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How to study Chess – Advice for busy People

by Jiri (George) F. Kovats (Colorado Springs, CO, USA)
Studying chess is a time consuming endeavor to say the least. When I first started to acquire chess books I was overwhelmed by the amount of information one needs to learn to play decent chess and not get mated by move 10. I waded through books and Chess Life articles spending extraordinary amount of time I really did not have. So, one day I said ENOUGH! There must be a different way. And there was. Here is my solution:

The problem I had was not enough time and not enough cells in my brain to store and remember all that information from the books. So, the first thing I have done is to select a forcing opening. This limits the time needed for the study of the selected openings. After experimenting for few years, I chose Torre Attack for white, Accelerated Sicilian Dragon for black against 1.e4, and Tartakower Defence in the Queen’s Gambit Declined against everything else.

Admittedly, there are number of early deviations in these openings that your opponent can choose to play before you get to your chosen opening. In the beginning I did not worry about these deviations. I lost number of games when my opponent used these deviations. Through the years I learned that the deviations account for less than 5% of all games I played so I still don’t worry about them although I learned how to play against the major deviations.

Chess books have so much information that no mortal can possibly learn everything. By carefully choosing my repertoire I cut down dramatically on the material I needed to know to make it to the endgame. I use most if not almost all of my more than 300 chess books as reference material. So what did I do to learn?

Just like choosing a limited repertoire, I selected only few books to study and I highly recommend this method to all would-be amateur club chess players. Initially, I selected several books and software in each of the following categories:

Chess Playing Software for Analysis
Chess Database
General Chess Knowledge
Opening books for the openings I chose to play
Game Collections

After reviewing my book choices in each category I ended up with the following list of books I considered bare bones and essential:

Chess Playing Software

Chess Database
Chess Assistant

General Chess Knowledge
The Modern Chess Self-Tutor by David Bronstein

Chess Tactics for Champions by Susan Polgar

Modern Chess Strategy by Ludek Pachman
or Weapons of Chess by Bruce Pandolfini

Essential Chess Endings Explained Move by Move, Volume 1 by Jeremy Silman

2 books on Torre Attack
2 books on Tartakower Defence
1 book on Accelerated Dragon

Game Collections
General: Three Hundred Games by Siegebert Tarrasch
Openings I play: I downloaded from Internet sites 100+ games by masters and grandmasters for each opening I play and their major deviations.

The problem with the game collection books is that they mostly contain games that are not in your repertoire. I wish the chess book publishers would publish collection of games in accordance with openings but these days you can download the games from Internet so why bother publishing these game collection books.

These limited book selections served me well. Only 10 books to cover everything I need. Yes, I know, everyone has their opinions and favorite chess books. All I’m saying is that you only need one or two books in each category and couple of books on each opening you play. That’s all.

Sincerely in Chess


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