The pandemic has reduced most professional sports to shadows of their former selves. But it’s done wonders for one game, maybe the last one you’d ever guess: chess.

A boom is taking place in chess like we have never seen maybe since the Bobby Fischer days,” said chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley. “And it’s happening all because the pandemic has driven people indoors, and they’re looking for something incredible, constructive, educational to do.

For the most part, the mainstream media portrays chess as a worthy, honest game. A CNN article stated, “Chess is a game of intellect. Remember intellect? In a world where every news development seems more implausible than the last, there is something infinitely reassuring in retreating to a series about a cerebral game, in which (this is not spoiling anything, I think) nobody cheats.”

The most popular chess program offers you everything you will need as a dedicated chess enthusiast, with innovative training methods for amateurs and professionals alike.

Reverse the lockout?
Searching for Bobby FischerIn the 1993 film Searching for Bobby Fischer, at an in-person scholastic tournament, the parents accuse each other of cheating and then physically fight. The tournament directors lock the parents in a different area, away from the playing hall. The children cheer and continue their tournament games, playing honestly.

At national tournaments for kindergarten and first grade students, parents are not allowed in the playing hall. For older children’s games, parents may be in designated areas but not in the aisles between the boards. See the US Chess National Scholastic Chess Tournament Regulations. In contrast to these over-the-board regulations, perhaps parents should be with their children, and especially their very young children, during online chess tournaments.

According to National Master Jeff Ashton, owner of Panda Chess Academy, having parents nearby may be necessary for very young children, who cannot navigate technical glitches on their own. Recently, a six-year-old student of Ashton’s, left alone during a tournament, missed a round because he kept waiting for the game to start. He was scared to touch the screen because he wanted to follow all instructions to the letter. But he should have refreshed his browser to make the game begin. Parents can help by refreshing screens, reminding children to close all open tabs and avoid switching windows, turning off phones, contacting help desks, etc.

On the other hand, some chess parents can barely contain themselves during their children’s games, wanting to kibitz their suggested moves to their offspring. Just like the children in the Searching for Bobby Fischer playing hall, children competing online from home may hate for their parents to be in the room.

Yet, as children grow older, and improve at chess, they have more incentives and means to cheat. For example, an older child understands Stockfish’s decimal point evaluations. They may be tempted to use their knowledge to help them win. Winning feels good, and gaining rating points means admiration from parents and peers. Older children may also socialize in ways that leave them vulnerable to online predators, such as chatting, joining teams and groups, or using their real names.

Online chess seems like a perfect babysitter, but it’s not so simple.

According to Ashton, coaches should regularly discuss integrity and sportsmanship with children. Cheaters never win, winners never cheat, and other sayings about honesty might come off as corny but should be repeated to children before chess games.

Coaches and parents should also advise children to avoid multi-tasking. Phrase that advice in a positive way, that having a singular focus on a chess game is a great way to improve at chess. What it takes to be a good chess player, such as entering flow (deep concentration), also avoids cheating.

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Sep 14, 2021

Garry Kasparov Kept Moving Even After Getting Flagged

This article was inspired by Garry Kasparov’s recent abysmal performance in the Grand Chess Tour in Zagreb. The legendary 13th World Chess Champion scored 2.5 points out of 18 and finished in clear last place in the blitz event. One of the factors that caused such a disastrous result was poor time management and the inability to play well in time trouble.  Notably, in a game against MVL, Kasparov lost on time in an innocuous equal rook endgame where he was at no risk whatsoever on the board.

Obviously, the recommendations presented below are not aimed at Kasparov since when it comes to chess, Garry can teach pretty much anyone about any facet of the game. Still, I believe that some of the lifehacks presented below will be of use to less experienced players than Kasparov.

Obviously, the recommendations presented below are not aimed at Kasparov since when it comes to chess, Garry can teach pretty much anyone about any facet of the game. Still, I believe that some of the lifehacks presented below will be of use to less experienced players than Kasparov.

Also, it’s easy to offer banal advice like “do not ever get into time trouble”, but it’s challenging to follow it. Here are a few basic tips on what to do if you are in time trouble already:

  • Keep your head cool and try to breathe normally. Amateurs start jumping up and down on the chair, hastily scribbling the moves on the score sheet, pulling their hair, knocking on the chess clock, and dropping pieces by trying to place them down with a shaking hand. Seasoned GMs remain solemn and make moves in a reserved and elegant way. They patiently write down the moves as if they had all the time in the world at their disposal. This behavior helps one to remain concentrated and prevents your heart from starting to beat like a drum and affecting your play.
  • Avoid glancing at the clock over and over again. When you are in time trouble, every second is precious. You don’t want to waste time and pump up your heart rate by watching the clock tick away. It is easier said than done since you need both great self-control and an inner sense of time that will prevent you from flagging. The latter comes with experience and a lot of regular practice. Rusty players lose this sense and forfeit on time more often than you would normally expect from them.
  • Focus on the game. Don’t start blaming yourself for getting into time trouble. Don’t fear that you will blunder something. Just concentrate and make the most of your current position.

Here are a few more intermediate-level tips that are must-know for tournament players:

  • If you are on the defensive and hoping to take advantage of the 50-move rule, mark the last capture or pawn move on your scoresheet so that you don’t have trouble later on pondering whether you have earned the right to claim a draw or not. This habit helps one stay calm and collected when fighting for survival.
  • If a conflict situation between you and your opponent occurs, stop the clock and call the arbiter. Sometimes people engage in a verbal discussion while their clock is still running. When they forfeit on time because of it, it is much harder for them to negotiate a favorable decision for themselves once the arbiter finally shows up.
  • Try to make it to a time control if there is one. Sometimes move repetitions or exchanges can help you a lot. Of course, there’s a risk of trading the wrong pieces, but there’s also a saying: “Exchange more pieces so that you can’t blunder them in time trouble.” It has some truth to it. Generally speaking, even if you are a tactical genius, it is usually a good idea to simplify the position when you are in time trouble. When you are very short on the clock, it is next to impossible to find all the tricky lines that chess engines point out in the blink of an eye. Who cares that you have a winning position when you will either flag or blunder something away in the end?

Finally, here are a few advanced tips that are worth adding to your chess arsenal:

  • If you desperately need to go to the WC and can’t leave the board due to the prospects of losing on time, you can “pull a Leko”. There was a story involving him where he reportedly called for an arbiter, claimed a three-fold repetition, and rushed to the bathroom while the arbiter was diligently checking the score sheet! There was no repetition, but Peter did save enough time this way. Super GMs are resourceful!
  • Back in the day, when people used to play with mechanical clocks, there was a dirty trick of not paying attention to the fact that your time ran out and playing on as normal, hoping that your partner wouldn’t notice it in the heat of battle. Then, when the opponent flags as well, one could always point it out, if necessary, and claim a draw since it is impossible to prove who flagged first. Nowadays, however, digital clocks usually display a symbol showing who lost on time, so such tricks are no longer possible.

Garry Kasparov showing that even in 2021, you can still play on after you have run out of time!

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Chess Rising Stars Online Grand Prix

To help prepare our students to compete beyond Chess Rising Stars, we are delighted to announce our first Online Grand Prix.

You can find our free Grand Prix tournaments on our lichess team page this term. Chess Rising Stars students, parents and friends are all welcome to take part.

Each tournament will have 5 rounds of 10+5 and points will be tallied across the 6 Grand Prix events. We have chosen this time control to mimic the playing conditions in the Junior Four Nations Chess League Online (J4NCLO).

Prizes will be awarded based on the number of entries and will be confirmed at a later date. Your top 5 scores from the 6 Grand Prix events will count towards this.

The online chess tournaments will take place on the following Sundays at 4 pm (GMT) in the Spring Term 2024:

28th Jan = Warm-Up

4th Feb = Grand Prix 1

11th Feb = GP 2

25th Feb = GP 3

3rd Mar = GP 4

10th Mar = GP 5

17th Mar = GP 6

To ensure the integrity of the Chess Rising Stars Online Grand Prix tournaments are maintained, we will use the lichess cheat detection system alongside the observation and judgement of our experienced coaching team.

The Chess Rising Stars London Academy team hope to see many of you there.

Mar 14, 2024

Grandmasters are now achieving their Titles at an earlier age than ever

The game of chess is witnessing a fascinating trend. New research by shows that grandmasters are now achieving their titles at an earlier age than ever. Will the chess world see 10- or 11-year-olds becoming grandmasters in the next few years?

In the past year, we’ve seen a surge in children scoring extraordinary results. Records that would’ve seemed unbreakable only five to 10 years ago aren’t as shatterproof as we once thought, and it’s just a matter of time until they are broken again. “Child’s play” as some say.

Here are some examples:

The results appear to be a part of a new trend as shown by research that looks at the age of players who secure the grandmaster title.

While the average age for players achieving the most prestigious title in chess was 30 between 1975-1979, it dropped to 22.8 between 2020 and 2024. The highest age for a new GM was 32.8 in 1977. More then four decades later, in 2021, the average age is down to a record low of 20.9.

10 players are currently pending approval for the GM title in 2024. The average age is down to 21.4, the second lowest to date.

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