Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Progress Not Perfection

Thirteen years ago, a new friend asked me if I played chess.  When I responded that I didn't, he looked crestfallen.  He seemed like a nice fellow, and he was also one of the few people around that had a car to escape the miserable college campus where I was stranded.  I offered, helpfully and hopefully, that from childhood I knew how the pieces moved and knew the rules.  Off we drove to a coffee shop where I happily received drubbing after drubbing, sipping on my $2 coffee.  I'm proud to say I pushed out 1. e4 and 1..e5 every time.  Right out of the gate, I was winning by force!... even if I failed to find that win.

But I vowed revenge (as well as vowing to give my friend a decent game) and I secretly embarked on a passionate, library-fueled study of chess.  I did eventually get some vengeance.  But time and difficulty and poor studying plans took their toll, and I eventually abandoned the path.  It wasn't a heartbreak, but I never could bring myself to give away all my chess books...

I've rekindled my interest.  This is a chess patzer's blog.  I've never blogged, and I don't know that I want to be a blogger.  But I do know that I want to be a Knight Errant, and this is a prerequisite of membership.  Now that blogging is a given, I'll try to use it to advantage. 

The Plan
My study plan is different.  Before, I had wanted to hide behind closed pawn structures and avoid having to become a tactical genius.  Tactics were cool enough, but it wasn't elegant.  I realized eventually that in order to post your knight to the fifth rank, that knight has to gallop through a minefield of tactics.  Moreover, many positional moves seem impossible, until you dig deep enough and see that the obvious countermoves fail to tactics.  Any review of the games of a closed position master demonstrates this.

Now I embrace tactics and the attack.  This is my plan.

My current goal isn't to improve at chess.  My first goal is to improve at a game called Tactical Chess Puzzles.  I want to get a Class B rating in Tactical Chess Puzzle.  I've heard this game is based on chess.  To this end, I'm embarking on a de la Maza-style Seven Circles. I wanted to start with easy tactics.  I want to have a firm grip on the foundational patterns and work on ever harder tactics with subsequent Circles.  I ordered Chess Tactics for Students, by John A. Bain.  It hasn't arrived yet, so I've started on 303 Tricky Chess Puzzles. I'll probably merge the two when the Bain book arrives.  750 problems is more than I would have liked for my first effort, so perhaps I'll use all of the Bain book and just use the easiest half of the 303 book.

I'm halfway through the 303 book, and some of them are out of my reach.  I'm pretty sure I'm a worse tactician than I was thirteen years ago, and I was never very good.  Now I'm older and more tired.  But it doesn't matter.  Right now my sole training requirement is to do my daily tactical puzzles.  Everything after that I consider "for the love of the game" entertainment.

I am a complete convert to the College of Tactics, Tactics, Tactics.  Graduate studies are more varied, but demand this prerequisite.

Seirawan's openings book recommends Nf3, g3, Bg2, O-O, and I obeyed.  I can't imagine a worse recommendation for beginners.  This otherwise fine introductory book should be banned from libraries everywhere, for this offense alone.  These type of openings might be more my style (I actually have no idea yet!), but I absolutely have to learn how to attack.  Up until now, I've avoided using the term "positional" in place of "closed positions".  Open, tactical situations are positional and they have positional demands - the demand is that you have to use your force and tempi.  To the extent I'm learning openings, my repertoire now includes many good gambits and many somewhat dubious gambits.  To be honest, they make me uncomfortable, but closed positions become open, and opponent defensive mistakes must be identified and pounced upon.

I have Vulkovic's Art of the Attack and Alburt's King in Jeopardy.  I might eventually make a study of those.  Gah.  I have so much to learn.  I'm so clueless.

That's the plan right now.  That's it.  Circles and attacking openings.  The extras (Openings, Goals, Tools, etc.) to come.

1 comment:

  1. A belated welcome to the chess improvement community!