“Chess cannot be taught. Chess can only be learned.” – Mikhail Botvinnik

A strange thing to say from the famed head of “the Botvinnik School”, members of which included Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik. 4 World Champions – one teaching, three learning – and yet “Chess cannot be taught”?

Kasparov Botvinnik


Chess instruction, whether from a personal coach or from a chess book, can be very useful as long as it’s seen for what it is: a guide.

Chess improvers can absorb all the theory they can get their hands on but as long as the theory stays as just a series of words that the student repeats is not useful. Good (useful) information needs to be understood and applied.

It is the change in behaviour, theory that is reflected in our chess moves and plans, that demonstrates true knowledge.

By all means, take in all the theory and ideas that you can, but take the time to practice it. Set up positions on the chess board and practice until you “get it”, really get it.

“The amateur practises until he gets it right. The master practises until he can’t get it wrong”.

A classic example in chess is that of training tactics. The player attempts a tactic, gets it wrong and checks the solution.

“Ah, I see it now”

But do they? Will they get all similar tactics correct? Will they spot them in their games?

How do you think they will perform versus the player who creates a set of similar tactics and practises them over and over?

Or in the review of a player’s games. Getting the chess computer to analyse it and point out that 24. Nxd4 was a mistake is not going to help much. Working out why and practising your new idea until it becomes natural and the obvious move that jumps out of you in similar positions will help… a lot.

So go through your chess books, jump between them all you like as long as you practice what you read until it becomes truly learned, until you find yourself doing it, everytime.
It is this work on yourself that changes you, your play and your results.earned, until it’s as natural and obvious as a back-rank mate.

Remember, you don’t know until you do.

One thought on “Chess Training: You don’t know until you do”

  • Jack Didact says :

    Interesting play on words. Learn or teach. Teach or learn. It’s all the same. Of course Botvinnik taught his wards. And of course they learned from him.

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