Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A tournament for me?

I've been searching around on the NC Chess Association web site, and came across a fun-looking tournament, the Orchard Lake Tournament. It looks good, because if you look at the crosstables from last year, there are lots of players rated around 1100. There is an 'Under 1300' category which would be perfect for me. I'll need to check that it isn't a scholastic tournament that I can't participate in.

Unfortunately, it is this coming weekend, and about 3 hours away. It consists of four 30-minute games. That's kind of fast for me, but I bet it'd be fun. We'll see...I'll talk to the powers that be about how much she'll mind if I go away Friday until Sunday morning...

Any of my fellow Knights planning on playing there?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Circle 1 Completed

That was fun. I will work through the problems I got wrong before I move on to Circle 2. Some of the problems are trivial, but some tripped me up. I need to work a bit more slowly at this stage, focus on getting things right rather than getting it done fast. For instance, here is one I got wrong:

I put the correct first move as the first comment on the post.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done7190000000
% Correct92nanananananana

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The First Temptation of Patzer: Rule of Ten

Why am I so tempted to forego tactical studies and exclusively study openings? There are lots of reasons:

1. Instant gratification.

The benefits of opening study show themselves over the board almost immediately. The opening patterns I study are very likely to show up over the board (the opening position, for instance, is the only position guaranteed to show up in every game of chess). During an hour of studying an opening, it is easy to learn most "book" lines three to four-ply deep. When these positions occur OTB, it is very satisfying.

Compare that to tactical study: it takes tons of work to build up tactical pattern recognition skills. Unfortunately, I can play like a GM for a few moves in, but unless I am a tactical badass, it won't help me that much in my win-loss ratio.

2. Trickery is fun

In many lines, if your opponent makes reasonable looking moves, they are actually setting themselves up for a nasty trap (e.g., the Fried Liver attack). Also, it is important to learn an opening well so that I don't pull such boners myself. Frankly, I don't know what it says about my character that I get such a kick out of zinging someone.

The fact is, good opponents don't usually fall for opening pickles. If I want to excel at this game, I need to be able to spot tactics in the middle game.

3. Opening: a microcosm of the middlegame

Slowly building up an opening repertoire makes me think deeply about positional factors such as pawn structure and space. I would hope that this will help me appreciate such factors in the middlegame.

4. Opening study makes me feel smarter.

I am good at memorizing crap (this, not any brilliance on my part, made me an exemplary biology undergrad). For some reason, I am ridiculously slow to learn tactical patterns. It is very frustrating when, after studying tactics for all this time, I still miss elementary pins and the like in real games.

This is a stupid, egotistical reason to focus on openings. I think all chess instructors would rightly say to focus your energy on the weakest aspect of your game.

While 1-4 provide the reasons for why I like studying openings so much, they certainly don't justify such study. Hence, I have imposed a ten tactical problems rule on myself. No opening study until I have already done at least ten tactics problems in the Circles that day!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I'm sorry I cheated. Take me back, BO?

Two weeks with the controversial Blackmar-Diemer gambit are enough. Typically I end up with a mangled pawn structure, down material, and hoping for an attack against black's kingside. While I had some fun attacks as white, and I have learned something about the initiative (i.e., if you have the initiative, you need to take advantage of it or you will lose it), it ultimately leads to middle-games that I am very uncomfortable with. Call me crazy, but I just don't like creating a bunch of weak squares/pawns and putting complete trust in my tactical prowess to win games. Maybe when I actually have some tactical prowess...

Hence, I have gone back to my old friend the Bishop's Opening (BO). I am adjusting some of the main lines within BO to get to a more open, tactical middlegame than I was getting before. I am performing this repertoire surgery with the help of Emms' excellent book Attacking with 1 e4. I think I am ready to move up from Schiller's First Chess Openings, which is not a very good book.

With the BO I am much more comfortable with the resulting middle-game positions. Besides, I've already put a lot of time into the BO and I don't want to spend time learning a bunch of new stuff in the BDG when I should be focusing on tactics anyway.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Circle 1, Day 34

I'm in the middle of slashing through a bunch of mate in two problems. This is a lot of fun. I'm quite glad I've broken up the problems by theme in Circle 1 (e.g., mate in two with a bishop). King of the Spill's mating patterns, which in the beginning seemed abstractly interesting, are burning themselves into my brain for each piece. I am already starting to solve new problems faster, and with more accuracy, than with my first couple of hundred mating exercises. It's a lot like when I etched the knight's moves into my brain using de la Maza's Knight Sight drills. This is exactly what I needed!

Also, I've been playing the Blackmar-Diemer (blitz) at Kurnik. Hopefully it is pushing me to err on the side of reckless attacking, as through game analysis I realized I was playing much too passively.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done4970000000
% Correct94nanananananana

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An unbeatable new gambit

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Circle 1, Day 25

On to Phase 3 of CTB: the last phase before I move on to Circle 2. Some mate in two problems. The fact that I'm only getting around 90% of these correct shows how much I need this.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done3510000000
% Correct93nanananananana

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

I've been really bored with my white repertoire. I have been playing for the Fried Liver Attack, but it rarely happens anymore, and I end up in rather closed middle- game positions: usually some kind of Guico Piano thing, which I've always found tough and unexciting (especially when black plays d6 early, which he usually does). I've actually been dreading getting the white pieces because of a fear of the opening! Something is clearly wrong.

Based on some musing of Quandoman, I played a few blitz games with the Blackmar-Diemer gambit tonight. The games were a hell of a lot of fun. They were wide-open, tactically rich, exciting games. I know that all the GM books say that the BDG stinks, as your pawn structure ends up a mess, but I think I'm gonna play around with it for a while. It will give me a chance to practice some aggressive, attacking chess. Since I tend to play too timidly (in the name of 'building up a good position') I think it will be a good exercise. I just seem to give away the initiative, and the BDG should train me to seize it or die. Another cool thing about the BDG is that people typically play it as black, so in theory I won't have as many "Dammit I hate when black plays this response" moments. If my goal is really to become a solid 1200 player, that should be achievable with BDG. If I'm ever in the Bay area, I'd like to have a beer and a game with Quandoman. That guy has the best rants!

Does anyone know if Chess Openings for White, Explained is ever going to come out? It has been delayed three times now! Their book for black is pretty amazing.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Circle 1, Day 19

On to mating sacrifices. Lots of practice on basic deflections.

Circle #12345678
Total #7197195935931312131213121312
# Done2480000000
% Correct93nanananananana