Chapter 14 - Open files and Outposts is the second on "Strategy" with the first being the infamous Chapter 8 (Centralizing the pieces) which I bombed. Would this be more of the same? I ended up doing this chapter over the course of 2 days as I had some time constraints. I read over the examples and worked each problem for 5 minutes. The ones I couldn't get I saved for the next day. I ended up making this chapter a little harder than it needed to be, as many of the exercises are pretty straight forward taking the title into consideration. Maybe I was just having an off day or trying too hard. Geller, Taimanov and Karpov games made up the bulk of the exercises, with the first two even being featured against each other twice. Karpov - Unzicker, 1974 was particularly noteworthy and well worth the price of admission. I scraped by with a 10/20 which was enough for a pass. I got points on 9/12 exercises, but a few too many partial credits for lesser ideas or incomplete lines was enough to keep my score down. Still better than last time.
Chapter 15 - Combinations is tactics, but it felt more like a calculating variations objective as there were no cookie cutter motifs on display although problem 15-6 featured a nice distraction motif threat that had to be avoided in several variations. Had I not recognized that pattern, I wouldn't have found the first move which is the type you'd filter from your candidates because it looks to just hang a piece. Speaking of which, I feel like I'm not being efficient with my OTB play when it comes to building a list of candidate moves that includes ALL checks, captures and threats. It seems like I just turn a filter on at times and don't look at moves that superficially might lose material, but end up being pseudo sacrifices. I made it a point to write down every check the problem contained before analyzing, starting with the ones that looked most promising. That's what I should be doing in my games and using exercises like this for practice seems like the right idea. Back to the exercises, I scored 18/22 for a good, missing excellent by just 1 point. I completely overlooked a simple recapture being with check in one problem. In another, I missed the mate at ply 5 and had a variation that went out 10 ply to deliver the mate only to overlook a defensive move that blew up the entire idea. Gotta do CCT not just on the initial move, but the successive ones as well. :) I was really worried about how I'd do in this chapter, since tactical motifs is relatively easy, but having to calculate accurately and concretely can be difficult.
A pretty combination.
Speaking of calculation, a quick shout out to Dan Forbes's excellent chess blog which seems almost completely dedicated to that idea. I particularly liked the notes he shared from his Stoyko exercises, which have been on my "I'm going to do this soon" list for months now. It seems like he was very focused on repetitive training of counting material, king safety, piece activity and doing a CCT check among other things. I feel like that's the sort of thing that could help make that second nature during actual games. I intend to read his blog from start to finish and I will definitely be
Chapter 16 - Queen against pawn is the 3rd on endgames. Readers of Silman's endgame book will have a nice head start on this chapter. I read over the examples twice before doing the chapter exercises and the time was well spent. 5/12 problems are 3-stars and require good analysis to solve, complete with alternate lines. Again, the extra time I put in unlocking the mysteries of the examples helped a lot. My solution to problem 12 was 20 ply! I was continuously looking for improvements in the line, but kept coming to the same (correct!) conclusion. Yusupov's solution is 13-ply, so I was definitely on the right track with all the time I put into this problem. I finished with 22/29 for a good rating. I felt this chapter was difficult and was very pleased to have done so well.
20 ply? That's some good toilet paper!
Chapter 17 - Stalemate motifs was the final chapter for my week 3 training. About half of the examples and exercises from this chapter are from studies. Unlike some other tactics chapters, all the problems were completely new to me. 3/4th of the exercises are 1-star and I didn't feel like this chapter was as difficult as others. I was able to do all but 2 from my head. I scored 14/15 for an excellent rating.
Each series is supposed to be a year of study, so that's four months per book. At this rate, I will probably be finished all three after the 4th month. I'm certainly enjoying the journey to this point. Overall this book has been a good mix of difficulty and has forced me to roll up my sleeves and analyze accurately. It's uncovered several weaknesses and I've been working on improving them. I hope this starts translating to my OTB play soon.