Posted December 29, 2021 in Reviews

Book Look: How to Study Chess on Your Own

I’ve been playing chess regularly since 2014 and have made (in my opinion) minimal progress. Well, I guess you could say that I haven’t made the progress that I expected after devoting so much time to reading, studying, and playing. That’s one reason that I’m always on the lookout for new materials and new ideas to help me improve my game. That’s why I was very excited to read GM Davorin Kuljasevic’s new book How to Study Chess on Your Own. This is the honest review of a < 1200 ELO player. So, let’s begin…

I learned about this book from the Perpetual Chess podcast. Which, if you’ve never listened, you’re missing out! The title alone drew me to it because I tend to be an isolated chess player. I play correspondence games regularly, read and follow games in books/magazines, and play a lot against my DGT Centaur chess computer. I wanted something that might help me understand why my improvement was so stagnant. So, I put away all the other chess books and projects I was working on and focused solely on How to Study exclusively for the next few weeks.

The Study Advice

For the purposes of this review, I am going to divide the book into two sections: The Study Advice and The Games. The study advice offered by GM Kuljasevic throughout the book is interlaced with a variety of Grandmaster and student games that are used to illustrate the various principles explained in each chapter. The study options presented are very down-to-earth and application-driven. There’s very little “theory” involved in the advice he gives. Instead, he digs down and shows how the variety of tools at a chess player’s disposal these days can be used for a multitude of improvement opportunities.

Of particular interest to me was his advice for creating a study plan. This is a step that countless chess students (including myself) tend to ignore. I study and play chess a lot, but I realized that I didn’t have a solid plan of what I wanted to achieve and what steps I was going to take to achieve it. Not in the sense of “I want to be an IM in 5 years”. Instead, the advice is more practical and nuanced such as “I have 4 hours to study chess today, so 2 hours for openings, 1 hour for endgame, and 1 hour on tactics”.

Overall, I’d say that the advice in this book is a welcome addition to the growing library of chess improvement materials out there. It’s practical, sensible, and is flexible enough to where anyone from a lower-rated D-class player up to a Grandmaster could use it.

The Games

There are 71 annotated games and fragments scattered across How to Study Chess on Your Own. At first, I was following each of the games with my travel chess set at home and then using my iPad on my breaks at work. But I soon realized that despite the excellent study advice in the book, much of the game analysis was way over my head. There were principles explained that I understood but the application in many of these instances were still in the Grandmaster range. I felt like I wasn’t ready in my chess ability to get the most out of this analysis.

So, after playing through Game 15, I stopped reading/playing the games and focused on the meat of the book and its study recommendations. This is not to say that the analysis in the book isn’t excellent, because it is! There’s so much knowledge shared in these games that it was overwhelming for someone of my level. I know that I can’t speak for everyone, but I would assume that many lower rated players would have similar problems understanding the application of some of the more advanced concepts. I guess you can consider it a word of caution before digging into the variations and ideas that the games themselves present.

A New Library of Games

As I read through the book, I took note of the Grandmaster games and decided to put them together into a Chess.com library. I also played through the student games and fragments in the book for this collection. That library is free for access and download here and will eventually be added to the downloads section here on Campfire Chess.

Final Thoughts

It’s impossible to truly unpack the depth of knowledge and expertise presented in How to Study Chess on Your Own. GM Davorin Kuljasevic obviously produced this as a labor of love. You can sense the passion he has for chess and the drive to help others improve their game. Of the chess books I’ve read recently, it’s most definitely one of my favorites. I only hope that over time I can improve in my game enough to go back through many of the annotated games and unlock their secrets!

Posted December 10, 2021 in Campfire Digest

Campfire Digest – December 10, 2021

Good Morning, campers! Welcome to Campfire Chess Digest for Friday, December 10, 2021! The World Chess Championship 2021 is still underway and it has certainly had a share of ups and downs, breathtaking and disappointing moments. There’s still much more chess to come before the year is done!

Here’s some of the best chess action we’ve seen this week:

Magnus Carlsen is…once again…World Chess Champion

https://www.chess.com/news/view/fide-world-chess-championship-2021-game-11
Magnus Carlsen cruised to defend his World Championship title for the fifth time this week against Ian Nepomniachtchi. It was one of the most lopsided and unusual championships I can recall. Ian just couldn’t capitalize on several opportunities presented to him by Magnus. And for another two years, Norway is king of world chess.

A World Record at the World Chess Championship

https://en.chessbase.com/post/world-championship-2021-g6
Magnus Carlsen came out on top of an incredible 136 move game that set a world record for the longest chess game played in a world championship. The previous title was held by Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in the 1978 World Chess Championship.

A Century of Chess: Karlsbad 1907

https://www.chess.com/blog/kahns/a-century-of-chess-karlsbad-1907
Long before the Soviet Empire dominated the professional chess world, the German Empire’s elite held firmly to the title of the world’s best chess players. This exceptional article from Chess.com (a rarity these days) explores Akiba Rubinstine’s rise to prominence in the early part of the twentieth century.

World Rapid and Blitz Coming to Warsaw

https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-world-rapid-and-blitz-championships-will-take-place-in-warsaw
The FIDE World Rapid and Blitz tournament will soon be making its way to Warsaw beginning on Christmas Day and running through December 31st.

Posted December 3, 2021 in Campfire Digest

Campfire Digest – December 3, 2021

Good Morning, campers! Welcome to Campfire Chess Digest for Friday, December 3, 2021! As you read this, the 2021 World Chess Championship rages (if you can call it that) in Dubai between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi. There’s no clear leader at this point but Nepo certainly put Magnus on the ropes a few times going into Thursday’s rest day.

Here’s some of the best chess action we’ve seen this week:

Anish Giri Annotates WCC 2021 Game 5

https://en.chessbase.com/post/world-championship-2021-g5-expert-annotations
After the sleeper draw that was Game 5 of the World Chess Championship, GM Anish Giri published a very nice annotated game outlining some of the missed opportunities for both players.

Hikaru Nakamura Departs the FIDE World Ranking List

https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-new-fide-world-ranking-list-december-2021
GM Hikaru Nakamura was nowhere to be found on the newly published FIDE World Ranking List because he has not been active in international tournament play for quite some time. He’s mostly traded those commitments for a life on Twitch these days.

Chess.com Remains Undisputed Clickbait Article Champion

https://www.chess.com/article/view/chess-coms-holiday-gift-buying-guide
Ten ways to mate your opponent in five moves… Ten streamers you wouldn’t want to play blitz with… and the list goes on and on. Maybe we could start making a list of Chess.com’s most click-baity articles. In any case, this year’s “Buying Guide” for the holidays is no better than the website’s recent forays into Bitcoin, PogChamps, and other nonsensical stuff.

Levon Aronian Joins the US Chess Federation

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/levon-aronian-completes-transfer-to-usa
The United States continues to build an impressive roster of players with the recent addition of GM Levon Aronian. He joins the ranks of recent additions such as GMs Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana.

The World Chess Championship 2021 continues today in Dubai live via Chess24’s YouTube channel. Chess.com has a stream with GMs Hess and Caruana, but I recommend the Chess24 stream as its less headache-inducing.

Posted October 20, 2021 in Game Analysis

Game Analysis – An Interesting Collapse

It’s been a while since I annotated one of my games. Part of that is IRL stuff that’s been getting in the way and part of it is that I haven’t played any games that intrigued me enough recently to annotate. This game is a little bit of an exception. Let’s go…

Posted August 17, 2021 in Game Analysis

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

Sometimes I get so frustrated when I make a blunder that I simply give up and rage quit the game. Making a mistake in a chess game can often be as frustrating as being spawn camped by some n00b in Call of Duty. This is something I’ve been actively working on for the past few months: trying to stay in the game despite the apparent hopelessness of the position. Now, there are times when its important to realize that you have no chance of winning and you’re just delaying the inevitable. A lone King versus a Rook and a bunch of pawns comes to mind. But when most of the pieces are still on the board, there’s little reason to give up so quickly. Such is the case with this game where I had to make a painful sacrifice early in the middlegame but was able to turn things around in the end.

Posted August 5, 2021 in Game Analysis

It’s Been a Bad Day

Today was rough all around. Network problems made my day job a challenge and I lost two daily chess games that I should have won. That’s not saying that my opponents didn’t deserve to win. They certainly played good games and came out on top, but there were so many ridiculous blunders today that have been so uncharacteristic of me lately. I managed, in extraordinary fashion, to blunder not one, but two Bishops today. Perhaps the analysis of these games is just a way of venting. I’m sure that I’ll bounce back…I always do. But wow, these are hard to stomach.

And shortly after that little gem was played, this happened…

At least tomorrow is a new day.

This post is simulcast on Chess.com. Check out Campfire Chess on Chess.com.

Posted July 25, 2021 in Game Analysis

Game Analysis – Chipping Away

I’ve lost quite a few disappointing games in the past couple of weeks, so this was a welcome and refreshing victory that gave me insight into some common problems I’ve been having. Given its (albeit brief) instructional value for myself, I felt it was worth a surface analysis and commentary. I hope you enjoy!

Posted July 20, 2021 in Community, News

Happy International Chess Day

Good morning, campers! Today is International Chess Day and there are celebrations going on all around the world to honor our game! Not sure how to celebrate the day? Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

  • Play chess online via Chess.com, lichess, chess24, or any of the myriad of online platforms available.
  • Join your local chess club. If you’re not sure how, just do a Google search for your city/town + “Chess Club” and you’ll most likely find something to get you started.
  • Play in a local over-the-board tournament.
  • Play with a friend.
  • Watch a chess movie! Pawn Sacrifice, Dangerous Moves, Searching for Bobby Fischer, or the Knights of the South Bronx come to mind.

Whatever your passion, there’s plenty to do today to celebrate chess!

Posted July 6, 2021 in Game Analysis

Personal Analysis – A Closed Conundrum

One of my favorite parts of playing daily chess is how the battles unfold over several days. There are some positions that go fast and others that seem to drag on forever. Then there are those moments where it seems that both sides are ready to lash out. I find myself constantly checking to see if I’ve received a notification that it’s my turn to move when there are tight positions and it’s all hanging by a thread. The game that follows is one such game that I recently played. It was a close battle for most of the game with blunders and mistakes on both sides, but ultimately, I pulled out a very nice win.

Posted June 16, 2021 in Game Analysis

Personal Analysis – Pushing and Discovering

Since I returned to writing about and playing chess regularly, I’ve tried to center myself more on developing a comprehensive study plan and maintaining some sense of focus. Previously, I was obsessed with openings, but these days I’m trying to focus more on positional play and strategic level positions in the middlegame. I’m finding myself more able to find discovered checks and push my pawns forward with more momentum and purpose.

The game above was played against an internet opponent on Chess.com on the Daily Chess function. The time control was 1 move per day, but we finished it much sooner than that. I decided to annotate this game because while it’s filled with amateur mistakes, I believe it’s representative of my improvement in the middlegame and my growing ability to identify key moments that can turn a losing position into a winning steamroller. My opponent played hard, but I was fortunate that the chess gods shined their light on me for this one.