I have been doing some practicing with the book “Anthology of Chess Combinations”. Great book, I would recommend it to the typical reader of this blog.
Here is what I’ve discovered in my ACIS quest so far:
Know your checkmates as much as possible. Really, this is the thing most important to commit to memory if there were really a book on it with hundreds of diagrams.
Find the candidate moves – this is more of a blundercheck in a way because it’s not too difficult to, say, spot 6 or 7 candidate moves in around 15 seconds. You will probably know what your two favorite choices are after a couple minutes, if not sooner.
The key to solving these puzzles, besides working through each line diligently so that things are not missed, is to “determine how the position is overworked.” The rest is about knowing your checkmates and spotting tactics.
Some problems, I am able to spot alternate solutions not listed – in one case 4 different mates were left out! in another case only one winning line was left out. I even found a “typo” impossible line because a pawn was blocking the square, but the actual solution was simple/forced/short. On another problem I spotted the initial move, winning a piece quickly, but the answer was a mate.
Here is another thing, this doesn’t help my “FICS games” hardly at all. The reason is that, besides many players wanting to win on time, is that for me I can have board vision, and calculate virtually nothing, or I can look for combos and not have board-vision enough to spot something dropping right in front of me, but I can’t do both on “internet time”. A combo from out of a book, depending on how elaborate, can take nearly 15 minutes which is a whole Standard time-control game on FICS. It is time-consuming to look for an opponent’s counter-moves.
For example. I played a 20 or 25 minute game on FICS today with an 1890 rated player. Here is the descriptive version of it: He had a winning combo but chose a useless fancy line instead, winning one pawn instead of two. I outworked him and won a piece. In time pressure, I try to defend and attack, obviously moving my queen from defending my knight, he doesn’t see it even though they are right next to each other. Now I figure out where to put that hanging knight, missing that his rook and mate in 1 is hanging. We play on and he wins on time. I am sure the guy is a strong player, but this is not the equivalent of “1890 OTB”, rather it is 1890 in “internet time” or quick chess, however you want to call it. I will say though that blitz is great for trying out new openings and gaining some pattern recognition that way, but it’s not really about solving “slow problems” accurately – it’s more about defending and building board-vision.
One interesting thing that I have observed is that some weaker players do what I used to do, and now it works against me. They will spend forever on the opening, then play the middlegame quickly based on intution, then stop as soon as they see the first blunder and methodically play out the win slowly but surely. The first part is so boring that I have to read something else to keep from losing my sanity. I bring the screen back up after they move, make a quick move, and if it’s a blunder, then they will go into that slow mode. Later, they will play real fast in my time-pressure, like crap but not enough time for me to dwell on their mistakes and either way the sudden jolt can cause me to lose on time, while I am trying to play more steadily and ignoring the clock until too late. After losing some of those games, I then go on to play faster than I can think, particularly in critical moments that even I sense, but now, now the opponent will surely slow down to find it, unlike me who is trying to appreciate a steady pace.
Finished another problem – Capa vs. Corszo, spent around 8 minutes on it and found the solution. But, it was rather obvious that if something was there it was going to be Capa’s. Could have made a developing move instead to “beef up the position first”, but since the flashing light “COMBO” was going off in the background, I knew to spend the time on that position. I never have this sort of luxury in an online game, which makes me think a lot less of them now, and I do lose online due to simple oversights.
Okay, I just played a couple blitz games to see if I was missing anything. Wow, people have their opening tricks worked out very well at blitz. I just won against a 1423 player who missed that he could fork my king and queen two moves in a row – I moved out of one fork into another. I can’t imagine anyone, even a 700 level kid OTB probably finds that. Great for stealing ideas or knowing how the other half lives, but a lot of things go missed. Realistically, I think blitz is more fun than Standard, though, plus you get to see more positions and endings.