Chess Improvement

I was just looking at Korch’s blog from Wednesday, January 7, 2009:

See all of these tactical traps? I played the c3 Sicilian for a while and never remember seeing these traps. The other day I played a Najdorf as White. Going over the game I found all kinds of traps I hadn’t noticed before (with help from Crafty) right in the opening.

I think this is what the strong players (expert+) do, they evaluate these possibilities (or know them cold).

Typical 1700 level player is probably just playing some pattern they like in the opening, that they perhaps saw as an opening line from somewhere. Later, some really dumb mistake is decisive, and then a good portion of an hour is wasted making the other person verify their technique. For me, I think of this as blitz mentality because it is often played fast by this player. So when I play them, I get in lots of “grind” games, whose sole theoretical objective seems to be whether time-trouble will have it’s say, and most players seem satisfied by the result alone, if they win.

Anyway, my plan for my next game is to spend a little more time in the opening, but mainly not to avoid anything sharp, then less time in the middlegame, where I needlessly waste time when I already know my moves, then saving more time for the endgame so that result is not affected by the clock.

Also, I don’t plan on forcing wins out of drawn positions as someone just tried against me. I plan to write the move down after I make it, and to record accurately and legibly, not scribbling times all over it, etc.. In addition, I actually need the time to do these things, so I will not play G/60, if I can avoid it.

Sure, I can play fast but it quickly becomes a hack from the gut, where you basically only verify your trickiest threats, and your opponents mates. Oddly, I think this blitz behavior, for a lot of players, carries over into regular games, so it becomes a little bit of a blitz game played slowly. Sure, everyone scans the board correctly for the one-movers, but then sometimes miss the two-movers. And then, for some strange reason, players don’t generally seem to feel bad about it because, oh well, it was a time-pressure thing/result. Well, then play at a pace that makes sense for the game. Some people will even try and trick you into their time-pressure, following them there, probably sub-conscious, but then how often is the player satisfied by this course of action when a positive end-result comes out of it(?) No need to analyze, hurray! It’s as if they tricked the IRS or something. hehe. Shoot, I’ve probably many a game lead an opponent into time-trouble disaster. It has been played upon me as well, just not as often. But usually there are huge gaffes on my side and my opponents when this occurs, so why do it?

My original point is that if you simply memorized the openings, you wouldn’t be in a position to spring the traps resulting from the mis-steps. Really, it’s not even traps so much as understanding the different ideas between one subvariation of an opening and another. In Korch’s c3 Sicilian example, Black will often play e6, not because Black enjoys blocking in his/her light squared bishop, but rather because Bb4 pins the knight on c3 that is attacking the queen on d5.


6 thoughts on “Chess Improvement

  1. Well said linux.
    Too many players just memorize opening lines, rather than understanding the ideas behind them moves.

    Hope your thinking about the clock works out.
    Old habits are hard to get rid of.

    Perhaps we all have this blitz thinking in the opening.
    I know i play openings i feel comfortable with,but perhaps i should be more adventureous.

    Korch’s blog is very good.

  2. Your plan sounds good. Why do you get so many “grind” games? Maybe you should try more aggressive openings/tactics, so you can decide the result in the middlegame? Or maybe your opponents are just stronger than mine. Regarding openings – I agree that if if you really want to get an edge here, you need to know not only a few variations, but also some critical moves/lines/traps – better play them at least blitz and of course ideas. I recently won a blitz game when my opponent played a few first moves in Tarrasch correct, but then didn’t know what to do next, while I played Bd7-e8-h5, e5 ( having e6+d5 vs. d4), etc. and got an attack.

  3. Just learning the moves isn’t good enough, one must know the plans behind them. Also, i just learned this in the ICS course, one have to think starting from move one, even if one knows the moves theory descrives as best but like you pointed out one always has to do a quick verification if their isn’t a tactical shot or an even better move.

    Does that mean one has to spend lots of time in the opening? No not at all, such verification can be done in 30 seconds to a minute.

  4. When I’m really motivated, I look at puzzles from my Silman book. That ICS course sounds excellent, I just don’t want to justify the time/money at this moment.

    Sometimes I may trade down prematurely, knowing that I can force a win with a small or clear advantage, lately I’ve been getting more creative about it, but it’s still trading down.

    I get some crazy attacks sometimes too, often enough, but I’m not going to say that those games are just as sound.

    I think I’m vulnerable on openings, but lately no one seems to act like they know that. 😉

  5. Now I know why I am a “grinder”. I would never put up with this BS:

    I am looking at the 1953 tournament book, reading Bronstein’s notes and analysis, playing it through with Crafty, and so far I am batting 100%. Szabo is offering the a-pawn, then the b-pawn, even played out Bronstein’s analysis. Look, it’s nice to praise the guy for his thought of initiative, but I am “old school” when it comes to chess. I could throw out a Steinitz quote about the horror of an ‘artistic’ combination, or Lasker on justice, but you probably get the idea. 😉

    No, that is HOW you win a chess game, by refuting the other players’ snow-job. Just take the pawn already! ;-p

    Only half-way through analyzing it this way. This is the problem for me now when analyzing the games of the old greats, I was having a blast finding holes in Alekhine’s analysis with Crafty, which Alekhine was not always wrong, but could be ‘caught’ napping sometimes in his analysis of what could have happened, and sometimes of what did.

    BTW, I’ve always maintained that Capablanca was the best chess-player of the pre-Botvinnik era. Rubinstein was awesome too, although his game was geared primarily to the endgame (but his opening theory was super-strong, even to this day I believe, and Alekhine quoted his analysis), and E. Lasker was awesome at combos, but his opponent’s openings could seem weak – coming to the USA was probably not his best chess-career move in terms of opponent-strength. Capa was the one that really refuted so prettily in the middlegame, so believably, so modern-looking, his gift was timeless.

    I requested Blunderprone to correct the game score, as it is supposed to be 33. Bf5 and not 33. Bf7, which leads to a farcical result. I wish all blog owners would automatically approve comments, pet-peeve of mine. I’ll have to wait for him to approve of my last note, that is why I am mentioning it here, in case you read this first.

    Rollingpawns is the bestest moderator, BTW, as he cuts out my cursing (thanks, RP!) hehe. 🙂

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