Monday, August 5, 2013

US Open 2013

I did alright with a score of 5 out of 9 (3+2-4=). I basically played at my rated strength with a gain of 11 points. The field was very full of class A and Expert players. There were lots of young players. I ran into better opening preparation in two games. I did not take proper advantage of an inexact move order with one of my opponents, but gathered a better understanding of some King's Indian structures from that game.

I have a lot of material to go through. Two of my wins were against much lower rated players, and the other seven games were against experts. I think there is a lot of good learning material in those games.

As usual, I was head down in my games, and did not get too look at the top boards.


  1. I just discovered your blog today. I'm on a similar quest to pick up chess after a 40-year layoff, while taking advantage of the better tools and techniques now available.

    I was really shooting in the dark when I played in the late sixties/early seventies. I recall being disappointed when my rating topped out at 1759 but considering how haphazard my training was and how few tournament games I played, I now realize that wasn't bad.

    I'm impressed by your progress. I haven't read all your blog, but I gather you've gained about 200 points in less than three years. Congratulations!

    So a few questions, if I may:

    * You are using some kind of flashcard setup as Wetzell recommends. What's your specific setup for that -- card size, word processor, chess diagram software?

    * How do you choose what nuggets of chess learning to commit to flashcards? How many do you have at this point?

    * How would you compare a class player today with the equivalent class player in the seventies? I imagine their openings are somewhat better, but otherwise I have no idea.

    Feel free to answer or not. Kudos on your blog.

  2. I can see you are using 3x5 cards. Possibly your diagrams come from Fritz.

    I'm working with DiagTransfer, some freeware from Alain Blaisot, which produces very sharp diagrams -- effectively typeset since it uses a chess font. It's reasonably easy to use and allows direct copy/paste to a wordpocessor.

    In case anyone who comes here is curious.
    * LibreOffice Writer
    - Set up page
    - 3" x 5" with 0.3" margins
    - Insert Frame
    - Type
    - 2.39" x 2.39"
    - Uncheck AutoSize
    - Position:
    - Horizontal: Center to Paragraph Area
    - Vertical: From top to Margin
    - Border
    - Width: 0.05pt
    - Spacing: LRTB 0.0"

    * DiagTransfer
    - Set up chess position
    - Copy (RTF mode) to clipboard

    * LibreOffice
    - Navigator
    - Double-click frame element for entering text
    - Paste chess position text into frame
    - Select chess position text
    - Set font size to 20

    The key point to remember is that the chess position is not a graphic, but text in a special chess font. So each square is actually a character. There is a carriage return at the end of the chess position that you may need to delete if it throws off text display in the frame.

  3. Small fix to above instructions:

    * Before "Copy (RTF mode)", select "Font size for copy..." and input 20.

    For 4x6 index cards, follow above instructions except:

    * LibreOffice: Set frame to 3.36" x 3.36"
    * DiagTran: Set font size to 28.

  4. I use Fritz diagrams for the blog, but I use DiagTransfer and LibreOffice Writer to make my flash cards. I use a chess font, so I do not have to insert diagrams as images.

    I am working on a Java Applet to create and print flash cards.
    My second post on this blog is about flash cards

  5. I think there has been some rating inflation.

    At my best back in 1974, I was about 1600 strength. When I stopped playing in 1975, it was 1409.

    When I got reacquainted with tournament chess (after a couple of tournaments), I was about 1800. Some of that increase is due to about 6 months of study and preparation, but some has to be due to inflation.

    Today, about two and a half years after that, I am playing around 2000 strength.

    Writing about flash card selection would make a good blog post.

  6. Thanks for the reply! I see we are on the same page when it comes to DiagTran and LibreOffice. I look forward to a post on flashcard selection.

    re: rating inflation

    Interesting. That hadn't occurred to me. I was expecting today's Class X player would be stronger because of improvements in chess knowledge, education and tools.

    I'm pretty jazzed by the amazingly good books and computer resources I see compared to the old days when having a copy of MCO, Fine's Basic Chess Endings, and some miscellany of other books was state of the art among my peers.

    On the other hand, ratings are a mathematical construct that can be shaped by
    tweaking a formula or changing the population. I never got into the Elo mysteries.

    I wonder though if you haven't underestimated yourself. You haven't come up from 1800 to 2000. I would measure it from 1600 or less. Since you have worked as a professional programmer (I take it), that's got to have changed you. I'm a programmer too and I know that path really toughened me up in terms of discipline and learning how to learn.

    1. I agree some of my increase in strength is a result of personal development caused by my profession. I noticed that the graduate level courses I took in getting my Master's seemed much easier for me than my undergraduate courses, because of the discipline I learned while working.

  7. Checking the web, I see in 2000 there were about 85,000 USCF members but that number breaks down into 35,000 adult and 50,000 youth. Since then those numbers have dropped.

    That's surprising. I didn't realize how big scholastic chess had become. From what I read, there's a notion that playing chess will improve children's abilities in education, therefore in life. Could be. So that translates into big high school chess programs, which weren't around in 1970 when I played.

    In terms of ratings though I can see how it would be a nightmare for the majority of players in the rating pool to have unknown or unstable ratings then leave after a few years. According to the wiki article on chess ratings, the solution has been to inject points into the system to prevent rating deflation.

    From the New York Times, Are Today's Top Players Better Than 20 Years Ago? Not Necessarily:

    Glickman said in the United States, instead of rating inflation, "there is more of a tendency for deflation." He added, "A rating now connotes a better rating than 10 years ago." The reason is that young players (who make up more than half of the chess federation's membership) drag average ratings down. "You have these young players who are improving faster than their rating is moving," said Glickman.

    My question comparing class players of the past with those of the present is more difficult than I thought.

  8. Here's a commenter at a chess site who has given great thought to my question and comes down solidly on the side of rating deflation:

    Most grownups who have stayed in USCF organized chess since the ratings were deflated think their ratings dropped steeply simply because they got much weaker, but a comparision of their games from the mid 1980s with their recent games shows a different story. If a player rated in the 1900-1950 range during 1985 played the same chess today, such a level of chess skill would only be good enough to maintain a rating in the 1700s at best. Such a player might even drop into the 1600s.

    If this is true, Newz, you have definitely underestimated yourself.
    The only caveat is that the commenter considers ratings to have inflated during the eighties before the more recent deflation.

    1. Very interesting.

      I agree that modern instruction and data access has helped everyone play better chess.

      Rating is a mixed thing. It greatly improves (Swiss) tournaments, but we can become too fixated on it. It does not tell the whole story.

      There is a class B player at our club that has a tremendous tournament record against me (5+0-=1). His strengths match up well against my weaknesses. Even in online correspondence play, he is doing well against me (0+1-=2) considering my "rating" advantage.

  9. Yeah, ratings can be funny -- non-transitive as they say in math. I used to boast that I had beaten a guy who had beaten Pal Benko who had beaten Bobby Fischer. It was true but it didn't mean much.

    I ran across a table of the odds of beating someone with a higher USCF rating. The link doesn't seem to work now, but I approximated the table to some rough numbers easier to remember, where the first number is the difference between ratings:

    0 1/2
    100 1/3
    200 1/4
    300 1/6
    400 1/12
    500 1/25
    600 1/50
    700 1/100

    So you should never give up hope when facing a higher-rated player. And if you're the higher-rated player, you can always lose to someone lower. (I intend the generic "you.")

    Thus all chess players are made equal.