Studying Chess with a Partner
When planning how to train, it is essential to know all the most efficient techniques. One can often hear the question: “Do you study chess on your own, or with a coach?” This leaves us under the impression that there are only two possible options. Today we will discuss a third one – training with a partner.
Your chess partner should be of about the same level as yourself. Living nearby and having the opportunity to meet each other regularly is a clear advantage. It is also important to get along with each other well in order to maintain a positive atmosphere during the training sessions. The process goes like this: you get together and, via self-diagnosis, a brain storm or following a coach’s advice, pinpoint your weaknesses. Then you come to an agreement about the schedule of your training sessions that can be held “in real life” or via Skype, and get going.
The most popular option is playing training games or critical positions followed by analyzing them together. By comparing your judgments and emotions with those of your opponent and then verifying them using a chess engine, you improve your understanding of chess and get to see the game from a different perspective. This approach is especially beneficial if your chess styles are of different nature: one would be willing to attack, while the other will be considering pawn weaknesses, etc. The truth will be somewhere in the golden middle.
So, the main pros of training with a partner are:
1) Increased motivation. Competition between you will help both improve in chess. It is important to choose a partner not only with a similar level, but with a more or less similar potential. Otherwise, if one of you quickly gets ahead by 100-200 rating points, your partnership may become less mutually beneficial, too one-sided.
2) Consistency. One of the critical problems that many chess players face is lack of consistency. A short period of desire for playing and studying chess is followed by laziness and lack of interest. A partner will remind you about the goals and schedule and won’t let you skip a chess “workout”. Or, on another occasion, you will come to his rescue in a similar fashion.
3) Saving money. Many people can’t afford hiring a top-notch chess coach. When you cooperate with a partner, you don’t have to pay anything, but the effect is quite positive.
4) Synergy. The stronger both of you are and the larger the difference in your styles, the more you will help each other in terms of becoming more well-rounded players. Starting from exchanging opinions on certain lines and up to general evaluation of positions.
Of course, nothing in the world is perfect, so there are also some caveats:
1) A partner is not a coach. While an experienced and highly qualified coach should be able to diagnose your weaknesses and offer solutions for mitigating them, your partner will hardly be able to ensure that. He won’t be teaching you, rather, you will both be learning by doing.
2) Finding a good partner is not an easy task. As far as I know, there are no dating agencies for chess players. If your friends don’t play chess, have a nasty character, or are not used to studying chess as much/little as yourself, you may have trouble finding a worthy candidate.
3) You save money, but. Yes, you don't have to pay a partner, but you won't be able to demand anything from him either. For example, let’s say you need to play a few training games to gain some experience in a new opening. If you have booked in advance a lesson with a chess coach, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, your partner might be happier spending the weekend with his family in the countryside instead of polishing your King’s Gambit. You will either have to find a replacement, or guilt-trip him.
As you have probably inferred yourself by now, training with a partner can be a productive addition to studying on your own or with a coach. After all, the more and the smarter you work on your chess, the higher are the results. Therefore, it’s not surprising that most male grandmasters create duos or even groups when studying chess. Sometimes, when I consult one of my seconds/coaches about a certain line, they phone their friends and provide me with state-of-the-art analysis. Alas, such cooperation is not typical of female top players. This may have to do with the fact that there are less top women than men, so they have to play virtually the same opponents over and over again; availability for studies of more experienced and knowledgeable male grandmasters; lack of “proprietary” analysis, etc.
When your brother/sister is also a chess player, searching for a partner is not an issue. Russia has the Kosintseva sisters rated about 2550 and aged 25-26. A younger example is the Baraeva sisters – they are 15 and about 2200. In the following recent game from the Polugaevsky Memorial I was to play against one of the younger sisters.