Friday, December 30, 2005

Chess Openings for Black, Explained

I just got what looks to be a great opening book by Alburt, Dzindzichashvili, and Perelshteyn. It's title is the title of this post. They recommend the accelerated dragon against e4. I don't even know what that means yet...The book is very novice-friendly, though, so I should know soon enough.

Here are some quotes:

Book Hype
The chances are extremely high that this book will give you the best opening foundation you've ever had. You'll understand the ideas we present so well that you're likely to be surprised at the innovations you come up with on your own. And in the process of trying to find better and more interesting moves, you will of course constantly increase your understanding of your openings and of chess. (p. 20)

The 25% Rule (p. 18, emphasis mine)
Opening study just doesn't deserve to be so all-consuming, especially for nonprofessionals, for two basic reasons:

1. There are lots of other areas to study in chess that will make a more dramatic difference in your results--just one compelling example is the study of tactics.
2. There have been many grandmasters who became prominent, even world-class players, using an opening system roundly condemned as at least slightly inferior.

As a rule of thumb, you should spend about 25% of your chess study time on openings.

Don't be a "switcher"
Getting caught up in the switching syndrome---jumping from opening to opening, memorizing and getting discouraged, and never making much use of all the time you've invested--is as impractical as it gets. (p. 17)

The next time you are tempted to switch your opening because the latest Informant game shows how the world champ beat a tournament tailgater in 40 moves--think it over. There isn't a line that wouldn't look bad in such a match-up. And when you lose in the city championship to a smartly played mating attack by the ultimate winner, don't rush to blame the opening. The reason for your loss may lie elsewhere. (p. 20)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Halfway through my tutoring sessions!

After more than six months of hitting the 64 squares almost every day, I am finally halfway through Tasc Chess Tutor (TCT), my first step in The Divine Tragedy. I am working through this excellent program (see description here) once, very slowly, to build up general knowledge of chess as well as elementary calculation skills. Only after this precircle, and working through a couple of Seirewan's chess books, will I do the actual circles with Chess Tactics For Beginners.

So far, in OTB I think it has helped me most in finding mate: it has trained me to place a high value on my opponent's precious King escape squares, reinforcing time and again that the ultimate goal is to eliminate all such squares while putting the enemy in check. It is also teaching me to relax and look at the entire board, as TCT often hides bishops and the like in sneaky places, aiming him toward squares you really would like to aim for. Kudos to King of the Spill for having the heart to work through TCT for his circles: with over 2000 problems, that is quite a feat!

Finally, as I've mentioned already I've been playing a lot more at Playsite than ICC. This has been a great experience. At ICC, it is hard to really gauge my progress because I am so low on the totem pole that I am kinda just bouncing around at the bottom of the heap: there aren't enough crappy players at the site to get a range of players at similar levels (for those of you who don't suck, imagine if ICC was filled with 2000-rated players, and imagine that those in your rating level were still kicking your ass all the time). At Playsite, things are very different. Probably a third of the players are patzers, so there are more people close to my level. Six months ago, I was stuck in the bottom rung at Playsite (this was the main motivation for taking on these crazy circles), with my rating in the 'green' (the lowest) range. The colors go from green-blue-purple-orange-red. Today, I actually became purple at Playsite, and am able to take on people in the middle of the range there. I figure if (and when) I'm orange at Playsite, I will probably be better poised to pack up and play exclusively at ICC. I still play my slow (20-10) games at ICC, though, as people at Playsite don't usually want to play more than 10-0.

Anyway, thanks to TCT for helping me with my chess, and to these blogs that help me stay motivated to keep at it! Nuts to dollars, TCT is the best money I have spent on chess.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Back on the battlefield

I've been back in the saddle for about a week. Surprisingly, the time off didn't seem to adversely affect my chess. I'm doing pretty well on the Chess Tutor, learning lots of new stuff with each module (for instance, pawn endgames, which is a weakness of mine). I've also been having lots of fun playing online (still mostly at Playsite).

A friend from San Diego (now Oregon) and I have been playing a couple of times a week. It is a lot of fun, as we are pretty evenly matched. We play untimed games so we can chat and have fun while playing. Games like this make all this crazy practice worthwhile. Also, I finally beat a 1200+ player for the first time at ICC. In all fairness, he should have had me: he missed a mate in one, but I'll take wins any way I can get 'em!

It's good to be back. To blogging, that is. My trip to Brazil was cancelled, for annoying reasons I don't even want to go into because I'll just get extraordinarily pissed off.