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.