Friday, June 26, 2015


I didn’t want a loud, bold or involved discussion today.  As you note from last weeks post- my statistics have been sagging in the last little while.

There is the feeling that while I understand that there is bound to be up and downs to my commitment to this hobby-- that I intend chess to be different than other hobbies…other more “idle” pursuits. 

Perhaps Its that chess is worthy of even far beyond what I COULD hope to achieve..  somewhere there is a 12 year old kid that in spending intense amount of hours; growing and evolving.  Conquering all his tactical mis-steps; learning the deep theory of KR versus K endgame and easily able to beat blindfold and improving past that.  I have neither the athleticism nor the skills to match him.   And still chess theory looms beyond his significant talents. 

This is not simon says or connect-4.  if chess is a game (and it is game; I don’t care how many forum threads claim otherwise)—it is an exceptionally deep one.  I’m satisfied with my talents; but I want to advance in my understanding!   I routinely draw blanks when I look at grandmaster play.  Why did he play here or there?  I fail to see the positional fight that is at the heart of the modern game- and I am not anticipating the combinations that wowed earlier generations. 

So this week is one of bigger efforts and Quickening my pace.  I have again dived into my tactics book.  I’m establishing a small little game history in the Internet chess club, and I have found a chess coach—it has gone very well, for a very reasonable price;  I finally found someone who is willing to talk at length about stuff, answer questions, and best of all- fully analyzes the weeks game (my last coach would procrastinate this final step).

I am a Patzer.  There’s no doubt and no redemption from that.   But I strive to be something more- not a OTB tested competitor; but I want to truly be a Student of the game!   

So perhaps a similar tone than in times past (Its my blog and I can be repetitive if I want to!)… it is time to shake off poor performance; remind myself of my persistence, my dedication and to dive back into the game some.  I’ve noticed that faltering weeks often involve less playing of slow serious games… and worthy activities that are difficult, disheartening and distracting.  One activity that comes to mind is analyzing past games; I don’t find it happy work.  I need to build enthusiasm for this simple task; because more than any other thing- errors during my past games, define what it takes to further improve!

More than any other activity; analyzing past games carefully and thoroughly, separate the improving student from other chess players; that move from game to game, allowing history to repeat itself.  Indeed I think you could go a very Long ways on merely analyzing past mistakes.
At any rate; I remind myself that I can, and I need to both play and analyze my game.  at the same time I reject the dogmatic tone I ‘ve seen some people take.  IF you do not have time to analyze EVERY game; this is ok. it  is better to analyze a few carefully and keep playing than to get all inactive on actually playing chess.

Playing chess creates motivation; as it is enjoyable.  Some people feel blitz is fun.  I don’t feel the rushed feeling of blitz, and the terror of the counting down clock, is all that fun.  I find I have a natural rthym that corresponds well with a G30 game  G30 games, then , are about as fun as chess gets- and when my ‘other’ activities take over this gameplay.  I think a decrease in motivation is understandable.  Making your program, on the whole, enjoyable IS important- even if there are a few important muscle-building exercises that aren’t AS enjoyable.

I reiterate the importance of making your chess program on the whole enjoyable.  I think you cannot sustain bigger efforts without it; but that serious chess study involves a careful balance of activities.  You cannot swing the other way; and just expect constant chess playing to bring great results.   Young growing minds might be something of an exception.

When you are old (LOL), you have to study smarter!  A happy medium of enjoyment, instruction, and excercises.  And of course, Faith!  If one IS engaged in the task; playing and learning and reviewing-   I’ll grow . I know I will!  And that’s the aim of the whole hobby.

Friday, June 19, 2015


I’ll make no secret of it!   I haven’t been studying (or playing) chess as I once did.  I think I got a small cold OR something- so I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping; and its put a wringer on my free time!

I obsessively document time spent on chess; and I haven’t seen anything like since fall (Actually it was worse).  For a while I thought perhaps I had rhythm going and I wasn’t going to fall to the lows.

Well as I read in a forum post of another hobby; it is normal and understandable to feel sometimes more or less involved in a hobby.  I even think it is critical attitude;   How do we handle a little less passion and spark in chess?  It is critical to enjoy your hobby and not push the hobby into a feeling of unpleasant duty… on the other hand, I do NOT want to ‘drop’ the study of chess.

A LAPSE. This is what it is. Temporary and unavoidable.  What can one do to maximize his learning as time and motivation is less?  How can this be a good thing- and how do we continue to be motivated… when many long hours slip to just a few?? Some thoughts…

Intensity doesn’t necessarily offer Maximum Improvement  and Lapses can help one gain perspective and relax.  One of the hardest lessons of chess improvement is that doesn’t necessarily come about just because one is constantly studying.  In fact, constant studying can create a kind of information saturation; to the point that no one lesson really is well learnt because your simply trying to learn too much at once! 
Only the other hand, an illness comes, your body says “chillax!”- you can now play a game of chess without trying to strain to remember all those recent long hours.  Instead of remembering, try to be cautious and relaxed.  What do you see? 

Chess Improvement is much more of marathon than a sprint… and getting all out of breath and weary is counterproductive.  If your mind is creating motivational obstacles from the long hours; it pays to be sneaky.   Just do a little!  There’s little to gain from putting in a long hours of study when you don’t feel like it.  but theres plenty to learn in the first five or ten minutes.
I’ve most definitely seen this with tactic puzzles.  How many people MINE salt; beating their head with puzzle after puzzle; long hours at a time.   Ones mind isn’t door to be broken… its an instrument and when it is impaired with weariness it is innately less functional.  
I think this last point is the Biggest.  Every chess lesson is impaired when we are weary.  But generally.  Instead of ‘for long hours when we are tired and weary’;  the better strategy is ‘often ‘ and ‘well chosen’.   There’s no difference in my chart between 1 hours every other or 30 minutes every day. But there’s little doubt; which one is better.

Lose activities that are a burden when you are lapsed and simplify the program… I am currently dwindling down my Turn-based chess.   I was a tyro for a time, rising in rating rapidly and spending sometimes quite a long time carefully working out things in the analysis board.   But my initial 1200 opposition has changed to reflect a maximum of 1702.  These are Brutally good chess players and they don’t make a lot of mistakes.  There’s a lot of effort to keep up with chessplayers of this caliber.  I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it; perhaps it was.  But with a lapse in place; now isn’t the time to run with Class B players.  Instead, I want to concentrate on finding simple and reasonable moves during live chess- I want to decrease blunders.   A couple carefully played games and lots of analysis- this is the simplified program to move forward.  I also need to continue my study of Alburts 300 positions.  The combination of tactical opportunities; defending against threats and being careful not to fall for refuted captures or tactics is Top-notch.

A good attitude is a MUST during a lapse  One could for example feel great guilt? Or figure- I’m simply not putting a reasonable amount of time into this- why bother?? Its important to remind myself why I am doing this..  I am a naturally obsessive guy; with a pretty Dull life.   I’d like something to obsess on that really builds a skill and engages the mind and passion.   The ability to think through something clearly to understand a puzzle deeply… this is all very interesting to me.   In the end it really doesn’t matter than this week, I’ve felt a little less motivated than others.  I’m still motivated.  I’m still aiming to be a Great Patzer.  An online surprise- a contradiction in terms;  as an older man with no current tournament aspirations there is no reasonable reason to believe I can become good at chess.  But I ask in seriousness; whats to stop me from being good at chess?  Only my own attitude and I can work on that!

Lastly, perhaps a bit of a distraction.  A little bit of one, yes!   Its an another old hobby, with a twist,  I use to do a bit of foreign language writing, and even got half good at French.  Yes, I’m starting with a new one; Esperanto.  Esperanto is a constructed language and as such; has regular grammar and a logical and simplified method of creating words.

The purpose of the language was to be innately easy to learn and to foster international communication.  Well of course the internet has brought international communication in a scale the inventor of the language could never imagine (it was invented in the 1890’s).   but generally its been English , not Esperanto that has been flourishing. 

One could ( I suppose) just call this good luck.  Millions, no possibly more than a billion people; wearily learning my tricky, native language.  No language needed to reach out to the world.  On the other hand, there is a sort of chess like reward to learning a foreign language and I imagine being able at some future point, to converse world-wide with people in a way they can’t do in English.  Once I get past ‘Mia Estas Jason Oliphant.’

Is it a distraction, yes perhaps.  But there is some time I can use for writing that I can’t use for chess.  (as a matter of fact that’s when I’ve been doing my blogging).  Learning a language is also marathon-ish.  And I can be a lot more relaxed and carefree about Esperanto than chess. (my aim is lower and the task is easier).  Until then
            “ Ni devas esti en bone humoro, gis ni renkontas ree.”
            (let us be in good spirits, until we meet again)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Learning from your mistakes

The long awaited Blog post.  In truth I’ve lapsed a bit—tired or whatever is bringing me down, a little.  Late April and Early May was very fruitful and intense. But I haven’t lost focus!  I am more convinced than ever- that the road to higher skills; are as much athletic as anything.  As I’ve been saying the last long while- one needs to be intensely focused, observant, creative and most of all; not let our gaze slip.  One errant move is enough to throw a whole game; even if, yes sometimes lost games can be swindled.

What I have been doing is seriously reviewing past games.  My mistakes are in there! Lessons to be learned…  What do I do wrong, and what are my common failures?  As in past posts I intend to highlight a few things and offer corrections.

The Golden variation ! (and all the unexpected replies)…  In all those tactical exercises you’d think I’d see a major point.   You can’t brilliantly concoct an impressive tactical combination without seeing the larger pattern; and you should always treat the subject of your opponents move VERY cautiously.  I am far TOO inclined to see every pawn and piece exchange- every threat addressed –and Not creative enough in looking for ingenious ways to defend.   One of the biggest psychological hurdles is simply the thrill of a huge game blowing variation!  The “golden” variation.   As I pointed out before; Its too EASY (and thus wrong) to summarize as opponents options are limited… The idea that ones options are NOT limited; is the essence of the classic swindle- where one player deeply in material deficient plays a sly desperate attack leading to a checkmate or draw that the winning player never saw (as he had stopped looking in his triumph).

Funky calculations  Yes. Reality. I’m not that good at calculations, though I would call this a critical skill in chess.  While I can often lack creativity and ingenuity; just as often my calculations can be wrong and inaccurate.  Sometimes this becomes startling!  Looking into the core reasons of why this occurs; I want to highlight two distinct errors, they I note that many possible failures are possible;  Not seeing inactive pieces, not seeing backwards or repetitive moves, missing counterattack, check or pins.  These (judging from my own games) are common.  On the other hand:
            Missing that an offensive pawn or piece can just plain be taken!  Disastrous to miss, as not only does the missing piece no longer cover certain squares, coordinate with other pieces, but it is material; and as such once you go in material deficit- you have a serious long term problem.
            The two way movement of a pawn; and of course the last tricky option.  Even ignoring the limited trick “pawn d’etait”- pawns are pretty versatile creatures.   Any sequence that places pawn diagonal to pawn; needs carefully considered.  Too often, do I find myself only calculating their diagonal attack (most commonly their exchange) and miss that they can move forward as well.  moving forward though comes at a price.  The forward move frees up a space- that can be used by pieces to infiltrate the position.  Perhaps the last and trickiest option is to not move at all.   Masters do not move pawns or pieces without a purpose or a reason.  There is no reason to idly misuse your time.

I feel ( a little ) embarrassed.  These are simple errors.   A sharp beginner learns how a pawn moves in mere minutes.  And of course- leaving loose pieces.   if you hang a  loose piece, you need not look much harder for the reason why you fail in chess.  Nonetheless, the roots of failure are simple!  And often in a chess puzzle, I find myself refuted because of very basic errors.  Getting a sequence WRONG is in some respects worse than not getting it at all.

            Let us put it this way; About taking a MOVE of initiative…  You gain control of the tempo of the game and Wake up and alarm your opponent.  While low ranked beginners may quiver in fear-  Your opponent gains a very distinct advantage as compensation for your bold moves-  the intent and purposes of your moves become clear, the forest of reasonable variations shrinks…   The opponent is now privileged to carefully scrutinize your variation and double, no triple check its accuracy.  Accuracy is a must! If you want to be high rated and failure to be accurate will doom you to be a patzer til the end of your days….

FAILURE points…. While failure is possible in most positions… see last weeks rock climbing analogy… Chess has natural flow to it.  Openings (at least successful ones) are normally calm and uneventful where people much stronger than I obsess over subtle differences in move order; and name (which is more Trivia than chess BTW).  Most openings offer a sensible mix of development; a claim of certain squares or square colors, and king protection.
If the opponents can get out of the opening without major weakness; perhaps both will adopt a sensible middle game, and prospects will stay even for both sides for some time.
But I am a patzer (I make no claim to be anything better than that)… and despite an earnest desire to capitalize on an inaccuracy; and at least get some kind of fighting chance in the endgame… inevitable our conflict hinges upon a few distinct failure points, and the resolution of them will set the game in motion.

It is fruitful psychology I think to start working on the fine art of knowing when and how the game will unfold… its importance is stated boldy by Great Chess-master capablanca in a carefully preserved interview (Winters, 1939,…

Precise positional judgment, the overall vision of every maneuver in the interdependence of its cogwheels, is what characterizes a great master. It is not a question of a great master seeing any number of isolated moves or of his knowing how to construct a mate; all that is to be taken for granted. What counts is that he should have ideas, and that these ideas should be accurate. That when he is shown any position he should not beat about the bush but should say without hesitation: “This is won, and the win is secured by maneuvering on this or that wing, like this.” I recall that during the Moscow, 1925 tournament – Tartakower often refers to this – various famous chessplayers had been studying a particular position for three hours, without being able to reach a conclusion. I was passing by at that moment and they asked me my opinion. I was not in doubt for a single second, and I told them: “This is won; and it is won like this, and this.” And I was not mistaken.

The challenge is to be accurate, and aware as the game approaches one of three important states, which are given below without elaboration…

  • Accuracy as an chess player’s king becomes exposed or vulnerable to threats and checks
  • Accuracy as a chess player has pawns that becomes weak and compromised.  Susceptible to attack.  Similarly important is all dealings with a passed pawn and whether it can promote; or gain material in threatening to promote..
  • Accuracy as a chess players position contain holes where the opposition can infiltrate and invade.
  • Accuracy as a chess player position becomes subject to coordination of the opponents pieces.

Each of these four conditions would be considered a strong advantage.  Each of them have been a strong factor in many critical blunders, inaccuracy and mistakes.  Personally, I have to say, I favor reason #3 for the failure of many games.  The opponent gaining a safe spot then gaming up on my overstretched attack is a clear motif of game after game!

As I grow in strength I look to anticipate moves and situations better; being more aware and careful in my analysis- as the game takes a definitive tact.  I look towards strengthening my abilities at calculation- making less simple mistakes and seeing more refutes and suprises, when seeing a clear tactic.  

Above all I wish to move from a simple-minded approach to unforced blunders (“safe at any speed”)- to a more repentant view of my mistakes.   I need to apologize to the great muse of chess for being too simple-minded; and work on developing athletic determination to be thorough and accurate in all my calculations.  … and as I said before, even in a lapse (a little less time and drive) I need to persevere- and study my mistakes so that I move beyond them...