Thursday, November 02, 2006

The positional school

It's difficult to find your way in the chess development jungle.
There is an abundance of good advice, often contradictory. If you follow every piece of advice you are busy for aeons, prabably ending up as a solid mediocre player. . .
What I'm doing, inventing every wheel of my own, isn't little work either, but at least I avoid double or contradictory work. What is gained on my path is gained forever.

A good teacher, be it via a book or alive, would be an enormous save of time, but finding a good teacher is as difficult as finding your way in chess land.

I have read hundreds of chess books, I learned a lot from them, but there wasn't much consistency in the matter. Good players are often not good teachers.
Because they forget to tell you what is self evident to them, or because they have no idea why they are so good since they learned it at a young age.

Good teachers often lack a good vision. To have a good vision, you have to dare to stand up against stronger players who think different. Most teachers don't dare.
Prof. Elo made the chess teachers of master level very modest.

Besides that, how do you recognize a good teacher?
Another point, you have to be ripe for the right information.

But now I'm on the trail of something.
I already knew that there was some controversy between tactical and positional players, but I always thought it was just a matter of taste. That every grandmaster was good in both.
The difficult thing is that they are.
But that doesn't mean that they are always conscious of how they do it.
There are true advocates of the positional school though. That are grandmasters that are very conscious of how they approach positional matters.
Given the fact that I have read hundreds of chess books from grandmasters and hardly ever anyone mentioned the existence of such school, it is shown how subconscious most knowledge is by most grandmasters.

I have read the book "Winning chess strategies" of Yasser Seirawan lately.
He is a true advocate of the positional school.
His chapters on pawn play really opened my eyes. Of course, every grandmaster writes about pawns. But this is the first time I see such consistent theory of it.

It is evident that I have to approach a chessgame in a totally different way. What is equally important, I'm ripe for it now. After almost 4 years tactical training under the belt, I'm not distracted by tactics anymore. My tactical skills are comparable with much higher rated players. I'am hardly ever outplayed tactically by 300+ players. On the contrary.
It's time to dig into the core now.

Yasser shows the direction.
I have to familiarize myself with a quite new way of looking to a position.
It's a pawn and space based approach. I never had an idea what was meant by "pawns are the soul of chess".
As tactician I'm used to look at the pieces. Pawns are only crowbars.
Yasser gives examples in his book, but that's far from being enough.
I won't be able to find problemsets with positional pawnbased problems solely.

So it's a matter of finding the right games and the right annotator.
For example, GM Joe Gallagher won't be of much help for learning positional chess. Not that he hasn't positional skills, he has them in abundance I'm for sure. But he doesn't know how to write about it since he likes to write about attacks.
These are advocates of the positional school I found thusfar:
  • Steinitz
  • Rubinstein
  • Capablanca
  • Nimzovich
  • Petrosian
  • Karpov
  • Kramnik
I'm reading alot about them to determine my course the coming years.
I keep you informed.


    I own this book and is most likely the one to help me the most if I would only read it.

  2. With so many unread books I really don't want to buy a new one.

  3. It seems to me that there's an argument to be made for the idea that learning chess is like learning any other skill. There's an optimal pattern to the teaching method. The trick is to find the method that works!

    I don't know a lot about the Polgar family, but isn't that an example of the results of a deliberate, focused training program?

  4. Pendrax,
    that's a very good point! I don't know little (nothing, just some guesses) about the method that Papa Polgar used. I will try to find out. Why didn't this question arise before?

  5. There is an extensive article about the Grandmaster Experiment which outlines how Laszlo Polgar trained his daughters.

    As I understand it, it involved studying tactics (let's say 100 circles!) and playing a lot against stronger opponents.