Review of How to Beat Titled Players

Quick Look

31-300x300How to Beat Titled Players

Topic: ‘Advanced Skills,’ namely attacking, counter blows, complications, positional sacrifices, prophylaxis

My View: Great lessons on difficult concepts; definitely not for beginners, or even intermediates

Size: 70mb, roughly 2hours of video lectures, about 100 training tasks

Purchase it here: How to Beat Titled Players

In Depth

(Disclaimer: I have purchased this course and watched all the lectures, but as of December 2015, I have not studied any of the training tasks.  Truthfully, I am not ready to study this course, as it is quite advanced.  Keep that in mind as you read this.)

In some ways the title of this course is misleading.  Just watching this course will not let you beat GMs.  Without a firm chess foundation of chess strategy or tactics, you won’t get close.  Indeed, without an understanding of strategy or tactics, you won’t get much out of this course.  Really, this course is the apex of strategy and tactics.  Just as the most amazing combination is made out of simple forks and pins, the advanced strategies in this course are built from the basic chess concepts.  Make sure you know the basics before buying this course.

What are the basics?  It’s everything: development, active pieces, recognizing tactics, putting Rooks on open files, knowing when to trade into an endgame and when to stay in the middlegame, etc.  Weak players don’t know or don’t follow these basics, and stronger players do.  Eventually, though, you will get to a point where both you and your opponents have these basics solidly mastered.  If neither side makes basic blunders, how can one play for a win?

This course is designed to help.  Instead of thinking about how to beat titled players, it should be how to play like titled players.  That is, there is a difference between a strong player and a master-level player, and this course teaches, at least in part, what that difference is.  It focuses on five advanced skills, namely attack, complications, counterblows, positional sacrifices and prophylaxis.

Some of these skills sound obvious, not advanced at all.  We all know how to attack, don’t we?  Yes and no.  We know basic combos, most likely, and know standard patterns, such as pawn storms against opposite-side castling.  These are the basics, and the course takes us deeper.  It tells us, for example, exactly what to look for before starting an attack, when to do it and how to do it.  The same is true for all the skills; we likely know some of them in at least a superficial way, and this course takes us deeper, giving concrete things to look for and take advantage of.

Or, said another way, I like to consider myself an aggressive attacking player, and I was blown away by his lecture.

I would like to mention two elements in particular, positional sacrifices and prophylaxis.  In particular, Smirnov focuses on exchange sacrifices.  There is almost nothing on this.  In all my books, only Marin’s Learn from the Legends (an excellent book on late middlegames and early endgames) approaches this topic in any depth.  Most authors simply wave their hands, saying how amazing such sacrifices are but not giving us clues on how to use them in our own games.  Smirnov gives us real practical advice.  When you are done with that lesson, you will want to sacrifice the exchange every game you play.  Unfortunately, as good as this section is, the prophylaxis section seems lacking.  It is the shortest lecture and has the least amount of tips.  Smirnov’s normally lucid teaching falls short here.  I have not studied the practical puzzles yet, so perhaps that will make it more clear.

I should also mention that this is one of Smirnov’s first courses.  Like GM’s Secrets, the visual and audio quality is very barebones.  He sounds more comfortable here, but not as strong as his later courses or youtube videos.  Spelling and grammar mistakes also abound, but those don’t matter too much.  It’s also one of his cheaper courses.  In fact, among his cheapest courses, this may have the most value.  Again, though, it is quite an advanced course.  If you still blunder pieces or struggle with certain positions, you likely aren’t ready for this yet.  When I finished watching all the lectures, I knew I should improve my basics before really studying this course.  Smirnov himself recommends studying either GM’s Secrets or GMPU first.  I completely agree.

Bottom line, it’s a great course, it’s well-priced, just don’t expect to beat GMs after watching it if you can’t currently beat 1500-rated players.

You can get it here.

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