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")


chessboozer said...

Sounds like good advice.
I think i will try the kings indian and sicilian dragon approach. I have never focused on specific openings so I dont really have anything to loose.

Ryan said...

I think most people advise not memorising openings for a good reason - if you don't know why you're supposed to be better when you get to the end of your memorised 'book' line then you're unlikely to be able to take advantage of it.

transformation said...

the most lively post, and so perfectly writen. thank you. love your work, as always, and your engaging sincerity and candor most refreshing. dk

ps fyi, super busy this corner job hunting at a much higher level WHILE holding down a job takes a lot of REAL juice. :)

Liquid Egg Product said...

He wants us to memorize an opening????


(Actually, since I've been favoring the Pirc, it probably would be a good idea, since it can be easy to go wrong in it.)

Polly said...

I've never been a big fan of memorizing openings. Though I do find myself having time issues because I waste time in the opening.

I find tactics more interesting, but eevn those I don't spend enough time on.

Anonymous said...

Please dont memorize the openings. Understand each and everymove while learning. The openings are derived from players playing from 1800's. They made some moves to help others to use the time for middlegame and endgames. So what if you play a different 8th move like a sicilian pelican... Think It will go wrong when you change a move from the opening..