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Chess Exam And Training Guide: Rate Yourself And Learn How To Improve (Chess Exams) Paperback – September 30, 2004
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"An ideal book for chess players of all levels." -- Lev Alburt, grandmaster, US Champion
From the Publisher
International Chess Master Igor Khmelnitsky is one of the top US Chess players, as well as a very experienced coach and writer. His first book offers a unique approach to self-evaluation and chess training. The target audience - everyone who likes playing chess and wants to improve - from beginners to masters. The book will save reader $1000s and many hours of research.
The book will be essential reading for everyone who plays chess because it will: a. help them to understand their current situation by identifying their strengths and weaknesses overall and in 12 distinct dimensions; b. give them clear explanations on how to improve, both in suggesting the appropriate training materials and in outlining the training methods; c. encourage players to establish and then follow a structured training plan; d. relieve player¡¦s anxiety by assuring that there is plenty of help available to those who are interested in understanding the game better and improve their skills; e. provide players with means of getting all their questions answered via timely advice from experienced coach.
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Top Customer Reviews
You should know that this is not a training manual or a tactics book. Its goal is to identify where your game is weak. If you are not already a Grandmaster, then it's certain that some areas of your game are weak. But which, and how weak are they? If club players, amateurs, even experts can focus their training on their weak spots, they will improve much more rapidly than if they get better in some area where they are already strong.
This book does a fantastic job of analyzing your game. Here is my experience. I don't get to play much in tournaments; my rating is in the high 1600's but my last major tournament I had a performance rating of 1820, and in club play that's about how I am doing. What should I work on to go farther?
I have done the first 40 problems in this book and scored them. Each has been given to a lot of players with a wide variety of ratings. By averaging how I performed on each of the problems, the author has assigned me an overall rating and a "rating" for how strong or weak I am in each of a dozen aspects of chess.
First, the overall estimate of my playing strength is right around 1800 -- consistent with my US Open performance and club play. But the breakdown -- wow! I rate a pathetic 1000 on pure calculating ability, and not much better on sacrifices. By contrast, the book rates me at 2400 on standard positions (like how to win a Bishop ending with only one pawn), reflecting the work I've done on such positions, and grasp of strategy and defense are both almost as high.
Interestingly, it rates my openings as the strongest phase of the game and endings as the weakest. Until the last US Open I thought the reverse was true, but in that tournament I consistently got strong middlegame positions against players rated up to 2100, only to collapse in the ending. The book accurately captures this relative weakness.
So my new training strategy is clear, and I bet it will work. For the next several months, I will be focusing on complex endings and doing intense practice in calculating them out to completion. That should address both of my weakest areas in one shot.
As part of my profession I have extensive training in developing tests to measure aspects of mental functioning. I am very impressed with this book, and would consider it a remarkable achievement for a psychology graduate student's dissertation.
I've completed 80 of the 100 problems (technically there are 2 questions per page, so I suppose it's really 200 problems). The problems run the gamut from the opening to the king and pawn end games. There are strategical and tactical puzzles. Virtually every facet of the game is touched to some degree. Simple answers are not given. The explanations are pure gold. Khmelnitsky gives very instructive comments and analysis for each and every problem.
For most of the problems you are asked to first evaluate and then analyze. Points are awarded for each question. If I have comment on one aspect of the book is that the reader is asked to differentiate (usually) as to who is better and by how much. That is to say you might have four choices : White is winning, white is better, equal, black is better. Sometimes it's tough to distinguish between equal and better (slightly better). But even if don't get the evaluation correct, you can make up for it by selecting the best move.
If any of you know what the '20 minute' exercise is, this book is basically a TON of those. I'd spend about 20 minutes on each problem. You are forced to verbalize (evaluate) the position and then analyze the best candidate moves. This is so very helpful on a variety of levels. In many instances you pick the wrong move because it fails tactically. Thus, you need to be on constant alert. Pick moves that are safe but also meet the requirements of the position.
For the actual exam, it's the relative differences between the categories that count. My end game knowledge is weak. I've been practicing a lot of tactical puzzles lately and it was nice seeing a decent rating there (1800 or so). If you are honest with yourself, I do think this book will quickly ID where you need help. He also has a lot of text devoted toward getting better with book recommendations. The author also tabulates how people of various ratings solved the problems too, so you can see how your peers scored. Some of the puzzles are very tough and folks have similar rating (at the time 1630) may have struggled with the same problem.
I'd say this book is easily in my 'Top 5' off all time favorite chess books. I'm looking forward to finishing the Exam and then re-taking it in 6-12 months after I address my weaknesses.