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Ideas for Boosting Chess Skills During a Pandemic: Part 1

by | Apr 20, 2020

Hello, chess friends!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have found ourselves with more time spent at home. This gives chess players all the more reason to focus on improving their game. With all the resources through the internet, there are a dizzying number of options for dividing study time. In this post, Ill discuss some strategies you can employ independently to train. Of course online chess courses, chess camps, training games, game analysis are important methods for improving chess understanding, too. These methods are all things I find useful in my own training. 

1) Blindfold Training/Calculation Exercises: 

A lot of beginner and intermediate players react with suspicion when I recommend playing blindfold games. I don’t think players below, say, 1200 elo should stress this so much, but everyone above that should be try blindfold training. Before I dive into specifics on blindfold training, I will say that solving deeper exercises without moving pieces around is also in the same category and quite valuable at all levels (as it helps with visualization). 

Using any of the popular chess websites, you can change your settings to ‘blindfold,’ and play games against the computer. For example, I tend to take on Stockfish at just over half strength. You can also do the same thing against other players if you feel comfortable doing so. At first, if you’re new to blindfold it will be challenging and possibly frustrating. I would say play until you cannot remember the details of the position and then restart the game in your head. The notation is your ally! You can use it to rebuild the position if you misplace something. If you can make it through 5-10 moves at first this is an excellent start which you can build upon in further sessions. Once you reach your limit, turn the pieces back on and continue the game normally. Eventually, you will be able to play full games.  

The key is to keep at it! I would recommend playing at least 30 minute games to start ( with increment preferred), though as you get better at blindfold you can lower that. At the end of the day, in a game of chess the player who is better at calculating variations accurately will often come out on top, and blindfold chess literally forces you to flex those visualization muscles. Blindfold isn’t some magic power. Start small, build up and you will improve just like every other aspect of the game. 

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