Stop Copying Grandmasters: Train for the Chess You Play

You might have heard that you should be training differently from a Grandmaster.

But why is that?

It’s because your game is fundamentally different than a GM game.

The Three Stages of Every Game

Chess players usually think about the Opening, Middle-, and Endgame when we talk about the three stages of a game.

But I believe there is a better, more useful framework. Every chess game can be broken down into three key stages:

Stage 1: Fighting for the Advantage

This fight starts out in the Opening but can drag on until the endgame. The stronger your opponent is, the harder it will be to win this initial battle for the advantage.

On amateur level, you often get gifted the advantage, but it won’t be easy to convert it!

Stage 2: Transforming the Advantage

You have a nice outpost, better development, or a structural advantage. But that isn’t enough to win the game for now. What you need to do is transform this advantage into something more concrete: a material advantage or checkmating attack.

…And it is crucial to hold onto the advantage in the first place, which is easier said than done.

Stage 3: Converting the Advantage

Once one side is up material, we enter into the stage of conversion. The side that is up material should limit counterplay, trade down pieces, and enter an endgame they know how to win.

Or initiate a checkmating attack straight away. This is often seen as “a matter of technique” in GM games.

On the other hand, Amateurs frequently have huge difficulties converting material advantages.

Difference of GM & Amateur Games

Facing another Grandmaster, it is really difficult to even win the battle of the advantage in stage 1. What happens in the so-called GM draws is that no side ever gets the upper hand and the game ends in an uneventful draw.

Because it is so hard to gain an advantage, GMs focus more and more on finding little opening ideas that can throw the opponents off their game.

Once a Grandmaster has the advantage, they are much more likely to hold onto it and convert it than an Amateur.

This means that grandmasters focus on the first stage because getting the advantage is a huge part of winning a game.

In amateur games, this initial advantage isn’t worth nearly as much. The games are much more topsy-turvy.

In a single Amateur game, both sides will have chances to seize the initiative, but then likely will give it up again at some point.

If you can’t hold onto or convert an advantage easily, getting the advantage in the first place is less important.

That is why sophisticated opening work and deep strategic training are often a waste of time for Amateurs.

You first need to make sure you can transform and convert an advantage before you obsess about getting it.

And by the way, in most of your games, you will get offered a chance of getting the advantage, so you don’t need to work hard for it.

Why You Shouldn’t Train Like Grandmasters

Here’s the key: Your games are decided by big mistakes, not small advantages nursed over 60+ moves.

So, instead of obsessing about getting the advantage, you need to train to hold onto an advantage and be able to transform and convert it into a win.

What You Should Do

Focus on the skills that decide your games:

  • Sharpen Your Tactics: Most amateur blunders are tactical in nature. Tactics are the key to transforming advantages. And with a good tactical vision, you will be able to turn around games because your opponents offer you chances when they are pressing.
  • Don’t Get Fancy: Forget about deep opening preparation and deep strategic thinking. Focus on the fundamentals – sound piece development, basic positional understanding, and basic endgame technique.

By training for the chess you play, you’ll see faster improvement and enjoy the game more.

In any sport, obsessing about mastering the basics is much more powerful than trying to master some nuances that seldom decide the game.

Keep improving, Noël

PS: This article was initially sent out to my Newsletter list. If you want to get chess improvement advice for free into your inbox, join 17,000+ chess improvers by signing up for Friday Grandmaster Insights here.

Whenever you’re ready, here is how I can help you:

  • Want to know How to train chess well? Check out Next Level Training – The Chess Training Blueprint for Adult Improvers. This course taught 600+ students the How of Chess Training. Create your high-quality chess plan and learn how to study each part of Chess, from tactics to openings & endgames. ​Click here to learn more​.
  • Check out my all-in-one Beginner Video course, Beginner Chess Mastery—Reach 1200 Online. You’ll learn all the fundamentals, from strategy to how to get the most out of your pieces, tactics, and endgames. You even get a full opening repertoire for free. ​Click here to learn more​.

I firmly believe that

anyone can improve their chess through the right mindset and training techniques.

I’m here to guide you on your journey to chess mastery.

Related articles:

Stay Up to Date

by signing up to my e-mail newsletter

Enter your email address below to sign up for receiving all my new insights, articles, books & courses

– a very short mail, without fluff or Spam

Thousands of readers and students

have already boosted their ratings and derive greater enjoyment from the game

Each week

you will receive an update on all my new articles, books & courses A very short mail, without fluff or Spam Just a little reminder to keep improving your chess.