For many of us, the word “test” conjures up unpleasant memories of classroom examinations. Whether it’s the furious cramming that precedes the big day, the butterflies in the stomach and the dry mouth of the exam hall or the trepidation which accompanies opening the results, few people look on tests with any fondness.
Nonetheless, there is significant scientific evidence which demonstrates in no uncertain terms just how important testing is for retaining knowledge. It’s equally applicable to chess, as well; without regular testing periods to determine how far we have progressed, it’s impossible to put in place the appropriate steps for maximizing development and achieving our chess potential. Here are a handful of ways in which chess performance can be bolstered by testing.
The first few moves of any chess game can be instrumental in dictating which way the momentum swings for the rest of the game. Despite this, we rarely see tangible results from our opening gambits, with the resolution of the match following much later on. By this time, we’ve either forgotten our opening moves altogether or find it hard to discern how much of an effect they had.
By introducing a test element into our deployment of chess openings, it’s possible to access insights into just how sensible they were. This is true for both attacking and defending players, since the former will gain experience in putting their opponent on the back foot and the latter will understand how better to counteract certain gambits.
Much of the anxiety surrounding the word “test” comes from the pressures that are associated with it. Fail a high school exam and you might miss out on your college of choice; bombing tests at a later age can detrimentally impact your employment opportunities. Given that chess is, at its heart, a relaxing pastime, there are no such high stakes associated with testing your chess ability.
Instead, you can enjoy a relaxed environment for learning, testing and bettering your chess gameplay. In this kind of scenario, all answers (and moves) are beneficial – even wrong ones! That’s because every time you play an incorrect move, you have the opportunity to learn from your mistake and avoid it the next time.
Obtaining feedback is an important part of improving performance in many different environments, including the classroom, the workplace and the sports field. It’s also integral on the chessboard, since having someone point out where you went wrong can allow you to spot your errors and minimize the chance of them occurring again.
As such, both immediate and delayed feedback are great ways of gaining a better understanding about your current level of ability in chess and the directions you need to move in order to improve. By participating in regular tests, you can access insights on your game that simply aren’t possible when you only compete in individual matches and competitions with no feedback attached to them.
Don’t be afraid of the term “test” – embrace it instead! In a chess context, testing is one of the most effective ways of upping your game.