Tag Archives: RCA

The Year is Half Over

Today is July 1st, a very special day. Most importantly, it’s Canada Day, a national holiday.  That’s always nice.  Of secondary importance, it’s the beginning of the NHL free agency period, one of the busiest days in terms of player movement.  There may be no better day for a Canadian hockey fan than July 1.

More than that, though, today is the beginning of July, the seventh month.  The year is officially half over.  Six months have gone, six months remain.  It seems like just yesterday we were welcoming in 2016, and now it’s half over and soon it will be done.  That’s … quite sobering, really.

Most people have long since abandoned their new year’s resolutions, but not me.  I’m constantly thinking about how I can improve, where I need to improve and what I need to do to get there.  I set some pretty lofty goals back at the beginning of the year, and now is the perfect time to make sure I’m still trending in the right direction or if I need to change something. Continue reading

The Smirnov Study Plan

I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a Smirnov fanboy, a disciple if you will. If he makes something, I buy it. I have good reason: before his courses, I had been stuck at 1800 rating for years and years. I studied Grandmaster’s Positional Understanding, his flagship course, in 2015, and in March 2016 my rating currently sits at 2088. I’ve improved nearly 300 points, and I might not be done yet. That’s awesome.

I’ll be honest, I’m amazed at my progress.

I own all of Smirnov’s courses, and as I’ve begun watching and rewatching all the lessons, I’ve begun to see the overall pattern or structure of his teaching. I now understand why his courses are the way they are, and I want to share that with you here. Continue reading

Chess Game of the Month, Feb 2016

This game was special.  For one, it pushed me to 1990 rating, and my next win (which happened on the very same day) pushed me over 2000 rating for the first time. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I thought it was one of the best games I had ever played.  Ever.

It certainly was a good game, against a good 1800-ish opponent, but time away and deep analysis has exposed some blemishes.  Still, as far as positional games go, it was a treat to play, and when he finally resigned I felt a surge of excitement I hadn’t felt over a chess victory in a long time.

Quick background: the game started out as a Nimzo, then transposed into a QGD structure.  I made a freeing tactic which turned the game into a related but unique structure, and I then used my bad Bishop to outplay a good Knight before simplifying into a better endgame.  Pfew. Continue reading

Why Most Chess Players Struggle

Chess is a game, and being a game it should be fun. For the most part it is. Siegbert Tarrasch famously said “chess has the power to make men happy.” At its best, chest certainly does this. Perhaps the happiest moment of my life came when I beat my grandfather at chess, a feat I never thought possible. When you play chess, you play alone. There are no teammates to drop the perfect pass and blow the game. Victory all depends on you.

It took four years and countless games to get that victory, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted.

Chess can be a wonderful, empowering thing, but it can be just as easily depressing, defeatist, sadistic torture. It’s an individual game. Yes, all of your brilliance is our your own, but so are your mistakes. If you lose, it was not because of a teammate or the referee or the weather or any of 100 other excuses you can use in any other competition. No, if you lose it’s all because of you. It is your fault, and it can take a lot of mental fortitude to accept that. Continue reading

My 2016 Chess Goals

I love chess. Years ago I said I wanted to be a chess master … and then I sort of stopped for about a decade … but now I’m back! I spent a good chunk of 2015 actively studying, and in the end I blew past my old rating of 1800 and currently sit in the high 1900s, which feels stratospheric.


I am the 1% apparently.

The appeal of chess is mesmerizing. We start with equal forces, two identical armies on a symmetric board, but a good player will still readily beat a poor one. It’s not luck, it’s not chance, it’s not a teammate dropping a perfect pass. No, it’s all personal skill. If you win at chess, you deserve it, and that feeling really feels great.

I like winning, just like everyone else, but more than that I like knowing I’m right. At any given time, any given position, there is a best move. It might be microscopically better than the alternatives, but it is still the best. The appeal of chess, for me, isn’t just winning but knowing that I played the best moves as often as possible. That’s perhaps my real motivation, and that powers my training plan. Continue reading

December 2015 Chess Game(s) of the Month

Alternate title: the difference between high-rated players and lower rated players.

I’m involved in a tournament on chess.com, and I got randomly paired against a 1400 and a 1500-rated player.  I won all four games, one with each colour, and I noticed similarities in all the games.  I won rather easily in all four, as I should, being nearly 500 rating points higher, but how did I do it?

The lazy answer is I outplayed them positionally, but that’s a vague assessment.  What does it mean to be positionally outplayed?  In a nutshell, I did two things better than my opponents: I made a plan, whereas they did not, and I consistently improved my pieces, whereas they made many more backwards moves.

Let’s look at two games that show this in detail. Continue reading

Review of ‘Your Top Chess Questions Answered’ by GM Smirnov

Quick View

Your_top_chess_questions_AnsweredYour Top Chess Questions Answered

Topic: Misc.; how to play and train better in general

My View: Some excellent, concise information, though other parts are less relevant

Purchase it here: Top Chess Questions, Answered Continue reading

Chess Game of the Month November 2015

I’ve been playing less chess the last few weeks, for a variety of reasons.  I planned on doing NaNoWriMo, so I didn’t start many games … and then I stopped doing NaNoWriMo, so opps.  I’ve also had other changes in my life, and this caused me to budget my time and chess is the area that suffered.

All in all, I only completed two games in November.  One was a rather uninteresting draw in the Open Spanish.  I’ve linked it but offer no real comment.  I had slight winning chances in the endgame but pushed my pawn too early, and it would have taken lots of grinding for any chance of winning.  The other game was more interesting but worse: I lost. Continue reading

Review of RCA’s NimzoIndian Opening Course

Quick Look

Nimzo-Indian Course

Subject: The Nimzo-Indian opening, from Black’s side

Recommendation: Not bad, but you get 98% of this if you get Opening Lab 2.

Buy it here: Nimzo-Indian at RCA

Continue reading