Wednesday, June 27, 2012

As promised, here's my favorite Chessimo position so far:

Black to move

I like the attraction into the sandwich of ill intentions.

Tactical training status:
Studied 2841, Learned 300

I'm not going to lie, today was a bit more grueling than others.  I wasn't in the mood and I was sloppy.  I might do that unit over again.  However, I'm happy I pushed through.  They'll be more days like this.  I'm a bit ahead of my schedule, so I might go easy tomorrow, combined with some soft study of something else.

Chessimo is technically spaced repetition, but the 'spacing' is crude, based more on how quickly you are moving through the problems.  Spaced repetition is on a perpetual to-do list over at ChessTempo.  CPT 3.3 handles tactics but has crude spaced repetition, CPT 4 has scheduled spaced repetition but doesn't handle tactics.

There's an Anki deck of tactics; I haven't looked at it yet.  It seems to me that it's a straightforward matter to build Anki decks of chess positions:

Position file --> Scid --> use the Engine Analyze Each Position feature --> Save analysis as variations or commentary --> Export --> Parse and chop into Anki-able text file --> automate diagram production via Winboard, Crafty, or whatever tool works best.  Actually, you could do the bulk via Crafty command line scripting and the annotate[h] functions.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Color of Attacked Squares

Chessimo has been all review for the past few units.  GM Milos is smart!  I was getting strained and discouraged by the Mate in Threes (successful, but with errors).  The review is a wonderful breather and a chance to rebuild confidence.

I'm still stunned by how hard Mate in Twos are for me.  I mean, I generally get them, but shouldn't they be automatic?!  It's a key move, then a finishing move.  It should pop out.  Yes, I guess that's the point of my training.  A review Mate in Two can still can take me 12-15 seconds.  I see the probable key move, but it takes me time to verify the entire event.  I'm a discouraged by this, but again, I'm not supposed to be good yet.

I missed a Mate in One today! On time!  It turned out I was counting a useful pawn as owned by the enemy, because it was so deep into enemy territory.  I'm not too worried about it.  If you keep hurtling through tactics problems and changing your allegiances, it's bound to happen.  But, it stands as a funny and useful turkey.  If you're ever feeling discouraged about your tactical abilities, come back to this post.  You can't possibly do worse!

My favorite tactical problems so far are Mate in Ones.  Stop laughing.  Stop.  Look, there's still more blog left, so please pull yourself together so we can continue.  Anyway, I just love the template-y thematic-y feel to them.  I feel like basic verbs are being etched into my brain.  I do also have a favorite Mate problem; I'll try to post it after I see it next.

I'm wondering about visualizing attacked squares.  As in:

  • The king is surrounded by attacked squares.  Is it possible to visualize those attacked squares as different - darker colored, different texture, etc.?
  • Similarly and/or more generally, is it possible to visualize the squares that a piece attacks differently?  I'm referring to the starburst that radiates out from a queen, or the cross radiating from a rook.

Tactics, and generally my view of the board, is still a logic puzzle (which is correct - chess is a logic puzzle - but possibly not helpful to the task at hand).  Viewing the board with rays of influence might be more useful.  I need to google and see how experts view the board.  If anyone has insight, I would appreciate it.

I'm starting to get a hankering for endgames.  Not being from the South, I should of course avoid use of that word, but your pain is the least of my concerns after your little display earlier.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tactics training status

Chessimo:  1,465 problems done
CTS:  290 problems done

So... yes, it's clear I'm just doing the bare minimum of CTS.  Chessimo is already mildly challenging to me at Tactics 1 - Unit 12.  I'd be ashamed to say that, except for the circular part where I'm doing this because I'm bad at tactics.  Lesson to whippersnappers:  don't get discouraged by being bad at things you're trying to learn how to do.  It saps your soul.

I continue to like Chessimo, and the convenience of having it on my iPhone.  The ads claim it "remembers [my] progress" but meh I must have done the first third of Unit 11 three times.  Either that's PC only or I'm missing something.  Obviously with multi-threading I should be able to step away and step back.  Maybe I just forget to do that.  But otherwise at 135 problems per unit, it's hard to carve out that chunk of time in a single sitting.

After today's single sitting, I promptly passed out.  I dreamed of tactics!  That's gotta be a rite of passage, yeah?

I grew covetous of today.  That likely will be a part of my future.  But I have so many tactical resources right now, more is just distracting.

I've been having fun working out my repertoire, which really deserves separate blog posts.  I've decided to temporarily ditch most of my gambits.  It's too stressful to go in as a novice down a pawn, when you have barely any idea how to attack and have promised yourself not to book up too much.  I do know how to develop and the outlines of many openings, so against fellow patzers, attacks should develop on their own.  A finer reading of many recommendations clarifies that you should add in gambits after your novice stage.  Ah, I missed that nuance.

I'm favoring transpositions and less common variations.  It's fun!  I keep going back to the Dutch/Bird lines.  I find it aesthetically pleasing, but I'm dutifully wary of the Bird being too positional or complicated.  Black is mostly done, which I'll discuss later.  On White I'm trying to figure out if I can get enough sharp transpositions from 1.f4.  I'm trying to work out if I can get a combination of Bird/Larsen, King's Gambit, Taylor-style Grand Prix, Austrian Attack, and whatever other f4 openings fit the bill. Standard Classical or Polar Bear to fill in the rest, which I worry is too maneuver-y for me right now, but in doses might be fine. I'd prefer not to learn the King's Gambit (Declination of From), but it sure would make sense.  I assume the Vienna is waaay too far of a transposition.  I want to position myself for e4-ish openings, because sharp is important, and I want a switch back to e4 gambits to be silky smooth.  Transpositions help avoid a lot of theory (well, technically they might just shift theory), and will let me focus on less than the full slate of the e4 catalog.

More on that later.  So this is how you sate the novice's stupid passion for openings when he's promised himself not to practice openings.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I'm still plugging away at my 1st Circle, but the question is whether to continue on to the second with this batch of tactics.  My Circle was defined as
I have 180 problems to go in CTS until I'm done.  As I've written previously, they are very easy two/three-move tactics.  It's a great book for what it's trying to do.  But they're so easy I'm not sure I'm going to speed up at them much, and using a book... turns out to be drudgery.  I had wanted to do my Circles with books, because I'm sick of staring at monitors all day.  But you just can't beat the software options.  I did 303 with PGNs.  And now...

I've discovered Chessimo for the iPhone.  The tactics module costs $3.  How could you make a big mistake at $3?!  I should start a scholarship for kids - I'll buy them the $3 Chessimo app if they demonstrate an interest in chess.  And get off my lawn.  Anyway, I gave it a go and I love it.  When I chose to go the book route, I never imagined I would end up loving working on my dinky iPhone screen.  It's just really convenient and fast.  I've already done ~1,200 problems on the thing.  I think this is my new "Circle".  Finish Chessimo tactics.

I did end up buying the whole thing for a whopping $8, and the other modules are great.  Well, the openings module is kind of a useless survey, but at 1/4th of $8 I can swallow that cost.  Strategy is fun, and endgames I believe will be great.  I poke around at endgames, re-acquainting myself with opposition, etc.  It's humbling, but I enjoy it.  I think I'll be good at endgames.  I can do algorithmic things like butter...

But I'm letting discouragement hit a bit on tactics.  I'm on Set 1 - Unit 10, which is two-move mates.  Why aren't these automatic?  I might spend up to a minute staring at a two-move mate.  I get stuff wrong.  How can you not calculate a 2-move mate?!  Well, I can't explain how, so stopping asking me in that mocking tone, "gentle reader", but let me assure you it is very possible.  Ah well, I'm just reminding myself that I chose to start up chess again because there is zero financial incentive, and very little pressure.  Being good at chess gets me nothing but more chess.  If it takes me three more Circles than somebody else, that's not a problem.

And I guess I'm not doing that bad.  Just impatient.  I'm not sure I'll ever be great.  I'm very poor with spatial-visual geometry.  My mother is the same way.  I still can't map out my hometown, or my adopted town.  It's sort of a gray fog.  We figure it's a type of dyslexia - some of my uncles and cousins have it bad, and my siblings were diagnosed with mild cases.  I was never tested, and it clearly hasn't impacted my life much (and smartphone GPS has revolutionized my life!), and I'm more than happy with my route-based style of thinking that has given me my algorithmic and deductive qualities.  It's just a weird quirk that is finally having its day.  It's like my very mild claustrophobia that was mostly amusing, until I was medically forced to use a CPAP every night.

But on this, I can suck!  And I don't think I'll suck, it just might take some time and my achievements might be modest.

I'm a Knight Errant, but nobody knows it.  But there's nobility in anonymity.  Or, I'll have to slay a dragon, publicly.  That'll get me on side bars.

Monday, June 4, 2012

I'm a Knight!

All right, Blunder Prone has dubbed me a knight!  Of course, I'm not on a list anywhere, so I'm like a secret knight, or a knight everyone's ashamed of, so they don't talk about me.  I have to ride a mangy pony and follow behind the others.  If you know anything about horses, this isn't an optimal location.

But I'm a knight!  Chess Tactics for Students arrived today.  Boy did I get what I asked for - it is very easy.  That's fine, although it's hard to do the puzzles at a fast clip, while avoiding all the hints it gives you on every problem.  I scoured the internet for a PGN collection for this book - no luck.  Maybe I'll input a few every night after I'm done with my Circles training...  Ugh.  Maybe not.  I'll figure out something.

The book really looks great for elementary school chess kids.  Well done.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I haven't yet been able to raise anybody on the horn over at the Castle of the Knights Errant.  So if and until I can gain membership to that group, I've created my own group.  A group of one (me!), listed over on the right side.

Tools: Books

My experience-to-chess book ratio used to be way out of whack.  Even when buying each book, I knew I didn't need it.  I just had that passion to consume and read.  But ten years ago, I packed up most of them and walked over to a tournament going on near my workplace, and sold them for $80.  I've never regretted it.  I saved my favorites and the bare bones I would need to get started again.

Today I'm not so sure that 95% of the books and software are worthwhile to the average club player.  If you go back and read chess reviews, you might get the sense that they are all going soft on each other.  An IM knows that it's tough to make it in the chess world, so isn't going to ask of a GM's latest book, "Do we really need another of THESE?!.  Perhaps the problem is that so many are good, but we don't need them all.

I'm not so sure I need that fourth book on positional theory for a long while.  I doubt many of us yet need that second book on our favorite opening.  I think most of us are like me; we just want to consume more, and maybe even find that magic bullet.  If we're reading a new book, that's a nice way of telling ourselves that we're "studying chess", when what we really should be doing is the grunt work.  After having written the previous sentence, I shortly discovered that Nigel Davies had coined a phrase for this type of sub-optimal improvement method:  "Reading and nodding".  Of course, it's a hobby, so whatever makes you happy is good.

Here are my resources:

And that, I think, is all the books I need for a while.  Software and Internet resources coming soon.

I should be done with the 303 book by the weekend!  Unfortunately, it represents less than half of a Circle.  But I'm hoping that the Bain book will be easy enough that I can increase my speed.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A New Lifetime Friend

Yesterday was a very good day:  I discovered the Reti Gambit (e4 e6 b3!?)