Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Cutting the knot.

Today I finished the 7th circle of the 1355 "Direct Hit" problems of George Renko's CD Intensive Course Tactics. With TCT that is a total of 3035 problems I have done 7 times now. Though I am not quite satisfied with my performance I deciced to stop at this moment. It's always possible in a later phase to implement a circle 8 and 9. There will come a moment that I will repeat TCT anyway.

For long I was hesitant about "what next?"
In my previous post I adressed my latest findings in the middlegame.
I got useful advice from Scitcat, Jim and Sancho.
But I think I need more investigation, research and analysis of my games to develop the right approach for my problems in this area. The postmortem spreadsheet I got from King Ots will be of much help here.
The area is very difficult and wide, and I am sure the most points can be gained here. But taking the wrong approach would mean the spill of an enormous amount of time. So I am gonna take my time to work things out.

I read the latest post of CD and cut the knot.
I am going to study endgames.
Because my endgame-treatment is really bad, not to say non-existent.
I'm a strong believer of the principle not to divide your energy about too much items.
Which means that further tactics training is postponed for undetermined time. Though not a tactical genius by birth, tactics are by far the strongest skill in my play now. Studying endgames will balance my play a little.
Of course I continue my research to adress my middlegame problems, but the workload will exist for 95% of endgames.

Allthough the path I am going to follow isn't totally mapped out, I have already done a lot of pre-work.
I will work with 4 sources:
  • Secrets of practical chess of John Nunn.
  • Theoretical and practical endgames of GM Max Euwe.
  • Papa Polgar's endgame brick.
  • Chess Endgame Training of Convekta.
The first book is a guide to keep things practical, since it is easy to err around in endgame study for years without learning something that has a probability > zero that you will encounter it in a real game. Within a lifetime that is.
To survey the book:
  • Opposition.
  • Reti manoeuvre.
  • Triangulation.
  • Rookendings.
  • Most useful information of minorpiece endings.
  • Queen Endings.
  • Common endings without pawns.

The book of Euwe is rather dry and theoretical, and he has the bad habit of putting the less common items first, but it contains the background information I need on how to treat a certain endgame. So I use it as a sort of encyclopedia.

Papa Polgars book with 171 types in 4560 endgame problems has an interesting approach.
Usually endgame-books are written with regard to the distribution of the pieces. Polgar has similar motifs, ideas, types and strategies in seemingly different positions bundled into individual chapters.

CET is a cd from Convekta containing 2450 endgame problems.

The first area I intend to conquer are pawn-endings. Since every other endgame with pieces can transform into a pawn-ending by trading off the pieces, I regard to it as the basics. So I forget about all that other stuff and concentrate on it. No matter how long it takes. Especially this part of the game I want to learn to play a tempo. Since the chance that you are short on time while playing it is great.
I'm taking much time to grasp the basic priciples.
Opposition and the Reti manoeuvre have no secrets anymore.
Now I'm busy with triangulation.
What a beauty can be found in endings!!
3 pawns and 2 kings and you can study for hours on the same position. It's actually a kind of meditation.
Slowly the board which first seems empty fills itself with squares, triangles, paths and the like.

On what installment this work is going to pay off I can only guess.
I'm afraid it will be not on my next tourneys, which start within 1.5 month.
Since I don't like to do things halfheartedly I have to adress another item.
I have to get into endgames in my OTB-play.
So I intend to go after openings that lead directly into the endgame.
If you have any ideas, they are more than welcome!
Pledge to Self: "I am not going to offer nor to accept draws anymore."

Of course when cowardice or rating-fetishism comes in I will sin now and then.
I accept that. Without friction nothing can work out.

Only a major insight in my middlegame problematic mights change plans.

BTW Is there a volunteer who wants to keep track of all the errors and flaws encountered in CT-art 3.0? Then we all can link to that specific post if we like. So the posterity can have a look at it.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Umbrella's everywhere

Since my debacle at a tourney a few weeks ago I take lots of time for analysing my games to see where I actually fail. When I was outside in the rain for the first time in my life with an umbrella I was totally surprised to see how many people had an umbrella too. All those years without an umbrella I had never noticed this. So when you look at your games with a clear question in your mind, you are seeing things you didn't see before.

Next game against a higher rated opponent I annotated with this special question in mind, so the comments lead to really shocking conclusions. So please take the time to read the comments.
What attracts the attention is the amount of moves missed by both players.
I really didn't know that I missed so much. But since I am looking for it I see it in all my games (umbrellas everywhere).

Knowing this, I can tell which training will NOT be of much help to adress my problem.
This does not mean that there will not be a moment in the future that I will have to apply this training. But for now it simply cannot be of much help.
For instance, training openings can help you to start the middlegame with a slight edge. Completely missing an important move makes that this has no value.
All positional considerations can be thrown in the garbage can if you miss so much moves.
Because everytime to find yourself back in a position that you hadn't foreseen at all.
Of course your opponent has the same problems as you, so the outcome of the game has to do a lot with chance.

So the question is, what kind of moves am I missing over and over again?
What are the distinguishing characteristics of those moves?
  • The board looks always very crowded.
  • It can be a combination that I miss from the defensive side but not from the attacking side.
  • It can be an unusual combination.
Especially the last point is of importance.
An unusual combination does not mean that it seldom can happen at the board.
But makers of chesspuzzle-databases do not consider the combinations important or spectacular enough to include them. For instance the exchange of a piece against 3 pawns.
But since this can leave you with a total unexpected new situation, this kind of combinations are important to train.

So the question is now, is there a chesspuzzle-database out there which is specialized in overcrowded positions and non-spectacular combinations or even exchanges with no material advantage.
Do you know?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Ratingprogress of The Knights Errant

Last update: februari, 2009
This table contains the ratingprogress of The Knights Errant.
I intend to update it regularly. You can always reach it via the link in my sidebar.

It's difficult to compare the ratings:
  • Some modified the plan.
  • Some are training tactics much longer.
  • Some have no official rating.
  • Some have a rating from a different source.
  • Some are not finished with the program.
  • Some have to play more to get their new rating.
  • Some ratings are not published yet.
  • Some abandonned the program.
  • Some startratings were unknown so a later (higher) rating is taken or it is estimated.
You have to look at the individual blogs of The Knights to get a clue of how to interpret the figures. But overall you can get an idea of how intensive tactical training in DLM-style works out.

Knight Start
Ratingsource Rating diff.
Michael de la Maza 1421 2041 USCF 620
Dread Pirate Josh11591712FICS553
Blue Devil Knight9461400ICC454
Celtic Death13191648USCF329
Chris Kilgore16511832USCF181
Pale Morning Dun13441520ICC176
King of the Spill15501719POGO169
Don Queue 1573 1717 USCF 144
Sancho Pawnza 1520 1575 USCF 55
Mousetrapper 1627 1667 SCF (Swiss) 40
Rocky Rook16501677FICS27

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Adaptation of the program

I did 1355 problems on George Renko's CD Intensive course tactics 6 times.
Then I started to suffer from what I have called "memodrosis".
After a "rest" of two months I continued with the 7th time. I find out now that of about 40% of the problems it is as if I have never seen them before. Well, I sort of recognize them as "I might have seen this one earlier" but I have no clue at the solution whatsoever.

I think those problems were the ones in the first place that gave me a feeling of suffering from memodrosis. Which is the feeling of memorizing the moves by context in stead of absorbing the underlying pattern.
Maybe the 60% that I do can solve (is this still English?) after 2 months is not bad at all, but it's not what I expected.
So I have to conclude that just playing thru the solution on automatic pilot and with little calculation isn't of much help.
Now I take my time to work thru the problems. I put the 40% difficult ones even on the board.
After I solved a problem I take a few minutes to look at the total pattern of the solution.
Of course this slows things tremendously down. Today it took me 1,5 hour to solve 5 problems. But this is not about making efforts, it is about making progress.
Prof. Elo has the last word in this.
The final test will be the repetition of TCT step 3, 4 and 5 over a few months. These problems were simpler and since I hadn't the feeling of suffering from memodrosis I expect that the results will be better.

Beside this I couldn't resist to do some endgame work any longer.
So I took Papa Polgars endgame brick and put the positions on my board and both on the computerscreen. I play the endgames against the computer (Arena with SOS-engine).
No need to tell I take my time now. . .

For some reason I always have to find out things the hard way.
People like MDLM seem to have some subtle instinct that tell them what is the right way to do things.
I only have my logic, which compares to instinct as brute force to pruning.
I mean, the conclusions I draw after moving for months in the wrong direction are not difficult at all. It took me 3 years to conclude that traning tactics is all important.
After that it took me 2,5 years to find out that repetition plays a keyrole in studying tactics. And now this.
I assume this is the price for having logic as your guide. Because logic is destructive in its nature. It can only tell you what is NOT true, but it lacks the creativity to tell what IS true.
But in the long run even brute force will give good results. . .
And what is important, you will know exactly how you have done it, so you can tell it to others.

And now some more good news.
I reread the articles of DLM and found that his 7 circles should take 127 days and not 168 as I had in my mind. Since 400 points in 400 days means 127 points in 127 days, my entrance in the Hall of Fame has come a little closer. . .

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Pondering. . .

First of course congratulations to Sir Pale Morning Dun, fear of the trouts, who just in a graceful way entered the Hall of Eternal Fame. He will be an example of endurance for youngsters everywhere in the world.
Further I decided to add Bahus to the Hall of Eternal Fame, because he did a DelaMazianlike program and he regretted he didn't join the Knights Errant earlier. We have to be benevolent to late converts.

I have done a lot of thinking and research lately, trying to find out the cause of my debacle last week. It's really an intriguing problem. I have experimented with the microdrills this week, but I'm now pretty sure this will not take the cause away.
Internet provides more good advice than one can handle. . .
For example the advice to manage your time well. Of course it is a good advice, as is the case with most advices.
Though it works against the symptoms, it doesn't take away the cause. And that is what really interest me.

So I have to find out what aspect makes me so slow.
First I thought it were positional patterns which I was lacking. But experimenting with Strategy 2.0 proved that that was not the case. What took me so much time during my games was different.
Then I thought it were the microdrills, or some sort of "extended microdrills" what I needed.
Experimenting with those convinced me that that will not help me either.

Being a former computerprogrammer I always look at a way to put knowledge into an algorithm. I can't help that, it's just second nature. Since a lot of you Knights have an ICT-background, you will know what I mean. With chess-tactics this is an extremely frustrating habit. The fuzzy knowledge of tactics and the complexity of combinations always tend to slip tru your fingers.
"Look to underprotected pieces" is such fuzzy advice that's not gonna help you in practice.
"Look at the characteristics of the position" is another one that drives me mad.

But now I believe I have found something. A starting point where to begin with when evaluating a position. The question you have to ask yourself in any given position, looking for tactics, sounds extreme trivial.
But I assure you, it will help you to focus.
The question is "which enemy piece bears the most responsibilities, has the most important function?"
I tested this question with 63 problems, and in 62 cases it lead me to the solution.
The one where the question did not work was a clearance problem.

Of course this need further testing, but this at least looks promising.
The 63 problems came from Intensive Course Tactics from George Renko and were of mixed themes.

Of course this is not a panacea, but it is a start.
Now I will show you a position, that took me 1,5 hour to solve, in spite of knowing where to look, thanks to the question.
It is a bit embarrassing, especially when you all see the solution within seconds, but what the heck, isn't chess about ego and elo?
It's a clear cut example what sort of problem hamper my play.

To make me humble I have to tell you that I have done this problem already 6 times, the last time was about two months ago. Though I recognized the problem as "this one I have seen before" I couldn't remember the solution at all.
Looking for the piece that bears the most responsibilities is easy, that's the black Queen. Defending f7, Bd6 and Nb6.

White to play.

Can you find it (without cheating)?
After I found the solution I didn't understand why it took me so long.
It's really a very simple problem!
Here you can see why an advice as "work on your timemanagement" is not gonna work for me.
If this simple problems take me so much time I have to work on the cause!

What kind of training is gonna help me to solve this sort of problems faster?
Since I did this problem already 6 times earlier, I am not working in the most efficient way, to say the least. I'm am going to experiment with this.
The approach of CD and King looks promising, so that is what I am gonna try first.
Which means two alternating minicircles of the same problems. One concentrating on understanding of the pattern and the other concentrating at speed.
To be continued. . .

Thursday, May 19, 2005


First I have to apologize.
I screwed up (can I use this word?) the links in my sidebar to the Knights Errant some time ago. (How long?)
Because IE6 seems to be very forgiving to html errors, I didn't notice. Thanks to Satish I changed to Firefox. Firefox showed me that my sidebar contained errors by showing nothing.
Firefox has some nice features. The only thing is that it saves its cache on the C: drive, and I don't want it there. Does anybody know if this can be changed?

Nezha posed an important question some time ago.
He asked himself (or actually us) if Knights who had modified the original plan of MDLM should graduate to the same Hall of Eternal Fame as the Knights who didn't.
Since the Knights are very creative in molesting the original plan, and since the program for a lot of Knights is speeding up now, it's high time to adress this point.

So I think it's a good idea to divide the Hall of Eternal Fame With Your Name Written In Gold as follows:

  1. Hall of Eternal Fame. For those who sticked to the original plan.
  2. Hall of Eternal Fame during the Troutseasons.
  3. Hall of Eternal Fame on Sundays.
  4. Hall of Eternal Fame from 8 to 10 pm.
  5. Hall of Eternal Fame each week after the Blue Devils have won written in Gold.
  6. Hall of Eternal Fame each week after the Blue Devils have won written in Lead.
  7. Hall of temporary fame untill the cows come home.
  8. Hall of temporary Shame. For those who postpone their efforts.
  9. Hall of Eternal Shame. For those who quit the program at all.
  10. Caissa's Inferno. For those who quit chessplaying.
To simplefy things, the graduating Knight himself has to say which level is appropriate for him in accordance to his efforts.
Since a man is his own worst criticaster this should be no problem. (We can't check nothing anyway)
What do you guys think?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Reflecting on a drama

This weekend I played a 6 round Swiss tournament OTB G/120
I first wanted to describe the results for you in the Sanskrta language, but when I looked for "skewering attack" and "prophylaxis" in Sir Monier Monier Williams great dictionary I decided to be honest with you and write it in English. Besides, there's always the risk that maybe Satish can translate Sanskrta back into English or he knows someone who can.

1,5 points out of 6.
Well, first there is the initial shame of course. Especially for you Knights. And my chessfriends who pester me for sitting at the lowest board, far below Margriet.
Second comes disappointment. I work on my tactics for about 6 months in a row and then this.
Shouldn't I buy a dartboard?
Then comes curiousity. What happened?
Then I feel lucky that before the next ratinglist is published we play in 2 tourneys (18 games Swiss G/180) in the last half of july so if I can understand what happened and adapt my trainingplan for the next two months maybe things can turn right.

What happened?
The first 2 games I was really out of luck.
In the first game I had outplayed my opponent totally.
I had 20 minutes for the final blow.
My opponent made a ridiculous attempt and threatened mate in one. I just had to make a defensive move and then press him off the board.
I thought for two minutes and made another move. I was forgotten that he threatened mate in one. . .
The second game I was busy to deliver mate. I needed only 2 more moves to mate. And 5 more seconds. . .

If these points should be mine, then I would operate according to my rating.
The third game was a regular loss, the fourth a regular draw and the fifth an oversight after a bad played opening. The sixth was a crushing win, a rooksacrifice from the textbooks and mate in 11. Here happened truly what my training is all about.

So only in one case my tactical training paid off. What went wrong in the other games?
I had a lot of timetrouble in my games.
What patterns do I miss in my brainlobes that make me so slow?
Because I train a lot of tactics, it can't be tactical patterns that I miss.
My mate in 11 proved that there is nothing wrong with my tactical skills at the moment (well, he could have played a little better but would die on great material deficit otherwise).
Lazy thinking lead me to the conclusion that if it are no tactical patterns I am lacking, it must be positional patterns.
So I downloaded a demo of Strategy 2.0 from Convekta and tried some problems.
Though this is extremely useful, I am convinced that another sort of problems causes me trouble behind the board.
Today I had taken a day off and decided to analyse my games to get more insight in the troubles.

I will show you a few critical positions.

Diagram 1.
I have white, black to play.

My last move was Bd2. I totally missed blacks next move: Qb6, with a double attack on d4 and b2. Well, because playing the bisshop back to c1 looks ugly I decided to make a gambit of it with Nf3.
But why do I miss a move like Qb6?
Tactical combinations are most about attacking two targets at the same time. A fork, a pin, a skewer etc. all have two targets. The attack can find place thru one piece (fork) or two pieces (discovered attack). The targets can be separated (fork) or in line (skewer, pin).
A target can be an un(der)protected piece, a piece of high value, an invasion field, a mate field/line/rank etc.
For defensive purpose you can make a move that protects two targets (=your own pieces)
Or your move can serve both an attack and a defense.
Beside this, you have all the preparational moves, to put your targets and attacking piec(es) in place.
That I missed such a simple double attack, did me question if my argument to not do the microdrills maybe was reprehensible arrogance.

Diagram 2.
I have white, white to move.

What I realized during analysis was that I have a lot of targets here to defend.
b4, c4, d4, and the invasion field g5.
During the game I didn't realized that and played Bh5.
Maybe a prophylactic move as a3 is better in place here.
What I am sure about is that it is a good idea to keep always an eye on your vulnerable targets.

Diagram 3.
I have black. White to move.
My last move was Bf5 to prefent white from castling queenside (=mate in two)
I totally missed Nd4. Attacking f5 and protecting c2.
So I asked my self if microdrills in the form of knightforks could have prevented me here?
Or is there a gap between Microdrills and Tactical problemsolving that has to be bridged?
For example by Extended Microdrills which are about knightforks in crowded places?

Diagram 4.
I have white, black to move.
My last move was e5.

e5 is not bad, but I didn't realize at that moment that I opened a diagonal for blacks bishop and that d5 becomes available for the black knight.
That's a problem that I often have, doing a (most pawn-)move that leave diagonals and fields behind. What kind of exercises could be of help here? What extended Chess Vision is necessary?

Diagram 5.
I have white, white to move.

I did Bd4 here.
Attacking the defender of the rook.
I had looked at Qf4+ and c5 for black and had prepared Qc4 as an answer.
But I hadn't looked further, to Nd7, after which white looses a piece.
What happened here was that in order to avoid timetrouble, I cut in calculating too deep.
So one solution caused another problem. I'm not sure why the alarmbell didn't ring here.

If I look to all the examples above, I have to say that the things I miss are simple in general.
This means that the solution probably is simple too.
So the next two months I will do microdrills, of course with Fussy Lizzards excellent Chess Vision Trainer
And I will experiment with Extended Microdrills.
Besides the result I had a great tournament with exciting games.
Overall I feel optimistic that I can make another step now to tackle this important problem.
I'll keep you informed. . .

A warm welcome to RomaLvrn, a new but already graduated Knight and dubbed Pomaranch Knight.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The art of camouflage

Mousetrapper showed us a list of blind spots that we patzers are prone to.
This one wasn't on his list:

Field A and B have exactly the same grey-value.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Who did it? (and who caused those upload problems?)

It's unbelievable how much I'm forgotten during the few weeks I didn't do Intensive Course Tactics. It will take me a whole week to go through all the 1355 problems for the 7th time. And that's far from a tempo. The positive side is that I'am still learning every day. . .
It's important to let go any claims on results in this area. You can't just say because I did the problems 7 times I master them. You have to work until you master them, and then go further.
This means that circle 8 and 9 are unavoidable.

And I know now for sure that i't is necessary to repeat the problems from time to time to keep them sharp. Maybe here spaced repetition comes in handy.

1135 down, 220 to go in circle 7.

What is remarkable is that I have become extreme fast in mating problems.
Most mate in 3 I see a within 5 seconds (instanteneous). That's an order difference with for example a double attack, which often take me about 30 seconds at least. I have done tons of mate in # problems in the past, so that shows clearly the way.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Fishing habit

Why I understand Pale so well. This picture is taken standing in front of my house. No trouts here, but carps, breams and pikes.

Bahus notified me at a chessquiz from Dan Heisman
My advise is, don't do that, it's bad for your ego.
I got a tactical rating of a pathetic 1350.
It's strange that I do tactics for about 3 years, my clubmates think of me as a tactical beast and then this!
The test has a strong emphasis on speed, which I didn't realize at that moment.
But if I set my ego aside, a message can be learned from it.
Those 3 years of training tactics gives me the feeling that I have the right to claim "I'm good at tactics now!". Well, I gained 230 ratingpoints in that period and that's not too bad. But if I am really honest, I don't have the feeling that I am very good at tactics now. The method I used the last three years was to master tactics by the sheer amount of problems I solved.
This was not very effective, and after the first two years I didn't grow further. Only recently I started with repeating the problems in DLM-style, and immediately my rating started to grow again.
The test shows me that a lot can be gained by continuing training tactics. My progress is from extremely bad in tactics to just plain bad in tactics. And that is, however painful, a good message!
Because training tactics is simple, you only have to do it.
So I'm not going to change my trainingsplan for the next future: tactics, tactics and more tactics!
Allthough I have to admit that the lessons from the book of Seirawan "Winning chess strategies", which I got from fatboy, fall on extremely fertile ground here.

A warm welcome to our newest Knight who picks up the gauntlet, Satish Talim
Alas I have some troubles when loading his site. I E-mailed with him about it, so if you have the same problems, please let him know by leaving a comment on THIS post.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread

A few weeks ago I did 6 circles with 1355 problems of Intensive Course Tactics from George Renko.
Because I started to memorize most of the moves instead of seeing the pattern in my mind I decided to postpone the 7th circle. In the meantime I did TCT step3,4 and 5.
Now I'm busy again with the 7th circle of Intensive Course Tactics.
Memorization of the variations decreased with about 90% by the delay.
I make an extra effort now to see the patterns in my mind before I play the solutions.
Allthough the pace isn't low it's far from playing a tempo.
So I think I'm gonna need more circles, maybe 8 or 9. I hope to finish that before the tourney at Witsuntide.

For some reason I have the feeling that I run tru things so easy. Compare this with the heroic battles of Don, Fussy, Pale (seduction!), J'adoube (frustration!) then my efforts look rather meager. I'm grown up with "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" so when things aren't difficult then I have the feeling it's no work.
To make things difficult in an artificial manner I decided to couple my graduation at a gain of 168 ratingpoints instead of doing # problems 7 times.
So at least my feeling of heroism is done justice.
Besides I try to look at the total picture.
Cognitive science says that a grandmaster has 50.000 chesspatterns stored in his brainlobes.
Hence I assume that an average player of 1700 rating is about halfway.
So I have another 25.000 patterns to go.
Let's assume that 1000 problems a 2 variations per problem contain 2000 patterns, then some problemsets have to be done yet.
I trust that the sweat comes by itself. . .

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Done with TCT!

Today I did all 580 problems of step 5 in only 2 hours.
I solved most problems in <10 sec = no thinking. A few problems costed me more time (about 30 sec)
So I consider TCT done. After a few weeks I'll repeat all 3 steps.

I even did some gardening in the problem solving way: spade everything under and spray all plants that refuse to die. I have to buy some seed.

Thus it's time to continue with George Renko's CD intensive course tactics where I left it:
circle 7 of 1353 problems. I have not looked at the CD after I did 6 circles of them, so I'm curious if I remember something. It feels if I have forgotten everything. . .

TCT# prbscircle 1circle 2circle 3

circle 4

circle 5

circle 6

circle 7












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