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.