Grandmaster tips: Improve your chess skills, not just your knowledge

By Alex Colovic / On / In Chess improvement, Learning chess

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Grandmaster ALEX COLOVIC blogs on the importance of not neglecting your basic chess skills

People often forget the difference between the two types of study there are in chess.

One type of study is the acquirement of knowledge. Players accumulate knowledge of openings, middlegames, endgames, they know what a best line is in a certain variation, they know what Carlsen played in his last game, generally they know a lot.

Knowing isn’t enough

There is nothing wrong with knowing a lot, but when the second type of study is neglected, and this is the study with the aim to obtain chess skills, then the knowledge is rendered useless.

Don't just learn chess books - try exercising those little grey cells
Don’t just learn chess books – try exercising your chess skills

What usually happens to players with a lot of knowledge and not a lot of chess skill is that when their knowledge ends they are mercilessly beaten by their more skilled opponents.

The reason is obvious – when they play what they know, they play like an engine (if we talk about openings) and at a 3500 level.

But, when their knowledge ends and they are forced to produce moves themselves, they drop to the level of their competence and if that level isn’t very high, i.e. they do not have enough chess skills to produce good-quality moves, they will inevitably lose the game to a more skilled opponent.

Calculation is the key

An ideal combination is when the level of knowledge is matched by the level of skill. However, this is rarely the case – most players have more knowledge than they have skill (and this includes yours truly!).


GM Alex Colovic’s published courses:

  1. On the way to the Queen’s Gambit Declined
  2. A Grandmaster Guide: The Reti, King’s Indian Attack, and others, based on the QGD
  3. Queen’s Gambit Declined: A Grandmaster Explains
  4. GM Alex Colovic’s Simplest Scandinavian

Logically, then, the way to improve fastest is to increase the level of one’s skill. This is done by actually doing the things that are required during a game – calculating variations, devising plans, practicing realisation of an advantage and revising your opening repertoire.

And yet, not many players are too eager on this type of study.

Training chess skills IS hard

Improving at chess is not easy, even when you know what needs to be done. This is because the involvement in the training process should be as close as possible to the involvement during a game. It is challenging to invest this type of effort in the training process, in spite of all the resources people have at hand.

Take as an example Chessable’s MoveTrainer combined with Panchenko’s Mastering Chess Middlegames.

It’s an ideal combination – you are forced to apply yourself to solve the positions and then revise the material as you progress. Not easy, but it is the proven path to improvement.

General Suvorov used to say the harder the training, the easier the battle. It all depends on you!

About Alex Colovic

GM Alex Colovic has been an International Grandmaster since 2013 and a Chess professional and coach for more than 20 years. GM Colovic has taken part in over 200 international chess tournaments and won dozens of them.GM Colovic is also an active team member participating in the English 4 Nations Chess League, in the French Top 12 and Spanish Segunda Division.Finally, to add to the impressive CV, GM Colovic has coached 3 champions of Catalunya in the U14 and U16 categories.Recently, GM Colovic finished with the best score on the Macedonian team at the Baku Olympiad with an impressive 7 out of 10.
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