Sunday, July 31, 2005
Ye Old Patzers
I was in the province the other day, and was bored out of my skull. To relieve the tension, I took a walk, and lo and behold! A bunch of old guys playing chess by the roadside. What fortunate luck. Nothing like chess when you need it! So I came near and saw a young guy, maybe in his 20's laying the smack down on the old guys. I noticed that the young guy is very good tactically, but that the old guys needlessly lets him stomp them with combinations. After watching five of these beatings, I asked to play. Reaching a tense middlegame, we came into a position where I had the option of giving check. I felt it doesnt do any good since I had only the queen immediately in hand, and had no other way of feeding more pieces for the attack. His king might even be driven into a better square, and my queen into a bad one. So I made another move. Immediately, a murmur from the crowds rose, and one of the old guys looked at me disdainfully and with his raised eyebrows said in a reproachful voice You should have given check!

If I had lost the game they would surely have thought that me not giving check was the losing move. Fortunately I won. So, no my old friends, chess is not so simple as that. A Check is not a mating net, nor a single queen a barricade

Positional vs Tactical Play
When I had graduated from the circles, and was starting to regularly play online, I had a very simple style of play. Everything centers on tactics. Every move had the goal of making a combination, every move trying to set a tactical shot. As a result, most of my games are wild and wholly where I didnt know to the last minute who will win or lose. Its like being on a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I had the most horrible pawn structure you'll ever see, and still win. I had managed to defeat near 1900 players, but then turn around and lose to U1600 players. Very unpredictable.

But now that I had been starting to study positional play, it has changed. Now I think of a lot of things. Who has the advantage, where to play kingside or queenside, outposts. Things like that. But thinking about those things has a cost. Namely, the amount of energy I spend in finding tactics is sharply curtailed. Previously, if I spend 5 minutes on a move, you can bet its all about tactics, and nothing else. But now a lot of things are filling my mind. As a result, I'm starting to miss simple combinations. The other day, I even missed a mate in 1! And my win/loss statistics has changed too. I dont lose now to U1600 players, BUT dont win against U1900 players anymore. I mostly win against players of my range (U1800). Clearly increasing my chess knowledge is causing conflict with my chess ability.

I dont know what playing style I like better. The more "dangerous" tactical path, or the "stable" positional-tactical way.

I'm thinking of giving it time, maybe a few months to first see where it goes, but the danger here is I get impatient, dump positonal play altogether, and just start another seven-circles.
posted by Nezha at 9:42 PM | Permalink | 1 comments
Friday, July 29, 2005
Various Ruminations
Positional Play

I had been studying the book "Simple Chess by Michael Stean". I have already finished reading that book, but I was in the middle of the circles, so I did'nt fully grasp what it was saying. Now I'm going thru the games again, and slowly trying to understand it's lessons. Excluding game fragments, it contains only 20 complete master games. But boy! the lessons from them are absolutely awesome.

Ive tried to read "My System", but I cannot comprehend the oddball english. I tried the "Strategic Play" by Dvoretsky, but it was way over my head. Then I found this book which is exactly at my level, and its was like meeting my destiny..

I'm even starting to win a few material-even games just by knowing simple things I learned from the book. Stuff like which piece to swap, which to keep, the value of open files, etc. But by far, the coolest thing I've learned, are about color complexes, and how powerful they are. My latest win was based on a white-square campaign. Clearly I will never look at squares the same way again.

Why not gambit

A recent comment of tempo about an opening repertoire - the Alapin-Diemer gambit against the french has got me thinking. What is my chess "style" and why I feel uncomfortable with gambits.

You know, our first teachers leaves an impression on us like nobody else does. Their teachings stay with us long after time has passed. And for me, my very first "teachers" was Capablanca and Euwe. Even now, I still go back to my tattered copies of "Chess fundamentals" and "Judgement and Planning". The lessons learned from those books, left me with a strong bias for things such as pawn structures, and to never lose material. Maybe if I had known Nezhmetdinov sooner, things would have been different - but right now losing even a single pawn is abhorrent. I do not sacrifice material for an unclear attack, and except for certain cases, I avoid doubled pawns like the plague.

Is this called the "Classical Style"?

Time Management
In my attempts to use the Kotov's tree, I have recently been playing at longer and longer time controls. At first it was 30/15, but it was too short, so I increased it to 30/30. But still, I get into time trouble so I changed to 45/45. This time control is much better. It's roughly equivalent to having 75 minutes for 40 moves.

Anyway, so I had been playing at this time control and had been forcing myself to sit there and not move, but to first calculate further than I have to. Even in positions where an obvious move is present. I thought I had been doing great as I managed to increase the average time of my moves from 30sec to 1 minute, but when I analyzed in detail the time distribution of my latest game, I found this disappointing statistic:

Time vs Move Distribution
  • 0-60sec 26
  • 1 min 4
  • 2 min 4
  • 3 min 3
  • 4 min 1

    The number of moves where I seriously thought about a position (over 1minute) is two times less than the blitz-moves (12-26). Although I think both in my time and my opponents time, I am not satisfied with this ratio. Maybe a target 50-50 ratio would be a good next target i.e. 50% 1-min above, 50% 1-min below.

    A Source Of Satisfaction

    In relation with the above, I noticed that I am more satisfied with my games when I more or less try to think as deep as I could. I feel like I have control of the situation, or at least I'm hardly surprised. Of course I still miss an opponents reply from time to time, but I really feel very good when I acurately predict the next few moves.

    Have you ever said personally the term "Just as I expected"?
    posted by Nezha at 12:57 AM | Permalink | 4 comments
    Tuesday, July 26, 2005
    The Dream Is So Near
    I have managed to attain my highest rating to far - 1782. I know, I know, Im not supposed to agonize over my rating, but it has become somewhat akin to a "pet". I have to feed it rating points so it becomes big and strong. I can't stop fussing over it, and grooming it, and thinking about it, and no! you cant take my rating away from me.. no, no, no!

    Well ,anyway - Here is a summary of my last ten games, arrainged by opponents elo:

    There is a couple of sub-1600 here, but they challenged me, and If they have a chess death wish, Nezha "The Terminator" is more than happy to give it to them - Arrr!

  • 1: + 1775 B 1217 Weedeater [ sr 30 30]
  • 2: + 1774 B 1470 DrShiddles [ sr 30 30]
  • 3: + 1781 B 1514 alexeypopov [ sr 45 45]
  • 4: + 1763 W 1660 PawntoQween [ sr 30 15]
  • 5: - 1766 W 1730 govekar [ sr 30 30]
  • 6: + 1773 B 1734 Roomish [ sr 30 30]
  • 7: + 1771 B 1756 balzamonn [ sr 30 30]
  • 8: + 1782 W 1800 RomaLavrn [ sr 30 15]
  • 9: - 1774 W 1854 bahus [ sr 20 20]
  • 0: = 1778 B 1958 RibTickler [ sr 30 30]

    And my win-loss summary
    Win : 76
    Loss: 57

    Ohhh, my long-held chess dream of 1800 is so close, so close. I can almost feel it, I can almost taste it. I am very near you now. Just a couple of more wins, and I have got you. Do you feel my anticipation? Wait for me yes!? We will be together at last, my.. precioussss...

    Here is a recent shirov game that I annotated. I didnt use the computer when anotating, so there arent a lot of variations. But, mostly I was looking for ideas and stuff when annotating games, so that is what you get here.

    This is Shabalov-Shirov on the 2005 Canadian Open

    posted by Nezha at 5:00 AM | Permalink | 4 comments
    Monday, July 25, 2005
    Kotov's Tree
    Everyone knows that getting better at chess is one of the great "loves" of my life. Or rather, one of the sickness of my soul? Well, anyway you look at it, its something that compels me to do "things" to myself.

    What I do mostly changes like a politicians "stand" on major issues. A few years ago, it was studying positional play. The past six months, it was the seven circles. And now? I have already constructed a tactics-centered plan awhile back - but has experimented with various things since. I felt that I did not properly understand what my problem is, and that I should explore first my options before commiting myself to another grand scheme.

    I had been playing two-three games a day, and analysing my play. Not specific variations - but rather determining the holes in my game. Like, why do I choose the moves that I do. How do I choose my plan? Things like that. Trying to determine the most damaging element of my game.

    It was very instructive to see my timesheet (FICS automatically records the time spent each move). The average lenght of time I used to determine a move was 30sec. 30 seconds? I didnt know I can think that fast. Chess is supposed to be a thinking game, and this shows that I had not been thinking enough. Clearly I need to medidate more on my moves. But what to think, and how do I "think"? Is there a correct way to do it?

    Enter Kotov's tree
    (Creepy sound ala star wars right here)

    Yeah, I know - this type of thinking process has been "refuted" over and over again. By no less than Mr. Nunn, Mr Tisdall, Mr. Soltis, etc.. etc.. "I dont think like a tree, do you think like a tree" and all that stuff. But as with the seven circles - the goal is not to find the "best" thinking process or even the most efficient. But rather to just have a good process and master it by sticking at it.

    But I think the implementation of Kotov's tree of anaylysis, would greatly help me consistently make good moves. I think, the only way to prove a move is good - is by comparing it with other moves. Only by comparison can we say something is better than something. Only by comparison can we go and say "Ah! this move is good". Anyway ,Here is the mechanics of my tree-of-analysis

    1. Every move, select two candidate moves:
    It is better to have three or maybe four?! but right now, asking that from myself is impossible. I'll start with two moves first and later on widen the search when I am more capable.

    It is important to select the moves first and do not calculate.

    2. Calculate the resulting lines to death:
    After selecting the most promising two moves, we need to calculate to see which is better. Calculate until all forcing moves are exhausted. Or if there are no forcing moves - until I see a position I'm comfortable with. Maybe I see a slight space, or an outpost can be created.

    It is important when calculating that we do not jump from one line to the next. Calculate until a definite evaluation is reached. I know when a definite evaluation is reached when my mind says something like this:

    "This is an ok move - I dont see any way he can win material"
    "This is an ok move - The position is playable"
    "This is a bad move, I lose here"

    This shows that I consider almost all moves to be good if I dont lose material or reach an obvious positional deficiency. All positions look playable to me =<. I dont think I can determine who is "slightly" better or worse.

    Anyway, after I reach a definite conclusion, I can forget all those analysis and remember only if the the move is good or bad. In fact - I should forget the analysis and remember only the conclusion. Why? because I found out that trying to remember a variation while calculating another, causes the calculation to run much slower. My brain is not multi-threading so to speak.

    Now, repeat for the next move and reach another conclusion. Compare the two conclusions. If one is bad, then the choice is easy. If both of them are good - just pick one randomly. They're both good anyway. Or according to what my gut tells me.

    Gee - my kotov tree sounds easy. Where is the snag? What's the catch? For starters, calculating is really tiring. Consistently doing it everymove is hard. The other day, I was playing against a 1962 player - and I had the better position. But somewhere along move 35 or so - I got tired and made a "just" move. Instantly he equalized, and with great difficulty I had to scramble for a draw.

    Also - I simply forget to do it. Sometimes, the position looks too obvious that I simple do the natural moves. But if I do that - then I start moving automatically the next move - faster and faster until I reach blitz speed. A more consistent approach would be the ideal to aim for.

    Lastly, calculating variations aint all that easy. The seven circles have really helped me, but it is not enough. My calculation needs to be a little bit faster, a little bit deeper before I become comfortable with it.

    Training Plan
    So now that we know what I want to do, I have to train using it. Of course you dont just wake up, and decide to use the kotov tree cold-turkey, and expect to be successfull. I wasnt born a mean chess calculator, so i'm gonna have to work to get this ability. And, since i'm using the the Kotov tree - Might as well use the Kotov-recommended training plan. That is, get a game, go to the middlegame, and start calculating from there. Plus supplement with endgame studies for visualization. This two will keep me very busy for the next three months or so I think.

    Well, this is the current plan. Now if it survives practice, is another matter altogether =>
    posted by Nezha at 12:40 AM | Permalink | 2 comments
    Wednesday, July 20, 2005
    Puzzling Game
    This is a game which puzzled me. Just before this, I lost to RomaLavrn in only
    12 moves. I was miniturized, and he is rated 1860. So when I posted a seek for another match, and a 1902 player answered, I went "Great, just my luck! another higher rated player." But hey, a game is a game so I went for it.

    But when we were playing, I couldnt believe what was happening. I must have said "what the!?" a dozen times. I though some of the moves he made was so bad I nearly fell me off my chair. Sometimes, chess is really weird. How can I be crushed by an 1860 player, then turn around and beat a "stronger" 1902 player? Bizzare!

    Please move a little faster
    In relation to this - because of my recent loses, I made a concious effort to think as much as I can every move. You know, trying to generate candidate moves, and selecting a PV and stuff. Just like Mr. Heisman said. But the side-effect to this is that I move much2x slower now. Apparently, some of my opponents didnt like this. I've seen the comment "Please move a little faster" a few times already. One even went so far as to disconnect in the middle of the game. I was very ticked off. I mean, what I do with my time is my concern right? Its part of the game right? If I wanted to consume all my time within the first 10 moves, its perfectly alright, right? What are they complaining about then? Dang blitz players.

    Chess Coach

    I had a preliminary contact with a chess coach. He is from Argentina (I think), and he's webpage is here coach But CamC indicated that if you are not in the >2000ELO range, getting a coach is a waste of time and money. Better to just do group analysis he says. Does anybody have an opinion about this?

    I know, I know I can't afford it. My wife tells that to me all the time. But my chess geekiness is really reaching gigantic proportions =<
    posted by Nezha at 10:47 PM | Permalink | 6 comments
    Tired of Losing
    I posted a seek last night at FICS, and guess who answered my challenge? A player namued "maupasant (2054)". My eyes nearly popped-out of thier sockets. 300 points differential is way too high for my taste. But aborting the game would show a tremendous lack of nuts - and hey, he is human too, right? he blunders too, right? So I answered e4 with e5, and the game is on.

    After approximately 80 minutes and 45 moves later, calculating as far as I could. As carefull as much as I can, I lost. Ayayay.. Well anyway, Here are some of my post-game findings:

    1. The amount of things I miss in calculation is astounding
    Well not really, I was actually doing "Ok" moves in this game. You know, not really making gross oversights or stuff like that. But ok-moves is really not enough to win games. If I want to win against strong opposition, I must play way better than just making "Ok" moves.

    2. Fear is the enemy.
    When I was looking at candidate moves, some of them I didnt even consider because at firstglance it looked really dangerous. But analysis reveals that it really wasnt. I think, just because a move appears to be bad, I should not immediately drop it from consideration. Although proving that it is indeed a strong move is hard, but crafty says some of those moves I was afraid of was perfectly ok. In fact, in a critical moment during the game, a move I didnt take because I considered it a blunder turned out to be crafty's first choice.

    A very good calculation and search routine is really important here. A move maybe dangerous only in the first 2 moves, but a "refutation" for the refutation maybe in the 3rd-4th move maybe present. But searching for a "point" of a move 3-4 moves ahead is really hard. Really2x need to train this one.

    3. G30/15 is too short
    Playing a game against sub1800 players, rarely do I go below 10-minutes. Usually the game is decided beforehand. But against very strong competition, making a move is like navigating a tactical landmine. You really need to consider everything as much as possible. In this game, we were both down below 5 minutes. Not enough time for me to assess the situation. Not surprisingly, My biggest blunder was made here. Maybe I would seek using longer time controls next time.

    Even though he is 300 points above, the loss still bothers me. I gave it my all, and still I lost. The feeling isnt very good. Im realy tired of losing, but -

    Arent you tired yet?

    About my constant rants about chess? About my futile attempts at chess improvement? I dont mean to whine all the time. But being a patzer really sucks. The circles have helped me a lot you know, but it has not taken me to the promised land.

    Lately, I had not been doing any serious chess training. Sure I do a lot of chess related stuff. I do CTS everyday. Play thru masters games. Most of all, I play, play, play at FICS. But I had not made an attempt to construct a scheduled focused chess improvement plan. I blogged about a plan awhile back, but I cant bring myself to follow it, or any other plan for that matter. I'm just in a funk really. Because it feels like I'm banging my head on wall. Trying to improve, and trying to improve, and trying to improve - but somehow, I feel I'm still here right where I started.

    Right now, I'm even considering taking lessons from a chess coach. But $20 is a lot to pay for just one hour. Though if I get desperate enough...

    Shessh. Here I go again mumbling about my inabilities. Yeah, well...
    posted by Nezha at 2:21 AM | Permalink | 1 comments
    Sunday, July 17, 2005
    Hey, I got a yellow card
    I had the flue last week, and round 4 in the teamchess tournament was a bye, so I figured I still have time before I play round 5. Little did I know that it had already started, and that I "lost" by default. I even had a "yellow" card as a warning. This marks my first official loss at the t45/45 tourney. dang, I was hoping to go undefeated =>

    On other news

    Because of the flu, I hadnt been able to do any sort of chess training for a period of two weeks. Already I can feel a slight weakening to my game. Constant training is really needed to improve. Taking long breaks is hurting my game.

    I also played about 30 OTB games this weekend. Mostly against my old chess partners. I won some, I lost some. But I think I am a better on-line player than an OTB player. I am so used to 2D boards, that a real 3D board seemed strange to my eyes.

    Lately, I am also waxing philosophical. I mean asking myself questions as - why do I play chess. Is chess a hobby or a sport? Why do I need to get better? or I just want something to do and chess exercises just fills that empty hole inside? Why are some players better than the others? I train just as hard, why am I not better? - things like this. Can somebody tell me the answers? I need to know this things.

    And since we are in the question portion, I would like to add a couple more like -
  • 1. I know I need to pay attention to my opponents moves, but why dont I?
  • 2. I really need to pay attention to my opponents moves, but why dont I?
  • 3. I really, really need to pay attention to my opponents moves, but why dont I?
    Arrrg, If I had a dollar for every won game I lost due to inattention to my opponents last trap - I'd be a millionaire by now. I know the problem, I know the solution, but I am frustrated by my apparent inability to correct it. I dont know if any of the knights encountered the same problem. If so - how were you able to overcome it?
    posted by Nezha at 10:48 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
    Tuesday, July 12, 2005
    Thinking Process (2)
    One of my very first blogs was about thinking process here:
    Thinking Priocess

    You know way back when I dont even know about the circles, I was really convinced that the secret to chess mastery lies in the posession of a "great" thinking process. I even made my own list. Wanna see my pathetic try? then click here. I even setup training gams with Dr. Fritzy. After it moves, I would run thru my list algorithm-like and try to find the best move - and this is what the list is all about right? A guide in finding the best move. Right? But time after time, fritz would oblitirate me. Mostly by doing something totally unexpected. And my overall play didnt improve, and worst of all - my enjoyment of the game totally collapsed. Because instead of thinking about chess, I became too busy thinking of that darned list. Hey, if I wanted to think about list - I'd go and shop with my wife.

    Anyway, I wont discourage anyone of course from trying to implement their own thinking process. But as for me, I will never ever never never never implement a list-like thinking process again. Such a thinking process is too rigid for me. My concept of chess is not at all congruent with such a thing. When I look at a position, I wanna see lines of force, hidden diagonals, "magical" squares, ten-move variations. A list aint never gonna help me with these.

    You know, its no secret my chess hero is Mr. Nezhmetdinov. Here is probably his most complicated game. A "real" queen sacrifice at the early middlegame.

    Queen Sacrifice

    But the "inside" story of this game is that, in the critical position, before Mr Gibiatovich sacrificed his queen, he sunk in thought for a very long time. An hour maybe (Some report indicates 40min, I cant confirm). This was a known drawing variation so chernikov walked away and watched another game. Maybe he couldnt understand what Nezhmetdinov was thinking so deeply at. After a long time has passed, a child came to him and said "Dada, a queen was sacrificed to you!".

    (as a sidenote: A one hour think, now what can he be thinking about? Assuming he's not thinking about a hippopotamus, but rather candidate moves, the depth and width of his search may have reached stagering proportions considering the lenght of time he took.)

    I think rather than try to implement a list - I would gain more by training myself to search for candidate moves deeper and wider. I found that Endgame studies are really ideal (Next blog topic =>) when it comes to this.
    No I dont intend on quitting the blog. Its just that I may post a lot less than before. Not unless you want to know more irrelevant personal details about me =>
    posted by Nezha at 11:05 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
    Sunday, July 10, 2005
    Nothing To Say
    Start of Irrelevant Personnal Details
    I was out with the flu the past five days, so I havent been able to post anything. I tried solving problems while sick, but my head kept spinning and I felt like vomitting, so I had to give that up. After the 3rd day, I felt good enough to venture playing in FICS. I won two, but lost the third game when it got too long and my head started acting up again. Boy, this flu is different. I mean this is the first time I am under a constant state of dizzyness. Must be something in the water.

    Yesterday, an "irridologist" friend of my step-father came over and diagnosed me. I was told I had a weak lung, a toxin deposit, signs of bronchitis, too much body-fat and I should cut back on grease. When I heard all that, I immediately stopped paying attention. I dont want to worry about such things as bronchitis. And come-on, cut back from grease? we all know that aint happenin.. hehe! I do love my pork chops.. nyum3x!!! arrrr!!!

    End of Irrelevant Personnal Details

    This blog was meant to track my progress in the circles. But now that the circles are finished. I am losing things say. I dont really have too much ambition chess wise. Get to 1800 perhaps and someday meet morozevich's girlfriend. But apart from that, nothing high really.

    Maybe its time to play the guitar again?
    posted by Nezha at 8:23 PM | Permalink | 3 comments
    Sunday, July 03, 2005
    Why I'm not an 1800 player
    Recently I was analyzing why my rating is not in the 1800 range. Why it is fluctuating only in the 1700-1750 range. I feel I should be an 1800 player by now, because for one, my win-loss ratio against 1800++ players is a healthy 60-70%(estimate) - so I have reason to think that I should be in that range too, right?

    The problem is I would gain 11 points beating some 1800++ player, then turn around and lose 20 points to some 1550 player. So even though I actually win more than I lose, my rating points stays roughly the same.

    Ok, so figuring that out, I decided to analyze next why I lose to U1700 players. I should be obliterating them by now. What I found out was that the most common culprit in losing to such players, indeed the reason why I generally lose - was errors in calculation. I mean, most of the time, I would spot neat little tactical shots, and proceed to carry it out. But somewhere, in the midle of the combination, I would miss an important defense and the combination fails. This tells me something important -

    1. Tactical motiffs:
    Most of mygames, I spot a tactical motiff. Maybe I sometimes fail to exploit it - but the important thing is - at least I see them. So in this regard, I can say that the circles - and my continued work on tactical exercises are paying off. I am really pleased with the dvelopment of this particular chess ability.

    2. Candidate moves
    Here is the key weakness. Spotting a tactical motiff and generating an unrefutable forcing sequence are two separate things. In one of my loss, I carried out a 5-move combination, only to see the opponent do a quiet move that totally ruined my plans. I think that if I could just be more concious of the various defensive possibilities on the board, and have an aswer to everything, my rating will rise.

    Of course, not all my loses can be attributed to errors in calculation, but seeing as this is one where the solution is pretty straight forward.. so this is the one i'm gonna attend on..

    Sooo - in summary, this means I have to do yet another boat-load of work.. This time to strengthen my calculation skills. In my last post, I intimated that I intend to do the "hard" tactical exercises to develop this, but JavaManissa swears by mate studies as being better. Also, my research has shown that almost all grandmasters have recommended mate studies as a usefull learning tool. I have my doubts of course, but if Shirov does it, I figure I should give it a try.

    Go here for the material I am gonna use - EG: Mate Studies

    Of course fooling around with mate studies should in no way shape form or manner interrupt with the tactical exercises..
    A few hours ago, I went to the local bookstore, and my eyes nearly poped-out of their sockets. A whole bunch of new chess books have just arrived. The Art of Positional Play, The Middlegame in chess, Chess Endings, etc.. etc.. My hand nearly went to my wallet. Fortunately, I was able to control myself and not buy anything.. I dont have time for that stuff right now.. and if I add another set of books to my "Must Unread" book collection - the bookshelf will collapse..
    Seems our U1600 has won the round 3-1. A round of applause for everybody. And dont worry PawnSensei.. You'll win another one eventually.. =>
    A hello to CamC. I met him at FICS and it seems he is reading our blogs.. He is rated 2010 - so must really be strong. Hey CamC - lets play sometimes okay.. =>
    posted by Nezha at 9:54 PM | Permalink | 6 comments