maandag 24 maart 2008

A framework of chess improvement.

For a chess player self knowledge is the key to improvement and getting your rating up. The illustration below is an attempt to distinguish the elements that determine your strength, results and rating.

I would like to hear form readers of this blog what they think of this framework. Do you miss something? Are the elements clear? Any other comment? any questions? To the adjusted framework that results form your comments, I want to related the methods of learning and training that I will suggest in the future.

So please, be ruthless and blunt. But above all, be honest and clear. Make sure that I think of everything, when I adjust and complete my framework of chess improvement. For the benefit of all!

vrijdag 21 maart 2008

The birth of a Motorskill (a small tribute to Temposchlucker)

Before I started blogging I had a very extensive email exchange with Temposchlucker on chess improvement. Some of this is reflected in his last posts. A central topic in these emails was "motorskills". In this post Tempschlucker tried to explain what these skills were.

For reasons outside chess, Temposchlucker has decided to give blogging a rest. And although I understand that life can force a person to prioritise other activities than chess, I hope that the following occurrence will motivate him someday to resume where he left the blogosphere.

My wife and I have two sons, 6 and 4 years old. I do not actively endorse them to play chess. They are more inclined to engage in physical activity. But of course they see me play chess and sometimes, spontaneously, they are interested and ask me about the movement of the pieces. very occasionally they take it a step further and do some exercises of the first step of the stepsmethod (movement of pieces). The "chess" game they like to play most is "Troyis". A game that is all about knight moves.

A few days ago I had the position below on screen. My eldest son walked by, looked at the position and said: "Hey dad look, the knight can take the rook." As patient and understanding as I am, I replied with: "No L, that is not a rook, but a bishop". Or at least I tried to say that, because half way he interrupted me and said, pointing at the screen: "look, first there (f2) and then there (h1).

I was struck! Because I think I have witnessed the birth of a motorskill of my son. Something I would never have perceived in the same way without the discovery of these skills by Temposchlucker. Therefor Tempo I dedicate this post to you!

Thank you!

Me and my sons "castling Seaside"

dinsdag 18 maart 2008

Look closer

In the next position it is white to move, what should he play?

You can see the solution if you highlight the space between the brackets. (Whites strongest move is 1 c3 (1 Bd2 is an okay move and leads to an even position after 1 ... Bxa5 2 Bxa5) after which Black is forced to play 1 ...Bxa5 which gives white the possibility to play 2 Bg5! and white is better: e.g. 2 ... Nf6 3 exf6 gxf6 4 Ne5! 0-0 5 Bh6 fxe5 6 Qg4 Kf8 7 Qg7+ and white wins material.)

I missed this today when solving this position. What really bothered me that I hadn't seen the second move at all!! I really felt caught with my pants on my knees when I saw the solution, because suddenly I realised that I had not followed the single advice I give to almost all my students all the tiime: search for targets. Had I done this then I certainly would have spotted the immobilised and vulnerable position of the queen on d8.

This is a major problem for all us patzers. We think, calculate, judge, plan etc. But we forget to do the most important thing in chess, to look, to look closer!

zondag 16 maart 2008

3 tempi is not (always) a pawn

The book Point Count Chess states that three tempi is equivalent to a pawn. In an earlier post I gave a method that was endorsed by Purdy on how to count development. So one could be tempted to use a combinations of these methods to judge positions.

I do not recommend that. The Purdy method is an excellent rule of thumb to measure the difference in development. But the weight this has compared to other factors, depends very much on the situation on the board.

As a general rule it can be said that development and activity have most relevance in open positions. In closed positions where the pawn structure is the dominating factor development is less important. This rule is illustrated in the graph below.

I will give two positions to illustrate this rule. The first position is taken from the Danish gambit. White has a deficit of two pawns, and a plus of three tempi (two moves to finish development, black 5). According to Point Count Chess, black should have a advantage, yet current theory gives the position as clearly better for white.

In the next position white also needs two more moves to complete development and black five. Material is even, and despite the advantage in development white has, theory gives this position as approximately even.

The difference between these two position is, that in the first position there is no heavy pawn structure. For this reason three tempi make up for more than two pawns. In the second position it is all about pawn structure, causing the difference in development to have no significance for the evaluation of the position.

maandag 3 maart 2008

Why dislike playing a won position?

In this post Drunknknight gives a beautiful and honest game commentary in which he expresses his frustration about his own play as well as his opponents stubbornness in a lost position. When I read this I got the feeling that in the last phase of the game the main thought on his mind was: "resign, you fool".

I have had to deal with this problem myself in the past. Sometimes even throwing away points, because I started calculating rating points that would be gained instead of variations. But now I have more or less fixed this problem. The remedy that worked for me was adjusting my impatient attitude. When I have a won position this is my attitude:

  1. I focus on enjoying the game and forget about the points to be gained.
  2. I thank my opponent in silence for allowing me to play on in a winning position.
  3. I look for the very best move. There is so much choice when you have a won position. Picking the one that hurts your opponent the most is really a lot of fun.
  4. I don't speed. There is no reason to do this. My position is great, I don't resent looking at it. My opponent probably will.
  5. I realise that my calm yet determined attitude will destroy all hope my opponent has that I might get careless. I keep in mind that he has a really miserable position, and that he will have a hard time looking at it, especially when nothing happens (somehow a lost position is less painfull when you are making moves). He won't be the first that selfdestructs if I take my time to find the best moves.

This attitude really works for me. Not only did I drop the habit of occasionally drawing or even losing won games, I also get more pleasure out of winning these positions.

If you, like I did, experience problems with winning "won" games, try to enjoy the process of winning more than the points after the game. If it won't pull you straight, it will get you on the right track.