Is it possible to learn to play chess online against computer opponents? Some players dislike the style with which computers play chess, but there is no doubting the tactical strength of their play. Players under 2000 Elo stand to learn a great deal by improving their tactical awareness and this is definitely an area in which a computer can help. The other significant area in which a computer can help players improve is in their level of concentration. Chess games between human players at low skill levels are often dominated by blunders that are easily avoided once a player learns to concentrate. Chess computers are relentless and can be set to play at a constant level – thereby punishing mistakes of a lax player and encouraging improvement in concentration.
Grand Masters Use Computer Chess Programs
Top level players use chess software to assist in their chess analysis. If this is a solution for world-class chess grand masters then surely there is a use for chess software to also improve the games of players of lower ability also? While world class players may use complex and expensive clusters of many computers to enhance the speed of their analysis these resources are unlikely to be available to an ordinary player. What is available though is a multitude of chess engines, many of which are free, that are arguably stronger than any human chess Grandmaster. Such instruction and guidance would cost a lot of money if it was provided by a human instructor, yet a computer program can offer this for free.
Memorising Openings by Rote is Unproductive
Many beginners make the mistake of trying to improve their game by attempting to memorise openings, arguing that they suffer a tactical disadvantage early in the game from which they never recover. Analysis by an unbiased source, such as a chess program, will expose this as a fallacy in the majority of cases. At low levels of chess skill a player will have reasonable results by merely adhering to sound opening development theory, rather than spending time learning a particular opening by rote. After all, if they are playing against opponents of similar level, their opponent is very unlikely to play many of the normal “book moves” anyway. Surely it is far better to develop sharp tactical awareness and good concentration skills that will serve you well in almost any position you may come across.
Over the coming weeks and months, it is my intention to show how computer chess engines, when used appropriately, can contribute to a rapid increase in playing strength for players below the level of an International Master (IM).