Monday, April 30, 2018

The Joy of Learning Chess: IM John Bartholomew and Chessable

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
-- Source unknown

As a chess enthusiast born and living in a city without chess clubs or chess events, I'm no more than a beginner even at 42. Yet, with a hunger to understand and improve at the game, I've been attempting the usual methods people like me attempt to keep myself motivated, to learn, and to play. While the usual books and videos did help intermittently and to a certain extent, inspiring at times, intimidating at others, beyond a certain point many of them began overwhelming my mind. Although I play chess only as a hobby, the attitude I have toward the understanding and improving has been anything but casual. With a couple of friends who play not being at hand most of the time, and expert coaches being either unavailable or just not affordable, I had no option but to accept what little resulted from playing rapid games against a couple of computer/mobile programs and on online websites.

Very recently, in one of my usual YouTube searches, I stumbled upon a chess fundamentals video by IM John Bartholomew. The presentation was unlike any other video I had ever watched. After introducing the basic concept of hanging pieces, IM John Bartholomew went on to provide a live demonstration of the concept in action. He went online and played a few 10/10 games against random opponents of a low rating range. As he played, he spoke his thoughts out clearly, keeping most of the discussion centered around the concept introduced, and how to take practical advantage of it. It actually felt like he was sitting right next to me in my room, playing online and explaining his moves. The clarity of his spoken thoughts was amazing. I was hooked.

Needless to say, I found other videos of his chess fundamentals series, which discussed other concepts such as quick development, active piece coordination, and so on, while gradually increasing the rating range he was playing against to demonstrate the specific concepts in action.

The simplicity and clarity of his thought process, and the effortless way in which his moves seem to flow, are a treat for an aspiring student/player. Each video in the series extends to about an hour of no-nonsense coaching with at least 5 (and often more) full live games per video, easily totaling to more than 7 hours of free, almost interactive, learning material. But that's not all! His channel also has another series of videos called "climbing the rating ladder", which follows pretty much the same format.

Another thing I want to share here is that through one of his videos I also got to know about a PC/Mobile friendly chess training website called Chessable. The site uses an experiential learning methodology based on spaced repetitions. Many books (earlier published in print) have been converted to their unique electronic format, supported by MoveTrainer, so people can learn actively. Many books have also been enhanced with synced videos, which is yet another unique and novel concept (at least as of this writing I had not heard of any other learning website offering video-synced learning material). The site supports both free as well as paid membership, and hosts both free as well as paid study materials. And I say without any reservations that even the free material they offer is of extremely high quality, with lots of move comments and explanations, and quite well suited for self-study at ones own pace.

Watching John's videos, and training a few variations on Chessable is now an addiction, and I'm enjoying it very much. At 42, after much seeking, I believe my teacher has appeared.

If you're an aspiring student/player of chess, and you are reading this, I earnestly encourage you to take the plunge into the YouTube channel of IM John Bartholomew, and to join Chessable today. You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain. Perhaps you may find that your teacher has appeared too.

I wish to assert here that neither IM John Bartholomew nor the creators of Chessable have ever approached me to write a post about them or their offerings. Nor have they asked me to review their work on my blog. I have created and published this post entirely of my own free will, only to share information, which I think may help my readers as it helped me, and I expect nothing in return from any party. 

Many thanks.
Pradeep K.

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