Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A couple games.

I've been a little stressed with home issues and work. I decided to play a couple games "for fun." I beat someone slightly lower rated than me after he dropped his queen. I then played someone slightly higher rated and after getting squeezed, found a chance to make an exchange sacrifice to open up his king, which further allowed me to maneuver my queen through a series of checks to win a piece. I'll analyze them and perhaps put them up here once I figure out how to do that.

Finding Time

This morning, I got up a few minutes earlier than my kids, so I took the time to review of tactical problems. One of my struggles is being satisfied with the 15-20 minutes here and there I have for training. In fact, as I type this, my 6-year-old is sitting next to me trying to get my attention. In any case, the more I can effectively squeeze in training in those 15-20 minutes gaps of silence, the more effective I'll be. The key will be to savor those moments and enjoy them as much as I would when I have an hour free which rarely happens these days.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Training Log

9:00 PM
30 minutes of Chess Tempo Tactics
3 correct out of 5
Starting rating: 1807
Ending rating: 1812

I little rusty at calculating the variations, but I am confident my skills will return soon.

30 minutes studying King's Indian Defense: Samisch Variation
Reviewed initial moves, fairly straightforward
Reviewed illustrative game Kramnik-Shirov, Brundesliga 1992

On Thursday, I will review a couple more illustrative games.

A good start to my training plan. Tomorrow, I will try to do my training in the morning.

Summer Training Plan

I recently made a mindmap (using Freemind) about what I wanted to learn in chess. It included things like what I wanted to learn about openings, the types of performance skills I would need - such as concentration, time management, endurance - as well as the types of general knowledge I would need - such as strategic elements and the endgame. It was quite overwhelming for me and deciding where to start has been an incredibly difficult thing for me to do. So I decided to take a page from my fitness and health program and break it down into bite-size pieces. Instead of scientifically trying to develop the most efficient training program possible, I'll work on different aspects (utilizing as much as possible the deliberate practice principles I mentioned in a previous post) and "enjoy" the journey. With that in mind, I submit a little training plan I will work on this summer.

General Strategy

1. Continue to develop the big picture of where my chess training should go by continuing to work on my model of chess knowledge.
2. Work on overall tactical and calculation ability.
3. Systematically work on my opening repertoire - focusing on understanding moves and not just memorizing.

1.  Chess Tempo tactical training: Use standard rating training until Standard Tactical Rating exceeds 2000 (then reassess plan).
2. Chess Tempo Endgame training: Do endgame training until Practice rating reaches 2000.
3. Opening repertoire map: Use Freemind to map out overall opening repertoire.
4. King's Indian Defense: Samisch Variation: Memorize main line and variations from Gallagher book. Study illustrative games from book. Complete 5 Solitaire Chess games with analysis.
5. Queen's Gambit Declined (from White's point of view): Memorize main line and variation from Cox. Study illustrative games from book. Complete 5 Solitaire Chess games with analysis.
6. Sicilian Defense, Keres Attack (from Black's point of view): Memorize main line and variation from Pritchett. Study illustrative games from book. Complete 5 Solitaire Chess games with analysis.
7. chess9030 tournament: Prepare, play and analyze games.

This is the general goal for my schedule. However, I want to remain flexible as family and work responsibilities sometimes makes it tough to follow strictly.

Monday - Chess Tempo Tactics, King's Indian Defense
Tuesday - Chess Tempo Endgame, QGD
Wednesday - Chess Tempo Tactics, Sicilian Defense
Thursday - Chess Tempo Endgame, King's Indian Defense
Friday - Chess Tempo Tactics, QGD
Saturday - Chess Tempo Endgame, Sicilian Defense
Sunday - Off

Other Stuff:
Playing tournament games: Whenever I can schedule with my opponent.
Opening Repertoire Map: Whenever I can fit it in. This is something I can work on for say 10 minutes here an there.
Big Picture Training Map: Whenever I can fit it in.

Monitoring and Review:
I will be posting my training log with any interesting insights or positions I come up with. Also, as each project is completed, I will update the training program. For example, once I've finished this initial work with one of my openings (more work to come later of course), I will pick a new opening variation from my repertoire to work on.

I've been contemplating how to go about things for a while, so it is good to get something down on paper (or at least the computer screen).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Training 24, 2011

Tonight, I spent about 2 hours thinking about training in chess (not doing any actual training). I came up with a bunch of insights that I will eventually share although it's 2 A.M. here so I should get to sleep soon. I am quite excited about this as I have been thinking about the most efficient way to train for some time now. One may ask why I don't just jump in and do something? Well, I guess I've done that before and I've made progress and then failed. I think I want to get a good start on a process that will last for a while and that will keep me motivated. In any case, I'm exhausted, but I'll share some of my thoughts in a future post. Cheers!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Training June 23, 2011

These last few days I have not been able to get a chunk of time for study. During the day, I probably spent 15-20 minutes reviewing several dozen tactical problems. I'm also going to end my day studying an internet lesson on ICC by GM Larry Christiansen (on his regular show Attack with LarryC).

One thing I'm trying to do when studying master games or online lectures is to ask myself actively whether or not I understand the material as well as asking myself questions to check that understanding. In the past, I used to be more passive when reading through master games are listening to online chess lessons. I believe this type of proactive engagement will accelerate the learning process. More on this in a future post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Training June 22, 2011

Today, I'm going to continue my analysis of my games from the Father's Day Appreciation Tournament. I'm also going to buy a notebook to use with my tactical training and analysis exercises. My goal is to spend 1 hour total doing the game review, although because of my work schedule today, I'll be breaking up the sessions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reviewing my games

Tonight, I entered my losses from the Father's Day Tournament from Saturday. It is kind of painful going over these games, and I've never been really consistent about analyzing my games, but I know that if I want to improve, I need to understand what I need to improve. I have faith that working to understand my mistakes and then working to correct and improve them will pay big dividends over time.

This brings up the concept of deliberate practice that I first learned about in Geoffrey Colvin's book Talent is Overrated. It's a great book, which mainly proposes that one can achieve expertise through specific hard work. I've read the book several times, and I've come up with a simple flow chart to explain what deliberate practice - a term referring to this type of specific hard work needed to produce expert performance - is:

I encourage you to get the book to learn more about it. It talks about chess a bit, as the original researchers who coined the term deliberate practice studied the rise of great chess players, including Bobby Fischer. The book also mentions the Polgar sisters. I have found it very insightful in my own search for ways to improve chess and other parts of my life.

Back to the games: I'm going to try to note all of the thoughts at the key points of the game, including whether I used a lot of time on the moves. In the next couple days, I plan on using the computer to help me pick out my tactical errors and in general try to look for the types of errors I'm making - for example, a couple I've noticed just in reflecting on the games as I entered them:

1. Making moves impulsively without calculating the tactical consequences.
2. Spending too much time thinking on simple moves.
3. Failing to develop counterplay.
4. Inactive pieces.

I'm sure I'll find a few more as I analyze the games. After this analysis (plus any games I play between now and then), I want to come up with a few training methods to tackle the areas I feel are most holding me back. My goal is to get this analysis done in the next week. I'll share any interesting positions or insights that I discover.

Father's Day tournament

This weekend, I played in a USCF tournament. I scored 2/4. I enjoyed the tournament overall, and I was just glad to be able to play. Because of work and family, I have not been able to play in a tournament since January. My current project and training tasks will be to analyze these games to glean any insights as well as identify and consistent weaknesses. From that information, I will be able to adjust my training program to meet my needs. I hope to copy the games from my notebook to Chessbase today and start writing down some of the thoughts I had during the game. After that, I will begin my thorough analysis. I will share any interesting positions or insights.