Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Don started it...

Don made a very good point about maybe saving the newer Knights from the agony we have had to endure in his news release called The Nine (Ten) Circle Program.
First let me say that I like Don's approach, and agree that the focus should be on nailing the lower levels before moving up. My plans were to wait until the end of the exercises before revealing my suggested modifications to the Plan de le Maza. (Michael's 7 circles)

Mainly because I haven’t finalized them as of today, but believe me I have been giving it some serious thought.

These are some of the ideas rolling around, please note that my suggested modifications are based off of my particular experience with the 7-circles. They are tailored to help with my own chess improvement after analyzing my particular strengths and weaknesses that have occurred in my own games. If you think they can serve you great! If you think the plan would better suit someone else that is great too! Everyone is at a different level in their ability to play chess and training is not one size fits all. For example during the Knights Errant meeting we discussed a few topics. I mentioned that one of the problems I was having was about thought processes. My particular problem was how to decide when to stop looking at variations. Since starting the program I’m getting good games, but wasting tons of clock time by chasing down every possible move down to the nth degree.

So where do I draw the line. I have some theories but I won’t bore you with those.

Tonight I’m going to present where I want to go with my tactical training. Not the exact program, just where my head is at this particular time.

Michael de le Maza's focus seems to be on just piling on a ton of exercises until either one of two things happens. 1) You get better from the shear amount of tactical themes you have been forced to stomach. 2) Your head explodes. As for the first part... of course any individual that devotes this much time to tactical exercises will see an improvement. Without a doubt in my mind you will see some sort of benefit.

Who knows where Michael de la Maza was in his chess ability at the time he created the 7-circles, his approach properly coincided with a need to correct a deficiency in his own game, and it worked well for him.

As for me I am seeing where my ability to solve the higher level material in the recommended time has reached its limit. To continue to plow through exercises with a dropping success rate just to be able to say that I did it would be a colossal waste of time.

In reality you can't expect a huge payoff in any endeavor without some preparation first. You have to build a solid base that begins with the fundamentals, and then you increase your range. If you have a spotty success rate while solving a mate-in-2 do you really think saturating yourself with mate-in-7 exercises is going to have much benefit? If I tried to jump back into cycling resuming my training at the level I was capable of sustaining the last season I raced (18 years and 55 pounds ago) I would pop a lung at the bare minimum. Today of course I would have to train like I was a beginning rider. My only advantage over a beginner would be my bike handling ability, and hopefully the ability to spin a reasonable cadence in a low gear.
Other than that I would still have to log about a thousand miles or so before starting any kind of work using a large gear, to do otherwise would more than likely result in damage to my knees. So where does that leave us now that I'm back from being on what my geometry teacher called "off on a tangent"?
Base miles and lots of them micro cycle after micro cycle of base miles, there's joy in repetition.
A tall building needs a solid foundation so the focus needs to be placed in creating said foundation. You have to be able to nail the easy exercises, then and only then do you raise the level of difficulty. But you do not abandon the easier exercises entirely. You still

have to cruise over them with a periodic refresher. We tend to forget what we don’t use. On occasion I’m forced to resuscitate some archaic math formula at work. It is not that the formula is hard to solve, it is just through lack of use I find myself pausing initially until it loads itself back into my memory. Once it does it is business as usual. I can remember the formulas because I know them. But the hesitation comes from lack of use.

Same with anything else.

So with my tactical training I plan on starting at the beginning, all the way back to mate-in-one exercises and working my way up. I’m choosing mates as my base because they are pure. Meaning it is either there or it is not. No room for discussion, besides GM Short said it best with “Checkmate ends the game.”

Do I think I can end every game with mate? Of course not, but having the exposure to the different mating patterns will help with calculation of forced lines. We have a 1700 player (ex 1900 in his prime) at our club who would rather push a pawn than deliver mate. Not because he can’t see a mate-in-one but more because that is where his focus lies. (Trying to promote a passed pawn.) So I want to train my focus to look for mates first and then bettering my position.

Don is quoted with “In particular I've noticed that I have learned many mating patterns with knights and kings in the corner. I could recognize a smothered mate before, but now I feel like there are 20 or so floating around in there.”

Once I have the patterns down then it is on to something else.

I’m setting a limit to the amount of time to be invested each day, probably an hour on average, possibly more on certain days of each micro cycle. The emphasis will be placed on accuracy and quality, not shear volume.

I want to include other facets of the game too. Some days will contain endgame studies, openings on others. As for studying openings, I think it is a good idea to work with a particular opening, not because I plan on trying to learn every variation but because it will give me a road map through the minefield. Plus it will save on clock time by cutting out variations that don’t require calculation. For instance 1.e4, c5 2.Nf3, d6 3.d4, cxd 4. Nxd, Nf6 5. Nc3 is played without hesitation. No one at the higher levels waste any time looking for a mistake in those first five moves. The only thing the first player is waiting for is to see what the second player’s fifth move is going to be. Then they get to formulate some plan based on what particular variation the second player chooses.

Playing through games of a particular opening will help smooth the transition into the middle game. It will even help with shedding light on some long range plans and ideas.

End games are self explanatory the knowledge gained through study will help dictate exchanges in the middle game. It helps to know which minor piece will be superior based off of pawn structure. Of course these are just my theories, but having a plan is better than no plan at all.

So now I’m left with assembling a training schedule with those ideas in mind.

More on that later, now it is time for bed.


Pawnsensei said...

Hey Sancho,

I really like your article. I especially liked the bike analogy. Seems like you have put a lot of thought into it.


Don Q. said...


Some thoughts about your post and what may be causing your frustration. You went very fast through the first circle. If I recall correctly, you would look at the prob for a minute and then if you didn't see it, go to the solution. I wonder if this devloped pattern recognition at the expense of calculation muscle.

Two things keep kicking around in my head about this. Going on your theory that we are actually twins separated at birth, I'm gonna assume that when we started our tactical ability was approximately the same. (I think actually you might have been slightly stronger because Mom loved you more.)

First, your ability to solve the CT Art problems correctly seems to be much better than mine. You're posting much higher solve rates than I am even though I think I'm going through the problems slower. My conjecture is that you've burned these patterns in your brain very effectively.

Second, you're not finding the program that beneficial. You seem to feel like it ain't any easier when you sit at the board for a real game where I think I am seeing things a lot better. I think this is the result of my slow slog through the probs. the resona you might not see any benefit in these last circles is that they are developing the pattern recognition skill you have already acquired.

That said, I will be finishing circle 2 in two days. I have serious doubts about beeing able to conquer these problems each in 2.5 minutes or less in Circle 3. Even more ridiculous seems to be the notion that, although it took my full concentration to get through 30 problems last night, somehow I will magically be able to go through 1038 in a single day in about a month. I'll see if it seems useful when I get there.

I look forward to seeing your new schedule.

Rakshasas said...

I find it interesting that you're coming to the same conclussions I did about the program -- mainly that it's usefull, but it doesn't address the full range of my own deficiencies at chess.

I'm very interested to read what you have to say about a thinking process for yourself.

I think the place you have to stop calculating is one of when there are no more threats on the board for either you or your opponent or when the material loss for one side is obviously greater than any compensation in the position.

Don Q. said...


I know you never check email, but there's an email to you from the guy at chessville who want to do the article as well as my response.

Sancho Pawnza said...

Don you know Mom always loved you more.