Druss Blog

An account of my attempts to try and improve my chess.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Progress and a game against an IM

Although I'm trying not to think about it and measure progress, I completed level 30 today, scoring 84%. Still reading the books though.

Also, I played a game against an IM on ICC yesterday. I've never played a titled player before, so it was an interesting experience:

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According to Fritz analysis I started drifting off about move 15. Instead of exchanging bishops, I should have noticed that the c3 pawn was pinned to the undefended black queen on c7 and moved by knight to d2.

Then he just outplayed me, winning pawns until I slipped up and let him pin my queen to my king with his rook.

He never seemed to make any amazing moves, just consistently kept on top of the tactics and picked up pieces. I suppose he didn't need to do anything else when he was playing someone as weak as me!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Modifying my approach

In my last post I described how I'm bored with grinding through tactical problems. So I have decided to try and change my approach. I'm not giving up tactical problems, but I'm going to try and incorporate some positional training as well. I will continue to solve tactical problems daily, but I will try to think differently about my goal. My old goal was to solve CT Art problems in seven circles, getting quicker and quicker until I could solve the lot in a day ... as MDLM suggests. But I found this was driving me to grind through problems just for the sake of it, which was no fun and boring. My new approach is to think that I will spend a certain amount of day solving them, but with no long term goal in mind.

Aagaard's new book is interesting, and in a lot of ways is a response to John Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and rule independence. Aagaard claims that there are positional rules, but you have to know when to apply them and when not to. He has some interesting examples (a number of which from Kasparov's games) where he points to a key, single positional move as being the crucial turning point in the game.

I have also bought a couple of Kasparov's DVDs on opening theory ... the Najdorf and the Queens Gambit Declined. Again, it is interesting that Kasparov emphasises key position aspects of the positions. For example, freeing black's light squared bishop in the Najdorf. However, he also emphasises the importance of tactics in the new age of computer chess. Tactics are vital, but so are positional and strategic play.

I'm coming round to thinking of tactics as essential, but not the whole answer. It is as if tactics are like grammar and spelling in a piece of writing. If they are poor then it is rubbish, they are an essential part, but they are not the whole answer.

So what to do?

Well, I will continue with my tactical training as I described. But also I am not going to forget positional play. Partly this will involve finishing reading Aagaard and other similar books, and of course all the Silman ones. But it may involve trying Chess Strategy by Convekta, which I have bought already but not experimented with much. I may even try a seven circles approach with Silman's Reassess Your Chess Workbook and Convekta's Chess Strategy program, but I'll see how it goes.

The other thing I want to try is winning won positions. I want to get an example of a position where some chess books says, "and white has a decisive advantage" and try playing it out with Fritz. Hopefully this will give me a much more intuitive feel for why positional advantages work, and when they don't.

However, one thing I need to think about is what are the positional advantages I want to try and play? What are the key positional advantages? Is there any book out there which lists them?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I've finished the level 10s and 20s for the sixth time, but I didn't enjoy it. I rattled through them fairly quickly, but it was very boring. I find these final stages tedious ... when you are recognising patterns more than calculating. Starting the 30s is a better, but not exactly fun.

So I'm easing off a bit. Not totally taking a break, but planning to do other things as well as just solve CT Art problems.

So ... I bought Excelling at Chess by Jacob Aagaard (mostly because of the Rowson review in New In Chess). He has an interesting sentence in the first chapter:

"I believe that most tournament games are not won by superior calculation or imaginary power, as I used to think, but rather due to superior understanding of the very basics of the game."

Which sounds to me much like strategic rules! Anyway, interesting to find out more what he has to say, and a bit of strategy will be a welcome break from all this tactical calculation.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

6th circle progress

Last week I finished off the erroneous level 30s, which took some time.

I then started again at level 10 for the 6th time. I polished these off in a day, and have started the level 20s. I've completed 187 of these so far, with 99 left to do.

I am solving the level 20s a lot quicker - mostly in under a minute. However I worry that I am just learning these positions. Rather than calculating, I'm thinking, "Oh yes, this problem. I move my knight to g6. Now why do I do that? Oh yes, so that ..." Am I really learning pattern recognition, or am I learning to recognise CT Art problems!

It is also boring going through these low level ones again. I'm scoring about 92% on the level 20s, but I'm not 'solving chess problems' ... more like grinding through hundreds and hundreds of puzzles I've done loads before.

On another note, I discovered how to get a graph of my rating over time from ICC:

(a) is when I first joined ICC and rather ambitiously said my rating was 1400, which was quickly corrected.

(b) was when I started reading up on opening theory

My tactical training started in early 2005. And as you can see the results have been varied. The tactical training seems to have made me more unpredictable - sometimes I play well and rise, and then I can just get into a loosing streak. No definite upward trend however.