Archive for the ‘Study’ Category

ELO 1800 goal

It can’t be denied, in the last months I didn’t come much closer to my goal to reach ELO 1800 in chess. I can say that my general attitude and approach has changed and thanks to enthusiastic chess buddies (Paul, Andrea, Henri) I am still motivated and willing to walk the long and winding road toward mastery. It can’t be done without some work though and I haven’t found a good way to integrate a consistent trainings schedule into my daily routine. Planning to do something in the evening was a bad idea, there was a clash of other activites and things I wanted to do and too often I didn’t find the energy for a serious study session. Instead I played some mindless Blitz games…

It’s time for a change. Jacob Aagaard has a very sensible recommendation:

…decide first which day of the week is your day off, then do solving 20 minutes a day for the other six days of the week.

Simple, isn’t it? Six days won’t be possible but five should be okay. The idea is to pick up anything as long as it’s fun and work on it. I have more than enough material so it’s just a matter of finding a time that I can reserve for chess. Probably this will be in the morning before I start working, we will see. Spending only 20 minutes has the advantage that it prevents a quick burn-out.

Any thoughts?


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Chess training: tactics (2)

In my first post 2 months ago I was thinking about the right method to practice tactics. I decided to create a set of puzzles on Chesstempo with the following criterias:

  • Motifs: pins, forks and double attacks
  • Difficulty: 1400 – 1600 (this hasĀ  nothing to do with ELO, it’s calculated from the site rating of the people who have attempted to solve a puzzle)
  • Minimum plies: 3

The idea was to train the patterns that occur most often in a game. With the selected difficulty I made sure that I can solve the puzzles in a reasonable time (< 5min) and with the minimum plies I only get puzzles where I have to set up the motif myself with at least one move, there is no immediate knight fork. Often the positions contain more than one motif so by restricting myself to the 3 above I will nevertheless train all kind of tactics.

2 months and 200 puzzles later I can already say that this works pretty good. Pins and hanging pieces (the targets for forks and double attacks) are much easier to see and in one of my tournament games I was able to set up the following “trap”:

I am a pawn up and the idea was to exchange more pieces to reach an easier endgame. After Bc5 I saw that it was tempting for White to play Kd3, which my opponent did, and Black now calmly replies 34…Rxe5. My opponent then panicked:

This of course loses quickly to a pawn fork after 35…Rxg5 36. hxg5 e5. Game over.

What’s next? I will stick to it until the end of April and then check if I should do something different. In parallel I have my Chess Training Pocket Book which doesn’t give away the motif and has a good mix of easy and difficult puzzles with excellent comments.

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My personal chess year 2010

It’s time to look back at the year 2010. After a longer break from chess and much wasted time because of solely relying on computer engines without understanding what’s going on, I started to take chess serious at the beginning of 2010.

I set myself the goal to reach ELO 1800 in 2013, created a trainings schedule and started playing on ICC. People love ratings so let’s start with my rating history:

ICC Rating History 2010

During the first 20 games the rating was only provisional and I was kind of lucky in these games. My initial ICC rating of 1650 in March was too high and it dropped quickly. The systematic training started to pay off though with good results in the last months and a positive trend.

What I did:

  • Worked through the GM’s secret course from Igor Smirnov, this one got me started in the right direction. I am still in the process of forming my thinking process, it’s too easy to rely wrongly on my inferior intuition.
  • Built an opening repertoire
  • Joined the local chess club and played my first 4 OTB games (3 wins, 1 draw)
  • Finished Chess Exam 1 in May and 3 in October
  • Finished Chessbase strategy course part 1
  • Strong focus on tactics in the last months, especially after becoming member of Chesstempo in October
  • Started to study standard endgames and pawn endings
  • Played 43 long games since April

That’s it. A critical look at my chess library revealed that at the current stage most of the books are completely useless to me! The raw basics are “clear”, now I need to make it all work together to find good moves over the board (tactics+calculation) and to learn which middlegame plans work in which position (strategy).

My goals for 2011 are rather simple: ignore ratings, learn the basics, practice tactics and get more experience.

  • Finish the Chessbase strategy course 2+3 (-> Strategy)
  • Finish Chess Exam 2 Tactics (-> Tactics)
  • Finish Mating Combinations software (-> Tactics, How to build an attack)
  • Regular Chesstempo tactics (-> Simple tactics)
  • Regular calculation training (-> Tactics, visualization)
  • Continue to study standard endgames with focus on pawn endings and rook endings (-> Endgame)
  • Play 50 long games (-> General understanding)
  • Annotate 30 games (-> Strategy, General understanding)

I will follow the example of Will Taylor in his Road to Grandmaster blog and begin to post a weekly update. Next year in December I will redo the Chess Exam 1 to find out if my weaknesses are still the same and 2012 will be the year to eliminate them and to make progress towards ELO 1800.

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Systematic chess training

Some months ago, I was fortunate to meet a real chess enthusiast online: Paul (he has his own blog here: http://pablito15.wordpress.com). Quickly it became clear that we share similar ideas about chess and we both agreed to start a partnership. We will study together, play friendly games, annotate them and help each other to indentify weaknesses. This has turned out to be very useful, for both of us. First of all it helps to stay focussed. If you have someone behind you asking questions, you are pretty much forced to do some work. Second, you have the chance to agree on variations you would like to play. This will help to study openings better and it gives you the chance to play the openings from the other side as well.

To give my study a better structure, I came up with the following plan:

  • Tactics: 5-15 daily (using CT-ART)
  • Strategy: Study Soltis’ “Pawn structure in chess”: 1 chapter per month
  • Strategy: annotate 1 Master game per fortnight
  • Opening Study: play through sample games in the openings I play
  • Opening practice: play 15min-standard games on ICC to get used to my opening repertoire
  • Endgame: study Silman’s Endgame course
  • Self-improvement: Wednesday night play 2-3 fixed opening games with Paul (G20+10)
  • Self-improvment: annotate all long games played by me
  • Calculation: play regular correspondence games with Paul
  • Practice: play at least one long game (G45 or G60) per week

In addition I have joined the local chess club Die Klagenfurter and I hope to get a chance soon to play some serious games and to finally get an official ELO rating. It’s hard to tell how good my chess is and I am eager to compete with the local players. Playing online gives a hint (I am currently at 1550) but nothing more.

The next months I will take it easy and just get things rolling. Later this fall I will try to become more active in the chess club, hopefully play regulare games in the lower league, and see if the study plan helps me to get better. Next year I will try to play in local tournaments. My goal is to become a 1800er player within the next 4 years.

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