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!


  1. Did take me 2:18
    1.Kg2 Nxe4 2.Bxh4 is saw instantly ( white is material up, so white just need to survive ) then it did take 2 minutes to believe that the only move left: 2.Nxe4 can be survived. I think many of the lower rated fast solvers did not see the danger or dont have the habit to calculate to the end. Sometimes better player are slower because they see something which has to be analysed.

    There are 2 types of defensive moves: you are already up material and now you have to survive a danger, or the weakness you want to play cant be played as usual because of a weakness in your own camp.

    If you want to do a defence training: use the "mixed" set

    1. I recognize the inclination to mourn about those idiots that move fast and accidentally correct who make me look like a moron. But I will not learn anything from denying that I indeed might behave like one.

      My mind was simply drifting away during solving this position, playing trial and error with the pieces.

      Your mind was at least busy in a disciplined way counting the material which lead to the next best winning move.

      What we should ask though, is what we can learn from this position. 1. ... Nxe4 is a sacrifice. And when a piece is sacked, all alarm bells should go off. It's all hands on deck: IS THIS SACRIFICE CORRECT?? should be the automated response. Can I win this piece? But my alarm bell produced a measly blip which drowned in the noise my mind was making.

    2. Result would be a list of alarm bells?
      you may reduce the list, hanging piece is enough ;)

      because of the superiority of the own material i did know: its about surviving
      a standard method for defence is to exchange material, especially the opponent queen close to the own king.. well or some other dangerous piece close to the own king

  2. I think it's interesting that you are in the process of confirming several things that have been speculative about previously regarding effective and efficient training.

    (1) Limiting study (initially) to two-move tactical processes. I am reminded of this blurb from GM Andy Soltis' The Inner Game of Chess: How to Calculate and Win, "The Myth of the Long Variations", pg. 6:

    A popular view among amateurs is that grandmasters are grandmasters because they routinely see 10 moves ahead. There are, of course, examples of this by GMs, but they are relatively rare.

    Much more common is the kind of calculation that calls for SEEING not more than two moves into the future. And most of the time these two-move variations lead only to minor improvements in the position. But these improvements add up.

    When Mikhail Botvinnik lost on first board during the 1955 Soviet-American match, the world champion explained the result simply, "It shows I need to perfect my play of TWO-MOVE VARIATIONS."

    (2) 3 sets of 70 tactical problems per theme, with two-move variations. 210 problems X 32 tactical themes (excluding named checkmates) = 6720 problems to cover all Chess Tempo tactical themes. The 28 named checkmates with 210 problems each = 5880 problems for the checkmates. Combined, that's 12,600 problems. Not trivial, but nowhere near the "guess-timated" 50,000, 100,000 or 300,000 touted in the (non-chess) literature. I'm sure there is considerable overlap of these problem sets, which means the number is an upper bound. That makes NM Heisman's estimate of approximately 2,000 problems seem more realistic as a lower bound.

    (3) Approximately 10 hours spread over one month for training one specific theme (or two specific themes, given the theme under study, and 1 separate theme NOT specifically being studied, limited to two-move sequences). This may represent an average number of hours, with an unknown variance around the mean. This appears to be considerably less effort than the MdlM Seven Circles of Hell (or the Woodpecker Method). 10 hours per theme X 60 themes (tactical plus checkmates) = 600 hours. Spread over one month per theme, that means it will take approximately 5 years to cover everything. This may require a schedule adjustment as you get used to the process.

    (4) The need to refresh the ideas occasionally (perhaps using spaced repetition). It remains to be established how much repetition is needed to keep the memories of all the tactical themes fresh in your mind.

    Apparently we are living in "interesting times"!

    1. I look a bit different at the figures. You gave me a list with frequencies of the themes. The first 20 themes cover 80% of the presented problems.

      Now I know what I'm after, and experience that the exercised themes play a role in my games at the club, I can do easily 1 theme per week. Which means that I will be ready to put myself to the test within 20 weeks. Given that I don't write too much at my blog ;)

      I'm sure that the theme "exposed king", which is about rogue mates, will effect my overall mating ability. I'm still talking about chess.

      210 problems x 20 themes is 4200 problems in 200 hours. Net solving time as reported by Chess Tempo.

  3. The theme defensive move is ideally suited for learning the ABC of trivial chess moves.

  4. I went back to the local chess club for the first (hopefully not my last) time in many years. There was a Quick Tournament scheduled: 5 rounds at 8 minutes with 8 second increment. For having no preparation, I didn't do too bad: 3 wins, 2 losses. In my loss against the highest rated player, I had no idea what to do with 1. e4 c5 2. c3 Sicilian. I tried 2. ... d5 3. e4xd5 Qxd5 and very quickly lost the thread. Against the second highest rated player, I had an excellent game all the way through, but lost on time (with less than 5 seconds on my opponent's clock). I've never liked fast time controls, but that's the only game available at the club.

    I do know that I "saw" more of the tactical potential than 4 of my opponents. In my last game, I made a stupid mistake that gave my opponent the opportunity to exchange his Queen for two Rooks. Fortunately (for me), he got fixated on the threats to his King and overlooked it, and resigned.

    I've got to study some of the openings played for next week. At the level I want to play, some detailed opening knowledge is essential. The club is starting a 24-minute (with unknown increment) Quick Tournament. I hope to do better over time.

    1. I learn my openings mainly by playing online blitzgames. After each game i analyse it with fritz and the IDEA of aquarium. i have an opening book in fritz made from mastergames so i can see the traditional theorie, and i ask super super super gm stockfish. At the end i store the new line in a file. while the computer is analysing i usually play an other game. of course.. sometimes i look into an opening book or look for a mastergame of "my" line in a database, listen to a openingvideo at youtube..
      1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 is main line ( masters play it most of the time ) score 53% for white
      1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 is no 2 in my computer opening book, score 53.2% for white.
      These anti sizilians need some extra attention from an sizilian player, this is not typical sizilian game anymore

  5. My play at the club indicates that I should do positional problem too, at one moment. Does anyone know a good problem set/ training site?

  6. I was nearing the 4 minute mark, so guessed wrong, as your comment said that your concern was with the time taken. Within another half a minute, I got the answer right without looking. The way I look at this problem is that it can take 4 minutes to understand the problem, and virtually no time to then know the solution.

    I believe there is too much focus on pattern-recognition discussed in this blog, and by it's members. This was more a straight-line calculation problem, as are so many on Chesstempo, versus the ones out of a tactics book, which require more creativity in the move-selection process.

    This position says that if someone, such as myself, were to walk up to a game - in the middle of the game - between two other players, figure out what was going on, and then make a move, that it would take me 4 minutes to do that in this particular position. Now, it might take me less time than that at a tournament, where my mind is usually in it's most prime shape.

    Anyway, any chess position can take a few minutes to figure out what is really going on, starting from scratch (without seeing and thinking about it from previous positions). It's not indicative that there is a particular chess problem going on in the position, other than to say that all positions have one.

    1. I believe there is too much focus on pattern-recognition discussed in this blog, and by it's members.

      Thinking is overrated. Maybe there is no such thing as thinking. Maybe there is just pattern recognition.

  7. One thing I should have added is that I believe that pattern-recognition is very important when it comes to double-attacks, as it's perhaps the easiest type of tactic to miss. Of course, Averbahk's book on "Tactics for Advanced Players" is great, in this regard.

    I would say that pin patterns are particularly important when first making Class A.

  8. I won my first game in the 24 minute tournament last night. I had White; the opening transposed into a variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined. My opponent played very obligingly to eliminate all of the minor pieces except for my Knight and his dark-squared Bishop. He allowed me to execute a classical minority attack on the Queenside. At one point, he overlooked a Knight fork of his Queen and Rook, enabling me to pick up the Exchange and a Pawn for the Knight. After that, I just ground him down by creating a passed Pawn on the Queenside. Near the end, he allowed me to establish one of my Rooks on the 7th rank absolute (Nimzovitch), and it was all over.

    I also played several informal 8-minute games against the highest rated player, all of them Smith-Morra Gambit (him) against the Sicilian (me). I lost every game except the last one, when I finally figured out what was needed to repulse his attack. I still need more study of the anti-Sicilian lines.

    I can tell that I am sharper tactically than back in the days (md-1970s) when I played tournament chess a lot.

    1. i did play the morra as white for some years by myself, so i accept the morra and play a e6(Bc4->f7),a6(Nc3-b5->c7),b5(Bc8-b7) against it. But you need to know what you are doing then. There are some antimorras buut, when you can stand the fire (morra) then dont play with the matches ( sizilian ) ;))

  9. In the one game I won against the Smith-Morra, I eventually arrived at e6, a6 and an eventual b5 as a viable alternative. The person I was playing said that e6 is the key to the Black defense against the Bc4 lines. I still need to study this more, with a lot of master games to cement the typical variations and ideas.

    I like playing with the Sicilian fire! My earliest book was How to Think Ahead in Chess: The Methods and Techniques of Planning Your Entire Game (Fireside Chess Library), by I. A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld. The authors advocated the Colle System for White and the Sicilian Dragon for Black. I forget what they recommended against 1. d4 or 1. c4; I think it was the Queen's Gambit Declined. However, that was nearly 50 years ago when I first started playing (and acquiring a bad case of Book Acquisition Syndrome), and I no longer have the book.

    I've always thought that was a strange combination of openings for a beginner. I can appreciate the simplicity of the Colle System approach, but the tactical hazards of the Sicilian Dragon (especially the Yugoslav Attack) are pretty difficult to navigate for a beginner. Maybe the idea was that if you persisted until you could actually survive, you would have to absorb sufficient tactical ideas. I guess it's somewhat similar to the advice of Master Ken Smith: Until you reach approximately 1800 USCF (about 1700 FIDE), your first name is tactics, your middle name is tactics, and your last name is tactics!

    1. and acquiring a bad case of Book Acquisition Syndrome

      I know what you mean. I have 42 meter of books of my own. Of which about 3 meters are chess books. If there is a relationship between rating and chess books read, I will need another 73 meters of chess books to become a grandmaster.

  10. I solved it pretty fast, dont know the time, but much faster than you for sure.
    How is this possible? Well, you title is about defensive moves, that was the major give away hint.
    First white is in check, so only move is a king move to start with.
    Second - with all the things going on, I was looking for a defensive good move. The best defenders are knights. If you have 2 knights close to your king, the attacker has a really hard time. So moving the other knight closer to the king came to my mind pretty fast - and bang - the knight in the center guards my queen --> solved it.

    Really, even in Bullet and Blitz games I often dont calculate much, but I KNOW I need to keep my knight(s) close, so I avoid to get under attack.

    If you solve puzzles, and you know it is a defensive move --> 90% of the time, the knights play a key role.

    1. with all the things going on, I was looking for a defensive good move. The best defenders are knights. If you have 2 knights close to your king, the attacker has a really hard time. So moving the other knight closer to the king came to my mind pretty fast

      I suspect it are these little gems of knowledge that make the difference.

  11. In many puzzles i have a question, which takes too long to answer. I changed my training more to this question and its propper answer. So i create own (sub-)puzzles. Just to see and understand the right answer is often not the real problem of such a puzzle.

    1. Seems to me like you are trying to lift weights with 120% of your maximum capacity.

  12. I've been playing weekly at the local chess club. On the first Tuesday of the month, there is a 5-round quick tournament (8 minutes per move with an 8 second increment). For the rest of the month, there is an ongoing tournament, with one 24-minute game per night. The rest of the time, it's just 8 minute skittles.

    I’m doing fine with my playing, but having trouble with the quick time controls, usually in time trouble every game. I’ve been experimenting with various openings (for which I do NOT know the theory), and yet getting fairly decent positions in the middlegame. Unfortunately, it costs me on the clock, so I guess I’m going to have to work on a set of openings that I can play regularly.

    Tactically, I’m doing better than I ever have. I’m “seeing” a lot more opportunities than before. The following position is an example. In this kind of position, previously I would not even have considered what I actually played.

    FEN: 2r2rk1/pb3ppp/1q2pn2/2bnN3/8/3BP3/PB1N1PPP/1QR2RK1 b - - 0 1

    White’s last move was 1. Ne5. My eye was drawn to the loose White Knight on d2, so I started looking into 1. … Nxe3 2. fxe Bxe3+ 3. Kh1 Bxd2. Then my usual caution asserted itself, and I stared trying to figure out what to do after 4. Nc4, forking the Queen and Bishop. Hmm, seems like it’s not working. Then I “saw” that I could threaten checkmate on g2 with 4. … Qc6, gaining time to rescue the Bishop (maybe). So, I had an intuitive “feeling” that the tactics would work out, and comitted to playing this line without doing any more checking. (Playing an 8-minute game prevents carefully checking all variations.) Previously I would not dream of doing this, because I was sure to lose my way in the tactics!

    So I played 1. … Nxe3 2. fxe Bxe3+ 3. Kh1 Bxd2, reaching a “stepping stone” position on the board.

    White surprised me with 4. Rxf6. It looked (to me) that I could defend [(2:2) on f7], so I played 4. … Bxc1. If White recaptures on c1 with 5. Bxc1, I capture his Queen first with 5. … Qxb1 6. Bxb1 Rxc1+ 7. Rf1 Rxf1#. Capturing on c1 with the Queen is suicidal: 5. Qxc1 Rxc1 6. Bxc1 gxf6 and it’s over.

    While he was contemplating his 5th move, I started wondering if I had stepped into a devastating attack. I started imagining the combination of Bishop, Knight and Rook somehow crashing through to my King. Fortunately, he played 5. Nd7, forking my Queen and Rook, which allowed me to play 5. … Qxb2 and the serious threats are over. He played 6. Qxb2 Bxb2 7. Nxf8, overlooking 7. … Bxf6, so he resigned.

    In the interest of learning what I overlooked, I put the starting position into GM Stockfish 9. He indicated that 1. … Nxe3 was the best move for Black [∓ (-1.03)]. So, I felt pretty good about “seeing” more tactical possibilities in the position!

    The downside is that GM Stockfish would have defended much better than my opponent.

  13. Replies
    1. not with me
      I wonder about the 2 categorys for failiure
      1) dont find the right idea ( in time )
      2) dont find the refutation of (a) wrong idea ( in time )

      repetition of puzzles might help with 1)
      I put now some emphasis on 2) i do repetitions on refutations of my wrong ideas

    2. Kinda sort of.

      Margriet isn't doing well, physically, so chess training is a bit on the back burner lately.

      The most important find is that I mustn't be too greedy or hasty. It is way better to digest the matter slowly.

      I think that it is realistic to expect that it might take a year to cover the whole tactical realm.

      Despite that I had intended not to become occupied with non chess related stuff at the chess club like becoming a board member or so, I seem to get sucked into it, somehow. I can't change my character. But there might be a good side to it. I'm working out a proposal for chess education for adults, so may be I can try out my method with other adults as guinea pigs.

    3. Sorry to hear that Margriet is not doing well.

      Does your proposed adult education focus on beginners or does it cover a range of playing levels, somewhat similar to the STEPS program?

    4. What I intend to do is to introduce my PoPeye system as tactical training for adults. The very system I worked 20 years on to invent. With more guinea pigs we will find out sooner if we are up to something. But even in the worst case scenario they will become better in tactics.

  14. @Aox: Fascinating video by IM Preuss! Thank you for the link.

    I noticed he "sees" the LOA, looking through intervening pieces all the way to the edge of the board - and doesn't mention that aspect.

    I noticed his recommendation of trying to LEARN 3 "patterns" per day. This mirrors Victor Henkin's recommendation (in 1000 Checkmate Combinations). Repeating (what has been previously commented on here), Victor states:

    "You shouldn't take 'tactical medicine' in large doses. Even the most beautiful combinations can set your teeth on edge if you swallow them with the greed of a hungry pelican. On this topic there are many wise sayings, for example a Chinese one: 'Don't bite off more than you can swallow', or a French one, 'Too much of anything is a bad thing...' You should get to know the combinations carefully, thoughtfully, without distractions or hurry, returning again and again to the examined positions. Best of all, LIMIT YOUR DAILY RATION TO TWO OR THREE 'DISHES'.

    And yet most of us ignore this kind of advice because we just "know" that the quantity is so much more important than the quality! Ergo, the Seven Circles of Hell from de la Maza and the Woodpecker Method from GM Smith.

    [Caveat: IMHO] Learning the specific solutions to specific tactical problems may (or may not) provide you with a useable pattern. If it does so, then that learning process is at least one or two levels of indirection away from embedding "chunks" into LTM.

    I think we have "kicked the tires" on most of what he suggests. Or, it could be that I am remembering teaching "patterns" that have no basis in reality. Whatever.

    It's a great video with food for thought for the thoughtful!

    1. I will add some of his methods to my trainingsroutine like playing 3 times through the line in the head.
      Time to watch his other 3 videos :)

  15. That is almost exactly chuzhakins System :

  16. Tonight at the chess club, I had total success! I played two informal games prior to the monthly Ricochet Tournament, winning both games against the same opponent. It was a nice warm-up for the tournament games that followed. I played four different opponents in the tournament, winning every game. Two of my opponents were the No.1 and No.2 rated players currently active in the club (one is close to 1800 USCF; the other is close to 1700 USCF). I had previously not beaten either of them in quick tournament play (8 minutes with a 3-second increment). The games themselves were "strange" - at least, for me. After starting with a generic opening in all four cases, the games rapidly evolved into tactical melees on both sides. Usually, I get into serious time trouble in that kind of situation, but tonight, I stayed ahead on the clock in all four games. I was really pleased with one of the games. I lost an exchange (through a simple oversight) for a Knight and Pawn, with a good outpost near the center. My opponent overlooked a fork of his Queen and Rook, allowing me to regain the exchange with an extra Pawn in a Queen and Pawn endgame. He mistakenly forced an exchange of Queens into a losing (for him) Pawn ending. The highest rated player initiated a withering attack on my King, but I managed to hold everything together with tactics. At one point, he tried to defend against a "family fork" of King, Queen and Rook by defending the forking square with a Knight. I snatched it off with a pseudo-sacrifice of my Queen for that Knight, leaving him a piece down with even Pawns. He tried to get fancy, and ended up also losing a Rook. He kept on playing, hoping I would implode and lose on time, as I had done previously. Unfortunately for him, I forced off everything except a Rook (for me), with three Pawns each on the Kingside. I then forced a Pawn to a Queen and checkmated him.

    As Aristotle said, “One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” But it sure did make my day to know that I can compete successfully with these guys, at least occasionally!

    1. Well done Robert! Congratulations!

      Recently I started solving puzzles at Blitz Tactics website... and I feel my tactics is getting better. I do not feel the tiredness while looking for tactics. This week (yes, tonight is the 1st round) I am playing a chess tournament and we will look how it goes :).

    2. Tomasz: How did you do in the tournament?

      Tonight was another success for me. I played two informal games against a youngster (about 12 years old) who is a rising shooting star. Previously, he had steamrolled me right out of the opening (Najdorf Sicilian). Tonight I tried the Kan Sicilian (at least, that's what he called it), trying to avoid getting slaughtered immediately. (I don't study openings much at all anymore.) He won the first one, but I got him in the second. Then we were paired for the 24-minute Quick tournament game. He overlooked a simple Knight fork in the middlegame, and resigned not too many moves later when I forced off his major pieces.

      On the ratings front, as a result of last week's success, my USCF Quick rating went from 1456 to 1631. (who says you can't gain a lot of rating points in a short time period?!?) That's nothing to brag about, but it does reflect an improvement in my tactical "sight" and ability to handle time pressure in Quick games.

      Speaking of Quick games and time pressure: my last informal game tonight was against a 1455 player. I managed to hold the game until he resigned. For the last 10-15 moves, I only had 1.7 seconds to play! (We were playing an 8-minute, 3-second delay game.) I fully expected to lose on time, but he resigned when he went down a Queen. That was nerve-wrecking!

      I can't make the chess club next week: my bluegrass band has a gig playing for the volunteers at a local retirement home. So, it will be interesting to see if my rating goes up much after tonight's win. It really doesn't matter; I'll keep on trying to improve regardless of my rating.

    3. Congratulations my friend! It looks like you finally start feeling and noticing the difference in your game! That's a very good news!

      In my case, I played very badly and I could barely think. I simply have too big gaps (holes) in my chess education. I badly need to fill in these huge gaps! Anyway I started my traing and I am working on the opening part. I hope in a year time I will be quite good at this phase of the game. It is ridiculous to play random moves without any understanding of the position. I am fed up of playing "just to push the pieces and capture free material". It does not make any sense to me.

      Nowadays my goal is not to drop my ELO rating below 1700. That's why I finally started working on my chess. Better later than never?!

    4. I am beginning to think (perhaps erroneously) that I have absorbed more about "good openings" than I had realized. Not just a set of memorized "principles" (a la Lasker) but an understanding of what I should be doing when confronting an opening I have never played before. I think this may be to a shift in attitude toward being more "concrete" in my consideration of candidate moves. I'm trying to start thinking about the potential tactics from the very start. I realized this when I started studying the Sicilian Defense, O'Kelly variation, which starts 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 a6. I was surprised to see (somewhere) that it was described as an "improved" Najdorf variation, which I like. I looked up all the Sicilian O'Kelly games on (ECO code B28) and have started working through them in the order played. I saw immediately that there are tactical traps available; "seeing" those tactics is necessary for both sides.

      An interesting side note is that the O'Kelly variations appearing in the games of strong players (Schlechter; Maroczy; Paulson and others) began before the 1900s. (So much for the John Watson hypothesis that the old masters construed the opening through the narrow prism of "rules" and thus were incapable of playing more "modern" lines based on concrete considerations.)

    5. YouTube Video: Analyze This! with GM Irina Krush (O'Kelly Sicilian) - 2014.07.15 is an interesting analysis of an O'Kelly opening by a GM.

      "You know, it's a pretty interesting move to play against an Open Sicilian player because it makes it difficult for White to play an Open Sicilian." - GM Krush

      That's certainly a plus in my book! If White insists on continuing with 3. d4, Black has several good ways to equalize. According to the Chess Tempo game database, two of the most often played White moves are 3. c3 (Alapin) and 3. c4 (Maroczy Bind), leading away from the typical Najdorf configurations.

      GM Krush gives a series of tactical traps after 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nf3 Nf6. White cannot play 5. e5? because of 5. ... Qa5+, winning the Pawn. After 5. Nc3 (a natural move for an Open Sicilian player), Black continues 5. ... e5. The usual response to this in other Sicilian lines is 6. N(d4)b5, but the O'Kelly move removes that possibility. White also cannot exchange Knights on c6, because the Black Knight has not yet gone there. The Black d-Pawn hasn't played yet, so Black can develop the Bf8 actively after White moves "somewhere". There are tactical traps for both players in these lines. Transpositions abound, which gives plenty of opportunities for "getting out of (White's) memorized Open Sicilian book lines."

      I actually prefer Scheveningen, Kan, Taimanov Sicilian positions, with potential transpositions to Hedgehog formations (if possible). We shall see if this opening is something I feel comfortable playing. There are lots of master games to peruse before making a final decision as to whether to adopt it or not as my standard reply to 1. e4. Maybe it won't be my primary weapon of choice, but it never hurts to "keep 'em guessing!"

  17. @ Tomasz:

    When I resumed regular play at the local chess club, one of the things that I noticed was my lack of familiarity with current opening theory. Somewhat surprisingly, it didn't make much difference because I could "see" more of the potential tactics, avoiding some disasters in unfamiliar positions. I've been able to find some interesting tactical saves in several games against higher rated players.

    My contention is that tactical improvements automatically improve opening play. However, I also recognize that at least minimal familiarity with stock openings is necessary in tournament games; it just costs too much time on the clock to play totally unknown variations from move 1.

    In that regard, I've changed the way I study (yet again). I've started using the Chess Tempo game database as the basis for studying the opening. I pick a particular opening variation, and then start playing over master games with that variation. I just recently started this practice, but already I can "see" some of the underlying ideas (primarily because of increased tactical skills). I've also been watching several YouTube videos on specific openings, and try to "guess the move" as a master explains the ideas. I've also been watching several different masters play blitz games on lichess. I've picked up a lot just listening to them talk about their choices as they play. Sometimes, I have even been surprised when I "see" tactical shots that the master misses (or, more likely, just doesn't think are all that good). I was watching IM William Paschall playing blitz the other day, and he attempted to play an illegal move by jumping over his own Pawn with a Bishop. He caught it immediately, but it was encouraging that even highly rated players can sometimes (rarely) overlook things.

    A couple of things I've noted. In master chess, there is considerable emphasis on "seeing" through blocking pieces (own side or opponent's side) to squares on which tactical shots become available. There is also an emphasis on focal points, critical squares and potential Pawn breaks. "Seeing" those things greatly improves the capability to play better moves in the opening and middlegame. In short, those are the very things found in Chuzakin's system and in Temposchlucker's PoPeye system.

    All the best in your studies!