Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ken Smith’s Chess Improvement Course

This used to be in the back of Ken Smith’s Chess Digest book catalog.

Behind a door that many, if not most will never look, is Romantic chess. This Romantic chess starts with the opening or defense. For example:

White will play the King’s Gambit, Vienna Gambit, BDG, Scotch Gambit, Danish-Goring Gambit, or the Evan’s Gambit, and there are more.

Black will play the Albin-Counter Gambit, Henning-Schara Gambit, Englund Gambit, Latvian, Elephant and many more.

The ones playing gambits are examining the Romantic side of chess beyond a closed door.

HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY LIVE YOUR CHESS LIFE LOOKING AT A DOOR AND NOT OPEN IT??

Here's A Chess Player Who Opened The Door

“I just want to say `thanks’ for your guidance through the years from the days in the 70’s with Chess Digest and your chess course today. Your chess course works!!! In the early 80’s I used to dig into the out-of-print copies of Chess Digest for inspiration. I first picked up a couple of your books when I was fourteen and had just played in a couple of tournaments. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it is not just reading good books, but the sequence and pattern of improvement that you recommended that made the difference over the long run.

I learned to appreciate the great players of the past and played gambits (Smith-Morra, Von Henning Schara, Latvian, among many). Gambit play was great as I was improving from Unrated up to Expert. These games were exciting and your opening monographs provided easy-to-understand preparation to ambush higher rated oppo­nents on the way up. By working a lot of tactics books and studying attacking players, there were fewer surprises when I switched to semi-open games. After another couple of years I crossed over 2200 with the English, Sicilian and Benko Gambits.

Your encouragement and patient teaching style helped this very average player climb the ranks to stay. I’ve been over 2200 now for over fourteen years and hundreds of games. It takes time and the mixture of study and play - but your methods work!!!”

USCF Life Master,

Mike Richards

You will need an aggressive desire to WIN !!!

Psyching yourself up prior to playing puts you in an aggressive frame of mind. In most fields of competition, aggression is a virtue. Chess is a game to be played with an aggressive mentality.

Grandmaster Portisch takes a walk before each round to clear his mind and prepare himself mentally for the coming game. He works on his intensity in that way.

When Bobby Fischer was late for most of his games, he was taking a little extra time in his hotel room preparing mentally for the game. He also thought it might psyche out or disturb his opponent. Whether it did or not did not matter, he believed it would.

What is it that winning players have that sets them apart? I think that chess involves more than just knowing the game. What winners have that sets them apart from other knowledgeable players is intensity.

Have you ever watched Jack Nicklaus’ eyes during a putt? Mike Tyson’s just before a fight? Earl Anthony’s over a bowling shot? Something special is going on behind those eyes, something that translates into the success that each of these players has had in his given field. They are in tune with what they are doing; they’re focused, and they exclude all else from their minds. Totally absorbed in what they are doing, they operate at a higher level.

This intensity and focus also is a characteristic of winning chess players. Many people know how to play and what to do in certain situations, yet they have difficulty applying that knowledge consistently at the board. Emotions take control of them. Focus and concentration are intermittent at best. Even some of the world’s technically and intellectually best players remain stagnate most of the time due to flaws in this area. Lack of intensity can be fatal.

You need to get psyched up within your own mind. Get your competitive juices flowing. Get your ego involved -although it also is important to keep it under control Heighten your sense of awareness. Get your animal instincts involved. You will be amazed at the level of focus and awareness that you can condition your mind to develop.

When you truly focus your energies and apply your concentration, you will see more, and will develop a sense of feel. By definition, instincts are something with which we are born - but they also are honed with practice, sharpened by con­centration, and developed over the course of many similar trials in your games.

"First comes your basics: Play and Study, then Study and Play followed by Play and Study, then Study and Play. Second, develop the mentality of always trying your best - don’t give up!"

Intensity!! Intensity!!

Are You Still Here????

In the next couple of pages you will find recommended opening and defensive systems for each class of players. You will learn forcing systems that you can know as good as anyone in the world. Then as you reach high Class A or Expert, start playing the dynamic 1 e4 and maybe, if you choose, answering 1 e4 with 1...e5. but there is recent grandmaster opinion, due to faster speed limits, you should start a little earlier. Maybe a high Class B or when you reach low Class A.

In GM Soltis' 1995 re­vised Giuoco Piano and the Max Lange, he writes: "As the tempo of tournament chess speeds up, the ranks of players are being divided into two opposing camps based on how they approach the opening. One camp holds that in faster games, the priority should be on reaching a playable middle­game position as fast as possible - even if that risks a failure to obtain an edge for White or obtaining a small but clear disadvantage as Black. For example, the elastic series of hypermodern moves (1 Nf3, 2 g3, 3 Bg2, 4 0-0 and 5 d3/6 e4 or 5 b3/6 Bb2) is not likely to get you a plus-over-minus advantage. It's not likely to get you a plus over anything against a player of about the same rating unless you're both beginners. But it won't get you the worst of it in the six or seven seconds it may take to play those moves. The other school argues that chess is chess. This way of thinking maintains that you should always try to find the best move in a position. The most challenging move in the starting position is, by most accounts 1 e4. The most resistant answer is, arguably, 1...e5"-Soltis.

I Believe…..

"It is my belief that chess is an amazingly accurate model for many situations in life. The strategies, the competition and the challenges of living.

In 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to three mathematicians for their work on game theory, largely based on the study of such games as chess (and poker)"…..Ken Smith.

Game theory is a mathematical model of hu­man behavior that analyses how people make decisions in competitive situations. One of the three Nobel Prize winners, John Harsanji, was asked to join a group of ten game theorists to advise the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency on tactics. Harsanyi said, "Game theory has become a significant tool for analyzing real life conflicts."

MY PERSONAL OPENINGS AND DEFENSES

Hey - don't knock 'em until you've tried 'em

This little essay on my personal openings and defenses is for players above the rating of 1799 that have mastered tactics and the endgame. Beginners and novices should have simple forcing openings. A little stronger players can go for the King's Indian Attack. I give you those suggestions in the following pages under "1599 and below" and "1799 and below". Then also you might prefer positional openings. These come to me only in my declining years. My FIDE rating is 2365.

If you are going to play my Black defensive system, you must have mastered tactics and have a positive attitude and the ability to draw anyone a pawn down in the endgame. This has been the secret of my chess success. Along with a strong White opening based on gambits and confidence in a Black defensive system with a gambit or an active variation of the Slav Defense. I have always had a strong, strong opening and defensive system that I know as well as anyone in the world. Then fake the middlegame followed by endgame mastery. This plan may not be for you. If not, read the next page and pick one for yourself.

As Black against the English Opening 1 c4, I play 1...e6, then on 2 Nc3 play 2...d5 forcing the game into a Reti or a Queen's Gambit. Get a Reti book and learn one line you like for Black. For other Flank Openings like the King's Indian Attack, Birds 1 f4, or Sokolsky's 1 b4, you must have C-1419 Winning Against Flank Openings-Tangborn. $12.15.

Against the Queen's Gambit, I always try to play the Schara-Henning Gambit 1 d4, d5 2 c4, e6 3 Nc3, c5 4 cxd5, cxd4 which I wrote a book about (C-1541 $13.95).. I have never lost with this gambit - only wins and draws. The last illustrated game is where I played it against GM Robert Byrne (Buckeye Open, Toledo, Ohio 1964). Everyone was gathered around the board to see me lose. Not so - it was a draw with great theoretical values. Most players will not let me play it by playing 3 Nf3 (1 d4, d5 2 c4, e6 3 Nf3). Then I go into a Slav Defense Note­boom Variation (my favorite) or a Semi-Slav if they will not let me play the Note­boom (they play an early White e3). Also note if White plays 4 e3 or 4 Nf3 instead of 4 cxd5, you must be ready to enter a Tarrasch Defense.

Against 1 e4, my reply has always 1...c5 the Sicilian Defense Scheveningen Variation. Get the book C-1558 The Sicilian Scheveningen For Black -Soltis $14.85 (1995) on this variation. Before you can get into the Scheveningen, you need to know what to do against the anti-Sicilians on move 2. You must have C-1442 Beating The Anti-Sicilian-Gallagher $26.45 and C-1460 Trends in The Anti-Sicilian $7.95

In my early years, if I knew White was going to play 1 e4, e5 2 Nf3, the Latvian Gambit 2...f5 was my choice. Usually I played this against weaker players to get a quick win as Black.

My White opening system has served me for 47 years. Now I am going to give you that system. You can copy it or use it as an example for your system. Is it for you? Unless you have taken my advice and concentrate on tactics and the art of attack, you will not be successful (you will not be successful quickly, period).

Your first move is 1 e4. Against 1...e5 you will play 2 d4 after 2...exd4 play 2 Nf3. From this position you will go either into the Goring Gambit, Scotch Gambit or Max Lange Attack. Choose one.

Against 1...c5 play my Smith-Morra Gambit, vs 1...c6 play Advance Variation or Blackmar Diemer Gambit (1 e4, c6 2 d4, d5 3 Nc3, dxe4 4 f3), French 1...e6 play the Advance Variation either the gambit line or regular advance lines, vs Alekhine 1...Nf6 the King's Indian Attack, against 1...d5 just learn a main line against the Center Counter, and when Black plays the Pirc/Modern, you are on your own as these are the hardest for me to meet.

"I can read your mind - you are trying to wimp out and grab your computer. Put it on the top shelf of your closet. You won't need it for a long time! This is a war of the mind - best man wins !!! "

Okay - you have a few questions……

There are two things that overpower most players when learning their opening and defensive system. Let's discuss some of the questions for help that cross my desk.

Question: Most opening books have so much mate­rial that I can never seem to learn enough of it. Can you help?

Answer: The first thing you do is turn to the Index and/or Table of Contents. You play through the moves over and over, then over again until you learn what the variations are. You learn the variations before you tackle the analysis. If a Table of Contents does not give the moves you need, go to each chapter and just learn the variation. After you have mastered the variations, play over only the main line moves in each chapter. Again - repetition is the key - again and again. After the main lines are retained in your mind, start to tackle the notes.

Question: Why can't I ever learn a com­plete White Opening System or a complete Black De­fensive System?

Answer: There are probably two problems: (a) You don't start out with a complete system and (b) When you run into a variation you can't solve with a White plus or Black equal or can't learn how to play, you give up, and maybe give up on the complete opening or defense.

To solve (a) get a complete repertoire book for White and one for Black. Turn to repertoire books in this catalog and pick one for each side. You are not going to like some of the variations suggested - that does not matter. Learn what you are given, then and only then, change to something you like better. The secret is to learn a complete one - do you hear me? - a complete one - then and only then slip in your changes.

To solve (b) be realistic. You are going to run into a variation you don't like. You are going to have your opening or defense fall out of favor. Grandmasters have that problem all the time. They play an opening or defense until they fear their opponent is well prepared for that particular one. Then they drop it until it is "hopefully" forgotten. But they usually go back to it since every major opening or defense is good. You do not have that problem. Pick one, I assure you it is good. Stay with it until you learn it. Don't let one or two problems in that variation stop you. Learn the best that variation has to offer and let stand a slight disadvantage as Black or equal when you are White. Research until you are complete.

Question: How can I learn all that I have to learn about chess? I already feel overwhelmed.

Answer: These feelings are normal for beginners, but strong players have them as well.

I am going to tell you a secret and it is simple: Just play, lose a lot, win a few and study a little THEN, as if by magic, chess will start coming to you.

Be proud of your accomplishments within your class. You are just as much a hero when you do well with players your own strength. Then when you add a few points to that rating with a balanced study program, you are MY hero.

Give yourself a chance, master tactics. Make combination study your priority. In chess opportunity does not knock once, it's knocking all the time. You must learn to take advantage of it when it is there. Keep a book on combinations by the bed in your car, even in the throne room. Become a destroyer.

Hold on …..we're going for the ride….. This is where you come in……

ARTISTRY SERIES

(Yes Marvin - It is in Descriptive. Stop whimpering and study it anyway!)

Everyone has tactical weaknesses. It's what you do about them that counts. This series will make sure you are exposed to all the basics of checkmates, endgames, middlegames and combinations. To make sure you like this series, start with F-54 Theme Artistry.

D-25 MIDDLEGAME ARTISTRY-750 dia­grams to challenge you. 300 pages. $19.95. Descriptive, paperback.

F-54 THEME ARTISTRY-654 combinations to learn themes as you solve. 308 pages. $19.95. Descriptive, paperback.

J-77 ENDGAME ARTISTRY-664 diagrams to make you study the tactics of the endgame. 300 pages. $19.95. Descriptive, paperback.

J-87 PAWN ARTISTRY-734 pawn positions you must know. 308 pages. $19.95 Descriptive, paper

J-74 CHECKMATE ARTISTRY-615 diagrams to teach you forced mates. 304 pages. $19.95. Descriptive, paperback.

When you finish with all five, I will know you have the basics. You must have the basics! Don't go on without them!

I am talking directly to you - to no one else when I say: you will never let your creativity come to a standstill and with each game you will try to perform beyond expectation.

It gets better….

I will now take the "Chess Pledge" and promise….

It's unbelievable!

It's a shame!!

Watching row after row of tournament players I realize how badly, repeat - how badly - nearly every player was playing his White opening or his Black defense. With just a little study time, you can realize a difference

Make these promises to yourself:

1) "I will learn one White opening and know it as well as anyone in the world! My White repertoire will answer any defense Black can play!"

2) "I will have a Black defense to anything White can throw at me. Of course White will get the small advantage due him with the first move, but my choice will have counter-chances."

Remember you can not pick a wrong opening or defense -- all the major ones are good. It is just that they come and go because of the trend set by the Masters. They play one for awhile, then when they think their opponents have prepared, another one is brought forward. You can always be certain that they will go back to the original opening or defense after they think others have forgotten it. You have no such problem -- worrying about "trends". Make a decision and stay with it.

"Still with me Bucky……??…"

A beginning golfer doesn't come out swinging with Arnold Palmer, nor does an amateur boxer slug it out with Mike Tyson. Yet we expect a novice chess player to play in a tournament with strong players, even masters. After losing time after time, many new players drop by the wayside. Little do they realize that with a modest study program and continued play, a miracle will happen - ALL OF A SUDDEN, AS IF BY MAGIC, CHESS WILL START COMING TO HIM AND HE WILL START TO WIN IN HIS CLASS. That is what is important, the exultation of victory, no matter what your playing strength. You will gradually edge upward. Follow my instructions below and you will be a winner - even when you lose - every time you sit down to play.

No matter your strength, from beginner to master, no matter your age, ten to ninety, I want you to be a threat to anyone you play. This requires study.

Here's some tips from IM Nigel Davies (Pergamon Chess) for making studying more effective:

a) Break the work up into periods of half an hour to 40 minutes: it is difficult to maintain concentration for longer than this.

b) At the end of each period, have a 10-15 minute break. Make a drink, listen to some music, or get some fresh air.

c) Make sure there are no interruptions or disturbances, earplugs might be useful! Before you start work, make sure you have all the information you need in front of you.

"I'VE BEEN "HUNG OUT TO DRY" BY SOME OF THE BEST ………!!!"

When Grandmasters put me on the carpet with the following reflections and recommendations, I urge you to pay close attention:

(1) Keep emphasizing "tactics". This part of chess will overcome a bad opening, a poor middle­game and lack of endgame knowledge. Only until you reach "Expert" can you stop devouring everything on combinations and tactics. You put fear into your opponent when you are known as not letting anyone escape.

(2) Every chess book should be saved and gone over a second time. There was no consensus of how much time between readings. Only that you be at a different level of strength. There must be a balance between this study and play.

(3) Be exposed to different authors -- even on the same subject -- even on the same variation of an opening.

(4) Master a complete White opening system and a complete Black defensive system. It does not matter what they are---a complete simple one is better than an incomplete superior one.

Since this course in improving your chess was first written some years ago, there have been some important changes. First, many of the books I recommended have gone out of print, second new books have been printed, and third, in working with pupils and getting feedback from readers, I have found that not enough "intermediate" books were recommended. The "heavy" material was giv­en too early for the lower rated players to comprehend. My suggestion to them, and now to you, is to save every chess book you buy & study it each rating jump of 200 points. At a higher level you will pick up, as well as review, all the essential material. Your comprehension improves as you improve.

If you aren't at least a "high Class A Player…..this news is for you…..!

Until you are at least a high Class A player:

Your first name is "Tactics", your middle name is "Tactics", and your last name is "Tactics". You can overcome a weak opening and be so far ahead in material that the endgame is mopping up.

I demand that you get every book on tactics and combinations that you can afford and study it as if your life depended on it!

Also, there is nothing like a complete game to school you in these tactics as well as the rest of the elements of chess.

The expression of chess talent--of chess progress--goes over a series of hills as you develop and grow towards being a better player. Some players are too slow getting over the first hill; then of course, all players eventually reach that slope of a chess hill they can no longer climb. The very essence of quick chess progress is what you study and in the order that you study it, in relation to your playing strength at that time. We want no "glitches". Those that have all the basics will not only improve faster, they will overtake and pass the ones that left out an important book.

Remember these truths--for they apply to you like no others:

(1) CHESS REQUIRES TOTAL CONCENTRATION. Don't use just a fraction of your energy and clock time - keep your mind completely on the game. Play to win because no one is interested in excuses when you lose.

(2) COMBINE STUDY WITH PLAY. An unbalanced program will stifle development even in a genius.

(3) RECORD YOUR GAMES, EVEN YOUR SKIDDLES. Later, try to find where you made your mistakes. Loses should be concentrated on even more than your wins!

(4) STUDY AND MASTERY OF THE OPENINGS COME IN THIS ORDER: A) Forcing Opening and Defenses, B) Basic Opening System, C) Add Gambits, D) Sharp critical lines - the so-called "long variations", and E) Evolution to closed lines, if this suits your style.

(5) MAKE MY FOLLOWING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS A MINIMUM BASIS TO BUILD ON. There is no one best book as there is no one worthless book. You must learn to take a little from each book, hopefully learning to recognize the best from each.

Ready - Set Go !!!!

Here comes the path to follow -

I am your biggest fan !!!!

Follow the steps……great men have gone before you!

BEGINNERS

There are many books that will teach the moves and rules. There are a few that give the moves, rules, mates and basic pointers to get you out of the beginner stage. In this second group I recommend these in algebraic books:

A-15 CHESS PROBLEMS FOR BEGINNERS-Reinfeld $7.00

A-50 CHESS FROM SQUARE ONE-GM Tony Miles $11.95

A-58 101 QUESTIONS ON HOW TO PLAY CHESS-Fred Wilson $1.00

A-59 CHESS BASICS-Nigel Short $9.50

A-60 FIRST STEPS IN CHESS-Walker. $14.35

A-67 LESSONS IN CHESS-Gary Kasparov $$17.95

NOVICE TO CLASS E & D

(1399 and Below)

There is a question if players between 1000 and 1399 had to take the tests given in the above books? Would they pass? Most of the time the answer would be, no. Those that I have tested had large holes in their chess knowledge. If you can pass and assure me that you have all those important "basics", then and only then do I say "go on"!.

There is a doubt if you are ready to move into manuals, even basic manuals, unless you can score well in the positions covered by these books. Leave out a couple, maybe the most expensive:

A-47 BEGINNING CHESS 300 ELEMEN­TARY PROBLEMS-Pandofini. $10.80

E-173 BATSFORD BOOK OF CHESS-Wade. $23.70 (clothbound)

F-67 TACTICAL CHESS EXCHANGES-Nesis. $16.10

F-90 THE CHESS TACTICS WORKBOOK-Al Woolum $10.80

Then add a classic manual to the list

CLASSIC MANUALS

Now you should be ready for at least four of the five titles listed below:

E-246 MODERN CHESS LESSONS-Tangborn. $13.00. Algebraic.

E-203 BEST LESSONS OF A CHESS COACH-Weeramantry $12.60

E-215 THINKER’S CHESS-Gerzadowctz $17.20

E-239 HYPERMODERN STRATEGY-van Reek.. $14.85. Algebraic.

E-219 CRASH COURSE IN CHESS-Lin & SSchepel $14.95

CLASS C-1599 AND BELOW

J-128 ESSENTIAL CHESS ENDINGS EXPLAINED MOVE BY MOVE Vol 1 NOVICE THRU INTERMEDIATE-IM Jeremy Sil­man (1992 Revised ed). $14.85. 221 pages, al­ge­braic. The best ending book in print.

E-258 STRATEGIC CHESS: MASTERING THE CLOSED-Mednis $16.95

E-3132 THE AMATEUR'S MIND-Silman. $17.95

B-142 THE DYNAMICS OF CHESS PSYCHOLOGY $14.95

E-220 CHESS TRAINING-IM Nigel Poval $16.15

F-135 ATTACK WITH GM JULIAN HODGSON-GM Hodgson

E-241 101 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHESS-GM Kosten $14.40

NOW

CHOOSE TWO GREAT PLAYERS - JUST TWO - AT THIS TIME! You can choose from either the "Game Collection" or "Biographical" section. (See catalog or website for choices). Play over EVERY GAME. I want you to identify a little with a Tal, Alekhine, Fischer, Capablanca, Kasparov, Morphy, Karpov, Keres, Seirawan, etc. Pick one living Master and one of the dead greats to become familiar with. I want you to have someone to talk about, argue about, and above all, learn and enjoy from his chess!. Some books will expose you to several players, Try H-80 15 GAMES AND THEIR STORIES-Botvinnik $6.50 or H-138 CHESS INFORMANT BEST GOLDEN GAMES $16.95

If you don't have time for two, then pick one player. I suggest G-261 VISHY ANAND CHESS SUPER TALENT-IM Norwood. $17.25, G-251 GATA KAMSKY CHESS GENIUS!-Gordon $14.85 or G-185 PETROSIAN’S LEGACY $12.95

YOUR OPENING AS WHITE

(1599 and below)

A simple forcing opening is the order of the day. Therein lies a problem, most books may be far advanced for you to master - so you must compromise. The way to do that is just to play over the main lines (skipping the notes) time & time again until you absorb the ideas. Pick one of the following: simple openings:

C-1628 BIRD-LARSEN ATTACK $14.85

C-1152 WHITE OPENING SYSTEM COM­BINING STONEWALL ATTACK, COLLE SYSTEM, TORRE ATTACK $14.85. (A).

C-1218 STONEWALL ATTACK (A) $14.85

C-937 DYNAMIC WHITE OPEN­INGS-Hard­ing. $12.85. That looks at 1 b4!, 1 Nc3! and 1 g4!.

C-2055 COLLE SYSTEM: KOLTANOWSKI VARIATION $14.85

YOUR DEFENSE AS BLACK

(1599 and below)

Choose one: (They answer any White move)

C-1420 WINNING WITH THE ENGLISH DEFENSE-Soltis $14.85

1776 A BLACK DEFENSIVE SYSTEM FOR THE REST OF YOUR CHESS CAREER-Soltis. $14.85

CLASS B-1799 AND BELOW:

When you reach close to 1800 is where the men will be separated from the boys. Here's where you lay the foundation to go on to mastership.

You are now ready to move ahead of those that have a higher rating than you do by making this course of books to study your priority. Do not miss one - for there is no reason to leave a gap in your knowledge.

Those that have missed any book I have previously recommended are taking the chance of leaving a gap in their chess understanding that they may never recover from. You must have the correct basis to move on quickly.

D-36 COMBINATIONS IN THE MIDDLEGAME Theory and Exercises (a) $13.50

J-65 MAKING CHESS ENDINGS EASY TO STUDY Vol 1 - Ken Smith $6.95. Once given the "thinking" tools, there is nothing that separates you from endgame mastership except consistency. Here I teach you ideas, visualization, and make it fun with challenges. Enough diagrams so that board and men are not necessary.

E-201 HOW TO REASSES YOUR CHESS-Silman (1994 Revised) 402 pages. $15.40

D-35 TEST YOUR OPENING, MIDDLEGAME, AND ENDGAME PLAY-Smith & DeVault $14.85

E-142 TEST AND IMPROVE YOUR CHESS-Alburt $12.30

E-244 CHESS IMPROVING AND STAYING SHARP-IM Tangborn $13.90

E-255 SEARCH FOR CHESS PERFECTION-Purdy $19.80

E-174 HOW TO GET BETTER AT CHESS-Evans & Silman $15.40.

E-267 WINNING WITH REVERSE CHESS STRATEGY-Reuter. $17.95

NOW - pick one tournament book and go over ONLY THE GAMES OF THE WINNER round by round. By doing so, you will share in their joys and defeats, even the struggles for draws. Take only 10 or 15 minutes per game. You are after quantity - the players will give you quality. It doesn't matter if a game is unannotated, for you just to question is more important right now than the answer. Every once in a while, pick another tournament and do the same thing. You will find tournaments books in the catalog or online at www.ChessDigest.com.

YOUR OPENINGS AS WHITE

(1799 and below)

You should have already chosen a forcing White opening. If you have not, then do so. It is very important to have one opening that you know as well as anyone in the world. You will still be able to use it throughout your career, even after you become a Master. Choose and know one of these openings (at this strength, you have more choices):

C-1531 ROAD TO EXPERT TITLE $12.15

C-2075 COLLE SYSTEM ZUKERTORT VAR­IATION $14.85

C-1422 A WINNING WHITE REPERTOIRE-Tangborn $13.95

C-1443 THE CATALAN-Smith & Hall $13.95

C-1619 HOW TO PLAY TORRE ATT. $15.75

C-1382 THE VERESOV ATTACK-$14.95

C-1540 TROMPOWSKY ATTACK $14.85

We are right on target………..

Understand the one choice you made above is forcing and is YOUR STANDBY - YOUR FALL BACK -YOUR BASIS TO EXPAND FROM. There are other opening worlds to conquer if Mastership is your goal. Therefore:

It's time to experiment, to get your feet wet. You may or may not stay with what you choose at this point. It doesn't matter! The books I am going to recommend to you are easy to comprehend.

Choose one:

C-908 WINNING WITH 1 e4 -Soltis. $11.10

C-1136 WHITE TO PLAY 1 e4 & WIN $14.25

C-999 WINNING WITH 1 c4-Soltis. $12.55.

C-1140 WINNING WITH 1 f4-Soltis $13.00

C-1418 WINNING WITH 1 d4-Soltis $14.85

C-1422 A WINNING WHITE REPERTOIRE-$14.95

And if over 1900:

C-1560 ROAD TO MASTER TITLE $13.95

To diversify early in your career, will give an overview for the hard choices that will come as you grow stronger. You can change variations within the above books as much as you want. The main thing - YOU MUST HAVE AN OPENING BASIS TO BUILD ON.

YOUR DEFENSE AS BLACK

(1799 and below)

Books that will answer your needs (against any White move) against anything:

C-1776 BLACK DEFENSIVE SYSTEM FOR THE REST OF YOUR CHESS CAREER-Soltis $14.85

C-1197 BLACK TO PLAY CLASSICAL DEFENSES & WIN $14.25

C-1323 THE FRANKO-BENONI $14.25

C-1404 THE MODERN DEFENSE $14.25

C-1420 WINNING WITH ENGLISH DE­FENSE-Soltis $14.

(If over 1900, Then)

C-1560 ROAD TO MASTER TITLE $13.95

or (against 1 e4)

C-1292 THE FIGHTING FRENCH $13.95

C-1273 WINNING WITH THE CARO-KANN $15.65

C-1225 WINNING WITH THE PIRC $15.65

C-2074 WINNING WITH THE SICILIAN DEFENSE-Silman (1998) $20.25

or (against 1 d4)

C-1826 KING’S INDIAN DEFENSE YUGO­SLAV VARIATION-Soltis $14.85

C-1326 WINNING WITH THE BENKO GAMBIT $13.95

C-1220 THE BALTIC DEFENSE-Soltis. $13.50

C-1311 LASKER'S DEFENSE TO QUEEN'S GAMBIT $13.95

C-1383 WINNING AGAINST 1 d4 $14.85

C-1419 WINNING AGAINST FLANK OPEN­INGS-Tangborn $12.15

C-1450 QUEEN'S GAMBIT ACCEPTED $14.85

C-1436 THE TCHIGORIN DEFENSE $13.95

C-1506 SLAV: WINAWER COUNTER GAM­BIT $14.25

C-1760 DUTCH FOR THE ATTACKING PLAYER-Pedersen $18.85

Nice going !!! You have come a long way

(but you aren’t there yet!!!)

CLASS A-1999 & BELOW

D-43 MODERN MIDDLEGAME LESSONS $15.95 This is a super book!!

E-145 LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS-Evans & Smith. $12.85, Even Grandmaster Evans learned pointers writing this book.

E-180 STRATEGY FOR ADVANCE PLAYERS-Schiller (1992) $12.45, (A), 135 pages.

F-57 MODERN ART OF ATTACK-Smith & Hall. $12.15. The era of Tal, Fischer & Kasparov.

Now comes an important book to help make you Mr. Tactics. F-66 COMBINATION CHALLENGE - Hays & Hall $16.15

E-175 HOW TO BE A COMPLETE TOURNAMENT PLAYER-Mednis $15.15

J-129 ESSENTIAL CHESS ENDINGS EXPLAINED MOVE BY MOVE Vol 2 INTERMEDIATE THRU MASTER-FM Ken Smith (1992). $15.75 (A). 298 pages. This along with Volume 1 (J-128 $14.85) will take you to endgame master strength.

F-78 CHESS TACTICS FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS-Averbakh. $15.75

J-83 ESSENTIAL ENDINGS FOR ADVANCED PLAYERS-Donaldson $14.25

NOW you are ready for the INFORMANT or NEW IN CHESS series. Start your collection with the latest one in print and add forward; then, backward as you have the money to spend. Here are your instructions for using them: Look up and play over only the games that FIT YOUR OPENING SYSTEM. Don't stop just because a weak move is made, or it comes to a code telling you how the opening has gone - you must play over every move and be exposed to the middlegame and endgame. Repeat, you must play over the complete game.

YOUR OPENING AS WHITE

(1999 and Below)

There is only one move for you to play at this point in your progress AND IT IS 1 e4!. No, not 1 d4 and the Queen's Gambit because as Santasiere said, "It is a piece of dead flesh kept over long on ice .... more the tool of a coward than an adventurer." You will play an open fighting game and take on all defensives - the closed games can come after you have reached your goal

You are strong enough to pick your own system with 1P-K4 (1 e4). But if you want a basis to show you how to do it, get the recommended below book that shows how to beat any defense Black can play:

C-1499 WINNING WITH THE RUY LOPEZ EXCHANGE VAR.-Soltis. $14.85

C-1136 WHITE TO PLAY 1 e4 AND WIN-Schiller. $14.25

C-908 WINNING WITH 1 e4-Soltis. $11.10

C-1158 VIENNA GAME & GAMBIT $14.25

STOP - STOP- STOP - STOP!

Now is the time the boys will be separated from the men. It is the biggest decision you must be willing to make in your chess career. YOU MUST ADD GAMBITS TO YOUR OPENING SYSTEM (Note: I said ADD -NOT GIVE UP your basic system). You must play them, win with them, and lose with them. There is no substitute. Being a pawn down, you will have to dig into each position on each move. You will learn to use that extra space and tempo. You will develop that "killer instinct" and learn to handle open positions - being ready when that closed position will surely become open. Those than cannot stand to lose games and rating points because they are converting to gambit play ARE HOPELESS in my book. Do not cry with them when they are on "that chess hill they can't climb," and do not feel sorry when they start slipping backward. For with the stubbornness and cowardice, they did not play gambit and dug their own chess graves!

Need clues?????????

NOW HOW DO YOU START?

1 e4, e5

C-1626 EVANS GAMBIT & A SYSTEM vs TWO KNIGHTS-Harding. $14.95

C-2194 HOW TO PLAY THE BELGRADE GAMBIT-$14.85

C-1716 THE DYNAMIC PHILIDOR COUNTER GAMBIT-West $15.75

C-1559 EVANS GAMBIT REVOLUTION $14.85 or

C-1626 EVANS GAMBIT AND A SYSTEM VS TWO KNIGHTS-Harding $14.95

C-1189 ROMANTIC KING'S GAMBIT $15.75

C-1406 THE GORING GAMBIT $14.85

C-649 GAMBITS-Estrin. $4.50.

C-1158 THE VIENNA GAME & GAMBIT-Santasiere & Smith $14.25.

C-1159 WINNING WITH THE KING'S GAMBIT Vol 1 ACCEPTED-Soltis. $14.85 and

C-1188 WINNING WITH THE KINGS GAMBIT VOL 2 DECLINED $14.85

C-1314 MAX LANGE ATTACK $14.25

1 d4, d5 or 1 d4, Nf6

C-1609 THE FIGHTING FAJAROWICZ BUDAPEST GAMBIT-Harding $14.95

C-1275 WINNING WITH THE BLACKMAR-DIEMER GAMBIT-Smith & Hall $13.95

C-1332 ENGLUND GAMBIT 1 d4, e5!? $14.25

As Black: The Tarrasch Defense-even one of the gambit lines in the Tarrasch Defense, or

C-1326 WINNING WITH THE BENKO GAMBIT $13.95

C-1506 SLAV DEFENSE-WINAWER COUNTERGAMBIT-Schiller. $14.25

C-1541 HENNIG-SCHARA GAMBIT $13.95

1 e4, c5

C-1424 THE WINGER SICILIAN WING GAMBIT $7.55

C-971 DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SMITH -MORRA GAMBIT-Carr. $7.10

C-1294 NEW SICILIAN GAMBITS $14.25

YOUR DEFENSE AS BLACK

(1999 and Below)

Your strength calls for you to have a system against whatever White might play. Since you play Black one-half the time, we can not emphasize enough how IMPORTANT it is to know what to do with the Black pieces. These six books recommended earlier are still the basis for you to build upon against anything!

C-1776 BLACK DEFENSIVE SYSTEM FOR THE REST OF YOUR CAREER-Soltis. $14.85

C-1716 THE DYNAMIC PHILIDOR COUNTER GAMBIT-West. $15.75

C-1404 THE MODERN DEFENSE $14.25

C-1420 WINNING WITH THE ENGLISH DEFENSE-Soltis $14.85

C-1323 THE FRANKO-BENONI-Soltis $14.25

C-1197 BLACK TO PLAY THE CLASSICAL DEFENSES AND WIN $14.25

Get these books and take a little from each.

OR.......

AGAINST 1 e4: (Pick One)

C-2074 WINNING WITH THE SICILIAN DEFENSE-Silman (1998) $20.25

C-1558 SICILIAN SCHEVENIGEN FOR BLACK $14.85

C-1421 WINNING AGAINST 1 e4 $14.25

C-1292 THE FIGHTING FRENCH-Soltis $13.95

C-1344 CARO KANN IN BLACK & WHITE . $22.45

C-1225 WINNING WITH THE PIRC DEFENSE-Smith & Hall $13.95

AGAINST 1 d4, 1 c4, 1 Nf3 PLAY

C-1826 KING’S INDIAN DEFENSE YUGO­SLAV VARIATION - Soltis $14.85

C-1436 THE TCHIGORIN DEFENSE $13.95

C-1197 BLACK TO PLAY CLASSICAL DEFENSES & WIN-$14.25

C-1311 LASKER'S DEFENSE TO THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT-Soltis $13.95

C-1241 BEATING THE ENGLISH-Soltis $12.15

C-1220 THE BALTIC DEFENSE TO THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT-Soltis $13.50

C-1326 WINNING WITH THE BENKO GAMBIT-Smith & Hall $13.95

C-1332 THE ENGLUND GAMBIT-Smith & Hall $14.25

C-1216 BEATING THE KING'S INDIAN & BENONI DEFENSES WITH 5 Bd3 VARIATION - Soltis. $12.45

C-1383 WINNING AGAINST 1 d4 $14.85

C-1450 QUEEN'S GAMBIT ACCEPTED $14.85

OR

THE DUTCH DEFENSE

C-1260 HOW TO PLAY BLACK AGAINST STAUNTON GAMBIT-$14.25

C-1121 THE LENINGRAD DUTCH-DeVault. $15.75

C-1264 PLAY THE DUTCH AGAINST 1 c4 and 1 Nf3 and LISITIN GAMBIT-$14.25

C-913 DUTCH DEFENSE-Silman $15.75

Change what you want. BUT ONCE YOU MAKE THAT DECISION - STAY WITH IT UNTIL YOU KNOW IT BETTER OR AS WELL AS ANYONE IN THE WORLD!

EXPERT 2199 & BELOW

1. TAKE SOME TESTS. You should know where your weaknesses are. Don't cheat, take the tests (again) in

D-35 TEST YOUR OPENING, MIDDLEGAME & ENDGAME PLAY Vol 1. $14.85,

D-42 TEST YOUR OPENING, MIDDLEGAME & ENDGAME Vol 2 $13.95,

then try

F-82 TEST YOUR CHESS IQ-Livshitz $17.25

F-119 WINNING MOVES-Keene $11.50

Also now is the time to get deep into endgames with J-165 AMERICAN CHESS ART 250 Portraits of Endgame Study-Korn. $16.75

2. REVIEW. By now, if you have followed my suggestions, you have been exposed to all the basics required to go on to Mastership. It is a question now of reviewing what you have learned and you can do it with enjoyment by quickly going through the books you judge essential.

3. CRITICAL LINES. Your opening should now have gone through this evolution.

A) Forcing Openings & Defenses,

B) 1e4 and taking on all defenses -- a defense to any White possibility,

C) Adding gambits to this system.

Now you are ready for

D) Sharp critical lines - which can be an expansion to your system by adding "the long variation"

Remember, you will play 1e4 until you are an expert or Master. THEN

E) Evolution to closed lines - if this suits your style.

When Fischer played 1 P-QB4 and 1 P-QN3 a couple of times in his career, I asked him why. His reply, "I wanted to give them something to think about when they prepare for me in future tournaments."

When and if Bobby returns to play, HIS FIRST MOVE WILL BE 1e4. (I wrote this in 1973, SO it just took 19 years to prove me right!!)

YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY TO MASTERSHIP:

I happen to be one of the few people that Bobby Fischer signed a contract with: "I appoint Ken Smith, Editor of Chess Digest Magazine, to help with tournament and match preparation"- Bobby Fischer, International Grandmaster, February 24, 1970. That should be enough qualification to convince you that my suggestions to you are sound. And I know as well as you do that you need to go back and get a correct basis with the books I have suggested. A chessplayer should be as proud of his library as a music lover is of his records.

To be a winner in chess you must FIRST become a LOSER to stronger players. Great expectations are yours if you have refused to let defeat and slow rating progress throttle your chess. Insist on playing and studying until you reach your goal. BE A THREAT EVERY TIME YOU SIT DOWN TO PLAY. You show the greatest expression of confidence at the very moment of discouragement when, with courage, you start again -- another tournament -- another course of study, thereby turning a crisis into an opportunity. This is what instant chess confidence and determination is -- A WINNING SURGE! DO YOU HAVE IT? If you don't - THEN GET IT!

Ken Smith Dallas, 1999

Although Mr. Smith passed away on February 4, 1999, this course has stood the test of time.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reprinting Ken Smith's essay on chess; I have read it many times. I am not a great chess player, but I love the game, and believe that Mr. Smith did too. I think it's a shame what has become of Chess Digest. It was truly a site devoted to chess enthusiasts, and a pleasure to browse at. I will miss both Ken Smith and his Chess Digest site. Thanks again!

Seamus O Riley said...

This brought back such memories for me, from the 90's when I was feverishly studying and learning from Ken, enjoying regular correspondence.

His death rattled me.

In 2002, my life dramatically changed and I moved and left chess behind. This Spring, I rediscovered chess and thought of Chess Digest and Ken..

I am grateful that you posted his course.

Thank you,

Peter Hyatt

Alexander Alekhine said...

Reading Ken Smith's words brought back memories to me, too. I remember getting his typewritten sales booklets back in the '70s and '80s. He was an American original, and an inspiration to many chessplayers.

caissameister said...

Ken Smith was not only a great chess player, more importantly he encouraged an entire generation to stretch to the next level. He offered a chess course "school of hard knocks and hard work". He didn't sugar-coat anything, but offered real hope, instruction, and encouragement.

He clearly loved the game very much. It is very evident in everything he wrote.

He is greatly missed!

Camila Arriata said...

i started his trainning course 2 or 3 days ago.

Before doing it i only could fantasize about knowing the board and tell any square and its respective colour without loooking at the board. so i started his course at the starter level now after 2 days i can tell any square and say its colour whitout looking at the board , mamma miaªª and whats best...he says "it will come like magic" and its true i was studying another thing , rook movements and then bang from out of nowhere i discovered the method to know every square color on the board whoithout looking at it, if this is the start i m truly gonna hit 1800 with the effort he demands and with the time dedicated to practice and to follow his guidelines, yeah,m 1300. 1600 and 1800 then we will see!!! but if i can hit 1399 thatd be so nice, so far im watching the board in my mind and thats so nice and unbelievable,, ken smith is my new and latest chess hero YEAH!!!