Thursday, July 05, 2007

After the the Hiatus: Refocusing and Rededication

Taking a little time away from tournament chess and chess blogging has been good for refocusing, both on what I want out of chess and how to get there.

A great deal has happened around the chess blogosphere in the last week. dk-transformation posted a very kind and wonderfully illustrated post that includes his article about me and this blog, as well as so many beautiful images to accompany it and so many other playful and idiosyncratic profiles on other chess bloggers that I despair of trying to describe it all. I've said this before about him, you have to go there and read it all, because he and his work are, well, not summarizable.

Also, chessloser returned from Spain and was then stuck in West Virginia for days, prompting talk of a massive and violent rescue operation--but fortunately it turned out to be a mechanical, not criminal matter, and all is well.

Blue Devil Knight was getting sort of sick of chess and I think all of us who play and study it seriously get a stretch like this from time to time. He's back to working hard on his Circles again so apparently his "chess hunger" (Botvinnik) is still there.

Blunderprone went to the World Open and had some humbling experiences (as I did there back in 1990 with a snappy 1.5-6.5 result) and decided "I totally SUCK at chess." Another thing we have in common--I think I've said that a few times myself! Looks like he came back strong at the end, for which he's got my admiration.

All of this and so much more kept me thinking for the last week about the next phase in my development and chess career, because I'm not entirely happy with the way I've been performing during tournament games. Like almost everyone else I feel like I must make progress, however slow and steady, or spend my precious time on other things. So with two more weeks off from tournament play coming up, here is a summary of what I'm doing to refocus and rededicate.

Refocusing, First Principle: All future training and thinking about chess is to be dedicated to improving results in tournament and match games with humans. This is a very important clarification, I believe, as some of the things I've been doing have been fun and/or interesting, but have not contributed in this area. So this First Principle will provide the base from which all will follow in the rest of this post and in my studies and practice from now on. And so, on to the various areas of work...

Tactical training: As much as I've enjoyed playing around at Chess Tactics Server, and as marvelous as dk's and tempo's achievements there are, I've decided that CTS isn't contributing significantly to results at the board, as it's a little bit like blitz--I don't have the self-discipline to take 30 seconds and lose all the points even though I get it right. So I'm going to stop there with a 1477 rating at 73.6 percent over 1100-odd problems. I have an old Soviet tactics book that I'm going to work through, each and every problem (about 210 arranged by theme in the learning chapters and then a 150 position "tactics exam"). I'm going to use a board for the problems when I have at least 20-30 minutes to work, and solve from the book otherwise, not leaving a problem until I know I've got it right, even if it takes a half hour. At home I now have CT ART 3.0 so I'm going to explore that--there's plenty of comments and suggestions about it on many of the Knight's Errant blogs, which is useful and enjoyable.

Openings: I enjoyed playing 1. e4 a few times lately but this excellent post by Grandpatzer on Preparing an Opening Repertoire made me think things through more thoroughly in terms of improving results in tournament and match games with humans. Maybe 1. e4 leads to more "attacking" positions for White, but I already have a good, strong White repertoire that I'm familiar and comfortable with. So why change now? It would just take away time that could be spent on other, more important aspects of training. So all the (limited) opening study I'm going to be doing will be focused on identifying any holes in my tried and true set of variations, and refining this existing group of openings that I'm already at least somewhat familiar with.

Attitude at the Board: This is where I think I can achieve some real, rapid improvement of results. The problems I've been having in this area include: 1) Playing wild attacking stuff to "see what happens" (see this post, where "amchamp" commented
You didn´t give the moves, but "Philidor" plus "sac on f7" sounds pretty much like that line where the white knight ends up on a8. This has been known to theory for a long time not to be good for white. Exactly, my friend. I calculated 5-6 moves ahead, but I would have had to see 7-8 to realize that the line was no good, so I didn't know the Philidor very well and I played a "fun, attacking" move that I couldn't see clearly to an advantage). 2) Not being patient enough (maybe this should be 1A). Being an aggressive player is good, in general, provided you apply your aggression in the right positions. My tendency is to apply it too often. Remember, improving results in tournament and match games with humans. If the game is equal for 45 moves and I then get a good rook ending which he resigns on move 80, that's just as good as a 22-move win as White in the Evans Gambit with a piece sacrifice. At least, that's the way I need to look at it if I really want to improve results, and not just play "interesting" games that keep my rating at 1600 for the rest of my life.

Related to this is stamina--as I've mentioned before, these are 30/90, G/60 time controls and my play in games that go long hasn't been that good. I started running program a few weeks ago and I'm up to about 2.5 miles in 24 minutes; it's not Olympic running, but I believe it's going to give me greater endurance when crunch time comes in the 4th and 5th hour of play. Also, I've noticed that running helps train the will; some days you don't feel like doing your running, sometimes you feel like stopping short of your goal distance, but there's always something left in the tank, and if you just keep plodding along you will make it to where you're determined to go. That can't be anything but good for gutting out a tough game of chess!


Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, glad to hear you are finally making some sense.

Word of advice: Lose the philosophy and concentrate on chess. If you don't, you will see even more 1600's when you look up your rating at the USCF site!

The two have nothing to do with each other and even if philosophy could help, one would have to really investigate where, to find where such a help would occur.

Go to my site for more ideas on how to study.


wang said...

I hate to do this to you, but consider picking up chess for tigers. I has alot of stuff about winning, not making a beautiful 4-6 move combo for a mate or material gain, but just winning your games. It is also a light easy read and you could do it in under a week.

transformation said...

there you go man!

that is the wahrheit that we know and love. the narative blogger who, if he cannot lead us all, surely can keep us all warm and sensible company. the one who can lead newer players by showing not what they must do, but what to look forward to after. or who can look up to his seniors, few here they may be--loomis, bahus, tempo, maybe grandpatzer, etc.

i loved this post. and thanks for kind words for me. if only i could have a beer now and again, after so much work, but i cannot, as alcohol is a depresant! no.

i greatly look forwar to more bracing narative, such as you have here, and is of the best kind, clean and rich and humble and sincere.

BDK dialoques, first one prints tomorrow. i wrote it after my afternoon nap, in a fit of apoplexy.

warmest, dk

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, Wang's suggestion of "Chess for Tigers" isn't a bad idea. My friend Mark Brooks, an expert in San Diego was really high on that particular book. I'm actually shocked I don't have it myself.

I hope "Transformation" doesn't think I'm being too harsh. I'm just a little bored with the "1600" number you keep putting up.

Bear Down!

Blue Devil Knight said...

It sounds like a good plan. Kind of funny: I am just starting to enter into the zone of playing too recklessly, and think I need to do it for a while. It seems you and Blunderprone are ready to move on to more sober minded chess. Maybe if I ever hit 1600 I'll get sober too.

Philosophy? I don't get it. What philosophy?

Wahrheit said...

Eric--I too ama little confused on the "philosophy" part because while I do delve into that from time to time this post is about practical actions to produce results. SSon we'll see how they work.

Wang--Yeah, I've got Chess for Tigers and I read it many years ago but that's the spirit of the book, and what I'm looking for here, just getting the results.

dk--Thanks for just doing your thing, which has added enjoyment to many people's lives. You look awesome in those wedding suits.

BDK--I think it's good for development to go through a period of Beserker chess and attack at all costs, then eventually settle down to the right mix of aggression, material greed and prophylaxis that makes a really strong player. So right now--go for it!

transformation said...

i hope that no one is offended, but i get asked out ALL the time by gay men. i have several gay friends, so not affraid of neighborhood, but it is not for me and never will be. if only they were 32 year old female marketing directors, or professors of early french poetry, or outward bound chics.

then large women. i get approached by many, often very overweight. i am their ideal. ive tried this, but it doesnt work for me, from long ago i cannot.

just one lithe tight little...

some women think chess brains are sexy, but such is not an everyday event!

Eric Shoemaker said...

Hi Robert, sorry about the confusion, but some of your past comments seem too convoluted and when we talk in person, I feel you are straying from the fundamentals. Attacking too early in my opinion is just as bad as defending too late.

Transformation: Did I miss something? What are you talking about?

I know of no gay chess players, perhaps they exist-in myth.

It has been my experience that very good looking people often get approached by both genders.

In my own life, I have often attracted both genders and it always disturbs me as well when I am approached by my own sex. While I'm not homophobic by any means, I abhor their misuse of nature.

I doubt very much in today's world that anyone is really with their true partner as an Almighty God would have it, but still a man and a woman are complimentary to each other.

Hopefully, society will improve itself at some point.

chessloser said...

i think attitude at the board is a biggie. if you have a losing position, it's so easy to just tip the king over, but if you hang in there and keep fighting, there is that chance your opponent will be cocky and miss something and you can turn it around. or you can just wear him down if he thinks he has an easy win, and cause him to make a mistake. the whole intangible thing of mindset, it has a lot to do with it, i think....

Ryan Emmett said...

I think we all go through stages of simply enjoying the game for it's own sake and not worrying too much about results (as long as a few wins come our way) and then suddenly get sick of losing so much and resolve to focus on improvement again.

Good luck Rob - I hope you make some headway.

Anonymous said...

Well, I played chess actively from age 16 to about 20. My uscf Rating was 2069. Later, when I came out of the closet my social life and other interests took more time and I stopped playing chess altogether. I do know some active players that are gay. Anyway I hope you continue to meet your chess playing goals.