Post Round Analysis At The State Championships!?!

I’ve been conducting post round analysis for Virginia Scholastic tournaments and championships for 11 years. This year it was my job to collect games for the VA bi monthly newsletter. After having surgery in August, I was in no mood to play or direct so I decided that I’d do post round analysis for the amateur and novice sections.

A recent article by Women’s Grand Master and 2 time Czech Women’s Champion Katerina Nemcova,

“Katerina’s Seven Tips For Effective Preparation For OTB Tournaments”, see Chess Life August 2021, pages 33 and 34 seemed like a must read, especially when preparing to play in a “heritage event like the 84th VA Closed! I had my issue of the magazine with me and continually asked the participants if they had read the article. The answer I got 100% of the time was no!?! I was in disbelief! As a coach, I had read this article word for word to all of my students and to some parents before this event. So then I started asking how many books they had read and if they were being coached.

Trying to get better exclusively by using online tools and coaches is the weakest link!!!

Come to find out 75% of them had not opened even 1 book to get ready for the championship. They been solving on line puzzles, playing Blitz, and watching videos. That threw me for a loop when I also discovered nearly half of them had online coaches.

It’s not the blind leading the blind! It’s the greedy leading the needy!

The next thing I noticed was how fast they were finishing their games and how unaffected some of them seem to be by the result they had gotten. When I asked about their online activity, I was hearing ratings of 1500 blitz, 1300 Bullet, Puzzle Rush scores in the high 20’s and 30’s. Even with this level of activity, the quality of the scoresheets left a lot to be desired. I thought it was because some of them were in their 1st tournament, but I was wrong on that assumption. I was getting inaccurate and incomplete scoresheets from people that were bragging about having played for years!?!

Online chess sites are in the, “fun” businesses.

Since the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people playing chess! Since they couldn’t play over the board, they have to play online. Chess, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, is an industry. As with any industry, there are people that give great service and people that give terrible service. One of the biggest mistakes I see parents making is they think chess instruction is a commodity!

What should you ask to protect yourself?

If you want to get a quality coach, here are some question to ask;


1.) What is your US Chess Membership #? 2.) How long have you been coaching chess? 3.) Are you licensed and Insured? If yes, What is the name of your company and what states are you licensed in? 4.) What is the name of your US Chess Affiliate? 5.) What is the age requirement for becoming a US Chess Certified Coach? 6.) What is the age requirement for becoming a Certified Tournament Director? 7.) What qualification do you use for endorsing US Chess Certified Coaches? 8.) What is the age requirement for being a US Chess Affiliate? 9.) What is the minimum age required to coach for you? 10.) What is the measure of success you use for your students? 11.) Are you a for profit or a non profit organization? 12.) What is the age requirement for a business license? 13.) What is the age requirement for going to college? 14.) What is the highest rating one of your students has achieved? 15.) How many teams have you coached at any one time? 16.) Do you have your own chess club? 17.) Do you sponsor tournaments? 18.) Have you authored any books? 19.) Do you write for any publications? 20.) Is your coaching staff required to have background checks?

If the only place they have ever been is on line, virtual is also the only type of Improvement you will see!

The 1st question will tell you a great deal about the person offering lessons or coaching. Lesson and coaching are not the same. Once you have their membership # you can find the truth about them at, http://www.uschess.org/index.php/Player/Rating-Lookup-Old-format.html There you can see their membership status, tournament history, norms performance/category, whether they are a tournament director, their peak rating, and career statistics. To see if they are a Certified Coach visit, http://www.uschess.org/index.php/Scholastic-Misc/Certified-Chess-Coach-List.html. There are people asking $25.00-$75.00 per hour that won’t even know what you are talking about or why you are asking so many questions!!! Just remember they are a business… If they don’t know the answer, don’t know what you mean, or ask why do you need to know that, move on to the next organization.

You have to start, “Right” not “Somewhere”

Everyone knows that when it come to following grandmaster advice, interpreting the results of the surveys that have been done on chess, and using chess to bolster school applications, college applications, and resumes, I am unrelenting and uncompromising!!! It was disheartening to watch players tell me they were playing the Sicilian and have no idea that …a6, …b5, Rc3, Re8, or Bh8 were all moves of standard consideration. I watched and listened as coached players tried to explain why they had played 2. d3 or 2. Nf3 instead of 2. d4 in response to the French, Caro, Modern, and Pirc. I saw games where they took on d4 in the Scotch, and moved both the e and g or the b and d pawns when fianchettoing. Too Many of the players I met were still missing 3, 2, and even 1 move blunders by their opponents because they were still stuck in the, “you take me, I’m going to take you back” mentality! Many parents and coaches just don’t realize that the longer it takes to get the kids thinking right about chess, the closer the kids get to putting the game on the shelf. They’re kids not adults!! They’ve actually told me, “If I haven’t learned how to play after spending, “all this time” it’s going to take forever to fix my game!” I don’t know who’s fault that is, I just know it’s preventable. As I’ve said for years… sooner or later if you stay with chess long enough, you are going to realize that tournaments are the only way to the benefits you were seeking. When you go up to that nice, friendly, polite, and professional clock watching coach that you’ve been paying for a year or 2 and ask them why they never stressed going to tournaments, they will say, “You never said you were interested in tournaments… we had to start somewhere?!” What that always means whether it’s chess or some other endeavor is, they got paid, and you got nowhere!!!

Yes, I’ve got openings! Call Coach Mike @ 804-426-6058!

Rapid Tactical Improvement… How and When to Pick Your Puzzles

As I explained, I’m letting the secrets out in no specific order. Today’s subject is picking the right kind of puzzles to solve. When you go to a site or a book, there are 56 themes that you can choose from to study!?! (Strange) On Chess.com of those 56, 8 are for checkmates. There are basic, advanced, mating net, smothered mate and then mate in 1, 2, 3, and 4. Over complication and over simplification are 2 of the biggest challenges when trying to teach chess, so please forgive me as I do a little of both depending upon your skill, experience, and strength!?

This is supposed to be a beginner book

Image 1 - Encyclopedia of Middlegame, Vol. IV, chess software

This is supposed to be intermediate and advanced

Advanced Chess Tactics by Lev Psakhis chess book

This is supposed to be advanced

With their being more chess books than any other kind of book in the world, there are still a couple every player needs to have in their library. 5334 tops my list because the book is a reflection of the owner, not the author!?! When one of those people who’ve never read a chess book cover to cover in their life say’s, ” it’s a beginners book”, ask them as if you know, ” So how many errors did YOU find in the 600 games section!?” By the way, if you want to know how many, which ones, and the corrections, contact Coach Mike for a copy! Asking what books a chess player has read cover to cover should be one of the primary questions you ask and get answered before you ever accept chess advice from anyone!!!

1st we need to talk about the goals and how choosing the right puzzles gets us the most the fastest. The primary purpose of puzzles is to improve visualization. The problem we all have is keeping the imaginary future position clear enough in our heads to determine if the course of action we are considering is desirable! Giving players of all strengths 56 themes at once is one of the most rediculous and overwhelming training concepts I’ve ever seen. After visualization what is the most desirable characteristic that will automatically improve your tactical ability? I’m sure my answer will be enlightening and agreeable to players of every strength. To become good at combinations and to add length, surprise, and stealth to your attacks and intentions, you must desensitize yourself to material!!! A few examples;

There are players that will never solve this puzzle because they keep looking at 1…b6-f2!! and saying, ” That’s stupid, they’ll just take my queen?!” After 1… b6-f2!! white will be checkmated whether they accept the queen or not!

Fischer vs Spassky Game 28 1972

World Champions have no material sensitivity at all!! Fischer had just played 18. c3-d5! If Spassky takes the knight with either pawn white gets the advantage! He played 18…e7-g5! and the game ended in a draw!

White chose h2-h4! over g2-g3 because opening the h file is decisive and black must avoid it at all costs!!

In the midst of complications you better be desensitized!! The game continued 17. h2-h4! f5-f4 18. h4-h5! c8-f5 19. 0–0–0 b8-d7! 20. g2-g4! f4-e3 21. d2-e3 d7-c5! 22. g4-f5 c5-b3 23. a2-b3 g6xf5 24. h5-h6 g7-f6 25. g5-e6 +-

So, how do we the select the types of puzzles that will prepare us for consistent superior play? By understanding what the game is about. The game of chess is about checkmate! Beginners and intermediates will tell you that it’s about winning enough material to eventually turn your attention towards the king. Just because that’s all you know how to do, doesn’t make that what the game is all about! When you reach the advanced, expert, and master levels, all of them will tell you that virtually everything is more important than material!! Everything!! So here is the secret: You will improve your visualization and future position imagery faster by learning how to chase, protect, and trap the king!! Chasing the king will teach you the other 48 themes, but learning the other 48 themes will not make you efficient at chasing, protecting, or trapping the king!! Why? Because all the other pieces have 4 choices and the king only has 3!?! the pieces have run, take, block, or sit there. The king only has run, take, or block. Learning to chase, protect, and trap the king is the fastest way to learn what causes the other pieces to not be able to just sit there!!!

Checkmate puzzles have another unique advantage that can not be gotten from solving other types of puzzles. Checkmate puzzles anchor better because there is no wondering if you would have won or had the ability to win after you get the correct answer. “And white went on to win”, or “and black went on to win”, or “and the rest is a matter of technique”, robs the student of verification and closure.

Checkmate puzzles teach defense and playing with imbalances!! All the books out there are teaching how to attack. Less than 5% of the books out there teach anything about defense at all!! Puzzle books that have errors are a great way to learn defense. The errors in books published before they verified with engines is as high as 25% and 33%! Don’t let that discourage you. The correct and the incorrect solutions are both instructive! Today’s tournaments are mostly Swisses. Look at the following examples and tell me whether the player should resign or fight their way out;

White to play

This is number 4464 in the 5334 book. The solution given was 20. f1-f6! g7-f6 21. b2-f6 resigns. I picked this example because it shows how impatience, material sensitivity, and aesthetics can make errors look beautiful and instructive!?! One of the biggest lessons you can learn from checkmate puzzles is to throw away your, “you take me I’m going to take you back” mentality!! That’s checkers not chess. lol

Black had to refuse that sacrifice with 20…d5-d4! 21. f6-f2 b7-c8 22. d2-e2 c8-e6 23. b2-c1 d4-d3 24. e2-h5 e6-c4±

Should black resign? Not a chance!!

The last step is to put the puzzle into an analysis engine. When I did that with this puzzle I found that 20. f1-f6?? is a blunder!! There are 3 better moves… 20. b2-f6!!, 20. e4-d5!, and 20. c4-d5.

Now black has to take or face certain death!

20. b2-f6! g7-f6 21. e4-d5 d8-d6 22. f1–f5 c7-d8 23. g2-e4! The cage is opened and there just isn’t any way to prevent a robbery! This bishop coming into the game from g2 always ads intensity to the attack. 23…g8-g7 24. f5-h5 f6-f5 25. e4-f5 h7-h6 26. f5-e6!!+-

Need I say more!?! Wow!!

You’ll have to check out the other 2 moves on your own. Our next example came from The Philadelphia Inquirer! My mom used to clip the puzzle and game every Sunday and send them to me when I was in the Air Force. I nicknamed this one, “The Junk Yard Dog”

The Junkyard Dog!

The newspaper’s solution was 1…h4-h3?! 2. f5-e3?? b7-g2 3. d1–g4 h3-g4 4. e3-g4 g2-f1 5. g1-f1 f4-e6–+ That’s a nice smash and grab! Black is up a pawn and an exchange.

Can’t quit. Gotta play…Right!?

The fun comes again in never believing the solution!?! Black went in guns a blazing with 1… h4-h3?! but if white had that Junkyard Dog attitude, this is what would have happened!! 2. d1-d7!! e8-d7 3. f1–d1 d7-e6 4. f5-d4 e6-e5 5. c1-f4 e5-f4 6. g2-h3 f8-c5 7. b1–c3 a8-d8 8. c3-e2 f4-g5. Damaged, but materially intact. This is a lot better than being down a pawn and the exchange!

Black is better, but they aren’t winning just yet!

Now for more fun and learning. When you study mating attacks you will learn that sometimes the strongest piece is not the one that’s supposed to lead the attack. The mating attack was actually a decoy, a threat that was not really ever intended to work and another combination is the real point. Better than 1… h4-h3 was 1…f4-h3! 2. g2-h3 h4-e4 3. f2-f3 e4-f5 4. c1–e3 0–0–0–+ White’s position is destroyed. Further material losses are unavoidable.

Sometimes the smaller gun does more damage!?

If your next question is when do you start studying other than checkmate puzzles, the answer will be in a future blog or part of your lessons… Whichever comes 1st.

I hope you enjoyed this brief and instructive tour of Coach Mike’s Laboratory. lol I could go on all day about this, but there are many other secrets that I must blow the dust off of to get ready for the next blog. Like I said, I’m coming at you with all of my best secret stuff! This is the tip of the iceberg!? If you want the rest with no waiting and no filters, call me and get a free consultation about lessons. If you are not ready for lessons, we will get you ready for lessons for free! 804-426-6058. Now get out there and beat the snot out of somebody!!!

Ready For Coaching? We Get You Ready For Free!?!

59 next month!? I’ve become the old dude. It’s terrifying! Not because I’m closer to leaving, but because there’s still so much left to do!! If I’d known just how much I was going to have to get done in this life, I’d have taken more vacations, and planned for a lot more time off!?! lol Having to get a stint put in to relieve chess pain and blockage is life altering. Life, all of a sudden feels like having an hour glass where you can see the sand coming in the bottom, but you can’t see the top anymore. So many leave with so much more at the top that I’m just grateful for the time I’ve had and the time I have left. I’m one of the lucky ones that got a warning!!

So, it’s time to make some changes. The 1st thing that’s changing is I work with and for tournament players only! Tournament chess is the only proof that will bolster a school application, college application, or resume!! It is also the only chess that matters for a scholarship!! I’ve got more secrets than Russia and the US combined and the only way to not take it with me is to declassify everything!! I’m putting all my best stuff out there for everyone to see, learn and improve from!!! There is no order because all of our lessons, group and individual, have always been custom. If you’d like an invitation to this FREE Learning Group, a free 90 minute assessment/consultation is required. You must be a, Rated Tournament Chess Player!!

Rosen 2425 vs Chow 2232 from the year 2011

As mentioned in the 11 yr old section of “Arena or Playground the 60/40 Rule”, you must be ready to play against your older opponents peak rating. Here in 2011 at the North American Invitational, Eric Rosen is just 18 years old. Albert Chow reached his peak rating of 2456 all the way back in 1993! Here black must choose between 16… g5-g2, and 16… g5-h6. The answer to that question will tell you if you are ready to be coached. Write out what you think the next 5 moves will be for each side. Write out as many continuations as you think are relevant. If you can’t write out continuations, you need coaching! If 5 moves is too far, you need coaching!! Move the pieces around as much as you like before you ask for the answers.

Callaham 1863 vs Cohen 1990 From the year 2014

The next position is from the 2014 Virginia Senior Open. This is the 3rd round of the day. My peak rating is 1943 achieved in 2003. Harry’s peak rating is 2199 that he achieved in 1997. 2 old farts fighting it out if you must, but instructive all the same. I stared at this position for 35 minutes before I finally made my move. Here you have 5 choices 16. d1- e2, 16. c2-d2, 16. g3-f5, 16. h4-f5, and 16. c1-h6. Write out the next 5 moves for each side. Move the pieces around as much as you like. If you can’t write out 5 moves for each side even when you are allowed to move the pieces, you need coaching, but you may not be ready?!

Checkmate Drills

White has just played 20. f1-d1?? Because of this blunder, black has more than 20 ways to checkmate white!! Yes, I said 20!! If you can write out 20 or more without moving the pieces, you should be coaching. These and many other practical exercises to improve your chess await you.

If you think you are ready for Tournament Coaching, we offer a free 90 minute assessment/consultation. We will discuss your goals, play the potential student, and then give you our assessment. If your student is ready, we will give you a quote. If your student is not ready for lessons, we will help you get them ready for FREE!! Rated Tournament Chess Players Only!! Call, write, or email. No texting. Coach Mike 804-426-6058. Call anytime!