Monday, February 23, 2015

JOKES and POOR RESULTS (Course correction for a new week!)

Sometimes you feel bright, inspired, and generally like a king killing Monster~ this is NOT that day….

THE EXPERIMENT (that wasn’t entirely a good idea)… A little more than a week ago, My training program seemed in pretty good shape.   I was going through the last of my second pass bain; my turn-based chess was as intense as ever, I was browsing somewhat slowly through some good game annotations, and slowly working on my pet opening—the french.   The weakness was , as I saw it, that my gameplay was getting a little too infrequent, and some bitter weather meant that the chess club was meeting as often as I would have liked...

The game abhors an imbalance and I felt, despite all the warnings, that  a careful spate of blitz was in order, besides I mused I could give the resulting games a really careful look and really try to pin down some specific and routine flaws in my thinking; no doubt exaberated by the quick pace of even a G10 game (which is the slowest of blitz at

In truth, I was also empathizing quite a lot with a thread I saw on the forum.  It goes like this, if I got a standard ELO of nearly 1400 elo- how the heck can my blitz be a measely 10x?   sigh.  This is simply a prideful question and really not a good way to direct ones chess improvement program.

AN CHESS OPENING JOKE that Goes a little too far this weekend.  So  I’m blitzing this weekend, and rapidly bringing up my k (shorthand for mathematically saying , yep we’ve seen a lot of recent games- He’s A PATZER! )  and generally creating lots of examples of really AWFUL chess, When I learn of a really odd opening!

I only really payed attention to it, because I was being all 'lemony' and feeling like; you Don't know what you think you know about an opening.   So Learning of an Crazy opening that breaks every rule in the book and doesn't easily by force?! it’s a riot!  Surprisingly Not (at least with the people I’ve played with) it wasn't a forced loss…. E4 d5 Ke3?

This is nicknamed by someone with little imagination and I really odd habit of mis-spelling , ‘the BongCloud opening’.  

When my kids heard about it, they had to play it.  ( I think they assumed it would be a great way to level dad).  Ha!  It didn't work for them though…as got generally got beaten; My son at 1-1 and my daughter at 0-2.  All the while their dad distracted by something silly, Not too sensible at all.
But where it really hurt; was in chess club.  The friend I usually play with simply Demolished me.   He was curious about the strange opening and I didn’t immediately  win; but he didn’t struggle to invade and box my king in after some heated exchanges.  He put it nicely, but I think he felt he had to say;   "Your game isn't in good shape this Week"

NOW I DON’T WANT TO OVER-REACT TO A BAD NIGHT…but on the other hand, this weeks routine has been sort of like FAST FOOD chess.  Quick to satisfy the hunger and lacking in a deep visualization.   Even the ‘turn-based’ chess, must adamantly be considered a little light-weight…  Where in the normal routine of serious OTB game, one must picture the board and strain to see all the intricate details;  that kind of chess allows an analysis board.  Fantastic for concocting and understanding the deep implications of a many ply variation, but Lazy in the exercise of deep board visualization.*

SO THIS IS MY COURSE CORRECTION;  hastily thrown on the blog.   I want to quickly write up what I learned and how I’m going to make it better!

  • Browsing on the forum Might be fun- but its important Not to get too involved with peoples issues.   simply put there’s lots of people that quickly run to conclusion that they are losing incessantly cause they just don’t understand their opening, or some other reason. 
  • Be careful in the name of ‘balance’ not to embrace an activity, which might swallow up most of your time.   
  • Any distance from tactic puzzles and I inevitably feel weaker.   I think I am at a part of my training- I have gained the ability for flashes of tactical power; rather than a more consistant grounding in it.   see next point for a reason , why.
  • I believe that Board visualization is at Least as important as a good thinking process.   They two separate skills account for nearly all the blunders of a PATZER chess player.   and specifically…
  • I Truly do struggle, a little more than others at Board visualization.  Its ironic, because I think I do excel a little more than others at pattern recognition, but this quickness to see a motif and slowness to get the exact placement of the pieces right, explains Exactly why I have such struggles with refutes.

So Put all this together and you have an important COURSE correction.   I do truly feel that the CC is worth it.   And Yes, I think I’ll continue to use the analysis board.  It helps me understand the deep possibilities in a position.  And the discipline to carefully explore all the consequences are good, and HAS been very good with my thinking process.

On the other hand, I NEED TO be the Guy that truly embraces Puzzles!   I should get back to Bain and quickly add others that are more about calculation, and less in ourright pattern recognition – I have quite a few that I could consider.  But I think “pandolfini’s endgame tactics” is a Great idea at this point.  I WENT through that book a long time ago and can confirm that careful calculation is the only way to solve most of the puzzles.   I might begin Reinfields 1001 chess tactics, too… I need to sink my teeth in denser stuff.  Another book to think about is Heisman’s “Looking for trouble

I think concurrently going through 2-3 puzzle books might be challenging, but It might be good “cross training”.

LASTLY I need to adjust my gameplay and avoid Blitz.   I have joined the slow chess league at and I will join for the qualifier.  IT Is time to start playing, at Tournament Speeds and conditions EVEN IF for now, I haven’t found a reasonable OTB tournament option...

Thursday, February 19, 2015


For those not in the know, here’s a neat Kitchen science trick.  Take one Lemon, squeeze to juice and then carefully write something neat and snarky using a small bristle brush.  Allow dry and Voila!   Your masterpiece is prepared!  In true elementary school fashion you can pass it along the girl next door, then to your decoder Friend next to her; he then takes said paper that appears to be blank and mildly heats the paper revealing the big “Girls R dumb” message….

Ok, perhaps its been a long, long time since you played such childhood hijinks.  Nevertheless this very effect had a big Impression on one , McArthur Wheeler.  Whom is not a pimply faced teenager, but was a dude with a nefarious scheme in his head.  

Since clearly Lemon juice allows something that is written, to be unobservable by another,  would not Lemon juice, smeared over ones face allow one to be invisible to cameras?!   Not one to jump to quick conclusions, he quickly set up his Polaroid camera… We’re not exactly sure WHAT happened, but somehow the poor shaky image- confirmed McArthur’s brilliant revelation.  {eureka!}  It was time to turn his brilliant insight into cold hard cash!

The next days Mr Wheeler went on major stealing spree hitting up two local banks in broad daylight.  Now stealing money from banks unmasked is NOT a recommended procedure for successful bank robbery--  But don’t miss the fact that said crook had carefully smeared lemon juice over his entire face.

As reality as wont to do, the bank cameras did their job, despite the lemon, and local policemen had no difficulty identifying their suspect- To put it in chess lingo, it was Checkmate for our novice bank robber…

So you wandering now what does this do with my obsession, chess?   This story was highlighted by two researchers who were describing a most interesting psychological Effect.   It turns out, that knowing only a little about a subject, can lead to overconfidence in our own abilities.  They dubbed the effect the Dunning-Kruger effect and it has been seen in many contexts anywhere people seek to master and learn new subjects.

Chess was directly cited in the article, as the two researchers noted that collectively despite earning a number that describes our chess strength, chess players tend to overestimate their Rating…

On the other hand, I found a description of the effect thought provoking and interesting and I think the effect is a important factor in a lot of ways, as we play and seek to improve chess.

Perhaps the most clear and telling indications of this effect occurs Early in the game of chess… the opening! 

Consider the evolution of the typical chess ‘club’ player.   First he is a rank Newby- and as such- generally will have a lot of snarky ideas about how to begin a chess game.   All uneducated, you tend to be pretty creative and just as you get brilliant ideas, like- lets get the rooks away from the sides.  Better opponents tend to obliterate you on f2/f7 and seemingly always seem to be ready to blow you away in the center, long before you pawn “storm” on the flank does anything.

This starts the hunger and you readily consume chess advice particularly about openings. 
At first its quite useful, and openings like the sodium attack (Na3); devolve into the solid (and stale) four knights.   After all, openings are about developing the pieces and isn’t it- Knights before bishops??  At this point the DK effect has begun- having learnt a little about opening principles, you feel that just a few tweaks in the list of general principles you begin your game with is sufficient to play against any opponent and to approach any developing situation in the opening.   If at the same time, you’ve taken the time to consume tactics- you can pretty good! (in some games).  In others, simplistic and aimless moves make it possible that a well matched opponent just stumbles into a better situation and pummels you because he got to tactics quicker when you were just blindly getting pieces towards the center.

After that, (and bare in mind, I’m just entering this phase), you start to treat the game more seriously.  It no longer good enough to randomly be generating great positions for your opponent in the opening.   You seek more information!  And can easily find off the internet the mother-lode of the gods.  Opening “Theory”!  the accumulation of countless grandmasters expressed in terms of well trodden main-paths and the occasional promising side variation.   As the player reaches he, he quickly becomes (depending on his memory and ego), engrossed in an endless amount of grandmaster moves.  No doubt the DK effect is deepest in this phase of chess; as I see it, the danger of spending nearly all of time accumulating not-so-useful-information of a dizzying amount of ‘theory’ is one of the biggest snipe-hunts in the whole of chess improvement!

IT’S A DILEMMA. (sort of )
Of course in describing this; I’ve practically described a dilemma.   If it is Clearly wrong to think we can play the opening with no preparation at all ( though in some cases We clearly MUST play the opening that way- people don’t always stick to predictable paths),  I am also saying that just knowing a lot of theory is not good either.

The short answer (and I’ll address it all in a summary later on….)- of course its good to KNOW stuff, including theory. But in reasonable amounts, balanced against other information, particularly with humility and preferably with some painful loses to a stronger player.  
You may learn a little theory on the Spanish.  You may even have an idea of some typical Middle-game play in a Spanish game….   But you really Don’t KNOW the Spanish opening, and if you played a berlin (and bumped into Magnus Carlson); you find don’t know squat about the Berlin and would quickly lose!

In short, develop the repertoire without gaining an attitude and you’ll have an easier time moving forward.  Consider Also  that knowing and appreciating the DK effect as being a little like knowing “magic” isn’t real.  Even if the trick looks VERY real, we can still know it isn’t real.  And perhaps we are then spared from painful collisions with reality.  (unless the lemon smearing bandit)

This is Multipart blog.  Because I’d struggle to get this all out in just a couple days and I don’t want to try.  Besides if its too big, It might deter people that might want to talk about it, and deter other people from reading it carefully…

Lets just say, that the ‘great patzer’ feels like he has spent a lot of time looking for, reading and seeking to improve in chess.  And while I’ve seen a lot of good advice- I think the psychological warning not to overestimate myself is absolutely essential.

As any regular blog reader is starting to find out, the Great patzer has made a point of being verbose, and rarely delving into analysis and specifics about actual games and positions.

I spend a good amount of time these days playing turn-based chess, looking at chess tactics and examining my own and other peoples games and this is all carefully documented in my notebook.  But the purpose of the blog was to provide a once in a week opportunity to examine my training program.

Above all else, I think it is wise, to understand my own limitations.  Reading a few novice nook articles does not make Dan Heisman, even if adamantly agree and can parrot many of his very good suggestions. 

This week I have deliberately Binged upon some blitz.  Yes, I know NOT recommended.  But bear in mind
·        its not my favorite chessic activity and I don’t find it addicting (its actually very frustrating IMHO)  
·        the purpose of blitzing would be just to raise a at-one-point 900 rating closer to 1200.  (
·        I haven’t abandoned slow chess, and I’m playing my turn based games as slowly and carefully as I can 

And D) it does illuminate a lot of chess weakness; including stuff in the opening.  After a lot of effort the French game is looking better.  The QG is pretty good, with relatively better in most major black reactions.   I am more aimless and weaker defending against the closed game.  ( I find it is odd, to do an opening much better as one color and not another, but that clearly is the case).

The key point is to carefully go over my own games. And it’s this activity, actually, that I think will be relatively constructive. 
 I’m also pondering when to give up on the blitz.  The original plan was to get to 1200, but as in all rating goals, that number might be too artificial.  If I struggle, I’ve gone far enough and I can give up looking for good moves without enough time to deeply think about the chess.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The public must come to see that chess is a violent sport.
 Chess is mental torture.”
Garry Kasparov.

After a string of uninterrupted study days*.  I find myself, a little run-down and less engaged this week.   Sometimes I wonder about What it is with chess-  what about the game leads to such fatigue and exhaustion?.   Is that I face the board all full of emotions and wishes and concerns??  

BlunderProne has penned the very excellent Blog Entitled “The Psychological Game; Confidence Index”… and focused on some of the factors that affected the way he played tournament chess.   But I think this excellent subject is broader than that!  And I would go so far as to say as the psychological game just might be the definitive factor in your performance and the fact that your game can implode into a tsunami of feeling; is part of the “mental torture” Garry is talking about.

The best players, though, dedicate themselves to being Resilient.  Resilence comes from being prepared.  And while experience is perhaps the best teacher, it doesn’t hurt to examine your inclinations and failings some.   (to this end, is my blog dedicated). So what Are some of the major reasons that performance can decreased so drastically, or to put it in George’s lingo- what kinds of factors can affect performance factor??  I want both examine the feelings, the causes and how to improve in this matter.

You get into your game and carefully strain and look for a break.  Something little happens and you find yourself with initiative; in charge of your destiny- and looking for a weakness on the board.  Your spirits soar and you optimistically charge into his position; then all the sudden the unexpected occurs!   You thought you had a road to checkmate and suddenly the pizzazz in you game in gone. It is YOU that is defending.   There’s nothing worse than a sudden change of fate- and if it has come about from some kind of miscalculation in your tactics, the effect is even worse!

The fact is that they kinds of events always create layers of strong emotion; anger (at myself), frustration (am I just Not seeing), disbelief (always once when it leads you to deepen your weaknesses), and fear (perhaps I’m not improving).   Moreover my limited experience at tournaments suggest that this only intensifies in a tournament; its easier to shake off a miscalculation among friends than a important, serious tournament round.
I might go so far as to say, that for me, this is the biggest and most common psychological issue in the whole game!   It is also somewhat hard to address; with constant practice of carefully chosen (if not composed) problems, only deepening the issue.  But there is yet, ways to combat it and I really think this is the very point of increasing your opposition.   Someone harder (but not utterly beyond you), isn’t going to go down without a fight.  Also good is the PC; One thought I liked and have dabbled with is to set it up in a definitive Piece-winning tactic.  In many positions the PC will scramble to save itself from a deepening disadvantage; and in a complex situation you might have to be pretty careful not to start losing just as you grab your piece.
But the beginning of the cure is surely awareness and an appreciation of the game;  I heard this somewhere, ‘if You think your playing brilliantly you almost certainly are, or soon will be missing something’

  this is another big one for me!  Sometimes in chess the position becomes quite balanced;  and as the tension mounts everything starts feeling like their stuck to the assigned tasks and roles.   Sometimes the position can be quite simple or it can be mind numbingly complex.   Sometimes it more of a fear and other times it just becomes too complex, and all seems to calculate back into a big fat standstill.  Uncertainty! It can sap the will the win, and it can make it very hard to go forward.
The old standbye was to attack a piece, and I see that old habit in my play all the time… but unfortunately, “attack a piece” is pretty poor strategic play; and if it works on the weak- the strong will merely remanuever the piece to a better place.
Lets just say the error tends to create a pretty bad emotion; stupor and stubborness.  When this happens I always picture some of the great Civil war battles; cocky, arrogant General in the “Army of the Potomic”  with overwhelming numbers sending his troops clambering up into rocky terrain as the entrenched army mercilessly guns down their opponents;  Material doesn’t always matter and the realities of the position can demand a change of approach.  We need to learn to mentally flex with changing realities.  And not march into a no-win bloodbath, with pieces falling over left and right. (L poor things LOL.)

I’m very convinced this Specific issue is at the core of why we need coaches and/or good annotations.  Having a plan is a foundation to positional chess and is worth a GREAT deal of strength.  That is its not the only factor in your chess strength, but a wise and careful plan that utilizes your opponents weaknesses almost always give you the advantage if you have the tactical wit to see it.  In other games; you might just grind your opponent down to a win.

 I think its interesting, that recently between my friendly OTB chess games and with my now constant routine of turn-based chess  that ‘time control’ doesn’t have much influence in my game right now.  And yet, even without a clock ticking down to defeat, still time is STILL a heavy responsibility.

That is, one can Always keep on spinning the variations in ones head; and/or scrutinize over the opponent or ones own pieces. But when Have I arrived at a good conclusion, when has my analysis become redundant; (even worse when Have I done , so MUCH analysis that I’m losing the whole thread of the game! and might forget important stuff).

Even in a game with an indefinite time control still there is the prudence of playing a careful opening fast, and the importance of being methodical in a real tense battle.   And here the emotional element becomes quite relevant here as well!   I still tend to play out big moves fast, as if the suddenness of it makes it better!  And I tend to play far too slow when uncertain. The reaction aside, the emotion, impatience is an awful one for chess.   And indecisiveness, can easily lead back into the stupor.

In fact, I would submit, that Time and mastering it better is important in All forms of chess- and I find myself keeping better and better notes about how much time I’m taking.  I’ve talked to the most regular opponent in my chess club;  I intend to follow up; by bringing a clock and using it!

In conclusion;  the mental game is HUGE in chess!  To be as good of a chess player as we can one must MASTER ones emotion, not letting them derail a careful, objective and forceful plan to win the game.

To do so will really demand a lot of attention, patience and determination - But the rewards of becoming more serious, determined and careful is to increase in chess strength and gain joy knowing I have really struggled to master a truly ardous game!

Friday, February 6, 2015

21 Years 8 Months and 9 Days! from now

Lurking around, I wandered into the thread “Inspirational Adult improvers”  A lot of impressive stories and impressive people on that thread; but what was interesting was when it got derailed into a discussion of Deliberate Practice;  The number of 10,000 hours of Deliberate practice was dropped and created instant controversy.

It would be silly and ridiculous to claim that a guy nicknamed the “Great Patzer” could have any real insight to the accuracy of the claim.   But patzer or not, I am keeping pretty extensive records of how much I study.   And I can conclude that since 8/21/2014 till now; if my training sticks to this average… It will be 22 years and some before I write off that 10,000th hour.

GENERAL thoughts and Reflections on training, as it exists today.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons it stuck with me, was that the last 7ish days there was a definitely up-tick in the consistency of my study. 
  • 12 strait days of at least one half hour or more
  • 25 out of the last 30 days  (of at least one half hour+)
(Compare THAT to October where I spent only 15 out of 30days on serious chess study.)

I also have been having little time for complete games;  Instead about 2/3 of my current time spent is on “turn based” gaming.   In fact this is absolutely the driver of my current obsession.  If a game moves to critical decisions, my analysis gets long and exhaustive! (I’ve looked at over 100 ply- in places);  and that inevitably bumps some of my other games into tomorrow; then I find myself drawn right back into the marathon game- and revisiting, revising and updating all my lengthy calculations.

Love of Big Ego Trips
What really Strikes me about the idea of “mastering” chess; apart from how Vague it is, how impressive it is.   Even more then becoming a ‘strong’ player, or earning xxx points in xx days;   Chess ‘mastery’ is an awe-inspiring idea.
I can see it now; the audience is hushed, and people are looking with that oh-so-impressed look on their face.  And the position, after quite a few moves; and the pieces are spread around in random looking chaos; There’s no grasping in my mind;  everyone of those pieces all worked out in my head, no tactical surprises,  a clever and game winning refute behind every seeming flaw in the position.  And all is seen;  the grinding maneuvering of the knights.  A hidden flaw that the opponents king might come out in 3 moves;  and a queen side majority that clearly Must overwhelm any diffence;  producing a promoted pawn in 10 moves….

For the record, I don’t think this daydream is real, no matter how effort we put forth and how much we improve.
Chess (and I mean this Adamantly*) seems that it is Never Easy on its participants and viewing higher places—it appears that competition dramatically intensifies.   Stronger players have a lot less ‘simple’ errors; are able to defend tooth and nail against bigger errors, and have a near inexhaustible will to drag you to checkmate!
So What’s so Good about “mastering chess” anyways? LOL

Well, coming back to the post about being low rated;   We are obsessed about “mastering chess” and “Becoming a strong player” because, basically, it is human nature to want to excel in things we obsess in.  AND generally we would like to do what most people can’t.   the one of impractical. The other needs fought against.   Our efforts at improving chess needs to be a personal struggle against our own Patzer ways, lest we find other peoples success, as discouraging.

Dear reader,  here is my strong thoughts about it;  if you want to do better in chess- give up on these Ego trips*.  They’re unproductive, and they’re distracting.   What we Should do is learn to enjoy chess and take pride and make efforts to get good at solving puzzles.   That is the epitomy of tactics.  Learn each phases of the game.   Become interested and involved in the game.   when the opponent does something unexpected, instead of “ Crap, this proves I’m no good at this” look at it like “wow, chess is a Really fascinating game.  I thought I had the unstoppable attack, then look what that unexpected move, does?!”.  

Remain determined to try like He!! and always looking for the win – without putting so much pride online.   The End Truth, as I see it,   “One does not simply walk into ‘chess mastery’ , Not with 10000 ‘hours’ could you do this!”*

Chess is never mastered (by humans), so best effort as Good enough.  That kind of positive outlook might keep one interested and engaged for 22 years.  some mysterious and Prideful goal  “am I a strong player, now”…. Ok “am I strong player, NOW” and your unlikely to last 2 YEARS…. and I might end with Point that I am not a professional researcher in Learning, nor am I a good candidate to be a titled master.  But I am an Excellent Candidate at being A chess-player who enjoys a serious game at chess, and seeks to do his absolutely best and improve to the extent that his lifestyle allows him to do).

Last weeks post was about balance and that’s still a good weekly question.   We’ve not gone far enough in any of our openings;  but I am playing and reading about the French and I feel that I’ve seen several good things about it.   It helps, that as a matter of coincidence both an instructive annotatized game I’m reviewing and one of my turn based games are on the Tarrash. 

I’m NOT playing enough Chess, ironically.   The turn based stuff is a little… different.  For all the people that play too much Blitz, I don’t play enough.   More games in shorter times would cover more ground.   (besides my seriously sickly blitz elo of 1000 ish is just too low, even Given that I’m not a fast thinker). Also, The chess club here in town is truly in danger of dying out.  There were only 3 serious members.   

Endgames ought to get More attention, and perhaps I do too much lurking at the forums of (given that I rarely post)

I also need to work through my projects;   posts for the future; Silman versus Heisman annotations, a tactics study (motifs versus improvement),  and  some analysis between how much time I give myself credit for versus how much time some of my study actually takes (ongoing measurements are being made).