The long awaited Blog post. In truth I’ve lapsed a bit—tired or whatever is bringing me down, a little. Late April and Early May was very fruitful and intense. But I haven’t lost focus! I am more convinced than ever- that the road to higher skills; are as much athletic as anything. As I’ve been saying the last long while- one needs to be intensely focused, observant, creative and most of all; not let our gaze slip. One errant move is enough to throw a whole game; even if, yes sometimes lost games can be swindled.
What I have been doing is seriously reviewing past games. My mistakes are in there! Lessons to be learned… What do I do wrong, and what are my common failures? As in past posts I intend to highlight a few things and offer corrections.
The Golden variation ! (and all the unexpected replies)… In all those tactical exercises you’d think I’d see a major point. You can’t brilliantly concoct an impressive tactical combination without seeing the larger pattern; and you should always treat the subject of your opponents move VERY cautiously. I am far TOO inclined to see every pawn and piece exchange- every threat addressed –and Not creative enough in looking for ingenious ways to defend. One of the biggest psychological hurdles is simply the thrill of a huge game blowing variation! The “golden” variation. As I pointed out before; Its too EASY (and thus wrong) to summarize as opponents options are limited… The idea that ones options are NOT limited; is the essence of the classic swindle- where one player deeply in material deficient plays a sly desperate attack leading to a checkmate or draw that the winning player never saw (as he had stopped looking in his triumph).
Funky calculations Yes. Reality. I’m not that good at calculations, though I would call this a critical skill in chess. While I can often lack creativity and ingenuity; just as often my calculations can be wrong and inaccurate. Sometimes this becomes startling! Looking into the core reasons of why this occurs; I want to highlight two distinct errors, they I note that many possible failures are possible; Not seeing inactive pieces, not seeing backwards or repetitive moves, missing counterattack, check or pins. These (judging from my own games) are common. On the other hand:
Missing that an offensive pawn or piece can just plain be taken! Disastrous to miss, as not only does the missing piece no longer cover certain squares, coordinate with other pieces, but it is material; and as such once you go in material deficit- you have a serious long term problem.
The two way movement of a pawn; and of course the last tricky option. Even ignoring the limited trick “pawn d’etait”- pawns are pretty versatile creatures. Any sequence that places pawn diagonal to pawn; needs carefully considered. Too often, do I find myself only calculating their diagonal attack (most commonly their exchange) and miss that they can move forward as well. moving forward though comes at a price. The forward move frees up a space- that can be used by pieces to infiltrate the position. Perhaps the last and trickiest option is to not move at all. Masters do not move pawns or pieces without a purpose or a reason. There is no reason to idly misuse your time.
I feel ( a little ) embarrassed. These are simple errors. A sharp beginner learns how a pawn moves in mere minutes. And of course- leaving loose pieces. if you hang a loose piece, you need not look much harder for the reason why you fail in chess. Nonetheless, the roots of failure are simple! And often in a chess puzzle, I find myself refuted because of very basic errors. Getting a sequence WRONG is in some respects worse than not getting it at all.
Let us put it this way; About taking a MOVE of initiative… You gain control of the tempo of the game and Wake up and alarm your opponent. While low ranked beginners may quiver in fear- Your opponent gains a very distinct advantage as compensation for your bold moves- the intent and purposes of your moves become clear, the forest of reasonable variations shrinks… The opponent is now privileged to carefully scrutinize your variation and double, no triple check its accuracy. Accuracy is a must! If you want to be high rated and failure to be accurate will doom you to be a patzer til the end of your days….
FAILURE points…. While failure is possible in most positions… see last weeks rock climbing analogy… Chess has natural flow to it. Openings (at least successful ones) are normally calm and uneventful where people much stronger than I obsess over subtle differences in move order; and name (which is more Trivia than chess BTW). Most openings offer a sensible mix of development; a claim of certain squares or square colors, and king protection.
If the opponents can get out of the opening without major weakness; perhaps both will adopt a sensible middle game, and prospects will stay even for both sides for some time.
But I am a patzer (I make no claim to be anything better than that)… and despite an earnest desire to capitalize on an inaccuracy; and at least get some kind of fighting chance in the endgame… inevitable our conflict hinges upon a few distinct failure points, and the resolution of them will set the game in motion.
It is fruitful psychology I think to start working on the fine art of knowing when and how the game will unfold… its importance is stated boldy by Great Chess-master capablanca in a carefully preserved interview (Winters, 1939, http://chess-news.ru/en/node/6472)…
“Precise positional judgment, the overall vision of every maneuver in the interdependence of its cogwheels, is what characterizes a great master. It is not a question of a great master seeing any number of isolated moves or of his knowing how to construct a mate; all that is to be taken for granted. What counts is that he should have ideas, and that these ideas should be accurate. That when he is shown any position he should not beat about the bush but should say without hesitation: “This is won, and the win is secured by maneuvering on this or that wing, like this.” I recall that during the
, 1925 tournament – Tartakower often refers to this – various famous chessplayers had been studying a particular position for three hours, without being able to reach a conclusion. I was passing by at that moment and they asked me my opinion. I was not in doubt for a single second, and I told them: “This is won; and it is won like this, and this.” And I was not mistaken. Moscow
The challenge is to be accurate, and aware as the game approaches one of three important states, which are given below without elaboration…
- Accuracy as an chess player’s king becomes exposed or vulnerable to threats and checks
- Accuracy as a chess player has pawns that becomes weak and compromised. Susceptible to attack. Similarly important is all dealings with a passed pawn and whether it can promote; or gain material in threatening to promote..
- Accuracy as a chess players position contain holes where the opposition can infiltrate and invade.
- Accuracy as a chess player position becomes subject to coordination of the opponents pieces.
Each of these four conditions would be considered a strong advantage. Each of them have been a strong factor in many critical blunders, inaccuracy and mistakes. Personally, I have to say, I favor reason #3 for the failure of many games. The opponent gaining a safe spot then gaming up on my overstretched attack is a clear motif of game after game!
As I grow in strength I look to anticipate moves and situations better; being more aware and careful in my analysis- as the game takes a definitive tact. I look towards strengthening my abilities at calculation- making less simple mistakes and seeing more refutes and suprises, when seeing a clear tactic.
Above all I wish to move from a simple-minded approach to unforced blunders (“safe at any speed”)- to a more repentant view of my mistakes. I need to apologize to the great muse of chess for being too simple-minded; and work on developing athletic determination to be thorough and accurate in all my calculations. … and as I said before, even in a lapse (a little less time and drive) I need to persevere- and study my mistakes so that I move beyond them...