Don’t know your next chess move? Ask a Chess Master for FREE!

By David Kramaley / On / In Features, Learning chess

Thinking of your next chess move?
Thinking of your next chess move? Ask a Chess Master for free!

When thinking of your next chess move, like when choosing chess openings, often the only feedback we get is from a computer. Perhaps you are doing one better over the majority of us and also looking at a master’s database. However, is this truly enough to learn chess and improve?

We think that when learning anything in life, the importance of feedback cannot be ignored. Chess Grandmaster Georg Meier says one of the most important things in chess is to “be receptive to feedback”. Olympic medallist Matthew Syed says his coach used to say, “if you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right”. The way to know? Feedback.

Can a computer give you this kind of feedback for your next chess moves? Can a master’s database answer your questions? These tools, while great, aren’t quite able to offer us specific feedback. Are we all missing something by not being able to chat with a stronger player about our chess moves? Might they recommend something less “computery” and more suitable to humans? We think so.

At Chessable, we are passionate about learning chess in the most efficient and awesome manner possible. This is why from today on Chessable students can access our new “Ask a Master” feature (BETA). The best part? You can ask questions for free. Don’t have a Chessable account? You can also make one for free.

It’s simple, to get your question answered, you need one master token. To get a master token, you need to spend some rubies in the store. How do you get rubies? Well, you can earn those by simply logging on to Chessable and studying for a few minutes!  We promise you a chess master, above 2,250 FIDE rating, will answer your question – or you get your rubies back.

Aha, you say! You need to spend something after all, so it’s not free! Well, so far we’ve given away 365,000 free rubies to our dedicated Chessable students. This is over 3,000 free questions that we promise our chess master will answer (he’ll have plenty of coffee to hand)… and for having read on, here are some rubies to get you started  (you must be logged in), pick your next chess move wisely!

Notes
1. You can also buy more rubies for cash if you need a question answered urgently.
2. Here is the FAQ explaining a little bit more about this feature.
3. Our top ruby holder has over 1,000 rubies. Impressive.
4. This feature in BETA, we are pretty happy with version 1, but please bear with us, we are treading new ground here.
5. If the feature is popular, we hope to bring more chess masters on board.
6. Don’t have enough rubies? Don’t worry, you can still ask a question as our chess book authors often answer anyway, no rubies needed!
7. No rubies but still want to upgrade to Ask A Master? Post your question anyway, some kind member might upgrade your question for free! 😉

The Grand Prix: Everything you need to know about Fide’s flagship event and why it’s so controversial

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news

Fide’s big event, the Grand Prix, is back for another round starting today in Moscow. Here are all the details and main talking points.

What is it?

The Grand Prix is a series of four elite-level tournaments taking place from February to November. It is organised by Fide, or more specifically Fide’s commercial arm Agon/World Chess.

The first round took place at the impressive 4000 sq ft Sharjah Chess & Culture Club, which claims to be the biggest chess club in the world.

It was won by Alexander Grischuk on tiebreaks after a three-way tie with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

French number one MVL in action at Sharjah
French number one MVL in action at Sharjah

The second will be between May 12 and 24 in Moscow’s Telegraph building, which is just a few hundred meters from the Kremlin.

Dates or venues have not been announced yet for the next two rounds scheduled for Geneva in July and Palma de Mallorca in November.

Why is it important?

Put simply, Fide has made the Grand Prix an essential part of the World Chess Championship cycle.

Win one of the two spots available, and you secure a place in the Candidates tournament scheduled for March 2018.

Win that and you will get a crack at Magnus Carlsen. However, that is a long and arduous journey.

Who’s in it?

There’s an 18-player line-up of elite grandmasters taking part, with each playing three of the four events which are run as a nine round Swiss contest.

The field at Moscow is headed by MVL and Hikaru Nakamura while Mamedyarov, Grischuk and Michael Adams, the English number one, return.

Grischuk picking up his prize
Grischuk picking up his prize

Anish Giri has been back in form recently and takes his place while the cricket-loving Russian Peter Svidler and Boris Gelfand, the oldest in the field at 48, also make up the numbers.

Hou Yifan, the world’s leading female player, is also competing.

Players qualify to the Grand Prix series by rating or by being nominated by World Chess by Agon Ltd, with one addition coming from the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP) or Fide.

Who’s going to win it?

That is absolutely impossible to say. However, for players like Nakamura, MVL and Mamedyarov the Grand Prix may offer the best chance they have to get to the Candidates next March so they might have that extra push.

Grischuk eventually came out top in Sharjah and will be dangerous.

What is the prize money?

This is a touchy subject.

World Chess have offered up prizes purses of 130,000 euros per Grand Prix, or 520,000 euros for the total Grand Prix series.

Sergey Karjakin at the launch of the Moscow Grand Prix, with Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Sergey Karjakin at the launch of the Moscow Grand Prix, with Fide president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

However, the prize for first place is “only” 20,000 euros and given the long, drawn-out nature of the event that has put off some of the top players.

As a result the Super GMs weren’t exactly falling over themselves to enter.

So, who’s missing?

Well, Magnus Carlsen obviously. He has no reason to enter given the main motivation for most grandmasters is the chance to enter the Candidates tournament which is the final play-off before the World Championship match.

But apart from that there’s a whole host of stars who aren’t there for various reasons.

Hikaru Nakamura will be gunning for glory at the Grand Prix
Hikaru Nakamura will be gunning for glory at the Grand Prix

Out of the top 10 Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Vishy Anand and Sergey Karjakin won’t be at Moscow.

More noticeably there will be no Wesley So, the current world number two. He is focusing his energies on the rival Grand Chess Tour.

Also missing is the combustible Bulgarian Veselin Topalov.

The former world champion, who dropped out of the world’s top 20 at the end of last year, wrote a piece on his website saying he was refusing his invitation because of the “unfavourable conditions” offered to grandmasters.

By that we can assume he meant the prize money.

World Chess responded by saying it was “a shame that Mr Topalov chose not to take part”.

What do Fide say about it?

They say it’s incredibly important, as you would expect.

At the launch of the Moscow event Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of World Chess, made some pretty big claims.

Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of World Chess
Ilya Merenzon, the chief executive of World Chess

He said: “The eyes of the chess world will be on Moscow once more. We are expecting thousands of spectators at the venue and millions more will watch every move at www.worldchess.com.

In the build up to the Moscow event, Georgious Makropoulos, acting president of FIDE, said: “With so many top players in the line-up, the Moscow Grand Prix will undoubtedly feature some classic match-ups for chess fans around the world.”

What does everyone else say about it?

They say the prize fund is paltry, and doesn’t provide enough motivation for the top GMs.

The high number of bore draws has also led to criticism.

Malcolm Pein, for example, said in his Telegraph column that Sharjah was “one of the dullest events in recent memory”.

Topalov, who never wastes an opportunity to criticise Fide, said the game’s governing body is “failing to summon top players”.

Another ageing legend not shy of sticking the knife into Fide is English GM Nigel Short.

After claiming Fide was selling places on the Grand Prix for $100,000 a spot, Short said the process has been “utterly prostituted”.

It is fair to say the Fide Grand Prix is splitting opinion at the moment.

How to improve at chess? USCF rating increases 300 pts in 1 year. Here is how.

By David Kramaley / On / In Case study, Chess improvement, Chessable review, Learning chess

GermanMC has gained 300 USCF points in one year.
GermanMC has gained 300 USCF points in one year.

How to improve at chess?

This is a question we all ask ourselves at one point or another. It’s the reason why I read all the science there is on Chess and started Chessable! Recently, I got news that one of our users made some remarkable improvement, 300 over the board points in one single year. I got in touch with him to find out a bit more about it. GermanMC is not only one of our power users, but he has also made his opening repertoires available on Chessable for anyone to use. Some are free, and some, cost a few dollars. His top book is on the Ruy Lopez, it’s free and has been studied by an impressive 1,238 people! He has learned 764 variations with a modest maximum daily streak of 9 (there are some who have kept a streak for over a year).

I’ve tried to keep the questions similar to previous chess improvement interviews so as to stick to a familiar theme. Now, let’s find out a few more insights on how to improve at chess, here we go!

1) You have improved around 300 USCF points in a year of tournament chess since joining Chessable, that’s impressive, how do you feel?
Improvement is very satisfying of course, but it also makes me feel hungry for more knowledge and improvement. It’s really nice to live in an age abundant with brilliant resources like Chessable; all I have to do is open up my laptop and get to work.

2) A lot of work must have gone into this, and your game must have improved all around for such a brilliant change. Let’s break it down, how have you improved your chess openings?
Over this past year, I have become much more familiar with the typical plans in my openings as well as the “theory” moves. I often understand how to handle the positions that I get out of the opening better than my opponents, which has allowed me to win many easy games against strong players. Chessable has been a key contributor to this aspect of my game because so many of the available repertoire books contain very high-quality instruction and allow me to easily review lines

3) Which openings do you play (if you don’t mind sharing!)?
My style has changed a lot over this past year as I have become a stronger player. As Black, I like to play the Najdorf against 1.e4 and the Benko Gambit against 1.d4 because I always seem to get fighting positions that are interesting to play. As White, I enjoy playing 1.d4 and going for Catalan-type structures with a later Kingside-fianchetto (spoiler alert – this will be the topic of my next Chessable book).

4) How have you improved your middle game?
The middlegame is probably the most critical stage of the game because it is where most games are decided at the amateur level. I personally have improved my middlegame significantly by obtaining a better understanding of the plans out of my favorite openings, as I mentioned earlier. Working daily with an online tactics trainer has also improved my middlegame play a lot. Other than that, I recently got started with Jeremy Silman’s How to Reassess Your Chess, which I find to be a very enjoyable read.

5) What about your endgame, have you worked on that at all?
I have to admit that I have slacked off a bit in my endgame study, but I have taken the time to learn a few basic king and pawn endgames as well as some rook endgames. John Bartholomew has some great videos on his Youtube channel about various essential endgames that I find very instructive!

6) You gained over 1,000,000 points on Chessable, that’s pretty impressive. What would be your tips to new Chessable users about how to get the most out of the platform?
My biggest tip to new users would be to develop a “Chessable routine.” To get the most out of the platform, it is important to do smaller (but daily!) review sessions rather than reviewing a very large quantity of lines every few weeks.

7) What would you personally like to see improved on Chessable?
I think the user interface could be improved a bit, but it seems to be getting better almost every time I log on!

8) What’s next for you? Any new goals?
I have my eyes set on 2200, which is when the National Master title is given here in the United States. It would be great to reach that goal sometime in 2018. I would also love to play in some international tournaments when I happen to be in Europe so that I can increase my FIDE rating, but that’s more of a long-term goal.

Thanks GermanMC!
It’s very inspiring and motivating to hear of your chess improvement.  I am sure many of our readers, including myself, will take a tip or two away from your experience and apply it to our own game. Best of luck on the road to 2,200 and see you on the leaderboards! Personally, I am aiming for 2,000 FIDE this year, which right now, seems a long way away, a long way away!

So, how to improve your chess? In summary, it involves a lot work (1,000,000 points don’t come easy!), habitual study, and a balance between knowing chess openings and understanding the middle game concepts that are relevant to that chess theory.

A bit more about GermanMC:
GermanMC is a chess player who is also a student in Austin, Texas. His nickname stems from the fact that he grew up in Munich, Germany. His passion for chess has been highlighted in recent months as he reached his age-groups Top 100 List for the USCF after improving 300 rating points in one year. He spends his free time playing chess tournaments, solving tactics, reading chess books, and of course, creating Chessable chess books.