Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Checks, captures, and threats

When I first learned what a 'weak square' was, I was so concerned with them that I actually gave away a Bishop rather than capture his attacking piece with a pawn, so as not to create weaknesses in my pawn structure. Needless to say, such play is abysmal and reflects a misunderstanding of the relative importance of evaluation factors in chess.

In a tournament last weekend, I gave away a Knight for free (after having been given a Knight for a pawn on move five!), and proceeded to lose the game. I moved it right where it could be captured by his Queen, for nothing.

It makes me wonder, sometimes, why I bother with this game if I'm going to suck so badly at it after more than three years playing. It's one of those games that I felt so bad about that I don't even want to analyze the game it makes me feel like shit to even think about it.

I need to learn from it though, cultivate my blunderstanding, remember every move to blundercheck before moving, and always always look at threats first, as I opined about in a post here. Material and attacking threats are the constraints within which any good strategic thinking should take place. I need to be aware of all the major threats before thinking about subtle things. If I can take his queen, I don't need to worry about my pawn structure or whether my Bishop is weak or strong or whether I should trade my Bishop for his Knight.

Without basic tactical vision all bets are off.

I've also noticed that in real over the board games my chess vision is just not as good. I miss tactics I spot immediately when playing over the computer. I learned on the computer, trained on the computer, and almost always play on the computer.

That has to stop. I've begun playing games on ICC using my actual board, using the computer only to relay my moves. We'll see if it helps. It feels hopeless sometimes, like my brain is permanently locked into a 2-D way of thinking, where all the pieces are always equally distinct and visible.


Blogger Michael L said...

Blunders are a part of chess, I share the same experiences with you. I know it can be frustrating, but keep at the tactics and I'm sure these problems will go away. I also have a problem with tactics because I always solve problems from a book but then when game time comes I start missing tactic after tactic so instead of doing problems from the computer, maybe set it up on an actual board instead? That way it simulates a real game situation.

12/17/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Michael: that's a good idea. Part of the problem is missing basic tactics it seems almost not worth the effort to set them up over the board, so I want to do ones that will take me longer, but since those aren't the ones that are killing get the idea.

But I probably should.

12/18/2008 12:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In time, your 2-D vision will fade away if you just start to train/practice/play also on a real board. 2-D vision seems to be a common occurence when one has used only a computer for some time. I hear it often and had the same problem myself. But after buying myself a chess set and decide to use it next to my computer training/practice/play it started to become a thing of the past. You have to give it some time though. After almost a year there's not much difference anymore and i feel comfortable otb. And it doesn't matter how you use your set. Just as long as you use it! You can still do your tactics and whatever on the computer and play online, that's what i do. And on my set i start playing through games from a book and try to guess moves almost every day just before going to sleep. But the fact i joined a club and play otb regularly has also been a big help. Also, you speak of 3 years of play and still feeling you suck. It took me atleast 7 to feel and be able to say i can play a decent game of chess against stronger opposition. So give it 4 more years. Only if your motivated ofcourse ;)

12/18/2008 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

What is the cognitive meaning of the difference between 2D and 3D? For long there was a difference of about 100 ratingpoints for my in favour of 3D. This difference has almost leveled out now. Does it tell us something about the way we visualize?

12/18/2008 01:44:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CMoB: Thanks for the note: I'm glad to hear it helped you! That gives me some hope.

Tempo: I'm not sure why the translation in my mind hiccups. I think it is mostly to do with what we are most used to. People that started and learned with OTB prefer that. I hope someday I am like that!

12/18/2008 02:00:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

don't beat yourself up for hanging a knight. no thinking process can prevent occasions of human blindness.

as long as the game is still enjoyable for you, keep it up... don't forget Art of Chkmate and 10m daily puzzles.

12/18/2008 03:24:00 AM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

Good advise given here. So i am not gonna repeat it. Only going to say that 2D board misses depth view while 3D is to big to scan all in one try.

So one has to adjust by learning both or decide which is most important and go all out for that choice.

But i am wondering if your calcu-lation isn't infected to much by all that you have learned. Meaning that i wonder if boardvision isn't the only thing you can blame?

I hear you say this and that but is this and that really implemented in your thinkingproces? What is the difference between your otb rating and your online rating? If it's really big then its your boardvision, if it's small then it's more then just your boardvision.

12/18/2008 07:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote a comment a couple of days ago but I think it got lost.

So you're back in the game (maybe you were never away). Haven't been here for a while. Kind of feel like playing (and thinking about) chess myself when I read your blog.

Btw, why won't you allow comments from unregistered users? It's a little (but not that much) inconvenient having to log into my obsolete blogger account. You can still use moderation.

XY ( -- now active again)

12/18/2008 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

XY: Good to see you back! The smokewall is good at first-pass moderation. I was getting too much crap in my inbox otherwise.

12/18/2008 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Katar: Thanks. I'm taking a break for a few days but will get back to that.

CT: I can look at an OTB position for minutes and not see, then on the computer instantly see something. Not sure why you would doubt me there: I don't drop pieces as much, for instance, in computer games. I'm not saying all my problems OTB are due to the change in format, but just a big drop in my ability to see elementary stuff like captures and one-move tactics.

Rating is around 500 lower OTB, incidentally, but such things are hard to guage as computer is almost always lower for people.

12/18/2008 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

My doubt comes from the fact that i hear you listing many chess terms and tactics and such and i cant help it but wonder if all those things you talk about are really implemented in your thought proces?
Or that your brain isn't fried with all those terms and hinder you in your thoughtproces because of all those rules you want to apply on each and every position you get instead of knowing which rule may be broken or not depending on the position you have on the chessboard.

But beside my doubt, maybe otb you must do it in three steps.
1. checks, captures and threats of the opponent and must i respond to them or not?
2. visualizing the position after you have chosen a move.
3. A quick check, capture and threat scan of the new position before you play the move on the board.

That atleast will help against dropping pieces. For the other mentioned problem it's like people suggest, use your board and pieces more and otb boardvision will imporve.

12/18/2008 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger wang said...

I had this problem the other way around when I would play on ICC. I had never played on the computer, and I couldn't see things. Of course I also really, really sucked back then too. WHen I started playing OTB tournaments I would always forget to hit my clock, and now I have better vision OTB again.

Bottom line for me is that I do most of my training out of books, not on a computer. I bought one e-book, but ended up buying the hard copy of it as well several months later because I couldn't learn off the e-book.

12/18/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CT: Yes, I get caught up thinking about subtle things and not looking at the basic threats. That was one of the main points of my post (hence the title). I need to follow my thought process more, which I've written about extensively as seen in the thought process section of my highlights.

But a related factor is the board vision. On the computer, I don't need to consciously blundercheck. I am just better at seeing and keeping track of what material is safe. So I actually need to go back to some of my old thought process stuff that I don't need to consciously apply on computer games any more.

12/18/2008 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Wang: I wish I started with a real board. I guess I should start going to some chess clubs or something.

Or just decide I'm a computer player and screw the OTB tournaments. At this point the difference is so clear I need to do something as it is unacceptable to throw money down the drain. Total is more than a year's ICC subscription so I shouldn't be burning it.

12/18/2008 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Zweiblumen said...

I'm of a mixed mind on this. I think I see tactics better on a computer screen sometimes, but also find my overall concentration to be far far better OTB. There's something about being in a giant room of silent chess players that gets my mind locked in in a way I can't mimic at home in front of the computer screen.

Also, I'm not sure I see any reason that online ratings and otb ratings should have any comparison. Different universe of players, different circumstances etc. I am a better OTB chess player but have a higher online rating. This means nothing.

12/18/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Zweiblumen: I know what you mean about tournaments, that's why I love playing in them. The emotions are higher, the concentration increased. It's a lot of fun.

I think empirically it seems USCF ratings are usually 200-300 points higher than ICC ratings, but there are exceptions. People really hooked on playing against real people in person often are worse on ICC, as they can't get their emotions as high to care about the games. My old coach used to call ICC 'fake' chess :) I, however, care about my ICC rating, and it is my main measure of improvement, so I tend to get fairly into the long games (blitz, I don't care).

12/18/2008 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

You’ve been playing for 3 years and have a deep understanding of this game that most novices wouldn’t even consider. I learned the moves (gasp) 40 years ago. I ramped up as a scholastic player…but marred by bad habits and that 70’s haze, I didn’t take it very far but I got good at horticulture…sort of. Then college and marriage hiatus later I kind of attempted to get involved again. But following a bad divorce and horrible Mullet, I finally resurfaced briefly before I decided to go to grad school. It wasn’t until 2005 that I finished my master’s degree that I decided to resurface into chess world again.

Rusty as all hell, I got my but kicked, dropped pieces left and right, lost to kids who only started playing after my last bowel movement. Frustrated, I took a serious look at an improvement plan and thus “blunderprone” was born as I threw my hat in the Kight’s errant” ring. Driven by the knowledge that it is written somewhere ( by Lasker I think) …that one could actually become an expert at the this game in five years with the proper plan. Like Janoswki determined to play on despite the wrong plan chosen, I make my own way ( restricted by finances to not allow proper training). Instead of a 5 year plan, I have a 10 year plan to allow for my errors in judgment.

I ’ve learned to embrace the blunders as a natural process to create good memory markers. It sucks and I still suck.. but I suck less than I did in 2005. I’ve learned to develop a “relative suck” scale and tend to look at where in the game I went wrong as progress. If I suck in the opening , it means I don’t understand that line as much. If I suck at the middle game, it’s a different story. My goal is to suck only in the end game or latter stage of a middle game. I left a lengthy comment ( at tempo’s last post that talks more of my progression and thoughts about learning skills.

I also found that I improved retention for OTB recall when I studied 3D diagrams. 2D helped my Blitz. But that was why I converted CT-ART 3.0 to Chessbase… so I could practice these in 3D. The Haze of the 70’s left remnants and even after doing the circles 2 times over, I still drop pieces. 3D training helped to refine that, but more importantly studying whole games also helped me.

12/19/2008 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

Hanging a piece like that sucks, but we all do it. I think chesstiger may have a point though. Both you and Tempo seem to engage in a lot of heavily theoretical debates, which I do enjoy. But to me, they are exactly that - too theoretical in many cases. I do wonder if you may not see the forest for the trees as a consequence sometimes. I think the discrepancy between your 2D and 3D play will best be cured not by elaborate thinking processes, but rather by joining a chess club and playing as many OTB games as possible with stronger players, and doing quick postmortems with those stronger players.

Just my two cents :)

12/19/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Brief now as I'm doing a surgery.

BP: very helpful stuff, and hilarious. That is awesome that you converted CTArt to Chessbase. Very good idea.

Chessaholic: Clearly that is the case! That was my point. I get caught up in thinking about a mosquito five miles away when there is a hammer about to hit me in the face!

As for 3D I agree that it won't be cured by thought process alone (necessary, not sufficient), but mainly by experience with the board (hence my previous post about the Citrine and playing over my real board at ICC).

12/19/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

I think playing on ICC with a real board is great, but I do want to stress that club games add another dimension (obviously). I have found over the last two years or so that the factor that has helped me most is discussing my casual club games with other, stronger club members. I have absorbed a lot of their experience through "osmosis" if you will. Absolutely priceless.

12/19/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessaholic: Yes, that would be good I'm sure, but it wouldn't explain why I play so much better on the computer. That's mostly a matter of experience it seems.

12/19/2008 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessaholic said:
Both you and Tempo seem to engage in a lot of heavily theoretical debates, which I do enjoy. But to me, they are exactly that - too theoretical in many cases

Too theoretical for what? Almost all my posts have a practical goal.

Looking over my last ten posts, I don't see much that's of mere theoretical interest. I do see a lot of time that I could have spent on more important things than blogging.

12/20/2008 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Oops, I said:
I think empirically it seems USCF ratings are usually 200-300 points higher than ICC ratings

Switch that. ICC are 200-300 points higher for most people, not vice versa!!!

12/21/2008 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger XY said...

Okay, I understand (reg. having to post using an account.

I'm with you on "Checks, captures and threats", and I did, as you may recall, write a series of posts on that back in March 2007, calling it the CCT-rule. Still think it's a very important rule.

12/22/2008 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Heisman has a hat that says 'CCT' on it.

12/22/2008 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger XY said...

He stole it from me. I should charge him money.

12/22/2008 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, he cited you when he first talked about it.

12/22/2008 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger MikeyDee said...

Don't feel bad, BDK...

I attended a exhibition in the summer by a well-known Grandmaster (way over 2000) and he made a terrible blunder. It happens to everyone once in a while.

I'm a computer programmer and I try to train my mind to act like a computer in my thought process. I try to do the same sequence of thoughts on every move (it takes a lot of practice to think this way).

1. Are all my pieces safe? (king, queen, rooks, bishops, etc) in that order.

2. What is my proposed move? Is there a better move out there for me? (here is a good place to do some chess visualization out to 5 or 6 ply)

3. Is the square I'm moving to or attacking itself threatened by an enemy piece?

4. Will moving my piece place one of my other pieces in jeopardy?

5. Final blundercheck. Write down my move and check it one more time.

6. Move my piece.

This method doesn't guarantee that I'll make the best move, but if I follow it to the letter, I'll make fewer blunders and hang fewer pieces.

12/23/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger XY said...

I see, this Heisman is actually a chess player and CCT in his case might actually mean checks, captures and threats. I thought he was some other guy and that it meant something completely different. I was just kidding about stealing, of course.

12/23/2008 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

BKD: I think "too theoretical" may have been the wrong choice of words on my part. I was referring to discussions between you and Tempo mostly in various comment threads in the past, not to your blog posts (which usually are very pragmatic and hands-on). For some aspects in those comment thread discussions, I failed to find much practical application in my personal chess improvement. Which is not to say that all theoretical discussion is bad. It is just personal preference that I find I gain the most out of practical game analysis of the sort that drunknknite posts, or the more hands-on posts on your blog.

12/26/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

Late to the party, just wanted to say:


12/28/2008 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i feel you, i am using a board when playing on icc at times, i get used to the computer as well. this blog is so great. cheers to you.

1/13/2009 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks a lot Justin.

1/14/2009 12:43:00 AM  

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