An Interview with FIDE Master Daniel Barrish


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Time now for your weekend reading, as we proudly present our interview with FIDE Master Daniel Barrish.

Daniel, of South Africa, became a FIDE Master in 2013. He is now well on his way to becoming an International Master.

Daniel Barrish

Daniel Barrish co-authored the new Chessable course, Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgameswith Grandmaster Sahaj Grover. He also authored the course Short & Sweet: 1.d4.

We published our interview with Sahaj last week and we examined Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames yesterday. Today we bring the story full circle to discuss Daniel’s chess life and career.

Starting the Chess Journey

How did your chess journey begin?

When I was three, I found a chessboard at my Grandparents’ home in the Czech Republic and played “chess” (without knowing the rules) with my Granddad. Later I learnt how to actually play chess with my Dad when I was five, and played my first tournament when I was six.

Did you have any particular chess heroes or role models to inspire you in the early days?

Of the World Champions, the first (and biggest) role model I had was Karpov (as his was the first games collection I read). Later on, I also really enjoyed the games of Capablanca, and of course Carlsen.

Recommended Reading

Which chess books did you find most instructive or inspirational during your early years?

I’ve dipped in and out of many books (an unfortunate habit), but of the books that I have read to completion, I consider the following to be the most beneficial:

  • My System, by Aron Nimzowitsch. Not exactly a unique or surprising choice, but it was the first book I read on chess cover-to-cover and it definitely had a major impact.
  • One of the other books I read cover-to-cover was Shereshevsky’s classic, Endgame Strategy (definitely one of my favourite books due to the clarity of the examples and explanations).
  • The aforementioned Karpov games collection (specifically the Olms ‘My Best Games’ one from 2008). 
  • Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual – considered by many to be the definitive guide to theoretical endgames by arguably chess’s greatest trainer ever.
  • I also like some of Dvoretsky’s other works, as well as Aagaard’s GM Preparation series of workbooks (which I hold in very high regard and am in the process of working through).

Were any established players particularly helpful or kind when you broke through to upper levels of chess?

Yes, I would say the majority of our top local players were very helpful and kind – including Mohamed Henry Steel, Daniel Cawdery, Watu Kobese and others.

Did you have a trainer?

Not for a long, extended period of time, although I did have a handful of sessions with some of the players mentioned above, amongst others.

Daniel Barrish: Style and Influences

How would you describe your style of play?

I try to play positionally and technically, while avoiding irrational complications where possible (most likely influenced by the games of Karpov, Capablanca and Carlsen) – although far be it for me to say how successful I am in that vein.

Were any other players influential in the development of your style?

The above three are the main ones.

What is your most memorable success (so far!)?

Winning the SA Closed in 2019 was definitely my proudest moment, as well as getting my first International Master norm that same year. Both of those were especially satisfying as my playing level had plateaued for a long time before that, which I became really determined to break in early 2019 and began working seriously towards that goal.

Online elite chess events have been a major success over the Summer. Do you embrace the new era of digital chess or are you eager for real-life, over-the-board action to return?

I’m definitely looking forward to real-life, OTB chess again – not least because my online chess is pretty bad. 

Working with Chessable

How did you become involved with Chessable?

In mid-2016, while preparing for a game (and procrastinating heavily!) I began looking for an online alternative to Chess Position Trainer and stumbled across Chessable. Soon after I began using it to drill openings myself (and still do, of course) and later that year I got in touch with David Kramaley. Soon after, I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to work for Chessable.

Timeless Technique: Strategic Endgames by FM Daniel Barrish & GM Sahaj Grover has just been released. What can you tell us about the course?

Hopefully, a practical and systematic guide to a very important but under-appreciated part of chess – strategic endgames. We have chosen and annotated a variety of examples (old and very recent, famous and unknown, and even some of our own games) to illustrate what we consider to be some of the most important concepts and rules-of-thumb in endgames, as well as advice on what to do when trying to convert better positions and trying to hold draws in worse positions.

How did the collaboration come about?

I met Sahaj in 2017, who has lived in South Africa roughly since then. Seeing as we live (relatively) nearby (“only” an eight-hour drive away) and get along well, it made lots of sense to work on it together. 

How long did it take you to complete?

We began working on the project in May, so four-five months.

How does it work when you have a co-author; do you work together on everything or do you work on different parts of the course independently?

We first discussed and decided the overall structure, format and content of the course. After that, we each chose examples and exercises for the chapters. They were annotated independently, but we then went through everything together again to maintain consistency. 

Can you tell us what else you have in the Chessable pipeline?

I think that this will be final Chessable course, and I intend to simply focus on maintaining my existing Chessable courses.

Work and Ambition

Do you still have the time and desire to work on your own game?

Yes, very much so. My brief encounter with some success last year again has spurred me on to actually work hard on my own game again.

What ambitions do you have, as a player?

The next goal is the International Master title, which is what I spent much of this year working towards. In the long-term, I am definitely aiming to achieve the Grandmaster title.

Club players are always interested in ways to improve their game. What advice would you offer to them?

I have nothing to unique or spectacular to recommend I’m afraid, but for what it’s worth:

  • Tactics are important – we all know this. Much like cardiovascular fitness, tactical skill needs to be trained regularly to be maintained.
  • Endgames are also very important (which is also not a big secret). Learning at least some of the most important theoretical endgames cold from 100 Endgames You Must Know or Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual is a good place to start.
  • Limit the time spent on opening study. Pick one or two openings for each colour, and learn them well – I think that for most people, having a “narrow but deep” repertoire beats having a “wide but shallow” one. Try to avoid jumping around openings too much – pick something, stick with it, and then work on other facets of chess.
  • Cut down on playing tons of blitz and bullet, and rather spend that time analyzing your games. 
  • Avoid the mistake I made of dipping in and out of books without finishing them. As much fun as that is, it isn’t ideal if the goal is solely to improve.
  • Avoid the other mistake I made of learning things “passively”. Unfortunately, it was very late in my chess development that I reached the (relatively well-known) conclusion that this isn’t ideal. As mentioned by Aagaard (and just about everyone else), active learning (i.e. solving puzzles, rather than merely “reading” chess like one what would read a novel) is best.
  • Probably the single, biggest piece of advice I have (which I would say even supersedes the previous points) is that chess (and chess training) needs to be enjoyable. If you decide to stop playing blitz, but this ends up killing your enjoyment of chess, then I think it’s counterproductive. In the last two years, for the first time since my pre-teens, have I truly enjoyed my chess training and doing the “hard yards” by solving exercises and not merely learning “passively” (without truly absorbing anything). At least in my personal experience, training without enjoying the process is akin to running on fumes – it’s bound to grind to a halt.

How do you cope with the pain of defeat? 

Badly. I’m not the best person to ask about this – losing stings, for everyone I think – especially if you are a particularly competitive person. The best “approach” I’ve tried so far is using the pain of defeat as something to motivate me. After a bad tournament, I try to start working again immediately afterwards while the pain of defeat is still fresh in my mind. 

Daniel Barrish

Favourite Game

Do you have a favourite game of your own?

Probably my first win against a GM. It will always be a very memorable game for me.

Daniel Barrish – Evgeny Gleizerov

Ceske Budejovice Open, 2016

White to play

In this tense and exciting position, Daniel found 68 Qf8+ Kc7 69 Qxa3, picking up a second pawn. He then navigated his way through the subsequent complications to end up in a winning bishop and pawn ending. (1-0, 79)

How about from history?

It’s difficult to say. There are so many nice games that it’s difficult to choose.

And finally…which aspect of your chess life gives you the most satisfaction? Is it as a writer or a player?

I enjoy both. Playing gives immense satisfaction (but only when things are going well!?) but so does writing – especially when seeing people leave positive comments and feedback, it becomes very rewarding.

Thank you very much, FIDE Master Daniel Barrish!

The other interviews in our popular series can be found here:

Anish Giri

Erwin L’Ami

Richard Palliser

Sahaj Grover

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