Daniel Gormally – Pandemic Shark – A Journey Through the World of Chess Improvement – 232 pages – ISBN 9789464201536.
I was once dismissive of the attempts by amateur players to improve. To me it seemed too obvious – you either had it or you hadn’t. Talent was ultimately all that mattered. All my writing on chess was really for myself. If amateur players couldn’t follow, tough.
I don’t think that this dismissive attitude towards amateurs by professional chess players is particularly unusual. There is plenty of talk about ‘fish’, and in professional circles a general level of contempt is always on display. Perhaps we too easily forget that we were once ‘fish’ and ‘patzers’ ourselves, and are probably still viewed as such by even higher-rated players. It is only recently that I have started to think more along the lines of how amateur players approach chess, and the typical mistakes they make.
Classic mistakes by amateur players include:
- Moving a piece too often in the opening. This is one of the mainstays which I think relates at least partly to the desire to create something in the opening, when we would be better advised to focus on simple development.
- Impatience. Sometimes amateur players are too eager to change something when there really is no need.
- Overgeneralising. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed when comparing professional play to amateur play is that the former is much more about concrete calculation – you go there, I go here and so on – whereas an amateur player will have a tendency to overgeneralise when thinking about a position, perhaps because they are not used to the basic art of calculation.
- Cutting variations off too quickly. Amateur players do not extend their calculation far enough, and thus superficiality tends to kick in.
These and other mistakes I will try to explain in the book. Of course it should be noted that professional players also make these kinds of mistakes. I certainly do, all the time, so there is plenty of overlap and understanding of where these mistakes come from.