Improving in the time of Covid
The Need to Strike a Balance
Last week I wrote of the advice by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik on how young players today should try to improve their skills during the pandemic.
The almost complete lack of over-the-board tournaments has created a unique opportunity that will likely never be repeated in their lifetimes. Effectively utilizing this ‘down-time ‘ to develop new study and work habits, according to Kramnik, could very well be the key to achieving their chess ambitions.
Kramnik pointed out that for most of these young talents their main chess work has been almost exclusively connected to their pre-game preparations.
Playing tournament after tournament has its pressures and limits the amount of deep, creative study of the game at home that is so necessary to improve.
I do not think it is necessary to remind the readers that in the past great players became great players by virtue of working hard at home and then applying what they learned in their tournaments.
Because tournaments were less frequently organized, this meant that the older generations’ top players played fewer games. For instance, Bobby Fischer played less than 800 tournament games during his entire career!
Today (up until the pandemic) many young players could play this many games in just a handful of years!
Kramnik further clarifies…
A few days later Kramnik had the opportunity to explain in more detail his views during an interview with Emil Sutovsky.
“Today almost all young chess players play bullet chess on the Internet, and this could be very harmful to their development as they seek to improve.
I am not against blitz in general, but bullet is harmful to young players. First, it loosens the nervous system; second, it develops the habit of playing impulsively,” – Vladimir Kramnik.
Kramnik then went on:
”If you have developed a habit of instantly making a move, then it will break through to you both in rapid chess and in the classics. This is frankly harmful. I watch how much they play per minute – this is complete madness. In principle, I never play for a minute. This is not chess.
3 ‘+ 2’ ‘s the minimum at which blitz is not harmful. There is no benefit either, but at least there is no harm. 5 ‘+ 3’ ‘- this already has some benefit.”
Echoes what Capablanca said years ago…
Of course, Kramnik’s remarks are aimed only at the younger players, talented, ambitious and filled with fire, who want to improve as players and make a name for themselves.
Kramnik is expressing his opinion that improvement requires a disciplined approach that puts emphasis on quality and hard work. And what he is saying is that the younger players should not waste too much of the ‘down time’ provided by the virus on playing bullet chess.
Clearly Kramnik is not talking about the casual player who has plenty of time on his hand and enjoys playing on the internet. Social players. Or as Capablanca called them ”Wood Pushers”.