"The Indian Way" - A review of RB Ramesh's "Improve Your Pieces"

by ChessBase
4/19/2024 – The Indian Grandmaster RB Ramesh is regarded as one of the best and most successful coaches in the world, and he has played a significant role in the many successes of talented Indian players. In the ChessBase course "Improve your Pieces" he now reveals his chess and training philosophy. Harry Schaack watched the course and was impressed.

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The Indian Way

By Harry Schaack

For many decades there was only one way to learn chess properly: the Soviet way. After the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of powerful chess programmes, the influence of chess schools has waned. However, with the increase in the number of world-class players, the Indian training philosophy has become increasingly popular in recent years. One of its main exponents is RB Ramesh. The grandmaster is one of the most successful junior coaches in the world. Since 2008, he has taught hundreds of students in Chennai, dozens of whom have become world junior champions. His students include Harikrishna, Adhiban and Praggnanandhaa. In 2023 Ramesh received the Fide Trainer Award and the Chess.com Book of the Year Award for his book Improve Your Chess Calculation.

Now Ramesh has produced the course Improve your Pieces for ChessBase, on which he presents his rather unusual method. Chess has become very concrete thanks to the engines, but Ramesh looks at the game from a meta level. The course is more of a dialogue about chess and the underlying thought patterns. Ramesh wants to systematically analyse the positional reasons for this or that decision. It is less about concrete variations and more about a fundamental understanding of the game, how to think, which positional aspects are relevant and how to arrive at candidate moves and plans on the basis of these observations.

Such fundamental positional analyses can be found elsewhere. But Ramesh takes a holistic approach, critically examining the players' concepts of identity. How is their thinking, and therefore their way of playing chess, channelled in certain ways? When young people build up an opening repertoire, they tend to do so because they believe they are tactical or positional players. We use such labels to manipulate our knowledge. We organise our game according to what we think we are. "And that's where the problems start," Ramesh criticises.

One of his most important principles is to keep an open mind, to remain flexible, not to commit too quickly and not to rule anything out, either in a particular game or in one's own chess development.

Piece mobility plays a central role in Ramesh's teaching. You need to understand when pieces are passive and when they are active. Ramesh illustrates this at the beginning with simple diagrams showing that there are different levels of passivity, which he divides into A, B and C. In this way Ramesh provides a compass that gives an idea which piece should be improved first. And he repeatedly demonstrates how to arrive at the candidate move through a logical process of elimination.

More abstract topics are also covered, such as how knowledge is put into practice, how dynamics and statics need to be understood, and that most positions are a mixture of both.

Ramesh's many analogies from everyday life are as entertaining as they are memorable, making the process of learning and understanding easier. "Learning is only fun when you learn something" is one of his original maxims. Ramesh's keen sense of didactics is evident in his choice of examples. There is often something surprising and astonishing about them. Sometimes the first glance is deceptive, as in the positional assessment of the Renet - Jussupow game. Or the first move in the starting position is unexpected, as in the game Karpov - Schauwecker.

When replaying and analysing a game, you should always ask yourself how the players arrived at their moves and whether your own way of thinking differs from theirs, suggests Ramesh. For example, you can learn from top players what positional aspects they prefer. You will find that in modern chess, pawn structure and material are valued less than piece play and king security.

Ramesh's course is a passionate plea for a deeper understanding of positions in an era dominated by computers, where chess is all too often viewed from the perspective of concrete variations. Broadening knowledge and changing perspectives are the aims of his training. The great success of Ramesh's method in the youth sector proves him right. It is only from a sound basis of chess understanding that concrete implementation is possible.

RB Ramesh,
Improve your Pieces –
A winning system you need to know
ChessBase 2024,
DVD or download
39.90 Euro

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This review first appeared in Karl 01/2024. Published with kind permission.

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