Chess Study

I have discovered some interesting things. First note is more of an aside, I just logged into FICS, haven’t played a game there in almost 2 weeks it seems. I start a game and immediately my internet connection, which used to go out multiple times a day (when I played on FICS) and require me to reset the router, suddenly goes out again after not having gone out in nearly 2 weeks. Gee, I wonder why.

More important note, I have come to some conclusions about chess study. Most important thing is playing solitaire chess, you take a game, cover the moves with index card(s) and try to guess for one side. I liked the Bronstein book for this because the Veinstein author would typically point out where the losing side last had a drawing variation. Whereas, the Geller book had awesome games as well, but IMHO Geller doesn’t wring his hands exactly about where his opponent threw away the draw, just the opposite I don’t think he cared too much, if at all, unless it was a teachable moment regarding his attack. So for that reason, I didn’t like it as much (yes, I realize you had a quicker win with blah blah, but that wasn’t what I was interested in, nor the opening theory so much since the rest of the game anlysis didn’t draw me in enough other than to rifle through it)

But getting back to the point about “solitaire chess”. It forced me to look at threats, and threat evaluations that I was simply missing, but mostly just noticing the threats for both sides. I used to think chess was top-down where, like most endeavors, you start with a goal, and then implement that goal. No, chess is not like that! Chess is bottom-up, forget where you are going, where is it safest to cross the street? (that analogy again) One starts with the details and from there works their way up to what could be passed off as a concept, but not the other way around. It does help to evaluate a position conceptually, particularly in endgames for example, but that is not how one crosses the street, and in chess the big accomplishment is crossing the dangerous street! (for both players)

So, when I play solitaire, it is not for “ideas” from the game, it is for recognizing threats, evaluating them, and making calculations that lead to a plan based on that. Sure, there is intuition, but that is more about just noticing the features on the board, such as where all of the pieces are and how immobile they are (blocked out of play for how many moves).

As far as the ChessTiger posts about visualizing during a game, yes, it does help me to close my eyes and visualize a sequence if my eyes get too nervous looking at the board, and to some extent that is natural to have that problem. Two of my opponents who won against me recently also closed their eyes during the game. I don’t know if they picked it up while watching me do it or not. But aside from the “nervous eyes” deal, it is not necessary to close one’s eyes. I looked at tht pictures of that GM on Ivan’s site the other day, looking past his opponent, and no doubt he is visualizing the position, and I think this is probably more common way to do it, although sometimes closing one’s eyes is easier at first.

But again, here is the point, I am lets say conceptualizing the position through visualization. For example, I notice that Nb3-a5 (dark square) is controlling the light squares c6 and c4. Wait, stop right there, I am “conceptualizing” the position. Who does that when they are looking at the board? They may notice that instantly by looking, without making a visual error (which is easier to do with ones eyes open and looking at the board!), but they aren’t going to internalize that in the same way necessarily, it was just a glance after all (I am sure great blitz players learn to internalize the position, but that only makes my point), a glance is something easily forgotten, requring a second or third glance, and then perphaps still forget all about or ignore it, and then wonder where their “concentration” went.

BTW, when starting out trying to visualize, I recommend closing the eyes because it immediately gets rid of “retained image” mistakes (continuing to see pieces where they are currently at). At longer time controls, it’s not necessary to do this and I think it can also be convenient do it away from the board if your opponent is breaking your concentration by giving you “looks” and such. Some opponents are much more “naturally” annoying than others with all the weird crap they do that breaks their opponent’s concentration (IOW, you have to re-analyze a line every time you start paying attention to their bad mannerisms).

I guess a funny aside to this is that when I think of a chessplayer who really visualized the board, “conceptualized it”, I think of Frank Marshall. Google images or look at any famous photo of Marshall. I used to think he was just reminiscing about his chess career in this one famous photo, but then it hit me that while he may have been doing that, he was also conceptualizing a chess position at the time, most likely.


2 thoughts on “Chess Study

  1. Here is a game I just went over that I think is very instructional.

    The first 7 moves by Black are a Reti-system setup (White or Black can set up a Reti formation), and incidentally White’s setup is the Lasker defense, but with colors swapped!

    Anyway, I liked this move that Bronstein found 29…c4, and then thought to myself “What is the purpose of this move?”, as obviously Black offers up the exchange for a pawn for probably more of a reason than just “chances”.

    Then it occurs to me that 30.bxc will be followed up by 30..Ne5, threatening to fork/attack the d2-e3 pinned squares one more time with 31…Nxc4. How can White defend against this? Well, 31.Rd2 (getting out of the pin) will just lead to 31..exf3 followed by 32..Nxf3, winning a pawn, and 31.fxe fxe will be opening the f-file for Black’s rook. So now, White’s desperate attemp to complicate makes more sense.

    I looked at this again because I realized that …Nxc4 would at best ruin White’s pawn structure, and not even that because White will play fxe…exf, Rd4 and that c4 pawn is defended.

    So I set it up on Crafty and I was overthinking this a bit. White simply made a huge blunder that even I wouldn’t have made by playing Nxc4 in the game. The idea behind …c4 is a simple tactical device, but I didn’t see it, it clears the pawn out of the way so that Black can load up on the pinned knight with either …Qb6 or …Qc5. White can actually play RxNd3 and have 2 isolated c-pawns for the exchange, which still puts Black ahead by at least -1. Yes, Black would have been happy to merely win the exchange, there just so happened to be a mating attack there as well, so he went for that. It doesn’t really mate, just wins the queen for bishop and knight, which is worth more than an exchange.

    The point of all this that I am getting at is that this wasn’t some brilliant concept finish as it appears at first glance, this is simply adding more layers of tactical threats to a position that can already only be evaluated by the tactical threats of Black’s attack. He probably could have played this at blitz since his simply heaping more tactics on. There is no strategy behind this attack to speak of other than creating more weaknesses in White’s position and laying the tactics on as thick as possible to get the game over as soon as possible.

    Also, as applies to threats, I think that chess is like basic math. “How can I _add_ to the number of my threats, while _subtracting_ from the number of my opponents’ threats?”

  2. Fascinating blitz win by Bronstein:

    What’s strange about this game is that the game-score text above was given in the book, then mentioned that the last two moves were analysis (someone mentions the actual game score in that link).

    I found 29.Rf5 in around 5-6 minutes and 30.Re5 in about half a minute. Rather simple moves, but he was in time-pressure so had to play a blitz-style, which was quite compellingly played in it’s own right. It’s worth noting that I don’t have to visualize the position or anything fancy like that here as the pieces aren’t moving around much from their original positions, paltry few side-variations or branching.

    I have found out that I was playing chess the wrong way, studying the wrong way. I think my results should improve now.

    I can’t believe I finished that book. I really liked part 1 after all, quite a bit. The second half of the book was the match with Botvinnik, which I went over the games quickly on the internet. As an aside, in general I don’t like match books or tournament books because there tends to be a lot of draws and overly passive play based on the match score. The Karpov-Kasparov matches were an exception, but then they also had great match books, lots of GMs commenting on those games, really the last heyday of chess. Who cares now about matches now? Not Magnus, apparently. The players care, after all they need to “update their databases”, but I don’t get excited about them now, the formats have changed and tournaments have become the big thing, if anything.

    Next on my to-do list would be to get back to studying tactics, and focus on work-related, income producing tasks. This had been a great break to catch up on all my books this last year; I feel like I could go a while without needing to study game collections again. My openings and tactics should require the most work, when I put in more time again.

    A big difference between us and GM’s, though, is that they know how to transition from the opening to the middlegame, and generate plans/threats/activity/chances in the middlegame. For us class players, we may know openings, rudimentary endgames, and lo even some tactics, but the GMs know how to blend it all together into a consistent game, it’s not fragmented into randomly thrown in ingredients, as if making soup. Sure, it’s all based on tactics, says the amateur, but which tactics, and when is it time to sac a pawn for a positional attack and when it is not? We mostly don’t even look for these things. One thing is for sure that tactics factor into all of these decisions along the way. We have to find these tactics to up our winning percentage regardless of how strong our ideas are, at least some strength in implementation will be there.

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