Tuesday, July 28, 2015

THE LAZINESS OF THE PATZERS (and the winning ways of the St Emillion chess club)

Why is it that most average players don't have the discipline, patience, or motivation to become involved in a long-range plan of study and practice to increase their chess skills? The vast majority of games played are quick games played with no increments, with the intentions of winning on time, not with superior chess skills….
Many tell me that the reason they play chess is purely for its entertainment and recreational value only, and have no desire at all to work so hard to become serious players and increase their chess skills to the point of becoming skilled players.
(St Emillion Chess Club; “Why we Lose at Chess”

Ah, the Infamous and Brutally honest ‘St Emillion chess club’ of FICS.  Dutifully administered by a John of WI and seemingly abandoned.  I have confession…  I’ve had access to its content for quite along time.  John ( and others ) do spill on some good stuff- they go in some detail about several openings.  But as always in chess- it is the effort to make something of ones position without giving away pawns or pieces and most importantly allowing a big attack; that is the failure of a patzer.

Don't play chess like your inept and incompetent opponents do.
Most average players don't have the discipline or patience to put together such long range plans or make plans to first weaken their opponents camp, develop an outpost on a key square, develop all the pieces they can to be poised for a siege on the castled kings fortress, consider a sacrifice to make a breakthrough in the kings pawn shield. In fact they don't even consider it important to castle first to protect their king from harm before they start an attack. They are totally indifferent to the basic principles of the opening and other basic principles of the game.
      (St Emillion Chess Club; “Dynamic Power play”)

I would say that that constant retorts go a little overboard- I think that they are right about us Patzers.  While everyone, I’m sure have their own bad habits… I think we’d all be a lot stronger is we’d own up to our aspirations and try harder to get our training program in good shape.
So.. anyway.  My motivational messages, yes.  I want to small list of ways that are right.  We really are deep down DESPICABLE PATZERS! Let me count me the ways.
The THRILL of the attack (when it makes no sense)
A personal weakness.  Unfortunately the thrill of the attack means that other parts of the game are being neglected and unexplored.   This is particularly true of the endgame.  In fact, if you always try for the attack- on the rare times where an attack simply isn’t possible – you find yourself in a very rare endgame is can kiss any real chance of making some subtle endgame work. 
And the cruel thing about this; is that its not as if you can just explore endgames for a while; then go back to your reckless attacking ways.  what you don’t use you lose.  Do you remember pawn opposition?  Has it been TOO long.  This is why you’re a patzer!  Masters and experts don’t neglect the endgame.
I’ve only got Time for a TIME!
I’ve been reading an interesting chess.com Forum thread.  The Author rants that he sees not point of Blitz and Bullet.  And of course it stirs up all kinds of heated discussion.
Now Bullet I’ve not had the inclination to study; but blitz play (of course) has been the subject of several blog entries.   The long term reader will know that I don’t like on Blitz- but that I can be obsessive about it nonetheless.  But lest you think Blitz is only about a relatively meaningless ELO (online) number.  I think Blitz play represents something more important than that.
Blitz play represents how you play when you are rushed. (if your not rushed most of the time- your not playing it right).  you need to be able to make wise careful choices, even when time is of the essence.  The Point is to still make good moves while maybe not necessarily making the Best decisions.  Can you see the opponents threats when short on time?  do you play by good principles, developing your forces and keeping you pieces active?  Great players master the art of Basic chess at any speed.  But patzers stick to their own time- unable to speed up on slow down without drastic consequences.
The SAME errors AGAIN and AGAIN…
This is probably the biggest; though some might say its vague.  While there might be an endless variety of chess errors.  Unfortunately the Patzer, makes his habits last until eternity.  While its simple to say- He just give up his pawns and pieces- there’s still easy reasons why he… I mean I do it.
And the simple reasons usually boil down to the fact that I was busy dreaming about my own prospects.   “my pawns and pieces are safe! I say”…. “Are you sure !?”…”of course I am”…. NOT.  I bluff- I guess- I am looking at only what I can do.   I chided an opponent for saying that I ought to more carefully consider what my opponent wants to do.  But it even MORE simple-minded to obsess about my own tactical daydreams. 
Chess is more about observation that this.  IN a debate perhaps you can stick to your own story with increasing conviction and passion… but in a chess game you MUST seek to understand the WHOLE truth.
This is all very philosophical.  I say it, because I could have said that Patzers don’t look over their game enough.  While even this statement is probably true—the fact is starting at game analysis- is not necessarily a cure to actually getting over your own habits.  The essence of chess improvement is almost religious.  YOU want to REPENT and get rid of sinful ways.  you want to change and be something more and better.  Deep sorrow for chess loses is NOT enough.  Only determination and a genuine and lasting desire, EVERY move to make stronger moves is going to work.  Looking over past games should be a chance to perform the same calculation better.  It is important to use past games to strengthen better mental habits.  I can’t see not going over a game at least 2 -3 extra times. 
 But some people just go over the game  (ok, this an old habit as well) and say “oh that’s a shame!”- they are wasting their times.  Feeling negativity of past games doesn’t increase motivation.  There should be joy and improvement in understanding a game; understanding how to play it and playing it, at least some of its moves better.
I could go on… but this is enough!  
I’d LIKE to make another public call; if you know how to reach this group.  They intrigue me.  I want to thank them for their content.  I appreciate John’s determination, and yes his tough talk.  He says in a post; the harder it is- the more joy there is in its accomplishment. I heartily agree- and it’s to this end that I recommit myself to the hobby.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why Am I so Bad at Blitz?

No deep philosophical discussions this week, witty musing, perhaps self-motivational pep talk on the game…

No This blog is dedicated to my pretty-awful blitz game..  On chess.com I’m only around an ELO 1000 at it.   with the average being around 1200 this means I am significantly worse at blitz than the average chess.com user….

Blitz Chess kills your ideas” says the Great Bobby Fisher…. Yes I know!  Blitz is a poor way to improve’ says another guy in the back of the room.  I Get it!  Boy do I get it.

Blitz chess Isn’t, and won’t be a big preoccupation*…..   My purpose is to understand chess- and master it (to the degree that an amateur old guy can) and that means giving myself the benefit of some time to figure out what is going on at the chess board.

But it still bothers me, that the average chess.com user who comes along and fights the hoards on the world-wide web can get to about 1200 (near most peoples initial rating), and I who has worked for nearly a year now solving thousands of chess puzzles- pouring over my games for insights- paying for books and tutoring can barely crack 1000.

Anyway  I can complain- or give myself “good advice”- or even look up “good advice”  (though frankly, I’m really well read)… but that really doesn’t do much.

Instead I’ve taken some definite action!  I’ve done an experiment ….
“My Blitz Experiment”   earlier in the week, I played 5 games of blitz (G10) against comparable opponents- losing 2 and winning 3.   Getting about the same poor results I would expect.   Now the interesting part- I now go over the move 1 by 1 on a chess board recording my choice at 20 seconds, 1 minute and if needed 2 minutes.   I take this score to my PC engine and look to see where my choices are….  Where does my analysis rate compared to the game; and particularly comparing quicker and slower responses?

I have only done this (for now) for one of my first loss- but the results are interesting.
  1. First this game was really decided by time; and my analysis shows that I did struggle with time; even in the analysis “Blitz” portion of the study.   Of the 25 moves- I couldn’t come up with a reasonable choice is :20, with 5 moves.
  2. I came up with a better reaction to the opening given a longer period of time;  and its likely a good investment in blitz play to slow down after the first few moves of rote.   The opponent often makes odd moves in blitz that have hidden downsides (development, space, pawn structure)… Being aware of the consequences of their ‘creative’ play could win a lot of games of blitz I think.
  3. I expected that that the longer time spent looking over the position would  ‘carry over’ to the quick moves.  NOT True.   Despite the extra time looking on previous moves, A blitz move during analysis was as good during analysis as it was during the game.  About half the time the same move; sometimes better, sometimes worse.   This means I can’t spend the first several moves thinking deeply at the game; then play the rest of the game rapidly.  the game is too unpredictable for that (for me). 
  4. A very interesting 20 and 21st move.   Where in analysis; with the longer time I make a material losing blunder on the 20- that I don’t make in blitz.  And then on the following move, I avoid losing material on the 21st move with a the longer time.   ON both moves, during analysis- I have no blitz move. ( I knew the move was important and took the longer time to work it out)… which means…
  5. Taking longer times doesn’t guarantee I won’t lose to tactics.  Basically I tried to get tricky and ran into an unexpected refute.
  6. on the other hand,  in the blitz game, I lost material to the 21st move because of a pin (discovered attack) that had been in play for many moves. In the haste of blitz I forgot about it.  obvious errors increase in the quicker game.

This blog Could be called “IN Blitz, Time becomes an extra piece.”  And that is perhaps its only real draw for me….. oh and I want to quite being embarrassed by a class E/(F?) blitz elo.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Losing Control

  YOU’VE gotta have a plan!  You can’t just play out moves, willy nilly… you gotta say whats going to happen- and take your best SHOT.

EVERYONE has a plan! ‘Til  they get Punched in the Mouth”
Mike Tyson

This weeks message is a different one.  I’ve been bouncing back a bit.  Recently, I have been playing less.  Sure there’s been the occasional fight against my sparring partner- and a LOT of chess Puzzles.  But less online duels.  And that’s been to my detriment.

 If there’s any flaws to chess puzzles; its that they always represent something that isn’t always true in chess.  Chess Puzzles, are almost always about seizing the initiative.  Even if the answer isn’t always tactical- its nearly always a move that creates initiative.  A formidable blow to the face; if you will.

Yet chess isn’t always about grasping a definite initiative.  And as said above; you gotta take the hits and while still bruised, keep up smart game. and potentially adapt to one that is changed.  

Having someone play a big play that changes everything, is uncanny and it happens all the time in chess. It’s a total misconception that you predict or anticipate the battle once both sides agree to a given opening.  

This wasn’t said about chess, (its actually political commentary)- but it makes my point eloquently…

You do not get to make your own terrain. The image of warfare that centers on control is famously inept. Winners win by adapting to the changing environment here and now. Rather than making the world over, greatness is measured along the lines of a dance that makes you fit to things and things fit to you

I think this is powerfully accurate assessment of a widely misunderstand concept in chess.  How much of previous assessments in helpful later in a game.  How much can we say of our future prospects given our current position?  Chess has an awesome unpredictability!  I have played games which looked hopeless and turned 180° in my favor.  On the other hand; I have seen mighty tactics on both sides; not change an even game.

Part of being a strong player, I think, I being able to freshly look over your position.  And this another good reason to play long time controls.  If it seems repetitive or redundant to continue to stare over your game move to move- you might be missing something.   How many times on analyzing a game do I see both players miss a definitive tactic for many moves.

One of my most embarrassing frequent blunders is to miss a tactic for several moves; then play a complicated initial maneuver to call attention to it; which my opponent sees and counters- rather than catch the tactic, as it spring from my opponents mistake.   Alerting your opponent to what could happen; because you don’t have the wit to simply do it at once, is one of the reasons why we say that an attack has a limited window of opportunity.   This is particularly true of geometric positions, pins and skewers. 

My reminder is to look harder, at my evolving positions with less assumptions and more flexibility.  I think, in summary, being able to flexibly see opportunities and understand your weaknesses, is the DEFINITIVE skill that determines (most of the time) whether you will win or lose.   The thing is , it is easy to gain the knowledge of most of the basic tactical and strategic motifs of chess.   On the other hand, being patient, exhaustive, and thorough in adapting to ever changing opportunities and dangers…  that is something to seek in game after game.   This is the MENTAL muscle you need to grow if you are to be strong- and you can get that only if your are really regularly playing chess seriously.

I will do better.  My goal is to have at least 7 serious games a week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Me and my once a week OTB friend were playing some interesting chess- both out of element in an obscure and crazy answer to 1.e4.

Lets just say that my answer to e4 has been and will be the French. But just for practice sake; I agreed to deviate from my standard repertoire.  My opponent for his part did no better reacting poorly with pawns.   Eventually I get to the position below;  it is a complex position of pins and the engine says that e5 was a mistake and I can gain a piece by carefully pressuring the pin.

It is in this position that we got into a passionate debate.  White (me) is gunning for a stranded king and is sure that escalating piece moves that checkmate or a disastrous loss of material is inevitable.  On the other hand; blacks demise is far from clear.  Blacks pieces are strong and the double pawn was a definite asset against a efile pin.

Blacks theory is interesting; and my OTB friend now plays off this one idea….

Look at what your opponent is trying to do, and thwart him.  Waiting for the opportunity to gain counterplay when his idea is frustrated.

In short my opponent believes in beating me with my own ideas. He sees chess as far more psychological that I do—He advocates studying an opponents eyes.   The game cooperates with him for a while.  With some inaccurate play on my side, he works his work through the pin on efile, eventually gaining a defensive double pawn that becomes a real problem for the remainder of the game and gaining of counterplay on the queenside.  Bent on checkmate, I hang a piece, trying to bottle up his king.  This game is definitely going his way.   We get to the position below. 


His prospects are definitely better and he is clearly on the verge of grasping an initiative- with moves like Bxg2 and then perhaps big trades that get rid of my fairy tale checkmate.  For my part, I have no prospect of tactical play, I have given a piece in the hopes to make a Re3-Rd1 sequence work.

I don’t know if he is still playing by reading my eyes, or has a moment of passive fear, but Bxe4 is a pretty bad move.  It is the the very kind of pin I have been looking for all along.  So, yet black blundered.

My OTB friend is pretty upset.  He agonizes and then, concedes the whole game.  I try to point out that after the retreat Kd7; the game is far from over.  But he is upset and his fighting spirit is gone.  It casts an interesting question upon his psychological game.

Is it possible that the peril of playing against the opponent is that you can demoralized, when you cannot defeat your opponents idea?   Killing the bishop allows white to crumple the center and sets blacks position into retreat.  Perhaps the thought of what to do once white has chased the black king out of the center was too much.  I know for a fact that a huge streak of losing has badly demoralized my opponent.  He has played and lost each week for something like 10 games strait.  I think an inevitable feeling of defeat has strained the gamesmanship of our weekly game.  it is one thing to fight against my gaze when the position offers counter-play and stiff defense.  It was apparently too demoralizing once the king was in full retreat.

I do not believe my friend is right.  I don’t see chess as a fight between me and my opponents ideas.  Instead I see chess a fundamental struggle to see the truth; and both players have an equal responsibility to understand what is and what is not equal in every move.  Both players will likely fall short of understanding key weaknesses in their own choices.  
Once a weakness occurs- that side must carefully not allow their moves to give the opponent an opportunity to win material or deeper positional advantages. But their opponent must still have the wit to seize the advantage.

Both sides have clearly misplayed the opening.  Nevertheless; while white is far from victorious; black clearly has the greater weakness as his king is exposed and his options are limited.   Whites clearly is given a chance when blacks king become involved in the Nf6 pin.  Unfortunately, white does not capitalize on this weakness, and after some piece development whites weaknesses have grown and are more evident.  Losing a piece to an imaginary checkmate that white never had only creates more weakness in white positions.   It is whites queens side that is not strong.   After the blacks blunder… Black will have to give way, but in mind it is not so clear who will win.  Once blacks king runs away from the center; the game is close to equal.  Black I think ought to aim for a big exchange especially if he is able to grab some pawns.

I don’t necessarily know that my idea of chess is better-perhaps my constant fixation at attacking enemy weakness causes a bit of blindness when it comes to downsides of my own oftentimes-too-aggressive play;  but I think it is cheap and ineffective to play against someone’s gaze and poor tactical advice to only concern yourself with what the opponent is trying to do.  Tactics oftentimes amaze and astound us.  How many times has someone been forked because they were fixated in their attack or so distracted by some kind of subtle pawn position and been blown away with a basic sac and mate?

Of course its not QUITE fair to extend our debate into the blogosphere  (and to illustrate it with a blunder!), and I do admit he has a point.  The aim of the blog isn’t quite so much to win the debate, as to reason through my position.  The title of the blog is meant to convey the main theme; which is that psychology can be used, not so much to merely ‘beat’ the opponent , but to create strength and confidence in your attack.

I also believe it is Very instructive, and good for your whole improvement program to become interested in.. no obsessed with chess weakness….  Both exploiting your opponents and minimizing your own.   I think it is instructive to try to understand the game in the perspective of weaknesses; and what opportunities and mistakes were missed.  

I hope my sparring partner bounces back a little.  I think I’ve won too many times, and his losing has become something of a self-fulfilling prophesy.  The PC says I played that game pretty  badly, so I think if he were to be confident and determined he might win some of these games.