Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Quick update on my slackiness

Because [insert irrelevant personal details of Blue Devil Knight's life], I have done no work on Tasc Chess Tutor (TCT) since last Thursday. I'll update this post when I finally get back to it. I hope it will be tonight, but because [insert more irrelevant personal details of BDK's life], it might not be until tomorrow. If I don't update in the next three days, feel free to cast aspersions in my general direction.

It's great to see the new Knights! I have often wondered how long the blogworld of the Knights Errant will last. A couple of years? Five years? Ten years? My guess is that the Knights Errant will be around for about 7250 years.

[Update 6/29: I finally fired up TCT again last night. Luckily for me, I happened to be on the test 'Practice shorthand algebraic notation', which was a nice way to start to ease back into things.]

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Welcome to Paradoxical Knight?

As Satish pointed out, another blogger has recently started on the MDLM path. Because of his URL, and because he really isn't even sure if he is, or wants to be, a Knight Errant, I think an appropriate name is the Paradoxical Knight. If he decides to be a Knight, that is (Knights are defined partly as people who want to be Knights, after all: I can't just start calling any blogger I want a Knight). I just wanted to get dibs on the naming :-).

Update: 6/22/05 Paradoxical Knight has jumped into the blogosphere, with a very sane and fun looking version of the circles: they take only one month. If he pulls it off, he'll probably be done before we have all put him into our sidebars!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Fell off the bandwagon yesterday

Last night I stayed up watching Columbo DVDs instead of working on the Chess Tutor. Oh well. Today I did three tests to make up for it. I need to put myself on a more strict schedule to be more productive, and I am not just talking about for chess! It is sometimes dangerous having a job where I can basically set my own hours and slack off if I have the urge. Don't get me wrong, I realize how lucky I am to have such a job, but I need to be more conscientious about regimenting my day.

I have finished the first 200 problems in Step 2 of TCT, and am plugging away at the next 200. It still amazes me how I can sit there for 5 minutes staring at a board position with no more than 4 pieces, and still have no idea what to do!

Blue Devil bows to Caissa.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A little less chaotic, a bit more vision

I am re-working through a set of problems in Step 2 of Tasc Chess Tutor (TCT). In the test I just did, the task was to capture or lure away a piece defending an otherwise undefended piece. I got 66% my first time around (about 3 weeks ago), and 100% today! More importantly I am starting to appreciate how this skill will help me in real games. When first starting to play, the board was a horrifying chaos to my untrained eye: there were so many possibilities and I had no clue how to evaluate most of them. I had no idea what pieces to move in the opening, and in the middle game I thought I had to find complicated multi-move combinations to win. I would try foolish combinations, ones which I knew probably wouldn't work. I failed to appreciate that good moves are often the result of finding simple weaknesses in my opponent's position, such as an underdefended piece. I am beginning to appreciate that in most games at my beginner level, 4-ply depth of thinking is not usually needed. I can use simpler stratagems like looking for weakly defended pieces and try to snag them using basic tactics (this is one aspect of another insight: don't try to rush mate, but develop). That dizzying chaos is slowly getting trimmed down into slightly less horrifying, and more more manageable, sets of candidate moves.

The insights are coming not like a ton of bricks all at once, but more like a very complicated game of Tetris where I get the piece to fit just every now and then. As the Knights said, the insights come faster, ironically, when I slow down and really chew on each problem, and force myself to look for better moves or countermoves when I think I've found a good move (sometimes literally making myself take my hand off the mouse and grip the table so I don't impulsively make a move).


Also, I have taken the Knights' advice and slowed down my games, so now I am chewing up most of the time on my game clock. I also stopped playing when tired. This has helped: I enjoy the games more, seem to learn more from them, and even manage to win a little more too. I still suck, and make stupid mistakes, but I am having more fun making them...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Chess in the real world

Partly based on a comment by Margriet, I finally got up the gumption to go into the real world for some chess today. Every Saturday the Borders Chess Club meets from 2-6PM in nearby Cary, North Carolina. I played a couple of games. In the first I didn't play well at all: I jittery and made a lot of blunders. The second was much more competitive, though still a loss. (If you came by the blog to visit, Spencer, hi and thanks for the games!) Overall I liked the atmosphere a lot: very low key and the people were quite friendly and helpful. The club attracts people with a wide variety of playing skills, not just a bunch of experts who will just smoke me every week. I take one day a week off from the Divine Tragedy, and may start making it Saturdays!

Also, at another book store every Thursday night a local chess guru gives a lecture where he walks the audience through a famous game! I have been once (showed up late, so missed most of the lecture), and it was great: I love hearing (as opposed to just reading) good players explain moves, especially basic elements of positional play. After the lecture, people pair off into games of chess. I hope to squeeze this into my schedule as much as possible.

I now see potential I hadn't thought of before when I decided to start playing chess three months ago: there is a global network of people, so that no matter what city I move to, there will surely be a group of folks I can hook up with to play chess, and more importantly, with which to fraternize.

Also, I have added the Kenilworth Chess Club to my sidebar: they have a great site, with many useful links (even annotated links to all the blogs of the Knights Errant!).

Friday, June 03, 2005

Tragedy Tuning

For my first precircle in the Divine Tragedy, I have been working through Tasc Chess Tutor (TCT) for about a month now: great stuff so far, if humbling. I have decided to tweak how I work through TCT, partly inspired by the many Knights who enjoy working minicircles. I am going to do TCT in 200 problem chunks instead of 400 problem chunks, which I have been doing. (What this means is that at the end of 200 problems I have to go back and redo those sections in which I scored below 80% on any test.) As I approach the end of the second set of 400 problems (Step 2 in TCT), I realize I have started to lose some momentum. Hopefully this addendum will help me stay motivated and perhaps even to learn the material faster. I'm sure that 8 out of 10 learning theorists would agree :)

To those of you who did Circle 1 by working through all of CT-Art with no stops, no mini-circles: my hat's off to you. I don't know how you kept motivated in the higher Levels!

Incidentally, I have been thinking about getting a chess tutor. I am an abject beginner, so it could help a lot. However, I am committed to the Tragedy and am worried he would want me to do a bunch of work that would steal time from MDLM. I work full time, am married, have a puppy (no kids), and really don't want to spend more than 90 minutes a day using this chess drug. Perhaps I'll wait until the Tragedy is over and see how I feel then.