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When it comes to chess training, Edward Porper is a big believer in understanding the role of your pieces rather than memorizing opening variations.

Porper, an Edmonton-based international master, has coached students and published chess training manuals for years. He rails against the modern trend of using computer analysis to memorize endless opening possibilities.

“What I try to teach my students is that your equipment doesn’t matter. It’s all about your pieces. You need to make sure your pieces are happy throughout the game.”

That involves giving mobility to your Rooks and Bishops, ensuring your Pawns don’t feel isolated and lonely, and sometimes just thinking about how to improve the position of your worst piece. “You need to make sure they feel good about themselves.”

Born in Ukraine, he emigrated first to Israel and eventually Canada in 2008. His techniques have led to tournament successes, representing Canada on an Olympiad team, and coming within a hair of the grandmaster title.

Porper points to Magnus Carlsen as a player who focuses on understanding essential concepts rather than just relying on a good memory of variations. Often the world champion will have an even or slightly worse position out of the opening, only to outplay his opponent in the middle and especially in the endgame, he says.

Edward Porper v Gavin Lock, Guernsey, 2006

The Globe and Mail

How does White deliver a winning blow?

24. Ra5! Qb6 (If 24... Qxa5 25. Bxc6 Rhd8 26. Bxd7+ Rxd7 27. Re8+ Kb7 28. Qxd7+ with mate coming) 25. Qf5 and White won.