Saturday, October 26, 2013

TCCL 2014 round 2

We lost again.  I out rated my opponent, but he is a rapidly improving young player. He played out of my preparation on move 11 in an open Catalan. I got everything I could want out of the opening, but did not make a good decision on how to transition to the endgame. I also missed a winning tactical move, and allowed him to get a perpetual check on me.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Memory: Openings

Two things came together for me recently, that has modified the way I look at opening study. The memory course my wife bought (see this post), and an application of Soltis advice on reviewing annotated games from "Chess Study Made Easy"

My general approach has not changed. I think it is a waste of time for most class players to memorize opening lines, because you will rarely get to play them. There are too many good, but not the best moves in class play. The deepest I have ever reached in my preparation in class play has been move 10. Study whole well annotated games with general lessons is best. Game collections of a favorite grandmaster are great, or one with particular lessons in mind.  Use the opening knowledge you gain from those games. Try lots of things to provide a good foundation. Keep your king safe, fight for the center, and develop your pieces.

Those of us in high class A or rapidly improving class A players, can start to memorize opening lines and try to prepare a comprehensive repertoire. The rest of this post is for us and those better than us.

I believe that understanding the positions are more important than memorizing the moves that produce the position. Many positions can be reached by various move orders, so it is important to recognize the position from a transposition sequence. Also, the better one understands the requirements of a position the more likely you will pick the best move, even if you have forgotten your preparation.

A position is best understood in the context of at least one whole game, preferably well annotated. Opening books that do not have complete games are only for players that already understand that opening well.

The most suited lines for study are ones from a recent failure to play the opening well in a tournament game.

The New Approach

On each day that I can do this, I will study a game from an opening book. The first session will be a deep study. I will start the second session at least one hour after completing the first, the third four hours after the second,  a fourth review the next day before I start other work, and a fifth time that evening. Each subsequent session should be shorter than the prior, so little time is needed for the second day. One could do this once a week on the weekend.

The first session will take the most time, but I will try to make it under one hour.  I will go through the game three times as Soltis suggests.
  1. The first play through will be a quick run to just get the idea of the game. 
  2. The second play through will be entering the game into the computer. I will read the text annotations and skim the major variations. I will select/adjust the tabiya I use to select games for review. 
  3. The third pass will be a deep dive using the computer. I will enter all variations with Fritz. I expect to use one "game" in Fritz per chapter of an opening book, except for the cleanup chapters. I will think about how things transpose with other games. I will print out the "game" for use in the 3rd-5th sessions.
The second session will repeat a careful following of the variations in the game with two boards. I will cover the moves in the book, and try to guess the next one. I will start from the initial position and play various move orders from memory to reach the start of the variation.

The third session will use two boards to focus on repeating the main variations I have documented for tabiya from memory.

The fourth and fifth sessions will repeat the third session focusing on what I cannot remember from the previous day.

On days when I don't have enough time for the first three sessions, I will work on other things. The second day should just be a few minutes, so I should be able to fit it in. If I overlap opening study, then I should work on completely different lines, or the same line from black and white.

Maintenance sessions will be done by regular viewing of recent master games from my repertoire. When viewing games, I should note when the game departs from my repertoire, and if I should schedule research time to dig into the game.

I have tried this a few times. Modifying this post as I learn how things work. I think this will be successful.

Update: I just went through a game that had too many lines for this too work. I need to modify the first session to restrict the amount of material I am trying to memorize. A particular game may need to be split into several passes. I need a supplementary document to identify the separate passes, and the first session on subsequent passes.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Wojo's Weapons Volume 3

I am preparing a ebook periodical on "Wojo's Weapons" like my series on "The Kaufman Repertoire". In the process, I am constructing a set of Tabiya that are good for searching a database for games. I thought it was time for a review on WW III.

The strength of this series is the well annotated complete games with lots of text descriptions. The one small weakness of Volume I was I had a little difficulty in constructing a complete repertoire for the closed Catalan. Volume II was a massive treatment of the fianchetto lines of the King's Indian Defense (KID) and I think it was excellent in every way. Volume III has the complete games well annotated with lots of text, but it has more of the weakness of incomplete coverage of some lines.

I started to use a 1.Nf3  Catalan based repertoire before the third volume of Wojo's Weapons came out. I had to work on Gruenfeld and Symmetric English lines without this resource.

Volume 2 was an extensive treatment of the fianchetto KID, and was in some ways more dense than Volume 1 treatment of 1.Nf3 d5 2.d4. I was able to create a set of Tabiya to search databases to look for informative games from Vol 1,2. The rest of the repertoire I had worked out was illuminated by the Gruenfeld section of Vol 3, which is very similar to the first two volumes. Similarly, the Dutch and others chapters at the end seem fine for the amount of games played with these defenses.

The Symmetric English part of Vol 3 is much different. It seems to me that too much ground is covered for the amount of annotated games, with the exception of chapter 11. Chapter 11 is interesting and may be a good way to cover a very transpositional and highly theoretical area of chess for class players.

Wojo transposed to the Maroczy Bind variation of the Accelerated Dragon when possible, and chapter 10 has 4 games to cover a broad swath of territory. If you want to do this, then you will need a good book on the Maroczy Bind. Perhaps this deficiency will be addressed when Wojo's Weapons turns to the black side of the board, as Wojo played the Accelerated Dragon; however, I do not see any Accelerated Dragon games from Hilton or Ippolito in the database.

There are two games on the Queens Indian, and two on the English Hedgehog variation. Suba's books are very popular with class players. We may not fully understand his "dynamic" chess, but he is very entertaining.
The English Hedgehog is fairly common in class play, because it is similar to many popular open Sicilian lines. The Queen's Indian works well as a Catalan avoidance, so we see lots of them, also. More material here would have been good. (Because I am well known as a king's fianchetto player, I am seeing Orangutan, Larsen's and 1.c4 Nf6 2.b4 openings from white)

Overall, I think this is a very good series. It will be the core of my opening repertoire for white as I go forward. I may shift to more dynamic lines if I achieve the endgame knowledge and success I am hoping to obtain from using this repertoire.

Review: What It Takes to Become a Chess Master by Soltis

I need a breakthrough in chess understanding. I hope this book will be one of the tools I need.

First, let me say that I liked this book very much.

Second, I wish this had been written by Silman.

Soltis writes short books with a few examples from which you must develop your own study plan, and find your own materials.

Silman writes door stops with copious examples and explanations.

I failed many of the end of chapter quiz questions, and am not sure yet what I need to do to be able to see what Soltis wants us to see in these positions.

Third, an reviewer suggests Popov's "Chess Lessons" to be a better book on the same topic. 

I did glean some new exercises as I study/annotate game.

Exercises for master games:
  • List targets (both sides) in a position
  • Evaluate early middle game positions: immediate action needed?
  • Evaluate a position does it require a lot of calculation or little?
Exercises for my games:
  • How could I have gotten more?
  • Was there a plan which would have been easier?
  • Try to understand "unintentional" sacrifices. Can I learn to see comp before it just happens?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Excuse, Bleg, Snul, and Preview of "Things to Come"

I have not been doing the work necessary to put the information on this blog that I had wanted too.

My wife is feeling the burden of being the sole provider, and we are both feeling uncertain of the value of our retirement savings considering the 1T dollars a year the Fed is printing. I am now under a dead line to make some real money from chess, or get a real job. As only a few of the very best can make a living playing chess and the opportunities for a class A player to get paid for coaching are limited, I am looking in a different direction.

You might have noticed the adding of a tip jar on the right side bar. I do not expect much from this, as I know I am not providing a lot of value on this blog. It is still mainly an improvement journal for my own benefit.

I have been very busy this year writing study tools for chess. The first fruit of this labor is the ebook monthly periodical "Following Kaufman" (which I intend to start charging 99 cents with the January issue with a free sample). I will add a second periodical "Wielding Wojo's Weapons" in November. I hope to make this technology available on a web site, so that you can create an ebook periodical from your own repertoire, but the program is still far from ready for that. Trying to make my chess book vision work in various ebook formats has been daunting. Epub is the most openly documented, and I have succeeded in creating epubs. Amazon has been very frustrating to deal with, but I may be able to make kindle formats on my own and put them up via Smashwords when they provide support.

I am also working on a web page to create chess flash cards. The free version will allow you to create a flash card and print it out in various sizes. I have a prototype version working. I intend to put it on the Rochester Chess Club site first, but I need HTML5 and that site is XHTML.

On my website, I intend to have some function available for free, a registration wall with more free function including a discussion forum, and a paying membership wall for the full set of tools.

I have more ideas for tools to help endgame training, documenting opening repertoires, using flash cards, and writing chess books. It is my hope that a full suite of study tools on a web site and appropriate supporting mobile apps can make a talent for programming and an avocation for chess pay.

Meanwhile, I intend to continue to study chess and how to improve at chess and document my ideas and success on this blog.

Monday, October 14, 2013


To be a good chess player requires memorization of lots of information. This does not mean that you have to have a great memory, but you have to do the work of memorizing things.

Some of this memory work can be fun. Doing chess problems regularly on one of the online sites will train your memory (and visualization) in tactical patterns.

Some of the memory work can be tedious like memorizing the proper sequence of opening moves, or the patterns for theoretical endgames.

 My wife recently bought a short course in memory from The Great Courses company. It covers some memorization techniques and a general overview the current state of science on memory. The basic techniques do not have much direct application to chess, but the science does suggest some possibilities.

Memorization is best done by layering on top of known concepts. We can hold in short term memory about 7 things. How complex those things can be depend on our current knowledge and understanding. The "real" starting positions for some openings is very deep. One of the daunting things about the Ruy Lopez is how deep the mainline can be. Memorizing the 15 moves to get to the mainline start can be near impossible for a beginning player. Of course, they do not have to memorize that deep, because their opponents do not know it either. If you understand the concepts behind each move, have a small "story" that explains how to deal with variations, and understand the tactical patterns behind each of the traps it becomes much easier.
After 13...Bf8, the starting position for the Ruy Lopez Breyer

Memorizing K&P endings is another near impossible task for the beginner, but learning counting, the square of the pawn, and the opposition help immensely in learning these patterns.

We memorize things better when we have an emotional connection to the information.  Great chess players are often good at several other things. One of these is music, which also requires a great deal of memorization. Musicians often stress how important it is to feel while playing, to make an emotional connection to the music. Stevie Ray Vaughan went so far as to say he got in trouble when he tried to think about what he was playing rather than just feel. Since we have emotional connection to our recent games, especially the losses, it is important to analyze them as soon as possible after the game, and to use that emotion to help memorize opening lines, precise endgames, and tactical patterns from those games.

One key to better memorization is to understand forgetting. After studying material the amount we retain falls off dramatically. Ebbinghaus was an early pioneer in the study of memory, and his meticulous research allowed him to display the forgetting function (notice the logarithmic scale on the horizontal time axis)

This lead to further research that indicates we should review newly learned material very shortly after the initial study, and that review can be shorter than the initial study. Further review can be shorter still and after a longer period of time.

In my experience the broad concepts are more easily remembered and the details get lost first. I suspect that subsequent review allows us to better chunk up the hard details based on the more easily remembered concepts. Or you might be the opposite, and some details are easily remembered and the concepts become clearer as more details are retained.

I will get down to brass tacks on how this will change how I study chess in subsequent posts.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Following Kaufman - October 2013

This ebook collection of games is available for free on Smashwords in epub format.

I have selected 321 recent master games that are relevant to "The Kaufman Repertoire for Black & White" and present them with a diagram for each move.

This is the first issue in a monthly series.