Jason Cigan is a 29 year old US Chess Master who recently won the Oregon State Championship. As Jason tells us, he did not begin seriously playing chess until he was 18, but in the past 11 years, he has managed to slowly and steadily gain over 1,000 rating points while working full time as a software engineer . (You can see his US Chess rating graph here.) How has he done it? Listen to the show and you will find out. For relevant links, timestamps, and many book recommendations, please keep reading. :)
Click here to download the episode
0:00- Intro and Jason tells his chess story, including how he got into chess, and why it took a while for his passion for the game to fully manifest.
10:25- So how did Jason improve so much, anyway? In his opinion, having master level mentors played a big role in his improvement. Jason credits FM Charles Schulien, NM Corbin Yu and NM Jeremy Kane with helping him immeasurably along the way. The video from GM Vidit Gujrath regarding chess improvement can be seen here. Jason is a fan of the books of GM Mikhail Marin and Boris Gelfand, and also Seven Deadly Chess Sins by GM Jonathan Rowson
18:00- A listener, new to chess, who is 62 year old and recently retired, is eager to devote 20 hours a week to chess books and chess improvement. How should he spend his time, what resources should he utilize? How good can he become? In Jason's response, he mentions that he is a strong proponent of John Nunn’s chess books. I chimed in and mentioned that the listener might want to pursue something more systematic to improve, like the acclaimed series from GM Arthur Yusopov , The Steps Series, or the Susan Polgar series for those brand new to chess.
29:00- As is a regular feature on the Adult Improver Series, we launch into a discussion of how useful various attempts at improving one’s chess games are. Jason gives his opinion on the importance of having a coach, as well as the relative merits of analyzing one’s games, solving tactics, studying endgames, playing speed chess, learning openings, exercising, and more. Jason benefited from taking lessons with GMs Melik Khachiyan and Sabino Brunello and from playing training games with IM Craig Hilby. One can always look for coaches on the LiChess coaches page
39:00- Jason answers a question from a Patreon supporter of the podcast, about whether its important to set up a board when solving tactics. The US Championship summary by Jennifer Yu that I mentioned can be read here.
46:00- How should one approach openings when you live in a community where you play the same players repeatedly?
51:00- Jason tells a fun story related to opening preparation, of a game between GM James Tarjan and recent Perpetual Chess guest GM Alex Ipatov. Check out the game here. Mr. Moonmaster 9000 asks for some clarification about something Jason wrote: Does Jason believe it's impossible for him to become a super GM?
1:02- A 3 minute digression into the intersection of the NBA and professional chess. Sorry NBA haters!
1:06- Back on track, Jason talks about the importance of endgame studies in helping your chess game. Jason is a big fan of the book 100 Endgames You Must Know He also mentions enjoying the Yuspov and Dvoretsky features on chess24.com
1:10- Jason discusses his coaching philosophy, and shares the philosophy that he has used to help his student, Gavin Zhang. He emphasizes the importance of studying the classics, and identifying and working on one’s strongest point and one’s weakest points in chess.
1:19- We discuss books on endgames and endgame studies. Jason mentions: Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings by Irving Chernev
Endgame Training by Bernd Rosen
Endgame challenge by John Nunn
Studies for the Practical Player by Mark Dvoretsky
One Pawn Saves the Day by Sergei Tkachenko
Under the Surface by Jan Markos
Chess Structures by Mauricio Flores Rios
Grandmaster Repetoire: 1. E4 by Parimarjan Negi