Monday, April 20, 2015

SAFE at ANY SPEED part 1. Why?

From Sleeping to speeding; my chess has been pretty intense with a lot of great games and more effort then normal in getting some of the critical moves right and working through my calculation weaknesses.

But Recently, what’s really started to bother me is the blunders and oversights to the game….   When I mention this to some people they immediately become kind of defensive about it;  and I can tell that it is more THEM than I – that they are thinking about.   Nonetheless their will usually throw out the idea that “blunders are part of the game”.   I don’t like this sentiment.   Lets me argue against it….

  • Blunders are part of the Game…”  yes, they are!  But that doesn’t make them a very GOOD part of the game.  Making a mistake that the opponent can immediately use to gain material or a mate; means you didn’t think through your move carefully enough.   ITS embarrassing!  In what sport; do you routinely fail to do something that is easy even for a beginner??

  • Many moves are mistakes…”  True.  But a blunder Isn’t merely a Mistake, weakness, or error.  A blunder is to GIVE the opponent an immediate opportunity to gain material, or a mating attack.   A blunder means you didn’t carefully work out what the opponent could do to you.

  • Masters make blunders…” (HATE this one). Yes, but masters don’t become masters because they frequently give away their pawns and pieces.   Instead masters only succumb to tactics when their opponent has nursed their positional advantages until ALL moves are Blunders and that , fundamentally is different… yes, VERY infrequently a master hangs a piece or misses a simple easy tactic. (exception do not disprove the rule).

  • Loose chess is More interesting”.   I disagree.  Just because two sides are careful doesn’t mean- awesome mind boogling combinations are out.   In fact, if all the easy stuff has been seen and prevented what is left; are Truely chess ‘Puzzles’ where insight carry the day…. Often, where small weaknesses is properly exploited; and the chess board explodes with excitement.   In other games;  pieces dwindle down to the fine points of pawn position;  and the game hinges upon the fine technique of handling pawn masses.
 In all these cases- Technique, knowledge and strategy is tested, reinforced and becomes the critical difference between a win and a loss; rather than random oversight.  Chess becomes a display of great skill instead of a dice throw.

SEMANTICS;   Calling a poor move a blunder REALLY implies you knew better.  And in most (of my) cases this is (unfortunately) very true.   It I make a move that I could exploit with seconds of thoughts-  I clearly am not being serious about the moves, themselves.   While its true that I can get tired and frustrated, disappointed and overconfident; I have thoroughly explored the world of simple tactics.   I’ve done many thousands of puzzles- some of which were complicated and that pretty rapidly- SO WHY Should I give my opponent such an easy shot of mastering me.?   In the WORLD of chess, you should demand that your opponent show real skill, to defeat your mighty king.  In this regard; every error will need individually measured? 

IN THE END, MOST of what it means to be GOOD AT CHESS means to be careful and aware of all the foreseeable consequences of ones move.  NO BOOKS can give you that!  It’s the most intangeable strength in the game.….  And there is NO higher compliment, then “wow! You saw Everything I didn’t have a chance!!”

PS….  I’ve blogged quite quickly after me last grab-bag post.   I think it was GOOD to remind myself, that ultimately I need to enjoy My chess; and not get so obsessed in rating or winning as to eliminate my enjoyment of chess.

Some might feel that this Strongly worded post contradicts the spirit of the former post.  Perhaps.   But enjoying chess is clearly exists as much of a balance, just as is the task of improving in it.

If your not serious, involved and earnest in chess; the game becomes somewhat trivial.   There’s a joy to the intensity that is difficult to explain to those that don’t obsess in it.   On the other hand, pushing yourself into nearly professional rigour squeezes the sense of wonder, social enjoyment, and relaxation that the game could afford.

If you learn nothing else about me; you need to appreciate that I am intense person that really enjoys obsessing on things.  I realized just a little while ago; that chess was a worthy subject for this inclination.  I nearly need to remind myself to have patience and acceptance about my limitations. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Waking up; online chess and other musings...

“ (Ones) Focus needs to be working hard every day at every opportunity.  Soak up every single book and resource you can and most importantly play constantly. That is all anyone can do, it comes down to self sacrifice, and you have to be willing to do that without any promise or guarantee that you will improve even in the slightest. You have to genuinely love it or you will give it up eventually. Ultimately, you have to derive enjoyment out of working hard at the thing you love, not necessarily getting better at it. Also, I believe to become a good chess player you have to have the utmost respect for your opponent regardless of what you perceive their playing level to be. … Take some time to really reflect on your motivations behind playing chess. It is more important to do something that you love than to be good at anything in particular. Good luck and all the best for the future.” 
(The Legendary Rod Race; Talking to a discouraged chess enthusiast)

“Wake Up”, my helpful assistant nudges me.  I moan incoherently and roll over.  “No”, she adamantly insists, “Your blog is on-line.  Its time!” I rise in drowsy confusion and fumble with the mic.   And pause momentarily collecting my wits….

Right OK.  Welcome Back.   Unfortunately I haven’t done much blogging.   But despite my sleepy last post… I’m still sticking to my study routine.   Today is going to be a ‘grab bag’ of thoughts; and I apologize if it comes off dis-jointed… I’ll do my best!

The biggest danger to my chess are not blunders- it is discouragement or ambivalence. After struggling some with some really sloppy chess; You might think that Blunders are the ultimate evil;  the thing I most definitely need to quit doing… and while I’ve shaking in frustration with my inclination to find moves that are easily shown to be awful.
I still hold with the thought that discouragements and ambivalence are the great twin perils.  Face it , to “err” is human.  And regarding improvement- however slow it seems to happen;  I’m literally prepared to spend years to work out and fix my flaws.  Things will tighten up and get better if I can just work the row.  As RR points out; the real trick here is to enjoy the voyage and enjoy chess and chess improvement activities.

How does this affect my study?   In that light then, to a point, we have been tweaking our study habits.   I’ve had struggles with old game collections and long strings of capablanca moves are, uniquely, Really hard for me to enjoy (or understand).   Instead, puzzles – generally – work.  And I find that looking over pivotal position that I work out on my own and then prepare with a succinct well analyzed writeup as quite instructive.  In the past such puzzle books are very tactical; but I think they might not have to be!  In fact,  a more diverse collection is warranted.  I’m exploring options right now; and likely I will buy within a few days….   Again;  Study what you enjoy; because passionate, intense efforts are more instructive than that “I gotta do xyz”, Irregardless of the healthiness of what your dragging your feet against.

I’ve been having the growing feeling- that chess tournaments are not in my future.   This changes my feelings about what kind of chess to prepare for…. “Rapid” but not  (necessarily) “Blitz”.   I was kind of hoping that late spring something would pop up within my geographical reach.   Moreover, I really have to question whether I can really spend the time- without big fights with my spouse.
 In the End;  “I don’t think so”…seems to be the honest answer.  the events just truly seem to few, far and too long to make it work.   Maybe when my nest empties…..
So with this in mind.  Some of the standard advice, though, assumes that your after improvement in the Long OTB Game; G90 standard.    This is why there is so much concern with quicker online time controls.   On the other hand, if your future lies, with what is common online…. The USCF calls those time controls ‘Rapid.’
Moreover, they have even begun to organize weekly Friday tournaments some in rapid time control.  This is perfect and  I intend to authenticate my uscf membership soon.   Tournaments are important for chess improvement and without the serious test- study efforts always seem to lack something.

“Blitz” though IS in my future, but I must work at it indirectly.   The thought of the day is How can I make my game SAFE in any speed.  I know , I haven’t forgot; concentrating heavily Blitz was frustrating and yielded little improvement.  Worse I can’t help to feel like it was (at least a little) responsible for a spate of bad blunders that begin to affect all  my gameplay.  I think I was rushing things; and reinforcing bad habits of not checking all my moves to see that they don’t hang material.  On the other hand;  blitz IS I think my future, if for no other reason that I WANT deeply to be able to play faster without falling apart.
Imagine being able to play the piano; but only in slow songs.   Now many songs are impossible to play; you’re repertoire is limited.    But the BIG deal is to play SAFE chess at any Speed.  This I think is the most important. t.  Even in the slow game, you can get in time pressure.   I need to accurately ensure that all my answers (QUICK or SLOW) are safe.  My Unsafe chess… is a stubborn limitation of my current chess skills.  And I think.  With all the tactical pattern practice that I’ve had- I would be a formidable opponent if I weren’t always so prone to give my game awary.
So, In my Turn-based chess.  I am initially writing down Blitz and standard speed answers before I turn on the analysis board and really work the variations.   It will take some time though to uncover weakness.  Even when I am very blundery- It still can put out 10-20 good moves.  
Frequency of  1:20 blunder to moves ….
With 4 running games, done once every 2 days…
1 blunder in 10 days.    
Another easy step;  Chess play against my Good chess computer.  Work within a repertoire to work out your openings some at the same time.  I also need to drill through some of my games.  Picking my moves and seeing if I repeat the blunders of long ago.  

After a mouse-slip (last night); I play some Very patzer chess afterwards.   The Psychology of losing it.  Again we see this, how within a game and even between games; I lose my nerve and still to fall into blunder after blunder- all (or most) of which are preventable.
Remember to err is human.  But to defend tenaciously is a very important attribute of a stronger player.   and btw, defend meaning not just passively waiting for the opponent to swarm my broken position.  But to look for counter-play!   I think besides a shaky thought processes; fear and humiliation become real adversaries.
Generally, defeating the  monster of discouragement, embarrassment is a hugely important accomplishment… and worth an intense effort.   It might seem , at times , to be so simple.  But it’s a bit like learning how to deal with slow times in fishing.   You learn to accept basic failure, because it is innate in the hobby… and if you don’t learn to accept it- you can’t develop enough to experience; to deep joy of hard-won success.

ELO rating disease.  A brief immunization  As a long time forum lurker I am struck over (and over and over) how MUCH people are obessed on rating and then they get very, very restrictive. “ONLY OTB Rating matters” or “BLITZ RATING show your real skill at chess”… and the like.
I ran into someone that opined that Chess Rating obsession was a contagious, virulent disease!  And I thought that WAS a very astute observation.
Just like the real bug;  One guy with ERD (elo Rating disease); inevitable infects most of the people around him. Sending all into a unproductive cycle of Ego, Envy, humiliation and contention.   By the time this attitude seeps into a forum thread… Nobodies rating is high enough; Title players are arrogant,  Lower ranked guys are morons, newbies, and ignorant.   Any kind of productive consensus is lost.   I picture people working all their friends, for Carlsen’s advice endorsement so they can win this war of egos.   (of course then others will get Kasporov; and we’d get the whole tiresome world champion vs world champion argument).
And its all so … useless.   Little of my strong advice comes from me, exactly.   I prolly read it someone, it seemed right, and to the extent that it can has been helpful…
Really, in the end,  Rating reflects your rating and nothing more. It says nothing about why and what exactly you get wrong- (though there are common issues that many people with similar rating have.)
If people just enjoyed the game and improved because they wanted to improve- without hanging onto some silly number.  I think it would depress them less.  They’d listen more (to others).   They’d be less exclusion, less bad feeling, even play better Games!... and for sure a lot of rude posts on’s forums would disappear/diminish.

Lastly, (More) Crickets  than usual in the blogosphere.   Has everyone left the house?  No comment except a bump should any (lurking) reader want to comment.   I’m sure I’m part of the problem… both ways!  as I both lurk a lot and don’t blog enough.
Nevertheless, “the Great patzer” aims to be a  little different than many of the blogs around the blogosphere.   My aim is Not to necessarily be instructional; but more from a psychological/philosophical point of view.My own chess study isn’t really part of the content.   (whereas many blogs try to merge  how and What they are learning).

Ok, well signing off. Hopefully a new update in about a week.  Keep in touch.  May all you games be good, earnest efforts!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Sleepy week! Games I should be winning and aren't...

Last week was NOT a good week.  I don’t know if it was just something like a cold- but a spell of tiredness has made for epic Low amounts of time; basically just enough to stave off disaster and default on my Turn-based games…

Besides the big crash of an ambitious plan to study many of my blitz loses, and work through several puzzle books…what I think was worst was a whole week without a game.   I know I needed a course correction after a ridiculous amount of effort to push my pathetic blitz score up—but this is NOT the better alternative.

So the one good thing.   My most active chess club opponent (actually my ONLY active chess club opponent) is now recovering from some hospitalization and we were able to grab a couple games.

He was full of compliments and motivating words about my game; and I played a first game on his turf; the polish.

Basically, it was a solid game of technique where a well time break along the f file; undermined his whole position.   This is a normal strategy for me- a familiar theme in most of more successful French opening games… and it went well.   I played without blunder and won with good technique.

Maybe it was the all the big compliments; and probably it was the culmination of too much laxity in a  very advantageous position, combined with some habitual thinking errors; but the following loss I think is very instructive for Me as it shows some of the my worst flaws.   Flaws, that I think, If  I conquer would truly allow me progress much of as chess player.

Nonetheless, unfortunately, for the moment at least there is not a good record of exactly what happened*, so I will merely have to describe the game as it happened.

So the first thing you should know about this game, is that absolutely I should have won it- as my opponent entered the QGD with a poor take on the opening, most likely brought on by being nearly 2 ½ weeks in the hospital.

In short, he was lucky to be alive and not in the best shape.   It was soon very apparent that his opening had real flaws and after I advanced a pawn, he allowed a queen trade the stranded the King in the center.  Worse I capitalized on it with a rook pin and needed only a little savy to win the a piece.   The tactical issue was that as the epawn moved forward I grabbed a shot at a knight as he grabbed a capture of my LSBishop.

If I had carefully followed the tactics out; I would have realized that the Epawn had time to get to the pinned bishop IF it went to e4.  but I moved it to e3 and the epawn no longer had time to menace a piece before the opp broke the pin.

So this is Instructive Error#1 (that I see in my game all the time!); seeing an advantageous move in a good position; I failed to work through how it Could be better.  In fact, I saw the better move e4 like a few seconds after I made my move.   WHY look for a better move or a downside of the move AFTER my move? 

Of course this move wasn’t so bad.  it was still advantageous- and my opponent was full of compliments.  (I vow never to be swayed by compliments Again).

From this move, the opp found some counterplay with a menacing when he took my knight.   Losing one pawn wasn’t so bad I reasoned and I thought I could hold it at bay with rooks.  I passively maneuvered against the marauding pawns only to walk my Rooks into a major Fork.   Had I seen that the invasion square was in fact a weak pawn?  Sure, but the rimmed knight wasn’t nearly as powerful until I marched the rooks in their.

In short (Error#2);  an assessment against an opponents move isn’t updated when the position is- Thus, the opp make a move I had thought was a mistake.   I suppose in a way their was TWO mistakes both not to see the Obvious geometric problem with the defense, and not to see that the Rimmed knight was no longer a poor move.

So after Two serious mistakes my game against an absolutely awful opening was going pretty well for the opponent and was an exchange and many pawns ahead. I knew now that grinding out the game would be a slow and agonizing death; and minimize any chance of capitalizing on the stuck exposed nature of the king.   After his counterplay there was some weak spaces up their and I hoped to pull off something of a miracle.  As I maneuvered towards the king I could see that opp was clearly fearing a sudden death.

We headed towards an obvious draw- which he didn’t immediately see.   But I still had sights on the king; and clearly needed one more Big Time error to go.   After we nearly draw; I chase him into the last hole.   but then

This was my utter undoing.  In goes the king but where is the last stroke?   Having trimmed the branches, the golden prize doesn’t quite seem to work.   But this creates Big problems for me.  Ironically somethings that are maneuvered are vulnverable-

And what interestingly holds his position together and daunts my headhunting party.   The very bishop I failed to kill in the beginning  of the game.   Now there is Serious thought even as my opponent realizes that I’m probably not going to pull a miraculous Check-mate out of my hat.

So this error is perhaps me biggest and most significant.   I have drilled to death some of these tactics and sometimes prone to bluffing and guessing.   But the truth IS in real chess; you’ve got to get the attack RIGHT from the beginning; and make sure there’s no startling refutes.   In short, the APPEARANCE of winning tactics Isn’t the same as Having totally prepared the winning tactic.   You have to play it out in your head that the opponent makes the very best moves and still everything fails and is hopeless for him Espacially when you’ve made concessions to get there.

if Playing REAL chess is making sure you've considered ALL your opponents threats before you move, Perhaps REAL attacks are those that that work no matter WHAT your opponent replies..

This then was the Game, there was much too many concessions and the opponent had an easy time picking between several easy ways of completely daunting and decimating my faltering attack.   Soon pieces swarmed my position and I Lost!

FROM HERE… So its Time to get back on Track.   More time, More chess games,  Try to keep it varied and balanced.… but even if other things falter, no more skipping playing Chess!  All my self analysis is saying that my last and biggest flaws are all connected to onconsistent thought processes.   That really best fixed by an alternately exposing them; then finding and highlighting them After the game.   and… playing the slowest chess game I can get (which online is G30)…

*as I've said before, poor records are a nearly sure sign that my thinking got chaotic, and disorganized.   we totally need to fight this tendency, and to practice taking good notes and clear thinking.