Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yep. I still stink at chess.

This damned balance thing. When I focus on openings too much, I get weaker in the middle game. When I am doing tactical exercises, I get weaker in the opening. I can't wait until the circles are over. I'm gonna need a repertoire as white. I'm gonna need to work a lot on getting my thinking process working on every move. I'm gonna have to play (and lose) a lot of games, and review them.

I am in the middle of circle 1. Why am I already sick of the circles?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Passivity is Death. Fritz is Life.

For the past couple of weeks, I have finally started a database of annotated games in Fritz. This analysis is really helpful, and I am not allowing myself to play another game at ICC until I've finished analyzing my last twenty games. So far I've done about twelve.

My biggest problem is not subtle: I don't consider sequences of moves resulting from captures and checks. I also don't consider simple threats like pushing a pawn forward to attack a piece. This is because I play passively, slowly trying to build up a good position, which means I overlook elementary material considerations. I need to emphasize material considerations in my board evaluation (Step 2 of my thought process), and more carefully think through the consequences of all checks and captures (Step 3 of my thought process).

The sticking point that was holding me back from building this database was that I was confused about how to do some things in Fritz. I'll list them here, and describe how to do them so nobody else can use the same excuses:
1) Saving multiple games in a single database. This is easy. In the menu, click File-->Save As, and save the game you want as a ".cbh" file (not pgn). Then, other games can be saved the same way. You would think this would overwrite the previous work, but it simply appends it so the previous games in the same file will not be affected.
2) Deleting games. This is harder. Right click in the database window (which comes up with F12) on the game you want deleted, and click 'Edit-->Delete'. The game will still be there, but with a line through its name (and note, if you saved your stuff as .pgn, this won't work: it has to be .cbh). To actually delete it, you must then go to Tools-->Database-->Remove Deleted Games. This two-step process is a safety net.
3) Adding commentary. Again, easy. Right click on the move in Fritz's move window, and then click 'Text after move' or 'Text before move' to add the commentary.

I do all my analysis after running blundercheck for both sides, with the threshold set to 0 and 'Store evaluation' checked, so I get a nifty evaluation profile. That way, when analyzing the game I really take my time and think about what I did wrong when the profile jumps against me.

I have one question for the Fritz experts out there: anyone know how to remove the Fritz annotation of all the moves in a game without also removing the evaluation profile? When I do 'Delete Fritz Commentary' in the move window, Fritz also removes the damned evaluation profile! Hence I have to go through each move and remove the Fritz commentary by hand. It is really tedious for long games. I prefer my own commentary, and that provided with the help of the infinite analysis move suggestions, rather than the commentary provided by blundercheck. The evaluation profile feature, while helpful, is annoyingly sensitive to the most minor parameter changes.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lost at sea

Not sure how many I've done on Circle 1: I switched to my laptop so I could do problems wherever I want, so in the next few days I'll need to coordinate the stats from my desktop and those from my laptop. Unless someone knows how to import player stats in Convekta software like CT-Art.

I'm finally interested in my work again since I stopped working on a project I simply hated. Hence, chess is becoming a much less important part of my life. In other words, it was a drug I was using to escape how much work sucked. But I will finish these circles...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Circle 1, Day 6

Finished mate in one problems. Now on basic tactics, e.g., forks. Good stuff.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done1590000000
% Correct98nanananananana

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Circle 1, Day 4

First, congrats to Salcido for finishing his circles! Way to go, man! It's been a while since a Knight Victorious has emerged, and he deserves bonus points for writing his own software to perform them. Who will be next? My bet: King of the Spill.

130 down, 589 to go in circle one. Still just mate in one exercises, with a few more of those to go. While generally easy (I solve most of them in well under a minute), the exercises are well-chosen to illustrate the power of piece coordination in mating. In my games, I typically use a couple of pieces to mate. I should be coordinating more of them in my king attacks. CTB is great software for the novice.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done1300000000
% Correct98nanananananana

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Circle 1, Day 2

All mate in one problems so far.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done900000000
% Correct98nanananananana

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Midway in the journey of my life
I came upon a checkered wood,
for my critical period was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh --
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw.
It has been one year, almost to the day, since I started this crazy quest (see my naively optimistic first day here). Since I just finished Wolff's book, it is time to jump into the Circles. My goal is to master the alphabet of tactics, the simplest tactical motifs, to the point where I can do them without thinking.

As outlined in The Divine Tragedy, I am using Convekta's Chess Tactics for Beginners (hereafter CTB). It has 1300 problems split into 5 Stages of increasing difficulty. At each stage, you can either work through the problems sorted by theme or randomly.

Circle 1: Stages 1 to 3 of CTB (719 problems). Work through them organized by theme so that I know what I am supposed to be doing (e.g., rook to mate in one). Max time: 10 min/problem. Focus on thinking and getting it right, not speed.
Circle 2 (5 weeks): Same problems as in Circle 1, but randomized in each stage so I don't know the theme on each problem. Max time: 10 minutes/problem. Again, focus on accuracy, not speed.
Circle 3 (5 weeks): Stages 4 and 5 (593 problems) from CTB using same criteria as in Circle 1.
Circle 4 (5 weeks): Same problems as Circle 3, using same criteria as Circle 2.
Circle 5 (4 weeks): All 1312 problems from CTB. Max time 5 minutes/problem.
Circle 6 (2.5 weeks): All problems from CTB. Max time 3 minutes/problem.
Circle 7 (2 days): All problems. Max 1.5 minutes/problem.
Circle 8 (1 day): All problems. Max 45 seconds/problem.

Virgil, we must turn left into this most darkest of places. The Casa de la Maza.

Sorry, Dante.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So it begins

Circle 1: Chess Tactics for Beginners (CTB), Stages 1-3 (719 problems organized by theme).

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done300000000
% Correct96nanananananana

Friday, April 07, 2006

Caissa: a great ego deflator

I have been finding Wolff's problems on weak squares pretty difficult. I guess that's because I hadn't thought about 'em much before. Also, I am very busy with work so have been very tired when I get home. My admiration for those of you who held down full-time jobs while finishing the circles continues to grow. I hope I can manage it.

I have had a string of crappy games, too. This is partly because I have been trying to incorporate some of the new info from Wolff into my games (space, weak squares, etc). Hopefully it means I am migrating to a new local maximum in my skills. I have noticed in other Knights that this often entails taking a few hits on the way.