Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye, Hello

Goodbye 2007, hello 2008!

I'm declaring a holiday; I'm going to play some blitz tonight on FICS! Hopefully I'll catch some people who've been drinking and really increase the old rating. Ha!

Anyway, in lieu of a formal Progress Report Week 7 and all that blah, blah, I'll just say that I finally get to play serious chess starting Jan. 10 in the Reno CC Class B Ch. and I'm so excited I feel like a kid again, waiting for the last week of school to be over and summer vacation to begin. Yeah!

I did do some Chess Tempo this week and that's good, but I have realized that my recent study program has been valuable but a little too confining. I don't have the percentages for the whole week with me right now, but the rating dropped from 1801 to 1764--horrors! Actually, since the point for me was to stay sharp for tournament play I'm not going to freak out about it, I think it's done its job.

While I'll keep up the Chess Tempo in the new year, I'm switching over to more time working with my new ChessDB program and reviewing and analyzing my own games and brushing up on my openings, but only by playing through complete master games in those openings trying to "guess the move," for both sides. This is an interesting idea that I saw when working with Secrets of a Grandpatzer--instead of taking the winning side and "being Tal" or whoever, guess the move for both sides as soon as you're out of your opening "book", taking no more than 15-20 minutes per game. I'll give it a try soon with the DB.

The good news for you, Dear Reader, is that I plan to make this blog somewhat less about "me, me, me" in 2008, and more about other's chess lives and topics of wider interest; I'll still inflict all my tournament games, and some study progress reports, upon you from time to time.



Friday, December 28, 2007

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Chessloser says it as only he can:

My Relationship With Chess

Makes me want to give up my job, chuck the whole middle-class life, move to the Left Bank of the Seine and play chess all day with mysterious women.

I'm inspired, and now you can look forward, sometime, to something more interesting here than my Chess Tempo training.

Life is more than tactical problems and ratings, boys and girls.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Secrets of a Grandpatzer, Part 4

(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)

As we continue this series on Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby's rare book Secrets of a Grandpatzer I thought that for a change I'd give an example of his play, a game I especially enjoy because the final position is so aesthetically pleasing:

Now that's what they mean when they talk about piece coordination!

And here's the whole game (or fragment--White may have staggered on for a few moves) with the author's notes. If you want to play the King's Indian, always be alert to the Nxe4 shot when the White King is stuck in the center. It occurs in a lot of different variations:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Progress Report, Week 6

(Here was Week 5, Grade B)

Like many of you, Dear Readers, the Christmas holidays and associated travel, shopping and other indignities interfered with training this week; all that aside, I did have a good Christmas and managed to improve a little more at Chess Tempo, + 40 -12 and rating now 1801 (1738). At 76.9 percent I'm creeping toward the percentage I should be hitting. I can only aspire to the heights reached by fellow Reno Chess Club member Soapstone (E. Hong) who is now in the top ten at the site in Standard rating at 2101, 82.85 percent for over 2000 attempts.

Also got in two 15 5 games at FICS (where I'm RLP)and won both against 1700-1800 rated opposition to bump my Standard rating up from 1690 to 1745. And once again, no blitz was involved in the making of this motion picture. Again, I was amazed at how much better I played at 15 5 than at 3 0 or even 2 5. No blitz is paying off.

Did some very brief reading in odd moments in the Gallagher book on Tal, but no board work, so a little, partial credit there.

And now, a word about my next big project; I have downloaded ChessDB to my new computer and will (apparently) be able to extract games from the FICS files, so I can present them here. An even more exciting prospect is inputting a database of all the games (700+, I think) that I have in a big cardboard box in my closet, representing my whole career of tournament play 1981 to the present. In the pile I have a few wins over Experts, a bunch of instructive and amusing (for you, Dear Reader) losses and plenty of stories to go with the games. Blog fodder for years to come! (YIKES).

Oh yeah, for this week's study program, I'll give myself another grade of B.

A Fair Question

Drunknknite was kind enough to follow the link in my last post back to my Feb. 2006 thoughts on The Greatest. He asks:

In your greatest post where is Botvinnik??

For some reason he is overlooked, even though he is the one who propelled technique and the form of scientific analysis we apply to this game to the forefront of theory. He was also 'dominant' from 1946 until 1957 (probably even later than this). In spite of the fact that Bronstein and Smyslov were right on his heels, he still showed his superiority to the great masters of his time.

As great a player as Botvinnik was, I must respectfully disagree with part of this comment. If I were to have included a list of the "Top Ten" chess players of all time, M. Botvinnik would probably have merited a place on it; but in the particular categories of my rather idiosyncratic list I couldn't justify including him. He truly was dominant in the 1948 World Championship Tournament, but then didn't play any public chess for three years, and his record in the World Ch. matches he played in 1951-63 was basically 50-50. If you will refer to his tournament and match record here you'll see that he played fairly sparingly as World Champion, had a number of very good results and a few mediocre ones in strong tournaments, but never had the kind of almost unbeatable of 4-7 years that was noted in my original post for Alekhine, Tal, Fischer et al.

It certainly hurt Botvinnik that four or five of what might have been his dominant years were 1941-45 when the Soviet Union was locked in a death struggle with Germany and international chess life was disrupted. If he had gotten a chance to play in a World Championship match and a few strong international events during those years his reputation as a great player might be even greater.

For these reasons, Botvinnik didn't make any of the lists in my original post but I'm happy to agree with drunknknite that he deserves recognition as one of the all-time greats.

Friday, December 21, 2007


An interregnum is a period of discontinuity, an interruption which incorporates an ineluctable emphasis on a relationship to what comes before and to what comes after in a sequence. This contrasts with a near synonym like "gap" which may be random, encompassing neither connotation of interjacency, sequence, continuity, etc. nor formal inter-relation.

Umm, actually I am just going on vacation and may not post until the middle of next week...but I really like the word "interregnum" a lot.

Here's something from the back of the vault to substitute, until then, for actual original thought :

From back in February 2006, my opinions on The Greatest.

See you soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Secrets of a Grandpatzer" (Part 3)

(After straying seriously from the chess focus of this blog, though in a very enjoyable way, we now resume our regularly scheduled programming)

(Part 1) (Part 2)

Preface: For those readers new to this series, Dr. Kenneth Mark Colby, M.D. (Dr. G), was a Professor of Psychiatry and a leading researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence until his passing in 2001 at the age of 81. In 1979 he published Secrets of a Grandpatzer: How to Beat Most People and Computers at Chess. Though I present some highlights here, I want to clarify that I don't necessarily endorse all of his advice, especially the part about memorizing openings (see Part 2). Since this is a book that few readers will have a chance to look at, however, I do my best to present excerpts of his material without too much editorializing of my own.

Part III of the book is headed "How to Play," and covers Thinking, Nerves, Pressures, Clocks and Conduct in mostly brief chapters. Some nuggets for your consideration:


Depth of analysis counts for little among patzers and grandpatzers. It is accuracy of calculation which counts. Unless the moves are forced there is no point in looking deeper than 6-8 ply (half moves) because there are too many possibilities for flaws in the analysis.

In many positions there is no best move, and a modest one suffices, especially if it restrains or frustrates your opponent's intentions.

The lack of sustained will-power and the making of "what-the-hell" moves is another reason one does not become a master.


Speaking of being nervous and being drunk, I have found it useful to be slightly swacked at the start of a game...I know this is heresy...but I advise a few drinks before a serious game. This is hard to do when the game begins in the morning but afternoon and evening games are ideal for this opportunity.

Computers do not evaluate people from their appearances an neither should you. It is a very dangerous thing to do for reasons I will now spell out. The greatest psychological danger for the aspiring grandpatzer lies in playing the ego-game.

Nobody wants to be a nobody. It is precarious to use chess as a way to defeat a sense of nobodiness.

Some booked-up teenagers are the best examples of contempt-in-action...The way to get an edge on them is to increase their conceit and disdain for you by acting as bumbling as possible.


To be a master one needs good physical and mental stamina. But health, mental or physical, is not necessary for the grandpatzer.If you look at a group of us in a chess club tournament, you will observe what wrecks we are...Having problems is not the problem; it's what you do in spite of them that counts. To rise above physical illness and pain, to strive for your best in spite of these distressful states, represents a challenge for the aspiring grandpatzer with artistic goals.

Tenacity and resourcefulness are the marks of the grandpatzer. He hangs in there for a long time knowing there exists a great variety of hidden possibilities in every position.


Once during a tournament, an old guy fell over backwards in his chair. As I was trying to get his pulse (he was dead), a true chessplayer rushed up to the board shouting "Stop his clock, stop his clock!" (Article 14.6). The ending to this funny-not-so-funny story is that a few years later this same chessplayer died of a coronary during a tournament game.


There is more to chess than moving the pieces.

Chess is play, a game having its own reality. We can obliterate one everyday reality, not by dimming awareness, but by intensity of concentration in another.

I hope your artistic goal in studying the teachings and preachings of this book is to improve your play in an enjoyable way.


(In Part 4 we'll look at Dr. G's advice on playing Young Guys, Old Guys, Women and Masters, plus How to Beat Computers, 1979 version, by an expert in the field).

More Non-Chess Material, or, the Beauty of Individualism

Derek Slater comments on the Potpurri post:

I think it's great that you included the non-chess-related link on individualism. That'll help those blend-in-at-all-costs conformists like chessloser, dk-transformation and liquid egg. (heh.)

Since individualism is my greatest passion (besides chess) I present a link to one of my favorite individualist writers, Ilana Mercer.

She provides the photos below; totally non-chess related, but individualist enough for me to post!

and from a different angle...

Rated PG


One "F-word" used to get an R rating for the whole movie, but apparently times have changed.

(h/t James Stripes over at Patriots and Peoples. He also blogs Chess Skills.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Progress Report, Week 5

Here was last week (Grade: C-)

Some better work this week, despite the ubiquitous holiday distractions and time-stealers that I'm sure most of you are also experiencing! Promising and delivering these reports has had a good effect on my study habits, since I'm aware that my Vast Readership will be watching. Also, Liquid Egg Product threatens to sic Singaporean cops with canes on me if I break the no blitz promise...yeah, that's motivation.

So let's start with the good news: No Blitz this week! Played two 15 0 games on FICS with a 1627, won both in pretty good style, standard rating there now 1690 (1631). Did I mention no blitz?

Over at Chess Tempo (rpearson) I went +57 -19 for exactly 75 percent, not as high a percentage as I need to get to, but a decent improvement over last week. Also, I spotted at least two "duals" that I got docked for, when my solution led to the same position, but no big deal. Chess Tempo rating (standard) 1738 (1673); decent progress there.

I even got into the Joe Gallagher book on Tal that I mentioned back at the beginning of this program, even if only for a few minutes, so that's a tiny bit of progress, too. Here's a funny position from the introduction that I thought you'd enjoy, from the game Tal-Petrosian, USSR Team Ch. 1974:

One might reasonably ask how an all-time great like Petrosian ended up in this position after 18 moves; looks more like Morphy-NN, offhand game, London 1858 does it not? Tigran, didn't they teach you back at the Pioneer's Palace in Tblisi to develop the queenside?

Ha, anyway Tal finished the game efficiently with 19. Neg5+! hxg5 20. Nxg5+ Kg8 21. Qf4 Nd7 22. Rxd7! Bxd7 23. Bxf7+ 1-0.

Now wasn't that easy?

I'm giving myself a B for the week on sticking to the program--next week, Chess Tempo percentage must rise significantly!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Potpurri of Good Stuff

For the last week or so a great number of thoughts, links and references have been running through my mind, and so here, in no particular order, are the ones I can remember and/or wrote down or bookmarked during the fallow period (The rest, which I've forgotten or perhaps remembered during a period when I wasn't near a computer and then have forgotten again, will have to be noted later):

Eric Shoemaker, fellow Reno Chess Club member and blogger, deleted his other blogs and intends to consolidate his chess blogging at Shoemaker's Hidden Study...; excerpts from a comment he left here:

I have begun a very ambitious project...

I am going through all of my chess books, one by one and my favorite "stuff" is making it to the blog, so as to create a very lengthy "study session." Naturally, there will be tactics, endgames, games, game extracts, personal successes, etc and much less talk about myself.

Sounds very interesting, and yes, Eric, I will try to assist you on the technical side.

Another Reno player, Soapstone, gives some autobiography in My Chess Career. Capablanca used that title, too; hope the parallels continue, Ernie!

Somewhere in the last week I bookmarked a link to a 2006 post by Kathy Sierra, "How to be an expert;" there is mention of chess grandmastership, but more importantly, the article could inspire anyone in any field, especially the "mature" person (like me). Oh wait, credit goes to J'adoube via BDK's Confessions (comments) for the link.

How can it be possible that I'm the last person in the chess blogosphere to link Reassembler (aka Derek Slater)? One of the best writers and commenters around, on much more than chess. Sometimes I am so lame...

A cool blog that has nothing to do with chess, but everything to do with my other favorite subject, individualism--The Bidinotto Blog:

If somebody spikes the drinking water of Republican primary voters with a hallucinogenic drug, and Huckabee wins, I'd have to seriously weigh the unthinkable: voting for a Democrat. Hell, I might vote for Obama over Huckabee -- then go out and get drunk. And stay that way for four years.

LMAO! And now back to chess...

Ashu Ailani, one of the people who was near the incident described in my A for Asshat post added a comment (scroll down) but I'm still a little confused.

Polly of Castling Queen Side has a lot more fashion sense than most chess players.

The excellent Michael Goeller at The Kenilworthian had a superb post on Chess Amateurism that stimulated thoughtful discussion, including the observation that chess professionals need amateurs, but the reverse is not necessarily true! As I noted previously, if GM chess is a "different game" then:

Why should the rest of us waste our time looking at the games, buying these guys' books or supporting Superduper-GM chess in any way, when we could be spending it on our tactics exercises and studying our own games? I'm just sayin', that's where the "different game" logic leads.

There is so much free material and instruction available on the Web these days that chess "professionals" are going to have to really add value if they want to get paid for it. Just my opinion.

Streatham & Brixton CC's blog has a continuing series of posts by "Geoff Scorebook, English Grandmaster." Just, frickin,' hilarious. Genius! Here's the latest.

The latest serial post from dk at Chess Improvement is a work of art. Visually and every other way.

Glenn Wilson of Houston has an excellent blog that I have missed linking previously. My bad!

Wormwood on How Deep Do You Look? is worth more than a look. Read the whole thing. I will point you to my comment on this post by BDK:

A lot of good points in comments here but I don't know if anyone has really penetrated to what I feel is the heart of the quote; from my own experience I can say that for many, many years I always tried to do something in most every position, always going forward if possible, attacking something, threatening something, always trying to be "forceful," in a word.

Well, this is often called for, but lately I've had some pretty good success with just "being" (as J. Rowson calls it), waiting for the opponent's mistake before doing something forceful to take advantage of it. I just try to play a healthy opening, not a sharp one, and build up my position while limiting the other person's options and opportunities. This isn't "negative" chess, and I'm no Petrosian, but it does cut down on mistakes from my side.

Now, does anyone have a comment on my comment? I'd love a little debate on the approach outlined here v. "attacking chess."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Yes, I'm Still Alive

Haven't posted anything for almost a week, and right now it's only 9:30 local time and I'm ready to fall asleep; sheeeeesh, that's ridiculous.

Anyway, I have done some pretty good training this week, and no blitz. I'll make some time tomorrow to do an actual post with all the pent-up material.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Progress Report, Week 4

(Compare Week 3)

Most of my chess activity this week consisted of Chess Tempo (where I'm rpearson if you're interested): +98 -47, 1673 (1652)--NOT good enough! 67.6 %, while my competition at the Reno Chess Club like Soapstone is hitting 79 % with rating around 2000. That's where I need to be.

I did get in a couple of 15 minute games on FICS with a good fighting draw against a 1670 and an unfortunate loss against an 1856 (I was a pawn up). Standard Rating there now 1631 (1645). I also played 9 blitz games (majority 2 5) and dropped most of them--the difference in quality between blitz and the 15 0 or 15 5 games is simply enormous. Blitz isn't doing me any good in improvement and even that small number was basically a waste of time, though I sometimes use the excuse that I only have "a few minutes," but sorry sucker, you should be doing Chess Tempo problems in that time! Okay, at least there was a lot less blitz than last week; if I was a smoker I could say that I went from a pack a day to half a pack, I suppose.

I'm a little bummed that I probably won't be playing any OTB at the Reno Chess Club until January, in the Class B Ch.--so I better get back to strictly tactical study and longer games.

Overall grade for Week 4 considering real life and all that rot: C-.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Secrets of a Grandpatzer" (Part 2)

(Part 1 here)

As I noted in Part 1, this book was written by Kenneth Mark Colby, a Professor of Psychiatry who also worked in the field of artificial intelligence (interesting paper on artificial belief systems here). He also had a great sense of humor and really enjoyed life and chess, if the book is any indication.

Having previously covered the Introduction, let's get to the meat:

After floundering around as a 1600 patzer for 3-4 years, I decided to do something about it. In those doings, I developed, and utilized the herein described heuristics to raise my USCF rating to 1800+ in a year of weekly rating tournaments...Being of generous disposition, I am now passing these secrets on to you so you too can become a grandpatzer. Why should I reveal these secrets? Because now that I have become a grandpatzer, I don't need them anymore. (I need new ones.)

Colby thinks studying master games annotated by masters is (mostly) a waste of time. To briefly sum up, his road to grandpatzership emphasizes pattern recognition, specializing in and memorizing a few openings (yes, memorizing. More on that shortly) and tactics training. The part where he diverges from most other books and authorities is in his opening advice. I described it briefly back in my first post on opening study, but let's let the man speak for himself:

The major area where an aspiring grandpatzer can profit from master practice is in the opening, regardless of what masters say about memorizing. Play only opening systems which current masters repeatedly use because they are constantly being improved for you through tournament play...By studying these systems and your pet critical variations of them, you simply memorize, as far as you can, what the best current continuations are...

A lot different from most advice we "class" players get! Colby recommends the King's Indian and Sicilian Dragon (though my earlier post did point out some possible problems with his approach). His point is to get a middlegame you are familiar with and, perhaps just as critical, preserve clock time and mental energy for playing said middlegame. As long as you're within your "book" you just put out your memorized moves.

I do think that whatever objections one may come up with, this is very practical advice; the more I play tournament chess the more I believe that avoiding time trouble and maintaining focus through proper periods of concentration and relaxation is a vital part of good results. For example, at the Reno Chess Club we play a lot of 30/90, G/60 time controls; getting to move 10 in couple of minutes on the clock allows almost 90 minutes for 20 middlegame moves. Could be helpful...

Colby's other great emphasis in his "How to Study" section of the book is tactical exercises--"Hence I will recommend study of this aspect of the game above all others." He seems to have done the equivalent of de la Maza's "Seven Circles" with Fred Reinfeld's 1001 Brilliant Sacrifices and Combinations. At least there's one thing everybody agrees on; study tactics, tactics and more tactics.

Finally for this part, some more sage advice:

The great problem with all study is TIME. You have a job, family, friends, dogs, plants, other pastimes. You are lucky if you can study 3-4 hours a week. The trick is to concentrate and use TIME efficiently...I spend much of my TIME trying to overcome this (combinational weakness) by studying diagrams in which a winning combination lurks. I study current variations in my pet openings as they occur in the literature. I now study only those endings that my own games lead to. Everyone has to find a way to distribute study-time. Playing time is distributed for you.

(In Part 3 we'll look at Dr. G's advice on "How to Play")

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Progress Report, Week 3

Concentrated on Chess Tempo this week--+56 -25, 1652 (1563), better than last week but still not nearly what I'm capable of--with no time limits I should be getting a lot higher percentage, like 90+. I'm really going to concentrate hard, ignore distractions and take whatever time is necessary.

Played one 15 5 game at FICS and had a very good and interesting game with someone rated 1767, which I eventually lost, so my standard rating is now 1645P (1677P).

And...okay, okay, I did play some blitz over at FICS, maybe 20 games and got my rating back over 1300, which does wonders for my ego (heh).

I know, my Plan said No blitz. In italics.

I can quit the crack cocaine of chess anytime.

Yeah, sure, we'll see next week...

Monday, December 03, 2007

"Secrets of a Grandpatzer" (Part 1)

Secrets of a Grandpatzer is a very interesting book that was published back in 1979, interesting both for the subject matter and for the author, Kenneth Mark Colby, a Professor of both Psychiatry and Computer Science at UCLA. Dr. Colby had a lot of valuable things to say about chess and chess players, and since the book is now out of print and very difficult to find (only one copy at $35.00 on Amazon) I thought it would be of value to readers to share some of his thoughts, since I'm fortunate enough to own the book. Even though he passed away in 2001 at age 81 the book is still under copyright and I don't want to steal someone's intellectual property, but I believe it's fair use to describe the contents and quote a few passages.

The sharp-eyed may notice that over on the sidebar there's an (excellent) blog named Secrets of Grandpatzer Chess, but curiously, when I commented on one of the posts there asking if that was from the book, Grandpatzer replied "wahrheit: no, I had to google in order to find the book you were referring to. I was playing off the title of one of Nunn's recent books, although Soltis' "Grandmaster Secrets: Endings" was also floating around in my head." I just wanted to clarify that for the record.

Enough of the prelims--to the book! The subtitle is "How to beat most people and computers at chess," and the author's stated aim is to raise the "duffer, fish, woodpusher or rabbit Class E, D, C or weak B" to the exalted status of "grandpatzer" (1700-2200). The "beating computers" part needs some historical context; at the time there was, of course, no Fritz or Rybka and Dr. Colby is talking about the Chess Challenger and others (here is a nice page with examples) which played in the 1200-1600 range on their higher settings. Interestingly, he believed one way to get better at chess was to emulate the computer ("the greatest grandpatzer of them all").

Here is a quote from the first page that should touch any discerning reader:

Why should a patzer seek to become a grandpatzer? Because of the aristos (Greek: Aristos = best). Life is more than ham sandwiches and beer. Humans strive, not just to survive, but to enhance the quality, the excellence, of survival. Striving for excellence in any endeavor, developing yourself to become your best at what you do, is rewarding and fulfilling to aspirations higher than happiness. Merely happy people, without artistic goals, vegetate in incomplete, hobbled and impoverished lives...A grandpatzer is a strong chessplayer, a threat to anyone (including himself) in a given game.

And one more indicative quote from the Introduction:

As Dr. G will show you, becoming a grandpatzer involves understanding the ego-game in addition to knowing lots of patterns, themes and tricks.

There are a great many other valuable and enjoyable quotes and tips in this book, and I'll share some of them with you in future posts.