As stated my last post, I am still alive! And though my current audience may well be very limited after such a long and unannounced break, I feel that it is time now to resume posting. Contrary to the posts I wrote up to now, I will focus less on general training issues. Future posts will mainly tell you about my own struggle to improve, or at least keep my current level.
This is a real struggle, and I would not dare to begin posting about it, if I hadn't proven to myself that I had the determination to give it the required effort. And I think I have. For 20 weeks I have been working through step 6 of the stepsmethod. Every week doing at least 3 sheets of 12 exercises (see the bottom of this post to check out the planning sheet). And I really feel the pay off. already I can sense that I have mastered a few skills that I did not before.
It is too soon to tell if this will have any influence on my rating, but I am convinced that in the long term it will. Provided that I will continue to train like this. For the next 20 weeks I know what I have to do.
As for the period after that I also have a precise plan on what to do. Then I will come to phase two of my struggle with step 6. Phase two is going through all the positions that I could not solve. These positions are the true treasure of my study plan. These are the position I could not solve, not even after trying for 20 to 30 minutes. Most of the time I could not solve them because I did not find or even know the pattern. Others I missed because I did not calculate well enough.
Just to give you an example of the latter I give you this position. It did not take me long to see the pattern, yet I failed to give the correct sequence because I missed a crucial defense. It is white to move and win.
(Here I immediately saw 1 c5 Bb1. After a few minutes I came up with 2 c6?! Be4 3 Ne6! and after 3 ... fxe6 c7! the pawn will queen. So 3 ... Bxc6 is forced, and now 4 Nd4+ appears to be winning. But unfortunately it is not. Black can play 4 .... Ke4 (I completely missed that move) and after 5 Nxc6 Kd5 it is not clear how white can win. Much, much better is 2 Ne6! fxe6 3 c6 and black is completely lost. Did you find this one? Congratulations if you did.)
So many of us (me included) are tempted to seek for improvement within our comfort zone. But this is not where it can be found. They are like all those people who think that they can do what Zen monks do, just by meditating every day and setting up a Buddhist altar in the living room. They love the beautiful and comfortable Zen, not the brutal and true Zen.
In chess terms: they play over games and analysis casually, read the narratives about the game, read the psychological bogus, and think that this laid back approach will make them stronger. But even if they learn, it does not mean that their skills improve. I have yet to see a correspondence course that will teach anyone a swim stroke like the butterfly.
There is no way around it. Improvement, for most of us, is hard work. In my humble opinion this is what chess training is all about. Struggling to add patterns and sharpening your calculation skills. It is a bit like Randy Pausch said in his brilliant Last Lecture. When you want to get at a certain place, but face a wall, remember that this wall is build to keep out the other people. And even when you are ready to break down the wall and get to it, it is still not certain that you have find the 1% of useful advise Temposchlucker refers to.
In spite of itself, Zen is what we are talking about when we talk about peeling away the many-layered fabric of false identity. If you take away all the trappings of Zen -the teachings and ceremonies, the different schools, the postures and the koans, everything you think of as Zen- and throw it in the fire. What survives? What is the true core of Zen after all its veins and vanities have burned away?
The fire! The fire is what's left. The fire is Zen.
(Jed McKenna, Spiritual Warfare)