Monday, January 31, 2005

Day 36

Today I did 12 problems in "The ChessCafe Puzzle Book." Today I also played 2 games against a guy at school and won both games. At school, we have a chess ladder. The best players are at the top, and the worst are at the bottom. To move up on the ladder, a person has to challenge the player above them to a best-of-3 set of games. If the challenger wins 2, they move up on the ladder. If they lose 2, they stay the same. The point of moving up on the ladder is to make it on the team that goes to the California State Scholastic Tournament (and to show who is the best!). I have been fighting my way up the ladder because I joined in late. If I had joined the ladder from the start, I wouldn't have any worries right now, as I would likely be placed in the top 5.

60 days left
1.5 hrs. completed, 37.5 total
1048 out of 1373, 325 left

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Day 35 - A New Book

Today I did 18 problems in "The ChessCafe's Puzzle Book."

Lately I have been struck by how chess is really a game in which two players try to make the optimal move in a position. To do this, the players try to make straegies and plans, and gain advantages through tactics. This view of chess has helped me put my opponents' sub-optimal moves into perspective. I used to feel sort of cheap when I won because my opponent hadn't made the best moves. But now I realize that we were both doing our best, and that when I win, it is because I saw something my opponent didn't.

61 days left
2 hrs. completed, 36 total
1036 out of 1373, 337 left

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Day 34 - I'm Still Alive!!!

Hello all, I just got the time to do a little blogging.

Today I finished "More Chessercizes: Checkmate," for a total of 21 problems. Since my last post, I have done a total of 56 problems. I played my dad this morning, and I checkmated him with my rook and bishop (I was very happy. I would place him at the 1200 - 1300 rating level, but I have a hard time beating him. Maybe it's the subconscious idea that a father should be better than his son at everything. :-) ).

62 days left
2 hrs. completed, 34 total
1015 out of 1373, 358 left

Monday, January 24, 2005

Day 29

Yesterday, I realized that my numbers in my data chart are incorrect. Rather than going back and trying to fix it, I will just continue as if everything is fine. The point of MDLM's program is to excel at tactics, not data-keeping.

Today I did 10 problems from "More Chessercizes: Checkmate."

I am finding that I think (subconsciously) that the mates I am studying will automatically transfer to my games. Unfortunately, I don't really look at the position with an analytical eye, and I go for the attack if I see a fairly weak opponent's king or if my pieces point in his general direction. I am not punished for my lack of constraint very often because, I would guesss, my opponent doesn't play the best defense. I am trying to develop a thinking process and have resolved to think twice before attacking.

67 days left
.5 hr. completed, 29.5 total
959 out of 1533, 414 left

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Day 28 - The Fourth Week

I am going to annotate at least 20 of games from GameKnot and other sources and periodically send them in to the Teaching Ladder at FICS. I want to use this service to the full. I am also thinking of becoming one of the reviewers there. It might take a bit of my time, but I will get to see other chess players' techniques and at the same time learn more about openings and other elements of chess. I fully enjoyed the discussion today at Pogo. I don't know about the other Knights, but I wouldn't mind making that a regulat thing that we do.

Today I did 20 problems from "More Chessercizes: Checkmate."

68 days left
1 hr. completed, 29 total
949 out of 1373, 424 left

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Day 27

Yesterday was a pure-chess day (very enjoyable!). I played chess for about 3 hours and did a lot of chess problems. Last night, I thought up a thinking process. It involves force (material and threats), development, pawn structure, space, and safety (king, pieces, pawns, and double checking moves).

1. Where is my force directing now? Where do I want my pieces to be? Can I gain an advantage in force? Are there any undefended or weakly defended pieces? Repeat the same questions for my opponent.

2. Who has superior development? Who is attacking and who is defending? How can I make my position better?

3. What are the pawn structures like? Which side's is better? How does my pawn structure help or hinder me? Should I change my pawn structure? Can I attack or make my ooponent's structure weak?

4. Who has more space? If I am up space, don't trade pieces.

5. Who has a safer king? Are there any undefended pieces that I can exploit with tactics? Double check that any move is safe before actually moving.

I also am thinking of using Rakshasas' method of planning or the SCAN process in Russell Black's articles. Hopefully, as I play more and more at GameKnot, my thought process will become ingrained in my mind and will transfer to OTB play and regular time-control chess servers.

Today I did 10 problems from "More Chessercizes: Checkmate." I don't know if I am getting better or if these puzzles are the easiest section of mate-in-fours in the book. I hope it is the former. :-)

69 days left
.5 hr. completed, 28 total
929 out of 1373, 444 left

Friday, January 21, 2005

Day 26 - Lists Galore!!!

Today I evaluated my strengths and weaknesses. Here they are:

Tactically (especially checkmates) fairly strong
Main stream openings
Clear games (open board)

Tendency towards blunders and playing too quickly
Limited Opening-Book knowledge
Unusual Openings
Positional Play
Lack of a thought process
Cramped positions

Looking at this list, I have also come up with a list of goals for study and play.

During study, I hope to:
Learn many more opening lines in the Sicilian, Ruy Lopez, and other commmon openings
Learn common endgames
Study the middlegame imbalances and try to apply them
Study the games of a GM with a good defensive technique
Make a thought process
Review openings and look for one that fits my style and preferences

During Play:
Look at imnalances and determine correct play
Double chech each move: Is it protected? etc.

Today I did 51 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate," finishing the book. I also started work on the KNB vs. K ending.

70 days left
3 hrs. completed, 27.5 total
919 out of 1373, 454 left
rating is approximately 150 at Pogo, 1602 at Gameknot, and approximately 1470 at Yahoo

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Day 25 - Various Topics

I have also been thinking about thought processes and plans. I have seen several (Silman, Seirawan, Black, etc.) and tried to make my own. I also looked at MDLM's thought process, which I think is a bit on the skimpy side. Also, I think that MDLM took Silman's analysis in "How to Reassess Your Chess" too seriously. Silman isn't the top chess player ever, but his ideas and teachings can be beneficial. For example, I realized that, in a game I was playing recently, I had the opportunity to exchange my queen for the opponenet's rook and knight. I also saw that in the resulting position, my bishop would be protected in front of its own pawn in a semi-closed game. I played the exchange and maneuvered my rooks and bishop well against his queen and rook. He eventually traded his rook for my bishop, and I was up material (unfortunately I got disconnected and couldn't continue the game). The point of this story is that I realized that material wasn't important and that my superior development, pawn structure, and strong bishop would dominate.

On a different note, I feel that chess should be studied as a whole as much as possible. During concentrated study, such as 6-Circles' focus on tactics, a person should try to make as many connections with tactics to openings, positional play, and endings. I feel that this holistic approach to chess will bring about improvement quickly.

Switching topics again, I have been playing really well lately. My winning percentage for the weeks since the beginning of this training must be around 90% or higher. I don't know if it's psychology, tactics, confidence, or a mix of the three, but I feel that I should keep up what I am doing.

When I finish this first Circle, I plan on doing some detailed endgame and middlegame study. I will documaent my studies and will probably memorize a few GM games, much like PawnSensei. I am thinking that a few of the Corus Games (the Wijk aan Zee Tournament) from this year are worthwhile.

Also, I was at a chess tournament a year or two ago, and a chess teacher was showing some kids an endgame. He had taped a piece of paper to the bottom of the king that covered all of the squares that the king could move to, and he suggested that the kids do the same at home. I was wondering what the Knights thought of this.

Also, I am going to scale the first 5 Circles back by 160 to 1373. This is a pretty dramatic cut-back, but I will use the last 160 problems in Karsten Muller's "The ChessCafe Puzzle Book," as he suggests, in the 6th Circle. I think that this will make my load much lighter and provide a measure of my tactical skills. I might just add 100 exercises from Dejasacchi's Chess Site to make up some of the difference.

Today I did 12 problems from "The ChessCafe Puzzle Book" and 8 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate," for a total of 20.

71 days left
2 hrs. completed, 24.5 total
868 out of 1373, 505 left

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Day 24 - Quandries Abound

Finals (for the 1st semester) went well yesterday and today. I was able to do 10 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate." For my review of endgames, I looked back over opposition and outflanking.

I feel that the key to any chess improvement is dedication/perserverence. If a chess player dedicates himself to any plan that involves hard work is bound to find some improvement in their game.

I was contemplating what comes after the 7-Circles Training (especially with Sancho soon to leave). Since I am doing predominantly checkmating problems, will I try a scaled-back version of 7-Circles with general tactics? Will I devote myself to mainly middlegame, opening, or endgame study? I will do my best to answer these quandries in the coming days. I would also like to hear what the other knights think about these topics.

72 days left
1 hr. completed, 22.5 total
848 out of 1533, 685 left

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Day 23

I am planning on doing the Tactics-Endgames-Middlegame Strategy-Openings training (as mentioned in Day 22). This plan seems to cover everything in chess, and also provides a distinct plan. It seems that, in chess at least, I need a detailed and structured plan to guide me away from aimless wandering from chess book to chess book. It also helps if the plan is formulated or suggested by someone other than myself. I find that when I make a plan for myself, I have a hard time sticking to it. I will just have to stand strong when I have to make additions or change the T-E-MS-O plan and modify the Maza plan to fit into the T-E-MS-O.

My technique when I play chess is to develop and centralize my pieces and wait for a tactical opportunity or a mistake. I don't think that this is the best way to play chess. Hopefully, when I study middlegames and openings, I will have a better idea of where to put my pieces. Right now, I just move the e- and d-pawns, bring out my knights at c3 and f3, my bishops out, castle, centralize my rooks, and play on. I would enjoy feedback from the other knights as to your technique/thought process/plan that you use each game.

Today I did 10 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate."

73 days left
1 hr. completed, 21.5 total
848 out of 1533, 685 left

Monday, January 17, 2005

Day 22

Today I did 15 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate."

After reading my fellow de la Mazan bloggers' posts, I feel that I need to continue yesterday's thread regarding tactics and de la Maza. I feel that it is a necessity to also spend time on endings, openings, and middlegame strategy. Another message on Yahoo's Chess Improvement Group stated that studying should proceed:

1. Tactics
2. Endgames
3. Middlegame Strategy
4. Openings

Training roughly proceeds: 100/0/0/0 (100% tactics, no endgame, middlegame, or opening study), 95/5/0/0, 90/10/0/0, 85/15/0/0, 80/20/0/0, 75/20/5/0, and so on until approximately 10/30/10/50 @ GM-quality play. I'm thinking that 100/0/0/0 is the first 3 weeks of my 6-Circles Plan. After that I plan on integrating endgaems, middlegame strategy, and openings into my study routine.

Additionally, I don't plan on tweaking the de la Maza plan any further than I already have, I will only add components of my own. I fear that if I stray too far from the plan, I will lose my focus and direction.

I highly recommend that all of the de la Maza bloggers check out the Yahoo Chess Improvement Group site and the blog of King Patzer, both under my Misc. Chess Links List.

74 days left
1.5 hrs. completed, 20.5 total
838 out of 1533, 695 left

Wk/ T/ E/ MS/ O

Let me know if you see any mistakes or have any suggestions or comments.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Day 21

If I finish Circle 1 early, I plan on studying some openings/endings/positional concepts and play a good set of games on Pogo, Yahoo, or GameKnot. Today I did 10 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate." I also might just take a break from my 6-Circles training and just do some separate studying and chess playing. Hopefully, this will keep me fresh, improve other aspects of my game, and give me a break from tactics.

Like many of my fellow de la Mazan bloggers, I feel that Maza's system isn't perfect and needs some tweaking by its users. This belief was backed up by some messages on Yahoo's Chess Improvement Forum. I plan on looking at the USCF records to see if it is true that de la Maza only made small rating gains in the 20 to 30 tournaments he participated in one year. A message on the site also asserted that de la Maza had 3 or 4 chess teachers as a teenager, which helped him gain a base of chess knowledge and asseses (correctly) that his weakness was tactics. It is becoming clearer that de la Maza might not be the saint that many think he is, and that much of the truth has been obscured or untold in many aspects of this situation.

75 days left
1 hr. completed, 19 total
815 out of 1533, 718 left

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Day 20

Today I did 65 problems from "More Chessercizes: Checkmate." I am already sore from the one-day skiing trip I did today. It was a lot of fun, though! I'm wondering why the trend in my games is towards winning. From what I've read of my fellow de la Mazan bloggers, I am somewhat of an anomaly in that regard (no offense intended).

76 days left
2 hrs. completed, 18 total
805 out of 1533, 728 left
approximately 9.6 problems a day required

Friday, January 14, 2005

Day 19

Today I did 10 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate." I have been playing on gameknot, yahoo, and pogo as of late, and I have had good results. I often invite or challenge more highly rated players than myself, but I usually have to play someone who is at my level or a little less than 100 points below my rating. I am wondering whether or not the tactics training can have such an immediate effect, or if I am playing lousy chess players, or if I am just getting lucky. I think that it might be that I am just looking for tactics in games against mediocre players. I can only hope that all of a sudden I am a great tactician (I wish...).

77 days left
1 hr. completed, 16 total
740 out of 1533, 793 left

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Day 18

Today, I did 12 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate."

78 days left
.5 hr. completed, 15 total
730 out of 1533, 803 left

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Day 17

Today I did 5 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate."

79 days left
.5 hr. completed, 14.5 total
718 out of 1533, 815 left

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Day 16

Today I did 30 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate."

Also, I would like to give a welcome to J'adoube. He is the newest of the de la Maza bloggers. I hope that he does well in his quest for tactical improvement.

80 days left
1 hr. completed, 14 total
713 out of 1533, 820 left

Monday, January 10, 2005

Day 15

Today I did 60 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate." I'm feeling good about my progress.

81 days left
1.5 hrs. completed, 13 total
683 out of 1533, 850 left

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Week 2 - In Review

Today, I did 19 problems from "365 Ways to Checkmate," just to make the average number of puzzles required per day from here on out is exactly 11. I won my first game at the GameKnot website, which is encouraging.

82 days left in circle 1
1.5 hrs. completed, 11.5 total
631 out of 1533, 902 left to go

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Day 13

Today, I finished "303 Tricky Checkmates." I also did the full Concentric Square and did the Knight's Concentric Square: trying to find to shortest route from d5 to every other square. I did 35 problems from "More Chessercizes: Checkmate." So far, I've been going at a much faster rate than my regimen suggests.

83 days (or less) left in circle 1
1.5 hrs. completed, 10 hrs. total
612 out of 1533, 921 left
approximately 11 a day required

Friday, January 07, 2005

Day 12

Today I did 5 exercises from "303 Tricky Checkmates." I played with Matt at school. The first game was a draw, the second was a close game, but a loss, and the third was a win. In each game I felt that I was playing well.

.5 hr. completed, 8.5 hrs. total
84 days left in circle 1
561 out of 1533, 972 left

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Day 11 - More Exercises

Today I did 20 exercises, 5 from "365 Ways to Checkmate," and 15 from "303 Tricky Checkmates."

85 days left in circle 1
.5 hr. completed, 8 hrs. total
556 out of 1533, 977 left

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Day 10

Today I did 5 exercises from "303 Tricky Checkmates."

86 days left in circle 1
.25 hr. completed, 7.5 total
536 out of 1533, 997 left

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Day 9 - Good Day!

Today I played two games against Sunny. I beat him easily in the first game, and was winning the second game and (almost) had mate next move. I saw the pattern, but I didn't pay attention to his move, a fatal mistake. His move attacked my queen, which I lost on the next turn. It just goes to show how slowing down and double-checking is vital to winning a majority of games. Overall, it was a good day. I was only able to do 5 problems from "303 Tricky Checkmates."

87 days left in circle 1
.25 hr. completed, 7.25 total
531 out of 1533, 1002 left
(only 11.5 problems per day are necessary now, not 16!)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Day 8

Last Year's California State Chess Tournament was on March 21st. If I continue with the 1st circle (96 days), I will only be around 86 days into the program. I will try to speed up the process in time to finish the 1st circle, play my fellow chess-players at school, and go to the tourney. I also plan on playing chess at school tomorrow. Hopefully my tactics will shine through!

I did 44 problems yesterday.
526 out of 1533, and 1007 left
.5 hr completed, 7.5 total
88 days left in circle 1

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Week 1 - Recap

It's been a long week, but one filled with progress. As we enter the new year, I wish everyone success in chess and in life. I did about 50 exercises today, I'll get the precise numbers tomorrow. Yawn...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Day 6 - My Work Pays Off

Today, I played 5 games of chess at Yahoo and won all 5. I also did a Concentic Square after missing 2 days, but the exercises went without a glitch in under 15 minutes. It seems that the CS, Knight Sight, and the Mate Exercises in the 6-Circles are paying off. I tried playing on FICS, but they were blitz games that I lost. It seems to me that blitz games depend a lot on opening knowledge. I have knowledge of most classical openings, but in fast games with unorthodox openings, I take too long due to my confusion. I tried to play normal, good moves, but I take too long to think and eventually blunder away a piece. It's very frustrating!!! It may be due to inexperience or a lack of confidence, or maybe I was just tired. Any ideas/contributions regarding how to play under such conditions?????

.5 hr. completed, 6.5 total (rating 1465! on Yahoo)

I did 57 problems.
It's now 482 out of 1533, 1051 to go.