Thursday, May 31, 2007

Traveling tactics, Level 60 done

I forgot how much down time there is at a conference when you don't have every day life to worry about. Since I brought my laptop, I've managed to fit in some tactics time and polished off level 60 of CT-Art. As usual, the problems got quite a bit tougher as the level went on and my percentage dropped accordingly.

In addition to getting more difficult, they also became more flawed. There were a number of problems where the move I made that was "wrong" led to a win without much difficulty against the built in Crafty engine. Oh well, at least I'm being challenged.

Total CT-Art stats up to this point:
Level 10: 97% (110 problems)
Level 20: 92% (286 problems)
Level 30: 86% (221 problems)
Level 40: 77% (204 problems)
Level 50: 76% (134 problems)
Level 60: 67% (84 problems)
CT-Art elo: 2391
Total problems done: 1039
Problems left: 170


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Summer schedule

I don't want to lock myself down to any particular goals, because, as we can see from earlier posts I tend to get side tracked. I have a professional conference all next week and another one at the end of June. I'll also be starting my next job in August and I have to move between now and then. So on a few occassions this summer chess practice will take a major backseat to real life.

That having been said, I'm moving through the CT-Art problems smoothly and I see myself finishing them at some point. The only question then is whether or not I do them again. Obviously I haven't done them perfectly, so they bear repeating. However, I don't really want to take another 9 months where CT-Art is the biggest part of my chess time. So we'll see.

In the meantime, I'm on level 60. Stats:
Level 60: 84% (21 done, 63 to go)
CT-Art elo: 2397


Friday, May 18, 2007

Seeds of tactical destruction

Today I played a blitz game where I thought I mis-handled the opening and then all of a sudden, the seeds of tactical destruction were staring me in the face. The opening was a closed sicilian, which I know next to nothing about. I allowed my opponent to take much more space and lock the center -- I was not doing well. Thankfully, he was behind in development. and weakened just the right squares at just the right time:
Black to Move
White has just played 11. b3? Black has a nice tactical shot here taking advantage of the exposed rook and a reloading knight on c6. The game continued 11. ... Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Bxe5. Black has given a piece for two pawns, but now attacks the pinned knight twice while it is only defended once. If 13. Bb2, black "reloads" on c6 with Nc6. There are some other lines to check with this tactic, 12. Qxd4 Qxd4 13. Nxd4 Bxe5 looks just as good. We also have to know what will happen if white tries Nxe6 either directly after Bxe5 in either line or after Bb2 Nc6 in either line. So there are several branches to the calculation tree, but they all rely on the domination of the a1-h8 diagional, in particular the d4 square.

Perhaps all this tactics training pays off after all.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ct-Art Level 50 done

I finished Level 50 of Ct-Art tonight. It's late, so I'm not going to write much, but I have also been doing tactics at some of the online tactics practice websites.

On Chess Tactics Server I have started back doing some pretty regular tactics. CTS is useful for sight training. You see the motif and you play it. Or you don't see it and you sit there feeling foolish :-). Sometimes it takes me a while to solve the problem, but typically once you see the motif, the calculation is easy. So you really are training your sight -- see all the checks, captures, forks, pins, skewers, etc. and see them fast.

Another chess tactics practice site is ChessTempo. Here the time contraints are not as strict as CTS and many of the problems require you to calculate quite a bit. So here you have to do more than see a single motif in the problem. These kinds of problems can be very frustrating, and I'm not certain that all of them are valuable learning tools, but I'm still giving it a chance for now.

Ct-Art at level 50 requires quite a bit of calculation. The variations are quite deep and while I admit I don't always see the full variation when I play the first move, I'm putting a ton of effort into calculating as deep as I can to get these right.

Here are the Ct-Art stats for all levels up to level 50:
Level 10: 97% (110 problems)
Level 20: 92% (286 problems)
Level 30: 86% (221 problems)
Level 40: 77% (204 problems)
Level 50: 76% (134 problems)
CT-Art elo: 2352

Total done: 955.
To go: 264.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tactics, tactics, everywhere

Even blitz games can be full of great tactical nuggets. It's easy to miss them as the clock winds down, so occassionally I'll go back and mine a game or two that seemed like there were some fireworks that should have gone off.

Here is a position from a game this week where I'm attacking on the kingside but didn't find the final tactical coup:
White to move

Here white is forced to play Bg3 otherwise the following sequence from the game is forced, g3 Qh5 h4 Qg4 Kh1 Qh3 Rg1 leading to this juicy position:

Black to move

Here is where I failed to finish it off. I played Be2 trying to get into the back rank, but there is a more clever spot for the bishop. Bc4!! This gains time on the queen allowing for Rxd1 punishing the overworked rook on g1.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

All work and no play

I spent all of my chess time this week doing tactics problems and when I tried to play an actual chess game yesterday I felt like I didn't know what I was doing. I just kind of pushed my pieces around and then when the tactics came it was like I'd been kicked in the head, I couldn't see anything! Here is an example, my opponent has just played Bxh3 seeing that gxh3 allows Qxf3.

White has a winning move here and it even crossed my mind, Rc5. This will drive the queen away from attacking the f3 knight allowing white to take the bishop. I can't remember exactly why I didn't play Rc5, but I played e4 instead. Same idea, but it allows Qh5. My generous opponent gave me a second chance by playing Rxe4. Once again Rc5 is a winning move.Bonehead that I am, I played Bxe4 Qxe4 and now, Rc5. Rc5 is pointless there and allows Bxg2 Kxg2 Qg4 and black takes on f3 next move. Black then has 3 pawns for the exchange. I managed to keep my rooks pretty active, win the pawn on c7, get both rooks to the seventh and push my passed d-pawn and obtain a winning advantage which I then proceeded to draw.

I played a couple other games yesterday that were similarly below the quality of play I should have. Hopefully it's just a matter of not having played actual games recently and I can snap out of it by making play part of my routine in addition to work.

Back in tactics land, here are my CT-Art stats for the current level:
Level 50: 79% (85 problems done, 49 to go)
CT-Art Elo: 2343
Total problems done: 906, 303 to go.

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