Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Second Coming of Michael de la Maza!

Andres D. Hortillosa's book Improve Your Chess at Any Age will be out sometime this year.

He is much like Michael de la Maza. He's a New Englander He made his splash in the chess world in New England, he is rated around 2000, and he is already pissing people off because he isn't an IM or GM but is telling people how he improved at chess.

Good times. People are petty jealous little animals. I am known to be judgmental toward books, but only books that I have cracked open and read a chapter of, and glanced through the whole book to get its flavor. This one isn't even out yet and people are getting pissy.

I look forward to seeing what he has to say. If the cover is any indicator, it should be a humdinger of a book!

From what he has said online (see previous link) it will focus a lot on thought process, which is one of my pet interests. Should be fun!

This makes me want to check it out:
The main thesis of the book finds its anchor on a method or system that will help adult players avoid losing their games early due to blunders. The book disclaims the magic to make you a master. It simply argues that the system it espouses will help most player of any age avoid game-ending errors. My other goal is to bring back players who cannot seem to get beyond 1400 back into tournament chess. Many left mainly because of insufferable disgust over their inability to cure themselves from the ailment of hanging pieces during games. Chess is no fun even for die-hards when you keep giving away pieces even in winning positions.
That part in bold resonates with me all too well.

Perhaps his solution is:
1. Get a time machine.
2. Go back to when you were 10 years old.
3. Convince yourself to play a lot of chess for a year.

Frankly, that seems to be the best way to not suck at chess, is to play it a lot as a youngster.

Edit: Based on a comment, I found this article by Hortillosa, and it includes his thinking process. It is very reasonable and simple, indeed, I could look at it as a partial implementation of Chessplanner. Hence, I am destined to like it. :) What I like is that it puts threats to the fore. This is exactly what the patzer needs to do. A backwards pawn is nothing to worry about if you are dropping pieces!


Blogger Unknown said...

Don't judge a book by its...? ;-)
That rating graph in the link you posted doesn't exactly inspire confidence. At least Maza had something to show off.
Can the old recipe - analyze checks and captures, and study your tactics - really be improved on? Does it even need to be?

4/09/2009 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Aziridine: yes, I agree about the rating graph oscillating around the floor.

But we'll see. Some great teachers aren't the best players. Plus, being 1900 means you aren't dropping pieces anymore, so maybe it will help me.

But I agree: look for checks, captures, and elementary threats on every move. I can't imagine it having more than that. But maybe it does.

My hunch? Like the MDLM craze, a pinch of hype thrown in with a cup of common sense.

4/09/2009 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS I hope it is clear my comment about the cover of the book was a joke. :)

4/09/2009 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger From the patzer said...

One doesn't have to be a grandmaster or international master to have to teach to us patzers. One only has to have the knack of teaching.

Lets hope this guy has something intelligent to say.

4/09/2009 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Azirdine: Maybe his FIDE (which i value more then a national rating) rating inspires confidence. I think it does...

4/09/2009 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

How Not to Suck at Chess... thanks for stealing the thunder of MY book I am writing :(

I just haven't stopped sucking yet.

4/09/2009 07:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, some of his articles and very cool annotated game of his might inspire confidence. See here and here. I'm tempted to get his book.

4/09/2009 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Chess? said...

I have read many chess books over the years. Other than books that focus on openings most if not all talk about the plan and the thought process.
If you have read the classic's like Logical Chess Move by Move; My System; Understanding Chess Move by Move and of course Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy. You will have an understanding of the thought process of chess play. The above books helped my game but only to a point. What has helped my game most is not the tactics or understanding an opening with multi variations. It's the combination of understanding the board in front of me from a positional and tactical bases. This school has done a lot of that for me I have only started the first month of lessons, but it has really opened my eye's to the game. I am STARTING, to view the board in a different way.

4/09/2009 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chess? I am intrigued by that chess school. Great to see you working on it! I am tempted to give it a try...

Incidentally, is there a reason there are no comments allowed at your blog? It looks like a fun place to hang out.

4/09/2009 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger ADH said...

I tried posting twice and this will be the third time but somehow it didn't get accepted. What is wrong?

Andres D. Hortillosa

4/09/2009 11:55:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Andres: not sure what was wrong, but it seems third time was the charm!

Welcome to my blog!

4/10/2009 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

chessmasterorbust: He hasn't played very many FIDE-rated games. In my view a rating is only relatively accurate once you play ~30 games.
On the other hand his recent result in Chicago is a more convincing sign of improvement.
BDK: I still drop pieces and I'm over 1900. Mental discipline counts a lot towards strength in chess.

4/10/2009 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi Blue Devil Knight,

I actually frequent this blog and others by some of your contributors. This blog is more hospitable than the discussion thread on my upcoming book at In my second attempt to post I said that I was not lucky enough to be a New Englander. I currently live in Memphis, TN and will be moving to the twin cities, MN in mid-July. My closest connection to New England is my sister who attends the Harvard Business School.
My first attempt was very long. In fact, I am developing it into a section of the book. I am not sure if it will make the book because of space constraints but based on the comments here it will help set things within context.
I wonder if you will give me permission to quote the post in my book. I will give you proper attribution. Strange but I am asking permission for something that is yet to happen.

Andres D. Hortillosa

4/10/2009 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

ADH: I would be quite happy if you mentioned something from here in your book!

I'll correct the 'New Englander' part, I guess it was because of your performance in that tournament in New England.

I just added a link to one of your articles, and incidentally I really like it. It seems the right approach for the club player.

Thanks for posting, and let us know when the book comes out, and I'm always on the lookout for review copies of books. :)

4/10/2009 12:56:00 AM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi Friends,

The rating graph is the baseline. This is one point dissenters tend to miss or ignore. The book is written with the rating graph as the point of departure. The oscillation around the floor is in fact proof of my sorry condition chess-wise which befall and befuddle most of us. Anything before August 2008 was the rushing build up of frustration and exasperation which thankfully broke the dam of pretensions leading to the formulation of my system. In other words, one day I simply got very sick of it. It became a personal challenge short of becoming an obsession.

The New England Masters was the first successful proof of the efficacy of my evolving system. Even given its first triumph the system required honing and necessary fine-tuning. An improvement process no matter how efficient by definition must continually change. Otherwise, we will still be driving the T-Model.

I took the system for its severest testing at the 2008 New England Masters because I suspected success in a weekend Swiss tournament would be met with skepticism as too weak. In my estimation, a norm tournament like the New England Masters is comparable to "The Masters" in golf.

But even this point escaped the notice of pundits at Most, in fact, dismissed my performance characterizing it as one just having a "good tournament” but nevertheless still insignificant. It dawned on me as the discussion thread expanded that skeptics were not interested in getting at the truth. I got the feeling that if the submitted corroborating proof was a weekend tournament result, it would likewise suffer a stern dismissal as irrelevant.

I tried my best to explain the differences between the two as materially relevant to the discussion such as strength of opposition, length (9 rounds) and nature of the tournament. I played all games against titled players some with GM norms and others with multiple IM norms.

One dissenter pointed out almost with unchecked glee as one can gather based on the tone of the phrasing that since my score was obtained in the first five rounds and since I lost in the last four rounds, the acclaimed performance was nothing special.

Obviously, this person had never played in a 9-round event against titled players because he failed to understand the significance of scoring early. You might have read my response emphasizing that 1.5 points more in the last four rounds would have earned me the FIDE Master title.

As the astute readers of this blog know, early scoring in a Swiss event means getting paired up with the strongest of the field especially if you are the lowest rated (unrated). Earning your points towards the end part of the tournament while scoring zero in the first five rounds means you are winning against the cellar dwellers like yourself. Others even made issue of what the cover blurb said of me as unrated and judged the publisher, and myself by extension as being dishonest and misleading when it was simply stating fact.

I invited them to peruse the New England tournament report and round pairings and see how players were seeded. Since it was primarily a FIDE event, all players were listed based on their FIDE ratings. Three of us were listed as unrated not giving regard to our USCF rating. The unrated players paid higher entry fees than those rated over 2200 FIDE. The organizer by design so as not to skew the norm requirements for norm hunters only allowed by exception four players either unrated or rated below 2100 FIDE. This criticism continued even after I said that my USCF rating is discussed in the book at length. I have a section in the book suggesting a way of limiting one’s rating losses while preserving the gains. The suggestion, however, will only work in USCF events.

To my critics’ credit, it was correctly pointed out that I gained 62 USCF points in that one event. Now, anyone who gains subs rating points against that kind of opposition must be doing something right or simply improving, right? It was also mentioned in the same post that I have since shed almost all of it. True. Following the New England, I gained another 12 points from the Pan American Championship where I defeated two Experts, drew a Fide Master and for the first time ever halved the point with a strong IM (Blas Lugo) with one GM norm in a FIDE event to push my rating to 1974 USCF. My FIDE rating, on the other hand, suffered a substantial blow due to two losses where I squandered a win and a draw. I was simply crushed in my other two losses.

Basically, I gained 74 points in 2008 while my chess thinking process or system was still in the maturing stage. Looking closely at my rating chart one will easily notice that there was never a year where I recorded comparable gains in a short period of time.

But how did I lose the points by January 2009? I explained the downturn only to be categorically dismissed as further proof of the absence of chess improvement in the first place. After these two major tournaments, I got elected as Vice President of the Memphis Chess Club. As a neophyte politician, I foolishly promised to support local tournaments in the city. I also promised the proprietor of Cajun who organizes tournaments in Memphis that I would show my appreciation for her thankless effort by playing in some of them.

I willingly played in these weekend tournaments despite my known aversion to faster time controls and knowing that I would perilously put my ratings on the line. Even the prospect of finishing first would only yield minimal gains in terms of rating points due to big rating differences between mine and those of most players in the field. By the way, my system is discomfited in shorter and faster time controls until it becomes second nature. In a couple of these tournaments, I was the number two seed if not the number one. When you are the top seed, as the law of average dictates, accidents are bound to happen. Even a draw would cost the highest rated player a chunk of points, but it is the nature of things.

Be aware that it is not uncommon for strong players to avoid small tournaments for the very reason given above unless the money is good or if their floor artificially protects their master level rating from occasional losses. I remember being uncaring of my losses while rated as lifetime Expert before USCF changed the rules on rating floors. The old rules froze the rating floor to the first hundred points below the person’s highest achieved rating which meant that anyone who had a rating of over 2100 would never dip below 2000 regardless of the number of lost games in his tournament lifetime. As long as my rating would earn me an invitation to the annual All-Army Chess Championship, the steady slide did not bother me a bit. For chess players who are in the Army, the annual event is a welcome respite from the strenuous life of soldiering.

During this dark period, losing began to bother me less and less and slowly it became a comfortable habit. That is why I support rating floors mostly on the strength of the above reason in addition to other compelling arguments for it. Our young players need to benefit from the experience of the more seasoned players. Most arguments against rating floors surprisingly come from those who are ineligible for the privilege.

After reading some of those biases driven by the notion of rating, I decided to follow my own suggestion in the book which I call rating mitigation that I would only play in big tournaments preferably norm events (9 rounds and FIDE rated) and against much higher rated players than me – meaning the Open section. My next tournament is the Copper State FIDE Invitational next month.

I went into the month of March at 1904 USCF (lost 70 points all from the aforementioned small tournaments of less than 20 players and the Memphis Club Championship). I played at the Mid-America Open in St. Louis, mostly as a way to prepare for the 19th North American FIDE Invitational two weeks later. I gained 33 points at the Mid-America Open losing only to the notable IM Brooks and the veteran Senior Master Karklins. I was actually winning against Karklins as anyone including him who had access to the game would tell you. He actually said “You were killing me.” Well, next time Mr. Karklins, I will be happy to attend your funeral.

Two weeks later, the IM norm round-robin tournament where 8 of the 10 players have titles including one GM-elect in Skokie, IL followed. There, I won against an IM for the first time ever in my chess experience. I posted a summary of my results at forum if readers of this blog are really that interested. I gained 59 USCF points and approximately 40 ELO points at the event. I also posted a win under 30 moves against the solid FM Boor, whose only losses came from me, a ringing phone and a forfeit. After this event, my total number of FIDE games against titled players will register at 30.

What I consider to be my main proof of chess improvement is “improving results” against titled players in norm events. One other proof is gleaned from what titled players tell me of my play relative to my rating. While it is not objective proof, I give it more credence than gains in rating. If a 1400-player tells me after beating him in a game that I am playing well, the comment itself cannot be taken as objective truth but rather as a relative truth with respect to his strength. Now, when a GM says the same of your play after concluding a joust with him, be it a loss or a win, the comment still is much closer to the objective truth given his strength as the reference point.

Besides, there is a noticeable lag between chess improvement and rating. Rapid gains in rating are a function of chess improvement, which are gains both in chess knowledge and chess skill.
When I say improving results I mean the ease that winning against these guys have become relative to others. While it is too early to debunk the critics, I am any less happy with my results.

In summary, I actually raised my rating by 92 points in one month, now standing at 1996. If that is not chess improvement, I do not know what is.

I appreciate your positive note about the book. I am thankful for MLM's insights and discovery. My system extends his main thesis and includes refinements of IM Cecil Purdy's undiscovered ideas. While my method differs with MLM, we agree in debunking the popular notion that only titled players like GMs know the secrets to chess improvement.

In the book I argue that when a GM prescribes a method of chess improvement to players U2000, he is dispensing solutions based on his experience and perspective not realizing the gap between him and the intended recipients.

His prescription while arguably sound and effective for his kind is not effectual for our kind. Some of these GMs experience a rapid rise in strength that many do not really know what it is like to be us. Remember Bobby’s response to how he became US Champion when a year ago his rating was unremarkable, he notoriously said: “I just got good.” In fact, we know that most GMs attain their titles in their youth. This observation leads us to a possible falsity that when you are past young meaning you are now old, becoming a grandmaster or just reaching master level is an outright impossibility dictated by nature.

I have to say it amuses me when amateurs like us sincerely ask GMs how to improve. It is like asking George Bush how to become a self-made millionaire. He was already one even before he realized it.

My friends, I know the how because I am one just like most of you. I apologize for the length of this exposition.

Andres D. Hortillosa
Improving Player

4/10/2009 01:01:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Andres: I strongly agree with the stuff at the end of your post. I'd rather have my kid learn math from a great elementary school teacher than from a math professor that teaches only Topology.

Of course, the best way to shut up critics is to win games, or have students of your system that win games. So I wish you luck, hope you have continued success in that.

4/10/2009 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger Chess? said...

Blue Devil Knight said...
Chess? I am intrigued by that chess school. Great to see you working on it! I am tempted to give it a try...

Incidentally, is there a reason there are no comments allowed at your blog? It looks like a fun place to hang out.

Hi Blue, I am a true rookie on the blog sceen, and I would love to have people comment. The only problem, I don’t know how to set that up? Ya, I know… when you stop laughing maybe you can give me a hint? Keep up the good work on your blog.

4/10/2009 02:27:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chess--just sign into blogger, click on Settings-->Comments, and make the right selections there (Show comments, who is allowed to comment--at first probablye everyone, and probably the timestamp I'd change from just the time to the date/time).

4/10/2009 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger Chess? said...

It worked, thanks for the help.

4/10/2009 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

Seems like a chess-improvement blog but in book form, no? I would be shocked if ADH has anything new to say on this subject. There's no info in the linked Chessville articles that has not been covered elsewhere (Buckley comes to mind, or this very blog for that matter). I'm always skeptical when an author names a Proper Name System after himself, particularly when the idea is somewhat obvious or self-evident. The "Silman Pawn-Pointing Rule" or the "Hortillosa-Purdy System" come to mind. For comparison, Einstein did not introduce the "Einstein Relativity Theory" but merely general and special relativity (lower-case).

Responding to ADH's comments, i'd add that "Brevity is the soul of wit!" I hope your book is more concise than your internet comments. I won't be buying it, but good luck anyway. Publishing such a book is certainly more enterprising than writing a blog on the same subject for free.

4/11/2009 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Mr. Hortillosa,
While some GMs were child prodigies, many others were not and had to slowly work their way up. So it would not surprise me that a GM could in fact effectively advise a U2000 player how to improve, especially if that player has an ambitious rating goal in mind. That being said, I think if one is looking for advice on reaching a certain rating class, the best thing to do is to ask someone who has just recently reached that level - their advice will be the most relevant.
You'll have to excuse the folks on Chesspub - they deal with (and please don't get me wrong, I am in no way implying that this describes you) ignorant crackpots selling homemade snake oil on a regular basis. Hence their unbridled skepticism towards you - don't take it personally.

4/11/2009 02:30:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I'm playing devil's advocate here. I haven't seen the book so for all I know it is a turd!

Katar: If I ever reach 2000 I'll consider putting out a book on chess improvement. :)

I agree the threat-focus/rank-ordering plan is very Buckley-esque (that's where I stole the idea from for Chessplanner!), but that isn't to say it is identical, or that Buckley was more clear than ADH. I like how ADH makes things explicit.

Pretty much anybody advising someone what to think about during a game will tell them to think of threats first and foremost before "tacking about" looking at strategy. But there are many different variations on that theme, and not much out there on how to do this (a bit from Buckley, and Heisman).

Just to plug my own work, this post is now one of my favorites because it doesn't fuck around. When starting out, I wish I had read that post (it's basically a 'threats first' manifesto).

OTOH, I also know that a thought process cannot solve all blunder problems. No matter how much you think, if you have poor chess vision you won't see a tactic, or can even that a piece is en prise! A good thought process can only "increase the likelihood that the knowledge you already have will be put to use in games" (that's from Chessplanner).

We have sort of already beaten to death the question 'Are thought processes useless?', and I still agree with what Heisman said here, which basically confirmed the results of our discussion.

One criticism of my 'Chessplanner' document was that it had nothing new in it. That sort of missed the point. While little was technically new (perhaps the plan heirarchy and its relation to candidate moves, in Figure 2, was something I hadn't seen before), the integration of that information from different sources was nontrivial, took a good deal of work to track down sources and collate/distill, and ultimately I feel I made something more digestible for the patzer which was easier to follow because the language was all worked out. In general, differences in emphasis and presentation can make a big difference.

Aziridine: I have never head of a titled player that didn't start playing when they were young. That isn't to say they were prodigies, but it is clearly one of the most important factors.

More to the point, though, a GM that really puts effort into teaching will likely be great. There is the danger that they just aren't good at explaining the basics because they are so good without having to think. Plus, they are so good at chess, they think they don't actually need to study teaching in order to be good teachers. That's the big problem. Most of their skill is unconscious and they simply do well without thinking about how they do well. I have seen this first hand, an IM struggling to explain to me why he did what he did.

Coach B, on the other hand, is articulate, and rated pretty high, so there are obviously exceptions!

Also, even super-GMs have chess advisors.

4/11/2009 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

It is a pity that the discussion of chess improvement is often hijacked by people who think that hanging pieces is the norm. At our club I don't know players who hang their pieces on a regular basis. Above 1500 it is uncommon and personally it happens to me only once every 100 games or so.

4/11/2009 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo: It seems you need to revisit this post.

Above 1500 isn't the norm. The average player is rated well below 1500. You need to go to a different blog.

4/11/2009 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

The best GM teachers modernly are those who improved later in life. Aagaard and Jesse Kraai come to mind. These are guys who made GM in their THIRTIES after years of banging their heads against the wall.

As a result, Aagaard's books and Kraai's tend to be far more instructive than the typical GM fare. Check their respective ratings graphs at BDK, i think you KNOW how to improve (for starters, play tournaments, annotate your games), so getting another book on the subject seems symptomatic of the problem itself (ie, the belief that more information is needed). The truth is, no amount of "information gathering" will generate results absent playing experience in tournament conditions.

Some esteemed writers i do not believe in are those who have not played competitive chess in 20 years. EG, Silman, Watson. Probably they would struggle against regular masters these days. Silman has a local student here in LA who famously dropped 2150-2000 under his tutelage (vanessa west).

4/11/2009 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Katar: all good points, I can't disagree.

4/11/2009 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

Dear Friends and Mr. Hortillosa.

Thank you for pointing me in the direction of the articles on Chess vine as it provides some insight to the concepts elaborated in your upcoming book. First, I like the term “Improving player” and I will adapt that terminology in the future as it fits well with the folks at my chess club ( Howard Goldowski is a friend of mine and he also fits well with this term). Since I’ve “gotten back into chess” seriously in late 2005, my USCF rating has improved from the mid 1350’s to the mid 1750’s. It’s not 400 points in 400 days mind you, but it is 400 points in 4 years.
How has this happened? My early chess diet was high in “chess fat” ( as ADH mentioned in his article) full of rote memorization of opening lines only to fall short of any real plans. It brought me only as far as I could go when my opponent didn’t know any better with the opening and I was able to sustain the opening advantage through the other two parts of the game.
My first big jump in rating was a direct result of the Rapid Improvement method of Michael De La Maza. He was once a member of the same chess club and several players modeled this method with moderate success. Thus I became a student of the Knights errant. I can say it helped me get to the 1600 threshold. But how? Not having any real basis for what a combination was, taking a buck shot approach, though not efficient, did expose me to a wide variety of tactics that I may or may not encounter in my limited repertoire. I soon realized that most of the complicated higher level tactics in CT-ART 3.0 were well beyond anything I would ever encounter since a lot of them were seriously imbalanced positions.
In that journey, I came to my own realization that positional understanding was just as important. Knowing how to get there as you advocate is more important that arriving and going “ahah! A mate in three must exist because now I recognize this as pattern 436 from CT-Art.” I started to look at my repertoire and build a data base of games collected for what I played. Then, then I would sift through these collections and find the “miniatures” to get a glimpse of early traps and tactics. This gave me an understanding of the probability of the WHAT tactics are most common in my games. Further studies showed me the types of middlegame strategies and typical endgames I could expect.

Then it dawned on me the importance of studying WHOLE games in improving my play. I went from 1600 to 1700 rather quickly once I made that connection. I expanded it beyond my repertoire and decided to understand from a chess evolutionary tract the way chess strategy evolved over the past 150 years. I started with the London 1851 event and studied the games then moved to Hastings 1895, New York 1924 and now I am embarking on Zurich 1953.

My most recent enlightenment has come from a thought process that I can use OTB while playing. Checklists are hard for me to adhere to because, different parts of the game require different thinking processes. So I felt it was more practical to emulate OTB play by trying to analyze the games without any help first. I use the tournament book to check my annotations and correct my analysis. This is the best simulation I can provide myself as I think my game is now heading to the USCF 1800 threshold.

I also have found that most improving players have different deficits of skills. Having a “canned” set of thought processes may work for some but others may need something tailored specifically to one’s ability. Does the book address this? Self assessment is critical to improvement. Doing regular barometer checks along the way is also important as it helped me move from one plateau to another. That’s enough rambling from Blunderprone. Thanks.

4/11/2009 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

BP: great stuff. For those that didn't notice, BP's points have a lot in common with ADH, who says in his first article:
"It is my contention that learners (or improvers) to benefit from any tactical training, must be shown how the tactical opportunity came about in the first place. So including the opening moves is helpful as it gives learners chess knowledge that a certain tactical opportunity can arise from a certain opening with a certain pawn structure. The tactical skill must be learned only this way for the learner to beneficially accrue practical gains in this area of chess knowledge."

4/11/2009 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi Katar,

You said: I would be shocked if ADH has anything new to say on this subject.

I am sure your statement is an exaggeration. By anything new, you mean not a single one?

I admit my posts tend to be longer than usual especially when I try to present a myriad of information for the sake of completeness. This happens when I really do not plan to keep responding to threads because of a busy schedule unless, of course, something interesting turns up like comments made by Blunderprone which I plan to respond to. I also do one-liners, a lot of it.

I had to call my system something for utility's sake because it is rather much easier in discussions to simply invoke the name than to describe it. You know like using a pronoun for a noun to avoid the awkward repetitions. Besides, I only want myself to hold the blame if it turns out to be false.

Thank you for wishing me luck with the book. It is appreciated.

Perhaps it will help if folks know that my background is (or was) in Software Engineering and Healthcare Administration where I dealt with process improvement. I annoyingly tell people that I feel like a hammer in the sense that everything to me is a nail. In the field of medicine or soldiering, it saves lives.

If you read up on Cleanroom Engineering as a software development discipline and Six-Sigma, you would get a flavor of my world outside of chess.

I simply brought to bear what I already know and good at I might add in what I do professionally into my chessplaying. My chess thinking process in a sense was a Six-Sigma inspired process design though not in a formal sense. One day I realized that the way I think and play chess (despite reaching 2101 with it) was incongruent to the way I do things at work.

Also, no one can really write something new about chess improvement without building on what others have postulated in the past. There is no sense in inventing things from scratch. Otherwise, the wheel will get invented every day anew. You seem to be in the law profession and you can appreciate the importance of case law better than others.

Best Regards,
Andres D Hortillosa
Improving Player

4/11/2009 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi BlunderProne,

I am embarrassed to say that I am a fan of your blog because of the "mature" language scattered everywhere for which you are famously known for.

You said: Then it dawned on me the importance of studying WHOLE games in improving my play.

You have no idea how significant the statement is. Not itself, but your realization leading you to it. Trust me, you will begin to realize other "truths" and when they come, you will have become a better player. I am happy for you.

You are right about development stages. I suspected that to be true also. I have a coach currently and we are talking about other things and other ways of chess improvement. It will become the subject of a different book once I get past the FIDE Master title. Though he tells me to instead set my eyes for the IM title. I tell him I would be satisfied just to be able to play without losing my trousers against the big boys. A nice win against a grandmaster in tournament play will mark that day. Notice my lack of fear and eagerness for the trial.

When you get this far in your realization series, please tell me because it is worth celebrating. But modesty aside, the FM title will satisfy my quest nicely too.

And because the comment comes from a respectable grandmaster, it means even more. He also tells me that grandmasters including him take lessons too, albeit of a different kind.

I better end this comment now before it gets beyond brief.

Best regards,
Andres D. Hortillosa
Improving Player

4/11/2009 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi Aziridine,

Frankly, the skepticism does not bother me a bit. The accusation of being dishonest about my rating and willfully misleading the chess public is what got me to respond to the thread at

My own satisfaction is derived not from their acceptance of what I am proposing but foremost from my own tournament results and my sincere desire to help serious "improvers" succeed in their own struggles.

Any chess thinking process is worthless if it fails to deliver results to the sincerest of practitioners.

The economic angle is lost to most people. I do not need the book to subsist. In fact, I am losing money while writing the book. A fact, becoming obvious to my wife.

Still, I appreciate your kind concern.

Andres D. Hortillosa
Improving Player

4/11/2009 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi BlunderProne,
Please accept my apologies. I confused your blog with someone else's. Nevertheless, I am a fan of your blog just as much.

Andres D. Hortillosa
Improving Player

4/11/2009 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...


"mature" language ... threw me off as the cuss-o-meter is relatively low on my site... but then I said to myself, "he must have mistaken me for the infamous Chessloser!" Which, incidentaly, we were twins seperated at birth and I can understand the confusion. I chose to use capital letters :)

4/12/2009 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to tell whether Mr. Hortillosa looks more like a game show host or a car salesman on the cover.

4/13/2009 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Will said...

I have read alot of comments by ADH and while I am interested in what he says the scientist in me asks for more evidence.

The books seems a year or two early IMHO, since this amount of time would be enough for full refinement of the system and evidencial proof of method.

I too believe that IM's and GM's don't always make the best teachers, it has to be said that some have improved substantially in adulthood. FM Alex Dunne and GM Alex Yermolinsky springs to mind, these have proven insight to share.

I wish you good luck with the book and chess,


4/14/2009 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

On a more positive note, at least Everyman is publishing a non-opening book for a change! I have no doubt ADH's book will be more valuable than another one of Everyman's brightly colored opening books. I like to arrange them in ROYGBIV sequence. Like a bag of skittles, taste the rainbow.

4/17/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger ADH said...

Hi friends,

I forgot to update this blog on my results at the North American FIDE Invitational last April.

I defeated an IM for the first time ever in a FIDE Norm event. GM Gurevich impressed by the win is using this particular game in a lecture at a 2-day camp.

IM Pasalic - Win
FM Boor - Win
IM Young - Draw
FM Shankar - Draw
NM Tenant - Draw
GM-elect Amanov - Loss
FM Felecan - Loss
FM Chow - Loss
Muradian - Draw

I was totally winning against FM Shankar but in mutual time trouble he escaped with a draw. I could have finished at even score with a performance rating of about 2300.

Below is my short work against FM Boor.

[Event "19th NA FIDE Invitational"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2009.03.23"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Boor, Carl"]
[Black "Hortillosa, Andres"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D45"]
[WhiteElo "2318"]
[BlackElo "2141"]
[PlyCount "52"]
[EventDate "2009.03.15"]
[SourceDate "2009.03.22"]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. d4 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3
Bb7 9. e4 a6 10. e5 Nd5 11. Nxd5 cxd5 12. Bxh7 Rc8 13. Qb1 Rxc1+ 14. Qxc1 Rxh7
15. Qc2 Bb4+ 16. Ke2 Rh6 17. a4 bxa4 18. Rhc1 a5 19. Qxa4 Ba6+ 20. Ke3 Rh4 21.
Nxh4 Qxh4 22. Qc2 Nxe5 23. g3 Qh6+ 24. f4 Nc4+ 25. Kf3 Qh5+ 26. Kf2 Qxh2+ 0-1

After this tournament my USCF rating increased to 1996. In effect, I gained 92 points in the same month. I gained 33 points at the Mid-America Open just 2 weeks earlier and 59 points at the Invitational, both tournaments in April. Anytime, you gain 92 points against strong opposition in the same month is something worth sharing with friends.

My deadline for the book (75%) is this month. I got an extension for the remainder - June 30th. If anyone is willing to look at some of my manuscripts (help me weed out typos and other errors as well as suggestions), it will be most appreciated. You just have to sign a no disclosure statement.

My next tournament is the Copper State International (10 rounds) starting end of this month. Because of the book deadline, my preparation is not much but good wishes from friends will help a lot. I feel I am playing just as much for you (players striving to improve) and for myself. Come and join the brotherhood of improving players.

Andres D. Hortillosa
Improving Player

5/10/2009 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Congrats, that's great performance Andres. I'd be happy to confidentially take a look at your book (i.e., I'd sign the nondisclosure agreement). I am doing a lot of chess stuff right now so am not sure how much time I could closely work through variations and the like, but I am a good copy editor and have a good eye for 'big picture' idea stuff. (Feel free to contact me bluedevil -dot- knight |at| yahoo {another dot} com).

5/10/2009 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger Will said...

Rather than add comments to an old post why not have a blog. Then prospective punters can see how your system is progressing your rating.

I'm intrigued by your progress and would like to be able to follow it to see the "proof" of your system (though difinitve proof cannot come from a sample size of one).

5/19/2009 03:22:00 PM  

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