Chess + 2nd Language

Comments: 17

Have you ever thought about studying a 2nd language?

Perhaps you’ve heard that Bobby Fischer learnt the Russian language in order to be able to read and study Russian chess tutorials.

I will share with you something interesting that I’ve noticed over the years. When I learn materials in English (which is my 2nd language), I usually digest them very well, maybe even better than materials in my native language!
Sound strange? Well, there is actually a simple explanation. While viewing materials (books, videos, articles, etc.) in your native language, you naturally move through the materials rather quickly.

On the other hand, if you study material in a foreign language, you will have to do it more slowly and more seriously. Maybe you will even need to go through some material several times before you begin to fully understand it.


This “enforced serious attitude” brings tremendous results!

Here’s another interesting and perhaps related observation. Some people that I know have translated my courses into their own languages. It seems like purely technical work, however, their chess understanding suddenly went up quite significantly!

The reason is still the same: they had to go through the material slowly, to think about it, to find suitable translations, and then read it again…

So how can you make use of this idea? Very simply: study chess tutorials in a foreign language.

As a bonus, you’ll hit 2 targets simultaneously: improving your chess skills + learning another language. Both of these things will surely be useful to you.

Incidentally, these 2 things are also excellent ways for you to improve your memory and your overall mental power.

At times my friends have asked me how I studied the English language. Well, my English is far from being perfect, but there’s 1 funny thing here. I have never really studied it. :)

At the same time, however, I’ve learnt a lot of materials in English that were interesting for me.

I guess that is how Fischer learnt Russian. :)

Pretty often I receive e-mails with a question like: “I’d like to study your chess course, but I’m from … (paste any non-English country). Will I be able to understand it? Or should I wait until you translate the course to my language?

I should tell you first of all that waiting “for a better time” is a bad idea nearly always.

Secondly, I would really suggest that you study “foreign” materials. It can bring unexpected great results!

Now, let’s test your skills with some cool examples from recent tournaments.

Finegold – Shabalov

Black’s turn

White is a pawn up and has an active position. This means Black is losing; is that correct?


Morozevich – Topalov

White’s turn

Because of White’s hanging pawns a5 and d4 it’s difficult for him to rearrange his pieces. Black’s position looks all very solid, however, there’s 1 sudden flaw. Can you find it?


Ponomariov – Kasimdzhanov

Black’s turn

In this tense situation it’s important to calculate variations accurately. Can you detect the Black’s best move and evaluate its consequences?

After you find the variations for all 3 positions, please, download the SOLUTION and check yourself: LINK

Note: if you can’t open chess games in *.pgn format – please, read this: LINK

P.S. If you have any questions, comments or any feedback – please, write it in the comment area below.

Comments: 17

Comments 16

    1. Hello Naveen!

      Currently, Mr Smirnov does accept not new private students (due to his busy
      schedule). Nevertheless you could:

      1) Study his FREE course “Quick Success in
      Chess”: LINK

      2) Study the Complete Training Courses: LINK

      3) Learn lots of our free lessons (videos, articles): LINK

      4) Observe our YouTube channel: LINK

      5) Learn a special course about an effective self-training:


      Manuel / Student Support Officer

  1. Excellent, Igor 🙂

    I speak four languages – and two of them I never studied, having learnt them as an adult simply by living in countries where they’re used. 6 months later, et voila!

    As regards chess, I can’t keep myself serious at it for long stretches… always there’s something more important to do… but still I managed to work myself up to a decent 2000+ level – who knows… life is still long – I may well find myself one day within the ranks of titled playes (nowadays it only takes 2200 to become one).

  2. Learning foreign language (most probably english) is not only important because you digest the information, (I have never thought about it, but it seems to be true) but it is rather because you can find almost everything in english, almost everything that is important has been written or trasnlated to english, or if somebody wants to speak to foreigners as well (in a youtube video let me say for example) he will do it in english, because that is the world language.

  3. I heard that Ivanchuk likes to learn other languages and the last one was turkish. He even went to Turkye to better learn the language! I like to read chess materials in english for years and sometimes I think in english when I play chess too! I found myself with a passion to read in spanish or french. lately, having a lot of books in my library, I had the idea of reading literature in english too due to lack of space in my house for more books, and the new ebook readers invasion also helps one to read more and the new software for chess to move the pieces while reading or your courses on computer. New languages are good to expand understanding and for cultural growth.
    I look forward to your next course on openings! I am curious about your choices and I am waiting to study the course during the summer and use them in the next season. Right now my study of repertoire and openings is frozen just waiting to see your next course! Igor, can you tell us more about that course and repertoire?

  4. Hi Igor,

    I’m 43 years old and I started playing chess two years ago. Better later than never. I learn chess from youtube in 2nd language (english). It is exactly as you wrote.

    A year ago, I started playing with my sons (7 and 9 years) and I tried to explain to them what’s going on in this game. I have to admit that I had a problem because I only knew chess in english. But the children are learning english, and they quickly began to use the video from youtube in english too. The older son is currently studying by your movies b3 Opening and Owen’s Defense. I am glad that my kids learn to play chess (no PC shooters) and english simultaneously.

    Bogdan (Poland)

  5. Not every chess player speak English , in some interviews I see players they can not speak English , but the great chess players they speak also English.

    Igor Smirnov
    Alexandra Kostenjuk
    Judit Polgar

    I speak dutch , but I can follow read hear English now only my English write is still bad !

    Yesterday on my club I played to a weaker player in a long game no blitz ,I played normal chess and good and I played fast , I was on the winning side and was very happy , then I make a one mistake and lost the game also I missed mate in 2 not had seen it , sometimes chess make you sad and GRRR LOL 🙂

    There are less weaken players on my club , most are from 1800 to 2200 on my club.

  6. Hi Bogdan,

    It’s great to know you (together with your sons) move on in learning chess and English language. This will be useful in many ways for you, that’s for sure.

    Let me provide a little coaching hint. Teaching children is not an easy task. I know many good coaches, who fails when it comes to small children. Here it’s important to keep in mind a few things:

    1) Do NOT be too serious. Children treat chess as a game, and it’s good! You may have fun, tell them “stories” about battles of 2 kingdoms etc.

    2) Give them a chance to get WINs regularly. This can be a small win, when you give them a task that they can handle.

    3) Do NOT push on them. It’s difficult for children to keep concentration for more than 30-60 minutes.

    I wish you and your sons all the best! Don’t forget to let us know about your future successes! 🙂

    1. Bravo! Indeed, giving them wins is important for their self-esteem. Nobody enjoys failing over and over again so it is hardly the most constructive or positive motivator. Providing chances for wins allows them to achieve something and thus build their confidence and enthusiasm. To deny them such wins would be to rob them of the opportunity to experience what it is like to work on a goal and succeed.

      Chess was never meant to be easy, but it was meant to be fun. 🙂

    2. Thank you very much Igor Smirnov Sir! your Best Tips on Chess Coaching for Children yes it is not easy to teach chess children need more patience. I hope expect some more tips on chess coaching for children.

  7. hi sir… i am a local tournament player…and my problem is that in the end games i cant hold my nerves and win the games especially when it comes to better players than me…i play very well till the minute…but lose the game in the pressure and peak moment…how can i overcome this problem of losing in the pressure moment?? please help me sir…
    i will be thankful to u sir…

  8. Great notes! Good luck in your study and in collecting a good library! 🙂

    When somebody tries to study new languages, he/she has to force himself to make such classes. On the contrary, when you study foreign materials that are INTERESTING for you (chess tutorials are very suitable), it’s a pleasant activity. Thus it will go smoothly and results will be better.

    We are still working on this new opening course. It takes more time than expected, but I want to get really great results in the end. As for the repertoire, I select the following openings:
    – it’s correct (meaning it follows the strategic principals presented in other courses);
    – it’s active
    – it does not require too much theoretical knowledge.

  9. I just started studying russian language…..I have already learn the 33 alphabets. I am already able to read some words. I have to tell you its great fun when learning a new language

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