Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Another All-to-short YEAR has skedaddled past!  Perhaps its time to reflect on new challenges and recent victories, and perhaps its time to get rid of old calendars- filled with doctor appointments I’ve struggled to remember.

I’m not sure, exactly.  What I DO know is that once per year.  There’s this annual custom that seems a perfect fit for the improving chess player.  Buy a book- and study like mad for a few weeks (well, perhaps a few days)… and supposedly you’ll be a grandmaster by morning.

Of course it never works that way

It’s an idiotic notion to think that a few speculative hopes on new years change the tried and true (and failing) chess games.  IMHO.   In fact I seriously thought about not mentioning it and looking for some other better blogging subject.

But in the whole, I’m far too bad at this chess improvement stuff to ignore the call to revitalize my chess improvement effort.  In fact, I think chess improvement follows your general chess, itself.  Easily begun as some kind of hopeful and doubtful ‘charge’ by a few pieces into a position, with far more defensive resources than either player immediately realizes.

Is it just me, or does it seems like that the moment I get some kind of big offense planned, I immediately start losing!?

But I still think you must try to improve TO improve; you just need to realize that if you’re NOT very diligent, you’re going to botch it up.   You are going to fall into the trap of being an ‘Improving’ chess player who has a few extra activities than your more relaxed and less high strung blitzing buddy. 


In chess circles as well as lots of other circles I’ve begun to appreciate how huge of an impact this whole “deliberate practice”, apparently there was some really big studies that proved that better masters practice better.  And went on to describe an interactive study, one in which you immediately start working on your mistakes.

First, a big shout out to George of blunderprone; who was fairly impressed by the whole study.  Second, a good link


Now not to be Debbie downer or anything; and I think A LOT Of any method that says to slow down your chess and try to figure out how your screwing up (rather than to internalize it; make a nearly impossible to change habits and hope to win your blitz games on time)

BUT, there something about this approach I THINK needs done carefully.  The point of chess is to make the best possible move you can find; but the quest for perfection is useless, silly and above all futile!

In the same way, we can way over-do this focus on our mistakes.   If in fact we can obsess OVER our mistakes SO much that are spinning our wheels.  Look at it this way, in music teacher does indeed guide his/her student to carefully and deliberately perfect the song, but lets not be ridiculous.  The teacher is not standing over with ruler smacking fingers!  because better or not, everything a student plays is going to fall far short of awesome.

I also wanted to add, that’s there’s maybe a bit MORE of ‘self help’ sort of vibe going on here- than I necessarily would embrace.  Even the Buzzword is a bit cryptic and cloaked.  I mean if it all helps you find enthusiastic about adopting it;  but I would prefer another way to say.  Call it; Practicing Not making Mistakes- and there’s no need to add a catchy acronym.

Fact is the idea of working on your mistakes is HUGE! and as soon as you get back into your comfort zone; and playing habitual ingrained chess, chess improvement is nil.

That said, enthusiasm is HUGE in this big effort called getting better at chess… and it’s a Long, long road to hoe so if it helps…. 

This occurred to me a good while ago in my tactic training but I think it is universally true for most of a good training program, and now with all this hubbub about fixing your mistakes.

So like I was saying, the Big point (or a Big point) about catching your mistakes is to slow down enough to find them and (hopefully) working on catching them.  On the other hand, you can start to slid into the whole impossibility of chess.

Fact if you have dozens of particularly moves in every position and to all THOSE positions.  To be slow and careful means to carefully consider all of them RIGHT?  Unfortunately in no time flat the possibilities are endless.  PEOPLE are not computers- they cannot determine every possibility and should not NORMALLY try.

Combinations only work because there consequences of a capture or a threat drastically trim the Tree!   So the key skill is learning when to calculate deeply, in tactical positions,  but in other places, we must be directed by more abstract ideas.  

So the point is in quite a few places an intermediate/beginning player needs to be more aware of the possible variations.  But this can’t be indiscriminate.  There a clues when the calculations should go longer and more intricate.   And moreover there is a lot of value of making a shaky half- learnt pattern firmer.

We’ll only do the latter (pattern strengthening) by being quick and confident.  But we ought to get in the habit of putting the brakes on the speedy thought.   There’s a clear difference about how quickly we see a pattern and how methodically we handle the thought process to the move.  We cannot calculate out every possible combination but we must be strive to be aware of all reasonable candidates and their consequences.    This is the long part.   If we recognize patterns quickly and work to be accurate, fixing our visualization errors; and then focus on catching blunders and seeing more insightfully, I think one could improve quite a lot.


Lastly I had a big discussion with a good chess friend, and who was the better chess player.  My friend and I have played a LOT of chess; much of it not recorded or noted.  But by my records I’m a few games ahead but not by many.

But it was bit off when he was talking about how I was the better player.   The greatPatzer doesn’t consider himself that awesome of a chess player; (the very point of the title, actually)… but it wasn’t so very clear that I was a worse chess player Either.

(this is relevant I promise)

And we started talking about HOW we might compare pawn to queen.   I think that breaking it all into tiny parts was a little off; and I agreed that Thought process, ALONE, was the chief determinant of chess strength. 

I think that there’s something more intricate at work.  And I read a fair amount of literature that has talked about how chess is a sport/science or art.  And I think it was this breakdown that made the best way for us to compare each other.

But I occurs to me, that as we improve we can work on each of these aspects of our play.   We can gruel over puzzles until we’re blue in our face (SPORT).  OR perhaps we can look over intricate positions ever looking for those tal-like shocking moves that change everything(ART)….

But I think it’s the SCIENCE of chess that makes the most to work on.  And in science where we work to distill the behavior of something to its abstract laws.

And this goes beyond just noticing the mistake the hoping through repetition and incessant practice to avoid them- it is to take your best play and distill it to abstract concepts.  And in this we ought to be very DELIBERATE about it (old school meaning now as in – as in “carefully thought out and done in detail”).   Everyone has their take at the moment; at what makes for good chess. 

my twist for the day is that I think, your chess won’t get better until your understand how your patzer’s move violate Basic chess law! 


LAW #1.  if your kings not safe, it had better be safer than the opponents king or your going to lose!


  1. let me say it with a different voice:

  2. this post does have that flavor doesn't. just to emphasize the point I played some really awful chess over the new years holidy. just awful.