Sunday, June 12, 2005

Day 167 - Feeling Good

Yesterday I played 4 games on FICS and emerged with 3 wins, 1 loss, and a 1648 rating. I played well and also met another player that I should be able to play with regularly. In one of my games, I reached an endgame in which there were opposite-colored bishops and I was up to pawns. To queen one of my pawns, I had to sacrifice a bunch of my pawns and maneuver my king and bishop correctly. It was pretty exciting. It seems that everyone is doing well and improving slowly but surely.


I was thinking about thought processes (no pun intended):

Levels of Progress and Thought Processes in Chess

At its heart, chess is a game between two players, each trying to checkmate their opponent's king. To do so, they must make use of goals, plans, and tactics. At this simplistic level, chess is basically a contest of wills, each player implementing simple plans. These plans are often very simple, but as a player progresses they may become more strategically complex; it can use numerous "imbalances" or just a few simple blunder-checks. As a chess player develops, they realize that the opponent also has a plan. The chess player now can incorporate propholactic and defensive moves into his game, hoping to stifle his opponent's plan, if that plan is worth stopping. This chess player can't forget his own plan if he wishes to succeed. Additionally, the player will develop a certain style of play, favoring attack or defense, open or closed positions, etc. At this point, it is likely that the player will hit a rating "plateau". He may wish to join the Knights Errant (You never know!!!) on their MDLM quest, or he may choose to read books, buy software, and play online chess. Either way, he will likely try to develop a thinking process. Ending this highly-forced, terrible narrative, I have several questions:

Should a thought process mirror the (ideal) progress of a chess player: from simple to complex?

Should a plan be "idea" oriented, "imbalance" oriented, or "blunder-check/list" oriented?

Should a player's plan/thought-process mirror or fit his style?

What is the best way to escape the rating plateau?

Would an evaluation of a player's strengths and weaknesses help him to get past the rating plateau?

If any of the knights respond to these questions, I would be very grateful (and thanks for reading the atrocious story).


At 4:26 AM, Blogger Temposchlucker said...

At the moment I have reached a vicious circle.
The way I play I get a complex game.
I don't spot all the threats of the enemy fast enough because it is so complex. To tackle that I should train a very specific sort of chessproblems.

What happens next:
Because I overlook threats now and then, my plans become useless everytime.
Because I have trained so much tactics already, I usually succeed in damage control by tactical creativity.
Because I every now and then during a game come in a position I haven't foreseen, and which I have to solve, I come in time trouble.

In time trouble is the first thing you have to let drop is a thinking process.

So what can I do about it?
First I can try to get a set of trainingproblems that exactly helps me to learn the patterns I usually miss. This requires a vast amount of research first, which I am doing at the moment during about 10% of my studytime.

Second I can try to change my style and head for more simple positions.
Because I have to learn endgames anyway, I have decided that now is a good moment. So for study reasons I have to adapt my style already. This means a vast amount of research to find a suitable openingsrepertoire.

I focus for 90% on the second option.

I hope you can distill some sort of answer to your questions out of this.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Mousetrapper said...

GK, your questions are exactly the stuff I am working about now. My thoughts are not yet ready to be posted, but I hope soon they will be. For the moment I just have posted the history of my MDLM experience and what I got from it.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger bahus said...

a) Should a thought process mirror the (ideal) progress of a chess player: from simple to complex?

To my mind the thought process does mirror players current skills. I would event argue that a chess player's playing strength is just as good as his/hers thought process. Thought process is not just about doing a blunder check but also finding the right plan and the moves to execute it with. Usually lower rated players 1.) choose poor candidate moves by not considering the opponents most likely next move and 2.) hang pieces because not doing a conscious "sanity check" (thus it can never become unconscious). Anyway I don’t think that chess at below 2000 is very complex so one might go quite far with very rudimentary thought process. In the introduction to HTRYC J. Silman tells a tale of a Joe Everyman with poor thought process that reaches class A only to be really stuck. Silman proposes that this man is already almost out of any human help as his fundamentals are so twisted. I would argue that thought process is a path from simple to complex and it is hard to teach a class E-D player a thought process of an IM. I’m currently re-reading Silman’s books and in many positions I see right moves and ideas simply because my board vision has greatly improved by doing tactical exercises – certain squares just look right for a horsey or a bishop feels awesome on a long open diagonal.

b) Should a plan be "idea" oriented, "imbalance" oriented, or "blunder-check/list" oriented?

Jeremy Silman presents in his books an "idea" orientated thought process (imbalances etc). In some beginners books I've read and in Dan Heisman's columns (Novice Nook and especially Thinking Caps) the emphasis is in doing a conscious checklist on every move until this becomes unconscious. Personally I've never REALLY tried the former but (un)successfully the latter. I simply try to find the best candidate move, this usually involves a certain aim where I'm heading (or in a bad position just trying my hardest not to lose!) but more often than not I play without a proper long term plan. Lately I've noticed that I take my opponent much more into consideration than before, this change has happened quite unconsciously. Perhaps it has something to do with trying to incorporate a blunder check on every move (although at times I still fail in this).

c.) Should a player's plan/thought-process mirror or fit his style?

Again I think this is usually the case. However, you get further with a good thought process and a reckless attack than just the reckless attack. Probably the better chess players have surprisingly similar thought process - they see the obvious threats but may handle them differently. A careful player may choose a solid defending move to counter a threat, another player chooses to play bigger threat to counter the previous one (in some sense Fritz plays excellent prophylactic moves "Oh you threat to take my queen, well I threat to mate you in 10!").

d.) What is the best way to escape the rating plateau?

Here is a good article on rating plateau. I guess every chess player goes through stages of fairly rapid improvement and plateauing. Before I started to do tactical exercises I was definitely stuck on a rating plateau, so remedy is probably 1.) learning more and 2.) finding out if you're continously repeating the same mistakes.

e.) Would an evaluation of a player's strengths and weaknesses help him to get past the rating plateau?

Definitely! I think this kind of evaluation has to be the starting point; to personally find out exactly what are the reasons keeping one self from improving. Your chess games show exactly how good your thought process is. Problem might be putting repeatedly pieces en prise (start to do a conscious blunder check) or missing tactical opportunities (practice tactics). I believe the biggest plateau is when one hits the Expert rank, games might be lost without a real blunder that deserves a double question mark so finding out how to improve is becomes more difficult (I'm still trying to get past the 1800 mark so I don't really know).


- bahus

At 11:41 PM, Blogger Pawn Sensei said...

Wow, that's some post bahus. I especially like the Silman quote. Here's my take.

a) Should a thought process mirror the (ideal) progress of a chess player: from simple to complex?

Not necessarily. But important is to use a good thought process as soon as possible and try to use it in every game if time permits. The thought process can be tweaked at a later date, but as bahus said, if you don't start with a standard then it will be very hard to fix down the road.

b) Should a plan be "idea" oriented, "imbalance" oriented, or "blunder-check/list" oriented?

All of the above. Seriously. Put those in order of importance then go from there. If there is a major tactic coming your way, ideas don't mean nothing.

c.) Should a player's plan/thought-process mirror or fit his style?

Not under 2000 I would think. Main thing is to get ONE in the first place. Once you get it down you can start tweaking it to your style. Using Heisman's articles would be a good place to start for a generic one.

d.) What is the best way to escape the rating plateau?

Heheheh. Different for each person.

e.) Would an evaluation of a player's strengths and weaknesses help him to get past the rating plateau?

Do you annotate all of your games? If not, this would be a good place to start. What's that? Takes too much time? Exactly.

At 5:49 AM, Blogger Mousetrapper said...

And here is my checklist. Note that this is a should be for me, else my rating would be several hundred points higher.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger fussylizard said...

Overall, I quite like MDLM's proposed thought process. First, you always need to focus on the basics like checking the checks, captures, and threats, paying attention to your opponent's last move, not making an obvious tactical blunder, etc. I think until you can do this, keep your plans simple like MDLM's (basically keep the queens on the board, trade off pawns, etc...basically keep the game as tactical as possible).

Initially a "checklist" type thought process will be helpful/required until you begin to follow the checklist by habit and/or gain sufficient experience to know what steps of the checklist can be skipped or modified in each particular position.

Once the basics become automatic, then one can start incorporating more advanced concepts as long as they don't distract you from the basics.

Sure a checklist-type process will be tedious, but there is a reason airline pilots use a checklist to prep a plane prior to takeoff, even after having taken off many times...

At 11:48 AM, Blogger BlueEyedRook said...

"What is the best way to escape the rating plateau?"

Sandbagging.... letting your rates intentionally drop only to triumphly climb back to once they were.

Just joking... seriously, I wish I could help. I think the 7 Circles Program is a good idea. I am going to be starting soon. I'll let you know how it works out.


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