Sunday, July 10, 2016

1900 and counting (games #45 & #46).

It's amazing how much time passes between blog posts.  A month after my 2-year anniversary post in April, I finished another tournament and broke 1900.  It's a bit strange to me that my new rating floor is 200 points higher than a rating I struggled to get away from a year ago.  I think the most amazing thing is I picked up 260 elo playing only ~30 rated games.   It's like I hit a switch and started playing much better chess.  I hope that switch stays on.

I haven't done any chess since then, which is about 2 months.  I had planned on taking a break in preparation for my summer chess schedule.  I can't help but feel like I didn't get done nearly as much study as I would've liked.  I still haven't done a tactics puzzle since December.  I did spend a couple of weeks on ChessGym with their Attackers and Defenders games.   30 minutes a day for 8-10 days got me 6th on both ranking lists.  It's a fun little diversion, but I doubt it has much value after that 10 days.

I might play in the Millionaire Chess Open this year, since they actually realized that no one wants to spend $1500 to enter a tournament on top of hotel and airfare to a desert in the middle of nowhere (Las Vegas).  This year's tournament is in Atlantic City, NJ.  The vast majority of active chess players are in the NYC-PA area and this location will be much more convenient.  I expect them to actually break 1,000 entrants this year and have a successful tournament.

With that in mind, I've picked out 5 weekend tournaments I want to play in between now and then, plus a one month rest period before the MCO.  I hope to play well enough to break 2000 by my last tournament which actually falls on the weekend of my birthday.  That would be a nice present to myself.  That would mean ~2.5 years to go from 1000 to 2000 rating.

And now for the last two games I played before my break.  Game #45 is typical of the type of success I see in the Queen's Gambit Modern Exchange.   I have a completely winning game by move 20.  I have enough experience in this line now that I see the ideas very quickly and don't waste a lot of time on the clock.  He made me work to get the full point, but there was only one point from there when I thought like I had made a hasty mistake, but it turns out I didn't.

Game #46 is another Carlsbad structure, this time in the Nimzo-Indian.  I've never played this line before.  I spent a couple of days back in early/mid April looking for a new system in the Rubinstein Nimzo, and decided to go with this setup since it seemed similar to how I play in the QGD.  But I hadn't looked at it since.  This game didn't really follow any of the model games I looked at past move 10 or so.  I was able to figure out some of the theory differences over the board and ended with a promising position.  After a couple of moves hesitating, I break open the kingside on move 16.  After what he probably thought were some harmless exchanges, he sees he's losing the exchange after my 22nd move.  I believe I saw this idea at least by move 17/18.  From there its mostly work to get the rest of my forces coordinated and bring home the win.  I ended up missing some easier wins on the way to making the 30 move time control, but still found ways to keep his position under pressure.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Games #38, #39, #40, #41, #42, #43, #44

It's been a very long time since I've posted annotated games on a regular basis on the blog.  All of these have been played since my return to OTB chess in December.

Game #38 displays one of my favorite things I like doing lately: sacrificing the exchange for the two bishops, especially if I can pick up a pawn.  I was sleep walking through the opening then realized I put myself in a bad position where I was losing a pawn and decided on the sacrifice to imbalance the game.  It worked out rather well.  So much for the idea that tactical positions should be avoided against juniors!

Game #39 was a queenless middlegame that should've been a crazy tactical middlegame, but my opponent chose a safer route that avoided any complications.   Very surprising decision coming from a junior. After a very equal and difficult maneuvering stage, the position became very tactical and my opponent didn't respond well.

Game #40 features yet another exchange sacrifice for me.  This wasn't a very well played game by either side as it was a rapid (G30) time control, but my final tactic was pretty.  This was also my first win over a class A player in a very long time.

Game #41 is a continuation on a previous theme.  Expert plays Dutch against me.  Expert loses.   (See December 13, 2015 post for this same result). Move 14 is a nice positional move with a tactical justification my opponent overlooked.  Score one for reading over annotated master games for your opening prep.  After winning material, I was relentless in pressing my advantage, shutting down all counterplay and leaving him no option but resignation.  This was a nice turnaround from previous encounters with experts where I blew a won game and lost.

Game #42 is another exchange sacrifice that was sadly declined by my opponent.  Later analysis confirms not only was my offer 100% correct, but I should've continued to offer it the next move as well.  We end up in an equal queen endgame that my opponent doesn't play well and I win rather quickly.

Game #43 was part of my club championship against an opponent I had lost to twice in rapid games.   I had come prepared with some fresh ideas in his line of the Nimzo, but that turned out to be a waste of time.  We ended up in a Saemisch KID, which I haven't studied in a long time, but I remembered some good lessons from Ward's book.  Once the position opened up and became tactical, my opponent chose to greedily snatch a pawn,only to find his king under fire.

Game #44 was played as part of another club championship that is still going.  I get Black in the Re1 variant of the Berlin endgame. My opponent quickly moves to trade off queens followed by heavy pieces, hoping to outplay me in this endgame.   Around move 35 I became worried that my position might be busted, but I was never that badly off.  A tactical miscue by my opponent turns a draw into a win for me.

No instructive draws or losses here, just some nice wins that I'm proud of.  In fact, losses have been hard to come by!  I figured I should follow the munich plan of never losing.   I am very happy at the mental toughness I've displayed in these games.

Friday, April 22, 2016

2 year anniversary

I've been meaning to make some blog posts since my last one, but I kept finding a good reason to wait.  Now I've found a good reason to finally post.

April 13th, 2014 I made a 2-hour drive to play my first games of chess after a 17-year layoff.  I didn't play or study chess in that interval except for the few months leading up to that first tournament.  I finally knew how to study chess properly though (I thought). I had 20 online games between ICC and under my belt.  2 weeks and 9 games later, I was the new owner of a shiny 1400 rating and had gained 400 points over my old scholastic rating.  6 months later I broke 1600 (class B) for the first time and 1700 pretty much a week later.

Around that time, I was really becoming aware of just how much tactical training I was doing and the mental toll it was taking.  I had read over 1000 annotated master games and done about 20,000 tactics repetitions.  I wanted to take a break, but I kept forcing myself to keep at it.  So many near misses against 1900 and 2000 players meant another big jump had to be coming.  Thankfully, a job change forced me to end my first year of "real"chess.   I stopped training entirely, but made the bad decision twice to try to sneak in some tournaments despite my hectic work schedule.  It didn't end well and my rating dipped down to 1640.  Not terrible, but frustrating.  We all like to see the arrow pointing up, not down.

Finally my work situation improved and I was able to make the chess comeback I had been hoping for.  I started training and blogging again in October.  My emphasis was on mainly doing what I had done before, but in much smaller amounts and on harder subject material.  I didn't want to feel burned out and unmotivated to play chess.   I tried to limit it to no more than 1 hour a day. No more driving straight to the club after work, followed by getting home at 10:30 and doing 2 hours of tactics.  No more driving 2 hours to play in a quad chasing rating points because I was *so close* to getting a new rating high.  No, I am going to let chess come to me.

I started playing OTB chess again in December.  I had some very good results, but I didn't feel they were worth blogging about.  I pretty much stopped all chess training in the middle of January.  I felt I was playing very good chess and I didn't want to spoil it.

So now, just about on my 2-year anniversary I've hit a new all-time ratings high of 1869.  +850 over my rating when I first started.  I haven't played a lot of chess in this time.  Only 23 rated games since December.   8 of those games are against class A/expert players and I have a +5 -3 =0 record, with 2 of those losses being in rapid games (+1 -2 =0 against class A/expert in rapid games).

I don't intend to "chase the dragon" trying to get those next 30 then 100 rating points.  I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing at the pace I've been doing it.  I'm hoping to have some more good news in about 4 weeks time, when my next club championship wraps up.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A quick look back before going forward

I will be back to regularly playing OTB games very soon (I think).

Two and a half months of intensive blitz tactics practice has given way to a month of longer calculation exercises and deeper study of some annotated master games.  I've cut Chess Tempo down to duplicates only on a daily basis so I have more time and energy for the other study.

Before moving forward, I wanted to post my two best wins from my previous cycle as encouragement (and to show off of course).

If I could've consistently converted my other winning games against 2000+ competition, I would've had an outstanding first quarter of 2015.  I probably should do a series on those as it could prove useful in the future.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tactics improvement in 2 graphs

I've blogged previously about my long chess break from February to September and how it appears that break did me good.  I was messing around with some more Chess Tempo output and decided to graph my non-duplicate accuracy and average solve time by problem rating.

There definitely seems to be about a 3% accuracy increase and 5 second speed increase.

Maybe there is a case for taking regular long breaks with chess playing/training?  Recently I came up with the idea of breaking my chess into seasons, just like sports.

Off season: Do nothing (maybe light annotated games reading and some Bain level tactics)
Pre-season: Lots of new hard training (Yusupov, non-duplicate CT problems), lots of reading and LTC training games at ICC.
In-season: Lots of OTB, "maintenance" training only (just keeping up with repetitions?)

So how long should each phase be?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Still in the saddle

Nothing too earth shattering or important here, I just wanted to get in the habit of updating the blog regularly.  I decided I wanted to dive into my Chess Tempo stats a little more since I completed an entire calendar month of tactics on 10/31.

I ended up doing exactly 2,700 tactics for the month of October with 552 non-duplicates.  That represents the second most amount of tactics I've ever done in a month (December '14 with 2,743) and the third most amount of non-duplicates in a month.  Of course, it was much easier to do non-duplicates when I was first getting started.  Every day I have a several custom sets I go through.  I always do at least 20 problems from each set.  If the amount of scheduled problems is more than 20, I just do the scheduled problems.  If it's less than 20, I do new problems until I've done 20 in that set.

Instead of looking at my performance stats by custom set, I decided to break them down individually by the motif I was training.  This means I get the motif stats across any custom sets.  Since there can be a lot of overlap in tags, it's not uncommon for me to get lots of pins in my mate in 2 set, or distraction motifs in my "Decoys" set.

I broke the stats into 3 phases:

  1. Beginning (any problem I did up until 12-31-2014)
  2. Break (any problem I did up until 2-28-2015)
  3. Return (any problem I've done since 9-1-2015)
The percentages represent the % of problems I got correct in 15 seconds or less with that motif.  Since some of the motifs have such a small sample size, I decided not to include all of them.

CORE (1200-1600 rating)
Distraction 40.5% 38.6% 32.3%
Fork 42.7% 41.0% 42.9%
Pin 48.5% 45.5% 48.9%
DECOY (1200-1600 rating)
Attraction 53.3% 52.3% 54.8%
Clearance 48.7% 43.2% 49.4%
Coercion 42.0% 40.2% 44.7%
With the exception of the distraction motif, they all follow the same pattern.  
  1. Initial good stats at a time when I'm in the groove for tactical training.
  2. Significant dropoff right before I take a break from heavy training.
  3. Noticeable increase over my best performance even after a long break.
I also chose a motif that I've never specifically trained before, but consider it be important.

Discovered Attack 32.5% 29.3% 33.3%
It follows the same pattern as the other motifs.

What does it all mean?  Who knows.  I just hope I don't get burnt out again since these numbers seem promising.