Friday, May 15, 2015


This is Going to be a short blog post!   A new week has passed, and yet the feeling couldn’t be different than last Friday.

Last Friday I had won like 13 of my last 15 games… by online standard rating was taking a surge upwards… everything felt Great!  Even my indexes were sky high….

It was Great! Last week…. Unfortunately; this weeks results have been disappointing.   My rating is crashing;  Chess feels harder, Tactics seem scarce, openings that were going good… seem to go towards awkward middlegames and losing endgames.

Never Underestimate the ability on one’s confidence to somehow sour every single aspect of your game!

As the pic says, though, I am reluctant to say too much…  I am sure these psychological setbacks are important and necessary to becoming strong and resilient.  I want to Describe a little about what went wrong… and find the way beyond them.

I think players of all strengths must find that any ambitious chess training program sometimes goes poorly.  I think my difficulties are… normal limitations of a chess training program and I welcome any of my readers to comment on any thing they’ve done to adjust to the follow difficulties…

            Energy/ Tiredness… I have a busy life and chess fits between kids and sleep.   Sometimes it fills the whole time rather well; recently I find that I’ve just become tired.  I’m not sure if I’m sick, getting allergies from the trees,  or I’m just old- and struggling to do to much in my life.  I can tell you that a 40 year old father with a growing yard and an upcoming garden has his reasons for feeling tired in mid may…  I am sure that the major reason for cyclical behavior in my indexes relates to tiredness.  I get tired and sleep deprived; falter – have a few bad days and then gather strength and resume a better program.

            Inaccurate Thinking…. This is perhaps somewhat embarrassing.  Sometimes, I feel sharp and gets lots of the 3-5 play calculations dead on!  Other times, it becomes Really bad and I don’t even get the variations I calculate right! (not too mention, accounting for unexpected opponent responses etc).   I usually mistrust myself enough to recalculate- but this is time consuming.  And I imagine between the disease and the cure; all the inaccurate calculations are most of why I’m so weak at blitz!

            Training Imbalance… try as I might it seems inevitable that when I get a major training idea in my head it starts swalloping all my time up; and either my playing time goes to nothing, or some important form of study (analysis, tactics)- goes as well.  Relatedly, one of the major uses of my time; the correspondence chess Can’t be procrastinated (I’ll time out)- and this only makes it inevitable that something is going to take a hit.

I think part of this problem is simply that my time constraints are significant.  There is not “many long” hours to do chess!   1 to 2 hours per day is a BIG commitment; but doesn’t go far with an ambitious program.

            Chess Weariness  call it what you want.  I simply can’t think and breathe chess non-stop.  I can maintain an enormous curiousity in the game… but its in the struggle to understand and answer the position, that there are limits!  Even within a game- I can grow listless, and not be thinking so intensely about all the facets of the game.  This is where I start missing important features of the positions, fail to see a significant amount of my moves and Espacially fail to see all my opponents moves (after my chosen moves)..  this last step is very important to blunderchecking!   I think there’s an athletic component of a game (and a training program), in this regard.  Hopefully my chess “muscles” are growing stronger!  My indexes give my optimism in this regard.   I’m doing more chess, more often than I use to..   Nonetheless, chess weariness follows other aspects of ones attitude- if one is unconfident, discouraged, and tired;  your bound to bump into weariness in tackling chess’s tricky challenges

There’s been a lot of talk in places where I read about chess coaching… and while I done a little bit; I’ve pretty much talked myself out of a more involved experience.  I think a coach offers a lot of invaluable experience in keeping a strong training program- but I’m pretty sure coaching is not by itself a substitute for a training program….(When your learning to play the piano, you still do a lot of practice at home!).

I look forward to better weeks to follow…


  1. Hey Jason!

    The chess up and down thing is what caused a lot of the first generation of bloggers to burn out. And a lot of chess players who don't write blogs.

    I think part of the problem is that we can forget this is a hobby.

    Setting goals, making training plans etc. are all very important but about 5 years ago I realized i wanted to have chess as my #1 hobby for the rest of my life. I LOVE the game! I love playing it (OTB), love studying it and I love reading over annotated game collections for fun!

    As I am University Music Professor I realized I have a season for chess: Summer! During the school year I just train tactics about 15 minutes a day and play the odd game against the computer or correspondence chess. Weekends I may have a long term project (this year was making my first real opening repertoire!)

    Then in the summer I ramp it up a bit. But still don't go whole hog about it.

    I want to win and I want to get better. make no mistake about that. But I want to be doing it for the rest of my life. As my hobby I am NOT in a hurry! So if I don't feel like studying one or two days even in the summer which is my chess season? I don't! I go to a movie, or follow my other hobby (GOOD COFFEE--That can also be a rabbit hole if you let it!)

    My whole point is that as you have children it is an understatement to say your time is limited.

    I tell my students that during busy seasons it is not how MUCH one practices but how OFTEN and how consistently.

    That is why i am slowly, inexorably but surely getting better at chess. VERY SLOWLY! But once I got the seasonal thing together the improvement happens every year.

    I hope this comments are taken in the spirit with which they were given. It is clear you love chess!

  2. I've found that the biggest determining factor in my quality of play (including doing tactics problems) is how tired I am at that particular moment. So you're not alone there. I've learned not to bother to do tactics drills when the brain isn't sharp, since they go nowhere.

  3. as further reinforcement of the blog; my weekend was definitely Not very chessic. lot of rest; and apart from a brief flurry of moves in the Correspondance chess- fishing , not hard core chess, at night...

    i strongly agree that ones determination to improve and the drive to excel can put you in a bad place; in chess. as significant chess improvement is hard fought espacially with my current limitations; (no coach and no tournaments). I also deeply didn't want to create another ghost blog; that litter the internet these days... even if it means; patzer blogging for a long, long time.

    I've heard it said, that some people take up meditation and other people work on a routine of regular exercise. this is worth exploring; though I have a few guilty feelings about it. being truthful about it, chess has displaced some activities that were active and helped me be fit.

  4. that might not have been well said. what I mean, is that you can be SO obsessed by chess that you lack the patience and focus it takes to improve. Chess improvement seems Hard Fought and comes at its own timing.

    MOST importantly, I can think all day and night long; about how MUCH I don't want to blunder and yet, still I make silly moves and an easy tactic later, and I've blundered a peice! Not blundering peices is not the result of motivational thinking! it is the result of a better more patient thought process... where you consider the position more deeply; and look harder at all the consequences of your moves.

    But...What I don't want to do, is to create the feeling that after another blunder- I'm deeply discouraged and ready to give up the Game! ... instead determination to do ones best should be coupled with a realistic understanding, that in many games my opponent is going to find a weakness and play it to the point at which its a hopeless loss.

    ... my minimal chess activity this weekend, was good and already I am feeling better. i've had a few wins (always helpful ; though I tell myself- that winning is NOT the point of my chess study program) as well.

  5. Let's try to explain all the motifs below ;) :)

    1. Energy/ Tiredness - there are days I feel really sharp, but when I work quit hard (intellectual kind of job!) and extensive... it is a really difficult task to play chess (well). Of course it depends how strong my opponent is. Anyway - the more tired I am, the more difficult to play a serious game. Yes, as simple as that!

    2. Inaccurate Thinking - I probably do not experience that too often. What is the "problem" with me? Probably I have played too many games (most often blitzes) and I do not meet too many positions that I am completely puzzled or confused. What may interest you - I feel I barely count variations - at least at concious level.

    3. Training Imbalance - I simply do not have one. This way it is much better to me as I am free to practice chess whenever I wish. Recently I have studied some positions from Joel Johnson's book "Formation Attacks". It gives me a fresh way of perpection as I am very weak at attacking part of chess.

    4. Chess Weariness - I have had it some years before. I simply was swimming at chess - it was all around me all the time. It drains A LOT OF energy and it consumes lots of time, too. Unless you set your energy level according to your possibility - you may feel this (weariness) very often. However if you set up the plan with 1 (or even 2) day off - you may have much better results and feel quite fresh - in comparison with "chess every day, no matter what" approach!

    I have NO DOUBTS that "...a coach offers a lot of invaluable experience in keeping a strong training program" even if "coaching is not by itself a substitute for a training program".

    What about blunderchecking? I have mixed feelings. From the one side - you "should" practice tactics and combinations "to avoid making simple tactical mistakes or oversights". However my recent opinion on that topic is quite contrary! I think that you should KNOW (meet) as many plans and important (classical!) games as possible. This way you could see what the "suspicious" position looks like (when there is A TACTIC present at the position). I am not sure if you know what I mean. I recognize (yes, recognize, not think or analyse!) the position that is "poisoned" by tactics. AFTER that I start analysing it and comparing to the database of positions stored in my mind. If there is a big similarity - I can match the present position with these in my mind (database) and the solution should be quite easy. ONLY when I cannot recognize the position and cannot match with any other similar (the same?!) positions in my database (mind)... I start analysing it to "see the inner truth of it".

    I am interested if others (especially those players rated B-class or better) have the same observation. I have thought it over for the last ten years (or so) and found out that most people DO NOT analyse positions "from the root/core", but compare it to the previously memorized (and learnt). I hope it makes any sense to you.

    Let me know if this post helped you in any way (or triggered any ideas?!).

  6. think in its own way this post has been one of my deepest. I have a commited a very large amount of my time recently in chess- and I 'm looking at a daily average over 2 hours each day of May.

    I do experience alot variability (I'm not sure what word is best)-- that is one day and in one game; I'm seeing nearly all the Tactics in a position without (as you say) neccesarily constantly looking for them- and my calculations are accurate.

    other days or games; I start missing alot of things; and each time I calculate a long set of forced move- the answer is different.

    I appreciate that tiredness is an important part of this. but at the same time. mentally I think I can do more to be prepared for a chess game. my feelings on Blunderchecking are evolving. I still think Blunderchecking is one of the biggest mental habits of a strong player-- but I'm taking a broader view of it...

    Chess is NOT easy, and making blunders- missing opportunities- and not calculating the full positional ramifications of your move, is in fact; a matter of making the process of picking a peice too simple. I'm trying to look at my thoughts at the end of move; and be like "Why am I moving the knight to e4"-"because I want him to move his queen..." TOO simple! where could the queen go? what was the knight doing? what might be the general plan of the game -(i.e was the knight better where it is!)??"

    I even thought about blogging it a while back "chess is NOT simple." ... so I guess you might say the blunderchecking itself doesn't seem Simple to me.

    One of your biggest points was that you compare your position with other games and experiences you have had. I AM seeing this,yes. In fact; I'm playing ALOT more slow serious games than I once did. It is the major upside of losing. so long as I'm really trying to be careful and slow; to really pour my heart into finding the winning way. my own failures are blueprints for further improvement. I AM working on better describing my games in my notes. I want them to have stories...

    as an example.
    5/17/2015. "2 knight tango; misplayed knight"
    " my white opponent opened oddly with a peculiar (white) version of 2 knights tango. It wasn't reasonable as black could develop with tempo. He threatened my queen with a discovered attack; but gets his own queen trapped. he then sacs the queen and invades with knight. I save my Queen and threaten bodens mate. he defends against it; and we repeat the position. but misses the fact that he doesn't have time to rid himself of the LSB. this allows a queen sac; and he allows me to win with Bodens mate. there was no endgame in the game. my opp gave up a lot of material when he had his queen trapped, but he kept some intiative with a coordinated Knight and Bishop."

  7. Tiredness either physical or pychological IS a strong limitation of amatuer chess training program. Because tiredness is real; I'm bound to struggle a little more. Heisman says somewhere in his thick file on improvement that ... it is naturally to strain (when you are improving) and that this strain does have a negative effect on your chess game. This is why we need to be persistant and patient about losing and other setbacks.

    I find that blunders bother me the worse (because I've spent SO much time in doing tactical puzzles). but just being upset with myself is not the answer. Neither is adopting a passive, timid approach at the board. "chess is hard" is my new buzzword.
    I strongly appreciate your comments Tomasz, because I feel your a few rungs higher on the chess mastery ladder. I appreciate the thought; that you don't struggle with inaccurate thoughts. my view looking up is that strong players reduce positions to stories; able to recite relevant truths about the position without neccesarily contant extensive analysis. Their filter (see rocky rook's recent threads) is strong and accurate.

    even at my level I don't have to buzz through all the types of motifs to figure out whether a tactic is on the board. If I'm in tune with the game and aware. a fork or a winning pin; a few forced ply away sticks out. I think this ability deepens. that is why for the next phase of my training program; I'm playing more serious games and scrutinizing them more deeply.

  8. You have said so many stories, that I have a great difficulty to comment on these!

    1. Take notice that I am LAZY player - I do not practice chess nor make (realize) any training(s) programme. That's why I told you that I am comparing the positions in my database (mind) with these on a board in front of me. It is not sufficient, but it helps me a lot.

    2. It is hard to think at this way, but making comments is GREAT thing - however you should think of "adding some variations" to your stories. For example: "I could not play d5, due to losing a pawn after Nxd5 Nxd5, etc.". Of course it is NOT necessary, but I think it may help you a bit. Making chess stories is a great idea by itself, but reducing the games to "bare comments" is a bit too far step in my opinion.

    3. Tiredness - no doubts if you are working intelectually too much - you CANNOT play a solid game of chess - especially against serious opposition and when the game lasts more than 20 moves (or just an hour). I have experienced this type of failure many times. Unless I slown down the workload - I could NOT play my best.

    4. Blunders - they kill the game and rule out these viruses! What I recommend is to forget about blunders, but start thinking about these as a cheaters! Try to avoid cheaters from your chess life. However if you make any of these - just stop, look closely and make a diagram into your notebook (no matter real or electronic ones). After "writing down" some of such "crash-tests" you will collect nice collection of "viruses on the board". HAVE FUN with these and try to find a reason why they happened in your games (what caused these worms).

    5. I agree with you - "strong players reduce positions to stories; able to recite relevant truths about the position without neccesarily contant extensive analysis. Their filter (see rocky rook's recent threads) is strong and accurate.". However be careful about "they do not see/know the positions or variations, but base their judgement (eval) only at the position". It is DANGEROUS to see (think) this way. Most strong players are able to show you IMMEDIATELY why some moves are bad - faster than they are able to express why it is so! They use their (critical pattern) recogniton system all the time!

    6. About the "tactical poison". After I worked through a lot of quite simple puzzles - I experienced (and felt!) that I "just see the ugly position" and I KNOW there is some tactics inside it. What I lack is the instant access to the "the deepest truth" about the position - mostly I have to work out some variations and see what move (and in what order!) work and which one - does not.

    7. You are probably struggling with this: "I'm trying to look at my thoughts at the end of move; and be like "Why am I moving the knight to e4"-"because I want him to move his queen..." TOO simple! where could the queen go? what was the knight doing? what might be the general plan of the game -(i.e was the knight better where it is!)??" - that's why REAL VARIATIONS may help you to reveal the thruth about the position - you have to work out some of these - to see the final result. After that you can COMPARE some possible lines (variations) and choose the most promising one.

    I am really glad I can inspire, motivate or just provoke or help to navigate your thoughts and ideas into the proper (right) way! :)

    PS. I strongly appreciate your comments Tomasz, because I feel your a few rungs higher on the chess mastery ladder.... - I am a little bit higher on the AMATEUR chess level, but not mastery one. In fact I have just known the basics and solved some dozens of thousands of (simple or very simple) puzzles. However I have thought about chess and its problems (especially related to progress, improvement and training) A LOT since I started playing chess (1997 - when Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov).