In a bad position it is not important to find the best moves. It is important to find the most unpleasant moves for your opponent - the moves which would offer him the greatest possibilities of making a blunder.  - Ivan Sokolov

Pushing an opponent too hard can be a mistake particularly if his position is sound and you force him to find the best moves. Playing good, slightly ambiguous and multipurpose moves can cause your opponent to self-destruct by giving him too many choices. Necessity is the mother of invention so remove necessity from the equation and give your opponent just enough rope to hang himself.  - Vladimir Drkulec


My approach to teaching kids to play in a class room setting is to show an illustrative game or games that show certain themes and ideas. I emphasize the importance of getting all of your pieces developed. Get your king to safety. Develop your queen and connect your rooks. Seize open files. Look at undefended or underdefended pieces and squares. Set up X-ray attacks on kings and queens and rooks. Look at every check no matter how outlandish it looks on the surface. Look for opportunities to set up pins, discovered attacks and simultaneous attacks on multiple pieces or squares. Look for forks. And so on. Sometimes we throw in some endgame positions or tactical exercises based on what I observed in some of the kids games the previous week. The kids then play a game. Right after the game either I or one of the other instructors go over the game with the kids and point out mistakes and how to improve their play. If the mistakes come in the opening then I tell them a better way to play. You have to fix the errors where they occur. Most of the kids catch on fairly quickly. Some make the same or similar mistakes a few times before catching on. I don't get upset when the kids make mistakes because I realize that errors are an inherent part of chess. When setting up the pairings I tend to pair kids to produce a good tough game for both kids though this is not always possible because of the distribution of playing strengths in the class. I try to avoid the same pairing in consecutive weeks or even in the same month. In a situation with beginners I find that they won't sit still for half an hour or an hour of lecture like the more advanced kids do so I tend to make it shorter. I might go over a single game instead of two or three. At that point we play some games. I make suggestions and corrections. If kids are making the same mistakes then I will fire up the overhead projector and computer and show them what they are doing wrong. When teaching beginners I start with elementary checkmates (king and queen vs king, king and two rooks vs. king, king and rook vs. king, king and two bishops vs. king). Invariably in the last two beginners groups someone has asked about bishop and knight vs. king and I show them though it was not my intention to show them at first. I always have the kids practice both sides several times after I have shown them the proper technique. We move on when everyone understands how to win in each situation. With kids you really have to pay attention and ask them about their thought processes. Sometimes you discover gaps in their understanding which need to be addressed. Kids will be kids so you have to be patient. Sometimes they get silly and the best thing to do is to switch up the activity and interrupt their patterns before you lose control. If you were lecturing, have them switch to playing and if they were playing switch to a lecture. - Vladimir Drkulec  Jan 23, 2012

There are many layers to the chess experience whether you look at it from the perspective of a game, a tournament or a campaign to qualify for a particular tournament. In the long run it is a heroic journey where we seize new capabilities in order to win larger and more significant battles later. We look for metaphors to describe the psychological hurdles that we must overcome on our journey as an aid to our understanding. I enjoy this forum because there are many people who get the obscure connections that I see and the references that I make when trying to make sense of this whole chess experience. There is also the whole dynamic of a mastermind group working together to make some distinctions that will help everyone become somewhat better. We are all on a similar psychological journey when we set out with the goal of chess improvement. If you look at things superficially on the basis of chess strength some are farther along the road of trials to chess mastery but at most stages of the road we are dealing with similar issues and so can learn something from the journeys of mortals greater and lesser than ourselves when speaking of chess strength. A few individuals working together and sometimes at odds but always tending in a definite direction can have a profound effect on a chess community whether online or geographically. A little prod here and a little push there and just a small correction, never losing sight of the long term goal of greater insight and next thing you know amazing things can happen. -Vladimir Drkulec