Sunday, February 03, 2019

Defensive mental mayhem

Now I know that I only need about 10 hours solving time per tactical theme, I decided to take matters up a notch.

The second theme, exposed king, was about reviving the good old mate patterns of papa Polgars first brick.

Yesterday, I started with the theme defensive move. I already figured I am very bad at that. As I use to say: "I must have a feeling for chess, because I always find the wrong move when skedaddling away when under attack. If I would have no feeling for chess at all, I would statistically find the right move every now and then."

Defensive move problems in the 1550 - 1620 range feel the same as 1900 - 2000 problems with the two other tactical themes. I often have no clue.

With a defensive move, you try to accomplish trivial things like skedaddling to a square where your king can't be checked again, skedaddle and attack, skedaddle and defend, take back with the right piece that adds an additional punch, take back with the right piece that adds an additional defense, that kind of things.

So lots of room for improvement here.

White to move
1rb4k/3n1r1p/p1R3p1/1P1Pb1B1/2B1P2q/P1N2Pn1/3Q3P/2R3NK w - - 1 1

This problem took me 3:34 to solve correctly. Go figure!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weird things can happen

From time to time I'm presented with a problem that takes me an absolute weird time to solve. Take for instance the following diagram:

White to move
4r2Q/p2r1k2/1p6/3b2Pp/2q1P3/2B2PK1/8/8 w - - 1 1

It took me a shocking 6 (!) minutes to solve this problem. I kept repeating the wrong moves over and over again in my mind.

Now I have made a new pattern of it. The queen as a hammer, and the two squares behind the king as an anvil. Belief me, I have used this pattern very often since I invented it. I just look for the squares that are suited as an anvil to crush the king against. It is much easier when you know what you are looking for.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Just connect the dots

I started exercises dedicated to fork/double attack only, at Jan, 1rst. I use 3 sets of 70 positions (ca 210 in total), rated between 1550 and 2000. The problems are only 2 moves deep.

I unearthed new patterns, not only usable for double attacks, but for other themes as well. Which is logical, because the problems are only 2 moves deep. Double attack + 1 other theme, or 1 other theme + double attack, idealiter.

I take my time to ingrain the new patterns. To grow a feel for it. Even after training for 26 days in a row, the new feel is still a bit wobbly. It is still easy to be distracted by old habits.

Taking one month per theme seems to be about right. But I expect I can't do without some exercises to maintain the newly learned patterns in the future.

So far, it seems to work. I won al my games at the club by tactical means, and the new patterns play a role in every game. So far, the competition hasn't been very stiff, though.

Black to move
5rk1/pp4p1/4q3/7R/8/2B1P3/PP4PP/3R3K b - - 0 1

New pattern: get a feel for connecting the dots between:
  • target 1
  • target 2
  • attacking square
  • attacker
New pattern: combine LPDO with loading a battery.

Today I'm going to start with a new theme: exposed king.
Which is a mate in the middle of the board, in 90% of the cases.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Looking for tasks to be automated

I focus on the following themes:
  • double attack
  • exposed king
  • defensive move
  • sacrifice
  • coercion
 Which make out 37% of the total problem set at Chess Tempo.

  • Min rating: 1500
  • Max rating: 2000
Given the type of problems presented, it should be doable to solve every problem below 2000 in under 30 seconds.

I  have taken a peek at the higher rated problems. They are higher rated because there is more going on in the position. There are a lot of seemingly attractive lines which only distract you from the solution. It doesn't make sense to worry about problems with a higher rating than 2000, before you master everything thoroughly that is below 2000. Above 2000 it are the same themes, but there are more themes compacted within a single problem.

Themed exercises
Currently I do problems with a rating between 1780 and 1830. The common theme is fork/double attack. What I try to do is to recognize problems with the same characteristics. These characteristics aren't commonly known.

I suspect that these newly defined categories aren't limited to double attacks only. The themed problems make it easier to recognize the characteristics of such new category.

New category
A new category I recently discovered, are problems where the opponent takes a minor piece of you. In stead of taking back immediately, you start a duplo attack of your own, threatening a piece with a higher value.

White just played Nxe6 (taking the bishop). Black to move

4r3/kp3pB1/p2Rb1p1/4p2r/3N4/2R5/PPP2n1P/2K5 w - - 6 1

White is a minor piece ahead. He has just captured the bishop on e6. In stead of taking back, you start a double attack of your own. Under what conditions is such action profitable?
  • The first condition is that one of your targets has a higher value than the piece that was just captured. 
 In the diagram above, you play 1. ... Ne4. The unprotected rook on d6 justifies the postponement of the take back on e6.
  • The second condition is that your target has to be unprotected
Additional: The net value of  one of your target (Rd6) minus the value of your attacker (Ne4) must be greater than the piece your opponent has taken (Be6), in case the target is protected. If both white rooks were protected, you basically exchange two minor pieces for a rook.
  • The third condition is that your opponent needs a tempo to get his high valued target into safety
You wasted a tempo to initiate a duplo attack. Now he must waste a tempo to save his target.
  • The fourth condition is that white has no double functional move at his deposal.
If white can save his knight on e6 AND can protect his rook at the same time, then your chances are gone.

Cluthering my Short Term Memory slots
This type of problems will typically overload my Short Term Memory slots. Taking stock of the values of the pieces while trying to remember in which branch of the tree I am will typically cause an administration shutdown. The problem will take ages to solve OR I go for the wrong solution.

If you take a close look at the problem, it is not exactly rocket science. The decisions to be made are simple and straightforward when you know what to look at.

By exploring these new categories, I hope to simplify my chess thinking. These counter threats aren't limited to double attacks only, of course.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Learning the tactical ABC

Time and again, it is proven that I am not very good at the recognition of basic tactical elements. The choice of my problem sets reveals that clearly. I do 10 low rated problems well, and then I encounter a low rated problem that takes me ages.

That is a clear sign that I don't master the basics as well as I like to think. Take for instance the following position:

White to move

8/5k2/5ppp/4r3/4nRP1/4N2P/5PK1/8 w - - 0 1

The first time it took me 1:41 to solve. Average solving time is 0:54. Rating is 1508.
The combination consists of three basic elements:
  • a tempo move (Nc4)
  • a target exchange (Rxe4)
  • a duplo attack (Nd6+)

Friday, January 04, 2019

A glimmer of hope

If I would be asked to summarize the results of the Knights Errant, it would go something like this (well, nobody asks, but I tell you anyway):

When you are below 1900 and a virgin to tactical exercise, you will gain about 250 rating points, no matter the method you use.

I reached my peak in about 2007 or so, if I remember well. I continued exercising, and my mind started to feel tactically numb. In 2013 I had lost about 80 points from the originally gained 250. I always had the feeling that the core of my tactical improvement was reached in a short period of time of about six weeks. I have been trying to reconstruct what happened during these six weeks ever since.

 Despite continuous intensive tactical training, my tactical brain started to feel more and more numb. That's why I abandoned tournament-, club- and internet chess for five years. It didn't make sense to continue without alleviating that numbness first.

Most training has been in the salt mine department (automatic pilot) or in the highbrowed district (system II). At the moment I try to exercise on the brink between these two extremes.

After four days of training this way, my tactical brain starts to feel sharper. For the first time in years, if I do not deceive myself. Another strange phenomenon happens. I have a different experience of time. Normally I'm slightly p**sed off when I solve a difficult problem in a minute and I lose rating points due the average idiot on Chess Tempo who solves it in 30 seconds.

Now I can do a whole lot of thinking, and when I look at the clock I have only used 12 seconds or so. I can do much more in 30 seconds than I could before. I assume that that is a sign that system I kicks in.

It is too early to tell after only four days, of course. But after feeling to be not the sharpest barb on the wire for eleven years, this new feeling is a welcome change!

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

BADPDO. The arise of the patterns.

The new training regimen yields new insights. New insights are accompanied by new geometrical patterns. What am I talking about?

When you know that you have a double attack at hand, you look for LPDO, Loose Pieces on the verge to Drop Off. A new insight is that you should look for BADPDO too. B.A.D. Pieces Drop Off.
These are (at least) two common patterns that accompany that insight:

Loading a battery from behind

Loading a battery from upfront

You will find these type of patterns  time and again.

Another insight concerns the tree of scenarios that emerges from a double attack. Attacking two targets at the same time, makes from those targets two potential desperado's. It is necessary to check if those desperado's can refute your attack.

Just to give you an idea.