$200 chess budget – my answers

The concept is: if you took a long break from tournament chess and then came back with a $200 improvement budget, how would you spend it?

Like most respondents thus far, I wouldn’t spend anything on chess software or website memberships. For computer-related chess training I’d make do with

  • the free chess tactics server mentioned by Denys : chess.emrald.net – I have attempted ~7600 problems there thus far
  • chessgames.com as my pseudo-openings-database
  • and FICS for blindfold play and new opening tests. I do find it interesting that hardly anyone said they’d cough up for the Internet Chess Club

I didn’t word the challenge very well I guess — we all agree OTB tourneys are critical, but that is non-informative. I was wondering about how people would prioritize other improvement allocations.

So for me:

  • $60 memberships (Metrowest Chess Club and MACA)
  • $20  Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual (used)
  • $20 another book hopefully on Complex Endings (used)
  • $30 King’s Indian: A Complete Repertoire by Bologan
  • $17 Flexible French by Moskalenko
  • $25 Starting Out: Slav and Semi-Slav
  • $28 Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors IV: Fischer (used)

A little explanation:

First of all, I’m rated around 2150 and have a relatively set ambition: 2200. So my plan is focused on that goal.

The MACA (Mass state) membership is mostly for its excellent publication Chess Horizons.

The two endgame books are obvious. Used to be a weak area and one of willful neglect. Now that I have worked through Aagard and Shereshevsky and tinkered in other books on minor piece endings, I see progress in my results. More hardcore study here is going to translate directly into wins.

The opening books may surprise as choosing them runs completely counter to everyone else’s plans. My defense is this: While class games are mostly not decided in the opening, at the 2200 level, the opening is pretty important. Or to look at it another way, I’m not talented enough to screw around and then hack my way out of bad positions game after game.

Also, if you’re one of those players who was always fascinated with openings to the detriment of your overall middlegame knowledge, congratulations – I am not. I started serious opening study 4-5 years ago; before that, I knew essentially nada.  The middlegame was always my strength; this budget plan applies improvement money to shoring up the other two phases.

With one exception: the GK book, which I have never read, and think I’d not only learn from but also greatly enjoy.

So whaddya think?

Note: In addition to the many interesting comments on my earlier post, see Robert Pearson’s sneaky plan on his blog. Anybody else blog on this?


8 thoughts on “$200 chess budget – my answers

  1. I do like the Chess Tactics Server at http://chess.emrald.net that you mentioned (I’ve done over 20,000 problems there) but these days Chess Tempo (http://chesstempo.com/) is significantly superior. The problems are more interesting and there’s an untimed mode so it’s not all about spotting trivial tactics in 3 seconds. Worth a look.

  2. I would go a bit different rout than others from the previous post.

    I would spend a good chunk of money on the software:

    Chessbase light premium=$60

    Chessbase Big Database=$60

    The reasoning? Well I have really begun to realize how much one can do with regards to studying (and I mean really studying!) openings and endgames (not mention trying to analyze the middle games). I have begun to blog about this.

    The Big database classifies endings so you essentially have thousands of endgame positions to try and solve! And on and on! Plus you can update the database forever for free with the TWIC updates. So I will have millions of games, both classic and modern, to peruse, enjoy and study!!

    And I still have $80 left.


    For an analysis engine: Stockfish 1.7.1 which is free and super strong! (and good in the endgame) (and heck the Chessbase I purchased also comes with Fritz 6 and Crafty!! So I am set there.

    Chess tempo tactics website for free.

    FICS for free

    Chess.com for free

    And you can get pgns of endgame and tactics puzzles from books that are now out of print! So that is a lot of info for free.

    I still have $80 left….

    Understanding Chess Endgames by Nunn: $17.00
    Simple Chess by Stean: $10
    Tal-Botvinnik by Tal: $14.00
    Zurich International Tournament Book by Bronstein: $11.00
    Botvinnik 100 Games by Botvinnik: $12.00
    Art of the Checkmate by Renaud & Kahn: 10.00

    And I have six dollars left to enjoy my Latte and brownie while I peruse my chess books!! :)

  3. Not having to spend money on tournament entry changes things.

    In this case, I’d invest it like so:

    $50: Pocket Fritz
    $140: A radio relay system to communicate with my co-conspirator outside the tournament (who is operating the aforementioned Pocket Fritz)
    $10: A pair of ski masks (one for each person to cover up the earpieces)


    In all seriousness, opening preparation seems to become more important as you climb the ladder…since you’re shooting for 2200, I have no doubt you need it.

  4. In response to dfan.

    Timed mode is the only thing that makes emrald worthwhile, since it teaches you to recognize tactical patters “on the go”.

    I also like emrald for its no-nonsense approach to your rating. If you took to long to solve the problem, you lose points. If you mouseslipped, you lose points. If you won a queen, but there was a checkmate, you lose points. There was one problem, where white had an obvious checkmate in 3 moves, and much less obvious checkmate in 2 moves. Checkmate in 3 was considered a wrong answer, and a comment thread to that problem was filled with angry rants about unfairness and prejudice. But I think this approach is nothing short of brilliant – your goal is not to find a “good” move, you have to find the best one.

    In this regard ChessTempo clearly lags behind emrald. They are trying to make the site commercial, and therefore more user-friendly and less rigorous. But I think they miss the point of tactics training.

  5. For what it’s worth, Chess Tempo also has a timed mode. It tends to be more about recognizing moderate tactics in a minute rather than recognizing trivial tactics in five seconds, so the experience is indeed somewhat different.

    I enjoy both sites and I think that they both have their place.

  6. One thing about timing and rating … it does create a temptation to develop bad habits, in much the same way blitz chess can. Instead of seeing the answer, you guess at the answer to beat the clock.

  7. But the point of tactics training (in my mind anyway) is to build your “intuition” so that guessing in three seconds is better than trying to “figure it out.” At some point it stops being a guess and starts being “talent.”

    I take a stab at it in a few seconds, and if I’m wrong I just look at the solution and go on to the next one. More and more I see stuff where I know the pattern and don’t have to think at all.

    Now, if I just stop dropping pieces…


  8. chessBase Lite so you can view FREE files from folks like me, who will send them, such as a MAJOR endgame book in chessBase format, cost = $0.0. Just ask me please Derek.

    Euwe-Kramer Middlegame vol’s I & II chessBase file, free on the web, i have cc.

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