3 completely non-universal rules for chess success

Point being, there are concepts and strategies and tactics that are important for every chessplayer. But there are also probably three or four things that are critical for YOU – because these things will help you avoid your most characteristic errors.

Here are mine, at this point in time:

1. Watch that endgame transition. I can stop lashing out now and start thinking about things like “do not hurry”, and centralizing your king. I’ve gotten better at this.

2. Nuke the knights. They will only cause me heartache in the late middlegame.

3. Do NOT get Happy Feet. After decades of ALWAYS having a bad opening and a bad position, and then a decade of working to fix that problem, I’ve partially fixed it. Which gives me the novel sensation of occasionally outplaying someone and getting a solid positional advantage. Which leads to sitting around thinking “I’m killing this guy!” and “My position is so good!” (That’s Happy Feet.) Which leads to making stupid blunders which leads to bad positions again. I will not get happy feet  I will not get happy feet  I will not get happy feet  I will not get happy feet.

What are your particular keys to success?

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7 thoughts on “3 completely non-universal rules for chess success

  1. Here are my top three at the present moment. I improved from 1800 to 1900 over the last year and give these rules the bulk of the credit.

    1. If I am tempted to play a funny-looking move that breaks a standard principle, I am probably wrong. (At some point I’m sure I’d have to unlearn this rule to make more progress, but I doubt I will ever actually reach that point…)

    2. Do not hurry, even in the middlegame. Put your pieces on good squares and good things will come to you. Again, I will probably have to dial this back but for now it’s serving me well.

    3. Just keep making good moves, one move at a time. This helps combat Happy Feet (which for me usually takes the form “I wonder when he’s going to resign; why are we still playing?”).

  2. My rules for success:

    1. Play some horseshit opening

    2. Sacrifice something.. anything, to bring the king out.

    3. Keep checking the bastard until something good happens.

    4. If 3. above doesn’t work, resign.

    5. Drink beer.

  3. Like Matt, I also have 5:

    1. Don’t fear liquidation.

    2. Avoid playing into stereotypical Romantic opening positions as Black, particularly against younger and lower-rated players.

    3. Check for zwieschenzug before making obvious recaptures.

    4. Do not play the middlegame as if every move must either be a knock-out punch or a bid for immediate activity.

    5. Watch your king at all times.

  4. Great stuff, and it’s customized which is why I won’t say i “disagree” with anything. I always try to keep a knight or two of mine so it can save my bacon with trickeration when I’m otherwise lost!

  5. Dan – good rules!

    Matt – terrible rules but I admire the consistency with which you apply them! :)

    Greg – I meant to include your #3 verbatim. Very applicable to me. See you in Jersey! (WHAT? YOU AREN’T GOING?!! BOOO!)

    Robert – Yes I meant nuke the opponent’s knights. Mine are fine.

  6. My corollary to Greg’s “Watch your king at all times” is “If it is physically possible for your king to be back-rank mated, it will, even if it’s only in some important variation.”

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