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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Old Indian Defense (3), against an Expert

Today’s blog entry features my 5th game in our chess club’s annual championship tournament and an update on my training regiment. My opponent is rated 700 points higher, which did not give me a lot of encouragement going into the game. Fortunately, the game started with a d-pawn opening and I was able to use my favorite Old Indian Defense, a defense which many opponents are not familiar.

When my opponent left book early, I was on my own, trying to anticipate threats and positional moves. The game was even until my 17th move, which is quite good against an opponent of this caliber. This blunder was caused by failure to evaluate a response to the depth necessary. I played on, hoping for a return blunder until the game reached a position that I felt I could win if we switched sides.

The last few days have been spent re-evaluating my training schedule, taking into account the feedback from the previous blog entry and looking at how the material studied would be most beneficial.  The schedule is designed to hit the most important areas with enough emphasis to make a meaningful gain.  The morning and evening sessions are each divided into 3: 15 minutes of review or light study as a warm-up, 30 of book study and 30 of exercises.

  1. Endgame Practice - 15 minutes with Pandolfini’s Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini.  The problems are in a database and played against the Houdini chess engine. 
  2. Strategy Study – 30 minutes with I.A. Horowitz’ Point Count Chess.  This book will probably take 2 or more readings before I can continue with a more challenging book like Nimzowitsch’s My System.
  3. Tactic Problems – 30 minutes (average time) each morning to solve 10 problems on chesstempo.com with a difficulty level of 1300-1500, trying to see the entire solution before making the first move.
Evenings on game days:
  1. Games – Twice a week playing a long game, either at my local chess club (G90) or against a Chessmaster10 opponent (G45).  I also intend to participate in 6 Saturday tournaments this year (3 G65 games each tournament).
Evenings on non-game days:
  1. Analysis – 15 minutes reviewing either my games or games from Neil McDonald’s Art of Logical Thinking.  McDonald’s game collection replaced my previous choice to get move-by-move commentary.
  2. Strategy Study – 30 minutes with I.A. Horowitz’ Point Count Chess (i.e. continuing morning’s B study).
  3. Tactic Problems – 30 minutes with Dan Heisman’s Looking for Trouble.
How does this address the weaknesses shown by the Chess Exam results? 
-     Counterattack, addressed by C&G
-         Calculation, addressed by A,C&G
-         Middlegame, addressed by B,C,F&G
-         Sacrifice, not directly addressed
-         Tactics, addressed by A,C&G

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chess Exam, results and changes to study schedule

I retook the Chess Exam and Training Guide by Igor Khmelnitsky. The previous exam was ~3 years ago. The results below show the both the previous and current estimates of my status in the 12 categories measured.

10 categories had increased scores while 2 had decreases. The Opening gain is probably an illusion as only 6 of the 100 questions addressed this category.

My major concerns are the sharp decreases in Calculation and Counterattack, these scores may indicate why my Over-the-Board USCF rating is in decline. My fear is that this decline may be a by-product of aging. Stay tuned as I try to correct this.

The following is my study schedule with some changes made to address the above deficiencies:

· Endgame Practice – 15 minutes each morning going over Pandolfini’s Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini. The problems are in a database and I play the endgames against the Houdini chess engine. My current pass is to refresh the understanding of all the endgames presented. My intention is to take another pass to isolate for further review those problems which fail on the first attempt.

· Strategy Study – 20 minutes each morning reading Modern Chess Strategy by Paduk Pachman. This is the first serious attempt to completely read and understand this book and I am currently about half way through it. The examples are being played on the computer, but many of the strategies seem vague even with the examples. Many of Pachman’s variations would also benefit from a computer accuracy check. I ordered a copy of Horowitz’ Point Count Chess which is claimed to be easier to understand and, if so, will probably replace this book.

· Tactic Problems – 30 minutes (average time) each morning to solve 10 problems on chesstempo.com with a difficulty level of 1300-1500. I am trying to see the solution before making the first move (i.e. no guessing) to simulate game conditions, which should also address the Calculation weakness found in the Chess Exam. Under consideration is raising the difficulty level, but this would require either more time or less problems per day.

· Games – (a) Twice a week I am playing a long game, either at my local chess club (G90) or against a Chessmaster10 opponent (G45). On the non-game days, (b) replaying master games from The Mammoth Book of The World’s Greatest Chess Games by Burgess, Nunn and Emms and/or from Three Hundred Chess Games by Tarrasch, while trying to understand the reasons behind the moves of the winning player.

· Complex Endgames – 20 minutes each afternoon reading and replaying the problems in Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev. Looking at the results of my Chess Exam, this will be replaced by the 800 problems presented in Chess Visualization Course, Book 1 General Tactics by Ian Anderson with the goal of improving my visualization and calculation skills.

· Opening Study – 10 minutes each afternoon studying my opening repertoire using Chess Positional Training. This is the only item in my daily studies that seems more work than fun, but I believe it is necessary to keep my repertoire up to date and in my current memory.

· Counterattack – 15 minutes each day solving the problems in Dan Heisman’s Looking for Trouble. Although my exam Threat results are acceptable, my recent games have suffered from missed threats. This book covers both defending against threats and counterattacking. I have read it once before in its entirety (it really helped my game) and have repeated the middlegame section.

For the readers who are wondering how I can expend 2-3 hours daily on chess, most of my morning studies and my morning physical exercises are finished prior to 8 a.m. In the evening, I find few television shows interesting enough to watch.

Comments and suggestions for improvement of the above study schedule will be appreciated.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Philidor Defense (14), strategy then tactics

Today’s game is from an online turn-based tournament. I features a few early strategic mistakes from my opponent. A greater control of space plus a rook on the 7th triggered a tactical mistake. The endgame play is interesting.

There is no score chart today.  If my readers found that feature useful, please comment and I will add them in future games.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Chessmaster Games, easy wins

Since I had a bye in the last round of my chess club’s tournament, Today's entry presents two recent games played against Chessmaster 10.  It is interesting how the games were easily won, but when I play over-the-board, my results are very disappointing.  CM's comments regarding the players and results are included.

I can only hope that the studies that I am pursuing will soon transfer to my OTB games.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mistake and Hidden Nugget

While working my way through the abridged Modern Chess Strategy by Ludek Pachman, I am finding a few mistakes and hidden nuggets.

The hidden nugget was found in an off-the-cuff remark in an example game between Szabo and Bisguier.  The method of creating a Knight outpost was new to my knowledge:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Philidor Defense (13), & daily study regimen

Today’s game is from the third round of the initial Lowry Grand Prix series. I was paired against a young man from our sister chess club in Augusta, GA. In the early middlegame, I overlooked a tactic that left me with doubled, isolated center pawns. Later, a series of exchanges ended with a royal Knight fork, which precipitated my resignation.

To summarize, a list of what I need to improve:

Tactics – The Knight movements seem to confuse as I tend to look only on where a Knight can reach with its initial jump, and overlook what threats exist after that jump is made.

Blunders – In both of the tactical mistakes, I am not analyzing far enough during either the move-choosing
phrase or in the blunder-checking phrase.


Current daily study regimen (2-3 hours is a typical day):

Tactics – 10 puzzles per day from chesstempo.com using a non-timed set of problems. The difficulty level spans both sides of my current USCF rating. My goal is to solve a majority of the problems with an average time of under 3 minutes. If/when that occurs I will raise the difficulty level.

Study – 20 minutes per day studying Modern Chess Strategy by Ludek Pachman. In that time, I can usually cover 5 pages. The first pass of the book should take 2 months. The examples are in a Shredder pgn file. 

Endgames – 15 minutes per day working through the problems from Practical Chess Endings by Irving Chernev. The book contains 300 problems and a normal morning covers 2-3 problems. The problems are loaded into ‘Scid vs PC’ with Houdini defending at full strength and 6 seconds/move.

Twice-a-week game days – either a chess club tournament or against a suitable opponent from Chessmaster 10. CM10 is set for G45/3. If the games are quickly over, I will annotate them the same day

On non-game days – 45 minutes per day playing through master games or annotating my games. For master games, I am using a free program called Guess The Move from https://sites.google.com/site/fredm/ which provides instant feedback on the quality of my move attempts. The master games are from A First Book of Morphy by Frisco Del Rosario This is a new program for me with the goal of practicing my thought process on every move. In addition, 15 minutes per day reviewing, updating and practicing my opening repertoire using the free Chess Positional Trainer.

Extra – I am solving or attempting to solve 2 problems each day from Chess Exam and Training Guide by Igor Khmelnitsky. I am currently in the second half of the book and should complete it this month. The result will rate my level of play in 12 separate chess areas in USCF equivalence.