Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dec. 18th - A Chess Lecture with Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski

 Special Event 
Lecture Series with Chess Master
Lev Paciorkowski

Topic: The Spectator
Sponsored by the Community Chess Club of Rochester
December 18th, 2019 
Time: 5:00-6:30pm at the Rochester Chess Center

Free for CCCR members; $5 for non-members.  All are welcome!
Visitors should plan to arrive by 5pm. Please be seated for the lecture by 5:25pm. 

5pm-5:30pm: Free pizza for all who attend Lev Paciorkowski's chess lecture
5:30-6:30pm: Lecture (Introduction, Presentation, Q&A, Closing notes)
6:30pm: Registration for CCCR G/80d5 games (optional, following lecture)

The lecture will be video recorded and made available at a future date.

The Community Chess Club of Rochester (CCCR) is proud to present a chess lecture series at the Rochester Chess Center with Chess Master Lev Paciorkowski.

This will be Lev's fourth lecture in the CCCR Lecture Series. 

Lev is the #1 rated chess player in Rochester and a very accomplished chess player with many prestigious tournament victories.  Lev is attending Rochester Institute of Technology, and continues to play competitive chess.

The Community Chess Chess Club invites all club members and visitors to attend Lev's chess lecture and play a game of chess afterwards.  For more information, please contact the Chess Center at 585-442-2430, or better yet, why not stop by and visit us on a Wednesday night? The club is ready to answer your questions beginning at 6:30pm any Wednesday night.  We'd really like to introduce you to our chess club.

You are welcome to join us for The Community Chess Club's Annual Holiday Party
which begins immediately after the chess lecture!

Everyone is invited.  It is not required, but feel free to bring a dish or snack to share at the Holiday party.  Some treats will be provided by the Community Chess Club. 
Happy Holidays!

A Special Message from our friend Isay Golyak:

I spoke with Isay on Dec. 15th, and he is doing well.  Isay told me that he misses the Rochester Chess Center and all of his friends there.  Isay wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  

Chess Calendar:
  • The Winter Chess Camp Schedule: Dec. 23, 24, 26, 27, 30, 31 Christmas / New Year Break.  Sign-up at the Chess Center or call 585-442-2430!
  • There will be no CCCR chess on Wed. 12/25/19 and 1/1/20!  We WILL HAVE CHESS on Thursday night Dec. 26th 2019 and Thursday night January 2nd 2020!
  • There will be no "Wendy's Night" in December because it falls on Christmas.
  • A link to upcoming tournaments will be posted soon, so come back for details.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

My Games from the 2019 Seneca Lake Open

The 5th annual Seneca Lake Open was held on Saturday, November 16 in Geneva, NY. It was a quick four-round event with time control of G/60. My last round game in particular was especially entertaining.

Round 1

My first round was against one of our young talents from Rochester. Unfortunately, he started off on the wrong foot in the opening and things quickly went from bad to worse.

If black does not want to play a Tarrasch defense against the Catalan, he can still (after 4.g3) play 4. ... dxc4 (instead of 4. ... c5 immediately), and then after 5.Bg2 play 5. ... c5, which is actually one of the main lines that Grandmasters use with black.

Round 2

My second round game was also against a class A player. It was pretty sloppy as I completely missed some important tactical details, but had a neat finish in the end.

I actually remember almost playing 21. ... Nd3? in the middlegame but fortunately noticed the strong exchange sac in time - that's an instructive example of how a bishop can actually be stronger than a rook. That was a somewhat up and down game where white missed a big chance on move 12, but after that black got a nearly winning position by move 25 since white's pieces were so restricted.

Round 3

This game was another against a regular Rochester player who I also played a couple weeks ago in the club championship.

Black was doing fine in the opening, but went off the rails quickly with the berserk sacrifice on move 13.

Round 4

This was by far the most fun game I had over the weekend - my opponent played an old romantic line of the King's Gambit and his king staggered up to d3 before move 10!

White actually would have had a playable position with 7.Bxf4! 0-0-0 8.Ke3!? instead of 7.Kd3?! In the game white quickly got in trouble after my strong break 12. ... d5!, opening up the center. Definitely don't miss my note on move 3 - that game from the 1800s is a real treat!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Chess Camp and Special Events Calendar

Mon. Nov. 11: Veterans Day Chess Camp at the Rochester Chess Center. Register: 585-442-2430.

Wed. Nov 13: Community Chess Club Awards Night. Cake, Cookies, Apple Cider & Coffee will be served.

Sat. Nov 16: 5th Annual Seneca Lake Open. Ramada Plaza, Geneva, NY. 2 Sections. Open $1250 prizes and U1600 $750 prizes. EF $40, U18 $25. 4 Round Swiss, G60 d5. 1st Round 10am. Register at the Chess Center. Tournament director: Ron Lohrman.

Note: CCCR will have regular chess games on Wed. Nov. 27th which is the day before Thanksgiving. Registration for Wednesday chess is 6:30pm-7:15. Please be sure to call ahead at 585-442-2430 during the registration period if you think you may arrive later that 7:15pm.

Save the date: The 42nd Marchand Open will be held April 4&5 2020 at Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex (on the MCC Campus) 2700 Brighton Henrietta Town Line Rd, Rochester NY 14623. Details will be linked here soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Adam DeSantis Memorial Amateur Team Tournament

The Adam DeSantis Memorial Amateur Team Tournament was held at the Rochester Chess Center in Rochester, New York on Sunday, November 3, 2019.

This first Rochester Amateur Team Tournament held in memory of Adam DeSantis (aka "Mr. Chess") was a well-attended event with six four-person teams.  Four rounds were played at G/60 d5 time control.  The Kharroubi Team was unstoppable, and took first place with Clif on the top board, his son Aidan on second board, his daughter Arianna on third board, and Sathya Mandava on fourth board. The top team in the U1400 rating average class was The Nesci Team, with Matt Nesci on the top board, Oliver Valenti on second board, Ryan Beh on third board, and David Lusignan on fourth board. Awards for best performance on each board was as follows: On board one was Peter Craig, followed by a tie with Trevor Cohn (from Buffalo) and TJ Weaver on board two, Dale Janezic on board three, and Henry Swing on board four.  Ronald Lohrman was the TD and Organizer. Thank you to all the participants.  It was great to have out of town players participate!

Here is Adam DeSantis participating in a chess simultaneous event some years ago.
Adam passed away in 2017 and we are happy to have a chess tournament in his memory.

Team 1: Toby Rizzo, TJ Weaver, Dale Janezic, Henry Swing
Team 2: Clif Kharroubi, Aidan Kharroubi, Arianna Kharroubi, Sathya Mandava 
Team 3: Peter Craig, Trevor Cohn, Jim Attaya, Michael McDuffie
Team 4: David Phelps, Mike Lionti, Blaze Veljovski, Grant Glor
Team 5: Matt Nesci, Oliver Valenti, Ryan Beh, David Lusignan 
Team 6: Jamshed Ahmed, David Lain, Wayne Jarvis, Joe Sarratori

Coming Up Next:  Monday Nov. 11, 2019 - Veterans Day Chess Camp at the Rochester Chess Center.  Call 585-442-2430 to register.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Lev Paciorkowski wins the 2019 Club Championship!

Congratulations to 

Senior Master Lev Paciorkowksi
The 2019 Community Chess Club of Rochester Champion!

In the Final Round and last remaining game of the tournament, David Phelps (left) congratulates 
Senior Master Lev Paciorkowski on Lev's win in an exciting endgame. 
Lev has won the CCCR Championship Four Years in a row.  Oct. 30, 2019.

Awards Night 
will be held at the Rochester Chess Center 
on Wednesday, Nov. 13th, 2019 at 7:30pm. 
Please join us for the award ceremony.  Cake and coffee will be served.  The club's regularly scheduled chess games will follow the awards ceremony.
Click HERE for Photos taken at the Awards Night presentation on Nov. 13, 2019
A Special Thanks to Dan Burnside for taking these photos!

Congratulations to all the Award Winners!

1st Place: Lev Paciorkowski
2nd Place: Toby Rizzo
3rd Place: Peter Craig
4th Place: Henry Swing
5th Place: David Phelps

U2050: Jamshed Ahmed
U1750: Dan Burnside
U1650: Jan Tarwid
U1450: Tony O'Heron
U1250: Eugene Kehoe

Please scroll down to see Lev's coverage of the CCCR Championship!

Coming up: The Adam DeSantis Memorial Tournament, Sunday Nov. 3, 2019. Contact the Rochester Chess Center for information and to register. Click here for Details. 1st round Sunday is at 9:30am.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The 2019 CCCR Club Championship

Wednesday, October 2 marked the first round of the 2019 CCCR Club Championship! As usual, I will post my games here with commentary as the tournament goes. I will also try to feature other key games as the tournament progresses, especially any big upsets.

Round 1
In round one I had white against Dan Burnside. After a quick flash of tactics in the opening I emerged up an exchange in the ending:

In a big upset this round, Joshua Stevens won against Ken McBride - I managed to get a hold of that game as well:

Not a bad scalp for Josh! Such 500-point upsets are rare, but they do happen.

Round 2
Round two was held on October 9th, and the standings continue to narrow down. I played black against Jacob Snell:

Also this round, Toby conducted a nice attack against Hanan Dery, effectively demonstrating how to play the Closed Sicilian with white:

That was a convincing attack from white, but with more care in the opening black has nothing to fear against the Closed Sicilian! In particular look at my note on move 3.

Round 3
We saw the third round finish on October 16. There was plenty of excitement on the top boards with underdogs TJ Weaver and Toby Rizzo securing draws on boards 2 and 3, overcoming rating gaps of 250 and 150 points, respectively. On board 4, Jamshed won against Don Stubblebine.

My game against Peter Craig featured some interesting strategic decisions in the middlegame and then a tense finish under time pressure as I converted an extra piece in the endgame:

Here is the game from board 2 between TJ and Kharroubi:

A lucky escape for Clif - if white had decided to play on by taking on e6 the endgame looked hopeless down a pawn.

Round 4
Going into round 4, I was the only person with 3/3, so I played against the highest-rated 2.5/3, which was Clif. I was due black this game:

There were a few uneasy moments for me in the middlegame where white could have played bxc4 and opened the b-file, but after the critical turning point 18.g5? black was fully in control with 18. ... Rc8.

On board 2, Dave Phelps won with black against TJ, and Toby won with white against Jamshed on board 3. I have Toby's below - it was yet another brutal attack in the Closed Sicilian:

Ouch! Black was doing fairly well for most of the game up until his pieces strayed too far from the kingside, allowing Toby to crash through with a decisive attack.

Round 5
The final round of the 2019 Club Championship finished on October 30. There were many exciting encounters, including some big upsets. My own game against Dave Phelps was a well-fought struggle that went on until the bitter end:

Things were fairly balanced at first in that isolani middlegame, but 22. ... g5?! was a critical turning point after which the game started shifting in my favor. Still, several of my decisions can be criticized, especially 30.a5?

A funny thing to note - both of the critical turning points in my last two games were when my opponents played pawn to g5! Could this be a cursed square?

Definitely the most exciting event of this round was Henry's big upset over Clif Kharroubi:

Although black was nearly winning out of the opening, the queen sac with 22. ... Rad8? gave white newfound hope, and Henry played the long endgame well to convert, with both sides missing some tactical chances.

Also this round, Toby Rizzo won with black against Ken McBride to finish clear second with 4.5/5 points, and a master-level performance rating!

Here are the final standings:

Monday, October 7, 2019

Highlights, Photos & General Info about the 2019 CCCR Club Championship

Defending CCCR Club Champion Lev Paciorkowski vs Dan Burnside.
Round #1 Oct. 2, 2019 at the Rochester Chess Center.

Additional links and Information will be provided here covering 
the Community Chess Club of Rochester's 2019 Chess Club Championship.  
Also, check out Lev's blog post above for game analysis and additional content.

Thanks to TJ Weaver for collecting and entering many of the tournament games which will be featured very soon in our club's Game Database.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Summer Chess Camp and Upcoming Events in Rochester

Eligibility: Community Chess Club members must have played a minimum of 10 games since Oct. 31st, 2018 on separate Wednesday nights.  Join the club today!  Complete your 10-game minimum!  Entry fees ($25) accepted starting 8/14/19.
We will have rated games available for players unable to participate in the Club Championship.

Come on over to the Rochester Chess Center
 and make CHESS a part of your Life!
Joe Sarratori (above), our chess club's STRONGEST chess player!
Joe has won multiple weightlifting titles and continues to lift to stay strong!

Monday, August 19, 2019

My Games from the 2019 Continental Open

I recently played in the Continental Open, held in Massachusetts, where I got a chance to face some very strong players. I turned out to be in excellent form, and was even tied for first at one point with 4.5/6, but only scored half a point out of the last three rounds so finished with a less sparkling but still decent 5/9.

It was quite a strong field, with 12 GMs and 7 IMs out of 50 players. By FIDE rating I was squarely in the bottom half, so you know what that means for the first round pairings... (all the ratings listed in the games below are USCF, but pairings were done by FIDE rating)

Round 1
In round one I was up against GM Yaroslav Zherebukh - I lost, but was not unsatisfied with the way I played and definitely gave him a good fight!

To recap the crucial moments of that game:
  • Zherebukh drifted into a worse position with black out of the opening but still made the strong positional decision of 18. ... Bxc3! to at least give himself some counterplay.
  • My plan of 21.g4?! and 22.g5, although attractive, objectively threw away white's advantage. Correct was 21.Ng5!, removing black's strong centralized knight, when white maintains a better position. In the game, it was only until about move 26 that I realized I was no longer better.
  • Although complicated, the game was still roughly balanced until my time trouble errors of 35.Qxe4?! and 36.Ne5?

Round 2
After a tough first round, the next game was considerably easier - I played a young expert and although it was a long game, I was in control the whole time:

A smooth game; after white's positional error of 22.Bc2? instead of 22.dxe5, I got a nearly strategically winning position with 22. ... e4, having the bishop pair and more space.

Round 3
In round three I got white against quite a talented young expert who had previously just beaten a master. I checked out a couple of his games beforehand and saw he played the black side of the closed Spanish, so I switched to 1.e4 against him. We got a long maneuvering game where 32 moves were made before a single capture.

It's often hard to pinpoint exact mistakes for black in these kinds of games, but certainly 39. ... Rxf5! would have given more practical chances, although the position was difficult in any case.

Round 4
The next day was exhausting - both of my games went for six hours, but with a little luck I managed 1.5/2 against two IMs. Both encounters were absolutely nuts with many twists and turns. Round 4 was against the Zimbabwean Farai Mandizha:

In short, his 12.Qa1?! let me get a slight advantage which grew larger once he gave two pieces for a rook and pawn. But in the ensuing complications, I did not find all the best moves and ended up in a slightly worse ending which I held to a draw.

Round 5

Round 5 was against the young American IM Praveen Balakrishnan:

A fairly slow opening that went into a hanging pawns endgame, things were roughly balanced until I got away with 23.e4?! d4?! and started blockading the pawns. In time trouble things got complicated and he unfortunately blundered into a lost R vs. two minors ending, which itself was still complicated and we both missed another chance for black to draw there. In the end I just barely squeaked out a win with rook vs. a bunch of pawns.

Round 6
After being successful against IMs that day, I got to play two GMs the next day. If you thought my last two games were crazy, then just wait until you see my round 6 game against Alexander Stripunsky:

That was hands down one of the craziest tournament games of my life. The opening was rather peaceful, but my ambitious crazy approach of blasting open the position by creating so much pawn tension made things overwhelmingly complicated. Later in a difficult position with little time on the clock Stripunsky ultimately blundered a piece which lost the game.

Round 7
After that win I was actually briefly tied for first (!), and my USCF performance rating hit 2690, which I think is an all-time high for me. However, things slightly changed when the next round I got black against the #1 seed, Illya Nyzhnyk.

It's kind of unfortunate how I just walked into a sideline that he happened to know - he was actually still blitzing up until move 15 and for the whole game used just barely over 10 minutes on his clock.

Still, my 15. ... c5? was a horrendous blunder - without that black's position should still be holdable but in either case the entire variation starting from 7.Qf5! just looks unpleasant for black. Nyzhnyk is easily the strongest player I've ever played, but at least the loss was relatively quick and painless.

Round 8
After that, I was still at 4.5/7, but everything hinged on how well I did on the final day. I was getting a little fatigued by this point so my play got sloppy, but at least in round 8 I managed not to lose to GM Sergei Azarov:

Round 9
However, my last round was pretty bad - basically my careless play in the opening walked me into an unpleasant ending where I suffered a painful defeat.

I think I'm spotting a trend here - I absolutely hate defending worse endgames where I have no counterplay. I'm sure black can hold a draw after move 15 if he defends accurately, but I just self-destructed on move 28. I lost to Nyzhnyk in similar fashion after 15. ... c5?

In the end, I think I was just half a point shy of getting an IM norm, but even with that last round loss it was still a great result for me - my USCF performance was over 2550 and I gained about 20 points.

My next event will be the state championship in Albany over Labor Day weekend, where I will be trying to win for a second year in a row!

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Unorthodox Openings from Grandmaster Games

When you ask most chess players about their opening repertoire, they typically respond with something relatively mainstream and well-respected, like "I play the Caro-Kann defense" or "I'm a lifelong Queen's Gambit player". But every now and then, we might like to mix things up and try an "experimental" opening over the board. I've certainly been known to do this on occasion - one of my personal favorites is the so-called "Hillbilly Attack" against the Caro: 1.e4 c6 2.Bc4!? d5 3.Bb3 dxe4 4.Qh5!? which I have actually played in rated games.

In some cases, you can even see grandmasters trying out an unorthodox opening, but mostly those games are played against much weaker players and at faster time controls. However, in some rare instances, you can catch a GM playing something truly outlandish ... against another GM ... in a classical tournament game. These can turn out to be some of the most exciting games of chess out there.

So, behold this collection of some of the most bizarre openings I've seen in GM-GM encounters.

(Warning: Try these openings at your own risk! Past results are not indicative of future results.)

#5 - Knight on the rim is dim brilliant!

The Sicilian Defense, 1.e4 c5 is one of the most deeply studied openings in all of chess, but there are numerous sidelines that may be employed to dodge theory. In the high profile encounter between Russian heavyweights Savchenko, B. - Khismatullin, D. from the 2014 European Championship, white, out-rated by over 150 points, chose a startlingly rare one: 2.Na3!? and after 2. ... g6 went even further off the beaten path with 3.h4!? After 3. ... Nf6!? 4.e5 Nh5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.c3 some fireworks broke out: 6. ... d5 7.exd6 Bg4!? 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nb5! exd6 10.Nbxd4 Bg7 11.Qa4 0-0 12.Nxc6 Qe8+ 13.Be3 Bxf3 14.gxf3 bxc6 15.0-0-0 When the smoke cleared, the position was highly imbalanced with mutual chances, but the strong 2700+ GM Khismatullin went astray in time pressure, allowing Savchenko to pick up the full point.

#4 - This is how we play the English Opening in Armenia

After the opening moves 1.g3 e5 2.c4 black has many different main lines to choose from, however in the game Markowski, T. - Andriasian, Z. from the 2007 Rubinstein Memorial, the 18 year old Armenian grandmaster initiated a caveman-style assault on move two with 2. ... h5!? His opponent, Tomasz Markowski, a veteran Polish GM and former top-100 player, replied with an equally strange-looking knight tour, and the game continued 3.Nf3!? e4 4.Nh4 Be7 5.Nf5 d6 6.Nxe7 Qxe7 and after the further 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Bg2 h4!? black was able to pose some difficult problems to white's king. Although Markowski did have a clear path to an advantage in the middlegame, he blundered and allowed the young Armenian to pull off a nice win.

#3 - Good old Garry the g-pawn gets a raise

The Reti opening after 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4 3.b4 is known to have some sharp variations, but white got a little more than he bargained for after black on move three threw out the rare and provocative 3. ... g5!? in Medvegy, Z. - Sedlak, N. in the 2017 Croatian Team Championship. Zoltan Medvegy, a Hungarian grandmaster, replied in the most direct way, grabbing the pawn with 4.Bb2 Bg7 5.Nxg5 and then took a stroll with his knight after 5. ... e5 6.Ne4 f5 7.Ng3 The Serbian GM Nikola Sedlak continued to play aggressively and after 7. ... Nf6 8.e3 0-0 9.c5 f4!? 10.Bc4+ Kh8 11.Ne2 d3 12.Nc1 e4! black had more than enough compensation for his pawn and carried out a beautiful kingside attack to win the game.

#2 - The ... improved Grob?

For whatever reason, during round 3 of the 2018 Llucmajor Open held in the Mediterranean Balearic Islands, Spanish GM David Larino Nieto was not in the mood for any theoretical debates and started the game with 1.e3 Nf6 2.g4!? in Larino Nieto, D. - Sumets, A. His opponent, a strong Ukranian grandmaster, kept his cool with the modest 2. ... h6 and from there, white adopted a typical hedgehog-style setup with 3.Bg2 d5 4.h3 e5 5.Ne2 c6 6.b3 Nbd7 7.Bb2 Later on, the Spaniard got a little too adventurous with the brave 12.Kd2?! and Sumets ended up winning a long 53 move struggle.

#1 - If you haven't moved both your b and g-pawns past the fourth rank in the opening, you're doing something wrong

For our final game, the encounter Vaulin, A. - Sulskis, S. from the last round of a 1999 open tournament in Northern Poland quickly started off on a wacky note with the experienced Lithuanian grandmaster meeting 1.Nf3 with 1. ... b5!? Alexander Vaulin, himself an experienced Russian GM, reacted with his own queenside demonstration 2.a4!? and after 2. ... b4 tried to return to normal development with 3.g3. Sulskis was determined to create a mess though, and after 3. ... Bb7 4.Bg2 lashed out on the other wing with the novel 4. ... g5!? and reached a strange but playable position following 5.d3 g4 6.Nh4 Bxg2 7.Nxg2 d5 8.h3!? gxh3 9.Rxh3 Qd7 10.Rh1 Nc6. Despite some hair-raising complications near the end, Vaulin emerged with the full point after Sulskis became a bit too cavalier with his own king safety.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

How to Get Better at Chess - The Path from Beginner to Master and Beyond (Part 1)

In the diagram above, you're playing black and it's your turn. Take a look at the position for a bit and then come up with a plan for your next few moves. Take as much or as little time as you think you need.

My ambitious goal in this new series of posts is to outline a general path for how one could go from beginner to master. I'll draw from my own chess upbringing along with some old-school classical wisdom.

First, a couple things:
  1. It's really hard to "master" chess - I certainly don't consider myself to have mastered it, and even the best grandmasters in the world aren't anywhere close to perfect. In fact, believe it or not, even Stockfish doesn't know all the answers! (but ok, AlphaZero might)
  2. There are no shortcuts! As with anything else, improving in chess takes time, hard work and lots of practice.
Lastly but most importantly, I just want to remind you that it is absolutely possible to enjoy chess as a hobby without wanting to devote time, money and energy to improving. I learned the rules when I was around five or six years old but had no desire to get a rating or take lessons until I was twelve. Today, I have no regrets about that.

Starting out: Beginner level

So, you've recently learned the rules and basic checkmates, perhaps a couple of simple openings too. What next? How to improve from there?

In my opinion, there are numerous ways for a beginner to improve that cost little or no money and do not require a large time investment:

  • Come to your local chess center or club and play a few casual games against players who are better than you. Talk to them and ask how they come up with their moves.
  • Play in a small local tournament if you want to get a feel for what competitive chess is like. Find a friend who's higher rated than you and ask them if they could analyze your games with you - in my experience, most chess players are quite friendly and would be happy to help.
  • Set up a free account on a site like lichess.org or chess.com and do some tactics puzzles - even consistently doing just five a day will go a long way after a couple months. Be familiar with the most common tactical patterns:
    • Forks/double attacks
    • Skewers and pins
    • Back rank tactics
    • Discovered attack, discovered check, and double check
    • Decoy/Deflection
    • Overloading and removing the defender
  • Find a good tactics puzzle book or any basic strategy book - the ones that I grew up with and highly recommend are Fred Reinfeld's "1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations" and Irving Chernev's "Logical Chess Move by Move" - both are available on Amazon for under $15. Play through them with a physical board in front of you.
  • Practice some basic endgame drills against people at your local club who know them:
    • K+P vs K
    • R+P vs R
    • Q vs P, etc - I made a separate post here about this kind of knowledge

Something else I would strongly advise is to stay away from engines like Stockfish, Houdini, Fritz, Komodo etc. You don't need them right now, and unless you know how to use them properly they will do more harm than good. Later on I'll make a post about how I use engines and how they are designed to work.

Now, if I had to pick just one of my bullet points to be the most important for beginners to learn, then in a heartbeat I'd pick tactics. Why? I'll come back to the diagram I showed you at the top to illustrate:

This position was black to move, and I asked you to come up with a plan. But in reality, it was a trick question (sorry). Whatever plan you came up with, it doesn't matter, because black can actually win a whole piece by force here.

After 1. ... d5 2.exd5 exd5, white's bishop on c4 is attacked. After it moves, say 3.Bb5, then 3. ... d4 is a winning pawn fork - white loses either the bishop on e3 or the knight on c3.

The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that concrete tactics (especially any tactics involving an exposed king) will always be the most important factor on the chessboard and trump standard positional considerations.

For example, you could have looked at the position and said, "Black isn't castled and needs to develop his minor pieces, so my plan is 0-0 and Bd7 to complete development", or maybe you reject the idea of d6-d5 because "you shouldn't open the center when you haven't castled yet". All of that is true, but in this case it assumes secondary importance because you can win a piece.

If you quickly saw the tactic on your own, then that's good! If not, then you probably could use some tactics training, because the end goal is to be able to find those shots even when you're not actively looking for them. After you practice enough basic puzzles like that, your brain will eventually be able to automatically recognize those patterns without any effort. Experienced players like myself can instantly see things like that ...d5-d4 fork without even thinking.

If chess were a language, then tactics would be the alphabet. Strong players use the same basic tactical patterns in different combinations as a tool to help carry out their own plans and to stop their opponent's plans. The good news for beginners is that those patterns are actually really easy to learn! Just be consistent about practicing and going through puzzles until it becomes second nature.