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.