Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Update

I'm making it in time for Friday this week!

I'm still waiting on CT-Art and the books I ordered, so most of my chess time this week was spent on Chess Tactics Server (CTS) and I am definitely getting better there. My rating is up to 1668 after 14096 tries (high of 1670). This is about a 50 point improvement since I started the Friday updates 8 weeks and 7000 tries ago and more than 110 points higher than when I first started at CTS.

Recently I have mostly been using CTS to work on seeing the whole board quickly and accurately. I want to be able to see each piece and where it can potentially go with a quick scan of the board. I noticed after trying this for a while that I was missing a lot of pawn moves. So I started to make sure that in my sweep of the board I paid attention to threatening pawn moves, especially pawns close to promotion.

I also spent some time with Baburin's book and I'm nearly done with chapter 7. That's the last chapter of section 1, so I'll move on to the other books when they arrive and I'm finished with chapter 7.

In other news, a tournament came on my radar for this weekend. It's just a 3 round one day event. I'm not sure what the time control is, I think it's something like G/60. This will be a good warm-up for the two day event I'll play in two weeks from now. It's also a good way to get in some longer serious games. Hopefully I'll have something interesting to say about these games next week.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Missed Tactic

Tonight I played a game at a moderate time control and missed a tactic that I feel I should not miss. So, for public flogging, I present here my missed tactical opportunity:
White to Play
My opponent has just played his queen to a7 from b6. I can sense that this move isn't really accomplishing anything and the fact that he has no defenders on the kingside is a second clue that I might have a possibility. I had been considering Bh6 as a possibility ever since my queen came to g3 to create more weakness around the king. I have even already though of taking the bishop d4 with my rook so that I control all the dark squares.

The solution is coming soon, so if you want to solve this one yourself, don't read any further.

I could see easily the line Rxd4 Qxd4 Be5 threatening the queen and checkmate. But I thought Rxd4 Rxd4 Be5 only threatens to win back the exchang that I just sacked, so I gave up. The winning line is Rxd4 Rxd4 Bh6! and now there is no way to defend g7. For example, g6 Qe5 f6 Qxe6+ Kh8 Qxf6+ Kg8 Qg7#.

I wound up winning this game after later inaccurate tactical moves led to an opposite colored bishop ending where my opponent allowed me a passed pawn that he had to give his bishop for. He also hung a couple of his pawns in the process and I easily had enough extra material to finish off the win. At one point the game was dead drawn in the opposite colored bishop ending, but this is a perfect example of the difference between theory and practice. The guy was about my same rating on FICS and I would have imagined he should be able to draw that game easily. C'est la vie.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Weekend update

I'm a little late for Friday, so this week it's just the weekend update.

This week I mostly did problems at CTS and only a little bit from Baburin's book. One thing I worked on at CTS this week is making sure I look at every piece on the board. Sometimes I tend to get lazy in terms of viewing the whole board. A lot of the problems I fail on or take too long on, it's because there is a key piece I simply haven't even looked at. For example, a bishop moving on a long diagonal, or a rook that comes from the other side of the board. So I'm trying to make sure I am using the entire board.

After 13,383 tries, my CTS rating is 1651 with a high of 1653.

I also decided that I haven't been playing enough longer time control games, so I played a few this week. It's hard to tell if I'm playing better as a result of CTS training, but it seems like I am more aware tactically. I was a bit disappointed with my play in a few spots, but hopefully reviewing these mistakes will help me play better in the future.

I've ordered CT-Art and will start work on that problem set as soon as possible. CTS has been great for pattern recognition, but I feel like I need something to help me practice calculating. I've also ordered 3 books. Stean's Simple Chess, Andy Soltis' Pawn Structure Chess, and Jeremy Silman's Reassess Your Chess Workbook. I think these should keep me busy for a little while.

Countdown to tournament time: 3 weeks!

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Update

This week the regular Friday update is back on Friday. I'll spare the table this time because it just doesn't seem required. I only did a few challenges from Chess Mentor and only one of them was new, I continued reading Chapter 6 from Winning Pawn Structures and I'm almost through that chapter. Most of my time was on CTS.

I was interested to see what would happen after taking a full week off. Sure enough, my rating dropped fairly steadily from 1641 to about 1620. However, it only took another day or two for it to climb back into the 1640's and then to a new high of 1653. Overall I'm pleased with my progress on CTS, I'm definitely getting better at it (rating going up, % success is roughly 81% of late).

My rating there is currently 1646 after 11,826 tries. I've gained about 100 rating points in the last 10000 tries or 1 point per 100 tries. According to the problem distribution chart, increasing from 1540 to 1640 means the window of problems has increased by about 3000. That is, I am currently solving 3000 problems that I wasn't solving 10000 problems ago. I don't know if these ideas are meaningful to anybody who wonders about repetition and improvement, but it can't hurt to record them.

Personally, I don't think repetition is as important to improvement as active learning. By this I mean identifying and correcting ones weaknesses actively. Simply doing problems is not enough, one must use what they learn from their failures to motivate their work. I've given examples of this in the past (double attacks by the queen, especially checks; long diagonals) and I'll give a more recent one now. I noticed I had been having trouble with "Clearance" problems. That is, one move clears the path of a piece and the next move takes advantage of the increased scope. I had been working very hard on seeing everywhere pieces could go, but I realized I was only seeing where they could go right now instead of seeing everywhere they could go. This also has a cousin, but I'm not sure the name of it, I would call it relocation, it might be called triangulation -- what I mean is where a piece moves from one square to another on one move, then changes direction taking advantage of its new scope on the new square to go somewhere else on the next.

Once the weakness is identified, the process is to focus on never missing this idea in a position. E.g. if you don't want to miss double attacks by the queen, make sure you look at every possible queen move, especially checks and pay close attention to moves that attack undefended pieces. Continue to do this until you see these queen moves first before conciously doing the exercise. For working on clearance tactics, I extend the movement of all pieces beyond their obstacles to see if there are useful squares that could be reached after a clearance. Eventually I begin to see these ideas -- and how to achieve the clearance! -- before doing the entire concious exercise.

This is related to Blue Devil Knight's post on eye movement. First, we must recognize which eye movements are not already part of our natural habits, e.g. queen checks, long diagonals, clearance, etc., then we must train our eyes until this eye movement becomes a natural reaction which Blue Devil compares to reading or recognizing a face -- you don't think about every letter or the details of someone's face, you recognize and understand. (Interestingly, when you read, you don't even think about the exact positions of all the letters in the word, see this explanation.)

Lastly, I have a tournament in about a month, so I'm looking forward to that. Hopefully all this study will begin to pay off in the rating department!

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Checkmate! (?)

I figured I should throw in some actual chess content instead of just making this a personal history blog. Here are 3 of the checkmate problems I worked while on vacation. One is just for fun, and for anyone who plays the Kings Gambit is probably just a warmup:

White mates in 5

I'm guessing King's Gambit players may have even seen the above position before. If not, it's probably not a bad idea to see it now.

Unfortunately, there were some errors in the book I was using. I remember reading someone's blog that argued in favor of checkmate problems because the finality of checkmate reduces errors. This may be true, but I'll show you some errors anyhow. The first is a minor error as there is a checkmate in the problem.

This problem is listed as Black mates in 5. I spent quite some time on this one, because I kept finding mate in 4! (1. ... Rf8+ 2. Nf7 Rxf7+ 3. Kg1 (Kg2 Rf2 Kg1 Ne2) Ne2+ 4. Kg2 Rf2++). Finally I decided I wasn't missing anything and checked the solution at the back of the book. The solution went as follows: 1. ... Rf8+ 2. Kg1 Rg2 and then Ne2++ after some spite checks. There was also no mention of the move Kg2. This makes me wonder who is proofreading this stuff.

This one is also listed as Black mates in 5 and this time the error is more egregious. There is no mate! It took me quite a while to convince myself of this. I tried to figure out what to do after Qxh3+ Kxh3 Ne3+ (or other knight moves) Kg3. Here it seemed white has escaped just fine. I worked pretty hard on this position until I finally gave up and looked at the solution. There is no mention of Kg3 in the solution! The book only gives Kh4, which does get mated. It turns out Kg3 is fine for white, there is no mate.

There were a couple other minor errors in the book where mate was faster than advertised, but overall, it was a useful book to take along to occasionally exercise my chess muscles while on vacation.

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Back from vacation

I'm back from vacation and will be back to my regular chess study schedule shortly. While I was away, I did 20 mate in 4 and 30 mate in 5 problems. Of course, I didn't have as much time as usual since I was busy enjoying my vacation.

Now that I'm back, I'll return to CTS, finish up the first section of Baburin's Winning Pawn Structures, and then move on to two new things, CT-Art and Stean's Simple Chess.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Friday progress

Well, I almost missed it and even though it's technically Saturday, I'll allow this as the Friday progress report. Front and center, here's the table of results:
Week Ending


Chess MentorBook
Aug. 4th1600(1624)-7000-76.3%59Baburin, Chap 1
Aug. 11th1614(1624)-7807-76.8%67Baburin, Chap 2
Aug. 18th1615(1634)-8770-76.3%72Baburin, Chap 3
Aug. 25th1623(1637)-9900-77.6%79Baburin, Chap 4+5
Sep 1st1641(1651)-10798-78.0%80Baburin, Chap 6-

Obviously that is a huge jump in my CTS rating. Several of the things I had been working on at CTS began to click. One thing I had been focused on was seeing the whole board. I have read in the past a study where they track the eyes of grandmasters and amateurs and found that amateurs focus their eyes on a portion of the board while grandmasters view all parts of the board nearly equally. I'm trying to view all of the board in just a few seconds, and it's getting easier. This has helped with some of my other weaknesses such as spotting long diagonal pins and finding open files for rooks.

Not much work done on Chess Mentor this week. Though it's deceptive because even though I did only one new challenge, I did several old challenges as repeats. I didn't finish the chapter from Baburin either (that's why the "-" in the table). It is one of the longer chapters, but that's a poor excuse. The other thing I did do was to actually play some chess games! I typically play a few blitz games (3 or 5 minutes) during the week, but I know that I have to play some slower games to practice what I am learning. So I played some slower games. I wasn't totally happy with how I played, but some things were good, I should probably post annotations here as a form of public flogging.

This week I'll be heading to the beach on vacation. I'm taking a book of checkmate exercizes (embarassingly named chessercizes) with me and will be doing mate in 4 problems while I lay out in the sand, or perhaps as I sip a daiquiri by the pool. Anyhow, my next post will be next Friday, which is only slightly less frequent than my usual rate.

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