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.