Diana: My son is 8-year-old with a rating of 1600...Here is my question: how can we help him to improve quickly with planning and openings. Should he memorize some opening variations at this level? And I heard stories like the top kids in the country spend more than five hours per day studying chess and they play three tournaments per week...And how much time and effort should he put into chess in order to keep himself in the top of his age group while remain healthy and also have time for other activities?
GM Joel. The younger and more talented a player is, the greater is the burden felt by the parents....I think that understanding the ideas behind the opening moves comes first, and gradually learning particular opening variations can be worked in. I hate the term “memorizing’ openings because they should always be learned. Memorizing moves can only help if your opponent does exactly what he’s supposed to do, and won’t help for the future when they don’t...I have seen a lot of kids succumb to the burden of too much work and too high expectations...It seems to me that any child who puts five hours a day into chess during the school year would have little time for any other kind of life. Choose a regimen that seems right to you and your son. Have him play frequently but not too much (two or three tournaments a month should be enough). More time spent on chess can produce results, but it is only part of the story. What really counts in the ability to process what you learn and apply it to your games. As long as your son works diligently in the hours that he does devote to chess, he will have every opportunity to compete successfully with other children his age.
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