Saturday, August 01, 2020

The mad HADter

I was dabbling around for a new opening against 1. e4. I have tried a lot in the past:
  • Alekhine defense
  • Scandinavian Marshall gambit
  • Sicilian Najdorf
  • Sicilian Pelican
  • French defense
  • Caro Kan
  • Black Lion
  • Queens Indian
  • Polish defense
  • Benoni
  • Benko gambit
  • Pirc
  • Modern defense
  • Petroff defense
  • Albin counter gambit
All had their function at one moment in time. But now I'm changing my style from tactical to positional, I need a decent opening that don't get me mated before move 25. And I seem to have found just that in the Hyper Accelerated Dragon (HAD)!
I'm going to give it a serious try.
Maybe I'm going to add the Sniper to my repertoire, which is inspired by the HAD, and suitable for a lot of other first moves.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The struggle against overload

The way I think is rather brain resource intensive. I'm not inclined to believe something because everybody says so. I am quite opinionated about almost everything. My opinions are the only ones that are true. That makes life easy, in a way. On the other hand, I feel myself totally not bound to any of my opinions. If another opinion comes along and proves to be true, I immediately reject my own and adopt it. That is why my opinions are always true. In my opinion.
At the same time, when other opinions cross my way, I don't just reject them. I feel always obliged to have a look at if they are true. I'm always open to doubt anything. Enfin, that is how this blog came about.

Usually, a lot is going on in my head. Always being busy to prove if my opinions still can stand the test. Such a busy head, is of course not an advantage in chess. In life, this is usually not a problem. After 61 years of weeding out the false opinions, my reaction time to new events in complex situations has become pretty fast. I always wondered why in chess, which is probably less complex than life, my habitual logical reasoning has always been totally absent. Why do I play like a moron with no clues whatsoever?

The reason is, that my mind is easily overwhelmed. I'm always ready to see an infinite amount of possibilities. So far, the weeding out of nonsensical possibilities has not gone far enough to simplify my thoughts to a degree that my brains are no longer overwhelmed.

But that might well be about to change in the not too distant future. After 22 years of weeding out all nonsensical methods how to improve in tactics, I finally have come to a point that I have found a method that is in accordance with all facts. I no longer see other possibilities.

Whether it works and how fast, is now put to the test. The method is like learning the vocabulary of a new language. It takes some time. I'm on day 31 of the 150 days I expect to need to ingrain enough words of the vocabulary to become measurable. We'll see.

Since I see no other possibilities how to improve in tactics, my mind is freed of the overload that accompanies the search for said possibilities. And it feels that way.

Meaning, that there is now room for other things. I expect my method to work. After all, I started with it in januari 1st of 2019, and usually the euphoric feeling dissipates after three months, and that is not the case this time. Problems with the health of Margriet and the Corona crisis lately have only delayed my test.

Other things, that means to find out how my to be expected prowess in tactics can be incorporated in actual OTB play. To that end I have been busy to gather about 100 rules of middlegame strategy, and about 70 rules for the endgame. I put them in ANKI and am busy to learn them by heart.

If my mind will be no longer overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities of tactics, then it would be a pity to fill it with a search for the infinite possibilities of middlegame and endgame strategy. After all, it is not rocket science, and what can be weeded out in the study room, must be wrested beforehand.

Weeding out the nonsense

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The actual method

We talked a lot about the PoPLoAFun system. I can imagine that people use those texts if they have trouble to fall asleep. The actual training method that is derived from it, is very simple though.

Diagram 1. Black to move
r4r1k/1b3ppB/p3pb2/1pRqN3/3n2Q1/4B3/PP3PPP/3R2K1 b - - 1 1

I use a macro written in autohotkey to copy the board and to open it in a paint-like program.
There I add colored squares to it by hand.

  • Green = target squares (points of pressure)
  • Red = piece on duty (function)

Diagram 2. Black to move

The idea is simple:

  • to develop a sense for target squares (PoP)
  • to develop a sense for pieces on duty (Fun)

I work with a limited set of problems.
The same set of problems can be used to draw the lines of attack.
That is a different exercise, which I do during a different training session.

The idea is simple:

  • to develop a sense for the lines of attack (LoA)

Diagram 3. Black to move.

As you see, the training is very simple. I do not try to see everything that is going on in the position. At least, I don't try to incorporate that in the drawing. I want to learn to see the essential patterns. I want matters to be simple.

I work with a database of 960 problems. The problems have the following themes:

  • double attack
  • discovered attack
  • skewer
  • pin
  • overloading
  • mate

I want to learn to see the essential patterns a tempo.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Training streak

I have been able to flick in some serious PoPLoAFun training, lately. 18 days in a row now. I become more and more convinced that I'm on the right track. At the same time, I must admit that progress is way slower than I expected and hoped for.

PoPLoAFun breaks down the common tactical themes into their tactical atoms. It is like learning a new way of looking. It is about discovering new patterns and internalize them. And about unlearning a lifetime of bad habits.

What can I predict? I'm learning the PoPLoAFun ins and outs of 960 chess positions. That will take me about 150 hours of training. Say 150 days with one hour per day. That is about the end of the year. After that, the progress should be measurable. If not, then the method doesn't work.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Answers to Robert

Robert said:
I have seen numerous assertions (such as from Garry Kasparov) that planning involves (at its best) considering what will happen within (approximately) the next 5 moves, sometimes (often?) fewer than that.

Isn't planning essentially looking at the general situation and determining (through the process of elimination via calculation) which sequence of moves provides the best probable outcome? If that is so, then PopLoaFun seems to provide an excellent basis for determining a (shorter term) plan. A plan for the entire game seems to be too general and abstract for practical use move-by-move.

Planning starts with WHAT should I try to accomplish.

Followed by HOW can I do that.

It is too early to say how big the role of PoPLoAFun is going to be in the endgame. About the middle game, I am inclined to say that 25% of the moves are tactical by nature, meaning that all three parts of PoPLoAFun are directly concrete involved. The remaining  75% focusses on creating lines of attack, closing them for the enemy and wrestling for domination on the existing lines of attack. How you exactly are going to use the lines of attack is of later concern.

Are endgames particular (concrete; tactical) or general (strategic) in nature?

If I'm not over ambitious, read I don't throw the kitchen sink at move 3, I will get a middle game. I put a lot of effort in investigating the middle game. After a few months I reached the final formulation of middle game planning: Get the most piece activity against the least activity for your enemy. With this simple rule, I can judge any middle game move.

With my new approach, I am starting to get endgames on the board. With so many years of attacking and gambits under the belt, I'm relatively under experienced in endgames. I simply am not used to get them on the board. But now I do get them, I smell a possibility for improvement.

10% of the endgame is about specific endgame knowledge. Those 10% tends to be 98% of the content of any endgame book. The remaining 90% is simply not treated in endgame books.

This 90% is about endgame planning. Start at the highest level. There are two possible plans in the endgame:
  • Attack the weak pawns
  • Create a passer
There are a lot of assisting rules for endgame planning. I will devote several posts to that.

Robert said
My experience with various openings (admittedly, I rarely look at specific opening lines unless I'm upset at how I played a particular line) leads me to believe that the openings (for Class players up to approximately Expert level) are not critical for winning chess. My experience is that usually I win or lose because of an oversight (usually tactical) that has nothing to do with the outcome of the opening. In short, I don't win or lose the game in the opening.

Would you please elaborate on why you consider the Caro-Kann defense to be insufficient for a Class player in tournament play?

It is a matter of taste. And of confidence. I trust the London system. I trust the Dutch defense with black reasonably well. There are a few lines in the Caro Kann that I don't like to play. Not because they are bad, but because it is not according to my taste. What I'm searching for, is to play with black against 1.e4 in a way which gives me the same feeling as the London system with white.
I used to mess up the Caro Kann since I hadn't the slightest idea what I was doing. But with my new middle game approach, I fare fairly well with it, lately. But there are a lot of variations that are so commonly well known, that I still don't know after move 12 whether I face a grandmaster or a beginner. Meaning that I denied my opponent the chance of 10 moves to go astray.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Resuming PoPLoAFun

Now matters are normalized a bit, I resumed my training. I intend to attend the chess club in the adjacent city, which is much bigger. The one in our village is probably not going to survive the Corona crisis.

Other plans:
  • picking up endgame study, especially the making of plans
  • have a look at the Jobava London system
  • see whether the Caro Kan can be replaced by the Scandinavian of GingerGM

Monday, March 16, 2020

LoA vision

I have a database with 931 tactical problems in the following categories:
  • Discovered attack
  • Double attack
  • Skewer
  • Pin
  • Overloading
  • Mate in 3
I learned the geometrical patterns by heart of 252 positions (27%) already. It took me 50 days.
I focused on PoPs (points of pressure) and Funs (functions) solely.
So far the method seems to work excellent. 

Now I have drawn a definite conclusion about the middlegame, I thought that it would be nice to extend my method to middlegame positions too. Hence I began a search for a database with positional problems. I couldn't find an acceptable one.

But then I realised the following: I now have a definite method of judgment for every middlegame move. Which is the following: how does this move alter the balance of piece activity? In the previous post, I called it the battle of the LoA's (lines of attack). Do I really need a problem set with positional problems?

The answer is: probably not. I just have to draw the lines of attack in the position. Any position. Since what I need is LoA vision. So why not use the database I already have? Who cares that it are tactical positions? When I know the points of pressure and functions already, why not draw the lines of attack in the same positions?
So that is what I'm going to do.

I had a sneak peek in endgame theory. I discovered that I don't need to learn so much positions, but merely that I have know how to devise an endgame plan. So that is what I'm going to focus on the coming time. 110 days to the first tournament. Still some time to work. I'm excited!