Wednesday, July 11, 2012


White to move

This problem is in both Bain's Chess Tactics for Students and Chessimo Tactics 1.  So I see it a lot; I've probably encountered it 7-10 times, and I'm not sure I've gotten it right even once.  It's not even that hard.  But for some reason, I never see the initiating piece.  It's like it's not on the board.  And I don't seem to be learning the pattern at all!  Maybe this action will burn it into my brain.

Tactics Training Status
Chessimo:  Studied 4866, Learned 360 (Overall Completion: 10.1%!)
Bain:  1.75 Circles completed

When you're tired and bored, it gets easy to play Whack-a-Mole on the problems, even if you try to avoid it.  I do keep telling myself that just seeing the patterns and going through the motions (the moves are easy to remember one at a time) has some value.  Added is the frustration that they're getting harder, and they're all Mates or pseudo-Mates.  The difficulty increase is a bit faster than my skill increase.  I would prefer a bit of a go at similarly leveled Win Decisive Material problems, to prolong the training at one skill level.  It will be a bit silly if I get to the end of Tactics 1 having done Mate in 6/7s, and then half of Tactics 2 is 2/3-move forks and skewers.  It's a bit unbalanced.

However, once again, about two units after I started to get discouraged, GM Milos gives 2-3 units of pure review to let you catch your breath.  It's a wise scheme.  I've also been making an effort to visualize or understand the entire problem before whacking, even pausing the timer, and definitely if I clearly don't understand the problem.

I located a PGN of Bain, and that has made a world of difference.  I'm running through this set again, and it's pretty easy to run through 100 or so in a sitting.  I think my favorite tactics training method is simply a PGN and Scid vs. PC, or Scid on the Go for my Android tablet.  I never Whack-a-Mole, there's no timer, but I'm willing to give up and move on if I'm stumped (doesn't happen too often with Bain, of course).

I don't know if I'll do a full seven with Bain within the calendar year, but probably at least three.  Next set likely will involve  Hays' Chess Tactics for Juniors (people say it's harder), CPT 3.3 Tactics set L2, a set from, or a combination of the three.

Generic Amazon Customer Chess Book Review:  "I loved this book!  It definitely helped my chess!  Beginners and intermediates will benefit the most!"

How do you know you've improved?  Did you take a canned exam?  What was your rating improvement?  Maybe you got worse!  Granted, I understand that some chess knowledge can have a delayed benefit, and that chess skill isn't all about ratings.  But we have reasonable ways of measuring chess skill, and I'm worried about people thinking they've learned a damn when they haven't.  Of course, to some extent, any exposure to good chess positions is good, but that's pretty weak sauce.

So I say all that to say that I'm sure I'm improving, but I can't prove it.  My CTS rating has bumped up a solid 50 points.  I know that doesn't seem like much, and certainly I would have hoped for more by now, but it's consistent (both the initial rating and the current rating).  It'd be higher if I was more committed to speed over accuracy.  I haven't done ChessTempo in a while, but the problem with that is that by doing Standard, my rating seems artificially inflated.  Honestly, given infinite patience I imagine I could have a 1800-2000 rating at ChessTempo.  I'm not in the mood to do more timers ala Blitz mode, but we'll see.

Regardless, tactics really are popping out more.  The "I know this theme!" recognition is a bit better.  My skill is laughably lopsided.  I'm much better at the Mates, compared to the Decisive Materials.  One emphasizes things like absolute pins and attacks on mating squares.  The other emphasizes forks, skewers, etc.  Hopefully, Decisive Materials will improve and so will my ratings.

I might invest in one of those canned Chess Exam books.  Or something like that.

I hope everyone is doing well.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Naming the Bishops

We chess players love our names.  Our openings carry with them heritage and famous advocates.  We don't play e4 d6, we play the Pirc Austrian Attack, Dragon Formation. We name our structures with colorful labels, like 'fianchetto' and 'isolani'.  I share our love for these names, evoking the great history and global allure of chess.  But I've always been confused by one strange omission.

We've never named the bishops.  Or maybe we have, in some ancient 1500 manuscript, but it clearly hasn't caught on.  Maybe the Soviets did, but I've never seen it referenced.  We're stuck with "dark-squared bishop" and "light-squared bishop", which is unwieldy.  Maybe for the first few hundred years or so it was no big deal, but once the Internet arrived and chess discussion exploded, this deficiency became glaring.  We could use "DBishop" and "LBishop", but that has all the style and elegance of a gym locker.

So, I've named my bishops:



I hope you do the same.