Thursday, April 07, 2005

de la Maza, my hero!

[Update 5/5/05: See this post for my actual program. I wrote this before I had actually started working!]
I just finished reading de la Maza's book, and while I hate to jump on any sort of bandwagon, the book is eminently reasonable from a psychological perspective. When I started playing six weeks ago, I bought a few books. Most of them were way over my head (e.g., Pawn Structure Chess, by Soltis) and seemed to involve a lot of memorization of lines and names rather than pattern recognition. de la Maza's book, Rapid Chess Improvement, thankfully inverts this pedagogically backwards style, focusing almost exlusively on building up pattern recognition skills. Exactly what a beginner like me needs!

So here I am, a new initiate into the Knights Errant, that twisted group of jesters aiming at chess improvement via a masochistic regimen . Here is the version of the de la Maza inspired program I aim to work through, starting Saturday April 10:
1. Vision drills (~6 weeks)
a) Concentric squares (~2 weeks)
b) Knight sight (~2 weeks)
c) Knight flight (~2 weeks)
2. Five Circles (~20 weeks : 1000 tactical problems, each done five times!)
Circle 1: 10 weeks
Circle 2: 5 weeks
Circle 3: 2.5 weeks
Circle 4: 9 days
Circle 5: 5 days
Realistically, I plan on working 5-6 days a week, 30 to 90 minutes a day. Also, I plan to take one day a week to do no training, but just to play actual games. This is because I have a tendency to get too into problem solving and then become stressed about playing an actual game of chess! I can't let myself get scared to lose. I need to lose a lot to get better at this game.

I have one question the Knights Errant might be able to help with: I am not sure where to get the chess problems for the Five Circles. I am trying to decide between books and computer programs. As for computer programs, CT-ART is too advanced for me, and seems to have all sorts of problems that other people have pointed out. Any other suggestions? How about Chess Mentor or TASC Chess Tutor?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would always, always, always recommend books. Something tangible, that you can carry around is, in my experience, much more helpful. Computer interfaces and programs are great, but actually reading through a tactics book, with all notes, etc. is, in my opinion, the best way to go... something about the physical experience of progressing through a book... At any rate, that is my suggestion. Lev ALburt has a good handbook out which I cannot offhandedly remember the title of, otherwise any entry-level tactic book is a good start.

4/08/2005 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Pawnsensei said...

I've ordered Chess Mentor and it's in the mail hopefully. It's a great program that's a cross between a book and a chessboard. It's the closest thing to a book that works on your weaknesses that I've seen. Have you tried the demo yet? I use both books and software. BTW, welcome aboard.


4/08/2005 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Welcome to the Knights!

To add to your confusion:
Tasc Chess Tutor is very good for the REAL beginner. The lessons are very good and the problems start at a very beginnerslevel too. It helped Margriet from rating 1171 to 1417, and it is gonna help her to about 1550-1600 I estimate.
The point with books is that you have to set up the positions on the board everytime, which after some time becomes really annoying.

4/08/2005 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Hi everyone and thanks a lot for the help and encouragement. I just spent an hour of my precious Friday night researching software for chess tactics. Here is what I found:

CT-ART 3.0 (the Art of Chess Tactics) is what everyone knows about. I have read criticisms of some of its choices amongst the Knights, and besides it is too hard for me.

Chess Tactics for Beginners and Intermediates, each has over 1000 puzzles. According to this review of Chess Tactics for Beginners, it includes helpful statistics. They go for $26 each.

Intensive course tactics and Intensive tactics II each include thousands of problems in more than 100 databases. This review claims that the results of the problems aren't compiled into statistics for you to monitor your progress. Other than that, though, the reviewer had high praise for the software. They are each $27.

Tasc Chess Tutor seems popular amongst the Knights, even though everyone says it starts out very basic (e.g., make a legal move with the bishop). It goes for about $30.

Chess Mentor allows for five different options that range from absolute beginner level to advanced. The demo looks pretty good. Prices range from $20 to $330 (the full package that includes everything). The $80 Comprehensive Chess Course in particular looks cool. In addition to providing over 800 challenges, there are lots of modules you can add on when your wallet starts to get too heavy.

Chess Workouts Volumes 1 & 5: Tactical thinking & More tactical thinking. $16.95 each, with 300 puzzles each. The first set of puzzles is apparently for beginners, with the second set geared toward slightly more advanced beginners.

4/08/2005 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger Pawnsensei said...


Wow, you should seriously turn that last one into a post to help other people out.


4/08/2005 10:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used Chess Tactics for Beginners, and think that it's a good way to get started. It starts pretty easy with one-move mates, and by level 5, it's endgames with an advantage, and up to 3-move mates. It also divides the mates up by which piece delivers the mate. I found that this really helps seeing how the different pieces work together.
There are very few (less than 10 I've found so far) incorrect solutions. Whenever I had a question about why a move was incorrect, it was easy to fire up Crafty from the problem's beginning and see why the move that I chose was bad.

4/11/2005 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks, anonymous!

4/11/2005 04:06:00 PM  

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