Thursday, March 31, 2005

Level 3, circle 2 done

Let's see if we can get an unround table in this post.

TCT# problemscircle 1circle 2circle 3
Level 354096%97%


Level 456094%in progress.
Level 558075%..

Ok, looks nice. Only that 5th column is there because I stole it from Don's blog.
I'm curious if a 6th can be attached to it when needed. The points are in the empty cells because otherwise they wipe out.

It's unbelievable how fast one forgets.
Level 3, circle 1 was only 10 days ago, but there wasn't much remembrance of the problems during the 2nd circle. The pace of solving isn't much higher either.
Still I have the feeling that it works.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

When do I stop tactical training?

Papa Polgar has proven with his educational experiment on his three daughters that any child can be a prodigy with the right training.
The question is, do you have to be a child to accomplish this?
Well, it helps, but I find no reason in cognitive science why this should be the case.
My quest is to find out if this can be done at an older age.
So I find myself doing tactical exercises everyday.
It helped me to gain my first 170 extra ratingpoints.

Last summer I played two tournaments and looked seriously at the gamepoints I didn't got and why I didn't got them. 70% of the points I didn't get would I probably have won if I had more tactical abilities. 30 % of the points I could have won if I had more endgame technique.
Because of this analysis I made a serious start with endgame training, until I looked again at my games.
All of a sudden I realized that the endgames wherein I was involved only came on the board because of insufficient tactical skills.
So I dropped the endgame training and decided first to drive my tactical skills to the limits.
According to some, for instance papa Polgar, you can get a rating of about 2000-2200 maximum by this.
I looked where my tactical training flawed and came to the conclusion that the problem lied in that I didn't repeat the problems.
"Repetitio mater studiorum est". Repetition is the mother of study as the old Romans said (and the young Romans living in old times).

I'll see how far I can get with tactics.
De la Maza talked about 400 points in 400 days. Well, I don't know about those 400 days, but 400 points will bring me to the limit of my tactical skills.
In the end I always have the safetynet that I can start with studying positional play and endings to develop further.

For the moment I look only 100 points ahead, I'll do anything that is neccesary to get a rating of 1800.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Circle 1 finished!

I worked really hard the last days.
I just finished circle 1, level 3,4 and 5 from TCT (1680 problems in total).
It took me 8 days to accomplish this. A few years ago I have done the same course about 3 times.
So probably I don't need 7 circles now to solve every problem a tempo.

Level 3: 540 problems 96%
Level 4: 560 problems 94%
Level 5: 580 problems 75%

Where I suck is at the endgame: rook vs pawn, wrong bishop, and 7th rank rook.
I must have really talent for the endgame because I ALWAYS make the wrong move.
If I had no talent then I should sometimes make a good move statistically.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Problems that are a problem to me

Black to move

This is problem I am not wired for.
I had no clue after 20 minutes.
Even after looking up the solution, it costed me a few days before I had the feeling that I really grasped it and would not miss it in a game.
Maybe it's easy for you? (without your computer that is!)
Source: TCT

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A test of the PGN to Javascript program

From Bahus I got a nice little program.
Its a program that converts a PGN-game to a HTML-file (javascript).
It's free and you can download it here

This is the result: Another wild game at Corus 2005

Tasc Chess Tutor (TCT):

Level 1 and 2: skipped, too easy, did it in the past.
Level 3: 540 problems down 1st circle
Level 4: 560 problems down 1st circle
Level 5: just started
Used time: 5 days

George Renko intensive course tactics 1: delayed.

Quickie time. . .

During the last Corustournament I played with black a very quick game (11 moves!!) against an opponent with a rating of 1791.

1.f4 e5
I always play the From-gambit against the Bird.

That's the risk. White can transpose to the King's gambit.
But Birdplayers have often a playing style that's not very suited for that.
I play the Kingsgambit myself and there was a variation that caused me a lot of trouble the last 3 years. Only recent I found the solution.
I decided to test if my opponent knew what to do.

2. ... Bc5 (the classical variation)
3. Nf3 Nc6
4. Bc4 d6
5. c3
Here starts the trouble for white. He has to reckon with Bg4 and Nd4.
c3 prevents this, but moving pawns is not the main reason to play a gambit.

5. ... Nf6
6. d3
White has now moved four pawns and is not able to castle yet.

6. ... O-O
7.Qe2 d5
Black has developed at lightning speed.
It's time to open lines against the enemy king.
Even if that costs some wood.

8. exd5 exf4
Sacrifices the Knight.

White is afraid to take the Knight. But this is worse.

9. ... Re8
10. Ne5 Nxe5
11. Bxe5 Bg4 (see diagram)

And white resigned. The Bisshop can't be saved and the position is a wreck.
So should it be all the time!

1.f4 e5 2.e4 Bc5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 d6 5.c3 Nf6 6.d3 O-O 7.Qe2 d5 8.exd5 exf49.Bxf4 Re8 10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.Bxe5 Bg4

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Survival of the fittest

Patterns in the long term memory behave like animals in the jungle.
Only the fittest will survive.
The human mind is very efficient. It never tries to find the objective best solution but it settles for the first solution that has succes.
A solution just good enough to survive costs less energy than the best solution.

If one is used to play 3. Df3 in a certain variation, that might be enough to become chesschampion of Honduras. So that pattern is stored in memory as "best fit" for the given situation. But when our Hondurassic champion tries this pattern for example in the Corustournament he might well be knocked from the board.
So in international play this pattern of 3. Df3 will not survive.

This continuous competition between patterns in the mind plays an important role.
Here is where emotion comes in.
A pattern "has to know" if it is needed any longer after being used.
Emotion "rewards" the pattern with a good feeling if the result is good. The pattern grows stronger by this reward, and the next time it reports itself earlier.
If the use of a pattern has a bad result, it is "punished" by a bad feeling and becomes weaker.
So in a next simular case it will not report itself immediatly, and another pattern might be "the fittest".
This is the process of forgetting.
Emotions are the power that regulate the adaptation of the mind by burning the patterns in our brains or by forgetting patterns.

During our tactical training emotions are not very strong. (however, if I hear about the struggle of some. . .)
That's why it is neccesary to play a lot next to the training. Especially rated OTB games have a high emotional impact. But even internetgames will do.
So being euphoric after a win and feeling the pit in the stomach after a loss is the best thing that can happen to you. . .

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Fromm gambit

Today at the local chessclub I fetched a nice scalp from a guy with a rating of 1803.
He played the Bird and I answered with the Fromm gambit.
1. f4 e5 2. fxe5 d6 3. exd6 Bxd6
He had been under great pressure during the whole game.
In the end I had only 1 minute left while he had 10 minutes.
Because of the clock I offered a draw, which he didn't accept.
A few moves later he had to trade his Queen + 2 pawns for a rook and a knight.
Still a few moves later mate was delivered.

I sacrificed 2 pawns and twice a knight (once accepted)
There were two tactical tricks he hadn't seen coming.
Positionally this lad is very strong, but he couldn't neutralize the attack completely.
I feel the force!

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Dutch Connection

For the moment it's rather difficult to blog.
Posting is quite slow, publishing sometimes impossible.
Commenting on other blogs is near to impossible.
Do you encounter the same problems, or is it just that the "Dutch Connection" to Blogger is so bad?
(If I don't see comments on this post I'll know you do:)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Attacktical openingsrepertoire I play with black.

Yesterday I posted my repertoire with white.
Now with black.

The scandinavian defense:
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. c4 e6! the Icelandic gambit. I score 70% with it.

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. d4 Bg5 the Portugese gambit
The idea is to castle long in most Scandinavian variations.

Queen Pawn:
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ne4 Budapest gambit Fajarovic variation. Score 60%

With black I have one big hole in my repertoire:
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3
I don't know what to do.
I have tried everything here.
But I just hate the move e6. After that all your possibilities for a kingside attack are gone.
I play now the idiotic 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Ne4 ?! with some sort of transposition to the Dutch defense (with f5 and Be7) which at least gives you a fight for the initiative and a chance for a kingside attack.
To anybody: HELP!! for an opening without e6 after 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3
Did I mention I tried EVERYTHING?

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. Nf3 e4 4. Ng5 b5 the Bellon gambit.

This is really a weird gambit. I play it, but I don't understand it at all.
I have played it 9 times now, and I never lost with it! (+5=4)
In some way you invite white for a premature attack.
Which is not going to work for no apparent reason. And when you manage to solve your development problems white is lost!
So this opening I keep for educational reasons.

1. b4 c6 2. Bb2 Qb6 3. a3 a5
I never played this one, but I'm gonna try it. (waiting for 1. b4)

All those openings (with black AND white - see post yesterday) give you a chance to fight for the initiative, piece play and kingside attack.
A further merit is that you get the variations often on the board and you set the opening to your hand at move 2 or 3.
It happens seldom or never that the pawn you sac in a gambitline becomes the reason that you loose the game. If your attack dries out, there's almost always the possibility to trade your initiative off for an enemy pawn.

I told you most of my opening-secrets so it's about time to change my handle at FICS :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A tactical openingsrepertoire

King Ots is thinking about putting more tactics in his openings.
This is my repertoire:


1. e4 e5 f4 Kings Gambit (so no need for the Cochrane gambit!)

1. e4 c5 2. c3 The alapin attack of the Sicilian

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Le3 Alapin-Diemer gambit. I score 85% with this gambit.

1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Qf3 Caro-Kan. Followed by gambits in the diverse variations:

1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Qf3 d4 4. Bc4!
1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 d5 3. Qf3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nd7 5. Bc4 Ngf6 6. d4! Nb6 7. Bd3

1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. f4 Kind of Kings Gambit.
1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. d3 dx 4. Bg5!

1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Be3 Nf6 5. Be2 O - O 6. h4

I play all these openings for more than 3 years.
Tomorrow I'll show what I use with black.

BTW yesterday I realized all of a sudden that no one of the Knights knows that Margriet and I are married very happy for more than 20 years. Only Sherlock Holmes could have guessed that by our blogs.
We do everything together. I sing as a bass in the choir where she is conductor and she plays chess in the club where I'm the treasurer.
And now we are blogging together. . .


Minus zero, so it's good weather for solving chesspuzzles. . .

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Circle 6 completed

I just finished circle 6 of the first 1355 problems from the CD intensive course tactics by George Renko.
I have decided to postpone circle 7 a few weeks, because right now I remember almost all the moves of the problems. And just memorizing the moves without knowing what you are actually doing makes no sense.

Tomorrow I start with circle 1 of the next 1183 problems of Renko's CD.
Because I feel the training is working I don't feel the need to leave the saddle.
Besides, I trained the last 3 years so I'm pretty used to it.
I don't like watching television, I have no kids, my wife plays chess too and everyone already think I'm nuts so that's no big deal.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Seeing the game as a chesspuzzle

Yesterday night I played at my chessclub a game with a guy of rating 1653.
Because I have a reputation on my club for playing aggressive some weaker opponents start to open in a strange manner. So did he. The idea seems to be that playing strange moves will get me out of my book. Well of course that will be the case, but the most good moves are in the book, and if you play strange moves they are often not good. So I crushed him in 23 moves. Sometimes your ego needs an opponent who throws himself into the fire to get along with this harsh tactics-training.

The strange thing is that the guy has had a decent education in chess. It seems a form of schizophrenia that he forget everything when he opens a game.

I had a new experience. I played the game as if I where solving a chesspuzzle. If this manner of playing is gonna be the standard in the future I have good hopes!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Webpage update monitor.

Since the Knights seem to breed like rabbits lately, I found a freeware program that may be of interest to you.
It costs amounts of time to check every website and every comment of the Knights.
With this program you can automatically or manually check if there are any updates of a webpage (since the last check). It seems to work good so far. The amount of webpages you can check is unlimited.

You can download it here: Webmon

Monday, March 07, 2005

What would you do?

White's last move was 28. Rd2 and offered a draw. Black to move.
White has 45 minutes left on the clock and black 25.
Rating white= 1803
Rating black= 1701
Would you accept the draw?

Last saturday I had this position during a tournament.
This is a typical situation for me.
Black (me) has worked hard for a good position against a stronger opponent.
Which costed me much time.
Then the opponents offers a draw.
Anxiety to loose ratingpoints creeps in, and I accept.
Afterwards you think "I'm a coward, white has no winning chances, black has to try his luck.
After 28. .... Rd2: 29. Bd2: Bb6+ 30. Kh1 Bd3 31. Rc1 the white pawn on c4 will drop off the board in the end.

I lack the courage to follow my deeming of the position.
I really wished I had courage enough to say "I never a draw again".
And stick to that.

Or do you think there's nothing real for black in this position, and with less time against a stronger opponent it's reasonable to accept the draw?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

About patterns and plateauing.

We talk a lot about pattern recognition.
But what is a pattern actually?
Scientists estimate that an average grandmaster has about 50,000 patterns in his memory. Below you see a graphic of the KNSB, the Dutch chessfederation.

rating (hor) vs #members (vert) click to enlarge

The grandmaster (rating 2600) is the one with the highest rating.
The average rating is 1680.
I don't think it's unrealistic to assume that the average player has the half amount of patterns as the grandmaster i.c. 25,000 patterns.

The most average players have gathered their patterns unnoticed.
You can not say "this is me and there I have stored my patterns".
The two cannot be separated.
Your behaviour (in chess) has changed because of your stored patterns.
You ARE the patterns.

So why is one plateauing?
It is not plausible that your memory is "full".
You don't even know how you stored it and didn't notice when you stored it.
You have no "full" feeling.
How could it be full?

When plateauing the intake of new patterns is distorted.
If talent would put a limit on the mind then it would not be possible to start to grow again after 3 years of plateauing, as I did. (of course talent does put limits on the mind, but not in this specific example)
I see guys play a tournament every second weekend. Still they plateau.
So playing much chess isn't very helpful.
Study in the classical way isn't very helpful. I tried it myself.

When plateauing you work on a sort of automatic pilot.
You play the same sort of games over and over again, and you get no new patterns from them.
Analysing games of grandmasters should give you new patterns.
But here lies a numerical problem.
As average player you have to gather another 25,000 patterns to become a grandmaster.
This is difficult near impossible by analysing games alone.
Besides that, no one is used to go over a game 7 times to imprint them in the brains.

For every 100 ratingpoints you need to etch about 2,800 patterns in your brains.
400 points in 400 days means 168 points in 168 days, which is a MDLM period for romping around with 1,000 problems.
So these 1,000 problems contain 4,700 patterns.
I'm inclined to think that a pattern is a variation. A single line.

It becomes clear now why it is so difficult to improve and why there are so few grandmasters.
Most trainingmethods work in principle, but they just handle too few patterns.
If you want to improve, you have to be prepared to do an awful lot of work.
Work that is easier done when one is young and the synapses are flexible to be programmed.
But at older age it is not impossible at all.

So there still is hope for us!
Apply grain of salt to your needs.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

What I did and what I am doing.

When I started 3 years ago with tactical exercises I didn't know about the importance of repetition.
I started with 5333+1 of papa Polgar.
Because of the apparent repetition there when you train the mate in one, I was inclined to think: well, if I do enough exercises the repetition comes by itself. But chess is such a rich game that the problems didn't have much overlap in patterns.

What have I done:
5333+1 Chess exercises from Laszlo Polgar
1200 exercises from a Dutch Course
500 exercises from Middlegames by papa Polgar
200 exercises from Endgames by papa Polgar
200 exercises from CD Chess Endgame Training by Convekta
4139 exercises from CD Intensive Course tactics by George Renko
1600 excercises from CD Killer moves by George Renko
2500 exercises from CD deadly threats by George Renko
1000 x checkmate from CD by Ftacnik

These 16,973 exercises did my rating improve with 170 points. Well because I wasn't improving during the last year I actually have to say that "only" 11,000 problems gave me that improvement of 170 points (65 exercises per point)

When I started with the 3000 problems of the new CD from George Renko "Intensive Course Tactics II" I realized that there was something wrong with my approach.
Investigating this problem I stumbled upon the program of de la Maza.
All of a sudden I realized that I had trusted on the fact that repetition of patterns would come automatically by the sheer amount of exercises.
But that is not true.
My calculation ability has improved much but not my pattern recognition.
So I decided to implement his 7 cycles of repetition.
What I dropped were the micro-drills, the rigid time constraints and the thoughtprocess.
Because I don't think my problem lies there.

Well, I've gathered enough material, so I started over again with the first CD of George Renko, Intensive Course Tactics.
One cycle contains 1355 problems.
I'm now busy with the 5th circle.
I skip the composed endgame problems that are too artificial to appear in a real game.

I intend to do all the CD's of George Renko again 7 times.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The blind spot

If there where no opponents there was no reason to be in doubt about your own pure judgment.
You see what you see in a position and that are the only things to be seen.

How often do we hear our opponents who did just loose from us say: "I stood better during the whole game"? With a grin on your face you think "what an idiot, he was worse after move two".
How often do we hear ourself say after loosing a game :"I stood better during the whole game" and when you look at your opponent you see an idiot grin on his face?
Only in an indirect way you can get a notice of something that is there but is not seen by you.

Once you realize that you have a blind spot, with things in it that are seen by other people but not by yourself, the question arises: how big is this blind spot?
Do you miss only 1 % of the things to be seen or do you miss 99%?

I'll try to adress this question.
Against me, Fritz has a score of 100%. I have never won a single game when Fritz played at his highest level.
So for simplicity I state that from my point of view Fritz has no blind spot.
Let's say that Fritz has a rating of 2500, about a (beginning) grandmasters level.
When I let Fritz analyze my games he proposes in 50% of the moves a better one. Which means that in 50% of the cases Fritz "sees" something in the position that I didn't see.

You can only guess what Fritz doesn't see in comparison to "the absolute ultimate moves" of a game.

If we have a blind spot in chess then we have probably a blind spot in life too.
You can get a notice of this when you are aware of people with an idiotic grin on ther face looking at you...