Thursday, January 8, 2015

Patzer problem; documenting your own game

The New Year brings some new thought onto Organization and Data Analysis.  My files got a new revision and I have spent several none chess studying (or blogging) hours working on it.

The Great Patzer is under the Weather.
Cold air has abruptly streamed back in this part of the world again, and as if on cue- I’m pretty sure I got a cold.  Actually I think I was getting it around New years eve.  I’m pretty sure it affected my game.  I don’t believe my pattern recognition was affected that deeply… I’m still about as fast at simple BAIN tactics as I was, but I think the depth and clarity of picking quiet position moves and seeing their ramifications is definitely affected.  I also think it was/is hurting my ability to power through a more involved tactic.  Basically, calculation as a whole was suffering, and board visualization.  

So… the real question IS how useful is it to study through a cold?   I use to think that chess was perhaps a really good way to spend a sick day- now I second guess that thought.   When you having trouble concentrating, and being groggy- how good is that for your discipline and mental process?   Would you practice racing with a messed up engine?

Written notes have been a problem my whole (chess) Life
Lets start with a story.  It was about 30 years ago; I was in Middle school.  Chess in the USA was on the Post-Fisher high, but as they say about it being the best and worst of times- Chess was the game of nerds, and I struggled too much with the label.  (ah, it would take too Many years to quit caring whether other people liked my hobbies).  So I was secretly interested but I wasn’t going to be too involved.  

At any rate, one of the pioneers of Chess in schools was a local educator and he arranged, as I recall, a school tournament.  But what was really extraordinary was that he had a grandmaster attend, whom would look over the games and give us a few helpful tips.  (Just for the record, almost no one knew, and certainly not I, how cool it really was to gave a GM come over and mark up Preteen games.)

At any rate, the point was while keeping it somewhat a secret, I was rather looking forward to it.  To make it better; this was a pretty big group, (probably because this was in the middle of school) and we where shushed enough to make it work.  I’m pretty sure I plain up lost every game, but what was really important the leader said was to take good notes.

In that regard, I utterly failed.  I didn’t even get out of the opening before it was unreadable- and there was a line of kids beyond me.   In reflection, I think any strong player would consider this a boring challenge- giving out bits to like 30 kids in a reasonable timeframe.  The weak moves were likely rather bizarre even when it was clear what was played.

Hit the big “fast forward” button to something much more recent. And go to my last tournament.  Huge amounts of study time, tons of maturity, a truly quiet and intense tournament playing with a competitor that was 300 ELO better than I was and again, the notes were at places unreadable.  Had a had time to carefully review it with my opponent I’m sure I could of straightened it out with his notes; however there wasn’t time.  I missed my opportunity to relive how a stronger player grinded me to checkmate during a intense quiet G90 game.

Learning the Language of Chess
I don’t want to insinuate here that I face the exact same problem.  As a secretly aspiring chess competitor 30 years ago;  I was shaky and very new to the Language of chess.  In those days, all notation was Descriptive and it took some getting use to the fact that the same square wasn’t the same for both competitors.

But,  I Haven’t spent exactly 30 years ignoring chess either ( though I haven’t attended  very few chess tournaments.)   I gathered books and read widely.

In all this off and on study, I’ve become pretty comfortable with algabraic and the standard typed diagrams.  And in all that time, notation has become easier and more comfortable. 

The problem with that…
The real issue is that when the going gets tough, good notation goes out the window
So this then is what’s really embarrassing about it.   Give me no significant opposition and the notes are easily flawless (especially if I’m trying).   On the other hand, Just when I would WANT to carefully document what went wrong- the notes fail me!   I’m especially prone to missing a few ply.  other errors creep in too.  The 8th rank looks like the 1st.  ‘a’ file looks like ‘h’.  Bishops get turned to knights (that sort of thing). 

Well firstly it IS embarrassing.   Documenting Good notes is the responsibility of every OTB tournament player.  And I’m not even sure that the newest DK board relieves one of it.  Moreover I think of it as a clue, and a signal of bigger problems.   If in the midst of a critical decisive move that will likely decide the game- I can’t keep good track of exactly what is moved.  I’m at the beginnings of the path of ‘missing something’

I also see this issue during the attack as well.   The greatpatzer is MOST certainly his worst opponent at the chess board and gets a lot of funny ideas in sometimes quiet and stable moments in the game.  Occasionally he stumbles into gold- but More often it is fools gold.  Again stepping back and understanding the flow of the game is key.  And we have to be suspicious if you’re not even careful enough to be exactly sure what the last few moves would be.

I recently had the good idea to start documenting my games at   this is doubly a good idea I think for, I need to reinforce the habit of keeping notations, and the fact that Keeps a flawless record helps me correct myself.  Even in the midst of a game (I’ve been playing G30) there is usually time to correct minor errors before they derail my notes.

While I have NO proof that bad or missing notation correlate to low ratings; I truly believe that OTB there is likely a good correlation between bad notes and low ELO.  In all my interactions with other weaker players, I usually find this true of their notes.   But its rarely mentioned in books and advice.   Perhaps as a player gets better, he just naturally cleans up his act to better scrutinize his game.   I do KNOW that looking over your own game and really studying them is frequently given as one of the gold ways to improve.

Perhaps, a lot of online games with their easily obtained records do us a disfavor.  The act of writing the opponents notes could be a ritual in a necessary thought process; to evaluate carefully what the opponent does.  If we skip the note, do we skip the step?

LAW #2.  Take good notes and Use them as a way to solidify good thinking processes, or risk missing stuff and being a patzer forever!


  1. I put all of my games in an engines and make a blundercheck. Then i go to the biggest blunders and let the engine tell me what moves would have been better.
    And then i try to find a better move which i can understand ( many moves are just cryptic ) and ask myself: why did i not chose this one? and why is it a better move?

  2. exactly, that is SO why I need to carefully make notes. of course if I'm playing online there is already an accurate score... but there's something interesting about that. I PLAY better chess If I am keeping an accurate score (online or not), and If I'm keeping score and start missing moves,etc- its almost certain that I am doing much worse.

    so I guess what I'm thinking is that If I force myself to take CAREFUL notes, I'm already playing better chess... and beyond that I can then computer analyze my game, look for holes in my reportoire, etc.