Master debating: Should you study class player games?

Happy New Year Everybody!

Does it make sense to only study the chess games of Masters on your road to chess improvement?

I opened my e-mail this morning to see that I got an unsubscribe from my newsletter, where the reader left a comment.

I always like when the reader leaves a comment, because it helps me to make the newsletter the best it can be.

I like to respond to these when appropriate, because it gives me a chance to give some of my thoughts, motivations and points of view when writing the newsletters.

Here was the comment:

The games were from lower rated players. I want to see what masters do.

I think there are a lot of presuppositions contained in this comment.

  • Only master games are worthy of study
  • Class player games are not worthy of study
  • If I want to get better, I need to see what the masters are doing
  • Looking at class player games are a waste of time
  • etc

I think this is a common misconception that there is nothing to be gained from the study of class player games.

One common piece of chess advice is to “Play through lots of master games”.

While this is not a horrible idea, I think it is an overrated idea.

The games that Masters are playing are much different than the games being played “down in the trenches” of class players.

Out of curiosity, I looked up this reader’s rating, and it was in the 1600s.  I even found one of his games online, and it was one played at a standard time control, where he lost to a 2 move chess tactic.

My main focus of the newsletter, and this website is CHESS TACTICS.  Tactics occur in all sorts of games, but happen A LOT in class player games.  Most class player games are decided by 2-3 move tactics. 

My other objective was to do something different than every other chess magazine, website, newsletter, blog, etc that is out there.

Almost all of them focus exclusively on master games.  There is no shortage of master games out there.  The excellent “This Week in Chess” website contains hundreds of new chess games each week, which you can download for free.  Chess Life magazine always has lot of master games, and thousands of books have been written with master games.

Not a lot of people are looking at, talking or writing about class player games.  Personally I find class player games very interesting, and instructive.

To me, if you are a class player, and you want to beat other class players, the thing that would make the most sense would be to look at the common mistakes that class players are making, learn from them, avoid them in your own games, and use them against your opponents!

Looking at my USCF rating history statistics, I have played 687 rated games, and only 13 of them have been against players rated above 2200.  That is 1% percent of my rated games.

So what makes more sense?  To prepare for the 1% or the 99%?

An analogy:

Right now there is a lot in the news about people “texting and driving” and trying to make the roads safer.

If you were doing a study for the government on the cause of car accidents, and how they can be reduced to save lives, would you:

  • look at the car accidents that happen everyday on normal roads with normal people?
  • look at the car accidents with the best drivers in the world of the Indy 500?

To me looking at Grandmaster games is like watching the Indy 500.  It is interesting, but far removed from the “real world”.

to win more chess games!

My goal is to “reduce the accidents” in chess games.

I want YOU to get a higher rating this year! 

I want YOU to win more games this year!

I want YOU to win more tournaments this year!

I honestly think that the games and information included in my free chess tactics newsletters can help you accomplish that, and others have told me the same thing.

One other note, this reader unsubscribed after only reading 6 newsletters, so I am not sure he got much of a “sample size”.

I actually do include a fair number of Master games in my newsletters. 

I have written newsletters with games from

  • Life Master Brian Wall,
  • Life Master Joel Johnson,
  • Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura,
  • Grandmaster Jaan Ehlvest,
  • National Master Tyler Hughes,
  • International Master Michael Valvo,
  • Grandmaster Boris Gulko,
  • and several others.

The nice thing about studying tactics to me is that it doesn’t really matter what the source of the game is.  Some of the most beautiful tactics I have ever seen were not played by Grandmasters, but by normal tournament players.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you agree or disagree!

Hope everyone has a wonderful 2012!!

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