Monday, December 7, 2015

I Am NOT Quitting chess!

Ok this might seem bizarre to some of you.  Nearly always lurking on, playing 16 correspondance games and part of two small but active groups… and Yet a poorly worded email and the lack recently of Live had my coach quite concerned.  It ‘sounded’ (from the email) that I didn’t intend to play chess – against people again – possibly for good!

I quickly assured him that this was wrong, very wrong.   I’m not necessarily having great success right now in my chess training program.  But I’m still feeling strong and active;  working through puzzles, (trying to) meticulously working through my 16 games, and recently more than anything.  Reviewing Old Games!  I’ve got to try to quit making similar mistakes—and If I must keep on making the same weary game losing mistakes—I can at least be aware what I struggle with most.

Nevertheless.. there really has been a lack of games recently.  This wasn’t intentional.  But a number of times in the last few months have I had nagging doubts that I should be playing live (am I thinking well enough?  Will I blunder a lot??)- and yes, I’ve lost rating.

Perhaps this Rating Game is getting to even me!   You see its actually a great secret that many chess players don’t seem to realize…

Improving in this game doesn’t Always or Consistently lead to Rating gains. 

Rating even when you are playing constantly ; comes at its own time and place.  Rating gain as well, is an indication that you have worked out a limited habit; whether that is playing too blindly to tactics- or too unaware of a positional problem.   But the point is that THEY are many chess topics to learn;  and many are not as critical to your chess results.

BUT I DON’T WANT TO GO OVER THE ‘RATING GAME’ in this blog.   Most of those that are most caught up with rating; don’t read my blog and wouldn’t/couldn’t be persuaded to change there mind anyway.   ISN’T A sky High Rating Proof that you are talented and smart at chess?! (ahem-no!)

INSTEAD.  I wanted to reiterate the need for LIVE games-   WHY CAN’T WE JUST ‘STUDY’ CHESS?

  1. WELL first,  game review excluded,  you tend to lose the perspective of a game as a narrative a clash of ideas.  And THAT is a big problem.   Losing your ability to make long term plans, and juggle positional realities while remaining sharp to tactical threats and opportunities will make you MUCH weaker, when you do go back into the game…

  1. PUZZLES are exceptional positions with unique and “vetted” significance.  IN a puzzle, its ALWAYS worth completely exploring the outlandish and un-natural.  In the game, though, most of the time chess play is a matter of attentively playing by watching your control of squares and lines.      You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) meticulously go through zillions of variations (this is OUR advantage over a computer by the way).   Its important to realize most positions don’t HAVE a ‘right’ answer.  only moves that are good, weak, or some kind of mistake.

  1. FUN!  Ok this might seem off; I mean chess is- is it not?- fun! Well. if you feel that way strongly you probably haven’t been avidly playing deep endgame theory- or staring at chess tactics for 2 hours strait.   While those activities can be plenty obsessing;  they are draining, hard work.  In fact, this is what holds back a great many talented chess player.  but for those of us that have the determination to put in the effort- you need to recharge with quick, shorter efforts.

  1. THE WHOLE GAME.  playing the whole game regularly keeps one from getting too narrow a focus.  And too hung up on things that Really aren’t as important.  It’s also a good indication of where you stand.  This latter fact is why it pairs so well to game review.  If you’re reviewing what you just played- your working on understanding where you are at. 

  1. THOUGHT PROCESS.  this I think is the most important skill to learn.  It is Not enough to be able to recite chess principles or to do long calculations.  Instead the most important skill is to be able to do a little of both and integrate it to a thinking process, in which you keep you pawns and pieces, safe and active.   Alert to opportunity and threats.   An easy way to show HOW important this is,  if you knew, at a given position whether there was a stunning tactical win or an important game-ending flaw—how much easier would it be to get the right move?  In short, we don’t know- not in a real game and however hard we work to develop our abilities to understand and visualize great chess moves—we can only develop a good careful process for seeing them by trying and failing and trying harder.

I WANT to end with this thought.  In the end, as much as I would like to achieve a given rating (actually 2000 if you wanted to know).  Its not important to me.   I need to take joy in what I’m doing- building skills and understanding more chess day by day.   I have no idea what ultimate rating ‘ceiling’ I have…. But I know I have one!  EVERYBODY does. 

I wrote back to my Coach that I am strong player; and I know I am.

I am strong because I am striving.  I am strong because I am studying.   Chess is actually really delightfully unpredictable.   Exploring chess’s hidden insights is no small task, and no quick accomplishment.

Above all else “I’m not dead yet”.  And I think until I am, there is always the chance that I gain continue to grow as a chess player

Friday, November 20, 2015

Knowing the Unknowable!

Shall I study Openings or Tactics?   What about Endgames and Annotated Grandmaster games…

How long will it take me to get to 1500? 1800?  What about Gm???

What is the best response to 1.d4?  what about 1.e4??  should I even have a repertoire!?

Ah Such frequent questions on places like  Indeed the post reveal a nearly insatiable thirst for insights, into improving ratings, study programs, chess openings, along with sprinkles of generic “what is the best chess book for a college student” (like being a college student has anything to do with it.

I communed with the spirit of capablanca*… read each and every word of the Kmoch’s venerable book “pawn power”**, and consulted my favorite eight ball***


  …. Satisfied?

Ok SO is that a great insightful blog post?  Well “the signs point to Yes”.

The Problem with these questions (and many more) is that they are Simply Unanswerable.   And really, truly, we need to get over asking Unanswerable questions.
Instead the cure for all these broad whim questions is to…

    ….. IF it AIN’T WORKING – change it, or try something new.



Can you really be a strong chess player without both- I know Probably unknowable-  BUT…. “the signs point to YES”.

* by the way, I didn’t do any of these things, but If I had- do you really think I would obsess about these kinds of open ended vague questions. NO way!  I would want to Improve my game- Espacially if Capablanca was willing to give me good tips from beyond the grave….

Thursday, November 5, 2015

An experiment with Groups...

A new experience and an Experiment.  As long time readers now I have always been a wordy kind of guy.  I like sharing what I am doing and reading what others have been doing.  I also like the idea of doing THAT, preferably, with friends.   This is In the description of a good chess club – and I’m sure that if I could get to a OTB chess club, regularly  I’d enjoy playing and chatting with people.  Especially if I could find likeminded people that like to talk about what they are studying…

But I’m strictly digital- and limited to just certain times (late pm) when I have time.   so this is the reason, why I felt that the group “Socrates unlimited” might be an opportunity for me.  The founder, a guy called ‘quantum butterfly’  was an engaging kind of guy that set up a club and stressed engaging activities.  I joined determine to make this an experiment- could I engage the group and pick up instructive experiences- or would it be more of a distraction, or would it utterly fail with little content?

So I Began to participate (after a minor delay with a work trip)- and impressed with the content and sharing within the club.

And really I just began to truly appreciate it when there was shocking news…
“Quantum Butterfly” was Banned!  Of course this was hard.  He was the founder, his content disappeared and I wondered if without him, anyone could /would take up the role and continue the group.  The most active guy in the group, Alvin, did in fact step up. He took charge and Created lots of content.  He picked me, and another younger member- simply_simon, as admin.  Assistants to watch over group activities and look for new members.   Again we were doing relatively well and were going over positions, playing matches- had started a group game against a chess computer and a vote game against another group.

When , shockingly, simply_simon was banned!  This was 2 days ago.

Let me say that I think all experienced all the stages of Grief that day and felt shocked, surprised and that I couldn’t believe it.  simply_simon was a talkative yet low rated player, really just a beginner by his tentative online rating.  I went looking for answers and found someone that was in the know, and gave me access to some of his games…

So What does a Perfect game look like when you play a low rated guy?  Not particularly mind-boogling, and I say this because simon’s match game was a perfect match to a strong chess computers #1 move.   If you playing a 1300- and you have a 3000 rated engine behind you…. The strong moves don’t have to be too startling.  Some development and a PC’s inhuman ability to foresee every possible consequence.

I next learned that Simply_simon wasn’t who he seemed.  He was in fact the groups founder; QB. had overwhelming proof of this- as simply_simon was created the very day after QB was banned.

Some thoughts on this Experience…

A)  Engine Cheating is NOT a victimless offense.   To those that see chess as a mere game or as an odd way to trashtalk to a total stranger,  But those that Love the Game take their Result seriously.   They put heart and the head in the game as it sits in the board; and take responsibility for their blunders and errors.  If they start disastrously losing to an equally rated player, they feel that they are fairly beaten by a chess player of similar skills.  It is a grave insult to play against another claming a reasonable rating – and then go deceitfully giving out moves that  much stronger and also Not yours.  You have lied, and deeply mocked your opponent.  .  He now has no fair fight against you.  Would it be fair for a boxer to grab a brick and get a clean, easy knockout.?  You have called you opponent Dumb- and are claiming that his errors are easy to Defeat- when it is really You that have had the failure of intelligence. 
When you are part of a TEAM and are striving support them in a challenge against other groups- you embrace another kind of experience.  If we are on the same team, your win in mine- we celebrate! If there is loses and rough games.  The team gets together, and works to boost morale and offer to help each other.   Any serious chessplayer understands the sting of defeat- and understands that one cannot always win.   But by cheating- you have given us a very different defeat.  If you can’t lose when you use a 3000 rated PC for help- you can’t win either.  It becomes a black mark against the group!.  In short, you have betrayed the trust of the whole group.  

B) Don’t be naive, and don’t be reluctant to step up.  I think coming into the group, I very much wanted to participate- but I wanted no part of administration.   The point of this experiment I thought was that as a mere member, I could interact with all the other, without necessarily taking charge of anything.  Once QB left, the group floundered and my thought was that there was another who could take charge- again why get involved?
I was naïve to think the QB wouldn’t try to get back with his old group. I realize Now that it wasn’t a matter of Ego.  The group needed Help! 
It needed defended and it needs more people that want to talk and intereact.  Yes I could do some (most?) of this on the outside.   But as a member of administration- I have the ability to work with the my co-leader to deal with problems.   Fixing problems is a fine price to pay for good analysis, friendly assistance, and thoughtful feedback.

C) I greatly appreciate the other very vocal and active member of our group; Alvin.  His energy and level of commitment is very inspiring to me.  I lack consistency and struggle to do chess activities.   As a study partner he is a great help.  And other people have become more involved as well.  Perhaps, losing one of our most active members (Twice), will encourage those that haven’t committed to be active.  Equally true it has spurred Alvin and I to be much more aware of Cheating, and need to engage and find people that have genuine wish to improve in chess.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I'm not Suppose to Excel at Chess

I’m 42- with kids- without tournament experiences and without any plans of future tournament (Club) experiences. ….

If I asked online, whether I could become Good At chess- at my age- with my experiences… I might get a Few optimistic posts (mainly from people that hope to do what I’m trying to do), but the response would be a guarded.

If I asked further if there was any chance I could get to be as good at chess as a 1600 ELO chess player in Standard Time control.  I might get a Maybe.   If I asked if I could get to an 1800- I might get a “its possible”.  Lastly, If I asked – If I could get to be a 2000 or higher, perhaps the truth would come out.

“look, you don’t understand, people online they are not playing their best- this is just half tries & blitz games.  If you want to get to an expert or better- you almost certainly HALF to play in OTB chess tournaments.  That’s the place to prove your strength.”

Any Las Vegas odds man would bet against me!

Of course I haven’t actually asked this- but I don’t have to.  Lots of people have asked about whether they can become a master.   The ‘regular’ posters, usually assume the OP is young.  And they have encouraging but guarded answers.   Some good thoughts come out of threads like this- but the normal answers are worn out.

MOST people Quit Before they Have a good try… and most Adults don’t make enough effort- to really qualify As a good Try.

This is of course discouraging. But in a way it paints a true picture of what kind of mountain I’m trying to climb.   It also puts the question to “What AM I trying to achieve anyway”?  

Frankly Said, I would like to Excel at chess, and (just as frankly) This means USCF expert. 2000+.   The Fact that I am not trying to improve my USCF rating  misses the point.  “I will Find a way” is the important thought.

First I want to Really Improve in chess- In ALL time controls here at  and Later I will find a way to get to USCF tournaments. 

MOTIVATION.   Its been lagging recently.  I don’t mean to be stuck on the big effort to get to 1200 blitz- but now that is done, for some reason I find myself a little Lazy.   A few other things have become a distraction.

YET 1200 Blitz is NOT where I want to stop.  In fact, I don’t want to stop, at all!  but I find myself drawn more into forum than more legitamite training efforts.  I feel a little slow, tired and fatigued.  Some more days than ever.

In Short, NOW is the Time to show determination.  Now is a time to draw resources from within.  And Now Is the Time to remind myself of how big and exciting the broader goal really is.  I have to start showing more time spent on tactic puzzles, game review, and careful readings from some of my chess book.

“The only universal approach to winning is diligence.”

I apologize if I’ve made this particular blog somewhat unreadable.  I remind myself, that my own personal ramblings aren’t great literature.
(On, we usually suffer the patzer’s to write because there comments are brief.)

Instead, a blog is a way of documenting your thoughts, and I need more motivation.

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 Blitz in 18 days!

(this will be both posted to the 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 Naïve!  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 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


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….


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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


I know there’s something Important I need to do!?... but, I can’t remember what.

Oh well how important can it be?

My LONG winning Streak Has come to an end!  After 15 strait wins, I played an online chess tournament against higher rated players and did terribly.   You can see the progressive erosion of my thinking process.

In the first round against a chess player 150 rating points higher, I won a piece and was doing great, until I fell to a sacrifice.  Unbelievably two pieces down- he quickly had unstoppable checkmate.
On the second round, I got to a complex spot where I had a pretty risky discovered attack-  I discover a loose piece but could have hopped to a knight fork.   I missed the simple point of his move; a pivotal piece was attacked twice and guarded once.  He got the piece and eventually won the game.
On the third round, I was clearly rattled and I didn’t get out of the opening before I gave away the exchange.   I had enough of being pummeled for the night.

“There is NO strategy, principle, guideline or concept that is more Important than this- DON’T GIVE AWAY PAWNS AND PIECES”.   This is my simple and earnest advice I gave myself a few months ago.    Its not that revolutionary! (nor is it strictly true. LOL*). But it is good advice.   The Problem is , frankly, how do I beat the idea to not hang pieces or allow easy tactics, and checkmates in my Head?  --important and simple question , no easy answer.

Well, this all relates a pretty long winded word/concept to a simple and common human failing.   “WORKING MEMORY OVERLOAD”   basically for whatever reason- we fail to do remember to do something because we are trying to fit too much into our working memory.

It is this weakness for example that might make you suddenly forget what you want to say when you are bursting to say several things at once.  Trying to say too much, you force your mind RESET! And end up saying nothing.

I THINK this effect (perhaps it should have a fancy psychological name- but it does not), is a big part of several of our problems in chess; and specifically is VERY involved in why we can fail to stop blunders even when we are intensely concentrating in chess and in particular in NOT blundering…


FIRST the STRESS and ANXIETY and reminding yourself how Much you blunder and how much you don’t want to blunder again does you no good.  its well known that working memory decreases when we feel stressed and anxious.  And the ability to hold even less information in your head at one time- directly decreases your playing strength.  This is true of being anxious because you are in a tournament or because you are playing a player you consider much stronger than you. 

BLUNDERS aren’t simple.  The problem with my quote about blunders is that it makes something that could happen for many different reasons; seem like a simple thing.   Instead, we can blunder because we didn’t protect the piece we moved.  We didn’t reinforce something that it suddenly attacked more times than it is defended. Pins. Double attacks…. because the actually material winning attack varies…. We will need to keep in mind several different patterns to avoid blunders.  What Patterns?  Well specifically we should try to understand those patterns that seem LEAST obvious.   When a pattern becomes highly obvious it doesn’t need to be in working memory.  (if this weren’t true chess would be practically impossible to improve in – as our working memory would be full just remembering how our pieces move).  Instead, we work on our weaknesses seeking things we can’t instantly (or “intuitively”) see. 

But this “work” of seeing things in a chess game, has another peril.  We can fall prey to “juggling” errors.  the important thing when seeking to understand a position is how to come to the conclusion of an important thought, and while holding a summary of that calculation – to move on to another view of the position.   I will compare that to Juggling… if we make a big calculation of an important exchange- we must next take the same position and looking at it from the point of whether our selected view Hangs any pieces (or underprotects them).   but it is important that the Earlier information is in your head TOO.  Perhaps the earlier exchange makes the latter calculation unimportant.   The point is that more simplistic calculations about piece (and King) safety must be done in addition to Tactical, Strategic and Positional calculations.  We must strive to juggle each of these calculations carefully and thoroughly to be playing our best chess. We can’t push ourselves to the point at which our working memory is overloaded- either our calculations are inaccurate or our understanding of how everything relates becomes muddled.    This is Just like someone who wants to say So much he struggles to say anything.   The worst failure ,though, is definitely of piece or king safety.  It would be far better to try to say less (to use the analogy) than to say  something that is Obviously and Easily show as absolutely wrong.

The VALUE of discordant thought.  Separate to the issue of understanding and relating several different calculations in our chess position- is the peril of too quickly summarizing positions into variations.   Our analysis can become simplistic.  Too often in my own thinking I race on ahead for ply after ply not realizing that the opponent has creative choices I have not considered.   This is the where the value of Discordant thought comes in.  We need to break into our own variations and ask “what if the Opponent” Does NOT do as expected.  This can be particularly true in the face of difficult play,  complicated tactics, and strong threats.  

I would add that this tendency to allow the mind to run on ply after ply (or perhaps pointlessly plan) is why it is so much easier to see the opponents mistakes than our own-  or opponents moves are less predictable; and prompt us to look for weaknesses.  Our own thinking must (to cover many moves) be much more predictable and and fit within our working memory.   Sometimes the whole calculation starts when you should be more attentively falsifying your candidate move.  Other times, we make unwise assumptions about exchanges or strategic generalizations. 

Its been Long and important blog for me.  Its important I don’t try to say too much as well!

RELAX, and reduce anxiety. Take whatever measures you can to prevent anxiety, stress from diminishing your abilities.  TAKE your time.  don’t be in such a hurry to tough the piece!  Keep an emphasis of the simplest and most important calculations as you try to see more.  Continue to work on practicing getting calculations summarized and understood.  Its more important to understand why the tactic puzzle works, than actually to solve it.  the Other point of tactical puzzles is to make important, strong tactics easy to see/understand so that you aren’t struggling to see them. 

 Don’t say Negative things to yourself during a game (the only thing I’ll highlight in the summary I promise). And don’t generalize about defeat.   Don’t overwhelm yourself with complicated plans.   See far ahead ONLY when the opponents choices are minimized if not forced.  Generally don’t play tricky, risky chess you don’t understand.  Only play tricky uncertain chess, when conservative careful moves would be certain defeat – such as when your badly behind in material.