Sunday, February 19, 2006

Unexpected side effects

If I compare my rating from a year ago with my rating now, there isn't much difference.
In spite of training tactics rigourously.
The reason I kept on training, was, besides curiousness, the feeling that I was developing a rocket launcher. (Sorry for the exaggerated style of this post, but that's they way it felt.)
If the rocket launcher went off during a game, I simply blew my opponent off the board.
If I "could come into my own" I crushed them.
It only happened seldom that I got a position I could call my own.
Playing gambits alone wasn't a garantee for that.
My opponent had to cooperate.
If he didn't, I tried to force matters.
Most of the time I came in time trouble in better position, so I had to accept a draw.
The amount of draws with under 25 moves in my games is amazing.
Solely because I tried to get the utmost from every move, thus generating time trouble.
Whithout getting the position I wanted in time.
I tried to solve this by training even more tactics, but that didn't work out.
I'm just not good enough yet to crush every opponent within 25 moves.

So I worked hard for a year, with the feeling getting better every day, puzzled by the fact that it didn't pay off.
But the last 5 games I played were different.
Since a few weeks I study pawn endings. The study itself is to premature to yield results.
But it has an unexpected side effect.

I have accepted the fact that a game can last more than 30 moves.
This means that the pressure to finish off my opponent long before the 30-move mark is reached, has disappeared.
The effect is that I'm no longer trying to get the utmost from every move, but accept every move that is tactical viable. I'm moving much faster now. (just as MDLM suggested in his article, actually)
Since I'm looking forward to the endgame I'm not afraid to trade off pieces anymore.
I actually use my tactical skills to do that in the fastest possible way.
So my games are getting longer and longer.
But I still have a rocket launcher in my backpack.
And if my game has 3x as much moves, I have 3x as much chance to launch it.
I'm much more dangerous in a long game than I expected. Even with no queens or few pieces on the board.
Ok, I've played only 5 games (3 wins, 2 draws) this way, but since they feel so different, it's time to explore this trend. Let's see if the tactical training will yield results in second wind.
Or maybe I'm just hallucinating.

Now I'm experimenting with longer games and endgames I'm starting to ask questions about my openings. A gambit is good if it gives me the position I want. If it is declined, the opponent must have a worse position, otherwise it isn't a useful gambit. If it is accepted it must get me in a position where I can fire my rocket launcher. In practice I have only succes in 30% of the cases.
That means that in the other 70% of the cases I'm left with a bad pawn structure or a pawn less. That's not a very good start for a long game.
In the Alapin I don't play a gambit but I accept an isolated queen pawn in exchange for piece play.
I belief that questioning these kind of openings is the begin of a more mature approach to chess.
Every starting chessplayer has to experiment with gambits to get the hang of active and tactical play. But at a certain moment the stage of infancy must be left behind.
Maybe this is the right moment.


  1. It's great that you have reached this level. Very cool that you are mastering the endgame. I'd love to see a few of your games if you wish to post them.

  2. Cool beans. That is great.

    What rating level is SOPE aimed at? Is there a good beginner endgame book you can recommend (I have Seirewan, but haven't read it yet).