Table of contents

  • I think I've noticed that Knights are better than bishops at the beginning of the game when there are a lot of pieces in the way, but they aren't as useful at the end of a game when there's a lot of open space. This one time I was playing a computer and I had taken two of its bishops and one of its knights, and it had taken one of my bishops and two of my knights, so I made a conscious decision to start trading pawns to open up the board and give my bishop more space to move around. I ended up winning the game!

  • I have a strong feeling there may be a connection between the "seeing one step ahead of your opponent" in chess and the way that comedy works by being one step ahead of your audience.



Interesting game analysis

Reviews of Chess

  • YouTube - Shut Up & Sit Down - Nine Easy Ways to Make Chess Fun

    • Summary: Playing chess is a bummer. It’s frequently devoid of surprise, charm, and reward. It’s a combination of two things: hard calculation of the state of the board, and a cruel fight to the death. If you and your opponent aren’t well-matched, the lower ranked person doesn’t have any chance at winning. He doesn’t feel “enlarged” in the same way as when he plays Go. When he plays chess, he feels like either he or his opponent had a horrible time slowly getting suffocated.


  • Wikipedia - Chess variants


  • YouTube - Shut Up & Sit Down - Nine Easy Ways to Make Chess Fun

    • They show

    • My impression is that he likes variants because it cuts down on the memorization advantage that people have when they’ve played a lot of chess already. If both people are new to the variation then it’s just about who can calculate better. And the variation makes players focus more on the experience/story that’s unfolding than about who is winning. He says he doesn’t feel as bad when he loses. He doesn’t feel like it’s the “IQ test” that normal chess has come to be seen as. “It no longer feels like me and my opponent are stoically weighing our chessticles to determine once and for all who is the better human.”

    • Asymmetric variants:

      • Peasant revolt - One player has all their pawns and their king, the other player has the knights and bishops and their king.

      • Horde chess - One player has 36 pawns (no king), the other player has their normal chess setup.

      • Monster chess - White has four pawns and the king, black has the normal setup. For every move black makes, white can move twice.

    • Atomic chess - When a piece dies, all other pieces within 1 square also die. Games are over very quickly.

    • Stealth bomber chess - Like atomic chess but players write down which pieces will explode before the game starts.

    • Rifle chess - Like normal chess but pieces don’t move when they take another piece.

    • Alice chess - Like normal chess (normally played on two boards but can be played on two half-boards) but when a piece captures another piece, it moves to the other board, and only comes back when it moves again. Moves between boards are only legal if the space on the other board is empty.

    • Bughouse chess - Played with four people (two teams of two) and two boards. Any pieces you capture can be brought on by your teammate as reinforcements.

    • Synchronistic chess - Both players decide on their move at the same time and make their move at the same time. So it’s like the WEGO system in Combat Mission.

    • 5D chess (the computer game)

    • Chesh (iOS only) - You don’t know what any of the pieces do, and can only find out by trying to move them. But once you commit to moving a piece (revealing its available moves) you have to move it, even if that means killing one of your own pieces.

    • Really Bad Chess (mobile) - Normal rules of chess, you play against AI, but both players have scrambled setups. When you start, you have better pieces than the AI, but as you rank up, the quality of the pieces goes more in the favor of the AI.

Regular chess

Criticisms of regular chess

  • Bobby Fischer talking about how regular chess has become about memorizing openings:


    • Interviewer: ...About the chess masters...over the past century, who do you think is the greatest? Apart from yourself, of course, I don't know about your own estimate of yourself, but...I'll be honest.

      Fischer: Well, chess, you much depends on opening theory, so the champions of say the last century, I mean the century before last, they didn't know nearly as much as, say, I do and other players know about opening theory. So, if you just brought them back from the dead and they played cold, they wouldn't do well, because they'd get bad openings...or they might not do too well. But of course, if they learned the openings, which they would very point is you cannot compare the playing strength. You can only talk about natural ability, cuz now there's so much more opening theory, so much more memorization. Memorization is enormously powerful! So I mean, some kid of fourteen today, or even younger, could get the opening advantage against Capablanca or especially against the players of the previous century, like Morphy and you definitely get the opening advantage, easily! And maybe they'd still be able to outplay the young kid of today, but maybe not, because now it is when you get the opening advantage, not only do you get the opening advantage, but you know how to play the opening advantage. They have so many examples of what to do from this position. So it's really deadly, it's very deadly. That's why I don't like chess anymore.


Criticisms of Blitz


The decision process

Four-player chess


My thoughts

  • Players go after hanging pieces, so your best bet is to not leave your valuable pieces exposed, and to try to move your pieces as little as possible so that you can spend more time making sure you aren't leaving something hanging.

    • It's actually kind of similar to dice wars in that the best strategy I found in dice wars was to start out with a very small but very strongly-defended territory, and then only to expand in such a way that none of the other players will want to attack you. And in this game you want to do the same thing: keep your position totally locked down and undesirable to attack.

  • I won my first game by moving each pawn forward one square at a time in the middle and queenside, castling kingside, and then just getting that line of pawns up the queenside. IIRC I moved my queenside knight to the kingside to protect the pawn in front of where the rook starts. None of the other players wanted to attack any of my pieces because they were all defended. I was able to queen two pawns, and as soon as I queened each one I would retreat it back into my "base". I refrained from attacking other players because I didn't want them to be thinking about me.

  • Keep an eye on your clock, because it's surprisingly easy to not notice that it switched to your turn.


  • 2017.10.07 - YouTube - - GM Jon Ludvig Hammer Tries Four Player Chess

    • This was pretty entertaining to watch.

    • When he won, he'd been in "last" the entire game and then dominated once it was down to two people.

    • He lost once on time, because he didn't notice it was his turn.

    • He lost another game where he got into a three-way equal-footing battle with the other two last remaining players, and he left his king exposed on his first rank, and one of the players sent a rook down and checked the king, and then another of the players took his exposed queen.





Learning to play better


My advice

  1. Play blitz games (5 mins per side to make all their moves). It's way more fun. It reminds me of Counter-Strike's short rounds, because you get a mix of lost matches and won matches, so even if you're losing in a particular match, you can just try again quickly and there's a good chance you'll win the next one.

  2. Use to play other people - their matching system is great, so if you're really bad when you start out then within a few games you'll be playing against people at your level (the first few games will be painful to lose over and over).

  3. Follow the advice in Reuben Fine's 30 rules of chess.

  4. If you can motivate yourself to do it, follow the advice in the '400 Points in 400 Days' article. Do the chess-vision exercises.

  5. If you can motivate yourself to do it, use for chess exercises. I find it a nice change from games.


  • Online chess boards for sketching positions

  • ChessTempo

  • Wikipedia - Tempo (Chess)

  • Wikipedia - Zugzwang (Chess)

  • Steinitz's Theory (Source)

    1. At the beginning of the game, Black and White are equal.

    2. The game will stay equal with correct play on both sides.

    3. You can only win by your opponent's mistake.

    4. Any attack launched in an equal position will not succeed, and the attacker will suffer.

    5. You should not attack until an advantage is obtained.

    6. When equal, do not seek to attack, but instead, try to secure an advantage.

    7. Once you have an advantage, attack or you will lose it.

  • How to find a master class move: (Source)

    1. Memorize the 30 rules of chess until they are in your subconscious.

    2. Bring both center pawns two steps forward. Mobilize pieces on the castling flank. Castle. Mobilize other flank. Connect your rooks and place one on an open or half-open file.

    3. Identify opponent's threat; focus only on size of threat. Now try to threaten something bigger or at least the same size, in this order:

      1. Find the most aggressive available move (50%);

      2. Bring up the most new force (25%);

      3. Try to conform to the 30 rules of chess (12.5%);

      4. Try to get better control over the center (12.5%).

    4. For each candidate move, calculate three half-moves ahead + two more for evaluating that position. (Practice solving diagrams)

    5. How to find the best move after you've tried twice based on natural instinct and experience. Starting with the biggest piece, examine all check (first forward, then laterally, then to the rear) Next, do the same with lesser pieces in order of rank, i.e., Q, R, B, N, pawns and, lastly, the King.

      1. Next, try all captures (same routine)

      2. Next, look at all checks in two.

      3. Finally, calculate all captures in two.

    6. If there are no good tactics, then bring up more force.



400 Points in 400 Days - Part 1 ... Part_1.pdf


Shortcomings of Standard Chess Instruction:

1. Chess knowledge is not the same as chess ability.

• When I was researching chess coaches, one comment I heard again and again from students was: “I have been studying openings, endgames, middlegames, weak squares, knight outposts, etc. and feel that my understanding of the game has improved greatly.” I would always follow these statements with the question: “So, how much has your rating improved?” Time and again, students told me that their ratings had not improved in the three months, six months, or year since they had started their coaching. Why did these students’ ratings fail to improve? Class players who spend their time on openings, middlegame strategy, and endgames are doing an excellent job of increasing their chess knowledge, but they are not increasing their chess ability. For a class player to study openings, middlegame strategy, and endgames as a way of increasing chess ability (as opposed to chess knowledge) is the equivalent of fixing a car that doesn’t have an engine by polishing the exterior: the car looks better, but it still doesn’t go. A Class-player’s chess ability is limited first and foremost by a lack of tactical ability. As GM Jonathan Levitt wrote, in a recent article, “At lower levels of play...tactical awareness (or a lack of it) usually decides the outcome of the game.” [Nathan: This is making me wonder if spending time reading books about entrepreneurship may actually be holding me back from making more progress, because I could be spending my time in much more effective ways.]

• You can perform an experiment with any chess-playing program: create two personalities, one without any positional knowledge (no opening book, no understanding of pawn structure, etc.) and with the maximum tactical knowledge and the other with the maximum positional knowledge but no tactical knowledge. When these two personalities play against each other, the tactical personality will win every game.You can refine this experiment further by creating two personalities, one that can see three moves ahead but has no positional knowledge and the other that can see two moves ahead and has complete positional knowledge. The tactical personality, which can see three moves ahead, will win the vast majority of the games. This is a key lesson: all of the positional knowledge in the world is worth less than the ability to see one move [further ahead than your opponent].

2. GM instruction is sub-optimal at the class level.

• GM’s, however, have two characteristics that make it difficult for them to communicate effectively with adult class players.

• First, almost all GMs were master-level players by the time they became adults. A corollary to this fact is that virtually no GM has experienced rapid chess development as an adult player.

• Second, GM’s are so far removed in playing strength from class players that their advice is often misguided. For the same reason that a university mathematics professor will probably not be able to teach addition as well as a first grade teacher, a GM will probably not be able to teach the basics of chess as effectively as a pedagogically inclined player who is much weaker.

3. Quick fixes work at the class level.

• Strong chess players like to talk about the many years of dedication and hard work that are required to become a master-level player. Unfortunately, they often confuse this hard and time-consuming path with the relatively small amount of work that most class players need to do to experience significant improvement in their playing ability.

The Study Plan
Once I understood the importance of studying tactics, I created a three-step plan for improving my tactical ability. If you are an adult class player and you follow this plan, I believe that you will experience an improvement in your rating similar to the one I experienced. The first step of the study plan involves exercises that pound very simple tactical notions into your brain. The second step, which I call Seven Circles, is to go through a set of about 1,000 tactical problems seven times over the course of 127 days. The third component is to learn how to integrate your newfound tactical ability into your OTB play. All three components require dedication. You should study every day even if you are sick, are traveling, or are playing in a tournament.

400 Points in 400 Days - Part 2 ... Part_2.pdf

How to Get Good at Chess, Fast ... hess-fast/


I did two types of tactics training. The first was “Chess Vision” and “Knight Sight” exercises, as described in this article. They may sound stupid, but they work. I did these exercises every day for two weeks initially, and then would do them the day of a tournament and once in a while as a refresher.

My primary method of tactics training was using Chess Tactics for Beginners, which is absolutely fantastic. If you only buy one thing to help your chess game, this should be it. I did 50 puzzles per day, every day, and once I finished the entire CD I repeated the process six more times.Online tactics sites usually don’t cut it, because they aren’t structured so that you learn based off previous ideas and many don’t incorporate the pedagogical features of Chess Tactics for Beginners. Trust me, paying for CTB is worth it.
Chess psychology can be distilled to two simple rules:

1. Don’t ever be afraid of your opponent.

2. Fight as hard as you can until the game is over.

Simply following these rules will add hundreds of points to your rating.
The tl;dr of this training plan is: play a lot, analyze your games, and primarily study tactics. Your knowledge of openings, endgame, middlegame, etc. will come from analyzing your games and going over grandmaster games. Only study one of those specific topics if it is clear you are specifically losing because of that topic.

Chess Engines

Specific engines

Articles / Videos

  • Quora - How exactly does a chess computer work?

  • 2010.03.01 - - Blog - How Computers Think in Chess

  • 2010.04 - 05 - - Blog - Creating a chess engine from scratch

  • 2011? - Simon Waters - (Trying to) Beat Chess Computers

  • 2013.03.26 - StackExchange - How do chess engines “think”?

  • 2015.08.27 - YouTube - TNG Tech Consulting GmbH - How do modern chess engines work?

    • What are chess engines?

      • They take a board state representation and output a move.

    • Stockfish

      • Reaches depth of 40+ in standard time controls.

      • One of the best engines (Komodo is topping Stockfish in some ratings lists)

      • It's free

      • It's open-source(!)

      • Go to to download it.

    • 3:12-4:45 - Quick demo of stockfish analyzing a game between carlsen and anand where carlsen made a blunder and anand missed it.

    • 5:00 - How do chess engines work?

      • Minimax: You think about you can do and how your opponent can respond to those moves.

      • He shows a minimax search tree.

    • - Negamax

    • -- We can exploit the zero-sum property of chess to reduce the number of things we need to search

    • - Minimax efficiency is O(b^d)

    • - Iterative deepening: You start at depth 1, when you finish you switch to a depth 2 search.

    • - Evaluation functions: It's a linear combination of features with weights.

    • - Advanced evaluation:

    • -- Tapered evaluation: You use a different function for the middlegame than for the endgame.

    • -- Bishop pair

    • -- Piece-Square tables

    • -- King safety

    • -- Mobility

    • -- Pawn structure

    • -- Rook on open file

    • 12:40 - The Horizon effect: Imagine the engine is about to lose a queen, but it is only searching to depth 5, so it sacrifices a rook to push the queen loss out of the horizon.

    • -- 13:40 - Solution: Quiescence Search - Where you would normally return the static evaluation, search positions that are interesting to more depth until it is "quiet".

    • 14:25 - Alpha-beta pruning: I didn't fully understand this.

    • -- It's considered 'backward pruning', as it does not influence the root value.

    • -- Values for other nodes are an upper or lower bound.

    • -- Better move ordering = more pruning.

    • 16:50 - Transposition tables: A way to speed up searches in a different way.

    • -- it's just caching your previous searches.

    • -- 18:30 - zobrist hashing is a way to speed up hashing.

    • 20:00 - Forward pruning techniques:

    • - null move pruning

    • - late move reductions

    • - futility pruning

    • 20:40 - Null move pruning

    • - Boxing analogy: You give your opponent a free shot, and if they don't knock you down, and you went to the trouble of hitting them, you probably would've won.

    • - Bringing the analogy back: Before doing a full search, you do a reduced search where it's the opponent's turn, and if the score is greater than some value, you don't need to search that subtree.

    • - This technique is fallible in zugzwang positions (where any move you take is bad).

    • 22:45 - Late Move Reductions

    • - Basically you search the first few (say, 4) moves at every node at full depth, and the rest at reduced depth.

    • 24:00 - Futility pruning - At frontier nodes, which are nodes before leaf nodes, call static evaluation, and add a futility margin.

    • 24:30 - Board representation: How should you do it?

    • A: Bitboards.

    • - Notice that there are 64 squares on a chess board.

    • - You can represent the position of each piece with a single ___

    • 26:30 - Popcount (Population count)

    • 27:45 - Recap

    • - Minimax

    • - Negamax

    • - Evaluation functions

    • - Alpha-beta

    • - Transposition tables

    • - Q-Search

    • - Search Selectivity

    • - Bitboards

    • 28:00 - Q: Why was Deep Blue only able to search to depth 8?

    • 31:00 - Q: What kind of hardware would Stockfish need to beat Kasparov in the '97 match?

    • - A: Any off-the-shelf hardware would do the job.

    • 32:00 - Nakamura played some games against Stockfish, but he had help (either with Stockfish down a pawn or with Nakamura using a computer for assistance).

    • 32:50 - Not covered:

    • - More search selectivity

    • - Parallel search

    • I stopped ~ 33:21

  • 2015.09.14 - MIT Tech Review - Deep Learning Machine Teaches Itself Chess in 72 Hours, Plays at International Master Level

Generalizable lessons / benefits from Chess


  • 2013.06 - Atlantic - Speed Chess Changed My Brain

    • I believe that the challenge of having to make some 40 moves in a three-minute game of speed chess actually trains your brain to think on a higher level. I'm convinced that the 80,000 fine decisions I made during the 2,000 games I played before the poker tournament enabled me to better recognize patterns of play and helped me win.

    • The game had improved my concentration so much that endeavors in other areas of my life that had once seemed difficult were suddenly easier. I shaved a minute off my mileage pace while training for my first 5K and held the "plank" push-up position for two minutes straight. I stopped letting myself get distracted by email and sailed through tedious work assignments. Not only had my success at blitz chess given me a confidence boost, it helped me develop mental and emotional endurance.

    • I stopped thinking of my chess addiction as goofing off, but an important part of my brain fitness regimen that deserved as much dedication as my physical exercise routine. Each morning at 9 a.m., I scheduled an hour of blitz chess. On days when I had work deadlines, I made it a point to fit in at least a couple games at lunch.

  • Go through the heuristics that people mention about chess and explain how they relate to other fields.

    • Fine's 30 rules

What Chess can teach you about life / other fields

  • If you play blitz, you may become more comfortable with the idea of making decisions under time pressure.

  • Blitz may lead you to feel less bad about making mistakes. Both you and your opponent make lots of mistakes in a scramble to try to make decisions quickly. It's exactly what Felix Dennis said: having the habit of making decisions quickly can lead to greater success than 'endless vacillation', even if it leads you to make some poor decisions.

  • You may learn to not focus solely on what others are prodding you about, but to also think about what other courses of action you could take that are totally unrelated to what these people are prodding you about. In other words, you may learn to not think in an overly reactive way, but to think both reactively and proactively at the same time.

    • Real life example: When you sit down at a dinner table with random people, the conversation tends to ramble all over the place, and most people are happy to just blab about whatever topic the group ends up on. Contrast that with the approach of thinking, "Are these people talking about something I'm interested in learning about? Should I direct the conversation onto another topic? Should I disengage from the conversation altogether?"

  • Beyond just getting comfortable with the idea of making decisions under time pressure, you gain a gut-level appreciation for the importance of making decisions quickly and allocating the proper amount of time to a decision based on its importance.

  • I found that after playing a few blitz games I was in a psychological mode of "do stuff quickly!" and was able to get other work done more quickly. It was almost like a kind of meditation.

  • It forces you to get comfortable accepting that you made a mistake.

  • Don't get cocky. Don't assume you're more insightful than others.

    • Later: Hmm...but Thiel definitely seems to have those habits, and they seem to have worked out well for him.

  • If you work hard you can make good progress.

  • Many activities in life can be broken into a "positioning" phase and an "execution" phase. Oftentimes people neglect the positioning phase.

  • "In all negotiations of difficulty, a man may not look to sow and reap at once; but must prepare business, and so ripen it by degrees." - Francis Bacon talking about negotiations, but it's also a huge lesson in chess.

  • The importance of pattern recognition.

  • The importance of deliberate practice.

  • If chess has several basic tactical patterns (the skewer, fork, pin, etc.), and the goal of new players should be to recognize when those situations are available, what would be the analog of that in the entrepreneurship / business world? And would other chess heuristics (eg castle early, control the center) be considered the same as the tactical patterns when searching for business analogies? Or would those heuristics map to a different set of behaviors in business / entrepreneurship?

    • Hmm...maybe an analogous ability in business / entrepreneurship would be recognizing that you have a promising opportunity in front of you, and knowing how to capitalize on it.

      • Example: You see the CEO of Apple at a local Starbucks, and you know how to walk up and pitch him in such a way that he wants to remain in touch with you.

  • If you can force your opponent to spend their time responding to things, you may be able to prevent them from getting other things done. (eg in chess the fork and skewer force the opponent to respond to a threat, preventing them from being able to defend the other piece)

  • Try to maximize your future options and you'll find "lucky" opportunities popping into your lap. In chess that means putting your pieces in positions where they attack as many squares as possible. In r/l that might mean saving money that you could later invest in things, or getting to know people who have bright futures, or promoting yourself

  • You learn to deal with the stress of a 1-on-1, zero-sum (life-or-death) situation. I've always had a lot of trouble dealing with these situations (eg I always found 1v1 Starcraft/Warcraft extremely stressful and never played it as a result)

  • You learn to get comfortable with the idea of paying attention to the big picture instead of getting stressed out about individual losses. When I first started to play chess I would try very hard to avoid ever losing a piece; I wanted to win without losing any pieces, or losing as few pieces as possible. Now I'm comfortable with the idea that I may lose almost all of my pieces on my way to victory.

  • Look for actions you can take that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously, or creates lots of opportunities / increases your options.

    • Examples

      • When Elon Musk is doing a media appearance for Tesla to advertise the product, that is also giving him additional credibility that he can use to advance SpaceX, and it's serving as advertising to potential employees for both those companies.

      • If you become well-known or move to the Valley and schmooze with people, you're increasing the number of options that you may have open to you in the future. You'll have more potential cofounders, etc.

How Chess is different from real life / other fields

  • Getting good at chess requires very specific pattern-recognition. Just because someone is good at recognizing the patterns in chess doesn't make them good at spotting the important patterns in other fields.

  • There exists an enormous body of history for chess players to learn from. Other fields may have a much-more-limited history of the steps taken by previous "players" (eg business biographies).

  • Deliberate practice is much easier in chess. It's easier to get immediate feedback.


  • 2017.01.31 - Played one game:

    • I was down, then up substantially, then blew it as I kept getting forked by the opponent's queen. I reviewed the computer analysis and saw that I missed a few mate-in-3s. It looks like my major mistakes were 1) not putting the king in check when I had the opportunity, and 2) not bringing up more force to corner the king when I had the opportunity. If I had spent more time looking for those kinds of opportunities, I think I likely would have won.

    • One thing I made a point to do was to manage my time. I was taking small steps with my queen-side pawns to put the time-pressure back on the other guy, and he made some blunders as a result. So that seemed to work, at least in this game.

  • 2018.04.11

    • - Just played a game where I swapped queens with my opponent at the very beginning, but it resulted in him having to move his king, so he didn't get to castle. I think it messed with his thinking because I ended up with a lot of material.