Sunday, December 22, 2013

2014 Chess season preview:

The 2014 chess season is about to begin. Five upcoming tournaments in the next few months. Rochester Chess Club January, Minnesota Winter, Rochester Winter, Minnesota Open, Rochester Chess Club March. A total of 23 rated games is possible.

The scholastic season also stretches over the next three months culminating in the Minnesota Scholastic tournament in March. The high school team I coach is lacking dedicated players. Only one high school student has shown up at the club meetings. I am bringing up some middle schools students who show some promise, and starting a chess club at the middle school that feeds the high school.

I don't expect to break 2000 rating this season. I need to do a lot of work to get to expert strength, but I know how to get there.

Expert strength should come for me by working on better understanding of endings and my openings. A lot of this is the drudgery of memorization. I need to keep my other skills sharp and my interest up by doing problems and playing. I also need to do better at strategic thinking on my opponents clock (too much time spent on  speculative precise tactical calculation)

I still need one or more breakthroughs in understanding to reach master level. I did very poorly on the quiz positions in Soltis's What It Takes to Become a Chess Master, so I think I will wait on his new book. Annotating and memorizing master games is my main approach here. I have a target of annotating three master games from the Kaufman repertoire a month, that I will include in the Following Kaufman ebook periodical. I should annotate and memorize one Grandmaster game a month from the "62 Most Instructive Games". I should finish "Capablanca's Best Endgames".

TCCL 2014 round 4

My team won :D

The opposing team was all mid range experts. We had the advantage on the top two boards and they had the advantage on the bottom two. Two wins on the top boards and one draw on the lower makes for a team win. So far my team is struggling this year at 1.5 out of 4. I think we need 1.5 points out of the next three matches to secure our place in the Gold for next year.

I lost :(

I had played Connor Quinn with the same colors in the Noel Skelton tournament in Sept 2013. I used my new opening memorization process to prepare lines in the Saemisch KID. Quinn shifted from the Saemisch and played the classical KID. Perhaps, because at the Noel Skelton I was able to equalize to a drawish position, and only lost to a tactical miscalculation. (The blunder I made in that game would have given me a slight edge if the tactical justification had been sound. The tactical error was due to poor visualization.)

My loss here pointed out a weakness in my understanding of the KID, and my impatience with the development of the Bc8. I need a deeper understanding of: the offs between maintaining a pawn on e5 versus opening up the long diagonal, what is the proper way to utilize a hole on d4, and denying white the use of d5 versus having a weak d6 pawn.

It is becoming more likely I will get pushed down to the 'B' team next year. Not because I am not doing poorly (I am still plateaued at high class A strength), but because there will be stronger players in Rochester. We recently had a walk in into the club that is a very strong player, and one of our scholastic players is improving very rapidly. We have several other strong class players that are not participating in the TCCL that might make a jump in strength, also.

OTOH, the 'B' team won and  is doing very well in the Silver division and match up well against their coming opponents. They might get into the Gold division next year.

The 'C' team won and is doing well in the bronze.

Next round is in three weeks. I will be white, and have no idea what my opponent would play against my normal opening plans.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Memory: Openings, Revision

The memory approach I documented in Memory: Openings works, mostly.

Picking just one game from an opening book, is too simplistic. Often, one game and all its key variations is too much. It is important to limit the amount to be memorized to 5-7 chunks. Chunks are made of easily memorized pieces composed of existing knowledge (tactics . . . clear positional ideas). It is important that the chunks are not too big, they will vary depending on your understanding of the positions.

I think the key to doing this better is to build study plans. Opening book chapters are likely groupings for organizing a course of study. Each grouping of 5-7 chunks I will call a seminar. Each seminar will be broken into 5 sessions. Each session will have a pass on each chunk.
  • Course (of study) -- an opening variation which is broken into seminars
  • Seminar -- a selection of 5-7 chunks to memorize and the set of sessions
  • Session -- a continuous effort on memorization a set of chunks, 5 sessions cover a seminar
  • Pass -- inside a session on a chunk
Often it will be useful to have a seminar on the breadth of a part of the course. For instance, suppose I am preparing the Ruy Lopez as white, and I want to memorize a particular approach to the Berlin Wall (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8)

On move 4 black has several ok alternatives to Nxe4 that I need an approach for, plus a bad move that is common enough to require understanding how to exploit.

Ruy Lopez, Berlin after 4.O-O

The usual move here is for black to open things up with 4...Nxe4 and in this breadth seminar, I will include the line that leads to the Berlin Wall, but I also want approaches for 4...Bc5, 4...d6, 4...Be7, and 4...a6?!

Chunks for the Seminar

  1.  4...Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 the Berlin Wall. Later deviations will be in other seminars, as will the lines of the Berlin Wall I am preparing
  2. 4...Bc5 5.c3 transposes to 3...Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.c3. I will add enough to refresh that line
  3. 4...d6 is similar to the Steinitz. 5.d4 . . .
  4. 4...Be7 5.Re1 d6 6.d4 can be played with two replys . . .
  5. 4...a6 trying to get out of the Berlin loses a pawn for insufficient compensation 5.Bxc6 dxc6 (5...bxc6 is handled the same) 6.Nxe5 Nxe4 loses to 7.Re1 (6... others 7.d3 and consolidate the pawn)
Passes A and E are just getting a handle on two tactical sequences. Pass B transposes to another Ruy line. Passes C and D are larger and may have to be expanded into several chunks, or provide the basis for later seminars. Chunks within a seminar should be of similar weights, but some transpositions, combinations,  and traps may be lighter. If a chunk is heavy, you should consider expanding it into its own seminar and provide just a stub in this one. In this instance, chunks B&C should have their own seminars.

If there is not enough material in a seminar (chunks B and C are pointers to other seminars), then extra material should be brought in. Here, I would bring into this seminar later side lines like 5... Be7 (after 4...Nxe4 5.d4)

Preparing Seminars

After choosing a variation and a collection of illustrative games (perhaps a chapter in an opening book), go through the games using Soltis three pass method. The key thing is to get a feel for the general plans and endgames that develop.

Then comprehensively document the lines that you want to memorize. Use a word processor so in the furture you can go back and modify/reuse when you find lines that you want to change. Build tables like in an opening encyclopedia. Pick out search tabiya positions for periodic checking of databases for new ideas. These should not be too deep in the tree, so that you miss new ideas, nor should they be so shallow that there are too many games to review. Make sure to document transpositions.

Prepare all the seminars before you begin memorization. Review that all the chunks and seminars are of appropriate size and split up ones that are too large.

Chosing key games for memorization

Some of the games you use to understand the variation may be ones that you want to memorize. Add them to the list of games to memorize, but do not do them for a while. It will be a change to test your memorization of the lines.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Following Kaufman - December 2013

The December 2013 issue of Following Kaufman is available for free from Smashwords.

Only 104 games this month, but I have added games 5 and 6 from the 2013 World Chess Championship with my annotations. The annotations are very similar to my blog posts about the games.

I am intending to charge $0.99 for the January issue, and to include more annotated games. I have started on a game that I think is a key anti-Gruenfeld line.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Memory: Game annotation and memorization

I still think memorizing whole instructive games is a worthwhile activity. I did not have much success with my first attempt, but the recent memory course my wife bought has sparked some ideas.

I need to do multiple sessions. Each session should be shorter than the previous and after a longer time period. I should create my own annotation for the game in the process, which might produce a blog post.

The first session will be time consuming. First thing in the morning, I will start with a plain score (.pgn file) in Fritz with the engine and opening book turned off. Using Soltis's three pass method, I will annotate the game in Fritz and add diagrams at what I think are the important points.

The second session will start after an hour break. I will compare my annotations to at least one well annotated source. I will note major variations that I missed, and update my annotations (crediting the annotation source). I will check my opening annotations against Fritz's opening book.

The third session, after a four hour break, will begin with a test. I will play through the game at a board from memory and write down the score. When I realize I have gone astray, I will keep my diversion as a variation and try from the point I am clear. I will stop when I am lost, or have completed the game. I will then compare to my annotated pgn game. I will enter my errors as new variations. I will think carefully about the moves I missed and update my annotations. I may begin to formulate a blog post about the game.

The fourth and fifth sessions will be the next day, morning and evening. I will repeat the test and study of the third session. I will finish the blog post.

Maintenance sessions take place before I start to memorize a new game. I will sit down with a set and go through all the games I have memorized. I will do memorization sessions three through five on games that I have trouble with.

I may do this with key games from my opening repertoire, but may not include them in maintenance