Join the Invisible Army
Despite the lockdown, modern technology gives us an unprecedented opportunity to improve our game, if
- You should sign up to Chess.com as either a beginner (grade 800), intermediate (1200), or expert
(grade 1600). You do not have to pay to use Chess.com
- You should play one or two, or a maximum of four games a week to improve your grade. The online
computer tells you your new grade after every game against a human opponent.
- Fast time limits do not improve your game! You should play at a time limit of at least half an hour
per player per game. Treat the quick games as relaxation or fun, rather than serious chess.
- You should record your games by hand; the computer does this for you but you should not lose the
skill of recording. You will need this skill when normal chess activity resumes.
- When you only have 5 minutes left on your clock, stop recording. After the game you can use the
computer record to update your score sheet.
- You can obtain Ultimate Score Books from this page.
- Store your games carefully in date order; you can return to them to study, looking for ways to
- A lot of your improvement comes from studying you games after you have played them, either by
yourself or with the help of a stronger player. You can also improve your concentration and
analyses with books such as Two Birds with one Stone, Death Defying Chess Positions and Three
Steps to Heaven.
- Your target would be to increase your grade by 20 points a week. If you did this, in a year you
might have gained a thousand grading points. So a beginner starting at grade 800, could be up to
1800 in a year!
- Once you have played a game, you should scan it in and send it to me, (Mike Basman:
email@example.com) with your latest grade included.
- We will be releasing a monthly newsletter to show current grades and to give tips for
- There is no charge at present for joining the invisible army; your improvement is our reward!
Sign me up!
We will be awarding certificates, titles and trophies when you achieve the following standards:
Preliminary Cadet Force Levels for Juniors
1650 Top club player
1800 County Champion
2000 Regional Champion
2100 National Master
2200 Candidate Master
2300 FIDE Master
2400 International Master
2500 Arch Master
2600 Uber Master
2800 Super Grandmaster
These titles mirror existing FIDE titles (FIDE – Federation Internationale des Echecs, the World Chess Governing body), with some additions, but of course, at the moment FIDE titles cannot be won, because face to face chess is rare nowadays!
The first two titles (Club and County) will receive a certificate of achievement through the post. The next title winners will receive an engraved trophy in addition to the certificate.
Titles will be awarded if a player averages that performance 3 weeks running, and at least six games have been played, or the average of a six week period in which 6 games have been played.
It is likely that for many players, the half hour time limit is too fast for them to be able to think and record at the same time; this particularly refers to older and adult players. In that case, titles can still be acquired without recording the games, but send a copy of the computer output plus latest grade.
One must remember that FIDE and national titles are usually acquired over much longer time limits. For example games last 4 hours or more. However, in the present online computer world, much faster time limits are the norm so we have to compromise a little.
There is no doubt that the titles achieved in INVISIBLE ARMY will be hard won, and will stand you in good stead once the lockdown is lifted and normal over the board chess resumes!
One grading list will be sent to adult players (over 18 years), the other to juniors, but the titles awarded will be the same to each group. For more information about our junior division, the Cadet Force, read this article. Sign up at the top of the page.
Good luck and good hunting!
International Chess Master Michael Basman
Study the puzzles and analysis in our blog for further improvement.
Michael Basman writes up the Northumbrian Masters, October 2021. Analysis of a game from the competition by Trisha Kanyamarala and Roddy McKay. Photography by Paul Charlton.
Michael Basman writes up the Northumbrian Masters, August 2021. Analysis of a game from the competition using the Grob Ga-ga Gambit.
Solution to the chess puzzle from 29/05/21. Short master games in the ‘short sharp shocks’ collection.