Synced chess videos: How to strengthen recall with a fresh new mode of review

By David Kramaley / On / In Chess science, Chessable news

I have only shared this with a few people, but one of the reasons I co-founded Chessable, was that I had watched almost every single chess video available on my favourite openings, and yet remembered nothing.

I listened carefully, and I reviewed some of the videos more than once. However, time after time, nothing stuck, and I kept forgetting. It was at this stage that I turned to opening theory books, and found a similar problem.

Fast-forward a few years, and we have convincingly shown that studying chess openings is more fruitful if done with MoveTrainer™.

I have not heard of a diligent student who after putting the effort in, did not remember their lines. However, I always had this painful memory of all that time spent watching chess opening videos with no success at all. I really wanted to do something about it back then, and here we are now.

First of all, why even bother with video? Is studying in Chessable and MoveTrainer™ not enough? Of course, the platform we have built is already very powerful, and many have had success with it in one way or another. Adding video takes nothing away from that.

However, there are several reasons why video on Chessable supercharges your learning:

1. Learning styles:

Psychologists are still trying to agree on whether there are educational benefits to be attained by the “learning style” theories. These theories consider the fact that we are all different. For some of us, they say, the presentation of certain content is better one way rather than another. For instance, one of us might retain more information when we have read it, another when we have repeated it and yet another might remember better if they have heard it. A final one, might do best if they combine two of these learning modes together.

While research around this area remains inconclusive, and we do not aim to change the world by proving these theories right or wrong, one thing is for certain. We have all had a day where we would rather watch a chess video than do our daily repetitions. Now, if you ever have such a day, you have the choice of a refresher with a video that directly applies to your training material. Sit back, get a cup of tea and relax while listening to the presenter go over lines that you play.

Back to learning styles though, I have had at least a couple of messages from people who fully believe that one learning mode is more beneficial to them than another. So of course, when the dust settles, and scientists stop arguing, if learning theories pan out to be right, then for those of you who truly benefit from information presented audio-visually, well then, this one is for you.

2. It is more than just video, part 1:

Video on Chessable is directly integrated with MoveTrainer™ books. This means that when you are watching the video, either before or after studying the book, the watching you are doing will activate and strengthen the same synapses responsible for helping you remember your training material (geeky bit: well-myelinated synapses are shown to be key for good recall and retention).

A small disclaimer, we have not conducted studies to show that this is factually true, but once we grow a bit more, maybe we can commission MRI studies of students watching Chessable video, and then doing their reps to see what truly is going on inside that wonderful brain. Now that would be cool. All the neuroscience journals I have read, would lead me to stipulate that my hypothesis would indeed prove true, and thus in the experiment, I would seek to negate it. Hmm, now that is a good neuroscience Masters or PhD thesis idea…!

Synapses are responsible for communication between your brain’s neurons.

3. It is more than just video, part 2:

As a direct by-product of part 1, by tying in video with our MoveTrainer™ technology, we have been able to improve the learning experience for those of you who exclusively like to watch chess opening videos. There is a large proportion of chess students, who have never owned a chess book. They have never used MoveTrainer™, but they have, like me, watched a lot of chess instructional videos.

Many of these students are likely struggling just like I did. Today, however, if they watch one of our Chessable videos, they will have more than one opportunity to pause the video and easily analyse the position themselves. They can turn the engine on if they need to. Moreover, if all of this work results in nothing, they can ask a question that can be answered either by another student or the author themselves. What chess video platform can offer this? I don’t know of any. Thus I am very excited to be able to innovate and help the lovers of chess videos learn better.

4. It’s all in the game, yo:

You might have noticed that I am a big fan of gamification (done right), and the benefits to be gained by adding a bit of dopamine release to our learning activities. As far as I am aware, no other platform gamifies video watching to the extent we have done. Due to the benefits of gamification, several general studies learning platforms have done this for video, my favourite one being KhanAcademy (check it out if you haven’t!). So why had it not been done for chess? It was about time!

While version 1 of our video platform is not yet entirely gamified, there are already points, badges, and more things to be earned while watching video on Chessable. You can also keep track of what you’ve watched and what you haven’t. Soon, we might spice this up so much more, that you might not want to watch chess videos unless it is on Chessable! I have good news here though, we have built the platform in such a way, that it is not too hard for us to bring some of your most favourite existing videos and re-publish them on the Chessable platform. Any suggestions? Head to this thread.

We do not claim our video platform is perfect. Nothing is. In fact, there are a couple of minor bug reports in video-sync that we are currently investigating. Of course, if you have been using Chessable for a while, you know that nothing ever stays the same around here. It is all always changing and improving. So with your feedback, I am very excited about the possibilities going forward. Together, we will keep improving chess education and showing the world what we can achieve with the right support of technology. I look forward to hearing from you, in this discussion thread.

If you haven’t heard yet, IM Christof Sielecki’s Keep It Simple: 1.e4 is the first (of many to come), Chessable MoveTrainer™ books to have video with video-sync available. If you haven’t yet, check it out now, click here.

FastTrack: The new PRO feature that lets you set the pace

By David Kramaley / On / In Chessable news

This is a long overdue change that’s finally arrived for PRO members.

As many of you will know, Chessable uses a spaced repetition scheduling algorithm to test you and refresh your memory at optimal times.

The more answers in a row you get correctly, the more the scheduling spaces out reviews.

However, what if:

  1. You have already mastered, say, Rook Endgames, but you still want to be reminded and tested on them once in a while? You don’t want to have to go through the first seven repetitions so soon.
  2. You already know the opening of your liking to FM/IM strength and don’t want to go through the first few steps in the scheduling? Yet, it still would be useful if Chessable tested you on this every few weeks or months, just to keep you fresh and tournament ready.
  3. You are studying tactics on Chessable and you feel like you don’t calculate well after the first few reviews because the move is so fresh in your mind? You’d rather space it out more and force yourself to calculate the answer again when enough time has gone by?


Enter FastTrack. This feature lets you pick two advanced modes of scheduling, “Fast” and “Super Fast”.

When you set this in your book options, the scheduling will fast forward through the early reviews and present the position to you only after a week or a month, depending on what you’ve chosen.

After that, the scheduling behaves much the same, and if you should get the move wrong in the review that happens in a week, it would still drop down to rock bottom and force you to start from scratch.

FastTrack gives a student more control over their reviews, making it a more enjoyable learning experience.

However, remember, a wise superhero once told us that “with great power comes great responsibility”. This saying is entirely relevant here.

You should set this feature up only for those books where you are confident you stand to benefit. Don’t get lazy and set it on those opening books that still give you trouble in the first few reviews.

After all, making mistakes is a huge part of learning, and you don’t want to skip on that. If you are completing reviews with 95%+ accuracy in the first few rounds, that’s when this feature becomes worth it.

Below is a picture of how you’d set it, and you can see, I’ve got it on for my tactics training. Any feedback, please post it in this thread (must be logged in). Enjoy.

Chessable FastTrack Demo
FastTrack is an option found inside your book’s options panel.

Candidates Tournament 2018: The Ultimate Preview

By Bryan Castro / On / In Chess news, Features

As the players arrive in Berlin for the start of the 2018 Candidates Tournament, our writer BRYAN CASTRO brings us his ultimate tournament preview:

Finding a Challenger

From March 10, eight of the top players in the world will be battling it in the Candidates Tournament to see who will face Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship.

The tournament is organized as a double-round robin with each player facing every other player twice – once with the white pieces and once with the black pieces. The tournament will be help in Berlin, Germany between March 10-28, 2018. The winner of the tournament will face the reigning World Champion in a 12-game match in November in London, England.

This event looks to be an exciting one, with a variety of styles represented as well as a couple of new faces to the Candidates tournament. In this preview, we’ll take a look at the eight challengers, their path to the Candidates, and their style.

Check out Bryan’s FREE Candidates tournament tactics book here >

1. Ding Liren

Ding Liren in 2013. Photo by Soboky.

Ding Liren is participating in his first Candidates Tournament. He qualified by being one of the top finalists of the Chess World Cup in 2017 (along with Levon Aronian). He also has the honor of being the first Chinese player to qualify for the Candidates. As of the March 2018 FIDE rating list, Ding is ranked 11th in the world with a rating of 2769.

Ding has a flexible style. He can play for the initiative but is also skilled in technical positions as well. He is an excellent calculator and has superb endgame technique.

Although he (along with Wesley So) is one of the youngest players in the tournament at age 25, he comes into the Candidates with a strong showing in 2017. He won the strong Shenzhen Longgang Chess Masters in Shenzhen, China in April 2017 ahead of follow Top 20 players Anish Giri and Peter Svidler. He won the Moscow Grand Prix event in May 2017 ahead of current World #2 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. He finished 2017 with a strong 2nd place finish in the Chess World Cup, losing to GM Levon Aronian in a tiebreaker.

He also played one of the best games of 2017 – an exciting attacking game in the Chinese Chess League against fellow Chinese GM Jinshi Bai. In this game, Ding precisely weaves a mating net around his opponent after playing the spectacular 20…Rd4! The final position is a beautiful sight, with every minor piece participating in the final round-up of the king.

2. Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian in 2008. Photo by Georgios Souleidis.

Armenian GM Levon Aronian is the other Candidate to qualify by winning the Chess World Cup (against Ding Liren). At age 35, he has been on the top of the world chess scene for many years, including a peak rating of 2830 – the 4th highest in chess history! He is currently the World’s 5th highest rated player with a rating of 2794.

Aronian is known as one of the world’s most creative players. He is a strong tactician with a subtle and deep understanding of positional chess. When observing Aronian’s game, you will often notice that his pieces are beautifully coordinated while he often leaves his opponent with a piece or two shut out of the game. He is a true artist at the chessboard.

Aronian comes into the tournament having enjoyed a very successful 2017. He started the year off by winning the Grenke Classic Tournament in Baden-Baden, Germany ahead of Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. In June 2017, he won the strong Norway Chess tournament ahead of Carlsen, Vladamir Kramnik, and Sergey Karjakin. As mentioned, he won the Chess World Cup in September 2017. Finally, he started 2018 off strong with a win in the strong Gibraltar Chess Festival, beating French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the tiebreaker. Can he build on this momentum with a strong showing in the Candidates?

The following game demonstrates Aronian’s creativity and tactical acumen. In this game, he defeats the world champion on Carlsen’s home turf during the Norway Chess tournament in June 2017.

3. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

Shahriyar Mamedyarov in 2016. Photo by Eteri Kublashvili.

GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan qualified by finishing atop the FIDE Grand Prix – a series of four tournaments featuring 24 of the strongest players in the world. In the Grand Prix, he shared first place in the Sharjah leg of the series in February 2017. He placed clear second place behind Ding Liren in the Moscow stage in May. Finally, he tied for 4th place in the Geneva stage in July 2017.

Besides his strong finish in the FIDE Grand Prix, GM Mamedyarov’s other notable finishes in 2017 were winning the elite-level Gashimov Memorial in April and leading a team victory in the Russian Team Championship. At age 32, he is currently the world’s 2nd highest rated player with a rating of 2809.

Mamedyarov is no stranger to high-level tournaments. He has already competed in the Candidates tournament twice – in 2011 and 2014. Having won the World Junior Chess Championship twice (in 2003 and 2005), Mamedyarov has competed at the highest levels of chess since his youth.

Mamedyarov is known for an aggressive, attacking style. He is a master of exploiting the initiative and his play may remind you of the romantic attacks of the 19th and early 20th century masters.

To illustrate Mamedyarov’s creativity and style, enjoy this attacking gem from last year’s Russian Team Championship against GM Evgeny Najer.

4. Alexander Grischuk

Alexander Grischuk in 2015. Photo by Regani.

GM Alexander Grischuk from Russia is our 2nd qualifier from the FIDE Grand Prix, finishing 2nd in points behind Mamedyarov. Grischuk tied for 1st in the Sharjah stage along with Mamedyarov and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He tied for 2nd place in the Geneva event.

GM Grischuk is a master tactician and attacker. In part due to his incredible calculating and tactical ability, he is also one of the world’s top speed chess players. Grischuk is currently 12th on the FIDE rating list with a rating of 2767.

The following game is not only a demonstration of his attacking style, but also of the incredible depth and complexity behind his play. Check out 34.Rb5! in this game against GM Boris Grachev in the Russian Team Championship.

5. Fabiano Caruana

Fabiano Caruana in 2016. Photo by G. Hund.

American GM Fabiano Caruana qualified for the Candidates tournament by having one of the top two average ratings in 2017 among players who played in both the World Chess Cup and FIDE Grand Prix. At 26, he is among the youngest players in the tournament. However, he has played at the top levels for several years, including reaching as high as 2nd in the overall rating list. He is currently the 8th highest ranked player in the world with a 2784 rating.

He tied for 3rd in the US Chess Championship in April 2017. He finished the year off strong by winning the elite London Chess Classic (beating GM Ian Nepomniachtchi on tie-breaks). Although he has had a quiet 2017, he is not one to be underestimated in the Candidates tournament.

Caruana is known for his strong calculating ability and aggressive style. He also has a reputation for hard work away from the board. The following game from the London Chess Classic demonstrates Caruana’s classical attacking style against former World Champion Vishy Anand.

6. Wesley So

Wesley So in 2015. Photo by Euku.

American GM Wesley So is the 2nd qualifier based on his 2017 rating average.

As I’ve written about in a previous article, Wesley So had an incredible unbeaten streak that reached 67 games. During that streak, he won the super strong Tata Steel Masters tournament ahead of Magnus Carlsen. He also won the 2017 US Chess Championship ahead of fellow American Top 10 players (at the time) Fabiano Caruana and GM Hikaru Nakamura. So finished 3rd in the Shamkir Chess tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan in April 2017 – where his unbeaten streak was broken by Mamedyarov.

At 25, he and GM Ding Liren are the youngest participants in the Candidates tournament. He is currently the 4th highest ranked player in the world, with a rating of 2799.

Wesley So’s style has evolved into an accurate, technical style. Although his play is nearly risk-free, he has also shown the ability to fight back from difficult positions and is not afraid of sacrificing material for dynamic compensation.

The following game is perhaps Wesley So’s best of 2017. It combines his technical accuracy with the brilliant and opportunistic 21…Nxf2! A return to this type of form can spell trouble for the field in this year’s Candidates.

7. Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik in 2016. Photo by A. Kontokantis.

GM Vladimir Kramnik from Russia qualified as the wild card nomination by the tournament organizers Agon. At age 43, Kramnik is the oldest competitor in this year’s Candidates tournament. However, Kramnik’s age comes with experience and Kramnik is a former World Champion – having defeated Garry Kasparov to gain the title in 2000.

Kramnik had a solid 2017. He tied for 2nd with Hikaru Nakamura in the Norway Chess tournament. He tied for 2nd in the Gashimov Memorial with Wesley So and Veselin Topalov. He tied for 3rd in the strong Isle of Man Open with several masters including fellow Candidates competitor Caruana. He also tied for 3rd with Mamedyarov in the 2017 Tata Steel tournament. He is currently the world’s 3rd highest ranked player with a rating of 2800.

Vladimir Kramnik is a master technician. Like most top players and especially a former World Champion, Kramnik is skilled in all phases of the game, but he is particularly astute in positional play and the endgame. His ability to exploit small mistakes by his opponent makes him a threat in any game. Although he’s the senior member of this year’s Candidates class, it would be a mistake for his younger competitors to write him off.

The game chosen to illustrate Kramnik’s strengths is this positional victory against fellow former World Champion Vishy Anand.

8. Sergey Karjarkin


Sergey Karjakin in 2013.

Russian GM Sergey Karjarkin is our final qualifier as a result of

being the runner-up to the 2016 World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen. He fought Carlsen to a tie in the main 12-game match before losing to the champion in the tiebreaker games.

In 2017, he had a quiet year in classical time control tournaments. However, he demonstrated that he is one of the world’s best speed chess players with victories in the Tal Memorial Blitz tournament – he also finished 2nd in the Tal Memorial Rapid section – and the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz tournament in August 2017. He also tied for 2nd in the 2017 World Blitz Championship – he won the 2016 tournament –  behind Magnus Carlsen. He is currently ranked 13th in the world with a 2763 rating.

GM Karjakin is one of the world’s greatest defenders. He is tenacious defending inferior positions and very comfortable in the endgame. Although he doesn’t win very often with his defensive style, he is also extremely difficult to beat. This style may be well suited for the Candidates, where he can allow his more aggressive opponents to overextend themselves and try to pick off a few wins while drawing most of his games.

The following game demonstrates Karjakin’s excellent technique against GM Anton Smirnov in the 2017 World Cup in Tbilisi. He leaves his opponent with doubled isolated pawns then simplifies into an endgame where he wins one of the isolated pawns and the game.

Many Questions

This year’s Candidates Tournament should be an interesting one. We have players of different styles – from aggressive attackers to endgame virtuosos. Among the Candidates we also have both young blood in Ding Liren, Fabiano Caruana, and Wesley So as well as the resourceful veteran in Vladimir Kramnik.

This tournament will not only test the players’ skills – of which they all have in abundance. It will test their preparation, their fighting spirit, and their endurance. Many questions remain as we enter the event:

Will Wesley So return to the form he showed in early 2017?

Will lightning strike twice for Sergey Karjakin?

Can Vladimir Kramnik show the chess world that he’s still a force to be reckoned with?

Can Levon Aronian build on his early 2018 success?

The answers to these questions and many more will be answered in the next few days. No matter what happens, we fans will be the winners as these great players provide us with beautiful chess games.

Check out Bryan’s FREE Candidates tournament tactics book here >

Kasparov on the Candidates and how to beat Magnus Carlsen

By Leon Watson / On / In Chess news, Features

Shortly before Christmas, Chessable had the pleasure of catching up with Garry Kasparov to talk about his work with the Chess In Schools and Communities charity, which helps get kids involved in this great game we play.

Kasparov, who we have a tactics training book on, dominated the world of chess for two decades and is, as everyone reading this will know, without doubt one of the greatest players ever.

But while we were fascinated by him, we also couldn’t stop ourselves from quizzing the former world champion, the “Beast of Baku”, about the current crop of super GMs and, in particular, the upcoming Candidates tournament which starts this week.

Chessable’s Leon Watson meets Garry Kasparov

It has been three months since that chat and tournaments such as the Tata Steel event in Wijk aan Zee have passed. But what Kasparov said was still very interesting.

We thought we would enlighten you on what the great man had to say:

On Magnus’s weaknesses

Kasparov was no doubt excited about the Candidates tournament in Berlin, but finding someone who can beat the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen – another elite player we have a tactics training book on – is a tall order.

However, Carlsen does have some weaknesses, says Kasparov. But finding them is another matter…

We all have weaknesses, but they are for his opponents to discover. He is a very versatile player, he is probably a bit less confident with positions that are very, very complicated because he likes crystal clear positions and he plays perfectly.

But it would be a mistake to think that you can trick him by complicating things.

All his weaknesses are very relative compared to others because when you say ‘oh he is weak here’ what it means is he is not as perfect as he is in other positions.

But so far his style brings him victories because as I said it is very universal. Also you can see that he totally dominates rapid and blitz because the average score of his moves is phenomenally high.

So I would say that his strongest side is his phenomenal instincts – he just immediately sees the right square for a piece and how to put them together to create the best possible configuration.

On Magnus’s topsy-turvy 2017

On this Kasparov was clear – Carlsen was dominant in rapid and blitz, it was only classical where he showed weaknesses:

Yes, it’s been up and down but that’s in classical tournaments. The people expect him to win all the time, and that’s not easy because you can’t win all the time even if you are Magnus Carlsen.

Players who he faces in classical tournaments they have more time and the gap between him and them is much narrower, and there’s a lot of pressure.

I was there in Magnus’s shoes 20-25 years ago and it’s enormous pressure, it’s a psychological test. You enter a tournament, you face the best in the world, and people still expect you to win because they think if you are world champion you must win anyway.

So that’s why Magnus goes back and forth. He did win the very strong Isle of Man, remember.

Will any of them beat Magnus?

No, in short. Kasparov does not believe any of the Candidates fighting it out to face the world champion really stand a chance. Carlsen is just too strong:

I guess he can hardly imagine he will be in great danger in 2018 in the world championship match.

There was the 2016 match with Karjakin which he had to take very seriously, but I don’t think it will be like that.

There’s getting through and there’s putting him in danger. I don’t think he is in real in great danger from any of the potential candidates judging from the current results and quality of play, it seems Aronian is a favourite.

On Aronians nerves

Yes, the Armenian is bang in form and one of the favourites. But can he keep it together?

The problem with Aronian, well, we all know that he was a favourite many times before and he has to make sure at the critical moment he will not blow it up.

So Aronian’s nerves at the Candidates tournaments have always failed him.

So I don’t know. I would say Aronian has a very good chance, but it’s a very, very level field so we can expect almost any result.

On Kramnik

Any result that is, apart from Vladimir Kramnik winning. The Russian, of course, is an old campaigner who Kasparov faced many times.

I would be surprised if Kramnik does well. He is probably too old, and this is his swansong.

He will have a good time but I don’t see him as one of the real contenders just because the rest of the field is much younger.

On Ding

The newcomer, the dark horse. Does he have a chance?

Looking at this field of contender I would also be surprised if Ding, the Chinese, does well.

He’s a newcomer and it will be very difficult to compensate for lack of experience playing at that level.

And the rest…

And then the rest of the players it will be tight and probably a plus three score could be clean first.

That means that anybody who has a good day so that’s why I would say it is a highly-unpredictable event.

I would not be surprised by almost any result. Except of course Kramnik and Ding – I would be very surprised if one of them wins.

Check out our Tactics Training: Garry Kasparov book here to learn to play like the great man: