Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back to the Place I was Before

I can’t help feel like this week has been the end of a party…  the goal was set, the race was run, I burst through the finish line- in time. Victory!

And now a calm, a break after night after night playing hardcore blitz…

Its not that what I want to do next is unimportant or actually Easy.  But it’s a different thing to tackle a challenge where the goal is clear- and progress- as obvious as running around a track. The exact time and distance is clear.



My next goal is to deepen my chess.  Much more analysis, more time thinking about careful endgames and the struggle to deeply understand complex middle-games…   So, we must return to the place we were before

But it was handy & very useful to have such instant feedback to my chess improvements…  how does one live without it?

Thoughts?  Of course, I have thoughts. Thats the whole point of the blog.  And moreover, I can imagine someone having this concern…. I think they need to realize..

  • FIRST in chess, if we are to really understand it (and get truly strong); we must Build up our Patience.   If you look at Grandmaster level chess- you will see how patient and determined you must really be… two incredibly strong chess players staring at a unclear position- with no apparent strong moves on the board;  staring, gazing, pacing, and grimacing- striving to pierce the tactics that could be… and definitely patiently waiting for the perfect moment to strike.   Like a predator that sits for many hours, in the shadows waiting for the definitive moment to make his move. 

  • We must Have Faith in our methods.   This is not an easy idea- but its SO important, there’s no quick proof that going over a morphy game has any immediate cure to my game- and no instant change that comes over one when he has solved a thousand tactics puzzles…  Looking over my games feels embarrassing- Especially the losses.  But there’s really no better more instructive fix than to look over games, and strive once again to see all my mistakes- vowing to not repeat them, yet knowing I probably will.

  • I’m convinced Rating Gains (Any rating gains) Are much more gradual than they appear.  We have our good days- and win several (many) games – getting to a Peak!  But disappointedly falter. (especially if we are seeking equal opposition)
The Next low point seems depressing but look more closely- is this low point above the last one?!   We can see a Truer rating gain – by a gradual increase in our Lowest Rating of the Week.   The point is not to be crushed and upset by our loses and falling rating.  Of course we must lose. And when we lose we will lose rating.  (We left Blitz on a High point and so I know it doesn’t Accurately reflect where I’m at in blitz).

·        Lastly, we Must realize that rating is only a index of Performance and NOT playing strength.  Playing strength is quite hard to measure.  But in some ways, we can take a Common sense approach to increasing our playing strength…  we see tactics easier (and miss them less in a game)?  if so, we’ve definitely increased playing strength.   We hang pieces less often, and look more carefully for threats?  What about being more thoughtful about carefully consider how exchanges and maneuvering effects the mobility of our pieces??  How about studying the EndGame???

In short,  the Party is Over.  And the blitz was fast paced and exhilarating- but the broad challenge of increasing my tactical accuracy, of really seeing through complexity in the middlegame and working on Winning the endgame- this is all Better addressed through thoughtful patient work with my Coach and the several thought-provoking books I have collected over the last little while.

My big goals might include Being able to follow and understand modern Gm chess, and being able to play blindfold chess.  and these goals is every bit as important to me as a Sky-High rating. 

Interestingly, all three goals is better served by thoughtful study than incessant blitz.  (though some blitz can and will be part of this study)…

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How I gained 193 Rating points of Chess.com Blitz in 18 days!

(this will be both posted to the chess.com forum and My own blogspot blog.  Irregardless of its usefulness to others- it represented a huge effort from me- and I think I gained important insight not only to blitz but also to OTB chess.)

First and foremost, I don’t want to debate the usefulness (or uselessness) of obsessing on Blitz chess.  I want to make it clear, that these are 10 minute game and that time control is definitely faster than I naturally play chess- does not stop one from making general plans (on the opponents time especially), and to a point making accurate calculations.  10:0 is not bullet chess and rapid mouse skills and instant pattern recognition, while handy, is not required!

I also want to make it clear, that I am not trying to be boastful with what is probably a pretty common achievement.  Lots of people gained 200 points , after their blitz score has the chance to settle and if they put in a  modest amount of chess improvement.  Its nothing extraordinary or epic… its simply personally satisfying- and I think some people that stagnate in these levels would do well to carefully read my observations and make small changes in the way that they play Blitz….

THERE.  Now most of my future competition has now  stopped reading- tl;dr. and we can get to the some of the observations I had.   These ‘observations’ are common things I see and I will group them into things to do and things NOT to do….

IF YOU WANT to be good at Blitz--- then DON’T

  • Don’t RESIGN. Hardly ever!  My own experience is that in Blitz, it can be hard to convert winning material to a win (the winning side is quite prone to premature and unsound attacks), that tricky sudden checkmate threats can be very effective, and that baring all of THAT the opponent still has to completely beat you before his clock goes to nothing.
The idea that the next game will be better, because you won’t make SO many mistakes is Na├»ve!  Mistakes tend to come in bunches (see next point). So if you still feel like you’ve got chessic determination- you should TRY to surprise your opponent who is lulled by his winning position. 
IF YOU DO resign, STOP playing for the night.  You’ve been beaten, your determination to win is spent and youre not seeing good moves and important threats- tomarrow night WILL be better.

  • Don’t Play On and on, when you are Losing!  This is a huge mistake I see a heck of a lot!  The point is you are losing for a reason.  Your tired, your distracted… your only kidding yourself to think that it won’t be the same next game,  Though, an important qualification--You can’t give up the moment you lose a game! see Next point.  Some games go bad, and you need to persevere.
But the Point is to determine where the occasional bad game threatens to become a massive Rating retreat.  
One mental Mistake I was making was thinking that if I fell behind a few games I had to play on and on to Catch up.   This is Almost like a gambling disease, where a compulsive loser plays deeper and deeper into his checkbook to try to get back his fortune.  “Know when to fold em” is what the lyrics say, and a good blitz chessplayer- knows that when you are shedding points It is time to quit
.
  • Don’t Spend lots of time looking for the Best move, or playing complicated ones… The Advice to look for a Better move (once you find a good strategic/tactical move) is REALLY bad in blitz.  Instead, blitz is about NOT missing blunders, simplifying pieces and positions once you get ahead. And Being Just as careful in long chess about NOT giving the opponents easy tactical opportunities. If your behind in blitz you must quickly make the decision to hold against the opponent or ignore him looking for a sudden attack and checkmate; he isn’t expecting.   You can make rather simple quick moves and see if he makes the BAD mistake of SLOWING down to grind you down. If he can’t force a checkmate- you might be able to win Yet on Time!
This must be all done on a rapid assessment of the position.  Spend HIS time asking the same question he will be- Can the opponent force a checkmate with his extra peice?  Basically, if you Can’t find a hanging piece or win an easy tactic- you should try to have less time in the endgame and avoid losing! If you have a strong enough time advantage in a long Game, the game can SHOCKINGLY allow you to win AFTER the opponent has promoted queens and simply doesn’t have time to find the win – in a WON position…


IF YOU WANT to be good at Blitz--- then DO

  • First, AND FOREMOST…. BE under-Rated!  Yes, I know- OF COURSE- you are under-rated, but bear with me.  You are probably under-rated if you’ve done lots of tactical puzzles and noticed that you can solve more of them and quicker.  (solving Simple puzzles quick is VERY important in blitz).   You Are also probably under-rated if you’ve gone up in other time controls and not blitz.
You SHOULD not be routinely playing blitz to look for improvements in chess ANYWAY.  You need time to work on having a better thought process- But once you’ve achieved improvements in OTB or chess.com STD- then playing blitz makes more sense.  You are UNDERRATED and know only need to master the fine art of blitz….

  • Warm up BEFORE playing any game online.  I like playing a lowish level of chess titans.  If I am Sharp I can beat level 6 pretty easily and without dragging our the game and being very slow.   Its  a Great indicator whether I am In the mood.  Pick a challenging level thats you can definitely beat when you are playing good chess.  This is a nice way to warm up, and get a feel for how its going to go tonight.  I tried chess puzzles, but I think that a midlevel chess playing program is a much more accurate indicator. 

  • Play LOTS of game.  I’ve already warned you about NOT losing game after game… but you need to realize that you should still put in the time into the game- and that Means MORE games.  A single loss is NOT decisive.  Play with determination ! Play Game after Game- UNTIL you come to the end of a Winning streak (End at the first losing game)! or You begin a losing streak.  The point here is to stop when you’ve gained rating - your ahead, and before you’ve lost much ground! 

  • Know your openings- and Play the Same Openings as much as possible – given a certain sequence of moves- after you’ve played many games against people you get a very Good idea what your typical Opponent will play.  The knowledge is Far, far more important than GM theory.  The players that you are playing against think they are clearly good moves.  So they are Natural!  Do they commonly create strategic or tactical advantages??  Know YOUR traps thoughout your repertoire!  Just picking up the occasional win from a trap is a big deal in blitz and can make a steady rise.

  • Mostly and Lastly,  Seriously work on seeing the SIMPLE stuff ALL the time.  SPEND time looking at previous Games – how are you winning and losing?  Is Time a big issue in your games? what about tactics- do you routinely lose pieces?
When you Review games do so rapidly- looking for hanging pieces, simple tactics, and check mates.   Do so for all your moves- then your opponent moves- then Redo making your own moves…  do you repetitively give away pieces?
Hanging pieces, threats, and simple piece/pawn safety should be your obsession


LET ME end by Saying that  I think Chess Blitz can be Played two ways…

IN the first way you play aggressively, looking towards your opponents weaknesses.  Attackers (in Bltiz) have a BIG advantage… the opponent has to defend while at the same time- not fall badly behind on time.   If you play aggressively and seize the Attack- your time versus the opponent becomes less important.  You are pushing the opponent to panic and blunder- and it CAN work.   Often, opponents that feel stressed and attacked, just Resign.   This is the Chessy way to play it. ( you aim to win on attack and not time).

In the Second way you play more cautiously  – not being aggressive.  Sometimes you cede the center, but you carefully watch for threatening play (to squash it) and you make very sure your playing faster than your opponent.  If your defensive enough your opponent starts running out of time.  he might try an unsound attack. Either way your work to win on time.  Hypermodern black openings often work very well for this strategy.   This is the Bullet way to play it ( you aim to win on time and seeing your opponents big blunders).

SO WHAT is the Best for Blitz!?  NEITHER. The trick is to be able to do both.  The Whole Point of Blitz IS to be able to FLEXIBLY change your thinking speed without being inconsistent with important things- like looking for loose pieces and seeing serious threats.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

In Memory of a Good chess player and a Great Friend

This is going to be a hard blog to write; and perhaps uncommonly short. So bear with me.

My start in Chess….
It seems like such a long time since I learned how to play chess.   Interestingly I was taught chess during big experiment during the height of the Bobby fisher days,  A local academic wanted to study how teaching students chess at a local middleschool affected their academic performance.   He set up a local scholastic chess club (that survives to this day), did a chess tournament.   I don’t know whether I was part of the chess group of kids- but I can tell you this, it didn’t really take.



I had my own issues during of all school, and chess seemed pretty unimportant to me.  For a long time through my life; I liked chess – would play it if someone wanted to – even pretty strong compared to the many novice players that occasionally mentioned the game.  but without wanting to take it to a more serious level. 

Several years back a small chess group came into a temporary existence.  I was part of it and enjoyed it.  but all enthusiasm was limited.  Issues came up and we stopped meeting.
Richard was faithful part of the this group and spoke to me about chess whenever we had the chance to talk

Richard Howard and being a lot more serious…. 
Last summer however, I decide to be a lot more serious about the game.  I started buying books.  I studied tactics, I started a notebook.  I tried to restate the OTB chess club.  Only Richard and another guy was interested.   Richard was truly interested and we joined the USCF and did a tournament together.  Richards failing health made it hard; but in more than a year, we solidly played weekly OTB; even when he was in the nursing home.  Only in say the last month did his health deteriote to the point at which he could play no chess.  Still he wanted to hear me talk about it.   He was source of strength and very occasionally, he had a wry way of humbling me (Why did you put that peice there!?).  I would also add, that for many weeks he persevered playing me with all his wits and losing for week after week.  Not one to obsess on Tactics- his board awareness suffered.  It was magnficant to watch him tirelessly try week after week. I even mentioned his struggles in a blog. 

Richard was Here!
And that’s not the only time he got a role (and sometimes big) in my blog.  There’s my big discussion about stopping the opponent/versus understanding weaknesses.  His early middlegame was excellent and very thoughtprovoking.  His KIA against the French was a thought provoking retort to a very well practiced French opening.  He ended up failing to convert to some tactical issues… but I’ve struggled long and hard to understand the fundmental weaknesses he drove home- and that when he played that game when he was pretty sick.

Moving On without him.
So I suppose we must depart.  I’m a religious man and truly believe I will see and know him again.   Its amazing to me, how much we grew to know and appreciate each other in a year.   As a man, perhaps, he was old- but as a chess player; unfortunately we lost a passionate chess player who had a lot more good games to play.

Richard was a talented Queen side play- the kind of guy that found strong positional moves on the queen side that could sneak up on the Kingside attackers; and daunt those who’s quick attack was shallow and unsound.

I feel like, I need to try to carry on not only his memory, but also his chess.  In his way, I know one of his aspirations was to teach me to appreciate the positional possibilities of well posted pieces and carefully pushed pawns.  His intuition far exceeded his official rating.  I look forward to developing his strength in my game.

There’s so much I can’t say.
As I thought when I delivered part of eulogy; there’s so much about the guy that can’t easily be said in paragraph.  And a deep appreciation that might not be appreciated by family that have known and loved him for decades.  One year might not be long—but in a year we truly had a lifetime of good experiences.   I’ve had other friends before, but I don’t think I’ve had anyone so close and part of my life (that wasn’t my wife and my kids).

Most importantly, I have sought a good friend or true to have good times with and nearly everyone has said No.  the other guy in a chess club quit coming many months back.  People are SO busy! It’s a shame. The failure of the modern age is to make it so Easy to communicate with people (cue facebook), but so hard to share time with.  Even with chess, you can find a tense competitive blitz game in milliseconds, but seek someone locally to play a friendly OTB game with , and there’s no one around.

Lastly, Me and my friend have proved that conflict in chess, is indeed, with the pieces and not against the opponent.
I’ve heard it said, that you need to ‘beat’ the opponent and should mentally revile him for best competitive efforts in chess. I think such attitudes are sad and I strongly disagree that you need to have
any ill thoughts of your opponent.

I  much prefer the idea that you and your opponent are exploring the intricate patterns of chess.   I also know that there often a serious amount of frustration in chess; often failing to see the simplest of moves.  And that this frustration is entirely with yourself.  One knows that you Must see all captures, checks and strong threats that the opponent has Before moving the piece and make sure that the move is safe.  To err is human. And when failing, the opponent plays the necessary role of maximizing his gain in your poor move.  This is the nature of the game…. your frustration at your weakness makes it a little hard to appreciate your opponents’ victory.

Nevertheless I know Richard did try as did I.   We appreciated each others willingness to play and play hard at winning.

.What do you know? It wasn’t really that short.  Nevertheless, I still feel like I’ve only awkwardly and insufficiently expressed how much I appreciate my OTB friend.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

BLITZ SKILLS!

I’m SOOO bad at it!
I feel embarrassed and awkward  and a little confused-

why seemingly
When we reduce the time down to a game in 10 minutes- suddenly I am below average!

Perhaps I just Got no BLITZ Skills….









BLITZ SKILLS.

I think that even though I don’t play FIDE standard chess, my Rapid Games offer a clear contrast to games three times faster.   I think there are skills that are unique to blitz- and I think it is interesting, that is poor as my Blitz is- I was making clear improvement for most of year and then… My Blitz skills took a sudden downturn in February and March, Just when I played A LOT of correspondence chess!

Clearly what patterns and habits are good in correspondence is NOT good in Blitz chess.

What Skills are Unique to Blitz then?  He’s a list as I see it….

KEEP IT SIMPLE!  So this then is unique to blitz.  In slow chess and particularly in correspondence you should NOT be afraid of complications.  Instead you need to calculate them.  Instead in blitz- there isn’t time for long calculations!  Getting all uncertain and using lots of time means you Might not have time to convert; even if you plans yield material.  Only a solid Calculation of checkmate is worth Lots of time?   but how do you know if you  if you got a certain checkmate? You don’t…

So this advice I think goes beyond just tricky uncertain attacks (a No-no in blitz)… instead it must be the watchword in Blitz;  you want simple plans and familiar situations; You want pieces exchanged- especially if your ahead of time or material (next point).  You want positions you’ve seen over and over again (next next point) and advantages and blunders you recognize in an instant.   Once the opponent slows down to get out of a bind; he’s in a bind with the time.

THE CLOCK is Worth a piece.. At least!   Its Not just that you need to keep it simple, one must take more responseability for ones time. its Critical to keep it close to the opponent and you needs to be ruthless about  about trying to push it below the opponent.

Its important to realize that if the game goes long- the clock competition may become the dominant factor who wins (and who loses).  

This is not to say that you speed along SO quick that your miss blunders.  BLUNDERS become a real factor in blitz.  And you must always wonder- what Can the opponent do?
Cut time by not looking SO hard for tricky tactical moves!  Instead be more a Little MORE passive- but ever aware of simple hanging pieces and obvious tactics.

THE ENDGAME is a real factor in blitz; & is defined a little differently…  In slow chess the endgame is when both opponents have simplified their pieces and are seeking final clarity in who will win and who won’t.  but IN BLITZ the endgame occurs when the clock , both clocks, approach zero.  When that Occurs, the Game will be decided.  Who will win?   I’ve LOST several games with massive material!  In the very last minute (for me) of the game- the exact count on the clock matters more than queens- and usually it is A) the position of the king and B) the exact difference in clock time that resolve the game.  If you are TWO moves to forced check mates- but the opponent has a few more seconds than you and YOU can’t find it- YOU LOSE.

This is the New and Hardest part of chess for me!  There is a fine line to between getting a small but game winning advantage in the clock and in giving the opponent just enough blunder to checkmate me in the last few seconds…..

IN BLITZ, nearly memorized openings and very familiar Positions are important.   I would say as the game speeds up.  That you should Know your opening; from memory, better and better.   But of course, there is an important Caveat.

One should not spend time memorizing what the masters play.  such lines will rarely occur in the games between patzers.  Instead one should spend real time to figure out what your “peers” play against a standard development ; such as d4-c4 or the French.

I’m always amazed how in dozens of games, patzers from all over the world more or less plays similar moves.. few of which are Masters  moves.   The key is the stuff in Point one.  Everyone who studies blitz chess realizes they need to play simply and naturally in the opening.

Since blitz games need to be played in greater quantity.  Blitz games are a natural way to check for wholes in your opening.   The key is thorough investigation of what works and what doesn’t.  this is a big plan of mine.  I figure- in blitz learning to bullet proof and speed up the opening is practically as useful as tactic puzzles (which by the way, become MORE important – as you need to spot tactical opportunities QUICKLY). Obviously then, you don’t want complicated puzzles. You want easy ones.  You want to be able to see them in seconds!


LASTLY, hesitation is Toxic in blitz, & failure is of less consequence.  About this Blitz seems like basketball.

You have no time in a normal basket ball to calmly work up the shot.  Instead you must rush towards the best position possible and make the Good game winning move you see.

You must NOT hesitate- you have limited time to work it out. 

Don’t “look for a better move”  only make sure the move is actually good. 




Also, since blitz games are shorter one ought to play more games.  This seems straitforward to me – if in two hours I can play 3 rapid games—I should be able to play 9 Blitz games!  This makes the inevitables blunders (you made bc you were rushed) a little more reasonable… you still might win on time.  and so long as you win more than you lose You Progress!


WHAT IS THE POINT OF WORKING ON BLITZ SKILLS?   Lastly I’ll say this… I don’t think you have a good education of chess without the ability to blitz and Blitz well…  What OF they Blitz skills
  • Time pressure which is inevitable in even some long OTB games.   At that point, You are playing Blitz—if you have good blitz skills you maximize your playing strength when pressed.
  • Blitz is a Great way to work out your opening.  Since your openings see so many different replies this becomes a good way to brainstorm what an opponent, naturally, do against it.   you can review your openings against what masters play, too… but  in most cases your opponent will play more like a blitz player than a Gm. (even OTB).
  • Blitz teaches you put your thinking in order.  In Blitz you must see the blunder, and the opponents threat FIRST if you are to excel at it.    Any regular reader knows how focused I have been about Blunders. The guy is Seeing your blunder afterwards and seeing if it re-occurs in game after game.  Learn that Pattern!  prevent opportunities for your opponent.
  • Blitz helps Intuition. Since your thinking is simplistic- and you are seeking simpler positions… you can go into quiet and reoccurring positions in game after game.  Learn what moves create tactical opportunities.  You must train your intuition on simple Positions before you can expect it to find Tal-like crazy tactics.   Tal was very good at blitz
  • Lastly, Strong chess players are progressively good at Faster and faster game controls.  That Can’t be a coincidence.  Some might attribute this superior chessic skills; but quick thinking like running sprints can be developed and strengthened.