Sunday, August 30, 2009
Reassessing my chess
Having been away from playing for close to two years, I am in a position where I'm having to learn again. I've forgotten almost all the things i previously studied. It seems that chess is not like bicycle where you keep what you learn forever. On top of it all, I'm so slow in calculating that i am continuously reminded of a frozen river. Like its water that flows so slowly, so do the variations come in like manner.

Though the good thing is I've unlearned the bad habits I have before. It is quite liberating to not know anything and to be open to ideas.

But lately, I feel as if I'm starting to get trapped again on the same cycle I was before. And so, before the habits form I am stopping all chess learning activity. This includes reading books, analyzing games, etc.

I feel that this is the wrong way to go about things. In life there is a proper time and a proper sequence to do everything under the sun. And reading chess books is not the first thing to do in order to improve.

"'Begin at the beginning"', the king said, very gravely, "and go till you come to the end: then stop"
Alice in Wonderland

The very first thing that I aught to study is to learn how to remove simple blunders. Even once per game. Failing to cure this will limit me and chess will forever be succession of heartaches.

But how to remove such things? If it was so easy it wouldn't be eating me on the insides.

You might already gave an inkling as to what is the answer to such a question. It is after all the theme of my recent posts. But I found that the concept was too vague and too simplistic. So I reassessed it and came away with the following system.

But first a curious fact:
My chess moves are done at an average of one per minute.

Imagine, I cant even solve medium difficulty tactical puzzles in that time. Why do I then move at such a speed? (I would weep, but for the fact that most of my opponents move even faster. It is not uncommon that at the end of the game they would have gained minutes from whence we started. Take a look at my last game. Pay attention to the clock.)

This is not the only thing that ills my chess, but it is a good place to start. And so, from here I begin.

1. Looking around is more important than looking ahead.

I am henceforth forcing myself to NOT calculate. The first minute will be spent looking at the board. Just looking around and searching if there is a tactic on. Something that is going on RIGHT NOW. Not three moves later, but right now. So questions like - Do I have an immediate capture? Does he have an immediate capture? - and the like should be answered satisfactorily. Only then shall I think about something else.

CJS Purdy called looking like this the true fundamental of chess. And what to look for is as written in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Some things are hooey,
and most others lies;
But forks you mustn't miss,
nor pins, nets, ties.

2. Playing around the opponents pieces.

In close relation to the above, I will move my opponents pieces. What are the squares that his knight can go to one or two moves ahead? What about the queen? The bishop? What pawn moves can he do?

Now an important thing to note is that I will do this from left to right. Irregardless of what piece he moved beforehand. Left to right, wax in, wax out. This is to break my train of thought. To step away from the position so to speak and try to look at it in an objective dispassionate eye.

For indeed, there were many games i lost because I concentrated too hard on what my opponent just did. What happens in this case is that I tend to zoom on a corner of a board and forgot about the rest. Missing important defensive moves or worse, realizing all too late that the point of the move was on another sector of the board altogether.

3. Before doing the move physically, move it first from my mind

The selection of candidate moves and judgement and planning I will leave at this time to intuition. But what is more important is that before moving physically - I move it first from my mind. Checking again. checking again. Perhaps I missed something. Check, check check.

As was said - 'Only the paranoid survives'

Now, it is time to ask - does it look like I can do all this in under 1 minute? Can I really check that fast? If not, then why oh why oh why do my hand reaches out to a pawn like a lover. Impatiently grasping it and tenderly moving into another square. Only to find out that it was all a mistake and that love that was so sweet finally in the end turns into dust.

I must discipline my thoughts and my self. I must not fall into a hazy mind fog at any time of the game. I need to think, think, think. Check, check, check. Like a brook in a stream in an echo of a dream.

It sounds so simple, this three. Anyone should be able to do it. Aye, but that is not the issue here. The issue here is not if any half-wit can do it, but rather if this particular half-wit be able to?

That would be next
posted by Nezha at 10:34 PM | Permalink |


  • At 12:53 PM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight

    Great stuff, so much like my experience after time away. My understanding of strategy stays, my eye for blunders decays and needs to be maintained. Tactics will be the death of me.

  • At 12:53 PM, Anonymous darkhorse

    Congratulations, this is an outstanding post.

    I came back to chess recently, and my chess is severely hindered by blunders and thought-process inertia, exactly the stuff that you are discussing. Your post is well beyond the "you need to blundercheck" advice, making concrete, logical suggestions to overcome the basic problems. As if that were not enough, you "quoted" the Rubaiyat. I'm overwhelmed by the feeling of kinship.

    Well done, sir. You have gained a faithful reader.

  • At 2:37 PM, Blogger chesstiger

    Something simple to do when its your move. First look at a move for your oponent. What would your opponent play if it was his move. With other words, look at the new position with a null move from you (you dont move) and its your opps move again. That way you can figure out what you opp is up to.

    Second look at the captures, checks and threats your opp has.

    Combine the two and then find the best move against any threats or try to improve your own position.

  • At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Chunky Rook

    Great blog, great post, great advice. I think "checks and captures" combined with moving your opponents pieces prevents a lot of blunders. What I forget to do, too, is to look at all of *my* move possibilites, and I'm trying to force myself to move every single piece on the board in my mind rather than leaping on the one or two move candidates that stand out. Not the most efficient method of analysis, for sure, but otherwise I'm prone to blunder by simply overlooking a strong move I might have had.

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