Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Brilliant Brain

I just watched the second episode of the documentary series "My Brilliant Brain", dealing with Susan Polgar. The episode contained a lot of familiar concepts, like 'paralysis by analysis', chunking, pattern recognition by repetition and the like. All concepts which most of us chess improvement freaks are used to dealing with. And without going into details, the documentary agreed with most of the philosophical grounds for my training, which is heavily based on training intuition and subconscious processing instead of a structured rule-based approach. Feed the brain, and let it work it all out as it sees best. Also my layman 'theory' of a specific neural 'sub-processor' being developed into the brain was confirmed by neurological scanning of Susan's brain. So, all is nice & good on the pedagogic front, and therefore there's no reason to adjust my learning methods.

Naturally I'm aware this line of reasoning has nothing to do with scientific rigour, but then again, I'm not looking to publish a paper on chess improvement theory. Lack of theoretical proof doesn't concern me, only the practical results. "It works" is close enough for me.

Also, during the latest batch of blitz craziness, I've also come to the conclusion that my paradoxically weak blitz vs. strong tactics -problem has one quite probable cause: Although I've developed the ability to spot & execute tactics very efficiently (compared to my other abilities), I haven't developed the ability to improve the position similarly. I never think about how I can improve my position while solving tactics, instead I completely ignore that aspect. And although I can think my way through all that in slow games, I need to develop my intuition and do it without thinking, just like I when I solve tactics. Thinking just isn't fast enough, I need to recognize and 'feel' the right moves. Well, 'right enough' moves to be more exact.

The way I'm planning to go about this, is to start going through master games once again. Just grinding the games in, over a long period of time. I'll start gathering games in my pet openings, handpicking them as I go, and going through them exactly the same way like I would proceed with tactical problems. I should probably keep a game count here also, to prevent the typical lapse of effort after the initial excitement wears thin.

One last thing about the documentary: Once again I'm dumbstricken by the sheer amount of work Susan has gone through already as a small child. Up to 6 hours of hard studying daily, with pops watching over in the background. That's not some half-assed doodling with the study material, watching telly at the same time, but instead sitting down and working at your desk. Somehow that's very inspirational to me. -If a little girl can have that kind of dicipline, I have a lot of room for improvement there.

Master games: 1

Friday, December 14, 2007

The First Tournament Victory On RHP

I just won my first tournament on RHP, the August 2006 Banded Quartets 1550-1750, when Billnad, the other finalist, was a no-show in the rematch final. We tied for the win in the first final, because of my stupid opening blunder against him (the other game is the one a few posts ago). I would of course have rather won the final games by playing, but I can't control whether my opponent shows up or not. I did get to play him before though, and I feel I was slightly stronger, so I still feel pretty good about the win.

As usual with banded CC tournaments, both of us had grown well out of the original band, ending up to 1900+. It's pretty much customary that these 1500+ tournaments are eventually won by players in the 2000's, partly because winning the group usually means you have to win something like 80-90% of the games on every round, but also because the events span over years. I'm still playing the very first tournament I took part in, a 1600-1699 banded, and currently tied for the win with a 2070-player.

RHP: 1977, 287 games, +198 -74 =15.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Deep Do You Look?

The depth of vision/calculation between players of different strengths, is a topic that comes up pretty regularly on RHP. Last time this week.

The thing that has become apparent (to me), is that the weaker players tend to say they look very deep (5-8 moves or even deeper), while the stronger ones look only a couple of moves deep (2-4). Obviously there are exceptions in both groups, but the tendency is quite clear. Clear enough to make me a bit suspicious when a strong player claims to look 5-7 moves deep on average.

It could be because weaker players only think they see that deep, when they actually crack 1-2 moves deep, and it's probably partly true. But the real reason, in my opinion, is that weaker players have the misconception that you need to calculate deep to be strong, which simply isn't true (excluding exceptions like forced variations & endgames). The better I've become, the less deeply I calculate (on average). Nowadays I almost never calculate deeper than 2 moves in CC, and I can remember only 1 single time when looking 5 moves deep (against a 2300) would've made a slight difference (he managed to equalize my slight advantage in the endgame).

The errors happen 1-2 move deep, and the overwhelmingly most common one is underestimating a move that you did look into. And by underestimating I mean direct consequences that are blindingly obvious once you see that move made, not consequences that lie deeper. "Oh hell, that pawn move blows my center to pieces" is what happens. -You correctly assessed that you won't lose material, fall into a tactic or a mate, but you missed the amount of trouble (which may or may not be survivable) the move caused.

Another thing which I think strengthens the misconception, is that weaker players absolutely uncritically love what engines tell them. They see engine evaluation as 'objective truth', which it's not. It's a subjective numeric approximation, which has only one strength: It's not susceptible to tactical errors. - An engine can't tell shit about a position without calculating, or at best things like: "A doubled pawn is -0.2", which may not be relevant at all. A strong human can tell enough to beat weak engines.

And because weaker players know this specific kind of 'objective truth' is reached by extremely deep calculation, they think aping that will magically give them greater understanding of the position, which it generally won't.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

1403 on FICS 5 0 Blitz

Another milestone reached. Slightly less stupid moves, slightly more at home with my pet openings, but still quite a lot of brainwrecking collapses after reaching comfortably won positions. I need to pay more attention to playing fast, simple, solid moves to take out the counterplay when I'm a piece up.

More endgames on PCT to see faster when it's possible to simplify into a won endgame, and also to implement the correct plan quickly even under time pressure.

FICS br: 1403 (1403), 862 games played, +435 -416 =11
ICC 5-minute: 1346 (1379), 787 games played, +371 -406 =10

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Week Of Blitz

I've been playing blitz daily for about a week now, and I must say it's going better all the time. Last night I even got as high as 1379 on ICC, and I feel pretty confident I can break 1400 in the next few weeks. A good night's sleep and a little luck is all it takes.

One thing occurred to me while I was thinking about the 1500's & 1600's I've played against: They play their elementary endgames a lot better. If I could get my basic endgame up to a decent level, it would make all the difference in time trouble & converting those 'won posoitions' into full points. - So, after a long break, I fired up PCT and started hammering the endgame modules once again. It turns out I've forgotten almost all the little I taught myself last winter, so it was about time too. I'll try to keep doing a little every day, as well as play some blitz games.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Back To ICC 5-minute Blitz

Okay, I've finally managed to run my CC gameload down to 10 games, in order to get the energy for concentrating on my horrible blitz. So today I fired up ICC and played about 20 or so 5-minute games. First I went down to 1180, then back to 1320, and after I started getting tired I leveled around 1250. I haven't slept much, to it's an okay result. The games were nothing to write home about, I messed horribly all the time, dropped stuff, lost from being pieces ahead etc etc... The usual stuff. Surprisingly I didn't lost that many games for time.

The plan is to start (once again) playing at least some games daily, ignoring ratings and just hammer on until I stop doing those stupid brainless blunders my blitz is filled with. Just aim for a simple solid game, and especially playing those 'won' games like they should be played. Prevent counterplay, simplify and win. Get the basic game into shape.

Monday, October 15, 2007

1650 On CTS At 90% Success Rate

After eight months, I'm finally back where I was prior to my latest increase in accuracy. I've hit 1650 a couple of times during the last two weeks, but it has been with the cost of session accuracy so I haven't counted those times. Today was the first time I managed it with a 90%+ session average, or 93.5% to be exact. The average has been around 90% though.

Also, as the problem set jumps to 100 points tougher at 1650, it's been very hard to keep up the 'winning strikes' going after 1650+. It definitely requires some extra effort (meaning more solving time), so I don't think I'll be going much higher anytime soon.

Although I have been doing only a fraction of the daily amount of problems compared to the less accurate 80% sessions period before, I've still been more or less consistent with the practice. Can't say whether it has made much difference on my blitz, as I haven't really been playing it for a couple of months. But I've finally got my RHP gameload down to 16 games, and am starting to have some energy to start blitz again. After a couple of days it's obvious that my blitz openings are very rusty, but otherwise it felt pretty good. Yesterday I scored about 8/10 wins in 5 0, so I'm quite hopeful that things will pick up once I get back up to speed.

CTS: 1650, 78.9%, 95415 tries, 93.5% session.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

1960 on Red Hot Pawn

23. O-O-O, only sissies castle early! :) Got a nice win against benoni and broke through 1950 with a rumble. Missed some winning moves along the way, but my superior space, development and the connected passed pawns gave me just too much momentum to be stopped. I pushed the passers too early though, as I thought he couldn't take the pawn on e7. But I had missed that he could take the pawn and then block the discovered check with the rook. Luckily I still had way too much momentum and threats to be stopped, so he resigned.

[White "wormwood"]
[Black "Billnad"]
[WhiteRating "1946"]
[BlackRating "1897"]

1. d4 Ng8f6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nb1c3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. f4 Bf8g7 8. Bf1b5 Nf6d7 9. a4 O-O 10. Ng1f3 f5 11. Nf3g5 Nd7f6 12. e5 dxe5 13. fxe5 Nf6g4 14. e6 a6 15. Bb5e2 Bg7d4 16. Be2xg4 fxg4 17. Ng5e4 Qd8h4 18. g3 Qh4h5 19. Bc1f4 b6 20. e7 Rf8e8 21. Qd1b3 Re8xe7 22. d6 Re7e6 23. O-O-O Qh5f5 24. Rh1f1 1-0

Next stop 2000, the big one.

RHP: 1960, 275 games, +190 -72 =13
CTS: 1641, 94417 tries, 78.8%

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Here Be Dragons

I think I'm done with it. I've played the Sicilian Dragon exclusively in my slow games for maybe half a year now. And while it does offer some crazy attacks, those never really seem to materialize outside blitz. I always feel I'm a dead man walking, waiting for my opponent to screw up. And I really don't like that, it's a way too passive way to play for me. I crave for the initiative, no matter what the cost.

Here's a perfect example from RHP a couple of days ago. I don't really think I did any bad mistakes, the guy just tightened his grip ever so gently throughout the game. It was like he had a knife on my throat, and whatever I did his hold just got stronger. It took me 17 moves to even get equality. Which fortunately also provoked his mistake 18.Nd5. At that point I knew I was doing very well, but at the same time very aware of the complications I would be facing when the white queen finally lands on h6 with a check. I calculated my ass off to see whether I can escape the mate or not, because I knew he'd be mated if I could just escape his checks for a move or two.

23.Qh6+ and white queen finally landed into my position. I was still unsure if I could escape via e6, which now in hindsight looks obvious. So I chickened out and took the safe way to victory with a queen exchange. Sure it's more reasonable to exchange down into a won, safe endgame, but it just isn't the same as crushing your opponent with devastating massive blows.

[White "LightSoul"]
[Black "wormwood"]
[WhiteRating "1932"]
[BlackRating "1862"]
[Result "0-1"]

1. e4 c5 2. Ng1f3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nf3xd4 Ng8f6 5. Nb1c3 g6 6. Bc1e3 Bf8g7 7. Bf1e2 O-O 8. h4 Nb8c6 9. h5 Nc6xd4 10. Be3xd4 Bc8e6 11. hxg6 fxg6 12. Qd1d2 Qd8a5 13. f3 a6 14. a3 Ra8c8 15. g4 Be6c4 16. Be2xc4 Rc8xc4 17. b4 Qa5c7 18. Nc3d5 Nf6xd5 19. Bd4xg7 Rf8xf3 20. Qd2xd5 Kg8xg7 21. Qd5g5 Rc4xe4 22. Ke1d1 Qc7c3 23. Qg5h6 Kg7f7 24. Qh6xh7 Qc3g7 0-1

To put a long story short, I think I'm going to take up Scandinavian also in slow games. It's just so incredibly nice to harass white straight from the start, develop with ease, and crush! crush! crush! Well at least try, but no waiting for the coup de grâce anymore.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

1310 On ICC 5-minute Blitz

Finally. The next hundred. For some time it looked like I'd never get here. I got close so many times, only to plummet back to the low 1100's, but at last I broke through the 1300 mark. Maybe there's some hope after all.

I've also picked up Scandinavian Defense as my main weapon against 1.e4, and I must say it's been a delight. No more embarrassing, crampy failures with sicilians, and you get to flex the tactical muscle right from the beginning. Naturally I play it like crap at this point, but at least I can get the plane off the runway without exploding into thousands of flaming pieces. Well, mostly anyway. There's still a lot to learn.

ICC 5-minute: 1310, +325, =8, -358 of total 691 games.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

CTS 1616 on 90.0% Success Rate

Finally I managed to keep the long time (794 tries) average at 90%. Although it I was a close shave, I must admit. And like before, most of the days I did 92-96% sessions, but the couple of horrible days went down to 80% or so.

On the plus side, I've been able to stay over 1600-level most of the time, with some short visits under it. Which is of course nice for a change.

On the other fronts, I've been playing quite a lot of blitz recently. With a high point of 1296 on ICC 5-minute, being a piece up halfway into the game. Which doesn't mean much though, as I still manage to screw up those 'won games' quite often, and this time was no exception. Well, everybody's gotta pay their dues to blitz I guess.

CTS: 1616, 78.5%, 90837 tries

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

CTS 1577 on 89.2% Success Rate

Pretty close to 90%, but still no cigar. The good days were a bit over 96%, the worst I think I got 5 wrong out of twenty no matter how hard I tried. It's obvious it's better to stop the session when those failures start piling up, but I can't just seem to be able to do that. The rating was pretty steady around 1580-1590, so no big changes there.

The method dk suggested, just slowing down after a bad stretch, forcing 20 or so correct in a row regardless of the rating drop, well that does seem to do the trick. Unless you're too tired and your brain just won't work. But usually the method works.

This time it took me 768 tries to increase the overall success rate 0.1 percent, which is 240 tries less than in the last batch. Looks like a big improvement, considering that the success rate increased only 2.9%. But the hill just gets really steep the higher you get.

CTS: 1577, 86740 tries, 78.0%.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

CTS 1587 on 86.3% Success Rate

So the big wheel finally turned, and my success rate jumped from 77.8% to 77.9%. It took 1008 problems, give or take a couple of dozen tries, yielding an actual success rate of 86.3%. Slightly less than what I was aiming for, but I had quite a lot of bad days which drop the percentage quite easily. I'll keep pushing for the 90%, so hopefully the next increment will happen around 900 tries from now.

Winning streak on RHP keeps continuing, and regardless of some problems against the lower rated, my rating graph just keeps going up. I don't really lose much anymore, only one single loss and a draw in the last 30 games. It's probably not because I suddenly got a lot better, but because I'm getting more diciplined in the way I play my games. And most of the opponents have also been hundreds of points lower rated, so that's a factor too. Can't really do much about that, as the tournaments almost always have a lot of lower rated players. But it's still always nice to win, even though I'll only get 1 or 2 points for the win, and risk losing 30 for the occasional blunder. That's also where the diciplined approach comes in.

CTS: 1587, 85972 tries, 77.9%
RHP: 1923, 239 games, wdl 167-13-65

Friday, May 25, 2007

1902 On Red Hot Pawn

My RHP games have been going very well for a while now, regardless of my chronically oversized game load (47), and I've committed only a few glaring mistakes. Subtracting the negatives, it really works.

The goal for 2007 was 1900, and it's only May. I had a feeling it might not be that difficult goal to reach, but wasn't really expecting to do it so quick. More time to work on my useless blitz I guess.

There's a couple of games in which I'm being run over, but not for those typical simple oversights, which is always good. I don't mind being outplayed strategically, as it always gives you a burning scar that won't fade away for a long time (won't be underestimating the bayonet against KID again in a hurry). It's the simple blunders which bug the hell out of me.

I've been winning most of the games, but some of the lower rated opponents have & are giving me a really hard time. They seem to just buckle up when they see my rating go up, damn them. It was a lot easier to win against 1500's when I was in the 1600's. Fortunately my endgames have come a long way, and I've even managed to draw some lost games. And no more losing won endgames against 1500's. All Hail Karsten Müller!

Nevertheless, a huge amount of work left on endgames, for I've still only scratched the surface so far. Tactics, well that's a neverending graveyard shift in the salt mines, but I think I'm pretty okay for now. Could be a lot better, especially on calculation, but there are more pressing matters to concern myself with.

Like always, I sense the impending doom looming right behind the next corner, and expect to drop back to 1800's before long. But if I do, I'm now pretty confident in staying over 1900 once I get my game load down to a manageable size. With some nice victories coming in, I might make it even now. Although I'm somewhat sceptical about that... But like always, we'll see what future brings.

On CTS I've been doing around 90% success rate for a while now, hovering around 1600, and today the overall percentage finally did budge from 77.7% to 77.8%. It's now 84 964 tries, and I thought I'd write it down so I can calculate what kind of average I've actually had when the percentage moves the next time.

RHP: 1902, 234 games, wdl 162-13-65
CTS: 1595, 84964 tries, 77.8%

Monday, May 14, 2007

Capture Blindness - A Horror Story

I've been thinking a lot about why I'm so terrible at blitz, when my slow games are going better all the time. What is it that I do so differently in blitz? Well one thing is extremely obvious: I miss a lot of simple 1-movers. Meaning I drop material in every game, sometimes even missing obvious mate-in-ones. I don't miss those almost ever in slow games anymore.

One thing I've come to suspect is my thought process in blitz. Do I really check if a move drops a piece? Not really. I just make a move that looks intuitively good. There's some checking of course, but it's more unconscious, and obviously not very efficient judging by my score.

So this got me thinking about how to exercise my blitz thought process. I could obviously do it on CTS, or even in real games. But somehow that gives me the nagging feeling that it's just my laziness trying to get way without dealing with any real, and inherently uncomfortable, change. "Just carry on dude, it'll all blow over in time." - Then I suddenly remembered someone mentioning some kind of a capture training mode in fritz, so I fired it up and took a peek at the thing.

It's called 'attack training', and the basic idea is to click every piece that can be taken, regardless of color or the result. If the capture is legal, click the target. You can set a time limit for a session, and fritz automatically selects new positions from the database, as soon as you've found all the captures correctly. When the time runs out, it displays your number of found captures in that session, the average score between sessions, and the highest score. "Sounds like child's play, this must be so easy it can't possibly be useful" I thought. "There's not even looking for the simplest tactics involved, just captures."

So I set the session timer for three minutes and started clicking. And after a few sessions, it turns out my average scores were horrible!!! There was always a simple capture or two escaping my eye, and finding those simply took a lot of time! My average score for 3 minutes was 10 captures found!?! That just must be incredibly weak. I also found it surprisingly hard to concentrate on finding my opponent's captures in an orderly fashion. Which indicates that I indeed have the bad habit of just ignoring my opponent's threats.

So it seems like there's yet another element of board vision I wasn't aware of. One which is possible to disregard even while doing a huge amount of tactics. And even though it can be argued that most of these captures are irrelevant, as they simply don't have any possibility to work out, I still think I should be able to find them fast or immediately. There's clearly a lot of work to be done on that area, and I think this weakness might actually be the very reason why I play so badly in blitz.

From now on, I'm going to do a couple of 3 minute sessions daily, also focusing on the thought process I use. Nothing complex, just conduct the search in orderly and complete fashion. First search for my opponent's captures, then my own.

I would also be extremely interested in how others do on the attack training mode. So please try it out with a batch of 3min sessions, and leave your result as a comment on this post, complete with your blitz rating. I'm hoping we'll see some kind of meaningful differences between blitzers of different level.

my stats:
3min sessions
average: 10
highest 17
ICC 5-minute 1100

update: I've just been told that the 'attack training' mode wasn't introduced until Fritz 9. I'd still love to hear about it from those of you who have it. Whether you do well or not doesn't matter, I'd just like to find out if seeing those captures faster is a property that good blitzers have. A bad blitzer doing well on it would also be very interesting, as it would pretty much prove me wrong and close the case as irrelevant to blitz training.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Bad Times In Blitz

I guess I should record the bad things too, so the 'diary' wouldn't give too optimistic picture of my progress.

A couple of weeks ago I hit a bad day in my blitz project. I was just about to cross over 1300, when I got stuck into a huge losing streak. And like an addict I thought "just a couple of games more, and I bet my luck turns around again." No need to say, but it didn't. I just kept losing more, and after three days I was down to almost 1000 in ICC 5-minute. I tried taking a couple of days off, but it was no use. I just couldn't do anything right anymore.

The reason was the same as always, having trouble sleeping. When you sleep 3 hours a night, it's best to step away from the board. To make a long story short, it's taken me two weeks to get into any kind of shape. Still a couple of proper nights-of-rest shy from being fully awake, but hopefully I'll get more sleep this week.

So, I've been playing just for fun, completely ignoring the horrible results. Even CTS went from 1650 down to 1580, and would've gone lower had I not stopped doing it. I was losing about 15-16 out of 20 games every day, so that's what kind of a slump we're talking about.

To get some benefit from the 'down time', I've been spending it getting used to the Dutch Leningrad variation and it's white mirror image, the Polar Bear. Both openings give very lively and tactical games, at least with my suicidal attacking tendencies. And as I've never played the Dutch before, all the positions looked just confusing and random at first, but it's all slowly making more sense now.

I've also started gathering data on my time managment, as I realized losing on time is still my worst problem in blitz. The idea is to track the amount of games I finish down on time, and hopefully reach at least a 50-50 level, the bare minimum to keep statistically up with my opponents. So every time I finish a game considerably up on time, I'll give myself a big pat on the back, even if I lost the game. So far I've even won a couple of games on time, which is a good start. But I'm still just way too slow usually.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

ICC 5-minute Blitz 1202

Another hundred broken, and it's going better all the time. Slow but steady improvement, less and less panic, less braindead blunders, less losses by getting flagged in a won position, better endgame, more reasonable openings. And I'm getting more and more sure that reasonable is the magic word here. simple, reasonable moves, avoid crazy complications, don't shy away from exchanges unless it's a really bad one.

But I'm still lousy at staying out of trouble, always drawn to that excellent crazy but very difficult move instead of the practical one. I think I should probably aim for getting into endgame as fast as possible, playing that simple, solid chess. Let the opponent trip with the complications.

ICC 5-minute: 1202, 215 games
CTS: 1643, 82692 tries, 77.6%
RHP: 1840, 223 games, wdl 152-12-65

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ICC 5-minute Blitz 1100

Okay, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this blitz thing. Just broke 1100 for the first time after starting 5-minute blitz on ICC. That's +200 points from where I began. Now it seems I can actually win most of those 'won' games, and I don't panic nearly as much either (although there's still a lot to do on that area). From the last 20 games I've won 15 and lost only 5. Starting out it was around 15 losses for every 5 wins, so clear improvement there. And what's more important, is that none of the losses were flagged in a won position.

ICC 5-minute: 1101, 185 games played.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!

I just had a revelation: Blitz is about speed. Yeah, I know. "Who would've guessed that..." :-/ Sometimes I'm so incredibly stupid.

I keep ending a queen up, two minor pieces up, with a crushingly won endgame etc. only to lose on time. I either get flagged or throw the win because I have only 20 seconds to my opponent's 1 to 2 minutes, but those are both essentially lost because of time. I just play too slow, pure and simple.

I've tried to keep telling myself "Faster! Faster!" but I can only keep that up in the opening, and slow down right after that. I spot these Good Moves, nice combinations, and work them out. And surpisingly often I can also pull them off, winning that piece or the position. But I end up 2 minutes down on time, hence essentially lost. Often even that extra queen won't be enough then.

So, I need to stop using more time than my opponent. Before I can manage to do that consistently, it doesn't matter how much material I'm up. Move faster, take the practical move instead of complications, exchange a lot. - And after I can keep up with the clock, only then start worrying about playing better chess. Fast, basic, safe moves.

Here's a game I luckily won, but it's a perfect example of what happens. After a couple of moves I push the complications until all hell breaks loose. And I was supposed to be trying to keep it simple. How's that for a "quiet, passive 1.d4 game" by the way?

[White "wormwood"][Black "mhf"][TimeControl "300+0"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 c6 5. Nf3 d5 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. e5 Ne4 8.Qb3 Qa5 9. Bd3 b6 10. O-O Bg4 11. Nxd5 Be6 12. Bxe4 O-O 13. Nc7 Bxb3 14.Bd2 Qa4 15. axb3 Qxb3 16. Bxa8 Qxb2 17. Rfb1 Qc2 18. Rc1 Qb2 19. Rxa7 Nd7 20. Nd5 f6 21. Rxd7 fxe5 22. Nxe7+ Kh8 23. Bd5 h6 24. Nxg6+ Kh7 25. Nxf8+ Kh8 26. Ne6 Bf6 27. Be4 Qb5 28. Rc8+ Bd8 29. Rcxd8# 1-0

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First Week Of Blitz

It turns out there's a special 5-minute variant of blitz on ICC, with automatic opponent selection (closely rated) and automatic flagging & disconnection forfeit. It also has it's own rating, which seems to be a bit harder to obtain than the regular blitz rating. At least at the lowest level where I currently am. -I was just crossing over 1200 playing far inferior blitz compared to this moment, when I discovered the 5-minute automatic player pool (It's just really handy), and I sunk like a rock to the 900's. 890 was probably the lowest point. Today I finally clawed my way back to 1000+, and it took days to accomplish. The 5-minute pool players seem to also know their openings better than players in the regular blitz pool.

Anyway, it's been a constant battle against time. In the beginning I couldn't handle it at all, scrapping openings, middlegame, endgame, and almost never beating the flag. Huge blunders left & right, and the rare game I "won" I then lost because I panicked in the haste. Now, I can mostly keep my game together up until the endgame, but often fail to end it even with a straightforward win. Missing obvious mates etc. But it's all gotten a lot better during the week, and I feel quite optimistic that I'll soon get the hang of it. I now "win" about 80% of the games, and finish about 50% of my games to an actual win. There's definite progress, but still way too many games are lost just for panicking in a won position. "Won" as in having huge material lead in the endgame, not merely positionally winning. It still doesn't matter much how well my opponents play though, the losses are almost exclusively my huge blunders.

It's a rocky road learning to survive in blitz controls. Nothing like slow chess. Nothing like CTS either.

ICC 5-minute: 1021, 83 games.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

5 0 Blitz On ICC

I've been giving a lot of thought to my inability to survive in blitz games. From slow games I already know that it's not the strategical understanding that kills me, and I also know that tactics is my strongest point. And on CTS I outclass strong blitz players both on rating and accuracy, so it's not whipping out tactical moves fast either. What the hell can it be then?

One thing that comes to mind is experience. I've played about 200 blitz games ever, and maybe 95% of those were with time controls of around 15 minutes. Which is so slow it's almost not blitz at all. Also, when I think about how my progress has gone on CTS, slowly inching my way up through tens of thousands of problems, I begin to wonder if the same would've happened playing similar amount of blitz games.

So, now that I've subscribed to ICC I decided to test that hypothesis there. And as the regular tournament play blitz control seems to be 5 0, that's what I'm going to play. Getting used to the time control will no doubt be my biggest problem starting out, but I'm sure it'll work out after a while.

Yesterday, well last night to be exact, I then plunged into the 5 0 pool. And just as I expected, I can't handle the 5 0 control to save my life, and got massacred. I lost a lot of games on time, got mated out of the blue a couple of times, dropped a lot of material, missed wins, blundered openings, the works. Ended up with a pathetic but totally deserved rating of 1060. So, now I'll try to keep 5 0 blitzing, and we'll see if I can claw my way up as I would expect. Coincidentally, that's exactly the same rating as on CTS when I started out 1½ years ago. Hopefully there will be a similar improvement after thousands of blitz games.

RHP: 1848, 218 games played, wdl: 149-12-63.
ICC 5 0: 1060, 14 games.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

1650 On CTS

Another milestone reached. I just did about a hundred problems staying on the 1645-1650 level, even though I had slept only three hours last night. My eyes felt weary, but it was like the pins, skewers and double threats were flying at me, and I solved a lot of them in less than three seconds. Still, I got only 6 wrong of the last 50 problems. That's a solid 88% success rate. Weird.

I had been forcing myself to look for my own king safety first for a couple of days, which felt very awkward and difficult to maintain. It also slowed me down quite a bit, and didn't seem to make that big of a difference. So now I just went with the feeling, mostly not concentrating on the king safety. And I just flew through the variations, spotting all relevant aspects in the positions like they had big, red lights blinking on them. I hope this isn't an isolated incident.

Feeling quite tired with my CC games. I divided them in three and now try to force myself to run through a group on most days. But I've clearly overdone it, and I'll need to cut my gameload down. Once again. There's also the 7/14 Clan Leagues starting in a week or so, which will apparently land me another 18-20 games playing board two. Which will probably mean the opponents are rated 1600-2000 depending on the clan.

I don't even have much energy for the 30 30 games, so I've slowed that down as well. Not to mention CT-ART and PCT. No sense in doing them until I have the necessary energy back.

Started going through Kasparov's KID games though, which seems nice and interesting. Taking maybe 30-45 minutes a game, not trying to wreck my brain or anything. Just getting some easy fun. I'll probably be trying KID out myself on 30 30 games soon.

CTS: 1650, 77546, 77.6%
RHP: 1822
FICS standard: 1623 (1662), wdl 28-2-16

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Kicking Ass Threshold

Another motivational post. TommyC just posted this link on RHP, How to be an expert, and the relevance of 'talent' and starting young in it. I've never believed in the concept of talent, and it now appears there's some scientific evidence to back that up. I find the graph especially hilarious.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Concrete Chess

I ran into something Rashid Ziatdinov has said about chess. It's pretty much what I've been thinking, when I've seen people analyse games far more convincingly than I ever could, yet they're rated hundreds of points lower than I, so I thought I'd post it here.

"Students sometimes lament that they cannot apply their knowledge during a game. They cannot apply their "knowledge" because they really don't have any knowledge! What they have instead are shortcuts to chess language, what I call "chess magic spelling" (like "open the position if you are more developed", "the two bishop advantage", "don't move the queen out too early", etc.). These shortcuts are useless generalities. Chess can only be expressed with concrete variations. This often-ignored concept is so crucial to mastering chess that it bears repeating with emphasis: chess can only be expressed with concrete variations!

Imagine a musician who had never heard music, only descriptions and theories of music; Imagine a dancer who had never physically performed a pleat or twirl, only read instructions on how to dance. How is a chess player who relies on ideas expressed in words and theories any less ridiculous? A musician makes music, a dancer dances, and a chess player calculates variations!"

Although Ziatdinov seems a bit, umm, 'passionate', even crazy, I do think he has a strong point here. Procedural knowledge instead of theoretical knowledge. And the only way to get there is to get your hands dirty, sweat blood, and slam down variations. It doesn't matter if you were born a Kasparov or a Fischer, hard work for a decade or two is the only way to get there. Talk is cheap, 'BAM! BAM! BAM!' is what counts. :)

Now I'm gonna go eat a raw, bloody steak, chug some beer, burb, and get back to slamming down endgame variations. BAM! BAM! BAM!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

CT-ART Level 20 Complete

After the initial enthiusiasm about CT-ART, I haven't been much on it. Today I just finished level 20 after a break, that makes it 396 problems solved. I've tried to do it only when I'm not tired, concentrating on exhaustive calculation, but even one tired session brings the success percentage down quite a lot. It's really hard to fight the natural laziness and jump the gun when you're tired. But I'll try to do better again on level 30.

first round:
level 10: 96%
level 20: 88%
rating: 2007

I've also looked into the basic endgame modules of Personal Chess Trainer, which seems quite nice. Of course the interface is crap as usual, and its inability to understand anything but the one pre-set 'correct line' annoys the hell out of me. But at least there's a nice set of basic endgame problems to drill and get the theoretical knowledge transformed into procedural knowledge.

Otherwise I've been playing 30 30 games on FICS almost every day. Mostly it's been going well, but yesterday I messed a game like a total idiot. First I declined material on the 10th move because I got greedy trying to pressure his king in the center, then got into trouble because of the previous retreat of the pinning g5-knight which gave him a pawnstorm. I was looking for the flashy win, of course, the cardinal sin in a winning position. Then a long period of adequate defending, only to succumb into a fork, only to insanely drop the queen right after. Although the end was humiliating, I'm even more pissed off about allowing that kingside pawn storm. My only hope is that the painful mistake will burn into my brain, never to be forgotten. Here's that miserable excuse for a game:

[White "wormstar"]
[Black "Versiano"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1628"]
[BlackElo "1575"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bg5 Bg7 5. e4 d6 6. Qf3 Nc6 7. Rd1 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9. Bg3 Nd7 10. d5 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 exd5 12. cxd5 Ne7 13. Bc4 Ng6 14.Bb3 b6 15. Ne2 Qe7 16. O-O Nc5 17. Rd4 h5 18. h3 g4 19. hxg4 Bxg4 20. Qe3 h4 21. Bh2 O-O-O 22. f3 Bd7 23. Ra1 h3 24. g3 Rdg8 25. Kf2 Ne5 26. Ke1 Qf6 27. Nf4 Kb7 28. Bc2 Qg5 29. a4 a5 30. Bd3 Nb3 31. Rb1 Nxd4 32. Qxd4 Nxf3+{wormstar resigns}0-1

Let that be a lesson for me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

"The Harder I Practice, The Luckier I Get"

This was one of those days when you can't do anything wrong, and your opponents get the karmic counterpunch. The race is long, and it all evens out in the end, but today was my day.

[White "BTAT"]
[Black "wormstar"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1821"]
[BlackElo "1562"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. f3 e6 3. e4 c5 4. Be3 Nc6 5. Bb5 cxd4 6. Bxd4 Qa5+ 7. Nc3 Bb4 8. Ne2 Qxb5 9. a3 Bxc3+ 10. Bxc3 Qg5 11. g4 O-O 12. Qd6 Ne8 13. Qd3 d5 14.h4 dxe4 15. Qxe4 Qd5 16. Qe3 b6 17. Nf4 Qc5 18. Qd2 Ba6 19. O-O-O Rd8 20.Qh2 Rxd1+ 21. Rxd1 Qe3+ 22. Kb1 Qxf3 23. Bb4 Qxd1+{BTAT resigns} 0-1

I just hammered 1646 on CTS, with a 85.7% session. This is getting ridiculous.

FICS standard: 1620
CTS: 1646

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Standard Games On FICS

I've finally started playing standard games on FICS, after endless procrastination. It's been a full year since I played a couple of them, in my 'chess infancy' around christmas 2005. It didn't go very well, and I never got rid of being provisional.

After a couple of miserable first games, during which I played just as if I had never seen a board before, I started to get used to the pace. I've been playing 30 30 games, which seems to be a good compromise between using the whole day to a game and blitz which is just too fast for me at this time. It feels very good, and finally feel like I can fully apply the skills I've acquired playing CC for a little over a year. Nothing like the humiliating implosive disasters my blitz games have been. Today I even got past the 1500 mark, although I'm still provisional. But the people & games I've played seem to indicate I should have no problems reaching 1600's. I'll try to keep playing a couple of 30 30 games every week, and we'll see just how it turns out.

And it's also really refreshing that games start & end in one session, compared to the weeks and months of correspondence chess. You also get a better feel for the game as a whole.

RHP: 1834, 217 games, wdl 144-11-62.
FICS standard: 1518p
FICS blitz: 1226

Sunday, January 21, 2007

1805 On Red Hot Pawn

Wupee! Finally there. Well, at least for a while. No doubt I'll fall back under 1800 soon, but the first time you break an even hundred is always a cause for celebration. The mental barrier has been broken, and now I'll just have to establish my rating above 1800 for good. It took me 1½ years, 202 rated CC games and 73 882 problems on CTS to get there. It's time to set the sights for 1900.

CTS has been going extremely well also, after I stopped daily training. During the last two weeks I've hit another bumb, and risen up to around 1630 (1639). I think it's because I've been at it really hard the last six months, averaging at about 200-300 problems a day, so now that I've taken it easy I'm more alert and less exhausted.

I've been slacking a bit with CT-ART, mainly because I don't want to do it tired. I would just start guessing, which is the exact opposite of what I'm trying to gain from it. Which is exhaustive and complete calculation training. But I'll get back to it as soon as I feel more alert.

RHP: 1805, 202 games, wdl 134-11-61.
CTS: 1621 (1639), 73 931 problems, 77.7%

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Year 2006 And Goals For 2007

I guess it's time to make a quick summary on the year 2006. Looking back, chess improvement went reasonably well, although I didn't get around to playing standard games. Other than that, I pretty much reached my goals for the year. broke 1600 on CTS, 1200 in FICS blitz, and would've even broken the 1800 on RHP without the 40 swindled points I mentioned in my previous post. So, all in all, things went pretty well.

For the year 2007 I'm making some minor changes in my training program. Tactics will no longer be the primary training I'll be using my efforts on, instead I'm concentrating on endgames. I'll still be doing some CTS just for fun and CT-ART for calculation exercises, but the bulk of my time will be devoted to mastering the material in the 3 Karsten Müller endgame dvds I acquired. I have watched through the dvds 1&2, and now I'm drilling all the examples against fritz until I can instantly recognize and perform the necessary procedures. I'm now drilling the pawn endgames, and needless to say but it has made all the difference. I'm pretty sure all of my explicit knowledge of the related theory was almost useless, as in reality I had to actually calculate K+P vs. K. Now I recognize the critical squares etc. instantly, and can tell with great certainty if the situation is won/drawn in 20 moves, and what needs to be done to make it so. Suddenly, the deadly boring endgames have actually become fun! It's almost like magic when you know the theory, and know without calculation that no move exist for the opponent to break the theory, no matter how he answers.

Goals for the year 2007: RHP 1900, FICS blitz 1500, and let's say 1600 for FICS standard if I (hopefully) get around to playing standard games. I realize the standard goal isn't exactly on par with the other goals, but I'm going to work first on my blitz, and only then standard if there's time/energy.