Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CC training for OTB

Due to my cuurent job location, I can only play on the internet. At the moment, I am playing CC excusively and actually find it helpful. Why? I play it like a OTB by limiting myself to only 1min/move for the first ten moves and about 3.5 minutes/move for the rest. The crucial point is that after eevry move, I write down in excruciating details what my thought process was -- what checks, captures, threats I considered, what candidate moves I came up with, how I evaluated the postion and played my "best move", etc. This is very revealing as I learn many quirks about my thinking process.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tactics practise time

Interesting observation. I usually practise 10 tactics problem from a book a day usually no more than 10 minutes. Then I logged on to CTS to practise also no more than 10 minutes. What is interesting is that when I practise "material winning" tactics for a week my score on cts goes to 1400. (Note I go for both accuracy and speed on cts; this means I do not blindly play a check or capture if I do not see what is going on.) The following week when I practise "checkmating" tactics, my cts score steadily go to 1300.

Most if not all of the problems on CTS are of the "material winning" kind so it's not surprising that practising the right type of actually leads to improved recognition.

This suggests that I should practise both "material winning" and "checkmating" tactics before OTB play. Since material winning possibilities should generally occur more often, I would actually spend 75% of my time practicing material winning tactics.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Another theme that will be emphasized again and again is prioritization of study material that has the highest probability of being useful in OTB play. This means going through a database of class players' games to discover recurring patterns -- mistakes, opening moves, blunders, etc. We exploit these patterns by maneuvering the position on the board to the most uncomfortable or unfamiliar for our opponents while making sure we can deal with such positions ourselves.

We also analyze our own games to figure out what we should learn. For example, if I always play the sharpest lines of the Pirc or Dutch defenses that result in violent tactical melees ending with checkmates, it may mean that I should spend less time studying endings and more time studying middlegame tactics specific to the Pirc or Dutch setups I usually play. Obviously, a baseline level of chess ending technique must be achieved; we cannot simply abandon phases of a game just because it's unlikely to occur.

It's all about efficiency. We zoom in on the weakest aspects of our game, be it physical, mental, spatial, dynamic, psychological or managerial, improve it and move on. Since my studying time is limited and my goal is lofty, I have to always make sure I am getting the best bang for the buck.

Initial thoughts

Some random thoughts that will be organized more cohesively in the future.

What makes a player's OTB rating surge and go through the roof in an efficient way?
  • must be mentally and physically fit
  • must have excellent OTB management skills
  • must study and apply material that occurs frequently OTB
  • must have fun
A few words about OTB management skills; these include time management, stress management, fatigue management, clear understanding of USCF rules, and even the training that enables a player to peak at the right time for a series of OTB games. Clearly, these skills can potentially add hundreds of rating points to a class player. I am banking on a +450 from OTB skills and another +450 from study to achieve a USCF rating of 2200.

Friday, November 10, 2006

My swashbuckling journey to chess masterhood

I recently got interested in chess again and am amazed by the plethora of chess improvement blogs. There is of course no shortage of techniques, schemes or plans both on and off the web that promise fast chess improvement.

I have decided to create my own plan. My primary goal is simple -- reach an OTB rating of 2200 within a year and prove it by playing in a major tournament like the World Open. My secondary goal is to have fun along the way and to gain an appreciation of the beauty of the game. This immediately excludes the soul-less training techniques of studying tactics until one goes crazy.

I will elaborate on my strategy in the next few posts. But as an example, when I study openings I will spend 50/35/15% of my time on the English, Pirc and Dutch. Why? A simple database search shows that 60~70% of class players play e4; therefore I spend more time preparing the Pirc than the Dutch. Note that these openings are less mainstream; by choosing the next few moves carefully, I ensure that my opponents get out of their book knowledge quickly. This not only cuts down on study time but give me a tremendous advantage since I would have gone through GM games to learn typical middle and end game strategies and tactics in these somewhat offbeat openings.