Category Archives for Chess

Why you should learn chess

Why you should learn chess

Let’s face it. Our brains are turning into mush. With all of the screens we look at throughout the day, we experience more mind-numbing moments than we do stimulating moments. We’re relying on smartphones and computers to do all the thinking for us. And as a result, we’re losing the fine-tuned ability to think critically and solve problems. In a way, we’re allowing computers to turn us from humans into robots. And this, my friends, is exactly the reason why you should learn chess.

Learning chess is so much more than learning a game. Learning chess is a great way for us to increase our intelligence, problem-solving, and processing speed. This, according to a healthline article I recently read which is also the inspiration for this blog post.

After reading through the above-referenced article’s ten benefits of playing chess, I’ve decided to narrow things down to my top three.

Here are my top three reasons why you should learn chess:

(1) It improves your memory

Not only do you have to memorize the different rules and plays available to you as a chess player, you also need to memorize possible outcomes and maneuvers that your opponent might choose. There’s a lot of mental gymnastics happening when you play chess, and this is a good thing!

(2) It builds your planning skills

Chess is a game of strategic planning. How many times have you heard chess analogies thrown around at work (probably by people who don’t even know how to play the game, btw)? Well, there’s a lot of relevance to the fact that chess helps develop very important planning skills.

(3) Helps protect against dementia

Who knew! However, the science seems to back this one up. And you don’t even have to be good at chess for this benefit to kick in. Just the process of exercising your mind is enough to help keep the harmful, deteriorating effects of dementia at bay.


So, whether you have a fancy chess set from Poland or just a cheapo from Walmart, one thing is for certain, there are many benefits to be enjoyed if you simply apply yourself and get with the game!

Human Chess

Human Chess

The topic of human chess is more emotional than you might think. For the most part, it is a fun, almost theatrical, presentation of the ancient game by real people dressed-up according to each chess “character.” Some see it as a mixture of chess, twister, yoga, and drama. Purists, view it as an unsavory representation of what should strictly be played in board-game form only.

Unfortunately, the topic of human chess has sparked controversy related to the Holocaust. Earlier this year, the Auschwitz Memorial issued a formal statement condemning the inclusion of “human chess” in a recent Amazon show called Hunters.

The controversy arose when Holocaust experts disagreed with the show’s assertion that Nazi’s forced Holocaust captives to play a macabre form of human chess. “Auschwitz was full of horrible pain and suffering documented in the accounts of survivors,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted. “Inventing a fake game of human chess . . . is not only dangerous foolishness and caricature. It also welcomes future deniers. We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.”

The creator of the show, David Weil, who is also the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, responded with a statement of his own:

While Hunters is a dramatic narrative
series, with largely fictional characters, it is inspired by true
events. But it is not documentary. And it was never purported to be. In
creating this series it was most important for me to consider what I
believe to be the ultimate question and challenge of telling a story
about the Holocaust: how do I do so without borrowing from a real
person’s specific life or experience?

It was for this reason that I made the
decision that all of the concentration camp prisoners (and survivors)
in the series would be given tattoos above the number 202,499. 202,499
is the highest recorded number given to a prisoner at Auschwitz. I
didn’t want one of our characters to have the number of a real victim or
a real survivor, as I did not want to misrepresent a real person or
borrow from a specific moment in an actual person’s life. That was the
responsibility that weighed on me every night and every morning for
years, while writing, producing, editing this show. It is the thing I go
to sleep thinking about and the thing I wake up working to honor.

Hopefully, this controversy will blow over so human chess can be viewed as it should be–a fun, light-hearted presentation of a classic sport. At the same time, I think the Holocaust Memorial has a point, which should be discussed. Is it okay to fictionalize any part of the Holocaust as part of a creative project (e.g. a movie)? Does it cheapen and compromise the preservation of historical facts?

Something to ponder while you play your next game of chess. . . .

The Krakow Cloth Hall and the best wooden chess sets

The Krakow Cloth Hall and the best wooden chess sets

Krakow, Poland Sells the Best Wooden Chess Set

Krakow is one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Schindler’s List” you’ve seen Krakow. It was the home of Oskar Schindler’s metal factory where he saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them at the factory. His story was memorialized in the book “Schindler’s Ark” later produced in 1993 as a feature film titled “Schindler’s List”. The factory building still stands today and has been repurposed as a museum honoring Mr. Schindler.

Krakow is only 66 kilometers from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

With centuries-old castles scattered throughout an otherwise modern metropolitan cityscape, Krakow perfectly blends the old with the new to create one of Europe’s best kept secrets. Furthermore, it is home to some of the best hand-carved, wooden chess sets in the world.

As a chess player and globetrotter, I have visited every populated continent and am always in search of great handcrafted chess sets to add to my collection. Usually, I am disappointed as most vendors simply cut corners and source their sets from factories in China who have discovered ways to convincingly mass produce folk arts such as hand-carved chess sets.

Krakow’s Chess Secret

The best place on planet Earth to buy a hand-carved chess set is at the Krakow Cloth Hall. It one of the most popular destinations in the city and is home to some of the best Krakow folk arts available for purchase in the country. You haven’t visited Krakow if you haven’t visited the Krakow Cloth Hall. In addition to being an excellent place to buy wooden chess sets, the building itself (sans vendors) is worth the visit. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was constructed during the Renaissance!

Because vendors come and go, it will not suffice to simply draft a list of suggested stops in Krakow’s Cloth Hall. Instead, I highly recommend you spend an afternoon exploring the shops and vendors in search of your treasured hand-carved Polish chess set. You will find it. Trust me.

For a modest $150-200 USD, you’ll walk away with the chess-set-find-of-a-lifetime. As such, please take care of it. Keep it away from children (I know something about this. My beloved wooden chess set from Krakow is missing one of its bishops). Also, each year, take 20 minutes and carefully polish each piece and the board with a gentle wood cleaner like Rustic Touch from Melaleuca or Oil Soap from Murphy.

If you’re like me, you might have too many chess sets to display. However, the wooden chess set you purchase in Krakow is one you’ll definitely want to show off. Display it proudly.

Only, again, remember to keep out of the reach of children!

5 Most Effective Chess Training Techniques You Have to Try

5 Most Effective Chess Training Techniques You Have to Try

Have you ever felt like you have reached the top of your level? Times goes by and you see no improvement in your play? In this article we want to give you 5 training tips that could change this situation drastically. Each one of us has different strengths and weaknesses, as well as different amount of time available for chess. However, there are general and tested methods that guarantee improvement within months. Here is a list with what we consider the most effective exercises.

  • Analysis of your own games

We want to emphasize the importance of this habit because, as simple as it sounds, not everyone does it and if they do it, most of them do it wrong. For example, it’s quite common nowadays that after a game, the first thing people do is run the engine and find out where they could have played a stronger move or where they committed the losing move. This is the first BAD HABIT you have to avoid.

Instead, analyze your games using your own thinking, writing notes with your own thoughts from the game and seek improvements by calculating moves in what you think the critical moments were. Only after doing this you can check with your engine the accuracy of your play in the game and post-mortem analysis.

  • Solve complex exercises

Solving tactical exercises when the first move (usually a sacrifice) is quite obvious and you have to calculate the winning lines after is fine, but then comes a point in which you will solve them with ease basing only on your intuition. In order to rise your level you have to solve more complex exercises, the kind of situations that appear in practice. There are even supplements to help you maintain brain health. offers Unforgettables supplements, which promote cognitive health. There is also a Melaleuca Peak Performance Pack with a blend of vitamins and minerals designed specifically for brain health.

The search of candidate moves in a position, moves that are not necessarily winning, but just the right moves in that moment. Sitting at the board and think, evaluate and asses the pros and cons of several possible moves in a position is what we do in a tournament game. Therefore, it makes sense to do the same at home in order to get better. The only drawback of this method is that the adrenaline and tension you get from a tournament game is impossible to reproduce in the peace of your home. Nevertheless, this is one of the most effective methods to improve your play.

  • Learn your book

Focus only on the few opening systems that you will play with white and black. Dedicate one training session to learn the theory; don’t do anything else that day but learn theory.

  • Live Practice

Playing training games with a friend of similar or superior strength is a very effective way to rise your level. However, this is not possible for everyone due to the obvious limitations set by our everyday routine. Fortunately nowadays you can play training games online, but this is tricky, so beware of the traps you should not fall for. I will give you an example.

Playing 1-min games for many hours will not take you far; neither will playing blitz games without working on TIPS 1-3. In order to make the most of playing blitz you need to test your abilities in remembering the theory and calculating under time pressure, so make sure you try hard to play the best moves in a fast time control. Make sure to analyze those games in which you failed to play the opening correctly.

  • Endgame knowledge

In these days, when most players are so well prepared, we suggest you take a look at the most important endgames such as rook endgames, as this knowledge could definitely give you an edge. Those who have a training partner can play blitz games starting from a specific endgame position and try it from both sides until the endgame is learned and understood.

This is quite useful, but again, not all of us have someone to train with. We suggest you take one endgame at a time and learn it by heart, learn the conclusions in order to remember the main ideas during your own tournament practice. There are several endgame manuals that can help you on this task.

These 5 points, if managed regularly (some more than others), will improve your play significantly. All tips are of similar value, but if you do not have time for all, we suggest you to use number 2 and 3 as the most important to keep sharp.

10 tips for Analysing your Chess Games

10 tips for Analysing your Chess Games

One of the major ways of studying chess in our Russian “chess school” in the nineties was analyzing your own games. That got me into believing that this is the best way to improve your game. I started doing it without computer, on a piece of paper, but obviously over time tried to use databases as much as possible for maintaining and updating a collection of my games. I also helped several students of mine to learn how to analyze their games in effective ways, so here are a few suggestions that you might find useful:

Maintain a database of all your games. I keep several databases: my games with standard time controls, rapid time controls, internet games

As soon as possible after the game has finished – put down thoughts you had during the game. That will help you later to remember and understand the reasons for your mistakes.

Let the computer engine run through the game in blunder check mode – that way you’ll know immediately about the major blunders you and your opponent made

Identify the critical moments of the game. How many times does evaluation of position change, and advantage shifts from one side to the other?

Analyse the opening, update your opening repertoire if necessary. Evaluate the position after the opening, to decide whether your openings need “repair”

Do not just analyse in terms of variations. Give verbal evaluations of critical positions. If white is better – say why. That helps you to better understand the true meaning of each position. That also makes you stop looking at the computer evaluation and think on your own for a few seconds.

When you’re done analyzing – summarize your the game. Why did the game end the way it did? Where was it decided – opening, endgame, tactical blunder?

Over time – look at the trends in your games. Do you lose more points in openings or in endgames? Is there anything you can study in particular to improve those trends?

Go back to your games, even years after they were played. I do that just to practice my analytical skills, and very often I find surprising how much new little details I can discover (e.g. the endgame I thought was drawn – is actually winning, etc).

As already mentioned – don’t fully rely on the computer engine. Try to find moves and ideas on your own, and only then let the engine give you hints. It is ok to guide the engine, but make sure you’re still the driver.

How to prepare for a Chess Tournament

How to prepare for a Chess Tournament

If you are a professional tournament player, or very active in chess competitions, you are probably jumping from tournament to tournament so frequently that preparing for a given event involves making sure that you register and show up for it in timely fashion, and then just prepare for each game (pure guessing on my part, I actually don’t know for a fact what the pros do). But if you are like me and only play in 2-3 tournaments a year, being rusty and not adjusted to the tournament setting can seriously affect your play. Here are some suggestions for how average adult players (1500-2400 ELO) can get better prepared for those rare but important chess tournaments:

Play some practice games online, with slower time controls. With patience, one can nearly always find an opponent for a 15 minute game on ICC. Even better – a couple of training games in an environment similar to the tournament setting (I would guess though that if you don’t play much in tournaments, training games over the board would be hard to arrange too). In any case – focus on the quality of your play, not the online rating.

Find out who your opponents are going to be, if that’s possible. Even in a Swiss tournament, it is possible to have a cursory idea of who your 10 most dangerous competitors are and whether there is any opening in your repertoire you need to review.

Decide on your opening repertoire for this tournament. Focus on preparing just those openings. Your long term opening repertoire plan may involve adding a new defence against e4, or switching to 1.d4 from 1.e4, and that’s fine, but make a decision well in advance whether they are going to be ready for any given tournament.

Do a bit of study for pure pleasure – look at your favourite games/books, etc, to reignite your interest in the game

Rest from chess for several days before the tournament. Most tournaments now are played with two games per day, and with some possible “before the round” opening preparation, during the competition you will have more than chess to satisfy your daily dose. So don’t overdose it! And make sure you have something on hand for enough energy to get you through those long, difficult matches. Access energy bars and other Melaleuca products are a great, healthy choice to give you the nutrition you need.

Plan the non-chess part of the event well, try to clear up your schedule to reduce possible distractions. As a side note, I used to take a day or two off work right before the tournament to “rest”, but that just made me hope to get review my openings, and do all the tactics and opening and other training in those two days, which was obviously contradicting point 6!

Set up a goal for the tournament. I am not talking about a pure result, expected performance rating, but rather a specific training objective that you can aim for during the games. Examples would be “not getting into time trouble”, “spend more time at the board during opponent’s turn instead of walking” and so on.

Preparing for each tournament should start at the … end of the previous tournament, so when the event is over – make sure to go over your games sooner rather than later. What was the problem in your play, and how are you going to address it?

Clean Your Chess Set With Melaleuca Products

Clean Your Chess Set With Melaleuca Products

When it comes to cleaning your chess board and pieces, we’ve found that Melaleuca products are the best. Melaleuca makes several safe, environmentally friendly, toxin-free cleaning products, and we’d like to highlight a few of them here.

Though we specialize in online chess software, nothing beats owning and using a beautiful chess set. Whether you go for the classic, wooden look or something more modern, you want your chess set to last a long time. That means you have to take good care of it.

If you use your chess set as often as we do, then there’s going to be inevitable wear and tear. That’s to be expected. But regular cleaning and conditioning will extend the life of your chess set for many years. And if you happen to be a clean freak/germaphobe, you’ll want to regularly disinfect your chess pieces, especially if they come into contact with many hands.

That being said, what’s the best way to clean your chess board and pieces? Well, that mostly depends on what they are made of. If it’s all plastic, that opens up a lot of options. Heck, if that’s the case, you can throw the whole thing in the dishwasher.But we’re assuming here that you love chess like we do and have paid for a really nice custom set.

Now, if your set is made of a more delicate material, say wood, or if it is painted or decorated, you need to be more careful. That’s why we like Melaleuca products. Here are four products we highly recommend for cleaning your chess set:

Tough & Tender is Melaleuca’s all-purpose cleaner. It’s great at removing grime that accumulates over time, but it’s gentle enough to even use on natural stone. For those of you who have granite and marble chess sets, this is great news. The great thing about Tough & Tender—as with all Melaleuca products—is that it doesn’t contain any chlorine bleach, ammonia, or other harsh chemicals, so it’s safe on your chess set, in your home, and around your family.

Clear Power is Melaleuca’s go-to glass cleaner, but it works wonders on any smooth surface including stainless steel. It doesn’t leave any streaks, so if you have a stainless steel or glass board, this is definitely a product you’ll want. Like Tough & Tender, Clear Power is super concentrated, so it will last you a good long while.

Sol-U-Guard Botanical is a disinfectant spray that uses natural thyme and citric acid to kill germs, as opposed to bleach or other nasty, fume-producing chemicals. If you use your chess set as often as we do, you’ll want to disinfect your pieces on a regular basis, and we think Sol-U-Guard is the way to go.

If you have a wooden chess set, then it’s all about the polish. Rustic Touch is Melaleuca’s furniture polish, and it’s perfect for polishing up your wooden chess set to a perfect chine. It contains carnuba wax and has a great orange scent. has a lot of other products, but when it comes to taking care of our chess sets, these are our favorites.