Monday, December 18, 2006

CT-ART 3.0 And A Status Summary

I finally got CT-ART, and have been starting with the level 10 problems. As usual with any chess programs, the interface is quite amateurish and has a lot of room for improvement. But I'm getting used to it, and I guess it gets the job done... The problems are quite easy, of course, but I've still managed to get 2 wrong from the first 79. I'm going to concentrate on calculation with them, an area that I'm having serious problems with, despite the extensive drilling on CTS.

I also ordered Karsten Müller's endgame dvds 1&3, and will start drilling them as soon as they'll arrive. I'm also continuing the daily dose of blitz, and hopefully get the hang of it at some point. Now, I just keep doing ridiculous mistakes I didn't even think I was capable of anymore, and the embarrassing rating in the 1100's descibe exactly how much I suck at blitz. In CC I got swindled out of about 40 points by a 1900-2000 rated guy who mass resigned around 100 games at once, leaving me with a whopping 10 points for the two games I won against him. I would've hit 1800 otherwise, but the 40 missed points combined with a typical missplayed ending against a 1600 have dropped me back down to 1735. Well, live & learn.

CT-ART update:
day 1: level 10: 96%, level 20: 90% 61/286 done.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mating With KBB vs. K

This one I never even tried until a couple of days ago, as I thought it would we quite trivial to line up the bishops and force the king out of space. But now that I've actually drilled it, I realize there was a good chance to stalemate in time trouble, and that the efficient mating sequence actually demands some technique.

The general idea is to drive the defending king into any corner, and mate him. It's easiest done setting the bishop pair side by side as close to the defender as possible, confining him into a triangular area against the edge. Then you just move your king up, take a couple of squares and squeeze a diagonal off every time the defender retreats, until it's against the edge. Then you pick a corner, and force the king towards it by blocking it from behind with the bishops.

In the corner, confine it against either edge, line up the bishops to take the final squares with check, lose a tempo if needed, then check and mate.

A blitzed example against Chessmaster 9000:

[White "wormwood"]
[Black "Chessmaster"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Setup "1"]
[FEN "7K/3B4/8/8/8/2B2k2/8/8 w - - 0 1"]
1.Be6 Ke4 2.Bf6 Kd3 3.Kg7 Ke4 4.Kg6 Ke3 5.Kg5 Kd2 6.Kf4 Kd3 7.Be5 Ke2 8.Bd5 Kd3 9.Kf3 Kd2 10.Be4 Kc1 11.Bd4 Kd2 12.Kf2 Kc1 13.Ke3 Kd1 14.Bb2 Ke1 15.Bc2 Kf1 16.Kf3 Kg1 17.Bc3 Kh2 18.Bf5 Kg1 19.Kg3 Kh1 20.Bd3 Kg1 21.Bd4+ Kh1 22.Be4# 1-0

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mating With KNB vs. K

I thought I'd make a separate post on all cases I'm going to tackle, so here is the first one. Maybe it'll even help someone else, although I'm probably not going to get overly detailed where the matters are trivial to myself.

I've tried to learn KBN several times before, so I was not completely new to the ideas behind it. Drive the enemy king to the edge, force it to the corner the color of your bishop, and mate it. Sounds simple, but in practice the king just kept slipping away before I could get it into the right corner. Once in the correct corner, the mate is pretty straightforward after some thinking.

Also the driving to the edge -part is relatively easy, just 'oppose' the enemy king with your king, restrict with K&B until it has no legal moves but to retreat towards edge, and invade all the files/ranks it gives you until it's against the edge. It helps to remember that the enemy king's best defence is to first stay in the middle of the board, and that failing to retreat towards the wrong coloured corner. So these are the directions you want to block. In practice this also means that it's usually easiest to drive it towards the wrong corner to begin with. Another tip is to avoid placing a piece between the kings (sometimes it works though), so that you'll be able to snatch the files the enemy gives you without letting the him slip away. I didn't memorize any specific patterns for this phase, but after some drilling against Chessmaster it became instinctive and easy, and I'm now able to do that in a bullet game with no thinking whatsoever.

The thing that kept me baffled until I got some tips from Dragon Fire and Varenka on RHP, was the part where you drive the king towards the mating corner along the edge. The beginning is pretty easy, you just keep the enemy king against the edge with your king, build an additional 'wall' with the knight when needed, and block from 'behind' with the bishop so the king can't return. At some points you'll also need to lose a tempo with the bishop to get the enemy king where you want it.

But around the middle of the edge, you need to let the enemy king slip off towards the centre to herd it into the right corner. A sort of 'leap of faith' is required, which of course turns out to force the stray king back against the edge, when properly executed. The trick is to form a mating net from the king onward, only it's not possible to close the gap all the way to the edge, just up to a single square shy from it. It also looks like the net leaks badly at first glance, so it's a bit hard to visualize, but the bishop has time to block the remaining escape squares even farther to the middle, forcing the king back towards the edge. After that, it's again relatively easy to complete the journey towards the mating corner. -All this I pretty much worked out by myself, but there was one final trick that's needed for the net to hold: You need to start building it the knight one square from the edge, instead of moving it to the centre as seems intuitive. So Nb5! instead of Ne6 if you're driving the king from a1 to a8. After that, the king might try heading towards c8 which looks like a way out, but the bishop pounces over to the opposite flank to block it just in time. The net is still a bit sparse, and the king can turn back and try another break for the freedom via c6, but again the bishop is on time and the net closes up permanently. Nowhere to go but back towards the edge with all hope lost.

There is one more final little 'leap of faith' where you hang the knight for one move on Nb7+ to force the enemy king up, but it's easy to see and the attacking king simply moves one square up to defend the knight as the enemy king gets on striking distance.

Then it's only the mating itself left, so you just restrict the enemy king into two final squares, position the knight so that you can take the second to last square with check at will, lose a tempo with bishop to avoid stalemate if needed, then check and mate.

I personally like to set up a fixed position in the wrong corner to start the cattle drive, so I'll have a nice fixed series of 20 or so forcing moves up to the mate that I can blitz through. It's not the fastest way, and requires losing a tempo here and there, but it's systematic and reliable. There's really not many points in which the defending king has a choice, so it's pretty easy to master after the initial learning phase. maybe an hour or two of continuous drilling.

Here's an example I blitzed against Chessmaster, moving immediately after it did. It's not the fastest way to do it, but it works.

[White "wormwood"]
[Black "Chessmaster 9000"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Setup "1"]
[FEN "8/3B4/8/5K2/3k4/8/8/5N2 w - - 0 1"]
1.Ng3 Ke3 2.Bc6 Kd4 3.Kf4 Kc5 4.Bf3 Kd4 5.Nf5+ Kc3 6.Ke3 Kc2 7.Nd4+ Kc3 8.Be2 Kb4 9.Ne6 Ka3 10.Kd3 Kb3 11.Nc5+ Kb4 12.Kd4 Ka3 13.Kc3 Ka2 14.Bd1 Kb1 15.Nd3 Ka2 16.Bc2 Ka3 17.Nc5 Ka2 18.Nb3 Ka3 19.Bb1 Ka4 20.Nd4 Ka5 21.Kc4 Kb6 22.Nb5 Kb7 23.Bf5 Kc6 24.Be6 Kb6 25.Bd5 Ka5 26.Kc5 Ka4 27.Bc4 Ka5 28.Bb3 Ka6 29.Nd6 Ka5 30.Nb7+ Ka6 31.Kc6 Ka7 32.Bc4 Kb8 33.Nd6 Ka7 34.Kc7 Ka8 35.Bb5 Ka7 36.Nc8+ Ka8 37.Bc6# 1-0

Basic Endgames

Now that I have reached 1600 on CTS, I'm finally redirecting my main efforts from tactics to the area I have neglected most since I started chess 1½ years ago: The basic endgames. -The plan is to work my way up from the very basics to at least the fundamental rook endings, and probably a bit further. The study plan is to go through Karsten Müller's endgame dvds I, II and III, and drill the cases against fritz until I can blitz them through from any relevant starting position with no problems.

I'm not completely sure I'm going to get the first dvd though, as I already know a lot of the material. But not all, and there's probably quite a lot of useful commentary on it as well, so maybe I'll get it after all. But for now, I'm just gonna seek similar free material and work on that.

I'm beginning with the basic mates/draws I haven't yet mastered. KNB, KBB, KR vs. KN etc. The first one being the KNB, which may be quite irrelevant to practical endings as I might never face it, but I think of it as part of the craft and a useful lesson on piece coordination and board vision.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blitzkrieg Pop!

I finally started playing blitz on FICS to get more experience and routine. I'm trying to play at least one 7 10 game (that's about 14 minutes total) a day, and go through them with light analysis. As before, I suck at blitz like an army of nuclear powered vacuum cleaners.

The openings go pretty well though, I usually get good activity and all the proper development moves seem to come quite instinctively. Clearly playing CC and using databases pay off. - Middlegame, I tend to reach crushing positions, only to throw it all away with horrible blundering. Endgames, well, I suck. But then again, I suck at endgames in CC as well, and get killed by people 200 pts lower, so that's not a big surprise. Actually I've done better than I had imagined in the few endgames I've had so far.

But it's all slowly coming together. After a couple of days blitz feels a lot less chaotic, and I've actually risen 100 points in that time. I even broke 1200 for the first time today. Got all bigheaded of course and took a couple of games against some 1400's. Needless to say, I got my ass swiftly handed back to me. It was clear those guys just had way more mileage under their belt, there really wasn't much of a contest there. But I also drew a 1300, with lots of missed opportunities to win. It's not like they played better chess, they're just making less idiotic blunders. So I'm sure it'll be okay after I've played some 100-200 games and gotten used to the fast pace.

No more 'fear of success' either, and I also think the losses have done wonders to the way I handle defeats.

FICS: br 1193 (1205), sr still 1380p as I haven't played standards this year.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

1600 on CTS

Now it's official, 1600 flat on CTS, after an exhausting session of 438 tries and a 13.1 RD. It was so close I just couldn't stop, although I probably should have. The success rate sunk apallingly low of course, down to 103f/438 = 76.5% but well...

The goal for 2006 was to break 1600 by christmas, but there it is, one month early.

CTS: 1600, 77.7%, 68479 tries, session 103f/438 = 76.5%

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Back From A Break

I took some weeks off CTS, but now I'm back again. First I took some time off for writing, and then my graphics card broke down. Been playing CC from laptop though, but the mouse pad doesn't really work well with CTS and I'd had a long run anyway, so a little break was just what I needed. CC games are looking okay, have a couple of won games against a 1900 ending soon, which should get me a few points shy from 1800. So with a little luck, I might break 1800 before christmas as I planned.

Broke also 1600 on CTS, but it doesn't really count as I was simply overshooting because of big RD and quickly plummeted to 1550's for a while. Now it seems to have stabilized around 1585, so no major negative impact from the break. I feels a bit odd to do tactics though, can't really get into the rythm. Crappy percentages. But I'm sure that'll change in a couple of days, and I'll break the 1600 for real pretty soon.

CTS: 1584, 77.7%, 67540 tries, 24f/118 = 79.7%
RHP: 1753, 190 games, wld = 122-58-10

Friday, October 27, 2006

Special Case Triggers

Recently I've noticed yet another weakness in the way I prioritize when looking for a tactic. The special cases, meaning the actions which should be triggered in certain situations or after some moves the opponent makes. Mostly the weaknesses the last move created, but of course the threats also.

It seems to me there are certain cases that deserve special attention:

  • Did the move check or pin? (I miss surprisingly many checks, and only realize my king is checked after wasting time on other aspects of the position)
  • Queen en prise, check for alternative mating attacks.
  • A piece moves, did it leave something unguarded?
  • A pawn moves, did it leave something unguarded? (these I miss a lot)
  • Chasing a piece away, does it have an escape square with a check?

I'm sure there are a lot more, but these are some that I seem to have problems with. I don't mean I miss them alltogether, but I don't process them right away as I should, only after wasting valuable time on 'normal processing' of the position. -We all know these things, but I just realized I actually don't have a subconscious 'trigger' for them, and only spot them randomly, often as a last check before moving, if ever.

There should be some mental red lights flashing overriding everything else every time you get situations like these. So, from now on, I'm going to try to consciously focus on these things, until they become subconscious reflexes. After all, noticing any of these things take practically no time, but give your brain that missing block of information to guide your search into the right direction.

CTS: 1577, 66373 tries, 77.7%, session 12/77 = 84.4%

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CTS 1582

Almost there, only 27 tacticians between me and 1600. Four beers and 02:55 am seems to work out pretty good for me.

One thing I forgot to mention earlier: When I did that latest session, I missed a sacrifice in a problem. Nothing noteworthy in that, but thinking about why I missed it, I realized something important has happened to the way I analyze a position. Namely, I don't do much redundant analysis anymore. -I saw the sac, investigated it very quickly, decided it won't work, and moved to the next candidate. Although I was wrong about it, I feel my thought process has evolved spontaneously. I remember doing 2-3 iterations in such situations before to get any kind of decent percentage, and also actually thinking about wether I should re-check it or not, but now it's more straightforward. Take a move, check it, if not instant success move on. No hesitation, no half seconds wasted on making decisions.

I haven't focused on training 'clean analysis' at any point, instead it seems my thought process has refined itself to optimize time/accuracy. Minimal time wasted with maximal gain.

CTS: 1582, 77.7%, 59549, session 10f/57 = 82.5%

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thoughts On RHP Games

I thought I'd do a little bit on my games on Red Hot Pawn, just to get things covered.

Some days ago, I wrote I felt like I'd been winning too much games for my own good. Today I did a little counting. And well, it's even worse than I thought. Out of the last 60 games, my wld score is 49-9-2. That makes for a winning percentage of (49+2/2)/60 = 83.3%. During those 60 games, my rating has risen from 1625 to the current 1771. Out of those 9 losses, in only 3 was I outplayed. In others I just dropped a piece. And even if it can be argued that dropping pieces is an aspect of my playing strength, it's not very helpful. All you can learn about that is: "don't do mistakes." That's almost no information at all (on my level, where I don't really drop pieces much anymore).

Although it's nice to win a lot, I don't think it's particulary good for improvement. Thinking about the fact, that the best way to learn about your weaknesses is studying your lost games, and the fact that 6 of my losses were simple blunders, I'm left with only 3 'good losses' to study. Out of 60 games, that's not a lot.

So, for the past couple of weeks I've tried to get as many strong opponents as possible. Out of the current games, I have 2 against a 2100, 4 against 2000's, 4 against 1700-1800's, and 8 against 1500's. I won't deliberately start games against people under 1700 anymore, unless they come against me in a tournament. I'm also choosing my tournaments so that I'll get as many strong opponents as possible.

Of course I'll get beaten into a bloody pulp, but at bare minimum, I should get a lot of good learning material in the form of lost games. It'll probably cost me a lot of points, as I doubt I'll win any of those games against the 2000+, but I'm sure it'll be all the better in the end.

CTS: 1566, 77.6%, 59116
RHP: 1771, 172 games, wld: 112-53-9

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Good rating, bad percentage

I've been in trouble with my CTS percentage again, scoring around 80% for some days. That's what you get with a 3h sleep. :-/ -Ratingswise everything is going fine though, just got my all time high on CTS, same thing with RHP.

Started a RHP clan with Bahus and Torspo, 'The Hellfire Clan'. There wasn't one, so obviously somebody had to do it. -Hopefully we'll get some tough adversaries, as well as some kind of game analysis etc. going in the clan forum. I'm trying to get tougher games all over, as I win way too much. Meaning I play against too weak players, and that can't be good for me in the long term. Got a couple against some 2000's in a new tournament I just started, that should do the trick.

Well, I'm off to bed now. Maybe I'll score better tomorrow.

CTS: 1570, 77.6%, 57512, 26f/116=77.6% (just horrible!)
RHP: 1743, 170 games, wld 109-53-8

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Recognizing Subproblems On CTS

Today I got a problem on CTS I've never seen before, but instantly recognized a 3-move mate subproblem in it. Only this time there was a 'removal of the guard' to be done by a 'decoy' first. It took me far less time to recognize the mate, than I usually need to orient myself even to roughly see the position. Not to even mention spotting the tactics yet. It was just instantaneous. -The recognition took less than half a second, and then I just built the rest of the solution up to make that 3-move mate happen. It made me think: "this must be the way the really good players see the tactics", and strengthened my belief that I'm on the right path with massive repetition of tactical problems. Recognition, not calculation. It's all starting to come together.

CTS: 1559, 77.6%, 56175, session 25f/159 = 84.3%
RHP: 1717, 165 games, wld 106-53-8

Sunday, August 20, 2006

CTS Rating 1551

And not a moment too soon. - I was stuck at 1520-1530 for a long time, but finally got some new ground covered. I knew I'd do it if I just got a good night's sleep, and after last night's 10h slumber it was like snatching candy from a kid. And with an exellent success rate too, compared to yesterday's appalling 75%... I just couldn't do any better, no matter how I tried. - Goes to show how much a good night's sleep really matter.

I'm feeling very sharp in my tournament games on RHP also. Seems like I just see more than before. The new games are all against higher rated players compared to before, so there should be some sweet rating points coming my way as well. Maybe I'll finally get permanently over 1700.

CTS: 1551, 77.5%, 53208, 18f/151 = 88.0%
RHP: 1683, 160 games played

Friday, August 18, 2006

Learning The Wrong Patterns

Just back from the chess tactics salt mines. Had a relatively good day ratingwise, a little bit worse getting problems right. Somewhere during a marathon session, one thing started to bother me. The problems I get wrong: -It seems I'm having pretty strong recollections of the wrong way of solving familiar problems that I've failed before. And because the time is scarce, I often jump and do the wrong move. And of course, in the fraction of a second after I see the frowning smilie, I remember "oh yes, that was the wrong solution."

I'm thinking maybe I should run through the failed ones more than once after a session. Maybe even three times, to make certain that the right pattern leaves stronger memory imprintation than the wrong one.

CTS: 1544, 52814, 77.5%, 33f/183 = 82.0%

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Combinative Vision vs. Calculation

A friend of mine has been nagging for months about me not training slow tactics. He seems to think CTS is comparable to blitz, and while I don't really agree on that, I do see a shortcoming in my tactical training. Which is lack of calculation exercises. - Hacking away problems on CTS is all good for developing combinative vision, but it doesn't really affect calculation that much. Which I've begun to see as the weakest link in my tactical ability.

So, I've been looking for a suitable problem set for daily solving of slow problems, calculating as I would in real game instead of the more intuitive 'spotting tactics' which CTS is all about. Unfortunately, all sets I've come by so far have been somehow inadequate, lacking solutions, wrong kind of positions etc. - I took a peek at some tactics books for intermediate players, but then I thought I'd just go ahead and order CT-ART3.0 and get loads of suitable problems with an interface. So, today I ordered it, and when it arrives I'll start doing daily slow tactics as calculation exercise. I'll be still training combinative vision on CTS as well, but probably somewhat less intensively.

good session on CTS today though:
1537, 77.4%, 51090, 4f/57 = 93.0%

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

50 000 Problems Done On CTS

Halfway there. It was a long way from 1050, and although some stronger players have said that I should be doing slow tactics instead of CTS, I think it's been worth it. CTS has been my only method of tactical training during this first year, and I think that's the biggest reason why I'm at 1665 RHP now. I've seen a lot of people stuggling at 1300-1400's after their first year, so I think I'm doing okay. Lots of room for improvement of course, tactically and otherwise also, but I feel that I'm getting most bang for a buck with my current training program.

It seems obvious the improvement rate gets considerably slower at around 1500, but progress is still happening quite steadily. No reason to start feeling too comfortable though, it's still a long way to the goal of 2006, 1600 CTS.

stats for today:
CTS: 1517, 77.3%, 50231 problems, session % 13f/99 = 86.9%

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Processing Failures On CTS

Today I started doing an additional round over my failed problems after I finish a session. I just got annoyed that I missed a mate once again in a position I knew I'd seen before. I'm also still doing the problem again immediately after I fail, as I always have, but now there's an additional round for re-inforcement of the correct pattern in my mind. We'll see how it goes.

First session went pretty well, although I have slept only 3 hours last night and feel exhausted. Haven't got this kind of percentages in at least a couple of weeks, mostly I've staggered barely at 80%, and often even worse. It's obviously been the 'curse of the even hundreds' again, but I think I'm getting past it (concerning 1500), as I'm stabilizing at 1520. No need for the desperate efforts to stay over 1500 anymore, which causes havoc on success rate.

5f/63 = 92.1%

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Visualisation and Master Games

I wrote the following on RHP 'only chess' forum, but I thought I'd store it here also.

I've been going through master games lately, and I was wondering if people had different ways to go about it? - At first, I went through the games without a board, but that proved much too awkward with my feeble visualisation skills. Then I started using a board, but it's still way too much effort deciphering the notation, energy which could be better used on focusing on the inner workings of that particular game. You decipher a line onto the board, but forget another, and when you try comparing some aspects of the two, you'll have to decipher the first one again, but then you're not sure about the second one anymore... You're just doing the same thing again and again, using short term memory, and getting frustrated and exhausted with all the repetition.

Then I started thinking, maybe I could actually do something to help the visualisation? So, I started doing some visualisation exercises. With time, that'll probably do the trick. But then I got and idea of combining master games & visualisation exercises: First I teach myself the game move by move on a board, and only after that start studying it. That way, I can focus completely on the annotation, and still visualize the board with practically no effort. It's also helping with the variations, even if you don't learn them by rote. It's just easier when you have the 'backbone' of the game in visual memory, so the variations have a solid visual context.

Memorizing the game fully seems to be surprisingly easy, taking up 3-10 minutes depending on the game. Not much, if you're going to take 30-60 minutes to study the actual game. I wonder how many games you can store this way, but it's probably quite a lot. -As you can as well easily memorize hundreds of song-lyrics pretty much perfectly. Of course lyrics have repetition and melody, but chess has a lot of re-occurring structures as well.

I also like the fact that I'm storing the game visually and even procedurally, rather than as little snippets of 2-5 move lines in short term memory which I'll forget within seconds. If you like, you can further strengthen the memory by reading the moves aloud as you go, combining visual, procedural and auditory memory. - And as an added bonus for memorization, I can play the games in my head as a visualisation exercise, if I feel like it.

"What are you daydreaming of?"
"- Oh, Colle vs Delvaux, Grand-Terneuzen 1929..."

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The First Year

It's now exactly one year since I started chess, and it has all gone a lot better than I expected. I've been playing almost exclusively correspondence chess, and I think that's the main reason I've improved so much. The massive amount of CTS probably didn't hurt either. Blitz is still going quite bad, although I haven't really played it during the last 6 months. Same thing with standard, only 12 games ever, and even those were only 20-30min and 6 months ago. I'm trying to start playing more standard games, taking part to the T31 45 45 -tournament in U1800 with bahus and a couple of other finns. I have the weakest rating of the team by far, but I think the slow time controls will work for me, and I hope to get a reasonable performance. Standard games are probably the area I should concentrate my efforts on, but we'll see how it goes.

My first goal is to get 1500+ standard on FICS, but I hope to pull over 1600 before the end of the year. Other goals for 2006 are CTS 1600 which is approaching fast, RHP 1800 and FICS blitz 1300. Although I don't think I'll be playing blitz much, but that's the goal anyway.

current stats: (hi-score in parentheses)

CTS: 1535 (1542) with 44617 problems done, at 77.2% success rate.
FICS standard: 1381p with +6 =0 -6 total 12 games.
FICS blitz: 1053 (1055) with +38 =0 -38 total 76 games.
RHP: 1686 (1725) with +97 =8 -50 total 153 games.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

40 000 Tries On CTS

Another big one broken. Been really tired for a couple of weeks now, can't sleep much. Needless to say, chess is going really bad. I make elementary mistakes all the time, no matter how much time I take or how much I try to focus. The brain just won't work tired.

Monday, May 22, 2006

1501 On Chess Tactics Server

Just peakead at 1501 on CTS for the first time ever. Dropped right back into 1400's of course, but still, yet another milestone reached. Now I'll just have to get up there again and stabilize my rating to 1500+. Shouldn't take long, I've been hovering just under it for some time.

Been doing around 83-87% success rate per session, and my over all percentage has creeped up to 76.8%. Long way ahead to 80%...

CTS stats:
38018 tries

Monday, May 01, 2006

1704 on Red Hot Pawn!

Just broke through 1700 on RHP the first time ever. At least for a while, for I also have one game pretty much lost to a 1450-player. Dropped a rook when I got careless with thought process. But other than that, everything is still going pretty well and I expect my rating to rise even higher.

well, I guess it's time to move the target up to 1800.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rust Never Sleeps

I've been neglecting CTS for a month and a half now, and just started doing it again. The time really takes it's toll, and I dropped from steady 1480 to almost 1400. Fortunately it's coming back reasonably easy, after two days I'm back at 1450's. I'll try to keep doing it regularly again.

The reason for it is I joined into a 1600-1699 tournament at RHP, and suddenly got 16 more games going on, totalling at 36. Which is clearly too much for me. Can't find the time to study anymore, nor focus into the games as thoroughly as I'd like. Anyway, the tournament games are going quite well so far. All are slightly for my advantage or even, but no clear wins yet. There's even one guy who was at 1900 a while ago, but has dropped under 1700 for some reason (probably vacation timeouts?), and I'm doing okay against him too. Still, being swamped with games has brought some side effects as well. I've neglected doing thought process a lot, and already lost a rook for a pin to the king. Also did one completely arbitrary blitz-move, but luckily it was ok. Pure luck there. I'll really have to get a grip again, and start doing thought process consistently again. Also, I'm thinking I'll take some days off from playing, and focus on studying. Maybe I'll get a better balance.

It'll be interesting to see how I'll do against such a high rated competition. winning more than half should be good score, meaning I've really established myself at 1600's. But it's a long way there.

CTS: 1454
RHP: 1658

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Blunder Check Follow-Up

The systematic blunder checking is working like a charm. I've started around 50 CC games since I took it up, completed about 30, with only 1 single piece dropped in total! And of the completed 30 games, I've lost 6, 5 of which I was a piece down before starting to blunder check. So, only 1 lost game after the blunder checking, 2 draws, and 20+ wins!

My rating on RHP has risen to all time high 1638 from the low point of 1530, where I started blunder checking. But it's rise has been hindered by those 5 old lost games, some against 1300's and 1400's, and I'm expecting my rating to climb even higher now that the last lost game ended 4 games ago. Of the 15 games I have going on, in four I'm up a minor piece or more, in one I'm up an exchange, and at least even in all others. So it's all looking good, Very good, and I'm quite optimistic about breaking the 1700-barrier before long. It's becoming increasingly certain that the thing keeping me in the 1500's was the lack of structured thought process, and namely the blunder checking part of it.

The way I'm doing it now, is that after I've decided on my move, I look at every piece one by one, check they're not en prise or under-defended, check specially for enemy knight forks, for alignment for possible pins and skewers, for bishops assassinating undeveloped rooks or attacking my castle. Then I check all my pawns are safe.

More complicated checking I do before blunder checking, meaning removal of guards, possible double attacks, discovered attacks, longer combinations in general. The actual blunder checking I reserve only for the simple one-move oversights, to keep it simple and fast.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blunder Check

No matter how I try, I still drop pieces in most idiotic ways. It's not the complex combinations that kill my games, but the braindead one-move blunders. Like a couple of days ago, I was two minor pieces up, when I dropped my queen. I was not even moving fast, I really had thought about the position for some time. I also saw the check coming, figured out variations it brought, and then just landed my queen right into one-move knight-fork with the king. And as usual, about 2 seconds after moving I realised what I'd done. And I do similar blunders a lot, almost all of my losses happen because of such simple errors. It doesn't matter if my opponent is 1300 or 1700, I rarely get outplayed positionally, instead I drop a piece and that's that.

So, today I finally decided to start routinely doing a blunder check before I make the move. It's surprisingly hard to remember, but I try to do it on every single move. Hopefully it'll grow on me. I already caught one possible knight fork, so it's starting to pay off immediately.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

CTS Rating Bumb

After being stuck on around 1420 at CTS for some time, my rating suddenly bumbed up by 50 pts in just a couple of days. It's weird how it goes, but I've heard of other people experiencing the same thing. Ratings don't increase with steady pace, but more like with sudden bursts.

rating: 1483
tries: 31 951
overall success: 76.3%
session success: 88.0%

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Curse of Correspondence Chess

It's a great way to get some really slow chess going on, mulling over plans for hours or even days for one single move. Evaluating positions, analysing for tactics. Weeding out those braindead blunders, and working through combinations untill you see them in your dreams. Or so it should be, but once again I find myself blitzing the moves. Driving myself into bad situations with little or no thought, losing the games eventually after desperate struggle for counter-attack. And because CC games usually last for weeks, one bad day is often enough to lose several or even most on-going games at once. The seeds of destruction are sown in one day, and harvested in one depressing string of lost games a week or two later. It only takes one day of not focusing, being tired, or one session of drunken chess late at night.

It's not like I had not been here before. It's almost a habit to blunder a batch of games, then making promises of not doing it again. Ever. Then you go do it, of course. When will I learn? When will I take the time to recognize critical points before it's too late? -When I'm not cramped yet, the kamikaze-bishops are not targeting my castle, my counter-play has not been stifled... It seems I play with full focus only when the position is already badly complicated or I'm down. That's plain stupid. I should never let the game go there in the first place. Well, okay, that's impossible, but I should at least make an effort towards that. So I could say to myself: "Okay, the game is about gone, but I did my best to avoid it." Now I just blitz away all the 'easy moves'.

Good news is, now I do recognize when I'm cramped, counter-play is nonexistent or a sacrifise is just about to open the gates to hell. It wasn't like that just a few months ago. It's just that it's too late when I do. I guess I really should look into the concept of prophylactic thinking...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

30 000 Problems Done at CTS!

It's been a long and rocky road. I started doing tactics at CTS last August, and I had not really done any before. 1050 was my score for the first day, on which I did around 700 problems. The first hundred points was pretty easy, and around 1200 it started to become more difficult. Now, 5 months later, I'm almost 400pts higher. So you could say It's been beneficial. The aim is to break 1600 during 2006, which I think is possible if I just can keep on doing those tactics regularly. But there's already been a couple of longer breaks, so it's possible I'll lose the motivation somewhere down the line. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Current status

Ok. Maybe I'll get this blog going at last. - It's gonna be some kind of a documentation of my progress on learning chess, also serving as a backup for my personal notes along the way. I started keeping a chess diary right from the beginning, updating it almost daily. Unfortunately, a computer crash wiped all that clean and I lost everything.

To make a long story short, I started chess about six months ago, after watching the Garry Kasparov document "Game Over." And like so many others, I quickly became hooked. Now the addiction has overtaken all my waking hours, and to be frank, pretty much the rest also.

Ok, to get things rolling, here's my current stats for the interconnected beast to devour. I'm gonna try to document all stats I might some day be interested in:

CTS rating: 1445 tries: 29780 success: 76.0%
RHP rating: 1544 games: 69 won: 39 lost: 28 moves: 2553
FICS blitz rating: 1029 won: 32 lost: 33 best: 1055
FICS standard rating: 1381p won: 6 lost: 6

As can be seen, the faster I play, the more I suck. Hopefully that'll change as I get more experience.

At this time I play almost exclusively correspondence chess at Red Hot Pawn as wormwood. I study mostly tactics at CTS (also as wormwood), trying to get 100-200 problems done a day, with occasional slacking of course. Sometimes I blitz at FICS as wormstar. In addition to that, I'm going through Alburts endgame book "Just The Facts" and Chernev's "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings" to get some kind of initial coverage on the theory. I'm also going through Fischer's "My 60 Memorable Games."

I guess that's it for now. Short is sweet. Hopefully I'll keep this blog updated from time to time.