Thursday, February 05, 2009

Learning to Add, and some Rules of Conduct

Note: The Durham Underground Chess Club meets at 7PM, not 7:30PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Francesca's on 9th Street. Hope to see you there everyone! One reader has shown up and kicked my ass pretty much every game the past few weeks.

I had a second meeting with Coach B a couple of Saturdays ago. Just like the first, it was very helpful. Going over my games with a great player (that is also able to explain things--a key qualification) is much more instructive than reading over annotated games that GMs play.

One reason it is better to go over your own games is obvious: the games are yours: there is an emotional attachment so the lessons are more likely to stick. Second, GMs don't make the kind of obvious errors that my opponents and I make, so studying annotated GM games is like studying Calculus before learning how to multiply and divide. This is why I think GM-annotations of amateur games are so helpful.

Coach B also mentioned quite a few rules that he had learned from his coach. Here are some of the rules of the middlegame:
1. Never be surprised.
If your opponent plays a reasonable move you hadn't considered, you need to think things through more when you are selecting moves. It is a sign you are likely not calculating broadly enough, perhaps calculating too deeply.
2. Never play f3 (f6).
This weakens your King and produces pawn structure weaknesses.
3. Never sacrifice.
4. Never capture.
Let him take your piece, and develop your defending piece when you recapture.
5. Never move a pawn.
6. Always repeat once if given the chance, even if you aren't going for the draw.
This entices your opponent to blunder if he wants to avoid a draw, and if he is losing it gets his hopes up only to dash them to the rocks.
Obviously these rules have no exceptions and should be followed mindlessly.

One of the games we went over was very helpful in showing how important rook activity is in the endgame. In one endgame we were materially equal but my rook was stuck defending a couple of pawns near my second rank, while his rook was free to frolic and play at will. I was destroyed. Coach B reminded me that it is often worthwhile to sacrifice a pawn (or two) to have an active rook in the endgame. I've read similar things before, but it was helpful to have a case study from my own game.


Blogger rockyrook said...

Good post!

Regarding #6 ... I've never heard that bit of advice before, but like it and I've used it. I had one correspondance game that was drawn because I chose to repeat moves. In my opinion, my opponent had the better position and could have fought for a win.

2/05/2009 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

#1 and #6 - Totally agree.

#2 - Fair enough, that's often bad.

#3 - Sac'ing a pawn or the exchange is common. I do it every few games. Granted, you can play with no sacs and it won't lower your rating much, and it may help if you sac too much.

#5 - How does he propose you develop your bishops, hmm? What I tell my 700 rated student is, "Make two or three pawn moves in the opening, not more."

#4 - I force trades all the time when I have a material advantage. Again, I think "Don't initiate trades" is not so useful. Instead, explain when it is ok and when it's not ok. I took Silman's "Art of the Exchange" course and that was waaaay useful. :)

2/05/2009 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

LF: These rules have no exceptions, and should be followed mindlessly. What part of that don't you understand?

Obviously these can't be taken literally. I like them because they are so tongue-in-cheek and obviously have tons of exceptions, but are presented as rigid rules. It is all done with levity, but get you to think twice before moving a pawn to relieve all the tension in a position that needs tension, before doing a silly piece sac, etc..

By 'initiate trade' that doesn't mean don't trade, but be careful of you doing the taking instead of letting him take so that you get to develop a piece when you recapture. I'll clarify that in the post.

2/05/2009 05:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although these rules could be described as more jokes than rules, I still think there is considerable merit to them.

The intent is to improve the students thought process at the board. By getting rid of the bad thoughts, hopefully you can focus on the right things and make less mistakes.

For example. When a beginner or intermediate player does not know what to do, it is quite common for him to make safe move like a trade, or to simply move a pawn for no reason.

Or, when ahead material, the player starts thinking "I trade I win" rather than thinking "I am winning, how can I win more?"

And, of course, sacrifices are sometimes valid. But it is common for some players to spend much of their thinking time dreaming up crazy ways to sacrifice stuff that is either ridiculous or just never materializes. Never Sacrifice (and the collalary, "a piece is worth nine pawns") relieves you of the burden of wasting much of your thinking time about irrelevant sacrifices.

Coach B

2/05/2009 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like #1 a lot, though sometimes after "reasonable move you hadn't considered" it's too late to do broad calculations :).

2/05/2009 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

lewrockwell: thanks for explaining the spirit of the rules. I think the levity didn't come through clearly enough in my post.

2/06/2009 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

No f2-f3 or ...f7-f6?! Those are, like, my favourite moves ;)

2/06/2009 02:39:00 AM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

At first i was grabbing my hair in disbelieve, and yes it gave me a big headache.

No capture(s), even not when recapture i shaked my head in disbelieve. No pawn move, i could only see me playing with knights.

But coach B aka lewrockwell did some further explaining and now it slowly sinks in. Offcourse no pawn moves since a pawn move is the only move one cannot take back.
Offcourse no capture(s) so that the tension in the position isn't wasted, give your opponent something to think about.

I must admit, rule number one is my favourite since it happens more then once to me that my opponent played a move that i didn't calculate before.

Those moves aren't always good moves but nevertheless they can surprise the hell out of you. I guess i must learn to calculate broader instead of deeper. But what exactly is analysing broad? Can somebody give me an example?

2/06/2009 04:23:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CT: I could find one and maybe post it in the future. E.g., many times it is better to calculate 6 lines 3 moves deep than 3 lines 6 moves deep. This has been a very common theme in my losses, especially when I was really bad just starting out. But it still happens.

I think one problem is the humour doesn't translate as well in written language.

2/06/2009 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I love the 'A piece is worth nine pawns' rule :)

2/06/2009 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

Good stuff. I thought the hyperbole was pretty obvious :)

I like #5, I actually remind myself of the same point by means of a related saying: "Every pawn move creates weaknesses". That consideration has helped my game.

2/06/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger X said...

Great post...Keep em coming. I love hearing about the thought process.

2/06/2009 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

Excellent. I have my own versions of these rules:
1) "When in doubt, don't do it." (instead, maintain the tension, keep your options open)

2) "You are not Karpov." so think twice about SOLELY prophylactic moves or moving backwards or committing to passive defense. most likely you are just shuffling around aimlessly.

3) "You are not Tal." The flipside of rule #2. Basically the same as Coach B's "Never Sacrifice" rule.

I see so many Class C players make chess WAY harder than it needs to be, for example by studying counterintuitive openings like Hippopotamus, Sveshnikov, Reti opening, Benoni, or Kings Indian Attack. There's a reason Morphy and Tarrasch never played that way! These openings break all the rules of classical chess and are more confusing than anything. In any discipline, you study the classics first. Bach before Beethoven before Chopin before Stravinsky. Morphy then Tarrasch then Capablanca then Botvinnik, etc. Chess is a simple game! :)

2/06/2009 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

lewrockwell - "Never Sacrifice" (and the collalary, "a piece is worth nine pawns") relieves you of the burden of wasting much of your thinking time about irrelevant sacrifices.

Examining sacs takes time. It's interesting that our philosophies are complete opposites. Your point is that most sac'ing captures lead to naught and examining them wastes clock time; my point is that the few that work are game-changers and justify the time, plus you get faster with practice.

I wonder if we are both grasping at different parts of an elephant--maybe a stronger player only calculates a sac when positional factors align--eg, 2 major and 1 minor pieces in the vicinity before a Greek Gift. That's what I do in blitz games.

2/06/2009 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Katar: those are great, I love the player comparisons.

LF: I think the first bit of his quote acknowledges your point. "And, of course, sacrifices are sometimes valid. But it is common for some players to spend much of their thinking time dreaming up crazy ways to sacrifice stuff that is either ridiculous or just never materializes." I think your point about needing to be mature enough to recognize the positional signatures that justify a sac are key--if you have five pieces facing down against his King, and he has just one piece defending, you might want to give up two pieces for his one, and have three left over to deliver mate.

2/06/2009 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Here's a rule I thought of:
1. Never put your opponent in check.


2/06/2009 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Coach B adds something very important: when a beginner or or intermediate player doesn't know what to do he grabs back to what he does know. Usually that's antipositional. That's when these rules apply. To prevent you from playing familiar yet antipositional moves.

2/06/2009 06:03:00 PM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

I'm with Reti, I F***ing HATE rules!

2/07/2009 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

Maybe you need to add a sarcasm meter to lists like that so that the sarcasm impaired can see through it. Some intereseting ideas though. #1 is the truth.

2/07/2009 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Yes, Polly, yes.

2/08/2009 10:51:00 AM  

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