Monday, 31 October 2016

Day 213 / 152 to go

Continuing with Smith; today, he provided me with some interesting insightd into his "Woodpecker Method" --- something I anyway planned (and already announced) by using Oudeweetering´s latest work!

In addition, I continued with Soltis and two highly interesting puzzles on drawing defenders away. Here´s a very instructive one (which I didn´t solve) - how can the white queen be dragged away from its defensive task(s)? The first move - Bh4 - might be part of intuition for most of us, but how to make this move work?

Next to the move/motive itself, also the computer evaluation is interesting: The right move for Black gives him a plus of 2.3. The second best move for Black, however, is 1.3 points better for White!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Day 212 / 153 to go

Today I continued with Smith´s Pump Up your Rating. After already having taken his advice to categorize own mistakes made serious, I only found out today that I lacked to put a bit more wording to the categories - or at least provide an overall summary.  Only around page 186 Smith finally provides an example of his own annotations and it becomes clear, that I should give it a more personal tune instead of using too surgically clear-cut boxes: So from now on, I will add some sort of "overall comment". It´s more this comment than the statistics about each category that should add practical value to my games (as far as I understand Smith).

In addition, I continued with Soltis´ The Inner Game of Chess. I reached Chapter 2 but up to now I lack somewhat the "aha moments". Let´s see whether this improves or if it stays at the "surface" throughout the book. However, at least it provides more than enough puzzles within these first two chapters!

Finally, I went back to some endgame basics (something also proposed by Smith). To be really honest, I simply forgot about Philidor and Lucena. But since I knew about this lack of knowledge - I simply went back to de la Villas "100 Endgames you must know" and refreshed my memory on this end.  I guess I simply should go over these sort of endgame basics every 6 to 9 months...  8-/

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Day 211 / 154 to go

Today, I did absolutely nothing - literally nothing - but relax.  Ok ok, some online blitz (all in all with a slight rating gain) plus some PAT repetition/training with my son (but it really was about my son and not about me). So it was not a day without any chess at all, but it was definitely not a training day... happens, that´s ok!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Day 210 / 155 to go

As so often on a Friday, due to work+travel, I didn´t really go for a decent training session.

However, I did practise a bit with my son: I started to teach him my PAT some days ago and tonight we went through one position in depth. In addition, I improved my online rating slightly.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Day 209 / 156 to go

Once more, I started with two Lommers --- and got them "pretty much" correct: I was able not only to find the right starting moves but also the overall concept, so that is ok.

I then continued with Smith´s lecture - and finally reached the point where he advises on how to set up the daily training. Strictly following it would mean for me to increase the time I spend solving tactical puzzles. The plan for the time being is to do so only some 10 to 7 days prior to a tournament as I still want to spend more time with increasing my PAT-internalisation as well as my positional play by forcing myself to make middle-game decisions.

Last but not least interesting - I started to check out A. Solti´s "The Inner Game of Chess" (using Forward Chess). He starts with the hypothesis that it is "enough" to properly identify a sequence of the next two moves instead of being able to calculate lenghty variations. Once more - like so many other authors - he claims that it is much much more about pattern recognition than anything else... Hence, after having finished Smith´s award winning lecture, I will go back to Oudeweetering´s work (I and II).

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Day 208 / 157 to go

I have done bits´n pieces with Forward Chess during the day - pretty cool to enhance my opening knowledge during the train ride or the lunch break! 

Tonight, I started with two Lommers and finished with Smith´s bestseller. I am still not really happy with my Lommer-performance: this has to improve! Not because I am not solving many but because I don´t feel like I really see/calculate enough...

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Day 207 / 158 to go

Lommering is really no fun... but I am pretty convinced that it is an important part of my training, helping me to increase visualization and calculation abilities. Hence, I did two Lommers (actually 4, but two were about how to hold the draw against two knights - not really challanging and somewhat not really in the spirit of a real Lommer).

Then I got a bit lost playing around and getting acquainted with a new "toy": Forward Chess.  Thanks, LvD, for mentioning this to me! It seems to be a pretty handy way of reading books via tablet (or even mobile phone) - offering nice features like an engine and a board next to the text...  Should I mention that I actually not only downloaded the app, but bought a book?! So it looks like my purchase of one of these posh SurfacePro´s is finally adding some sort of value...

Besides this little getaway I went back to one variation I played during the Korbach Open and used the MegaDB plus Komodo to work out the most suitable variation/moves which I then hammered into CPT.

So just like yesterday, I can fairly call it a day!
The plan for the coming days, however, is to get back to the more classical "Lommer + PAT-training" (currently using Smith´s Pump up Your Rating)....

Monday, 24 October 2016

Day 206 / 159 to go

Today I started with the post-mortem of the Korbach Open. All in all, summarizing the mistakes made, the highest count (mode - for the statisticians amongst us) and thus my biggest problem during the tournament was a "lack of opening knowledge" (whereas during the tournament before it was "lack of positional understanding").  So today I went into 2 different variations for Black and one for White.  I kept the result as Word-document and incorporated parts of it already in my CPT...

Doesn´t sound like much, but it kept me busy for some 2,5 hours - so I can certainly call it a day!

In addition, I found the time for some online blitz matches - increasing my rating there as well...

Days 202 - 205 / 160 to go

The Korbach Open went pretty well - at least in terms of results.

Whereas the Nibelungen Open some 4 weeks ago only brought some 3 rating points, Korbach will gain me some 25. Nevertheless, I would conclude that the overall quality of the matches in Nibelungen was a bit better - at least they showed less variance...  However, during two matches in Korbach I purposely took some risk (and was rewarded).  Just like during the Nibelungen Open, I managed to keep some 2200-guys off my neck and didn´t get into serious time trouble at all.

 I am pretty confident, that I finally managed to bring my game to the next level: my training did pay off! Actually, this is the first time in my life that I got out of a tournament with a rating plus for 4 consecutive tournaments!  Let´s see what the final two tournaments in 2016 will bring - the plan is to close this year somewhere around 2045 and 2065 (which means that I either don´t make any further rating gains this year or manage to get another 20 rating points out of two tournaments). In any case, given the deep dive that I went through at the beginning of my journey reaching this corridor is pretty fine (and actually not really far from my all-time high anyway)...

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Day 201 / 164 to go

During the day, I did some tactic puzzles using CT-ART 4.0 whenever possible. It is getting harder now to increase my rating --- the algorithm is now expecting me to solve pretty much any puzzle, which I can´t. So I hardly gained some 10 rating points...

In the evening, I went through some of the variations with Black that I have available in my CPT.  Let´s say that this is somewhat a lightweight training - given tomorrow´s start of the tournament...

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Day 200 / 165 to go

I started with some tactic puzzles using CT-ART 4.0 and elevated my rating to 2300. YES, yes - I am most likely not yet at 2100 in real chess, but at least I went from 2100 (this was the rating I gave myself when I bought CT-ART 4.0) all the way up to 2300.  So, althought the number itself is unreal, the increase as such is motivating...

I then worked with Lommer - did fail on two puzzles; still miles away from claiming "I am back!" But at least there was a somewhat re-occuring theme during the last days: promoting to minor pieces (instead of queen or at least a rook). Although this sort of "under-promoting" is pretty unlikely to help me to score in real-life games, it widens my horizon as such... Here´s what I am talking about (remember, it´s a Lommer - so it´s White to move):

Finally, I continued to work my way through Smith´s Pump Up Your Rating: Today was an interesting session on visualisation. As an exercise he proposes to name the colour of a square just by reading its coordinates and vice versa: it helps to get a good mental image of the chessboard. Actually, I know that I am somewhat weak at this (and I remember that I was pretty good at it some 25 years ago). Hence, I will include this sort of "warm-up" into my training sessions!   And just like I am using CT-ART 4.0 "on the road", I can conduct this sort of "warm-up", too...  8-)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Day 199 / 166 to go

As indicated yesterday, I started with three Lommers. I would say that I got the first two "pretty much correct" but failed just as louzy on the third one. I can really "feel" that I am not yet at the same level I was back in August... 8-/
Here´s the one I totally missed - White to move (BTW: it is always, really always White to move within the whole Lommer)!
Actually, even Komodo doesn´t get it from this position onward! Yes, the machine is just as stuck as I was... 8-)

In addition, after quite a while now, I finally went back to practise my PAT - using literally every next position in Smith´s Pump Up Your Rating.
All in all, a nice training session today!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Day 197+198 / 167 to go

Saturday I had a really nice time with my son --- no interest in chess.
Sunday my ex gave me a really hard evening - no chance for a clear mind!

Tomorrow until Wednesday evening I will go for Lommer+Capablanca endings every evening. So that both my PAT as well as pure calculation strength will be practised.
Thursday + Sunday: Korbach Chess Tournament!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Day 195 / 170 to go

Today I continued with Smith´s lecture on calculations. Just like on IM Richter´s DVD, he proposes NOT to go too deeply into calculating candidate moves/variations, but rather to come to a prelimenariy conclusion rather soon. However, unlike Richter´s advice to start with moves that give a check, then with those taking a piece and only then calculate "the rest", Smith believes in calculating the move with the highest aim first!

Personally, I like Richter´s hierarchy because of its clearness and its practical value when being in extreme situations (either look for a mate yourself or avoid being mated). On the other hand Smith´s rule can be easily applied - even in those extreme cases of mating or getting mated...

I will try to incorporate Richter´s hierarchical approach into my PAT/thinking - DURING TRAINING. And hopefully, after enough training, Smith´s theory kicks in: the structured approach becomes part of my subconcious thinking...

(I have to admit, that today I probably spent only about half a session - some 45 minutes. But my working day was simply too hard/long.  I did relax with some blitz games after the lesson...)

Day 194 / 171 to go

Calculating well is not the same as calculating far!

I would say that this is a rather obvious statement - let´s see how Smith justifies it - I hope to find out by the end of this week. He started with the following position:
Although I found and analysed the right move (and by reasonable depth) - I simply overlooked Bxb5!
Why - because I didn´t apply my PAT! Using my PAT, I would have gone through ALL attacking moves, which would have included the check with the bishop! Lommer and PAT --- I have to make sure I don´t have too many lessons without neither...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Day 193 / 172 to go

For the first time in about two months I finally had the feeling, that I truely did a decent training session!
I started with three Lommers - all of them rather easy and I am convinced, two months before I would have solved them. But today I only got the first one right. I can feel that I have to pick up again on calculation!

In addition, I finally went back to A.Smith´s Pump up Your Rating: I went back to the last exercises I did. Last time I got 1 out of 5 but I remembered all of them pretty well and made 5/5 now. No big deal - but a nice re-start...  Here´s a nice Wu-Wei (White to move):
Interestingly, it takes Komodo quite a while to come up with the move...

I defnitely overdid it, when I started to play some online blitz - simply because I lost some 50 ratings points. But it was fun!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Day 192 / 173 to go

Remember my comment on the first game of the Nibelungen Open - the one where I had the bishop-pair against a rook with a somewhat wretched pawn structure on both sides?
Today I actually did a few blitz games on that position against Komodo in order to get a better feeling and somewhat increase my technique in trying to convert the position into a victory next time. Yes - for Komodo it is very easy and straight forward. But I actually plundered quite often and it took me a few tries before I finally got a decent grip and finished it confidently into victories... Actually, I did that for more than one hour.
I will do that sort of exercise more often now: positions that are won according to Komodo and which I didn´t win will be played by myself against the machine. However, I will try to decrease the speed and not do blitz games on those positions...

In addition, guess what I finally picked up again: Yes, yes - I did a Lommer! 
It was not really a difficult but a rather easy one. Nevertheless, I failed: I have to admit that I already forgot about the basics of Queen versus pawn endings as well as pawn endings in general...  8-(

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Day 191 / 174 to go

Today we had a team match - both my son and me lost. In a totally equal and easy to play position at the early middle-game, I simply plundered a pawn - silly!

Prior to the match, I went to some variations for Black using my CPT. So the repetition plus the match make it, all in all, a "chess day"...

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Day 190 / 175 to go

Actually, I spent the whole afternoon studying an "old forgotten" variation which was brought up again by Ramirez on one of his training DVDs.  It is a variation for White that starts with a tiny minus, but pretty soon equalizes (easily and proven in really any game that I have on Meta-DB2016) and often gives White the chance to score well!
Having said that it starts with a tiny minus, I have to add that it does so only if Black knows what he is doing very well (actually, only when he is somewhat prepared). This is not really a risk - especially given the fact that todays machines are minimizing the "first-mover advantage" more and more. Hence, getting out of the opening "decently" seems to be "just fine" - at least for me...

And as a matter of fact, the variation does have some sort of "surprise-momentum" on my side...

Day 188 / 177 to go

I just saw that I made a "move-order mistake" --- this post should have been published already two days ago (for my training session on Thursday evening).
Today I continued to absorb GM Ramirez´ training DVD - actually, I plan to enrich my opening repertoire with White by a long forgotten variation... 8-)
In addition, I did put some of the stuff into my CPT.

Day 189 / 176 to go

Sorry, after some 5,5 hours of work, 3,5 hours in the train and another 4 hours in the car: no chance for training (I actually came home after midnight)...

TODAY I will head for a decent session (and report later)!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Day 187 / 178 to go

Yesterday it took me some 8h to get from Stuttgart to Paris and then I was left without internet access...  Nevertheless, I picked up training again and did the following:  Both during the train ride and later in the hotel I solved puzzles using CT-ART 4.0. I have to admit, that I can´t solve the very tricky ones (CT-ART offers a scale up to 180 --- I limited the puzzles to scale 150 first, but had to accept that I am currently not really able to solve any above 100) - so I reduced the complexity level...
In addition, I followed the words/advice of GM Ramirez - following him on one of his training DVDs. I really like his teaching style --- not to mention that he plays what I play, both with Black and White!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Day 186 / 179 to go

Here´s the post-mortem of Game 7 of the Nibelungen Open
Please join the following middlegame position and take a moment to evaluate is for yourself: What do you think? Let me warm-up your thoughts with the obvious:  Black´s bishops are almost useless; White enjoys a decent space advantage on the queenside; whereas White`s bishop are also not really big assets (but at least the one on b2 might serve as a defender, especially for e3/f4); Black´s future definitely lies within a kingside-advance and maybe (maybe) it may turn out to be a real attack...
WHATEVER you came up with (on top of my introduction) - would you give White a "solid plus" here?!
  1. Well, believe it or not: White is actually holding a solid advantage (of +0.9)! But I simply couldn´t see any of that. One reason: I mis-calculated Ra8, Bc7 - and now Ra7 with Bb8 (attacking my rook): Now I thought I would have to go back to a8 (or somewhere else on the a-file, since the R on a7 was attacked!!!!   8-)    Yes, louzy - since the pawn on b7 is simply hanging - hence, Ra8 can´t be answered with Bc7, since then Ra7 is way too strong!
  2. I briefly thought about b6 --- which is actually the reason for the machine to judge the position as 0,9.
    But how to continue? How can I take advantage of the a-file and the miserable bishop on b8? What if Black doesn´t do anything? THIS, even now with the help of the machine, remains very unclear to me...
  3. I did - NOT FOR A BLOODY SECOND - consider bxc!  How silly is that??? I control the a-file and could open the b-file! (Actually, the machine consider it necessary for Black to re-take with the B - and not with the pawn!)
  4. GHOSTS and DEMONS made me think that I am about to face a heavy thunderstorm on the kingside. Which would be MUCH faster - and anyway absolutely lethal - as any of my queenside-plans.
How louzy! This analysis makes me feel like I didn´t learn anything at all since I started my journey becoming a ChessMonk! (I have to work harder!  I somehow made it up to that position although it was an opening I never played before!  So, in the very end, I wasn´t doing too bad up to that position - now I have to strive for more!)

Ok, let´s move on in the game for just a few more moves - to make my embarresment complete:
Still, White calls a nice edge of 0,5 his own! Now (after Rg8) Black offered a draw - I accepted for the very same reasons why I couldn´t see that I was so much better before: All I saw, were GHOSTS tearing my kingside protection apart leaving me helpless like the rabbit in front of the snake!

But we´re not finished yet! Now comes the best part: Prior to accepting the offer, I calculated Bd3 - with taking on e4 with N + B, so that the d4-pawn can be pushed with check aaaall the way to d6 (attacking the queen and making it really hard for the B on b8 to enter the game)!  YES - I saw it!   But I was simply NOT able to properly evaluate the resulting position! To be really honest, I was only hardly able to count the pieces+pawns of the resulting position! Whatever I would have done now, I twould have left me with a decent edge of 0,4 (Bxe5) up to 0,8 (Qxe4), resulting almost "by force" in the following position (which, however, I wasn´t able to grasp):

White is actually up +1.0 ---  8-/

The game in the morning plus my separation in the back of my mind cost me too much will-power, motivation, self-confidence and resulted heavily in a lack of flow...  8-(
OK OK - we now have some sort of idea WHY I lost (some sort of fatiqueness and a certain lack of focus).  But what does it take not to make that sort of mistake again?

1) First and foremost: I need to recognize this state next time when it overcomes me. (As only when I realize it early enough, I have a chance to react appropriate.)
2) A psychologist might give the advice to start positive thinking (about prior events where I overgame that sort of negativity / about how I will manage to cash the full point after a heavy fight / etc) and might tell me to simply catch some fresh air. The latter can also be read pretty regularly in GM-written books...
3) Especially in cramped positions it is vital to remain cool and be aware of the simplest of all chess rules: Each side is allowed to make only one move at a time!

In addition, please follow me to Game 5 of the Nibelungen Open (which I lost): Up to now, I played an easy set-up, not necessarily the best moves as such - not 100% determined to equalize in terms of reaching a computational 0,00 - allowing my opponent to swing between total equalization and a slight edge of 0,2. But I felt fine and stayed within convenient and familiar positions. I guess it was some sort of flow - not worried too much, allowing to keep a decent time cushion on the clock...
My opponent allowed me to reach the following position - showing a decisive advantage of up to 1.9 for the best and still 1.06 for the 5th best move:
Ok, finding Qb1 is probably up to machines or GMs. Qb3 was my first choice - as it keeps an eye on b2, d3 and - most important - on e6! (The latter, however, slipt my mind at that time.)  Qa5 would have been a nice alternative which I was up to a few moves earlier as it keeps the white Queen away from d2 and - more important - allows to swiftly retreat to d8, covering not only the rook, but attacking f6! (Again, the latter slipt my mind!)
In essence, Black is cleary winning and can almost play "anything" (decent)...

Qb3 or Qa5 were - as a matter of fact, on my shortlist.
However, I decided to go for d5, convinced that the bishop would have to crawl back to g2: I considered the immediate  taking on g6 and concluded (correctly) that it is a no-go. 
After d5, White didn´t think twice and took on f7!   A shock - I didn´t see that one coming at all!
Now I spent ALL my remaining time - which I had plenty of, and took with the rook.  So far so good: It is still a draw! But once more - I saw ghosts and behaved like a rabbit!
I didn´t take the bishop because I considered the resulting checks lethal - a king march trying to reach the save heaven are not working. Rh7 was - according to my logic - not working, because after Kxg6, Qh5, Rh7, Qxg6, I simply faced the thread of Qe8 checkmate!    What I missed was the resource Qa8!   Would I have seen it, I would have played it!   Since I didn´t see it and I recognized that taking on g6 in conjunction with a king-march wouldn´t work --- I went for Rxf6 - recognising that I would be mated. But I made this move because in my thinking/calculation all the alternatives were losing, too...  8-(

I really have to get tactically better - and increase my calculation (both when looking for winning and defending ressources)! Hence, CT-ART 4.0 + Lommer are on the list for the coming training sessions!

Days 182 - 185 / Nibelungen Open (180 to go)

Actually, I wasn´t too keen on participating in that tournament - given my current situation and my latest lack of training...  But both my son and me were already enrolled, the entrance fee was paid and the hotel booked - so we went to Worms and played the Nibelungen Open

I started out really great with 4 draws against a 2296 FM, a 2327 IM, a 2118 dude (where I actually gave the exchange for a pawn) and a 2150 guy (where I took the risk of a doubtful variation which, if not answered correctly, would give me pleasant play).  Great start - good games!
I had the bishop pair against a rook and a pawn against the FM with strange pawn structures on both sides and with some 7 minutes left I wasn´t really sure how to judge the position. Against the IM the game was pretty drawish until I played a bit too passive (protecting my own pawn instead of giving it up and attacking his). But in the endgame he was playing too weak (and I would say on the wrong side of the board), so I managed to secure the draw.

Game 5 was a loss due to a "Fingerfehler" right in the opening (for all Non-Englishmen: it is used like Kindergarten or Wanderlust, or the commonly known "Zugzwang"): my knight had to go to d2 and I knew it, but when grabbing the piece, my hand moved it to e1 instead...  a mistake that was punished by a 2128-guy. Fair enough

Games 6 (a loss) and 7 (a draw) will be part of tonights post mortem - and be published in parts...

Sooo - unfortunately, after a superb start I fucked things up in game 5 and 6.  Due to these two losses I am finally left with a minus of some 10 FIDE rating points. The draw in game 7 was unnecessary, but I actually had NO CLUE at all about what was going on - so it was justified...

The series of 4 good results against cleary stronger players serves as good indication that I, indeed, became stronger. I was far from getting into time trouble - only in game 5, after it was already lost, it took me all the remaining time to accept that it was over. In addition, I really felt like my intuition became stronger, allowing me to focus on the important pieces and parts of the board. Something that, according to A. Smith, is due to practising my PAT...

This feeling makes me HUNGRY for the coming tournaments!

Days 175 - 181 / 184 to go

Apologies, but as some already know and others might have guessed (due to earlier comments trying to explain/justify my training pauses): 15 years of relationship ended during the famous/maledict 7th year of marriage!
This was and somewhat still is a time in my life where I am glad that I was/am able to continue to function at work and not (having) start(ed) drinking!
HOWEVER, as always, there is a time for being down and depressed and a time to stand up again:

I promise, that these days are over now. I am back on track!