I am Gabor Balazs, a 29-year-old Hungarian FIDE Master, and a certified full-time chess coach. My top ELO is 2435. I have been playing chess for 22 years. I won the Hungarian Rapid Championship twice (U16 and U18). I won some strong other individual tournaments in Hungary (with over 2500 rating performance) but since I couldn’t play against enough foreigners I didn’t gain the International Master norms, so I’m still fighting for the IM title.
What Attracted You To The Game?
I started playing chess at the age of 7. My father taught me how to play it and I found the game quite interesting. I couldn’t beat him and it frustrated me (I always want to win!), so I started playing games against the computer to get better. One day I could beat my dad, I was really happy, it gave me a plus motivation, so my parents took me to a local club where I could learn from coaches. That was the beginning of my long journey…
your chess story
I improved a lot at my local club, I learned the basic strategies of the game, I read a lot of chess books in my spare time so I became better and better. At the age of 10, my parents hired an International Master coach, who taught me the higher level ideas of chess. I loved working with him but unfortunately, he had to move away, so we couldn’t continue working together (online coaching wasn’t popular at that time).
We found a Fide Master who also helped me a lot and I reached the 2000 rating level when I was 12. I got new International Master coaches who helped me to reach the 2400 rating level. In the meantime, I won the Hungarian Rapid Championship twice at my age group, so I could participate in a European Championship as well, where I beat a French Olympic Team member, Feller Sebastien (who finished the championship in the 2nd place!). It would be great to reach the IM title one day, but nowadays I’m very busy with teaching, I have more than 30 students over the world.
Who Is The Greatest Player Of All Time? Who Is You’re Favorite?
That’s a very difficult question to answer. Botvinnik’s style is close to my style, he had a brilliant positional understanding, I learnt a lot of middlegame plan from him. I’m amazed by Kasparov’s games, he was an undisputed champion, maybe the best of all time. I don’t have any favorites nowadays, I enjoy watching the best players’ games, all of them are unbelievable!
What Are The Benefits Of Playing Chess?
Chess has a lot of benefits. It improves your memory, logic, cognitive skills, problem-solving, and decision-making skills which you can utilize in life as well. It teaches you how to stand up after a failure and how to be strong even if the odds are against you. If you are a strong chess player you can travel all over the world, you can visit beautiful places, you can get to know different cultures and you can make lifelong friendships. E.g. my best friend is an International Master.
I would like to publish a book in the future, so I started working on that in recent months. I’m also planning on starting a blog on chess.com but I want to collect a lot of instructive material first and figure the exact structure out. My progress is quite slow with these projects because my students are the most important for me, so I rather create materials for them.
Children And chess
As a young chess player’s parent, the most important thing is patience. Parents shouldn’t put emotional pressure on their kids, in sport sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You have to learn from the losing games and parents shouldn’t decrease their child’s confidence by saying inappropriate words after a losing game. Parents need to support their kids and increase their self-esteem!
Is It Important To Have A Personal Coach?
Everybody is different, so that’s why there isn’t only one general way to learn. First of all, you have to discover your biggest weaknesses in the game and start working on them. The most effective way for that is analyzing your own games. Of course, if you are a beginner, you can’t do it efficiently because you don’t know too much about the game yet. There is a built-in engine on chess.com which can show you if a move is good or bad but the only problem that it can’t explain to you the plans, ideas behind the moves, so you won’t know why is it so good or bad.
You can learn from books or Youtube channels as well, and maybe you can find a lot of useful information there but these sources are mostly general things and not personalized at all. That’s why you need a good coach sooner or later if you really want to be better at chess. A good coach can help you with identifying your biggest weaknesses and explain everything, so you can leave your mistakes behind you. Of course, you won’t apply everything immediately, this is a learning process (like learning languages), but if you are persistent and enthusiastic, you will achieve your goals.
Openings You Recommend for bigenners
For beginners, I would recommend the simplest but logical openings, which are in line with the classical opening principles (fight for the centre, develop your minor pieces towards the centre, bring your king to a safe position, don’t make multiple moves with the same piece, etc.). As a beginner, it is not important to memorize moves, the most important thing is understanding the point of the moves and the ideas in the middlegame after the opening.
What are the most common mistakes that stop people from improving?
One of the most common mistakes that stop people from improving is the lack of the right study plan. If you want to improve in an efficient manner, you need to improve all of the important skills (openings, strategies, tactics, and endgames) at the same time. A lot of young players love playing too many online blitz games, which is really fun but this is not the right training method, and making fast decisions can become a bad habit in their games.
Another common mistake is participating in inappropriate tournaments. Parents enjoy their kid’s success, so they take them to easy tournaments where the chess player can get prizes but it is not useful for the improvement. The other case when the player participates in too difficult tournaments where he loses a lot of games which is harmful for his confidence and motivation. In my opinion, you need to play in tournaments where the vast majority is around your level or slightly better than you.
Are Computers killing The Game Of Chess?
In my opinion, computers are not killing but changing chess. At a higher level, if you are not so well prepared for the games, your odds are quite bad. If you use the engine well, you can learn wonderful ideas and tactical motifs. When I see an incredible line suggested by the engine, I always realize how beautiful chess is.
what are the major challenges you faced during your carrier?
I think the major challenge is how to handle a tournament situation. You have to control your nerves when there is huge pressure on you. You have to try to be calm even if you are playing for the ’National Champion’ title in the last round. The biggest problem in my chess career was my lack of confidence. That’s why I made a lot of draws when I was younger. I was scared of losing. You have to control your mind and close the negative things out and concentrate on positive things!
What is your training program, methods?
In my opinion, chess has 4 main territories (openings, strategies, tactics/combinations, and endgames). If you want to improve your game efficiently, you should improve all of these skills almost at the same time. That’s what my training program is based on. My students really like it because the lessons are not boring (we talk about more than one area within one lesson) and they feel the improvement in the longer run. Of course, there are always ups and downs but this is completely normal in everyone’s career.
what method do you prefer to analyze your games?
If I play at an OTB tournament, I analyze the game with my opponent after the game. When I’m at home alone, I analyze my game without an engine, I write everything down, and then I compare my lines with the engine’s lines. That’s an important process because you force yourself to think alone. You shouldn’t let the engine think instead of you exclusively.
Nowadays, there are a lot of fantastic chess books on the market, so it is almost impossible to list all of them here. I love teaching from Jeremy Silman’s How To Reassess Your Chess (4th edition) book, this is from totally beginners to 2100 level players, I can highly recommend it to everyone! I also like teaching my over 1800 students from Erik Kislik’s Applying Logic in Chess and Chess Logic in Practice books. Regarding the endgames, my favorite book is Mark Dvoretsky’s, Endgame Manual. I like John Nunn’s books as well, but as I said, there are other extremely useful chess books, too.
My favorite chess book is Jeremy Silman’s How To Reassess Your Chess (4th edition). I love teaching from this book and I experienced a huge improvement in my students’ games thanks to this book. It teaches you how to think logically in chess, what are the important factors when you want to evaluate a position, and try to find the best move. The book is based on different imbalances (superior minor piece, pawn structure, space, material, control of a key file, weak squares, lead in development, initiative, king safety, etc.).
If you want to be successful at chess, you need to be persistent and consistent in learning, but the most important thing is to always enjoy the game!