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Important Question About Chess Improvement


in this article, GM Avetik really drives home the point that if you wish to improve quickly in chess, you must do what is MOST EFFECTIVE and doing things that are USEFUL IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.  Of course, this idea is rather logical and not really shocking but this leaves me with big questions:

How do I know what is most effective?  Is this a one-size-fits-all deal or is it individual?  Do you have                                                                             any reccomendations?

PRO Members

Your rating is not your strength

Have you ever heard someone say, "I know I am rated (insert rating here), but I clearly play much better. I am way underrated."

I have heard this, or variations of this, more times then I can count. I must admit, I have said it myself more times then I can count as well. I would be willing to wager it is near the top of all phrases uttered by chess players to other chess players, at almost every level.

I am sure many of you have had similar experiences. This conundrum has vexed me for a long time, and as I continue to grow in my knowledge from ChessMood, it has been a question I asked myself more and more, because my rating (I am speaking OTB rating) hasnt grown as much as I feel it should have. (I confess my online rating has jumped higher then ever, but that story will be saved for another time)

When I started ChessMood, my OTB Rating was 1750ish USCF with a peak of 1816. Since I hadnt played OTB for almost 2 years before ChessMood, my rating dropped at first to 1675ish (this is most likely also attributed to the fact you usually go backwards before going forwards when learning something new.). After that initial drop I quickly raised my rating back to my peak of 1816, a gain of 140 points! But then I stayed there until COVID hit and OTB tournaments halted.

Since games started back up a couple months ago, I have played in 5 tournaments, and have promptly fallen back to 1750. Part of this can be attributed to lack of playing OTB, but my opponents had the same break from playing, so I know I cannot use this as an excuse. I know my knowledge has increased in an uncalculatable amount since joining ChessMood, yet I am not gaining in rating like I would think I should. So this has got me thinking about what rating really is.

It was then, as I was thinking more and more about this, that I realized, RATING IS NOT YOUR STREGTH AT CHESS! Your rating is your performance from playing! 

I have  experienced many times while analyzing with an opponent after a game and thinking to myself, "How is this guy rated 200 points higher then me? I know as much as he does!" I have also had times where the opposite is true, and I think to myself while looking at a game with a lower rated opponent, "There is no way this guy should be lower rated then me!"

I have realized as I have reflected on this that it doesnt matter how much more I know then my opponent knows,  if I dont apply it, my rating isnt going to go up! At the end of the game, the player who wins gets the rating points, not the guy who studied the most.

So, what can we do to address this issue?

I started by looking back at my history, and looked for patterns in the times I gained the most rating points. The biggest thing I noticed, is I gained the most when I played the most. 

I gained 220 rating points in 5 months about 20 years ago. I played almost every weekend for that 5 months. Coincidence? Maybe. But I also ganed 140 rating points in 10 weeks about a year and a half ago. Want to guess what I did for those 10 weeeks? You are right! I played almost every weekend! Still a coincidence? Unlikely.

Knowledge is very important, and I am glad I found ChessMood to help me gain that knowledge (I am sure many of you are as well!) but all the knowledge in the world doesnt help if we dont put it into practice. More accurately, continuous practice. 

I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this, including our illustrious GMs who teach us, and see what other things we can learn! I am also going to put this to the test. I am going to play 5 tournaments over the next 6 weeks ( I would play the 6th but I am moving to a new house that weekend, and cant be in 2 places at once!) and will report back the results. I am currently rated 1764 USCF. Any one want to guess what I will be rated at the end of the National Open in June? (Full disclosure, I am playing the open section in every tournament I am playing in, and will be close to the lowest rated in the section every time.) My wager is on my rating will be rising past my current peak. 

Only time will tell!

GM Jay


Request for a "Watched Video" function

Hello ChessMood team, 

What a great product, I am here every day learning and improving.

I have a request please, when a video is watched can you make it possible to show the video as already having been learned? I would like to be able to see what new or what updated videos have been added to a section or be able to clearly track what training I have left.

For example, today I received an email with this message, "We've uploaded one more section in the course "Happy Pieces"." How can users distinguish which is the new video from the list? Ideally there would be a function where a watch video automatically changes its status or we can manually change the status to show that it has been watched/learned. Additionally perhaps new videos can have a time/date stamp on them showing when they were posted.

Thank you very much for an outstanding product, you guys are great!

Leslie Smith 

PRO Members

Using landmarks, deduction, generalities and exceptions to find our way in chess

A walk in a country park reminded me of something relevant to learning chess. On the way back from a walk in one direction, I knew that the correct path had been taken because of landmarks I recognised, even though I wasn't paying so much attention to some of them. Why did I remember the landmarks (exist) more than say the exact path,  and couldn't I remember anything about what the field next to it looked like, or the not so remarkable trees. Why can't (assuming no predictable pattern) can we not remember what we ate for dinner last Tuesday, yet we can remember 15 moves of say the Sicilian Dragon in one mainline, yet fail to recall what the right move was in a variation of it we saw a few times a while back?

Perhaps the answer is we are built for survival and being able to find our way would be the difference between getting home to our village, or being lost in the wilderness and being eaten by wild beasts. I've seen the power of this first hand. Many years ago (long before Google Maps!) I entered the Blackpool tournament while at university. Some of the chess club members rented a house in which to stay for the weekend. On Friday night I walked to the seafront where the tournament was being held. After a reasonably long game, I was told to meet the other members at a pub nearby. Unfortunately that pub was closed (it was out of tourist season), so on not being able to find the others, I managed to find my way back, despite not having the address and not paying specific attention on the way there. Yet somehow logic of which road it must have been, landmarks and the property itself, I returned without getting lost.

So what does this mean for learning chess?

Thinking about this, I think we're good at the following:
. Things that stand out - landmarks. Taken the Qe1 idea in the Caro-Cann. That stands out. Even if I can't remember the moves to get there, I probably could reconstruct the position deduce what moves to play to get there.
. Things that can be logically deduced as must being the case. Take the move order in the English. If you know White's knight manouever and other tricks, it's possible to correctly determine the moves to play. Without thinking about what White attempting to do, would this be so easy?
. Things that are 'always' or 'never' true or can be simplified behind rules/mnenomics - for example Bb3 in d6 Grand Prix in response to e6 when d5 is threatened. Or capture on c6 as soon as the knight is no longer pinned.

On the other hand we're terrible at things that may or may not be the case, such as whether to play a certain move if that move appears in some lines and not others, or specific move orders where there is no logical order (not to say whether there is a correct one or not). More than likely there we will make mistakes. So why doesn't a GM (oh they do, watch the streams) or at least fewer bad errors. I think there are 'heat maps' of positions. This is the comment about intuition and developing it I was trying to get at. Strong players get a feel for whether something is right or not, because certain patterns trigger certainty, even if the position itself is novel. For a lower rated player, moves such as h4, g3, f4 in front of a castled king would feel suspect, even without the considering if the opponent can exploit the holes, because they have never seen strong players use such a combo. The danger is of just looking at weakly played games (including a diet of our own), is that the 'heat maps' that form aren't necessarily the ones that make good chess, and we have to relearn what is natural and what is not by looking at model games, positions and strategies. That way even if we don't know what's right, we get a feeling of familiarity of having seen a move before, vs one we haven't. This then allows us to select candidate moves.

By knowing which strategy we'll need (and whether we'll need a strategy at all and just find our way over the board), has to be a key to remembering opening material, endgames and middle-game strategies.

PRO Members

Chess history - do we need it? Or - Shall the "inventors" of certain lines be named in the courses?

A couple of days ago, I read in the forum "cafe late variation". And I thought - this must be some kind of a joke. But no. It seems that this "name" is just taken from lichess.

What I am talking about is the following variation:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. axb5 a6 5. Nc3

How the hell does anybody can call this "cafe late"?

According to Kasparov on modern chess, this variation is to be credited to Zaitzev (or Saizew). And I guess that even those fellow PRO members who are younger than me (I am born in 1971) have heard this name. 

And take this line:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. axb5 a6 5. f3

When watching the course this stayed in my mind as some kind of weird line by White. But according to Kasparov on modern chess 5. f3 was pioneered by Kortchnoi with some Na3 and Ng1-e2-c3 idea. And Kortchnoi is by far not some kind of silly guy.


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5 4. axb5 a6 5. b6

According to Kasparov, this was recommended by Nikitin (not nicotine). 

So I want to ask our ChessMood family:

Should there be a reference to the "old guys" in our opening courses? Or are we happy to just have the lines and can we live with it when instead of Zaitzev one of the most aggressive lines against the Benko is called "cafe late" in the forum?

You might guess how I think about that. And I would really like to have some more references to the history (the "old guys") in the opening courses. Take the "Rossolimo" for example. According to Kasparov, this goes back to Chebanenko.

PRO Members