Hi dear readers, as the title suggests, this is another guest article. This time. I have the honor to publish an article written by Dror Allouche AKA Mr.OTG.
Dror is a Nextlevelchess reader, chess fan & blogger himself. You can check out his work here. He also has a weekly Newsletter which I enjoy reading. Make sure to subscribe if you want weekly insights to growing yourself, your career & your finances.
Now, enjoy the article!
I always had an attraction to chess, but I never took the time to learn. I must say that at first sight, I have no facility for the game. I’ve never been good at geometrical visualization, and impatience is my big flaw. That’s a lot 😀
Despite that, I was interested. Should we only do activities that we are good at?
I don’t believe so.
How did it start?
The first spark was in 2017 when my son first learned the game at school. He tried to explain me the rules. We even signed up on Chess.com. But the fire didn’t catch.
At the end of 2020, we saw the movie “Queen of Katwe” ( I highly recommend it.) The spark reignited. I relearned the rules, and my wife offered us a board. Handy for playing 😀
From there (early 2021), I started to get seriously interested. First, I played a few games with my son (who often beat me, if not all the time). Then I bought books, listened to podcasts, and searched the internet.
When I search for resources on “how to learn as an adult,” I often come across people who played young (sometimes competitively), then went back to playing and called themselves “beginners.”
“Hey guys,” I can guarantee you. It’s different when you start from scratch as an adult.
Most of the time, their content is already too advanced for me. I’m (as some of you) a true beginner with no facilities who started chess at 46. Let me share this experience.
How I started to learn?
I don’t know what I did at first, but I started three-speed games while testing the Chess.com app on my phone back in 2018. Two Blitz (fast mode 5 min) and one Bullet (ultra-fast mode 2 min). Not on purpose. At that time, I didn’t even know what Blitz and Bullet meant.
At the end of these three games played by error, my ranking was above 1000. (I don’t know what the software was drinking that day). 😀 And when I started to play again in normal mode in April 2021 (20 min mode), the software took back this rating.
Which was not a good idea. From April 2021 to May 2021, I dropped the ranking to stabilize at around 500 points. It’s hard on the ego, but that should be my starting level.
And you are burning with impatience to know where I am now 😀
After a year where I dedicated 15 to 30 minutes a day, I’m flirting with the 700 points. Let me share about this experience.
Learning with Books.
Being an avid reader, I naturally started there. I quickly realized that I didn’t have the level to do it yet. A lot of the content explains variations in chess annotation. I read on a Kindle at night. So transcribing these annotations without a chessboard in front of me was too complex.
Three books helped me anyway, and I will tackle the others when I can reproduce the variations in my head. (maybe one day😀)
- Logical Chess, Move by Move by Irving Chernev (kindle)
- Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (paper)
- Gagner aux échecs (même quand on débute). Kévin Bordi, Samy Robin (paper)
Lesson learned. For technical books, paper is easier, and reading in your native language makes things simpler.
Learning with Software.
The chess world is full of software. The practice and the interactive side lend themselves to it wonderfully. Here is what I used:
Chess.com: In the beginning, I did the tactical rehearsals and played against the computer (it took me a long time before I dared to play against a real opponent). Today I use it primarily for games against real players.
Chessable.com: This tool has been a revelation for me. I started to use it in May 2021, and I haven’t stopped since. I am on a streak of 360 days.
The principle is simple. It’s like buying a book and practicing the exercises. Chessable also uses the “spaced repetition” technique. It consists in offering you more often the exercises where you make mistakes and less the ones you master. I also use this principle in language learning. It has and continues to be very effective for me.
The books I studied in Chessable.
- Knights on the Attack by AlanB
- Basic Chess Patterns by Benedictine
- Learn Chess the Right Way – Book 1: Must-know Checkmates by GM Susan Polgar
- Smithy’s Opening Fundamentals by SmithyQ
The effects on my progress
0 to 500: or rather from 1000 to 500 in my case (see below the drop :)). I quickly stabilized at 500 and experienced my first plateau.
500 to 600: 7 months. With two months without any game and for the rest, a game from time to time. I had my second plateau around 600.
600 to 650 : 3 weeks. With games every 2 to 3 days on average. A period of relative progress.
650 to 691 (March 2022) : 2 months. With games every day (or almost) since January 2022. I discover a new plateau around 700.
Some learners go much faster or slower (I doubt it😀).
But it shows that the learning cycle goes through moments of plateaus ( 7 months) followed by rapid progress ( 3 weeks). I find these phrases in all my learning, languages, running, writing…
Being aware of this is an asset. Most of the projects are abandoned during the plateau periods. And yet, persevering ensures the discovery of new horizons.
I’ve no doubt, I will continue to progress if I persevere in studying the game. Depending on the time I devote to it, the results will be more or less rapid.
What I like and what I like less in chess.
What I like less :
- Chess is competitive. At the end of a game, there is a verdict. It’s not relaxing.
- I love to play one-on-one games. I don’t do it often. But when I find a friend who likes it, I enjoy it. Again, the concentration required does not allow for easy discussion. A game is still a game. 😀
What I like:
- The rules are simple, but the possibilities are endless. (121 million possibilities after only 3 moves)
- There is not only one correct answer. You often have different options.
- It’s a thinking game. It develops concentration.
- You learn to make decisions and take the consequences.
- If you want to improve, there is no end to the learning.
- It helps develop patience which is one of my difficulties.
- Don’t give up. It develops the ability to fight to the end.
- Every piece is important, even a pawn. Everyone plays his role.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve understood I’ve fallen in love with this game.
Chess gives me intense emotions—joy, disappointment, euphoria, frustration.
I imagine myself at 90 years old (I hope to have this chance) studying and playing exciting games.