Friday, December 01, 2006

CT-Art muddles the careful plan

It seems I don't understand how CT-Art works! As I was working through the testing last night, I somehow got the thing out of my normal testing regimen. I was intending to do a fixed number of problems from Level 20, where I’m currently focused. As the program doesn’t give you much indication how far along you are, I just keep banging away at problems until it finally says I’m done. These problems seemed a lot harder than what I had been used to, but I put it down to being tired and soldiered on. After what seemed like forever, I finally got suspicious and ended the test. Much to my amazement, I found I had done nearly double the number of problems I was planning on, with many of them from higher levels. No wonder they seemed harder!

Anyway, I’ve decided to simply get back on track in Level 20 and ignore the whole thing for now. I don’t know how to reset CT-Art to show me the higher level problems again, and I guess I don’t care at this point.

Circle 1 Circle 2 Circle 3 Circle 4 Circle 5 Circle 6 Circle 7
Start 22-Nov - - - - - -
Level 10 82% - - - - - -
Level 20 72% - - - - - -
Level 30 83% - - - - - -
Level 40 61% - - - - - -
Level 50 41% - - - - - -
Level 60 - - - - - - -
Level 70 - - - - - - -
Level 80 38% - - - - - -
Level 90 51% - - - - - -

Sunday, November 26, 2006

An Opening Obsession

"Turkey Week" has not been very helpful to my study discipline...but wait...I have no discipline! Of course, that explains everything!

I've dropped a full week behind my schedule by not looking at CT-Art all week. The good news is I'm back on the treadmill again and intend to stick with it this week. One week at a time is the best I can muster at this point!

I've been worrying some about my "opening repertoire," or lack thereof. Everything about the tactics-tactics-tactics approach to chess improvement implies that I should simply learn the first 2-3 moves of a couple of reasonable openings and then wing it from there. I'm not a strong enough player to need dozens of moves of theory memorized. I'll leave a piece hanging and toss any advantage I might have built up anyway. However, I still fiddle around and fuss over getting the opening right. I really should just get over it!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Losing at Chess

I have been thinking about my attitude toward losing chess games. As I read the other Knight blogs, I get the impression that losing is a universally unpleasant experience. This lines up nicely with my own attitude. I really hate to lose...but more than that, it bothers me to lose...almost enough to make me not want to play much.

So, now you'll be thinking, "This guy has a problem with his ego. He needs to get over it and get on with the game." Perhaps. I understand that losing is part of playing. I understand that to learn and improve I must play against stronger players and will therefore lose games. In fact, I understand that losing will make me a better player. That's why I'm flailing away at these #@$%* tactical problems, right? I want to be a better chess player.

Still, I hate to lose, and it bothers me every time it happens.

On the other hand, I think I'd quit faster if I always won every game I played. Never losing isn't interesting enough to keep my attention. I would certainly not put much effort into improving my play if I never lost.

I'm also not interested in playing if there is no winner and loser. I'm not especially captivated by chess as a "beautiful art form." I don't get much pleasure from the elegance of a combination. me an ignorant barbarian. Chess is a contest of minds. There is no such thing as an ugly win.

So...I really hate to lose...but I have to lose to stay interested. Strange.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Circle 1, Day 5, into Level 20

Completed Level 10 yesterday and I'm now well into Level 20. I continue to be somewhat surprised by the kinds of problems that I miss at these initial levels. There seems to be a pattern of some kind to them, but I can't put my finger on it. Often they are positions in which there is a series of sacrifices with forced responses ending in an odd mate with a pawn or something. Initially I was missing smothered mates and pieces sitting off in the opposite corner of the board, but I've seen the last few of those that have come up.

With my poor performance (~80% so far) on the "easy" part of the course, I look forward to the more difficult problems ahead with some trepidation. Maybe I'll get suddenly smarter?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Circle 1, Day 2

On schedule so far working through the problems in level 10. Overall 79% on the first 62 problems. I find I'm feeling the same "move fast" pressure that working on the Chess Tactics Server produces, and some of the problems are similar in approach so they're easy to see.

The correct move for most of the ones I failed on was completely "invisible" for some reason. Even spending several minutes looking at the position WITH the hint displayed left me unable to see what to do. Must be some kind of blind spot or something. I've noticed the same thing in games where I miss an obvious crushing move by my opponent. Hopefully this will improve with time!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Circles have begun...

I've decided to start out with a pretty standard MdlM approach to the circles. I've set up a schedule for the next 18 (!) weeks that will take me through the 10-90 levels in CT-Art seven times. Here's the plan:

Circle Week Start Date# Problems
1 1 11/12/2006 207
2 11/19/2006 196
3 11/26/2006 175
4 12/03/2006 159
5 12/10/2006 144
6 12/17/2006 123
7 12/24/2006 96
8 12/31/2006 60
9 01/07/2006 49
2 10 01/14/2006 403
11 01/21/2006 334
12 01/28/2006 267
13 02/04/2006 156
14 02/11/2006 396
3 15 02/18/2006 625
16 02/25/2006 472
4 17 03/04/2006 974
5-7 18 03/11/2006 3627

I hope to make better (easier!) tables some day.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

CT-Art 3.0 is installed...I think?

Well, the software arrived this week. After I got through the Saturday to-do list I sat down to install it and get underway.

Wouldn't you know it the thing stalled halfway through the install. Something about fonts, I think. I poked around on the utterly useless Convekta support site and send them an email. No response so far. With nothing clever coming to mind, I ran Setup.exe again. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, but I wouldn't be embarking on the quest if there wasn't a touch of insanity somewhere. Anyway, it stalled again...but on a different file! After 5-6 "installs" it finally got to the end, registered me, and seems to run. Go figure.

OK, so meaningless software details aside, I need to actually decide how to do this "Circles" thing. There is no shortage of advice in the Knights' blogs on how to proceed, and I must avoid the very real (for me) danger of analysis paralysis.

Right now I'm wavering between a straight MdlM 7-circle approach and the DonQ 9-circle version. I don't think I can bring myself to do the micro-drills in either case. I'll decide tonight and get started tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CT-Art is on the way

Well, I finally broke down and bought CT-Art. I think trying to find a "free" way to do the circles actually ended up making it too easy for me to excuse lack of progress. Maybe now that I've invested something I'll stick to the program. I know, it's an irrational thing, but, it is what it is and I am what I am. Amazon says it will be here in a couple of days.

The other thing for me to sort out is how to find the time and opportunity to play regularly. The only place I really play much is on FICS because I don't know of a "friendly, neighborhood chess club" nearby. The big Houston club wants $100/yr, and you know how cheap I am!

I wonder if playing all the time on the computer will interfere with my ability to play in real OTB games. I'm very comfortable with a computer-based interface. Since chess is such a "visual" game and depends on rapid pattern recognition, it's plausible that patterns learned on the computer might not transfer to real wood patterns. Has anybody ever looked into this? step at a time. CT-Art will keep me busy for a while.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

A long silence...sigh

Well, perhaps this silence of mine has been a bit longer that I supposed it might be. I changed jobs a few months back, and it's taking more time than I expected to figure out a new daily routine. It seems like most of my chess-playing time and energy has disappeared.

At least the interest in the game is still there, so maybe there's hope! I have started reading the blogs again and I'm casting around a little for a good way to get my studies going again. I've tried a couple of times to get CPT configured as a tactics trainer. It seems a little awkward to work with. Perhaps the answer is to simply break down and buy a copy of CT-Art. I tinkered with the demo version and didn't like it much. The most "fun" study tool I've used it the Chess Tactics Server. Since the crash and restart, it's a lot harder to monitor progress.

Anyway, I'm back. I know, nobody noticed I was gone! That's OK. I understand.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

STC MayMania 2006 Round 4 - I need to study more!

I've not had much time to work on chess in the last few weeks (more on that later). I was not well prepared for this game, and was up against a good player who played well.

I hope to get back in the routine of regular study in a few weeks when things settle down a bit.

This browser is not Java-enabled.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wikibooks on Chess

I ran across this in my wanderings -- Chess - Wikibooks. Must investigate further.

A chess player can't have too many books!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No big mistakes, but lost anyway!

Here's the first game of the STC MayMania tournament. All I can say about the game (other than the comments below) is that my opponent played well. I don't think I made any glaring errors other than exchanging my passive Rook for Black's active one into a lost endgame. But, I don't think I made any stellar moves either.

I'd really appreciate your advice on how to avoid this kind of outcome. I was on the lookout for tactical opportunities throughout the game. There were a number of tense moments that ended up being resolved in equal exchanges. Perhaps I need to work on creating tactical opportunities? Maybe I simply lost focus at the end of the game?

[Event "STC MayMania 2006 Round 1"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.05.08"]
[Round "?"]
[White "RBHawkins"]
[Black "CharlesAllen"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1678P"]
[BlackElo "1720P"]
[ECO "D02"]
[TimeControl "3600+5"]
1. d4 {1:00:00} d5 {1:00:00} 2. Nf3 {0:59:59} e6 {0:59:52} 3. e3 {0:59:55} Nf6 {0:58:54} 4. Bd3 {0:59:48} c5 {0:58:38} 5. c3 {0:59:28} b6 {0:58:10} 6. Nbd2 {0:58:52} Bb7 {0:58:04} 7. O-O {0:58:05} Be7 {0:57:33} 8. Re1 {0:57:28} O-O {0:57:04} 9. e4 {0:56:25} dxe4 {0:56:26} 10. Nxe4 {0:56:04} Nbd7 {0:54:58} 11. Nxf6+ {0:51:52} Nxf6 {0:52:09} 12. Bg5 {0:48:50} cxd4 {0:48:40} 13. Nxd4 {0:42:13} h6 {0:46:17} 14. Bxf6 {0:40:29} Bxf6 {0:46:03} 15. Qc2 {0:38:59} Rc8 {0:42:50} 16. Rad1 {0:33:53} Kh8 {0:39:26} 17. Nf3 {0:30:19} Qc7 {0:35:23} 18. Be4 {0:26:15} Bxe4 {0:33:11} 19. Qxe4 {0:25:48} Rfd8 {0:32:49} 20. g3 {0:23:15} Rd7 {0:28:32} 21. Rxd7 {0:22:00} Qxd7 {0:28:32} 22. Ne5 {0:21:47} Bxe5 {0:27:28} 23. Qxe5 {0:21:29} Qd2 {0:26:20} 24. Re2 {0:20:52} Qd1+ {0:25:11} 25. Kg2 {0:20:45} Rd8 {0:23:39} 26. Re1 {0:19:29} Qd5+ {0:23:03} 27. Qxd5 {0:18:59} Rxd5 {0:23:06} 28. Re2 {0:18:54} g5 {0:22:27} 29. g4 {0:17:15} Kg7 {0:22:25} 30. Kg3 {0:16:48} Rd3+ {0:21:41} 31. f3 {0:16:01} Kf6 {0:21:11} 32. c4 {0:14:26} e5 {0:20:49} 33. Rc2 {0:12:07} e4 {0:19:33} 34. Rc3 {0:08:48} Rxc3 {0:19:16} 35. bxc3 {0:08:47} e3 {0:19:11} 36. Kg2 {0:08:45} Ke5 {0:19:00} 37. Kf1 {0:08:41} f5 {0:18:10} 38. gxf5 {0:08:15} Kxf5 {0:18:12} 39. Ke2 {0:08:17} Kf4 {0:18:10} 40. a3 {0:07:56} h5 {0:17:31} 41. a4 {0:07:04} a5 {0:17:24} 42. h3 {0:06:00} h4 {0:16:43} 43. c5 {0:05:13} bxc5 {0:16:44} 44. c4 {0:05:11} Kg3 {0:14:18} 45. Kxe3 {0:05:07} Kxh3 {0:12:43} 46. Kf2 {0:04:50} g4 {0:12:18} 47. fxg4 {0:04:46} Kxg4 {0:12:21} 48. Kg2 {0:04:41} Kf4 {0:11:57} 49. Kh3 {0:04:44} Ke4 {0:12:01} 50. Kxh4 {0:04:46} Kd4 {0:12:04} 51. Kg3 {0:04:46} Kxc4 {0:12:08} 52. Kf2 {0:04:44} Kb4 {0:12:11} 53. Ke3 {0:04:45} c4 {0:12:10} 54. Kd2 {0:04:47} Kb3 {0:12:11} 55. Kc1 {0:04:43} Kxa4 {0:12:08} 56. Kc2 {0:04:47} Kb4 {0:12:12} 57. Kb2 {0:04:49} c3+ {0:12:13} 58. Kc2 {0:04:47} a4 {0:12:15} {RBHawkins resigns} 0-1

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Life is Interfering with Chess...

This has not been a good week (or two) for chess study. My wife was in the hospital for two days and is now recovering at home (serious, but not life-threatening). That makes for lots of extra jobs to be done, and not much study or playing time. Priorities!

I did manage to finish up Round 9 in the STC Open on a good note. I've done a bit of looking at my play and am posting the comments below.

[Event "STC Open 2006 Round 9"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.05.02"]
[Round "9"]
[White "RBHawkins"]
[Black "Skorj"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "1596P"]
[BlackElo "1681"]
[ECO "D04"]
[TimeControl "3600"]
1. d4 {1:00:00} d5 {1:00:00} 2. Nf3 {0:59:52} Nf6
{0:59:49} 3. e3 {0:59:43} c5 {0:59:07} 4. c3 {0:58:42}
Bg4 {0:57:48} 5. Nbd2 {0:56:57} c4 {0:57:07} 6. b3
{0:54:18} b5 {0:56:55} 7. Qc2 {0:52:51} Nc6
{0:55:58} 8. Be2 {0:51:42} e6 {0:54:59} 9. O-O {0:51:14}
Rc8 {0:53:47} 10. e4 {0:50:24} dxe4 {0:51:57} 11. Nxe4
{0:50:02} Nxe4 {0:50:59} 12. Qxe4 {0:49:19} Bf5
{0:50:01} 13. Qe3 {0:47:27} Qd5 {0:48:49} 14. Nh4
{0:44:22} Be7 {0:46:09} 15. Nxf5 {0:42:48} Qxf5
{0:46:00} 16. bxc4 {0:41:40} Bg5 {0:44:20} 17. Qxg5
{0:41:18} Ne7 {0:42:24} 18. Qxf5 {0:38:31} Nxf5
{0:42:20} 19. Ba3 {0:37:26} bxc4 {0:42:01} 20. Rab1
{0:36:39} f6 {0:41:15} 21. Rb7 {0:36:11} a5 {0:37:20}
22. Bxc4 {0:35:32} Rxc4 {0:35:39} 23. Rb8+ {0:35:26} Kf7
{0:35:38} 24. Rxh8 {0:35:21} Rxc3 {0:35:37} 25. Rf8+
{0:34:21} Kg6 {0:35:29} 26. Bc5 {0:33:14} e5
{0:34:08} 27. Rd1 {0:31:25} exd4 {0:33:43} 28. Bxd4
{0:31:08} Nxd4 {0:33:38} 29. Re8 {0:29:01} Rc2 {0:32:01}
30. Kf1 {0:27:34} Nc6 {0:30:05} 31. Re2 {0:26:48} Rc4
{0:29:12} 32. h3 {0:24:41} Nd4 {0:28:20} 33. Re4
{0:23:48} {Skorj resigns} 1-0

Friday, April 21, 2006

STC Open Round 8 - A loss to look at!

I was up against a strong player in this game, and hoped to hold on for a draw. Alas, it was not to be. I got through the opening reasonably unscathed, but then missed a couple of good chances in the middle game and dug myself in a big hole.

As always, your insights are welcome. I used the Slow Chess Blitz program for analysis. I like its ability to show multiple lines. I'd still like a way to show the "why" of a particular line. It's not always obvious why a particular move is not selected (e.g., in the analysis of 15. ... Bd7 below, what's wrong with 17.RxQ?).

More tactical study is required!

[Event "STC Open 2006"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.04.21"]
[Round "8"]
[White "thingummywut"]
[Black "RBHawkins"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "1847P"]
[BlackElo "1632P"]
[ECO "D37"]
[TimeControl "3600"]

1. d4 {[%clk 1:00:00]} d5 {[%clk 1:00:00]} 2. c4 {[%clk 0:59:43]} e6 {[%clk
0:59:48]} 3. Nc3 {[%clk 0:59:34]} Nf6 {[%clk 0:59:34]} 4. Nf3 {[%clk
0:59:11]} Be7 {[%clk 0:59:06]} 5. Bf4 {[%clk 0:58:33]} c5 {[%clk 0:57:23]} 6.
dxc5 {[%clk 0:57:38]} Bxc5 {[%clk 0:57:09]} 7. e3 {[%clk 0:56:21]} Nc6 {[%clk
0:55:39]} 8. a3 {[%clk 0:55:07]} O-O {[%clk 0:53:46]} 9. Qc2 {[%clk 0:52:57]}
b6 {[%clk 0:51:55]} 10. Rd1 {[%clk 0:52:34]} Re8 {[%clk 0:47:30]} 11. cxd5
{[%clk 0:50:59]} exd5 {[%clk 0:46:03]} 12. b4 {[%clk 0:49:34]} Be7 {[%clk
0:43:41]} 13. Nxd5 {[%clk 0:49:15]} Nxd5 {[%clk 0:42:07]} 14. Qxc6 {[%clk
0:48:53]} Be6 {[%clk 0:40:37]} 15. e4 {[%clk 0:47:08]} Bd7 {[%clk 0:37:59]}
16. Qxd5 {[%clk 0:46:38]} Be6 {[%clk 0:35:54]} 17. Qxd8 {[%clk 0:46:28]}
Raxd8 {[%clk 0:35:37]} 18. Rxd8 {[%clk 0:45:39]} Rxd8 {[%clk 0:35:22]} 19.
Be2 {[%clk 0:45:37]} Rc8 {[%clk 0:33:33]} 20. O-O {[%clk 0:45:15]} Rc2 {[%clk
0:32:30]} 21. Nd4 {[%clk 0:44:17]} Ra2 {[%clk 0:31:56]} 22. Nxe6 {[%clk
0:43:51]} Rxe2 {[%clk 0:31:06]} 23. Ng5 {[%clk 0:42:14]} h6 {[%clk 0:29:53]}
24. Nf3 {[%clk 0:41:47]} Rxe4 {[%clk 0:29:11]} 25. Re1 {[%clk 0:41:35]} Rxe1+
{[%clk 0:28:13]} 26. Nxe1 {[%clk 0:41:31]} Kf8 {[%clk 0:27:02]} 27. Nd3
{[%clk 0:41:18]} Bf6 {[%clk 0:25:49]} 28. Bb8 {[%clk 0:41:09]} a6 {[%clk
0:25:13]} 29. Ba7 {[%clk 0:41:06]} b5 {[%clk 0:25:05]} 30. Kf1 {[%clk
0:40:22]} Ke8 {[%clk 0:24:36]} 31. Ke2 {[%clk 0:39:21]} Ke7 {[%clk 0:24:12]}
32. Ke3 {[%clk 0:39:18]} Kd6 {[%clk 0:23:54]} 33. Bd4 {[%clk 0:39:00]} Bg5+
{[%clk 0:23:33]} 34. f4 {[%clk 0:38:57]} Bf6 {[%clk 0:23:09]} 35. Bxf6 {[%clk
0:38:54]} gxf6 {[%clk 0:23:04]} 36. Kd4 {[%clk 0:38:53]} f5 {[%clk 0:22:52]}
37. h4 {[%clk 0:38:49]} f6 {[%clk 0:22:36]} 38. Nc5 {[%clk 0:38:48]} Kc6
{[%clk 0:21:42]} 39. Nxa6 {[%clk 0:38:45]} h5 {[%clk 0:21:19]} 40. Nc5 {[%clk
0:38:42]} Kd6 {[%clk 0:21:03]} 41. Nd3 {[%clk 0:38:38]} Kc6 {[%clk 0:20:45]}
42. Nf2 {[%clk 0:38:36]} Kd6 {[%clk 0:20:38]} 43. Nh1 {[%clk 0:38:35]} Kc6
{[%clk 0:20:01]} 44. Ng3 {[%clk 0:38:33]} {RBHawkins resigns} 1-0

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

STC Open Round 7

I think this is a bit more interesting game...maybe the most fun I've had since beginning this effort! I made a deliberate effort to play more aggressively, and watch for tactics. This time it worked out fine, but there were many chances for it to come out badly. Perhaps that's the nature of the game?

I thing MDLM might be on to something. All the focus on tactics really does make a difference. I've been putting in a lot of time on the tactics server. Now I think I may actually spend a little time getting on a real Circles routine. This stuff seems to work!

I have done a little bit of 'analysis' and I'd be interested in your comments on what I missed.

[Event "STC Open 2006 rated standard match"]
[Site ""]
[Date "2006.04.18"]
[Round "7"]
[White "wilkhell"]
[Black "RBHawkins"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1549P"]
[BlackElo "1539P"]
[ECO "A10"]
[TimeControl "3600"]
1. c4 {[%clk 1:00:00]} d5 {[%clk 1:00:00]} 2. b3 {[%clk 0:59:42]} e5 {[%clk
0:59:31]} 3. e3 {[%clk 0:59:37]} Nf6 {[%clk 0:58:32]} 4. cxd5 {[%clk
0:59:20]} Nxd5 {[%clk 0:57:59]} 5. Bb2 {[%clk 0:59:16]} Nc6 {[%clk 0:57:04]}
6. Bb5 {[%clk 0:59:09]} Bd6 {[%clk 0:56:24]} 7. e4 {[%clk 0:57:23]} Nf4
{[%clk 0:54:54]} 8. Bxc6+ {[%clk 0:55:22]} bxc6 {[%clk 0:54:26]} 9. Qf3
{[%clk 0:55:14]} Qf6 {[%clk 0:50:18]} 10. Ne2 {[%clk 0:54:57]} Qg5 {[%clk
0:45:54]} 11. Nxf4 {[%clk 0:54:47]} exf4 {[%clk 0:45:23]} 12. e5 {[%clk
0:52:38]} O-O {[%clk 0:40:22]} 13. exd6 {[%clk 0:52:26]} Re8+ {[%clk
0:40:10]} 14. Kf1 {[%clk 0:52:12]} Ba6+ {[%clk 0:39:32]} 15. Kg1 {[%clk
0:52:01]} Re1# {[%clk 0:39:24]} {wilkhell checkmated} 0-1

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

STC Open Round 6

Here is the transcript of my Round 6 game in the STC Open tourney. I've switched to the ICC Chessviewer applet to see how it works. This was an interesting game. My initial overall assessment is that there are (at least) a couple of things I need to work on:

  • End game tactics -- I had a winnable game until near the end

  • Time management -- I lost on time with ~10 minutes left on my opponent's clock

Other comments are (hopefully) embedded below.

This browser is not Java-enabled.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

FICS STC tourney game

A draw in my game in Round 5 of the STC tournament. Here's the game (more analysis will follow when I get a minute):

Lichte (1590) vs. RBHawkins (1767) --- Mon Apr 3, 20:04 CDT 2006
Rated standard match, initial time: 60 minutes, increment: 0 seconds.

Move Lichte RBHawkins
---- --------------------- ---------------------
1. Nf3 (0:00.000) d5 (0:00.000)
2. g3 (0:02.692) Nf6 (0:05.625)
3. Bg2 (0:01.411) e6 (0:07.063)
4. O-O (0:01.262) Be7 (0:13.235)
5. d3 (0:05.134) c5 (0:10.516)
6. Nbd2 (0:04.305) O-O (1:25.938)
7. e4 (0:07.398) dxe4 (2:49.234)
8. dxe4 (0:55.965) Nc6 (2:45.671)
9. Re1 (1:50.365) Qc7 (3:27.406)
10. e5 (2:44.193) Nd5 (1:11.656)
11. a4 (5:37.254) Rd8 (6:00.453)
12. c3 (6:37.971) Bd7 (10:59.109)
13. Nc4 (3:22.589) Na5 (3:55.469)
14. Nxa5 (4:55.602) Qxa5 (1:00.421)
15. Bg5 (7:14.690) f6 (7:20.922)

This was a small blunder and should have cost me a pawn (e.g., 16. exf6 Bxf6 17. Bxf6 Nxf6 18. Qe2 Qc7 19. Qc4 Nd5 20. Ng5 Re8 21. Bxd5 exd5 22. Qxd5+). Better would have been 15. ...Bc6, which I also considered.

16. Bf4 (9:42.237) Nxf4 (3:24.828)
17. gxf4 (0:34.799) Bc6 (3:49.141)
18. Qe2 (1:13.818) f5 (2:26.360)
19. Ng5 (1:45.839) Bxg2 (1:08.094)
20. Kxg2 (0:04.889) Bxg5 (1:31.344)
21. fxg5 (0:11.104) g6 (0:22.203)
22. Rec1 (1:44.815)
{Game drawn by mutual agreement} 1/2-1/2

All in all I'm reasonably happy. Other than move 15, I don't see any major blunders, which was my main objective going into the game.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Building a base continues

The last week has been devoted to:

  1. Getting into a tournament with STC Bunch on FICS that will give me an excuse to actually play regularly

  2. Sprucing up openings (first 5-6 moves) using BookUp to avoid surprises

  3. Getting into the habit of doing tactics problems

While I haven't been as diligent as I would have like to be, I'm satisfied with my progress. It's a reasonable beginning. I need to keep this in balance or else my interest is likely to burn out too quickly.

I'm finding that even a small amount of tactical practice has a significant least on my performance on the Tactics Server. I can see things much more quickly that I could when I started. May be my imagination? I have my first STC tournament game tonight, so we'll see if it translates into a game situation as well. I'm going to focus on avoiding major tactical blunders.

Monday, March 27, 2006

First game on FICS -- A win!

It's a good way to start the adventure, but I fear the glory is fleeting. Here's the game score for posterity:

2006-04-01 -- Revised based on Patrick's comment (thanks)

RBHawkins (UNR) vs. chesemc (1288) --- Sat Mar 25, 19:25 CST 2006
Rated standard match, initial time: 27 minutes, increment: 0 seconds.

Move RBHawkins chesemc
---- --------------------- ---------------------
1. e4 (0:00.000) e5 (0:00.000)
2. Nf3 (0:02.656) Nf6 (0:02.359)
3. Bc4 (0:08.953) Nxe4 (0:04.172)
4. d3 (0:09.062)

I was obviously not prepared for this opening, and this is because I spend too much time playing against the computer. My reaction to the situation is a typical weakness for me. When I encounter something new, I get flustered and don't spend enough time thinking about the position. If I had simply said, "OK, we're now in the middle game" and LOOKED at the position, I might have come up with a more sensible move (like 3. Nxe5, or even 4.Nxe5.)

4. Nf6 (0:02.656)
5. O-O (1:23.843) d5 (0:13.250)
6. Bb3 (1:00.203) e4 (0:05.719)

As Patrick pointed out, this was a big break for me, although I didn't see it at the time. Either 6. ...Nc6 or 6. ...Bd4 would have left me in bad shape.

7. dxe4 (1:50.297) dxe4 (0:10.610)
8. Qxd8+ (3:09.891) Kxd8 (0:07.016)
9. Ng5 (0:37.484) Ke8 (0:41.438)
10. Bxf7+ (1:30.015) Ke7 (0:08.921)
11. Nc3 (0:48.454) h6 (0:06.953)

A foolish blunder on my part, caused I think by not spending the effort to look at all of Black's possible threats. This should have been easy to spot.

12. Bc4 (3:56.625) hxg5 (0:08.735)
13. Bxg5 (0:31.500) Nc6 (0:53.906)

After this move, the positions are actually about even (!) because of this nice little combination: 14. Nd5+ Kd7 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. Nxf6+ Ke7 17. Nxe4. Of course, I didn't see this at the time.

14. Rfe1 (1:13.266) Ke8 (2:03.172)
15. Rad1 (1:42.813) Ke7 (0:22.922)

This is the game-loser. As they say, the winner is the one to make the next-to-last blunder.

16. Rxe4+ (0:58.343)
{Black resigns} 1-0

As I said at the top. I don't expect to win many games this way. I'm intending to improve my ability to avoid the kinds of foolish mistakes I made in this game. I want to make mistakes that are much more profound and insightful!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Getting the exercises organized

Spent about 30 minutes looking for a 30 0 game on FICS last night. No takers. I suspect I simply didn't wait long enough. A while back I came across the STC Bunch who are committeed to slow time controls, so I signed up with them as a member again. I'll give it another go over the w/e if I have some time.

Also did another bunch of problems on CTS with mixed results. It's interesting the simple, obvious things I miss! I think that's where the MDLM program is going to help the most--with what you folks call "board vision."

I tinkered a bit with the K-R concentric square exercise. I'll start them in earnest today. I'm going to need to start carrying my portable set with me when I travel! CPT 3.2 beta 9 is now installed as well, and the search now begins for 1,000 problems. Any suggestions? Maybe it's just easier to buy CT-Art. I'll dig through the Knights' blogs to see what you have done.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The first step...let's get a rating

I spent a little time last night on the Chess Tactics Server (CTS). What a great site! I can't believe I've never come across it before. I think I've been overly focused on openings for a long time. My list of links to opening sites is pretty long, but no tactical sites. Perhaps that's a clue?

Anyway, I was captured by the ratings game on the site and stayed much longer than I had planned. (That's a good thing.) After the initial shock of going from 1500 to 1100 in four problems (!) I settled in to the "flow" of forced rapid evaluation with the penalty on error. A good mix I think. My rating settled down around 1200 after 150 problems or so. I'm happy with that for now. Even in this short exercise I can see how improvement would come from spending a lot of time solving these problems. Maybe there's something to this after all!

The other thing that struck me is the power of community in increasing the probability of success in a quest like this one. Several of the Knights offered comments and advice on yesterday's post. Knowing others are watching and supporting makes it harder to quit.

Here's the short term plan:

0. Post my stats on the blog (done)
1. Get in the game -- Play 2x a week at 30 0 to get a rating (FICS first)
2. Tactics -- Do 200 problems 3x a week on CTS (target 90%)
3. Buy MDLM's book & read it
4. Evaluate then purchase either CT-Art or CPT
5. Make a better plan based on the circles
6. Become "Pendrax the Persistent"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Is this really worth all the effort?

I'm going to need to decide whether or not I am willing to invest this much time in chess. MDLM's articles suggest a time commitment of 1-2 hours a day. I simply don't have that much time available in my life. Over the years I have seen advice like "play one slow-time match every day," and "spend time every day studying." I've never been able to achieve either.

The other problem I'm noodling right now is where to play. I had signed up on FICS a long time ago and never used the account. I'd really like to use a different user name, but they refuse to change mine and won't let me sign up for a new one....bizarre. I may have a look at ICC or the USCF site.

That's it for now. I really need to start playing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

First Post

In recent weeks I have stumbled across the band of web adventurers who call themselves the Knights Errant. Their blogs tell a story of a quest for chess mastery that resonates with my own experience. As an on-and-off chess player for almost 40 years, who has never had anything but a provisional rating, I feel part of their family already.

And so, I am considering joining the quest. As has been oft-remarked in "first posts" this is an uncertain venture at this point. I know the odds are against my ever returning for a second post, and even more strongly against any real progress on the path to chess improvement. But then again, what's the point of a quest that's certain to succeed?

I will begin by reading the articles of Michael de la Maza...apparently the inspiration for this path we're on (kindly pointed to by Temposchlucker's Links of Interest).

...and so it begins.