by Bill Wall
Jacob Aagaard was born in Denmark on July 31, 1973 and later moved to Glasgow, Scotland.
In 1985, at the age of 12, Jacob learned how to play chess.
At age 16, he was the champion of his local chess club in Denmark.
In March 1997, he was awarded the International Master title.
He studied languages at the University of Copenhagen and Cognitive Semiotics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.
In 2004, he co-founded Quality Chess publishing.
In 2004, he took 2nd place in the 111th Scottish Chess Championship.
In 2005, he took 1st place in the 112th Scottish Chess Champion, but the title went to Craig Pritchett since Aagaard was not yet a British citizen.
In 2006, he was in a blitz play-off for the Danish Championship, but lost his game to Steffen Pedersen and went from 1st place to 6th place.
In 2006, he represented Scotland as Board 4 in the Chess Olympiad.
In 2007, he won the 94th British Chess Championship. He was awarded the title of International Grandmaster in 2005.
In 2008, he represented Scotland as Board 2 in the Chess Olympiad.
In 2010, he reached his highest Elo rating: 2538.
In 2010, Aagaard changed back to the Danish Chess Federation after some disappointments with chess Scotland (but not with the players).
In 2011, he was awarded the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. He also won the FIDE trainer’s Isaac Boleslavsky prize for best author.
In 2012, he won the Scottish Championship on tiebreaks with 7 points out of 9. The event was held at the Trades Hall in Glasgow. Aagaard was eligible for the title by virtue of residency in Scotland. In the final round for the Scottish title, he defeated GM Mark Hebden with the Scotch Opening.
His peak rating was 2538 in 2009. In January 2015, his rating was 2521.
Aagaard is one of the best chess trainers in the world. Here is some of his chess advice:
Spend 20 minutes a day on solving chess problems. Try to do that 4 to 6 times a week.
Write down your solutions of a chess position or problem before you check them out. Distrust what you first see. Do not write long essays, but write the move you want to play and the one or two key points (tactical, better position, threat, etc). Write down what you think reasonable quickly.
There is no “best” material or book. Take any chess book off your shelf. You do not have to buy a new book (except buying any of Aagaard’s books wouldn’t hurt).
Do not get burned out. Don’t tackle more than you can do. Don’t try to start out with 2 hours of study every day. It is all about setting moderately challenging targets for long term change.
Ask yourself three questions after every move. Where are the weaknesses? Which are the worst-placed pieces? What is your opponent’s idea?
Good chess comes from calculation, opening preparation and good intuition.
To make chess practical, make it simple. Ask yourself, what am I looking for in this position?
Write down the chess mistakes you make, and when you repeat them, write it down as well.
99% of all positions contain a multitude of ideas, but look for the one that you should take most seriously.
At the end of the day, chess is about solving one problem only: What should I play on the next move?
Nothing will bring you greater success than analyzing the position.
Throw away your nine-step thinking algorithms and forget about the tree of analysis.
Study traps. They are entertaining as well as instructive. When everything else has failed, try to read your opponent’s mind and see how you can get him to make a mistake. It will not work every time, but it can be a really useful skill to turn to.
Calculation is only a tool to aid in the decision-making process. The most important aspects of calculation are concentration and determination.
At the chess board, it is not important what we see, only what we play.
Making better decisions is what improving in chess is all about.
Improvement starts at the end of your comfort zone.
All successful training systems are based on incremental improvement, which take some time and effort.
No chess teacher can promise you the grandmaster title; you need a crooked organizer for that.
It is very rare that new combinations are played. Almost all combinations are based on well-known patterns. You need to spend a significant amount of time solving combinations.
The ability to focus on your opponent’s intentions, offensive or defensive, is essential for success in chess.
At times, it is essential to look for what is wrong with a move to a greater extent than what is good about it.
Ask yourself, what am I trying to achieve in the chess position? If you do not have a clear answer to this question, then this is the first thing to sort out. Make sure you have clearly defined your aim.
Calculate forcing moves first. You will learn more about the position this way, as well as satisfy the natural curiosity we all possess. Also, these lines tend to be easier to calculate than lines involving quiet moves.
Chess is about effective decision-making. Effective means quick. Only analyze necessary variations. Calculate slower. It saves time. It is quality over quantity. Make sure that you are calculating the right variations.
Don’t think about decisions that you need to make in the future.
Calculate only what you have to. Always consider whether or not it is necessary to calculate a variation deeply before doing so.
Calculate only until you can make a definite conclusion. It is bonkers to spend your precious time going deeper.
Calculate half a move longer. Make it a habit to look for candidates for a brief moment to avoid nasty surprises.
“New ideas at the start of a variation are a good deal more important than refinements at the end of it.” – Mark Dvoretsky
Don’t let your thoughts skip from one line to another and back several times over.
When you have made up your mind, execute your move. This prevents time trouble later on and later choosing moves inferior to your first decision.
Seek clear simple solutions in winning positions, and look for the opposite in lost positions.
Exposure to a great variety of chess positions is useful, but only if there is some sort of high quality interpretation as well.
People who analyze with computer tools without ever doubting them have a tendency to decline in playing strength and become frustrated.
Most tournament games are not won by superior calculation or imaginary power, but rather due to superior understanding of the very basics of the game.
Most games are decided on a superiority in the understanding of positional play.
In the endgame, the king can play actively play as a piece and only seldom will it be threatened with mate.
The main difference between the middlegame and the endgame is the absence of queens and the absence of consistent mating threats.
Keep your strongest piece active.
The rook should always be active as the governing principle of the rook endgame.
Pieces should be activated in descending order. This means queen before rook, rook before king, and king before minor pieces.
Good endgame technique requires the ability to think schematically. This means being able to search for specific positions or placements of the pieces in a given position, and then try to reach them by means of calculation.
An advantage does not have to be decisive in order to win.
The choice of moves should not be made on an exact verdict of the final position, but on whether or not your position has improved or worsened.
As an author, he has written or co-written:
Easy Guide to the Panov-Botvinnik Attack (1998)
Easy Guide to the Sveshnikov Sicilian (2000)
Easy Guide to the Sicilian Kalashnikov (2000)
Excelling at Chess (2001) (winner of the 2002 ChessCafe book of the year)
Dutch Stonewall (2002)
Queen’s Indian Defence (2002)
Meeting 1.d4 (2002)
Excelling at Positional Chess (2003)
Chess Software Users Guide (2003)
Excelling at Chess Calculation (2004)
Excelling at Combinational Play (2004)
Excelling at Technical Chess (2004)
Starting Out: The Gruenfeld Defence (2004)
Learn to Identify and Exploit Tactical Chances (2004)
Experts vs. the Sicilian (2004 and 2006)
Inside the Chess Mind (2004)
Practical Chess Defence (2006)
The Attacking Manual: Basic Principles (2008)
The Attacking Manual 2: Technique and Praxis (2008)
The Attacking Manual I and II (2010) (winner of the English Chess Federation (ECF) and Guardian Book of the Year awards)
Experts on the Anti-Sicilian (2011)
The Tarrasch Defence (2011)
Grandmaster vs. Amateur (2011)
Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation (2012)
Grandmaster Preparation – Positional Play (2012)
Grandmaster Preparation – Strategic Play (2013)
Grandmaster Preparation – Attack and Defence (2013)