July Quick-Chess, Rounds 1-3

This week and the next, our club is having a six round quick-chess tournament.  Here are the first three rounds:

I set my clock wrong for the first two rounds, I set it to G/25, d/5, it was supposed to be G/24, increment 5.  I set it correctly for round 3.

Round 1

I only spent 10 minutes on this game, but for example, I played 2.Nb8-d6, then put it on c6 without releasing my hand.  This was foreshadowing, as at age 50, it serves me better now if I go for a jog on the day before or the day of.  My mental endurance without fitness isn’t as good now, but the positive of that is that if I do work out, my mind seems as sharp as ever, if not sharper than ever.

Round 2

I was up a rook for two pawns, and I think I even saw putting my rook on the a-file and winning another pawn, but I had around 4 min. 56 seconds, and suddenly had this blah feeling, like with the clock and my energy level, I still may only draw this, which is what happened.

Round 3

I had a major hallucination in this game, and AFAIK this has never happened to me before to such an extreme extent.  For example, I never do this in online blitz, but OTB at quicker time-controls, it’s like I’m trying to bend time with my mind to compress the game within the time limits.  If I played quick-chess like three days a week, man it would be such second nature that it would be essentially a real game for me.

10…Nc4.  I didn’t play 10…d6 because 11.a4 appears to win a pawn, but actually now I think 10….d6, 11.a4 c6 doesn’t drop a pawn 12.dxc6 and now either knight can capture on c6.  Even now I can see that if I played quick-chess OTB a lot, my speed of calculating would improve and become stronger and my regular rating would shoot up as a result.  Somehow, online chess doesn’t have this same effect on me, possibly because I don’t feel as accountable when I am playing online chess.

Okay, so brace yourself because here goes my hallucination now.  11…d6  Naturally, I would have played 11…Nb6 except that I hallucinated that my bishop was on f5!  Never mind that exBf5 would be the result of that.   So, I sacked my c-pawn intentionally, with the game move, calculating 12.Qe2 Bb7 (yes, that bishop is on b7 for real, and also on f5 in my mind!),13.Qxc4 Nxd5, 14.exNd5 BxBc2.  Three games in such a short space of time, it’s almost like the fighter who is knocked-out on his feet (you can see it in their eyes), but still fighting anyway.

So, when Mark played 14.Nd2 I noticed that I had hallucinated that my bishop was also on f5, and my first reaction was “I wonder what (mutual) hallucination that he was suffering under, as he could have simply taken on c4 with his queen.”  I never asked him about this move though, we only considered the late middlegame and endgame.

After 14.Nd2, I played …f5, as he can no longer go Nf3-g5-e6, but even looking at this position for a moment, I want to now play …c6 here, which is the better move.

18…gxf5.  Here, I had 18…d5!, as Houdini pointed out, defending the c4 pawn, and advancing in the center, sacking my f5-pawn, essentially, instead of my c4 pawn.  This also opens the f-file for Black, which I would have been delighted to see in the game!

19.Qxc4  I was happy that he took on c4 with the queen, which was a mistake, but apparently I wasn’t supposed to trade queens either, but I can see the real reason why for that is that it develops his knight, which became the huge SNAFU for me in the game.

26.Nb7  This move escaped my attention entirely, so I had a long think here.  Incidentally, my last move 26…Rad8 was a blunder, and I should have defended d5 with …Ng6-e7, but missed this possibility entirely.  Naturally, I was a tempo short of being able to play …Be6-f7.

28.Nd7  I was happy to see this as I sort of “tricked” him into not taking on d5 and being two pawns up, which he said after the game he should have done.

Mark called my flag to end the game.  Apparently, I had flagged a move or two prior, so I know what happened.  I looked at the clock and punched it, and I was happy that I had done it in time, but apparently a split second after I turned my head, still thinking it said 1 second, it must have ticked down to zero, as if it had taken an extra few milliseconds for my clock punch to register.

The way my quick-chess games went, in the result-sense, was kind of silly.  I would have won round 2 in a much-slower time format (but I also realized that he had made silly blunders as well, such as …Bxa4 when …Bb3 and he was better, and then he missed my Ba3 skewer), and round 3 would have went on much longer as well.  However, it bears repeating that I could build on this, if I played this quickly regularly, however I would also need to be in fine physical shape, more like an athlete as chess-players like to call themselves nowadays and I can finally begin to see why.  Timur has run an ultra-marathon, and Nakamura is going to run a marathon soon (26.2 miles) – he says his brother and mother run half-marathons.  These guys really are athletes, after all!



Optimism and Pessimism

Game 3 of a 4 game match.

UPDATE::  Peter sent me a photo of the yellow copy, and I have corrected the game score.  If you haven’t read this post already, then some of the notes won’t make sense now that the game score has been corrected.  Imre moved his king artfully toward the end, and I wanted to see how he did that.  Even the scoresheet got scribly at the end, but I remembered what happened anyway.  When his king started wandering, I thought I could play for the win, and saw this maneuver, which it turns out is winning  …Bd3-f1-g2-f3, but I wanted to delay it for a move (but can only delay it for two moves), thinking he might change his mind, bring his king back, and it would only be a draw.  However, in acute time-pressure, I wasn’t sure and chickened out.    I may have even played 41…Bd3-b1?? (instead of 41…Bf1) to delay that maneuver described above, but it’s WAY too much of a delay – but at least now you can see what was going through my mind.  This is an example of the insane sort of pseudo-calculation which takes place in time-pressure.  If I had just played the maneuver described outright, I probably would have won the game, but I was unsure about the pawn race, if we trade bishops on f3, for one thing.  A sad way to go down from what could have been a win, it’s basically the equivalent of flagging but where you play on in a completely losing position.

I should preface this game that Imre never got below an hour and 4 minutes. On most moves in the opening, he mainly just reacted to what I played, quickly, seemingly without too much thought, but I feel as though this was likely his game plan going into the game, play quickly and try to pick up rating points by drawing on his (Master-level) endgame experience.

Also, I left my scoresheet there, so this is a recreation from memory, but pretty accurate.

2.Bf4, the London Attack. My first reaction was to want to play 2…d6 and 3…g6, but I hadn’t tried it OTB before, and didn’t want this game to become about the opening, thinking it may take a long time to establish …e5, and I was worried about Bh6 variations before Black castles, but Houdini then stoically says that Black would be =+ for some reason.

5.h3?! Not very challenging, but it does allow a hideout for the bishop on h2, and prepares g4, his prep apparently as he played this quickly, but on second thought I rememeber Magnus quote that if you play the opening quickly, they will think it’s your prep.

10…Ne4 We both felt after the game, correctly, that 11.NxNd7 was stronger for him, and likewise 10…NxNe5 here is a stronger continuation for Black, preventing White’s idea. 10…Nxe5, 11.BxNe5 Ne4, 12.Qc2 NxNd2, 13.Qxd2 f6, 14.Bg3 Bd6, 15.BxB QxB, 16.0-0-0 c4 17.Bc2 b5 is better for Black =+

11.NxNd5 I thought he’d play the stronger 11.Nf3, particularly since I haven’t traded pawns on d4 yet.

13.dxe5 After the game, we both thought 13.Bxe5 was stronger, but I played 13…Bd6, and even had a successful mating attack in the brief post-mortem.

13…QxQ. I spent a bit of time here, and during the game was worried by the variation 13…a6, 14.Qd7 QxQ, 15.BxQ Rfd8 (…b5 is best), 16.0-0-0 Bc8?! ( but …Bd5, …g5, and …b5 are all stronger moves), 17.Bc6 when White is unnecessarily +.7 ahead instead of behind. I told myself during the game that I’d be optimistic and figure it out later, which was the right thing to think – I told myself not to lose by being pessimistic.

16…Rd7 I wanted to play 16…Bh4, 17.Bg3 BxBg3, but saw that he could instead trap my bishop with 17.g5 Bxf2, 18.Raf1, but this is an illusion as Black’s plan of doubling rooks and allowing that bishop to be trapped is even stronger (RxB is met with …RxB-+), and it’s =+ if I just let the bishop stay on h4, as many GMs are able to work out. however 16…Bh4, 17…Bxf2?? is met by 18.h4 and 19.Rh2, winning the bishop.

28.Kc2 I felt like I was putting more thought into the game, as 28.h6 forces 28…gxh6, 29.Bxh6 which really frees up his bishop. I understood he wanted to chip away at my queenside, but it seemed he was playing more on instinct than analysis to not notice this device. Now, it could be that he noticed it, and Houdini says like every move is equal, but from a human perspective, getting in h6 sure looks desirable to me.

30.Kb2?! Here again, if he played 30.Bg5, I was going to play 30…Kf8. It’s as if the point of the whole game was to trick me once I got low on time. A pretty effective strategy, and if that was the strategy, consciously or subsconsciously, then it definitely was a successful one.

33.Bg2 At some point, if he had played Bg3, I was going to play …f5 (which Houdini likes a touch better), but since he didn’t appear to me, anyway, to be taking …Bxe5+ too seriously, I decided to play it (again, the mantra, be optimistic!)

40…Bg4!? Once again, a second time-control would be nice, and I was already playing on the increment here. I wanted to play 40…Bg6!, saving a tempo, but couldn’t determine, lickety-split, whether 41.BxBg6?? would be losing or not. That’s the problem, he gave me no time to think in the ending.

43…e4? I figured this would likely draw unless there was a zugzwang. 43…Kh4 is winning, but I didn’t “know” this, as I would have needed some time to figure this out, since I don’t have a Master’s endgame experience to look at a position like this and just “know” without thinking that it is a win. I have …Kh4 winning on the next move, as well.

53.Kh5 =+ I wasn’t sure here whether he had decided to play for a win at all costs, but didn’t have time to think soberly about this either. I thought I could play for a win as well.

56…Ke5?? When I got home, I figured the computer would say that this is the move that lost it, and it is. I figured it was losing OTB, but was about to flag. I had an idea to play 56…Bg2=, then 57…Bf3, but beween his blitzing, and needing to summon the courage for the final push, I let pessimism get the better of me and let it win. Sure, I couldn’t calculate the draw, who could in every variation with so little time? Still, I should have played on, and realistically should have still drawn the game, although there is still a trick or two left in the position. In either case, I flagged on the next move (saw 3 seconds on my clock and made the move, but not fast enough), but he didn’t realize it, so I played on until I resigned (it was a hopeless position in any event).

It may seem hard to flag someone with a 30-second increment, but against an ex-Master who is blitzing an endgame against you it’s not too difficult to flag. Part of the problem is needing to keep notation because of the increment. Also, the board’s notation was set up wrong, and even though I knew this I kept noticing it on each move, probably because the notation on this board seems unusually big (his board).

If I had stayed optimistic, that should have been a draw. I don’t feel I was outplayed in this game, in chess-terms, the same way I felt I was “outplayed” in human terms, or match strategy. Normally, I would feel depressed by a loss, but this time I felt more upset by it. I could have played a rematch right then and there, but had to go home in order to get another game. I mauled two hapless players on chess.com. Sorry I had to take it out on them.

The result of this game underscores, in a way, if I were always playing opponents of my rating, I would have had more endgame experience by now. I lost the opportunity of getting a lot of this experience by playing miniautures against lower-rated players. I should have managed my clock better as well. In the end, after I flagged and played another 15 moves or so, he never spent more than 5 seconds on any one of those moves (and I was moving instantly, for the obvious reason).

In the future, I will say the moves played to myself, so that I am always focused on the moves, so I can do the notation without thinking (something you don’t worry about in an online game, or with a 5 second delay).  As it was, keeping track of the notation kept getting in the way of my analysis because I was treating it like a nuisance chore, to the point where this nuisance-factor was making me almost incapable of handling the situation on the board.  I was more frustrated by the end of the game, than anything else.

I like how Naka is always calling out the notation.  This takes some discipline to build a habit as strongly as his.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyqGwt9lvXs

The draw was super-easy in my game, but the win was super-hard.  I almost think the difficulty of finding a win caused me to collapse to prevent the easy draw.  I knew this at the time, that I am prone to this, but studying endgames seems to be one of the best preventions.  I’ve had to study this endgame quite a bit to get the hang of it, and I had no realistic possibility of learning it in any kind of time-pressure.

My chess has gotten a bit stronger very recently.  Fourth win in a row in last two days on Chess.com  Played this against a 1700 using less than one minute and a ten second increment – Blacks side of a KG.  http://www.chessvideos.tv/chess-game-replayer.php?id=110801







July Mating Game

The mating-game is a four round tournament, played yearly.  I missed the first two rounds on the 4th of July, and wanted to get in this opportunity for some classical rated play.  The time control is G/45, d/10, so it wasn’t going to be pretty, and indeed it wasn’t!

Round 3

Jeff has clobbered me many times in the past, over the years.  The opening was rather adventurous, and the last couple moves may not be accurate, yet was descriptive of what happened.  He made an exchange sac on c6 that Houdini didn’t consider, but liked, then I blundered an exchanged and was lost when he practically had to set up the blunder for me that I was looking to exploit.  In time-pressure, I thought he would claim a repetition, but he didn’t, and later he said it was because he wasn’t keeping score (we both had stopped keeping score for many moves, but I had 1 second left on my clock for the last 25 moves or so).  Anyway, he finally dropped his rook, then I was up a queen and three pawns for bishop and pawn, closing in on the mate, when he flagged while looking for a way to stalemate the position.

Round 4

Round 3 had taken it’s toll in a way.  I drank a Dr. Pepper at the start of this game, but never got the energy back that I started game 1 with.  Mark played 23…BxBg2, which I was expecting, and immediately offered a draw.  He had around 38 seconds and I 2.5 minutes, although I was at 3.5 minutes the move before.

I spent two minutes considering the draw offer, realizing that although I wanted to play on and this seemed like it would be a fun time-scramble, this was also going to affect the regular rating.  Well, from the past few years at this club, I have been up to my eyeballs in “moral victories” where I lost a ton of rating points, so I kept this in mind.

When he offered the draw, I made the mistake of looking at the moves that I wasn’t going to look at, instead of the line I was actually going to play.  For example 24.exd6 Qxd6?? loses, but …Bxd6 is equal.  I should have focused only on the 24.QxBg2 line, which I was planning on blitzing out.  A big part of the problem, besides fatigue, and lack of skill to cope with the situation in the time given, was that I felt like this position was interesting because it was so experimental, and I would have to figure it out OTB, but the time thing got in the way and this part was predictable.

In the end, I simply didn’t know what was going on in the position.  For example, after 24.QxBg2 dxe5, 25.Nd4-c6! is winning, and I did not see this move even after looking at this position for a minute after seeing Houdini’s eval.  He said he was worried about 25.Nh6+, and I convinced him that it was nothing, and he said he probably would have played 24….dxe5 (after I basically sold him on it).  Actually, I think there is a good chance he would have played 23…Kh8, to which I’m sure I would have quickly played 24.e5xd6, which looks great, but it only +=; again 24.Nc6 is the move, and here I would not have seen it because there was no reason to look so hard for this move.

Of all players, Mark is the player I least want to go into time-pressure with.  Mark makes instant evaluations of positions, as he told me he would never take that pawn on e5, too dangerous – which is right.  I traded into a middle/endgame and he was crushing me, and totally outplaying me in the post-mortem.  If I had seen this Nc6 move OTB, I would have played on with under a minute on my clock, no question, but I simply couldn’t figure out how I would continue other than I had calculated lines that were equal.  With a longer time-control there is no way the game would have ended here, but I had a foreboding feeling that something like this would happen to our game.

My rating went up from 1832, and it should be around 1855 after this tournament gets rated tomorrow.  My play may not look much better, but I kept my confidence high enough to avoid “moral victories” i.e., losses, lately.  The tough part of quicker time-controls is the next game, as in you play more than one game a day when you speed up the time-controls.  We played a rated blitz tournament, me, Paul, Jeff, and Mark after the games were over.  I lost all three, two of them on “finger-fehlers” where I resigned after touching the wrong piece.  I wasn’t getting outplayed so much as I have a harder time coping with blitz, in general, than others at my rating or higher.  Also, my draw with Mark had demoralized my competitive spirit to some extent.  I felt rather dejected from my performance as I left the club, particularly from the two rated game and especially the last one, although objectively perhaps it wasn’t so horrible, and was actually positive in the sense of the outcome, but it could have been better, no question.

Going over the final position with Houdini, trying to guess the move quickly, showed how amazingly blind I was.  I had control of both the long light and the long diagonal, and I had a safe vertical, the g-file with no counter-pin against my own king there, and couldn’t calculate the tactics quickly.  OTB, because the bishops had come off just then, in my mind I was still thinking my king position was exposed – oddly, Mark exposed this in the post-mortem by getting his queen to g6, but it’s ridiculous that I should allow anything like that with good play of my own.

Missing all these shots is like a good reason I could quite competitive chess, but I’m also reminded that this is why my rating is built on longer time-controls.  At blitz, rapid, I still don’t have these quick instincts down.  For all that training I’ve done on CT-Art, to try to get me to see simple tactics quickly, I’m still not seeing them quickly, and I could feel the difference between having someone tell you there is a tactic that works, and not knowing that.  But even when I’m told there’s a tactic, sometimes I see it under 10 seconds, but sometimes it takes me a minute or two, or longer, which still isn’t quick enough for blitzing out a game.  Most stuff _isn’t_ pattern recognition, unless you have some remarkably consistent opening repertoire, which isn’t something I have.


Deliberate Practice

I want to write another post on blindfold chess, yet I’ll start here with this article on deliberate practice, and Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak:


Ironically, once back in junior college, I told two aquaintances, who were talking about baseball, that baseball hitters probably have 20/10 vision, and they laughed and agreed, and here for some reason, just as out of the blue as I bring it up now, a study in the article showed this same thing.

Anyway, blindfold training and deliberate practice are linked at the hip.  I can blindfold recall Morphy’s “Opera game” in under two minutes, and I blindfolded an opening line in the KGA last night, and I realized that I can remember openings more certainly by doing it this way.  Blindfolding does have to be deliberate, though, you have to decide to turn on that switch, otherwise it’s just as likely that nothing changes in your play.

I find blindfold training linked to memorization, which is one reason I find it harder to see how people use blindfolding in live games because, as I’ve said before, blindfolding is more suitable for remembering the past than seeing the future, or even the present sometimes.  However, blindfolding is useful for solving puzzles, which are static in a way because the actual game has long been over with by the time you see the puzzle.  I can and have used blindfolding to see long lines in analysis, or to solve a tactical puzzle.  In a game, this is trickier due to time-limits.  Blindfolding is not that fast until you become highly proficient at it, like Timur.

If you want to learn blindfold chess, it will help you later on by starting with memorizing the board, and as much of that as you can, as otherwise you will have to reteach it to yourself over and over again here and there.




Debacle on a Blue Board

Round 4

My game yesterday finished quickly, but at the same time I stayed at the club until 1am looking at other people’s games, involved in post-mortems, and even went over three of Morphy’s games in the lobby with Mike and Will.

Today, I was more exhausted than I realized, a little nervous from the day, and also thinking I could take this game lightly, which I never do.  After the game, I blamed my missed moves on the blue-board (me and DuWayne are two players who have horrible records on blue-squared boards – he refuses to play on them).  I think I can handle any color other than blue, it’s such a passive color that I don’t notice the threats like I do on a pink, green, red, brown, black board.

At the board, I was seeing a lot quickly, which has been a trend for me recently, but this time I had that “Teacher, my brain is full!” feeling.  I would see so much on a move, and then just want to move, even taking into account my opponent’s lower-rating, which I tell myself never to do “just play chess, don’t think about the opponent.”

9…fxe5.  My blitz instinct was to play 10.Bxf5 and looked at 10…Qf6, (at first, I looked at defending the Bf5)11.BxNd7+ KxB, 12.0-0? (not wanting to give the f-file to his queen) e4, and didn’t like it, but 12.fxe (Black’s queen has the f-file for a moment, but so what?).  Then I played 10.fxe without really even looking at it, and then noticed the check while I was making my move.

15.Bxf5??  I had calculated that both 15.Bxg3 and 15.hxg3 were both safe, but with my sort of “anything wins” mindset going into this game, thought that maybe I should have double-checked this move as soon as I picked up my bishop.  She instantly snapped off my bishop like a pro, even clunking the pieces together as if to chop wood.  In this game, Shirley played, and spotted, all of the tactical moves quickly, like a pro, and only got bogged down when she needed to think strategically/positionally.  If every move were a tactic, I feel she would have kept it up all game long.  In my mind, I was going to play 16.Bf5-g6+, but that bishop got gobbled up instantly, before it could do that.

Recently, I’ve noticed my biggest issue with tactics is spotting the simple “one-movers”  I do hard tactics problems on ChessTempo sometimes, but because they are so hard I don’t do that many of them!  Someone doing tactics on chess.com, which specializes in the easy-tactics, will increase their board-sight for these simple tactical details, but I don’t have a paid subscription there, and should probably switch to a book with some simple tactics, or just hanging piece exercises.

I felt 22.Rf7 was not a good move, but I am just playing for tricks here.  The position is like -7 or -8, so even the computer starts offering ridiculous move suggestions.

I played 23.Rfe1 because …Nc5, Qc7 Qxe6 wins my passed-pawn, but I didn’t notice how it wasn’t defending e6 after all, and she snatched it instantly.  Truth be told, I wanted to play 23.h4 here already but couldn’t because of 23…Nc5 winning the e6 pawn.

27…Qd2??.  28.Re2?  Played a-la-tempo as I had this response sort of pre-programmed in, but no sooner had I played it, the thought occurred to me “What about 18.RxBf8+?”, then realized this was winning, which I demonstrated to Sara after the game when she asked about this move (she saw the moves, like instantly, at the same time I did). Unfortunately, Shirley played the expected response 28…Qg5, which cuts out this tactic.  Here, I knew I had blown it because I was feeling the effects of exhaustion, so I played the move I had determined I was going to play in this line 29.Qxb7, since doubling the rooks didn’t seem to be a real solution.   I guess my quick moves had worked by now, as she played 29…Rc8 much more quickly than she usually moves when defending.  She sort of did that jump up and look around instant shock reaction when I took her rook (Imre did this same sort of thing when I checkmated him last week)  I told her after the game I was expecting a three-fold repetition after 29…Rd8, 30.Qxc6+ Rd7, 30.Qa8+ Rd8, 31.Qc6+.

Well, all’s well that ends well, I guess.  hehe.  My rating barely moved at all this month – it went from 1834 to 1832.  Real signs of stability.  hehe.

[Event “Wednesdays Swiss”]
[Site “Smashburgers”]
[Date “2017.06.28”]
[Round “4”]
[White “Brian Rountree”]
[Black “Shirley Herman”]
[Result “1-0”]
[BlackElo “1033”]
[GameNo “-1”]
[WhiteElo “1835”]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 f6 5. f4 h5 6. Nf3 Nd7 7. Nh4 e6 8. Nxf5
exf5 9. Bd3 fxe5 10. fxe5 Qh4+ 11. g3 Qxd4 12. Bf4 Bc5 13. Qe2 h4 14. O-O-O
hxg3 15. Bxf5 Qxf4+ 16. Kb1 Qxf5 17. Rhf1 Qg6 18. hxg3 Qxg3 19. e6 Nb6 20. Rf3
Qh4 21. Qe5 Bf8 22. Rf7 Qg4 23. Re1 Ne7 24. Qc7 Qxe6 25. Rff1 Qh6 26. a4 Nc4
27. Ka2 Qd2 28. Re2 Qg5 29. Qxb7 Rc8 30. Qxc8# 1-0

I’ve gone over this game blindfold-style, and hxg3 is the obvious move, since the bishop controls e3, and the h-file is an asset.   During the game, I tell myself to wait one more move before taking on f5, but then forgot why.  I also saw that after hxg3 she won’t be able to play Qg4.  During the game, I was perturbed over the possibility of playing …g5.  Even then I didn’t see that 15.hxg3…Rxh1, 16.RxR g5, 17.Bxg5 Qxe5, 18.QxQ NxQ, 19.Re1 is a pin … Bd6, 20.Bf4 and then either …Nf7 or don’t even bother and pin back with …Re8.  Missed this line.  Also, missed that 18.Qh5+! is +10.  Immediately, the queen wins the g5 pawn, so that Bg5 doesn’t take it, and then all of White’s forces get involved in an attack on Black’s king.  Completely missed all this by not analyzing deeply enough.  15.hxg3 looks like an instant recapture, and Daniel suggested it after the game as if it were completely obvious, and it was the most obvious to me too, but that move right there, with both of us having over an hour on our clocks still, was the time to chart the next few moves.  One could play the right move through educated guess, but that is not what chess  strength is, you have to be able to analyze continuations OTB and not just “_play_ chess”.

I added the following to temposchlucker’s blog:

When it comes to visualizing, one has to give a position meaning, otherwise it’s like Temposhuckler’s analogy of not visualizing the coffee-pot (because it has no meaning, unlike a person’s face for instance).

When people try to visualize, there is a good chance they go about it the wrong way. You have to learn the board, think about the squares and diagonals without trying to “visualize” them. The visual part will come when your mind is filling in the gaps subconsciously. The trick is to give, find, explore the meaning of the position rather than try to “visualize” it. People naturally want the empty calories, they want to visualize without giving a position any particular meaning, which is nearly impossible for most people, much like how Temposchlucker says our bodies weren’t naturally adapted to do it.

The saying “You can’t have something for nothing” is even more true when it applies to chess. Once you analyze and understand a position blindfolded, then you will see it much more clearly. Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to compress this process into a short period of time; i.e., blindfold blitz.




This Week’s Last Round Games

Last Round Tuesdays

True to form, Mike played a line which was new for me, but he said he had played it in online blitz games a couple times before.  He said he saw his mistake right away, but it took a couple minutes for me to find.

Technically, this is the shortest games in moves (8) and minutes off my clock (6); however, this wasn’t a worst game or such a badly played game on my opponent’s part since he only made one blunder (the queen), and resigned.  After the game, I told him that I had not considered his recapture of the pawn from a positional standpoint, since he is behind in development and it doesn’t further his attack (if I had played, let’s say, …Bd7 instead of …NxNd4 – naturally, I wasn’t going to let him double my pawns on c6 here).

My rating from this tournament was virtually unchanged – 1834 -> 1835.


Summation of a year in chess

(Originally posted as a reply on temposchlucker’s blog:)

(Note: OTB means Over-The-Board, as in while playing a rated game in person.  “Classical chess” means slow chess played OTB for a rating.)

I’ve spent the last year in particular mostly studying chess, so I’d like to add to your conclusion as well.

The tough Chesstempo problems, and visualization training (of course, these are all done in spots over the year, and not all the time by any means – except for hopefully OTB) have helped quite a bit. I would say that it helped tremendously, except that it overlapped the same skill I was already strong at, just made it stronger.

First, I’d like to preface by saying that there is a lag between training time spent, and when those results kick in consistently OTB.

Okay, deep breath, here is where all this training and results get separated. The number one thing to understand above all other things, for the moment, is that quick-chess and classical chess are simply not the same thing – perhaps for the elite some (Expert and above), but not for most. Okay, it’s already getting annoying having this Grand Chess Tour in Paris right now where it’s all rapid. Carlsen’s last tournament, Altibox in Norway, he went 8/10 blitz, and then with the same GMs he went 4.5/9 in classical chess – it’s even a common occurrence where a player will flag (a loss when time expires) in an equal position, in blitz.  (note: Magnus Carlsen, from Norway, is the current World Champion at chess)

The only way to know if these techniques and exercises have worked is to use them in slow, classical chess. I don’t know about your online blitz rating, but mine doesn’t improve and, if you have been studying the way I have, then yours “shouldn’t” improve either. This is not bad, in fact it’s mostly a good thing. If I had to play my average blitz opponent who beats me in online chess, I would probably destroy the lot of them in an OTB, classical time-control setting. These opponents are quite talented, and imaginative tactically, and yes their winning continuations do actually work, but it’s like a gunfight where you can be accurate but if the other guy gets the gun out of the holster first….and yes Classical chess slows all of this down for the stronger player, it’s like letting the slower player get the gun out of the holster first.

Eventually, my blitz skill may close the gap with my OTB skill, but that probably wouldn’t be for many years (and I’m already 50, not a spring-chicken). There is a reason for this gap, but it’s like the difference between playing a 100%, full-strength, no clock, blindfold game, and then doing the same thing except at blitz speed. In any case, blitz-chess should mainly be used for training on lines you don’t know, or to tone up your game before a tournament.

Anyway, now that that’s all out of the way, let’s talk classical chess. It is important to arrive at the game in some kind of decent shape. If you just busted your @ss moving furniture for three days, and then try to play a classical game on that day, then your physical stamina may collapse at an inopportune time. It’s sort of like bad-business, except here it applies to your chess “skill”.

Lastly, and most importantly, the Chesstempo and blindfold training does help with classical OTB chess. 1) When something unexpected happens at the board, you will be far more ready for it. 2) You will look at more lines deeply with more permutations. Depth is often a killer below the Expert level. Experts rarely make mistakes of a depth nature – they usually either do or don’t see the right idea. At the Class level, depth is a killer because Class players often do see the right lines, but _don’t_ have the ability to see them far enough for it to count. So, the Class player typically makes a weak move instead in order to avoid a wrong calculation. This is where a lot of the training we are doing should help.

Yes, it is all about patterns in a way, but if you are overly focused on solving tactics at blitz speed, and only concerned about memorizing patterns, well, let me just say that I don’t think chess works that way, as I like everyone else has tried that before at some point, in some way, and it didn’t work for me. Simple one-move mates could be solved at blitz-speed, and one guy used to do this as his pre-game warmup, but this is not the same thing as “solving” tactics. The biggest difference between blitz and classical chess is when it comes to _solving_ problems. In blitz, it’s at most 2 minutes, and then the clock in your head tells you to move. For me, a typical number would be 6 minutes in classical chess (longer than a blitz game) to solve a problem before I start getting antzy and just wanting to move – naturally, if I’ve spent time on the previous move, where I had mostly solved the same problem, then I would be itching to spend less time on that next move (whether right or wrong to).

I’ll get off the soapbox of my results here, but I really want to stress that the difference between time-controls (and this group generally gets this) is in the quality of _solving_ problems. Quick-chess is more of an I.Q. test than a chess test. Some of us slow-thinkers, I believe, can be talented in a way that we can bring more mental resources to bear on a problem, should we learn to think a more structured way because we naturally have a way our brains work when it comes to solving deeper problems.

Nevertheless, deep problems are not solved at quick-speeds (although one could speed up their solving of deep problems). It’s a little sad that chess, of all endeavors, has been subjected to this information age pressure of pre-digested information (lines, results, etc.). Running these blitz tournaments the night before a regular tournament may be somewhat of a tradition, may appeal to fans and even the ego of the players, an ability unique to them which they can showcase, but in my view, it’s not the same thing, it’s mostly garbage-chess, or even a chess IQ test where there is no time to think, you simply have to “know”, ahead of time.

I don’t know for how many of you, your big thing is OTB, or postal, or online blitz, or casual chess etc. My big thing is OTB chess. I’ve spent a lot of time studying games in books, and my rating went up mostly as a result of calculation ability, before I realized tactical “patterns” were such a big thing – my chess, and even book-collecting, predates the internet, as I used to subscribe to all kinds of chess catalogues back then through the mail. The point I feel I am trying to make is that a site like Chesstempo can improve my strength quite a bit (just got four in a row correct, last one taking 18 minutes!).

The current generation, however, is different. They are getting their strength mostly from studying tactics (the opposite of how I started), blitz chess, playing a lot of chess in locales where the titled players play and hang out, and playing lots of blitz with Experts and Masters. I’ll sneer and say this is a bit of the sleazy approach, dropping off their kids to be “babbysat” by Experts and Masters. Surely, adult chessplayers don’t get quite this level of TLC on average!

Nevertheless, for me tactics helps, and even formally studying endgames, really, because it’s the opposite of where I started from. I never got too much into the formal study of openings, either, but that’s sort of a side-point when it comes to ratings because I can play certain lines (not always, the English Opening is a good exception to this for me) where I have quite a bit of experience built up.