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.