube "Bat's lectures" are one I follow (He's a 2Dan American) "Youtube user dywrin" also https://www.youtube.com/user/gocommentary gets an honorable mention he's very useful but is no longer making videos.

The biggest piece of advice I can offer is learn joseki's, and not only learn them. But learn to punish when people don't play properly, this will easily push you into single digit kru.


It can't hurt to deeply study joseki, but it's unusual advice before single-digit kyu, if not later (and hardly a way to get good FAST).


a few long intense sessions will do more for you than many single games. you need to play over and over again, ideally with a stronger player, right in a row. not once a week. do it 8 hours in a row. if you can do it several or many days in a row, that's even better.

play small games as a beginner or if you don't have time. 9x9 and 13x13 are good.

get an account on KGS and engage with the community there.

and yes read the various books. kageyama's fundamentals is great, but it really depends on your personality.


goproblems.com is great for practice


This is a good set of suggestions for improving in chess that obviously worked well for the author. When I saw how great his results were, though, I suspected that he must have been pretty young during his improvement phase, and sure enough, he was a teenager. Rapid chess improvement, like language acquisition, is a lot easier when you're young. So if you're an adult, don't be too disappointed if this regimen doesn't shoot you up to 1800 in a year. I know many adults who have been playing the game seriously for decades who never got there.

(Context: I have been an 1800-rated adult myself who recently got up to 2000 with a lot of hard work.)


For tactics training, I highly recommend "1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations" (http://www.amazon.com/1001-Winning-Chess-Sacrifices-Combinat...) and "1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate (http://www.amazon.com/Brilliant-Checkmate-Chess-lovers-libra...). Both books are things you can toss in your bag and pick up when you have a spare minute.


chesstempo.com is also quite good for tactics training.

Tons of problems (20000+), comments for explanations, thematic tagging, ratings graphs. This is all free.

The paid tier lets you construct problem sets from criteria. The list goes on.


Good chess player - sign of a great mind. Great chess player - sign of a wasted mind.


Wasted in what sense? What do you consider a better use that could have been made of a great chess player's mind?


It's just a saying I heard a long time ago from one of my professors. He probably meant it in the academic sense, i.e. the person could otherwise use that mental energy to do great research.


This point of view is understandable coming from a scientist, but essentially he could've said the same about van Beethoven or Dostoyevsky :)

Their works please us - not unlike the greatest chess games - but do they broaden our knowledge?

And where lies the value of great research anyway? In its practical appliance?

Grigori Perelman's research on the Poincaré conjecture is beyond brilliant, but has it improved our life more than the Immortal Game (Anderssen - Kieseritzky)?

Or is there innate value in scientific research, which comes solely from the virtue of being scientific? This approach strikes me as para-religious.

Refutation of the Evans gambit is some sort of knowledge as well. It's even peer reviewed :)

Of course it's not useful, but, for instance, is knowing what god was worshipped by the Khori-Tumed tribe 1200 years ago (fruit of hard and deep historical research work as it might be) more useful?


Those are good book recommendations, but I'd add "Pawn Power in Chess" by Hans Kmoch. Reading this book will improve your pawn manipulation and overall game. Excellent illustrations from real games, too. http://www.amazon.com/Pawn-Power-Chess-Dover/dp/0486264866/


If anyone's interested in how I studied chess, I wrote a few posts on my blog on chess.com about it: http://www.chess.com/blog/Matetricks

I became a National Master when I was 13 and I played a lot as a kid.


Beyond getting good at chess, fast, if you want to get great at chess, slowly, then GM Rashid Ziatdinov has the instructions you seek.

GM Ziatdinov is unique in that he gives the blueprint that he claims will get anyone to master level (2200+) [1], and it's dead simple. It's much of the same:

1. Study tactics a ton [2] 2. Memorize 300 key positions and games 3. Now you are a master

His definition of "memorize" is that you understand the key position/game instantly and without thinking, the same way you walk or read your native language. 300 doesn't sound like a lot, but to understand each key position to the depth he advises, we're looking at the 10,000 hour rule for all 300 positions.

For comparison, either he or another GM claimed that super-GMs know 1000+ key positions/games, and Magnus Carlsen has said he has memorized 10,000+ games.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/GM-RAM-Essential-Grandmaster-Chess-Kno...

[2] He used to have a few thousand tactics problems on his website. He said to do 1-10 quickly until you could get through them without a mistake. He emphasizes quickly, it's about getting new patterns in your brain, not figuring it out on your own. After 1-10 are perfect, do 11-20 until perfect, then 1-20 until perfect, and repeat until you can do all 1-4000 (or however many). At that point he said you will have the tactical ability of a GM.


I agree with almost everything in that article. I have been playing chess for 20+ years. During that time I have spent several months at a time seriously spending all the free time to improve my chess. I have read numerous chess books, many of them multiple times. I have an expert level rating (USCF) now. I wish someone has told me to concentrate on tactics before going after openings or strategies. Nowadays for any new beginner once they learn the rules I tell them to practice tactics.

Learning positional strategies and all the fancy openings from the books was great. But was useless to improve my results when I was beginning. When I analyzed my games with the help of computer, I found 90% of the games were decided because me or the opponent missed a simple tactic which is just 1 or 2 moves deep. If this is the case in your games you should study tactics until you can find all 1-2 move tactics. It sounds easy. But I have seen a number of class A players miss these simple tactics numerous times.

Finally you will understand opening and positional strategies only if you can spot tactics in them. Once you do not find any tactical mistakes in your game you start to play positional chess. You will appreciate making good positional moves when you do not make silly mistakes.


why study chess when you can play go?

The rules of go are so elegant, organic and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe they almost certainly play go. -Lasker


Today I decided to learn about Go. I knew nothing prior. I read a few chapters of Chikun's "Go: A Complete Guide to the Game." I really like how he goes back and forth between introducing a game mechanic, and then some historical element.

The chapters look like: http://i.imgur.com/qcnWUng.png

I even went so far as to watch the first couple episodes of Hikaru no Go, which is honestly really awesome.


why do either when you can go outside and get some fresh air, maybe talk to a cute girl and/or guy.


His rules for chess psychology actually apply to any one-on-one competition, including sports:

1. Don’t ever be afraid of your opponent

2. Fight as hard as you can until the game is over


http://youtu.be/46CwTDLkHA8 - very interesting insights into the aesthetics of chess, by a Scottish grandmaster Jonathan Rowson.

I think it's inspiring for every chess player, or even those who don't play (yet).

Part II: http://youtu.be/f8ErcUCQoUs


If you are looking for a systematic learning program, I would like to suggest Artur Yusupov's training program (9 books that gradually increase in difficulty). http://www.qualitychess.co.uk/docs/14/artur_yusupovs_awardwi...


Truly great books, but not for beginners. If you're ambitious rated 1700 or so, these are the best.

Beginners should look at the workbooks from "Chess Steps". Cheap and very good too. After Step 5 you can switch to Yusupov.


Is there something like this for programming ?



Well I have read that article. I do understand that true mastery can take a lifetime.

The posted article gives specific chess exercises which when practiced for 3 - 5 months can produce a marked improvement. I was asking whether there any such exercises for programming.


I enjoy ProjectEuler.net and I would put it in that category. Within the first few months I was motivated to learn a number of excellent Python performance tips. I can't guess whether you find math puzzles as compelling as I do, but [the popular article about Project Euler in The Atlantic](http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/print/2011/06/how-i-fa...) suggests that you don't have to have a history of enjoying math.


You could try code kata (http://codekata.pragprog.com/) or koans, (just search Google for your language + 'koans') but those are really only a fun way to work on a specific, easily-tested skill, that also happens to be the very first a novice learns, that's implementation. By all means, if they help, knock yourself out.

The thing about programming is that to get better at it, you need to expand the way you think about abstraction. You have to think not just in terms of how you will maintain what you wrote, but how the end user will use it and how the domain might change.

Any novice can hack together something that will work for one specific purpose, it takes someone skilled to pull useful abstractions out from that single-use code and turn it into something flexible enough that even years from now another novice will be able to pick it back up and understand it enough to be able to reuse it.

All that is to say is, any purported exercise isn't going to get your brain thinking the way it needs to. They're only going to take you to the end of the very first step of mastery, that's in "getting the computer to do what you want it to".


Exactly. IMO its not just the exercises that help you write great code (though they MIGHT help in competitive coding like for ACM). Truly beautiful code comes from experience and working with those who have spent years getting that experience. In my current company there is a huge focus on the re-usability and extensibility of the code. We are forced to think of future changes and make sure the code allows changing things in the most easy way possible.

One simplest example: All queries to a single DB table have to be done through a single "Data Class". The class will have functions that will allow other classes to use that table. this ensures that if tmrw, we make changes to that table, there is only one place in the code we have to make the changes. Instead of running around in the massive code base, looking for the queries to that table.


That's an application of the Dependency Inversion Principle, part of the SOLID methodology. You always want your code to depend on abstract forms rather than concrete ones. By abstracting database calls into a class, you avoid having to constantly write brittle methods digging deep into concrete implementations.

One way your company's method might evolve is into the Active Record pattern. You define a class around a particular table, implementing domain logic inside that class. You see this pattern used in Rails. If you're using one class per table, I think that's the way it will eventually go.

I like Active Record ORMs for many applications, but only as a persistence layer. Implementing domain logic in a data class is asking for pain, it violates the Single Responsibility Principle. Each class should do only one thing. The thing handling your data persistence should only read/write to the database, it should not also perform calculations or perform actions on anything other than the database.

I refactor domain logic out of models when I see it into Plain Objects with no dependencies, and let the domain have its own abstract world of classes minus ugly database wrappers to play in. I can then write an adapter to the data classes. If it's an existing application in production, then at this point I would start to re-design the database, inevitably it will need work.

I do this by creating another database schema, generating the data classes, simple as pie now without domain logic getting in the way, then create the adapter from examining the existing one. I can then import all the data from the database, represent it as abstract plain objects, then shoot those objects through the other adapter into the new database.

But it only really works if everything does one thing. Your domain objects talk to each other. Your adapter classes go between the domain and the data. The data talks to the database. Achieving this requires hard-won experience with programs that break the principles. You have to feel the pain and recognize where it's coming from. No kata will give you this experience.


Well yes, that's what we do too. The logic implementation is in the Business classes. The data classes just read/write from the tables, and return that data to the business class that performs more meaningful functions on it. This way the data can be used in multiple ways by multiple classes without them depending on each other. A change in domain logic would mean a change in the business class, leaving the data class unaffected


What about those "Learn code the hard way" tutorials? anyone tried em?


They are as good as you could hope for a guided tour.

They get your feet wet and let you get your bearings.

But there is still a large gap between having knowledge of a language and performing synthesis with one.

It would be interesting to have a tutorial series for those that get past the syntax stage.

I could imagine being given a small problem and asked to craft a solution. Your entry could be graded, perhaps by humans, perhaps by machine analysis -- it shows how you could improve and some of the top level solutions and what make them better. If you don't meet a certain threshold, you are given another problem of the same level, rinse and repeat, until you are truly solving problems with the language of choice at a level and style that is comparable to your top rated peers.

Seems like a hard problem, but not impossible.


Yeah that would truly be great. As stated in Norvig's essay, each new language should open up your perspective. it should teach you a new a way to think. But all i ever achieve is learning a new syntax. Because not only does it take a considering programming effort effort in that language but also feedback from seniors to actually know what you did wrong and who to improve it. That's why i love having code reviews! Sure, they can be embarrassing, but at least it improves my programming.


My impression is that Chess is making a comeback in schools. At least in NYC, many schools have competitive programs.

Here are two programs: http://www.nychesskids.com and http://www.chessintheschools.org.


This is similar to how I learned and how I teach beginning chess players. Good set of recommendations.


  I’m going to define “good” as the 90th percentile 
  among the player pool you’re competing against. 
This is a very interesting definition of "good". Appropriate for Chess, but has interesting ramifications elsewhere.


How so? It's the general standard for an "A" grade in any other subject.


When we hire someone for a job, we want someone who is "good" at what they do. By this logic, we pick someone in the top 10% - a notion which will vary from person to person.

Now consider a job market, where employers are looking for candidates. Employers what "good" workers, candidates want "good" jobs. All the activity will be concentrated around the top 10% of each side.

The situation will be better or worse depending on correlations among everyone's definition of "good". This has nothing to do with chess, sorry!


Are there similar ways to improve in other games, like Scrabble for instance? I don't enjoy Chess much, but I enjoy Scrabble - plus it's a good way to learn a new language


Is there any evidence that becoming good at chess improves any mental aspects or is it just a hard game that you can brag about being able to play?


In the short term it has the same benefits as learning to do anything else that's non-trivial (grappling with a new topic, concentrating for longer periods of time, improved self confidence maybe, etc). In other words, the reasons that an elementary school would teach students to play chess.

In the longer term, there is evidence of many strong players in history who obsessed over chess and went insane. You can train your brain to do many things, whether it's memorizing 100,000 digits of pi, or becoming one of the best players in the world at a FPS video game by playing 12 hours a day, but it can't be good for your mental health.


At least for me, it's more than anything a lot of fun.

Honestly I don't care if it improves quatitative aspects of my thinking. There are other ways to do that.

But there are a couple of lessons that it keeps reminding me: to be very careful in the order I do things and to keep the ego out when analyzing a situation. Of course, YMMV.


To become good at chess you need to become good at concentration. That helps in other areas. But there's no specific reason that chess is a good way to train it, it's just a way.


Any recommendations for a good place to play chess online?


I've played online chess at www.gameknot.com for nine years. Very good community. Great tools.


chess.com is OK, ICC (chessclub.com) is where its at, but has a subscription fee.


It depends what you're after. (I have memberships on both)

Bear in mind that chess.com regularly has 10 times the number of players online at any one time, so it's much easier to find a game of your desired time controls and ability level.

Also, chess.com has much better material and functions to improve your rating for lower and intermediate rated players. For this reason alone I would recommend chess.com to lower ability players (although these features require a premium membership).

chessclub.com (ICC) has a greater number of GM's, etc. There are GM's and IM's on chess.com, but not as many as far as I can tell.

Finally, chess.com has outstanding "social" features, like teams and forums, etc, trolls notwithstanding.

So, I would without hesitation recommend chess.com for learners and intermediate players, and ICC for those who want to play against higher-rated players. I spend most of my time on chess.com and don't intend to extend my ICC membership.

UPDATE:

chessclub.com: 897 players currently online.

chess.com: 22,235 players currently online.

There was a time when chess.com didn't exist, and chessclub.com was the place to go. ICC's website now is a dog's breakfast and has been lacking in development for a long time. IMO, ICC had relied too much on the number of GM members at attract players. Chess.com, although more expensive, is a much more vibrant and educational place to be.


ICC pissed me off when I let my subscription lapse for 9 months and wouldn't reactivate my account that I had for 15 years. I had ~ 15000 blitz games under my handle and dozens of contacts. All gone and they couldn't care less.


http://lichess.org/ is another free alternative.


ICC is a wasteland below about 1500.


never take shortcuts... I especially don't like the computer analysis part for beginners...


Wow! Cool! Thanks for sharing!


who is this guy and why should i take him seriously? he doesn't explain why his advice is worth a damn


Since when did we start demanding background checks on people that publish free tutorials on the internet?

But since you asked, he explains in this article that he was rated around 1800. He also clearly explains what that means. He then described a system he used to boost his rating by 600 points in 15 months. I'm impressed, but you aren't obligated to feel the same way. You also aren't obligated to take his advice. He gave it to us for free, and you returned his kindness with unnecessary hostility.


Does HN operate on a kindness and friendliness economy? If some blogspam hack writes in a very kind tone but peddles complete unauthoritative bullshit should we coddle him so as to not hurt his feelings? All he because he wrote with "kindness".

This isn't a nice lady smiling at you on the street and telling you about her knitting technique. This is fucking blogspam by a complete amateur who has self-proclaimed himself an expert on a topic that is already very well populated by ACTUAL authoritative experts.


Blog spam is for generating ad revenue or gaining attention for a product. This guy isn't selling anything, and there aren't any ads on his site(at least none that I see on my iPad).

If you don't like what he has to say, that's your perogative, but that doesn't make his article blog spam. The guy's been on HN for a year and a half and that's the first time he ever posted anything from his site. He likely just found out that a lot of HN members are interested in chess, and so he did what normal people have done with their hobbies for centuries, try to grow the community.

Instead of complaining, wouldn't it be more productive to take your own advice and post some of the resources that you found useful?


>Instead of complaining, wouldn't it be more productive to take your own advice and post some of the resources that you found useful?

No. Pointing out the low quality of this article is pretty easy and helpful. It's not like the opportunity cost of my very simple (but powerful) criticism is precluding me from making my contributions to the world.

I think we should all spend a lot more time shooting down people who don't deserve attention.

I'm sure he's a nice guy. Maybe he's a great friend and sincerely loves his mom. If these things make you uncriticizable on HN, no wonder the place is full of trash.

P.S. It's blogspam because he's selling his book.


So on one hand you are criticising a 19-year old for attempting to add value to peoples' lives without asking for anything in return, because you feel his efforts are insufficient, yet you yourself are actively refusing to bring anything worthwhile to the table.

>I think we should all spend a lot more time shooting down people who don't deserve attention.

I agree. I hope its not lost on you that this is exactly what I've been doing.

No one is above intelligent criticism, but we have yet to see any of that from you.

This is a place for people that like to build things. Having a needlessly negative attitude isn't conducive to making that happen.


Plenty of people submit content that also has a relationship to a book. If that content has value unto itself, then it's not blogspam.


He seems to be a Class A player: http://chess-db.com/public/pinfo.jsp?id=3012928544 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system#United_States... Also have a look at: http://www.amazon.com/Chess-For-Novice-Player-Beginning/dp/0... (Eidtorial Reviews / About the Author)

That's not bad at all. I think he's perfectly entitled to give advice to beginners. They don't really need it coming from a GM, for the same reason why primary school students don't need to be taught by academic professors.

Your notion that chess teachers need "decades of experience" or else they are not the "correct authority to instruct us on the best methods to learn chess" is rather silly. How are they supposed to ever obtain this experience then, while they are not yet fit to teach anyone and according to you should shut up? :)

Also, would you recommend against going to a doctor who doesn't yet have "decades of experience"?


I actually agree that a GM is not necessarily the best teacher. But there are people with decades of TEACHING experience, and they are the best teachers.

He's certainly within his rights to go around saying you should listen to him. Just like every other useless self-help blogger is.

The fact that my calling out his authority and credibility seems to rile up so many people says something about the crowd here. The crowd here is anti-intellectual, anti-credential, anti-experience, and anti-expertise. The crowd seems to be a lot of overpuffed young men who read Paul Graham essays and feel superior to others... for no reason.


It's more likely to do with the extremely rude and aggressive approach you have taken, while not giving any examples of actual problems with what he has written.

That you're doing so from an entirely new account, and so either have no track record here or have chosen not to post under your usual account also doesn't exactly point in your favour, as "calling people out" for lack of authority and credibility while doing nothing to establish your own certainly does tend to rile people up.

I'm sure I am not the only one who is left questioning your motives more so than the authority of the poster.


Of course these are the BEST teachers, but

a) Not being the best doesn't mean you're not good enough

b) In his piece he actually recommends young chess players to learn from numerous books authored by accomplished and highly experienced chess teachers such as Seirawan or Silman.

Which part of his advice exactly would you call out as useless?

"The fact that my calling out his authority and credibility seems to rile up so many people says something about the crowd here. The crowd here is anti-intellectual, anti-credential, anti-experience, and anti-expertise"

You yourself did not back up your criticism with any credentials (we don't know who you are and why we should pay attention to your objections), not to mention that you didn't even point out any particular flaws in the article. Thus your comments (as of now) have no expertise value by your own standards.


Well, as you are someone who has found their way onto this forum, I must assume you:

1. Are competent at reading. 2. Have visited, and used, the internet before.

Thus, the answer to your question, "Who is this guy" can be found on his WP site under the tab, 'About'. There, it states that he is:

1. Narula is a 19 year old sophomore at the University of Georgia studying Computer Science and Political Science and 2. Gautam has also written a book on chess and a few Android apps.


When someone asks an obvious question, the interpreter of the question has two paths to choose.

(a) Assume the author is very stupid and then tell him the very stupid and obvious answer.

(b) Interpret the question as rhetorical.

People who take (a) are the type of people who think they're smarter than everyone else, but who are actually, in fact, dumber. Usually they lack empathy, are undersocialized, and probably show on the autism spectrum.

People who take (b) are the type of people who correctly interpret the statement.

The correct interpretation of my rhetorical question is to read it as a commentary on authority. Is this 1800 rated 19 year old really the proper authority to learn how to play chess? Wouldn't a professional chess teacher with decades of experience and a higher rating than 1800 be the correct authority to instruct us on the best methods to learn chess? Yes. They would be. There are thousands of these teachers.

Instead of pushing blogspam by amateurs onto the frontpage, if HN really wants to know how to learn chess, HN should just link one of the dozens of much more reputable books on this topic.

As a chess player all I can do is roll my eyes when a 19 year old with an 1800 rating and very few (none?) years of chess teaching experience proclaims himself an expert and gets upvoted for it. It's just absurd.


> are the type of people who think they're smarter than everyone else, but who are actually, in fact, dumber. Usually they lack empathy, are undersocialized, and probably show on the autism spectrum.

Projecting? Everything about both of your comments (above) suggest you fit this model perfectly.

In the opening of the article the author says:

> many people mentioned that they enjoyed playing chess but quit because of the sheer time commitment it took to get “good” at chess

So it's obviously not aimed at someone of your (supposed) skill level, but at others here who may be casual players. No need to be so nasty.


You've completed missed what I'm saying. I'm saying the best teachers for brand new chess players are those humans who specialize in rapidly training new chess players. The people who should write books on chess training are the people who have been doing it for 20+ years and actually have some authority. These people DO write books but apparently they're less interesting than some 19 year old posting his completely untested, unrefined, invalidated hunches. It's low quality content in a field where there is a LOT of high quality content.

If the article was targeted at expert chess players I wouldn't have said anything. Because expert chess players don't need to be told that there are better experts than 19 year old newbies. The fact that the article is targeted at beginners is what motivated me to speak up--beginners might not realize just how much quality information is out there and that they don't need to settle for the afternoon musings of a newbie.


And if you had of replied with the tone you used here, it might have come off a lot better than it did.


A reasonable way of addressing this, would have been for you to write a short comment describing what you believe to be better resources, with links, and leave the nastiness out of it. Or a short blog post, and submit it.

As for your question:

> Is this 1800 rated 19 year old really the proper authority to learn how to play chess? Wouldn't a professional chess teacher with decades of experience and a higher rating than 1800 be the correct authority to instruct us on the best methods to learn chess?

My answer to that would be "I don't know". It depends on the material. I have more than enough times seen situations from my own fields of expertise where "professionals" with decades of experience have been shown up by relative beginners to be prepared to blindly accept an appeal to authority. Especially when you are not backing it up with any examples of why you believe his article is not good enough to be suitable to his stated audience.

> HN should just link one of the dozens of much more reputable books on this topic.

So give us a name, or a link, rather than spout vitriol.


Your reply sounds a bit fishy. Your second sentence "he doesn't explain why his advice is worth a damn" is inconsistent with a rhetorical question.

I agree he doesn't have much cred by the way, and his method is nothing new or special. But I think his advice is generally sound for an uneducated player who wants to improve.


I actually phrased my comment in the style of a marker who is marking some academic work, like an essay. The norm here is to address your points to the content of the paper itself and not appeal to outside information.

So my comment is more clearly saying, "This essay would be stronger if you used evidence or authority of some kind to back up the assertions you are making." This is actually a polite way of saying "You don't know what you're talking about and shouldn't be proclaiming yourself an expert on this topic."


> When someone asks an obvious question, the interpreter of the question has two paths to choose.

> (a) Assume the author is very stupid and then tell him the very stupid and obvious answer.

> (b) Interpret the question as rhetorical.

> People who take (a) are the type of people who think they're smarter than everyone else, but who are actually, in fact, dumber. Usually they lack empathy, are undersocialized, and probably show on the autism spectrum.

> People who take (b) are the type of people who correctly interpret the statement.

It's funny; people have been telling me my whole life that observing when other people ask obvious questions makes me a huge jerk, and I should patiently give them the obvious answers they ask for.


It's actually a very interesting problem. It depends entirely on the person and the extent to which they are conscious of the multitudinous implications of their statements.

But really, whoever has been giving you that advice is a dunce. I expect your being seen as a jerk has a lot more to do with how you negotiate people's feeling than how you interpret their statements. The people giving you that advice probably want you to stop being a jerk but can't quite articulate what they mean.

This is actually more interesting than whatever the fuck this thread was about. Hermeneutics is funnnn.


Well, my impression is that NathanthePie's answer was rhetorical, too - in other words, interpretation (a) was chosen deliberately and with full awareness of what you actually meant, for no other reason than rhetorical effect :)

Did you miss that?




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