Sunday, October 09, 2005

Six Month Evaluation

Well, I've been a Knight Errant for a little over six months now (I started the vision drills on April 9). Initially, I thought it would take me just a few months to learn a few simple algorithms for chess mastery and thereby become an excellent chess player. Wrong! I truly had no idea what I was getting into.

My original goal was to get to the point where I enjoy chess and can play it recreationally online without getting my butt handed to me every game. I have reached that point. In fact, that only took me a couple of months. However, the complexity of the game still appears as a fractal to my mind. While I am not happy with my rating, I am happy with my progress. Chess will be a friend I can return to as long as my mind stays sharp.

Rather than jump fully into the Circles I decided to work through the Tasc Chess Tutor program first to get some general chess background and learn to recognize some elementary patterns. This has been very helpful, teaching me basic endgame, opening, and tactical motifs so far (for instance, I had never heard of mentally drawing the 'pawn square' to see if a pawn can outrace a king). These rules of thumb are very handy in real games, as they allow me to devote precious cognitive resources to worrying about other things.

Looking over my losses in actual games, one of my biggest problems is that I move too quickly. In Heisman's terminology, I still play Hope Chess rather than Real Chess (here is Heisman's article on this). My goal for the next six months is to read that article once a week and to try to make the transition to Real Chess (I am putting a permanent link to the article on my sidebar). Hope Chess is a self-sabotage that keeps me from putting the (small bit of) knowledge I have gained into practice.

Sometimes I get really sick of working through the problems, especially when I am getting my ass kicked on a problem the second or third time I have seen it! In fact, a few days ago I wrote that I might take a hiatus from the Divine Tragedy. That was written during a brief moment of irrational despair during a string of losses. The comments I got were helpful, and I hope to be discussing my progress in the actual tactical Circles in Chess Tactics for Beginners at my next six-month update. I figure, once I have played 2000 games at ICC, if my rating is still hovering around 1000, then I will have been doing something seriously wrong in my training. At this point, with only 130 games under my belt (including 49 wins, 77 losses, and 4 draws), any stories about my chess demise are a bit premature.

Thanks to the Knights for your help and for providing general comraderie and a dose of humor to the mix. Above all, chess is a game: it will never be a profession for me. Hence, I always want it to be fun and relaxing, and the Knights errant help it remain so and help me get perspective when I am down. Also, my wife Julia has been steadfastly encouraging and supportive of this weird new addiction I picked up during our first year of marriage.

Onward Rocinante, my trusty steed. Gather my supplies, Sancho. There are windmills to be felled!

12 Comments:

Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

Great post! How about those games you play on ICC? Have they all been slow games of atleast equal time controls? Or is it a mix of things? Such as Blitz, Bullet, Rapid and Standard alltogether? Cause in that case it will be hard to figure out what the real issue is. Keep it up!

10/09/2005 01:30:00 AM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

Hmm maybe that was a unnecessary question, asking about your games since their categorized i believe :)

10/09/2005 01:32:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Almost all of my games are Standard with 25/10 or 30/0 time controls. That is what my rating on the sidebar is based on. If I go much shorter, I don't have enough time. If I go much longer, it becomes hard to find people to play.

Sometimes I'll play a blitz game or even Fischer chess to liven things up.

10/09/2005 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Siliconpawn said...

Take the time to download and analyze your own games that you have played on ICC. Most writers on chess improvement stress game analysis as the most important factor in improvement. Even MDLM has a large portion of his book devoted to using Fritz for post game analysis.

10/09/2005 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Deveil Knight,

I can recommend www.slowchess.com for really slow games.

The controls are really, really slow - I play 30 day 2 day controls and the whole site is designed for STC players.

I usually have around 6 games going at a time, but with such slow time controls, I always have more than enough time.

I use the Stoyko and PV methods in these games so I can develop a good analytical sense.

Of course, eventually you are going to have to get a coach. Even with all my reading and playing, some things you simply aren't going to learn on your own easily.

10/10/2005 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Siliconpawn: I finally figured out how to Fritz my games so that I get an evaluation profile (I couldn't find it in their horrible instruction manual, but I found it online here). Now, with all losses at least, I'll run it through Fritz to find out where the "big change" is in the evaluation profile.

I ran it with my most recent loss and the reason for the loss was because I missed a basic queen-bishop mating pattern. More reinforcement that I need to study basic tactical and mating patterns, and more motivation to continue with the Divine Tragedy.

Jim: I suppose it would be better from a didactic standpoint to play correspondence chess, but unfortunately I just can't stand correspondence chess. I don't have the patience for it, at least presently.

10/10/2005 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

Huzzah Blue Devil! Huzzah! Nice post and recap of your experiences. For a bit there I thought it was leading up to the classic "...well I've enjoyed things, it's been fun, but I think I want to try windsurfing/guitar/oragami/other lesser activity"

10/10/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger King of the Spill said...

Great post, glad we were able to help. It seems that many of us suffer from h a s t e too.

Another thing you wrote that really resonates with me is how work in the circles leads to enjoying games more.

10/11/2005 03:11:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

one of my biggest problems is that I move too quickly

I have never understand this. At our club, most beginners are sitting at the bar at 9 o'clock. How can someone lose with still more than an hour to go at his clock? You see how complex chess is. So if you move fast, it is probably wrong. Where does this urge to move anyway come from?

10/11/2005 04:19:00 AM  
Blogger Druss said...

Keep at it!

I too suffer from the moving too quickly. Sometimes this is because I'm bored of thinking, and sometimes it is because I'm in that frame of mind. Quite often a run of blitz or bullet chess on ICC gets that out of my system. Nothing quite like trying to play 1 0!

The bored thing is more tricky. Sometimes it is just too much effort to think, because I'm not seeing anything decisive. Ct Art helps with that - focusing on mating patterns.

As everyone else says though, analysing your games is great. I used to think I played strategic chess until I did this. Then I found that I lost most of my games to blunders - missed mates or knight forks. Indeed at one stage I started thinking of my bishops purely as knight elimination tools!

10/11/2005 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Siliconpawn said...

At the critical point in games that I have lost not only do I make my moves too fast I also develop what I call tunnel vision. When I'm in the tunnel vision mode I am focusing only on one move and have forgotten to scan the rest of the board and consider alternative moves.
MDLM says that even after learning tactics he didn't start to win until he reorder his thought process for every move.

10/12/2005 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger phorku said...

I really like your chess blog. The games you play are really short for me. I prefer 30 30 or longer games. If you have trouble finding longer games perhaps you should join another team. I still play hope chess too to some degree since by definition to play real chess you have to do it on every move. I also usually give my plan most of the evaluation. I also suffer from tunnel vision and often get burned on the long diagonals. It is tough to be mentally disciplined on every move. I sometimes move too quickly especially when I am following a calculated sequence of moves. Since I don't calculate that well I end up getting in trouble. I wish I had had a study program when I started playing. 2000 games is a lot of games. I have only played 996 standard games on FICS and 303 blitz games in 10 years. Jeez where does the time go. Thanks for the compliment you left on my blog. If you keep studying and playing your rating will be up in no time. I earned most of my points the hard way.

10/12/2005 11:16:00 PM  

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