Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Day 153 / 212 to go

Guess what, I started yet another experiment - following yet another advice from one of these "gurus": Mr.. Smith considers it utmost important to be fully aware of one´s mistakes by not only analysing own games but also categorise them and create some sort of database listing these mistakes!
 So that is mainly what I spent this evening with: the creation of a database-like Excel spreadsheet. I created a dropdown-list of mistakes to choose from for every game I lost or drew (for the time being I am excluding won games). I am starting with a list of 11 mistakes (e.g. "overlooked opponent´s best move" or "didn´t see own best move" or "mis-judged the value of a move/position/variation" or "blunder during time-pressure").

I am not too sure where this will lead me to as I am not yet convinced that this sort of knowledge will be of  real practical help (since the outcome might be very obvious and "already known"). Nevertheless, since the investment (of time) is rather small, I am more than happy to give it a try! Now that the structure is set, keeping the file up to date (after each tournament) is not really time-consuming.
I categorised the Schloßpark Open and will follow up with Vellmar tomorrow (but on tomorrow´s agenda will also be a session to improve my opening with Black - based on the experience and mistake made against the 2400-dude during the last tournament)...

Furthermore, I followed Smith´s second most important advice - he calls it the Woodpecker Method: Next to knowing your mistakes Smith concludes that solving simple tactical exercises helps to internalise motifs and strengthen one´s intuition. Actually, this is an advice to be read and heard of a lot from experienced professionals and trainers. Hence, I bought the "CT-ART 4.0"-App for my mobile device (so I can easily do it in the train, the subway or even in bed).
(I paid almost 9 EUR for the full version - which makes it, by far, the most expensive app on my mobile! I know that it was definitely not necessary to pay for a tactic trainer but it features an ELO-calculator based on your solving-rate. I started at 2000 and made it to 2100 today. NOPE, this does definitely NOT mean that my tactical skills are that advanced, it simply proves that the Elo-calculation algo is - at best - mediocre. Nevertheless, it is somewhat motivating!)

I assume that both applying my PAT to positional puzzles and solving tactical exercises will remain a reoccurring theme for the months to come... 

BTW - LdV: Do you remember our discussion about intuition? For Smith both applying some sort of "analysis tree" during training and solving tactical puzzles is a major source to create/increase intuition!   8-)

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Day 152 / 213 to go

Today I did the post-mortem of the Schlosspark Open - mainly analysing the two games I lost. Actually, I took a real chess board and started without Komodo first. Only after I had a decent look myself and came up with new insights/ideas, I then consulted Komodo. Whereas I consider(ed) my position against the 2150-dude being around 0.4 - 0.8 better for me, the machine acknowledges only a small edge of 0.3 (would I have taken the correct route)...
As for the game against the 2400-guy I found some very good looking/promising continuations; I attributed my position with a tiny nip (let´s say plus 0.15 to 0.25). But Komodo considers them somewhat being weak and concludes that the position is actually nothing but (!) absolutely equal (0.00)
But what is much more important: I made a pretty big mistake in the opening which should have cost my life (but my opponent didn´t opt for it)! I shall never again go for this variation/move. Actually, GM Ramirez has some advice how to counter that position/variation and I will hammer this into my CPT and use it from now on!

On top, I (re-)started A. Smith´s PUMP UP Your Rating (I actually bought it already some 1,5 years ago, did the first few pages and then put it aside). Here´s a very nice one - actually, it is Black to move:
Can you come up with plan for White (not the next move - but a plan)?
White has a tiny nip but decent Black defense should lead to a draw. But if White wants to go for the full point, what would be his plan? 
Smith actually draws the conclusion that White might well shift his King over to the queenside and go for an attack on the kingside - I like this idea a lot. (Amongst other things, it is based on the fact that Black is somewhat locked -- a Wu-Wei position!)

Day 151 / 214 to go

Yesterday, I had to take a day off: At 10:45 in the morning my cousin knocked at my door and we spent the day together with some pals...

By the way, I read "Chess for Life" by M. Sadler and N. Regan - "Understanding how chess skills develop and change with the passage of time". I thought it would be helpful for an old guy like me, but it wasn´t. The book is a collection of very brief and rather superficial interviews with high class chess players, mainly (former) professionals about their experiences and their advice on how to improve (or at least not become weaker) in chess once you are no longer a youngster.
Unfortunately, I couldn´t detect any deep thoughts or truely helpful hints...  8-/

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Days 147 - 150 / 215 to go

The tournament in Wiesbaden wasn´t too bad - unfortunately I lost against two stronger players (about 2400 and 2150) where it was definitely not necessary. The other 5 games were ok - both based on my moves made and the results. I will - just like during the last tournament - gain some 15 rating points...
I got less often in time trouble, was more often in a positive mood (even against the strong players) and told myself quite a few times the words "merciless" and "gumption").   8-)

What is still missing are full points against  2100+-rated players (as far as I recall, it was only in January when I last kicked a butt of that size); but I am confident... Maybe I shouldn´t say/write that, but it is about time to gain more than some 15 rating points during a tournament!

It is too late and too warm to go for a decent post mortem now (although I would really like to know whether I really was a bit better in the middle game against the 2400-dude and definitelly better against the 2150-guy after the opening) --- Nevertheless, this will be done tomorrow (in the most decent way)

BTW: I will NOT do any post-games analysis with the computer during the course of a tournament anymore. Doing this in the hotel - often while the TV is running - does no good, neither psychologically for the remaining games of the tournament nor in the long run. At least this is my impression...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Day 146 / 219 to go

Tonight is the last night before the tournament. I continued with Edouard´s book and made it to page 90. However, the text (today mainly about blundering and time control) and advice appears to me inferior to Rowson´s work. I didn´t (yet) go for the exercises Edouard offers as they are pretty challenging and it was simply too long a day. My plan is to go for these exercises after the tournament.

I called it a day after a few easy tactic puzzles (something I will try to do before every coming tournament from now on)...

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Day 145 / 220 to go

I started practising some variations with Black using my CSP (chess positional trainer). Then I followed GM Ramirez on one of his DVDs - hammering parts of it also into the CSP.

Doesn´t sound like much and may, indeed, not be really challenging or hard brain work, but nevertheless it is necessary to do the homework and get the basics right! Actually, I spent some two hours on that - which is not too bad for a long day at work and still some 25 degrees in the flat...

Tomorrow I will have to work and travel back home, so there is likely not much I will do. Especially since it is the evening prior to the tournament. On the tournament starting day (Thursday) I will do some physical exercising in the (late) morning and arrive utmost relaxed at the chess venue in the afternoon...

Monday, 22 August 2016

Day 144 / 221 to go

First day at work after two weeks off - so this tiresome day didn´t leave too much energy for a full-fledged training session...

Since I finished Aagard and forgot my Lommer at home (while being away for three days), I re-started with Edouard´s "Avoidable Mistakes" making it up to the exercises of chapter one. Interestingly, when I first worked on the first chapter, my comment on his insights were rather negative, at least ignorant (see Day 50). But with Rowson´s "The seven deadly chess sins" (see Day 143) still being "fresh" in my memory I took much more out of Edouard´s advices (which he actually calls "rules" or "conclusions" in his book)...

The most impressive word of today is merciless. I need to get away from being too satisfied with a draw against a higher rated player, ignoring the position on the board. (I was actually told this by my coach before...) Being more rational and merciless will (have to) become part of my new chess personality!

Given that the next tournament starts soon, tomorrow´s lesson will include using my software to repeat some opening variations with black...

Day 143 / 222 to go

As indicated yesterday, I spent today (i.e. Sunday, even when by the time I am writing this it is already Monday morning, 01:00 o´clock) trying to organise, summarise and incorporate Rowson´s advice based on his book "The seven deadly chess sins" (which I read during my holidays) into my thinking + playing. Here´s my very personal perspective on what I consider important, use- and helpful for me:

Einstein´s famous E=mc2

The most impressive (for me) was his analogy of Einstein´s famous E=mc2. He concludes that the value of a piece can hardly be fairly determined without recognition of its potential - or energy which can either be kynetic (energy in motion) or potential (future energy). To cut it short (if it is too short for you, either ask me or simply buy Rowson´s book): A piece has to be regarded as the sum of  its value + its potential - and the latter depends upon the position!
 (If we label a pawn with the value of 1 and a rook with the value of 5, how comes that two connected passed pawns on the 6th rank are "worth" more than a rook of the opposite colour? Because of their potential!)
Yes, yes - we all know that only the position itself determines the value of a piece and not the static arithmetic value all beginners are told and many club-level players still follow like disciples. But yet we are all finding ourselves way too often trapped and limited within this sort of thinking, accepting this axiom too blindly!  
My coach Charlie actually asked me to have an eye on exchange sacrifices and go for them as often as possible. He, too, tried to make me aware of the potential and direct my thinking away from a pure materialistic view and "pawn-counting" mechanisms.
I will try to incorporate Rowson´s interpretation of Einstein´s formula into my games!
 Being reminded of Einstein´s formula is definitely a well-working memory hook (at least for me)!

Beware of phase-changes within the game
Apart from the typical phases of a game (opening, middle + end game) there are phases even within these phases. It is important to recognise these exactly when they accur. I actually felt these moments before, but never paid the necessary attention to them. Often games get lost or at least move into the wrong direction because a player misses the necessary transformations coming along during a match when moving from one phase into the next. Signals, e.g. are strange moves made by either side or having - all of a sudden - a wide array of moves/candidates available or when many pawn moves are made within a short time or when many pieces are exchanged within a short time...)
From now on, I will invest a bit more time once I recognise them during a match.

Talking with your pieces
Just like Aagard´s well-known 3 questions to ask in every position or Silman´s concept of imbalances - or even my personal PAT - Rowson gives the advice of talking to the pieces in order to better understand which pieces and paths for them to consider. Yes, it is somewhat strange or even weird, but yet, for me it is somewhat appealing! I will try to incorporate into my game.

The bishop pair
There was a nice explanation of the bishop pair and why it is so valuable. Rowson draws upon Plato´s hermaphrodite. (I am a bit to lazy to provide a summary here+now. Simply believe me that I understand the value of it a bit better now...)

Practical Advice (which I will not comment or rationalise as such, but simply list):
  • If you are not able (capable or simply due to time pressure) to deeply/completely calculate a move/variation but you have to decide between a few candidates, follow your intuition and go for the one you simply like best - REGARDLESS of how deep you calculated into any of these candidates!
  • There are positions/candidates where it is simply not economic to spend too much time trying to understand it all. 
  • Don´t forget trying to get into a state of FLOW - or Gumption (I mentioned this one before, but simply forgot about it) - in order to enthusiastically remain in the moment without caring too much about the result or even the opponent´s rating!
  • Gumption and/or Flow include making use of the opponent´s time.
  • In a bad position,
    - try to stand the pressure and not to release it too early since this mostly results in a yet even worse position.
    - focus on the good aspects of your position and try to extend on these so that your opponent has to worry about them.
  • If in time trouble, go for a last break some 10 minutes prior to time control in order to refresh and upload your energy reserves.
  • Being a pawn up: Watch out for chances to give it back for an additional positional plus!
  • Being a pawn down: Don´t be overly materialistic on limit your thinking on getting it back while ignoring positional aspects/advantages!
  • Based upon a better understanding of the value of the bishop-pair (see above), I am a bit more attentive to both keeping it and exchanging a knight for my opponent´s bishop pair!
  • A piece might have limited kynetic energy but high potential energy.
  • Prophylaxis is not just a passive way of playing chess (something also reflected in the concept of Wu-Wei - interesting that I learned about Wu Wei in another of Rowson´s books!)
  • Never forget or even ignore that your opponent is just as worried as you and faces the very same doubts as you - regardless of his rating.
  • Beware of "Neuronal Kidnapping"! (Feel free to get in touch with me for an explanation and some insights!)
I hope (actually expect) that the above will aid my personal process of changing my game and make my journey even more interesting (and finally successful).
Luckily, I will play my next tournament already in a few days in Wiesbaden. So I can try all the above!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Day 127 - 142 / 223 to go

Two weeks of sun, beach, pool, relaxation, cold/cool drinks - and some chess!

Unfortunately, I did (much) less than I initially planned, but doing Lommers at the pool with lots of other people, music in the background, kids screaming, laughing and crying is not really easy...  8-/

Nevertheless, I managed to the following
  • I finished Aagard´s "Positional Play" and worked on the remaining approx. 70 puzzles. I wouldn´t say that I hit the right move more often than before (maybe due to the "special circumstances" mentioned above) but at least I did definitely not do any worse. However, I do recognize that I got faster with some of the positions: I seems like my pattern recognition ability or the intuition to focus on the right place on the board finally increased!
  • I worked on some 25 Lommers - somewhat with the same success(-rate) as I had/have when solving them at home. Some of these were pretty instructive and I shared them with my son. This should increase the learning effect... Having gone only for 25 in a fortnight without work and lots of relaxation is a bit disappointing and embarrassing, but again, it is not easy to solve these puzzles at temperatures between 28 and 32 degress celcius lying in the sun and sharing the beach/pool with many others...
  • I read the complete "The seven deadly chess sins" from Rowson - categorised as being a book on chess psychology. I couldn´t connect all the stated "sins" with my play, neither all of his advices were really helpful for me. Nevertheless, I am really glad that I worked my way throught the complete book since there were, indeed, very helpful tips and very interesting insights! I can really recommend this book - and I will share some of the interesting insights with you later today. (As my training day today will be to summarize Rowson´s book and incorporate it into my thinking/training achievements and maybe even my PAT)!
Finally, within the first week I played some interesting blitz games with my son (he is getting better and better) and we even were talking about some of our openings in more detail.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Day 126 / 239 to go

Today I took the freedom to continue with Richter´s DVD on improving my calculation. It was mainly about visualisation once you are going deep into a position... Actually, it is worth to remember it simply because it helps to dig deeper into variations (and it is exactly what my coach means when he talks about "setting stepstones").

Here´s a nice puzzle where this technique can help - White to move (and it is NOT about finding the mate):
(However, todays video clips were not all instructive and helpful: I have to admit, that I sometimes simply lack to calculate just one move further in order to get things right. It seems that I am not the only one since Richter is talking about this problem on his DVD, too. Unfortunately, he lacks to provide good advice on how to overcome it...)
NEVERTHELESS; I hear Richter repeating that it is incorrect to calculate too deep into a variation too early/soon: His advice is to include yet more variations within the candidate moves before calculate a single variation until its end. I am not yet able to fully understand and/or make use of this advice. But I will try to remember it and give it a try - maybe it helps to reduce my more or less constant time trouble...

Tomorrow I will most likely take a day off due to extensive work+travel - I will not be at home before 2000 and I then need to pack my stuff: we will head towards Tenerife on Saturday morning. As already indicated, I will work on three chess books during the stay (now it might become clear why I worte "I took the freedom...": because I will have an intensive time with Aagard, Lommer & Co coming up), but most likely will not be able to report daily... 8-/

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Day 125 / 240 to go

Based on an interesting question with regards to my ongoing problems to stay out of time trouble while playing, I focused todays complete session on a DVD by IM Richter on the "Secrets of Variation Calculation"
---> Thanks LdV!

Of course, this does yet not make me faster when calculating variations, but there were already helpful hints; e.g.
- pause for a second after you ended your variation calculation and let the resulting position "reflect" (i.e. try to do a PAT)
- a sequence which variations to calculate first (see No. 12 of my Summary of Training Achievements)

Here is a very impressive example for considering the above mentioned sequence when calculating: White to move and play Rxg7 - is it a good or bad move?

I would expect that following these and coming advices from the DVD in conjunction with practising my PAT and doing my calculation excercises with Lommer´s book should "finally" make my calculations not only more accurate but also faster...  (Let´s see!  I´ll keep on following Kramnik´s advise !)

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Day 124 / 241 to go

I started with one Lommer - which took me about 80 minutes. Unfortunately, I missed that I would have queened with check (after some 7 white moves with different pawns and the king). That is why I was trying my best to make it work with other moves/variations, but didn´t succeed...

After that I did 4 Aagaards - couldn´t focus on more tonight. Here is the one I missed. White to move:
All the top moves Komodo comes up within the first minute were on my shortlist - except for the one...  8-/
And actually NONE of my candidates survived Komodos 2nd processing minute... tough!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Day 123 / 242 to go

Today I started with a post mortem of four games from the tournament and followed up with repeating one sideline which I simply forgot about during the match (or better: I did recall that it is not a good variation for my opponent, but I didn´t know it exactly and therefore didn´t dare to go for it because I only saw all the possible downsides without focusing on all the upsides). This resulted in a difference of -0,4 according to Komodo. (I knew this, but didn´t know the continuation...)

After a post mortem for four games from the tournament I followed up with repeating that one sideline...
End of August I will play the Wiesbaden Open - then these sidelines must not cause me to spend unnecessary time and/or go for unfavourable variations any longer!