Ask Coach Jessica: Copying the Greats


Many of you have asked how to get better at chess. Besides practicing your tactics here, playing and analyzing your games, and not hanging pieces, here is my advice.

Copy! When is it OK to copy? Certainly not on a test, and definitely not your opponent while you're playing. But copying grandmasters, now there's a great idea! By, Mrs Jessica E Prescott (aka BoundingOwl).

First, find a GM you really like. Maybe you're from the same country, or he or she has broken a record (Sergey Karjakin is a great choice) or two (Magnus Carlsen can't be beat).

Then go to and see if there are any videos or articles about your famous player.

When you have a favorite player, your job is to learn all of his openings, tricks, and strategies. Hopefully, this is suited to your style of play (really that just means how you feel while you're playing: aggressive, defensive, crazy, solid, etc.).

GMs are flexible and do what the position requires of them, but some are more of one thing than another (Kasparov is notoriously aggressive, Tal loved to sacrifice, Karpov is solidly positional,...I feel Anand is truly an all-around good-at-everything player, etc.). What is your style?

(I like thin crust style)

Here is my hero: GM Judit Polgar from Hungary. She was a chess prodigy (rated 2555 at age 12!) and her sisters are also extremely strong chess players (GM Susan and IM Sofia). I read a funny story about her as a kid: she was woken from her bed and brought out to the training room to help her sisters solve a tricky chess puzzle. She showed them what to do and then was carried back to bed!

Judit, Susan, Sofia

When she was 15 she broke the world record at the time for the youngest grandmaster (besting Bobby Fischer by one month). She is also the strongest female chess player in history. At some point, maybe in your lifetime, there will not be a distinction between men and women chess players like this: the best woman player will not need to be announced as such. It will simply be best chess player. It is still a noteworthy achievement.

Judit is also a mom, and one day I hope you will be honored to know how amazing it is to be a mom and a serious, world-class chess player!

Here's a game she played where she beat Vishy Anand! This game is all about initiative, and Polgar's impressive push for wins using tactics where pieces go everywhere...

This opening is called the Sicilian Scheveningen.

Who are your favorites?