Sunday, February 8, 2015

Yusupov Fundamentals - Book 1, Week 2

Continuing to make progress in the Yusupov training manual.  Some of these lessons are extremely difficult for me.  Not surprising that I'm very strong in the tactics/endgame chapters so far.  Very, very weak in playing for piece activity, initiative.

On the anecdotal side, I think this and the Crouch book are helping me some.  I was doing some game analysis with Laurent and a few others and I was able to come up with some aggressive/winning lines in the games that were very inspired by material I've covered in those books.  I mentioned previously that I also considered Khmelnitsky's book. One thing I like is he has specific training recommendations for each subject.  As it turns out, he recommends the Crouch book for Class A/B players to improve their ability to attack.  So perhaps I'm on the right path.

Chapter 8 - Centralizing the pieces is much like chapter 3 on "basic opening principles".  What sounds like a pretty easy chapter is actually a very difficult one on piece activity and the initiative.  And just like chapter 3, I bombed the end of chapter exam, scoring only 4/27.  Most of the problems are 2 or 3 star (very difficult). It certainly wasn't for lack of effort as I was considering multiple candidates and taking the entire 15 minutes on each problem.  Sometimes I was close, but missed the right idea and several I had no real clue.  I'm sure some of the moves I chose were fine, but they clearly weren't what was needed of the position. Of the 12 problems, 5 required you to play like Fischer and 4 required you to play like Rubinstein.  Oh, is that all? :)

Chapter 9 - Mate in 2 is another misleading name.  The goal here is to be able to calculate 3 ply accurately.  Seems easy enough, right?  All the lessons and exam questions are compositions.  None of the positions would be relevant in an actual game.  I personally hate this type of training and I almost skipped the chapter halfway through, but I decided to stick with it.  I was pretty terrible in the example portion, but did much better with the end of chapter exam, scoring 7/12 which was enough for a pass with a point to spare.  All of the problems are 1-star (easy), but most of them took me the full 15 minutes to solve.  Like any composition, there is only 1 winning move, but you have to accurately see all of Black's replies and your reply to get credit.  One problem had 16 variations!

Can you find all 16?

Chapter 10 - The opposition is what is says it is for once.   Since it's K+P endgame related, I went in with high expectations.  If you've ever done Pandolfini's Endgame Course, many of the examples would be familiar to you.  Most of the exercises are practical compositions that you'd find in a real game.  A mix of difficulty, including the first 4-star problem I've ever seen.  The problems are hard but fair.  On some problems, you have to see various tries by your opponent to pull off a swindle.  In hindsight, it makes a lot of sense to place this chapter right after the previous one which required lots of actual calculation.  More of the same, but easier since the problems are practical.  I scored 21/26 on the exam and got at least partial credit on each problem.  My previous study helped, but it wasn't a walk in the park either.

Chapter 11 - The pin is another chapter on tactics.  I found this one slightly harder than the previous tactics lessons, but not particularly hard if you've done serious tactics training before.  I only bothered setting up 2 of the positions on the board as I was able to spot the right idea quickly from the diagram and work through the variations.  I scored 19/21 on the chapter exam, missing only 1 question which had a pretty idea I'd never seen elsewhere.  Not surprising, this one was a composition and not from an actual game.  Practical nonetheless.

Chapter 12 - The double attack is the 6th chapter on tactics.    I consider this one easier than the chapter on pins.  A couple of the examples are from compositions, but all of the exercises are from actual games.  I did all but 1 of the chapter exercises from my head and didn't need more than 5 minutes for them.  At least 4 of the exercises I've seen elsewhere.  I scored 15/17 missing 1 question.  It was odd because it was a problem I've seen before in Ivaschenko 1b (I think).  Something in the back of my mind was telling me that there was a flaw with the obvious solution.  Then I noticed that the end of my variation was losing, so I modified that.  Problem was, it was my first move that was the issue.  I know I made that same mistake previously when training the problem before.

It's the halfway point of book 1!

Some quick stats on the book and my performance this far:
The book is 6/12 tactics, 2/12 endgame, 1/12 calculating variations, 1/12 strategy, 1/12 positional play, 1/12 openings.    Heavy on tactics, with a little bit of everything else sprinkled in.  Looks like the training you'd get doing lots of tactics and reading annotated master games to cover the other stuff which is what I've been recommending to others.

I've been keeping track of my scores in a spreadsheet (of course!) and have been rating the chapter exercises as gold (excellent), silver (good), bronze (pass) and red (fail).

4/12 gold
3/12 silver
1/12 bronze
4/12 red

Yusupov recommends redoing any chapters you failed and I've kept up with that recommendation, going so far as to do it a 3rd time a few days after to make sure I still have it down.  Amateurs practice until they get it right, experts practice until they can't get it wrong.

Chapter 13 - Realizing a material advantage is the 2nd on positional play.  The main ideas are how to force favorable trades into a simple winning endgame by attacking with your extra material.  Also a good lesson on giving some of the material back to simplify and stop counterplay.  Almost all of the exercises here come from Yusupov's own games.  Two of the exercises are from a Capablanca game I've seen before although I don't recall exactly which annotated games collection I read it from.  I managed 12/22 points, which was good enough for a pass.

I'm getting through this book much quicker than I thought, although I'm not rushing.  The chapters I had trouble with take me 2-3 hours to complete, but most I'm able to complete in an hour or less.   I really like how he mixes up the objective from chapter to chapter which keeps the lessons from feeling repetitive.  It's also nice that I'm able to regain some motivation after a tough chapter with an easier one on endgames or tactics.


  1. My dear friend

    As you previously posted - you are going to work out (study) ALL Jusupov's book training course (9 books). You may be sure that after studying this series SERIOUSLY you will look at chess from different perspective. Of course the practice of the knowledge you are studying will be a key factor.

    1. Orange is designed to get U1500 players to 1800 - most players rated 1500-1600 complain that they are not able to work out all the chapters and excercises. It is believed that 1700-1900 players may be able to solve MOST (but not all!) of these chapters.

    2. Blue is designed to get U1800 players to 2100. I would rather say - "1950-2150" rating pool (group).

    3. Green is designed to U2100 players to master level. The same with this "mini-series". Some people who (studied these books) were 2150-2200 said that many puzzles were really quite difficult ones. A few Fide Masters said that some of the puzzles were hard even to them!

    Now to the point. Do not worry if you will not be able to solve most (all?!) of the chapters and puzzles at the first attempt. If you are SERIOUS to challenge yourself to achieve (solid) A-class level - you should obligatory repeat "red" score unless you achieve "bronze". Once you improve your understanding (and score) to the bronze - do whatever is needed to get to the "silver level". Why I recommend such an approach? It is because you will be forced to fill the gaps in some time, but NOW it will be more efficient as you can think over a lot of (hard) ideas and fill your holes (in knowledge) much better. And if you dream about reaching an EXPERT level (2150 or better) - you HAVE TO have quite high level of skills and abilities. ONLY "silver" and "gold" levels are able to quarantee this.

    I have avoided most uncomfortable part of chess knowledge. And guess what? It was one of the key reason why I was not able to reach A-class level. I hope you will not repeat my mistakes. Chess is difficult enough and as you noticed very well: "Amateurs practice until they get it right, experts practice until they can't get it wrong". What level do you choose - expert or amateur one? It is of course up to you, but be aware why there are many millions of amateurs and just thousands of experts and masters.

    BTW. You inspired me to look inside those books. When I have some free time (and willingness) - I will try to check out the same chapters as you have already done and compare what my level will be. I have just a few of Jusupov's books series, but I want to give it a shot to see how difficult they would be to my person. Keep up great work :)

  2. If you are interested about my journey to the 2000 level (A-class) - and what were the reasons I failed - you can read it here (in Polish, but probably you can translate it with Google Translator or something similar tools).

    The link to my failure (final explanatory text with reasons why I will not succeeded) is here:

    And I wanted to say something about this "problem with 16 variations" it is really important one. Why? Because at B and A-class levels you will be FORCED to find unusual solutions. And if you solve such puzzles - your horizons of vision is going to broaden. It is not the overnight process, but after a few (2, 3 maybe 5 or 10?) thousands of attempts (trials) you will catch the solutions IMMEDIATELY. What's more? You will be able to see the tricks and traps inside the specific problems.

    How do I know that? It is because I tested what are the skills and level of play the players rated 1200-1700. I played about 5 thousand of blitz games (at FICS). Stronger players play better because they are not JUST better at tactics, but they are playing quite strong moves - based on "unusual solutions" if I can say that. If they get into the trap they estimate and count the best solution very fast (in comparison to the players rated 300-500 rating points weaker). And I could save my chess life many times - due to some specific unusual solutions - especially against players who thought they outplayed me just because they took me a pawn of the piece.

  3. Fascinating read !

    I think the mates in 2 have some value to train visualization, but also falsification skills (in chess you shouldn't take anything for granted)

  4. Do you have a post where you describe your approach for reviewing annotated games? I.e., at the board vs just reading the book, how much time do you spend per game, do you try to predict moves, how you've chosen the games to review, etc.

    1. I haven't done a post like that, but I probably should since I've been asked several times.

  5. Great blog. I have very much enjoyed reading your posts, and I agree about mate in 2 positions. I would note though that the calculations are actually four ply deep, not three...after your second move (3 ply) you still have to check whether your opponent has any defensive replies (4 ply)!!