Saturday, December 08, 2012

Call to Arms... a few windmills left standing.

Round up your steeds, dust off your saddles, for tonight we ride!

Actually skip the fanfare. If you happen to know the whereabouts of any of the Knights or friends. Please let them know there is a resurrection of sorts. I think everyone is beginning to realize that tactical prowess while important, is only a small piece of the puzzle. While I do plan to continue to make posts in this blog my main focus will be here at "The Society of Self-Analysis".
I will do my best to avoid redundant information between the two but there might be some initially as I try to explain the impetus behind the much needed shift away from a tactics dominant approach to chess improvement. The Sancho Pawnza blog is the closest thing I have to a diary of my thoughts for that time period and I plan on using it as my own personal reference guide of sorts.
Before my hiatus (and I do plan on posting my adventures sans chess over the last 4 and 1/2 years) my plan was to start analyzing my own chess games.
Because I was no longer losing games to tactical oversight. I was losing games because on several occasions I'd find myself standing at the crossroads of two reasonable ideas. I'd spend considerable amount of time calculating both then I'd choose one of the options, only to realize that I still hadn't created much if any advantage and had only used a lot of clock time. This would usually come to bite me in the end (pun intended) game. The problem wasn't that the ideas were bad. As a check I'd even run the alternative line that I had in my head through the chess engine while it was still fresh, just to see if my assessment was bad. More often than not Fritz would agree with my evaluation. While this was reassuring that my calculation/assessment ability was improving it still didn't solve my problem.
The problem was much deeper. I didn't understand the ideas and objectives of the openings that I was playing. While wasting energy trying to memorize a bunch of variations in anticipation of a line my opponent may or may not play. I realized that my time would be better spent studying endgames and more importantly the ideas/middle game plans behind the pawn structures. Because we have all seen it time and time again in our own games. What do we do when our opponent plays a move that deviates from our "book" knowledge. Do we assume it is a mistake or some sort of novelty? We sit there and wonder what in the heck is going on and we are forced to start thinking on our own. For this first part let us assume for the sake of argument that the move played was a mistake.
So I took some liberty to tweak the age old adage of "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" into "If a mistake is played on the chess board and no one knows why, is it really a mistake?". Some times the moves are mistakes that we can readily refute tactically. Other/most times it is much harder to understand the why and how to punish those mistakes. Which leads us to the second line of reasoning which I feel is even of greater importance for my own improvement in the opening. How does a chess move tie into the overall plan for the pawn structure being played and what do I do about it.
I know this is broad brush but it made me stop and rethink my entire approach to my chess playing. Which is that I realized I have limited knowledge and understanding of planning in general.
If I want to improve I have to start looking at ways to tie the transitions from opening to middle, from middle to end into concepts/patterns that I understand. To cut out the mindless middle game wandering and start finding/stock piling plans that are dictated by the pawn structures. One of the ways I seek to improve is by studying endgames and reviewing games from the openings I play. And of course start studying all the material I can find on pawn structures and minor piece battles.

Anyway that's enough of my rambling for now. I'm off to study.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Loss of Sanity?

Hmmmm... Now if I can only remember in which direction Dapple wandered off?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone is doing well!

Chess... Where to start?

Local Chess Club

My main focus over the past year has been to increase the number of members at the club. We have grown from 8-10 to over 50, with 30 of those holding USCF memberships. The goal now is to include scheduled lessons for new players and non-USCF members that are designed to give them the basics necessary to start tournament play. Fortunately several of our higher rated players are volunteering their time and effort to help make this work. We now have so many higher ranked players in attendance that unless you are 1700+ you won't even crack the top 10 on the club rating list.

My Chess
Still playing and studying [nothing rated yet... :)]
My main focus has been geared toward learning endgame fundamentals, review of basic strategic positions and how to convert those into wins, review of master games, tactical exercises (limited), some opening preparation, calculation exercises, and how-to analyze chess positions in order to objectively develop plans (as opposed to wandering around aimlessly looking for tactical shots as I did in the past).

Other than that nothing fancy.

Chess Blogging
Undecided on the frequency, this may just be a one off deal or I may decide to post on a weekly, semi-weekly or even monthly basis. Everyone knows blogging is a time consuming affair, so as far as keeping up with this blog or that blog. I'd rather just spend that time with family and friends. Studying might even be an option. :)
Ideally I would like to incorporate something productive which would serve to reinforce my chess study as opposed to the same old blah,blah,blah... "It's week #428 I have now solved 52,870,621 chess exercises and I still suck!".

The Society of Self-Analysis
Oh yes its coming.
This will be the fun part, where I review my own games and post my blunders and (wtf?) moments for your entertainment pleasure. It is from these gems of "how not to play" wisdom that I will attempt to tailor my study and lesson plans in order to correct the unsightly blight on humanity better known as my chess game.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What is a "Knight" anyway?

I personally have zero desire to moderate blogs, set rules for others, or even to type this post.
But after reading through DG’s blog I realized there are some serious misconceptions not only from folks outside the group but more importantly those identified as “Knights” themselves.

So I guess I could set the definition of a "Knight" and provide a list of rules, but I’m not going to do it. Because in doing so I would have to act like my opinion weighed more than another’s and in that I refuse.
It would be more beneficial to provide some history and let you make your own decision.

Part of me finds this laughable in the sense, for one to be identified as a “Knight” has always had more to do with an ideology than attaching one’s identity.
The name “Knights Errant” was started as a joke nothing more. It was just a way for two people to motivate each other through the long arduous process of the 7 Circles much like someone would call upon a workout partner. Don with his incredible sense of humor and penchant for names fired “Knights Errant” off the top of his head in keeping with the theme of Don Quixote.
There was no premeditated plan, no screening process, and certainly no set rules to live by, the whole group came to life on its own. I personally have never wanted rules, officers, or any sort of hierarchy, and consciously avoided setting precedent in order to make all feel welcome.

Anyone with an interest in chess and a desire to share what you have learned (regardless what path you are taking) in the hopes that it might become beneficial to some other person seeking to improve defines the term “Knight”.
Whether it is following something structured like the 7 circles, or creating your own way has never mattered. The only thing that matters in my opinion is that you have a helpful attitude, are willing to share your experience, and encourage others in their personal quest.
That is why I have never placed separate headers in my sidebar for “Knights” and “others”, for me anyone fitting the above is equally worthy to share their viewpoint and by providing as many links as possible maybe someone can find a blog that they can identify with while on their own personal quest.
Imagine if five people were asked to demonstrate how a knight moves, you of course would probably have five different answers. None of which would be any more or less valid than the next. The trick would be for you to filter through the demonstrations and choose the method that you can readily identify with or piece various segments together to form your own answer.

I just hope that people will figure out that we are all “Knights” in one form or fashion, and identify less with a name and more with helping each other.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Society of Self-Analysis

The Society of Self-Analysis or S.S.A. is in search of open minded applicants that are willing to become involved in a chess improvement group.
The mission of the group is to share experiences, study methods, utilized and designed solely for the purpose of improvement in rated play.
Applicants must be willing to undergo the strenuous task of analyzing their own games in order to identify weaknesses. An improvement plan will then be designed to eliminate said weaknesses, with results to be published.
Efficient methodology and a selfless nature will be appreciated.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Creation of the Thinking Model v1.0

After finishing my first “quick read” of “Practical Chess Analysis” by Mark Buckley (meaning I stick strictly to the text portion, mentally following the variations as far as I can clearly, while leaving deeper analysis of the examples for the second read with plans to use those as exercises utilizing the author’s methods).
This was the book recommended to and by Patrick. I highly suggest you read some of Patrick’s reviews of “PCA-1”,"PCA-2", "PCA-3".
One of the first things mentioned (page 4) is that a player must establish a method. Buckley states “For only with a workable technique can a player hope to improve his analysis-the approach must be applicable to any particular position. This book is the result of my wish to share what I have learned about chess analysis: how to see ahead, how to judge a position, how to study. I have tried my best to present the essentials, the heart of the matter, trusting that you may apply these suggestions and develop your own analytic tools.”
Of course Buckley doesn’t disappoint as the rest of the book is dedicated to explaining his particular methods in a manner that is approachable, though clearly I have a lot of work ahead of me if I want to develop what he considers the basics that are necessary to become good at analyzing. Some of those basics are only obtained through experience and a few more will require some exercises created solely to gain “experience”. For example Chapter 2:“Developing your intuition” deals with ways to increase intuition through pattern recognition. He includes items such as isolated pawns, misplaced pieces, and stock combinations in this family. This quote says it all “Pattern recognition is the heart of intuition. The pattern represents something familiar, something already evaluated. Because the experienced player has often already studied a similar position to the one set before him, he largely knows what to do without thinking. His judgment is sound; he refines and confirms, in most cases what the pattern tells him. This experience saves time and effort over the board and lets the player concentrate on the position’s unique features.”

So obviously “Developing my intuition” is not something that will occur overnight!

For me step one is the creation of a “thinking model” or “workable technique” with the help of this book and a few other resources. This need for a ‘thinking model” became painfully obvious as review of one evening’s blitz game losses all shared the same theme. Complete disregard for my opponents move possibilities, which comes mainly from my desire or focus to inflict my will on the position.
As part of my training to correct this problem I have reinstalled CT-Art 3.0 and plan on using it to help test and refine my “thinking model”.

Yes I hated CT-Art while using it as a training tool for the 7-Circles because I felt the material was too haphazard for effective use in developing pattern recognition. But it wasn’t until later that I realized there is a distinct difference between Pattern Recognition and Calculation Muscle. Since my desire is to strengthen my calculation and increase my ability to accurately evaluate positions CT-Art will be the perfect tool given the wide variety of themes.
Buckley is adamant in his belief that a player must have the ability to accurately calculate variations (one of his basics). He precedes this by insisting one must literally memorize the chess board so each square can be named, identified by color, and located on the lines intersecting it.

I have been approaching each exercise position (during practice) or move situation (in game) with the following mini checklist/thinking model.
While this is extremely crude, the list/model will continually be refined as some of the items move from “new concepts” to “intuition”. Plus practice and understanding will allow a shift in the amount of time applied to each section. For now there are times when just remembering to address the items in order can be counted as a success. Ultimately I’d like to be able to refine my calculation and train what Buckley calls “The Mind’s Eye” to the point where I can visualize variations with great accuracy.
But for now I’m going to work on just developing the habit of mentally identifying the following.

Thinking Model Version 1.0
1) Material Count on the board. (Pawns, Major, Minor)
2) I treat the position as if my opponent has the move.
3) I look for checks (Direct, and indirect) Buckley recommends giving the pieces an “aura”. The aura is unaffected by obstructions. Similar to what BDK’s coach told him when it comes to seeing through pawns. This also includes mating patterns.
4) Loose pieces& pawns (Anything that isn’t nailed down so to speak)
5) Weak Squares
6) Pawn Structures
7) Piece Mobility and Placement

My particular model doesn’t even come close to the one used by Buckley and is not a representation of the material provided in his book. This is simply a way for me to correct a flaw in my play and to start establishing the habit of refreshing the board after each move in an attempt to create a baseline evaluation. Organizing my thoughts should make my time spent calculating more effective over the board.
My goal is to work towards the model presented in PCA, but like I said before I can utilize the methods described by Buckley it will take a considerable amount of work on the basics.

If you have the chance to obtain a copy of Practical Chess Analysis by all means do so, you won’t regret it.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Play, review, and play some more!

Yes I have been slack when it comes to updating my blogs, I will admit it. :)
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy with chess, or not reading the other Knights' blogs.(Congratulations to J'Adoube, BDK, and Temposchlucker on their recent tournament participation!) Over the past few months I have been working on learning the openings with the method I mentioned way back in “Minimalist Openings or the “Sketch Pad Approach” “.

Initially it was painful, but I imagine anytime you attempt to change horses’ midstream you are bound to get wet.

Some of the minor setbacks included:
A) Complete negligence as to what my opponent’s pieces were attacking. (Don’t worry BDK mental faux pas occur at every level.) This is mainly because of what I feel chiefly to be a lack of pattern recognition involving the new structures, I repeatedly caught myself focusing/daydreaming more on my piece placement than what my opponent’s possibilities held. Normally I woke up from my nap after my opponent slapped me upside the head with a move I didn’t even consider once!
B) Encountering a sense of “What in the heck is my main objective in this position?” This usually appeared when my opponent played something outside my limited knowledge of a given opening. (I imagine this will continue for quite sometime)
C) Finding that I had a crack, crevice, hole, and on occasion a canyon in my repertoire. (But this is why I chose to approach opening study in this manner, “to find the weaknesses in my preparation”, and fix them.

On the upside:

A) I learned and continue to learn more about each of my openings chosen.
B) Transpositions are my friend! Being able to force pawn structures and more importantly plans into an arena I already understand is so nice.
C) Losing is only temporary, and you can quickly erase it by reviewing and turning it into a lesson.
D) If you “listen” to the opening it will reveal the plans that can and should be played. I struggled with this at first by attempting to force my will on the position. A better analogy would be certain notes and chord structures usually sound harmonious when they are played within the framework of a particular key. Trying to fit in notes that don’t belong to the “family” either by error or over-indulgence (i.e. look at how fast I can play) usually leave the listener with a sour taste.” Finding the plans gets easier each time I review, this is where one should study and memorize master games! Chessbase makes reviewing master games that apply to your own openings so easy it is ridiculous. While I appreciate the “classics” and do learn something new with every game reviewed. I feel like the “nugget of wisdom” learned is something that gets stored away in my toolbox for later use. Though I will be the first to admit if I ever happen to encounter one of those “nugget positions” I happily attempt to apply the learned idea. Sometimes without thinking it through to see if really applies. Hence my comment to Patrick about working to eliminate that particular flaw in my play. (BTW Patrick, the Buckley book arrived and it is awesome! Thank you so much!)

Another interesting milestone is I finally managed to break 2000 with my ICC “standard” rating which seems to be related to playing a bunch and keeping everything fresh. Plus I am forced to learn more about endings, as a lot of my games are won or lost from an equal middlegame. So endgame study has been providing an almost instantaneous return on the time invested while actually being fun. It would appear that Predrag’s comment about learning chess is like flying an airplane and one has to balance one’s approach much in the same manner a pilot keeps readjusting his wings to keep the plane level and on course.

Anyway I hope all my fellow Knights are doing well!
I still owe J'adoube a mini MDLM story, I haven't forgotten. (It's actually more of a side note than a story)