Sunday, December 30, 2007

New beginnings

I've taken a break from chess this Christmas season due to busy scheduling, family, and other emotional(and physical) changes that are going on. First and foremost, I'd like to say that I'm now engaged! I popped the big question Christmas Eve in front of my whole family. It was a beautiful moment in time and we've set a date: March 29, 2008. I'm very excited for this! At first we were going to wait till after the baby was born, but we've come to the conclusion that it would be better for the baby and for us, to get married before he/she is born.

Also, thanks to the help of the Microsoft Outlook 2007's Calender, I've got every single day planned out for the first circle of the Seven Circles. Today is my official first day of the Seven Circles(being that i've started over due to going too quickly through the problems). I've done the suggested 33 problems today. I game myself an hour to finish the 33 problems; I told myself I would take longer to try to figure out the solutions to the problems but I found they were just too easy. I solved all 33 problems in 5 minutes, 47 seconds with 98% accuracy. I think I've done quite well for the first day! Now it's time to study my material from the International Chess School(with which I've also decided to start over to get a more structured study plan).

My wife-to-be has also been kind enough to buy me "Just The Facts!" by GM Lev Alburt as my Christmas gift. I may have to adjust my study schedule to fit this book in! For those who are unaware of the book, it's an endgame book with new revolutionary visual teaching techniques (highlighted material, different colored diagrams, etc). I look forward to using this book very soon being that I love endgame studies!

Under the influence of several Knights, I've added my current rating status on the toolbar to the right for those of you who are actually interested in my progress.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Reading

I've taken a break from my studies so far this Holiday season. It, however, has not been completely counterproductive since I have found myself reading several amazing contributions to chess literature. Thus far I have found myself finishing "King's Gambit: A Father, A Son, And The World's Most Dangerous Game" as well as Garry Kasparov's "How Life Imitates Chess". Both books were very inspiring and I will give brief reviews about them shortly but first I want to say that I went out and added three more books to my collection:

1) The Kings Of New York

2) Play The Grunfeld

3) Rapid Chess Improvement

That last one might confuse some of you, being that I know all about the Seven Circles and such. Truth is, I've never owned the actual book and figured I would add it to my library. I really look forward to reading "The Kings Of New York" as it should be very similar to "King's Gambit" and Kasparov's book. Expect to see some reviews soon.

Now on to my progress with the circles. I've decided that I'm going to start over. I was moving much too quickly through the problems without putting real thought into the positions and now that I have a concrete study plan that I can follow, I'll start from the beginning. I probably won't be posting till after Jesus-day so I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Carter vs. McRoberts

Holly McRoberts, a respectable chess player in New Mexico, is willing to let me challenge her to a match. There are no details yet as to how many rounds but I'm assuming there will be at the minimum, 3 rounds. She's a strong player who, in my eyes and in the eyes of many others, is highly underrated. I hope I fair well against such a strong opponent. I'll keep ya posted with more details soon!

Laughing stock of the neighborhood...

Well I now have my provisional rating for long games. It's highly embarrassing. Based on one rated game, my rating is 793!!! I've never even had a rating that low on the internet and I consistently beat Class B/A players all the time. I guess it just comes down to the games being rated. Of course, this is based on one loss to a really low rated player. Perhaps I had a bad day that day.

Obviously we all know I'm much stronger than a measly 793. It shows in the fact that I've recently checkmated a 1604 player in 15 moves, and defeat a 1547 player as well. I don't know, but I hope my next encounter OTB in a rated game will be much better.

Till next time...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Progress in the making.

First off, I want to start by giving thanks to those who have given me a warm welcome into the Knights Errant. I hope to get to know you all better in my journey to expert rating.

I may be moving just a tad bit too fast in my circles program. I'm not even finished with my first week in the Seven Circles and I've already completed 215 problems from CT-ART with a total accuracy percentage of 70%. I don't think this will help me improve since it is not a concrete way to improve and to drill things in one's mind. I may start over from scratch starting next week but we'll see how things go.

I went to my local club last night and disposed of a 1547 USCF player in a long game and two 1800+ players in blitz. I felt proud of myself that I am actually learning something from the circles program and I've barely just started. After my victories, a few of the gentlemen and myself got into discussion about tactics training and I showed them the de la Maza way. Some of the older and experienced players laughed and shunned it off; saying that it doesn't help your chess. "Only experience and intuition is the road to success" was their argument. I thought hard about it for several seconds and counterattacked with the fact that doing the seven circles builds experience and intuition MUCH faster than anything they've ever done. The experience comes from you seeing thousands of positions and the intuition comes from concrete pattern recognition, allowing you to spot wild tactics in almost any position. After presenting this to my fellow chess players, they were quick to agree. Looks like we may have some more Knights on the way!

Here is a key position from my game against the 1547 rated player:

sir nemo(unr.) vs. noname(1547)

Black's last move was Nd6-c4. At first glance this looks winning for Black but White has something nasty up his sleeve. What's White's next move?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Studying 300 positions.

There are a handful of players who I've spoken to who have said that one of the successes of the Russian grandmasters is their memorization of 300 key positions. When I first heard this concept, I was skeptical. I have done a little digging only to find out that it has some truth to it. Many Russian GMs have written books and entire manuals dedicated to the '300 positions'. I know the number doesn't seem like much. I first thought "I'm sure GMs memorize thousands more than a mere 300 positions", which is the truth... but the point is the 300 positions usually middlegame positions with many posibilities.

One study has found that modern day Masters can get away with memorizing 10,000 positions, while IM's and GM's memorize around 100,000. In the 300 key-positions, it's possible to come to a conclusion of 100,000+ positions. Now what I mean by memorization is to memorize the position like you would your first language. Say for example, you remember one position as you would the word "hello" in English. You'll never forget the meaning of the word, thus you'll never forget the elements of the position with thousands of tactical and positional ideas.

Gary Kasparov hints at such positions in his book 'How Life Imitates Chess' by saying something along the lines of taking a position, without care as to who is to move, and really concentrate on the essence of the position. The point being that it's not always important as to what the best move for White is or the best move for Black; the point is to recognize all the nasty little imbalances of every position. When you're done evaluating the position, calculate till you can't calculate anymore. Seems tough but I think I may give it a try as maybe a second Seven Circles.

You can find books with such positions online but since I'm such a nice guy, I'll post some links to some of the ones I think are the best. You be the judge of which to buy.

1) Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions and Ideas - For beginners. This book gives solutions to the positions and tells which color is to move.

2) GM-RAM - Very advanced book. 250 positions with absolutely no solutions and they don't give the reader a hint as to who's to move. Perfect for any serious student of the '300 positions'.

Monday, December 17, 2007

How to take care of careless players.

This is a game of mine from the first round of the 2007 New Mexico Collegiate Championship where my opponent, a 1604 USCF rated player, played without much care or respect for both the board and myself. I hope you learn something from this simple, yet necessary chess lesson.

Jules Carter vs. Brock Romero
New Mexico Collegiate Championship
UNM vs. NM Tech.

Round 1, Board 3.

1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 (diagram 1)
This is territory I was not used to. I have never played this opening sequence before but I was prepared for anything. It's obvious with Black's last move that his intention is to push e5 on his next move. I had to think of the real consequences of this move but I welcomed it.

4.Nf3 e5 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Bc4 0-0 8.0-0 h6 9.Bh4 Nxe4?! (diagram 2)
The game seemed to have normal developing moves until this move. Black thinks he is winning a pawn but he is not following several rules of chess strategy. He's opening up lines and as a general rule, the player with the best development benefits most from open lines. Compare both players pieces here for a moment. White's pieces are all placed for attack whereas Black's are cramped and passive. I thought real hard on how to continue from here and came up with a clever way to punish his careless play.

10.Bxe7 Nxc3 11.Bxd8 Nxd1 12.Raxd1!
It would have been a waste of a move to capture the black knight with the rook on f1. My point was to use both the d- and e-files for my rooks, taking complete advantage of having open lines for my pieces.

12. ...Rxd8
What is the best continuation for White here? Remember, we're taking advantage of the fact that all the open lines are used to White's advantage in this position.

13. Nxe5! (diagram 3)
After this move, my opponent looked bewildered and knew almost instantly that he had screwed up. From the position, it seems as if both players are even now that White has regained his pawn, but one must look at the quality of the pieces. White's pieces are dominating the board whereas his couterparts are sitting back in a very passive state. White has major advantages here due to Black's blunder on move 9.

13. ...Kf8?
Obviously the Black King is desperate to save the lonely pawn on f7 but he loses 'time' making such a move. Not to mention, it allows White to gain a tempo by bringing more pieces into the attack. Better for Black possibly would have been 13. ...b6! This move serves many purposes: it activates his Bishop and also now threatens to take the Knight on e5.

It is now clear who's winning this game. I hate to sound cocky but I feel proud of myself for actually coming up with such a position against a decent tournament player who's been playing for many years. All of White's pieces are active and directly attacking Black's king.

14. ...f6??
In my calculations, I considered him making this move... and me making the obvious reply which instantly wins the game. But never in my right mind did I actually think he would play it. This position now belongs in one of those "1001 Winning Combinations" kind of books under "Mate-in-One".

15.Ng6# (diagram 4)
And that's game. Nowhere to run, no squares to escape. It's over for Black.

After I showed the game to a few fellow chess players at the local club, they asked me to analyze the game and here you have my analysis. I know there's a hint of arrogance in my analysis but I feel that's the only way for me to succeed at this point. I try to make myself feel like the player losing, thus drilling the lessons in my mind forever in hopes that I will never make such mistakes.

Summary of lessons:

1) Develop all your pieces before you go 'pawn snatching'
2) Don't open up lines if you are lacking in development. Open lines only aide those who have superior development.
3) Improve the position of your worst place piece. In the previous game, Black should have improved his Bishop on c8 for fighting chances.

Starting my journey with the Seven Circles

As of tonight I am starting a Seven Circles based program for my chess studies. If you don't know what the seven circles are, read here. It's a system of study for tactics developed by Michael de la Maza. I won't describe what it is in full as the article in the link defines the program perfectly. I feel the Seven Circles just might be an effective way for me to progress as a chess player, especially since I overlooked many tactical maneuvers in my last rated game.

In his article(and later book, "Rapid Chess Improvement"), de la Maza uses a computer program called CT-ART 3.0 for his program of Seven Circles. I will be changing de la Maza's original Seven Circles study program a bit being that I have other things of interest to study in regards to chess. Such things as positional play, openings, pawn play, and of course, the infamous endgame.

In short, I bought the full version of CT-ART 3.0 tonight (it's only $22, not that expensive) and have solved all the problems with Level difficulty 10. Out of 110 problems, I solved 82% of them and the program estimated a rating of 1577 ELO for me. This makes me feel a little better about myself. I'll be keeping you up to date on my progress with CT-ART and the status of the Seven Circles. Cheers!

P.S. I beat four players all rated over 1900 on in rapid games (G/15) tonight. I guess tactics study really pays off ;]


Well yesterday I had my first rated long game (G/85+5s delay). I was playing a player with a rating of 1180 who I've played, and destroyed, many times over the chessboard as many chess players would do with such a low rated player. I will admit I'm not used to long time controls yet and maybe that had something to do with my loss. I blundered away a pawn out of the opening on the black side of the Sacilian Najdorf and went into an endgame with two rooks, a bishop, and 4 pawns to his two rooks, a knight, and 5 pawns. I was playing well until I fell for the classic knight fork and he picked up a rook for free. I sadly tipped my King over and shook his hand and literally almost cried at such a defeat. I feel really disgusted with myself for not following everything I've been learning with my lessons at the ICS. I wasn't questioning myself, or my opponent. I was playing slapdick chess. Moving pieces around with no real goal. I guess I just need to get used to the whole feel of a tournament game before I actually start getting better results.

On a side note, go Gata Kamsky! w00t!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I'm feeling GREAT!

So I now have my USCF Quick Rating(provisional). It's a monstrous 950! Go ahead, laugh it up. As a matter of fact, I can hear you laughing now. I see how it is. Some of the gentlemen were making a little fun last night at our weekly(wednesday night) chess club. They all know that I'm absolutely horrible at quick chess and I'm MUCH stronger in a long game. If you want proof, just look at my previous post of checkmating a 1610 player in 15 moves at the NM Collegiate Championship. We shall see come mid January '08. It feels like that's going to be such a long time but I should use it to my advantage and study my arse off to be prepared for my first long (G/2) tournament. Should be interesting to see how that works.

Just to give a little heads up as to what I mean by studying, here's what I use to study and maybe some of you other chess noobs can follow a similar program of study:

1) International Chess School (
2) CT-ART 3.0
3) Chess Position Trainer 3.3

Here are some definitions as to what these products are:

International Chess School: This is a 1 year online intensive course in chess for the intermediate player. For 12 months you are drilled with lessons and exercises and at the end of the course you should have the knowledge of a 2300 FIDE player. I am currently in month 2 and it has already increased my playing ability.

CT-ART 3.0: Tactics-tactics-tactics! I'm a firm believer that if you have a rating below 2000, your first name should be tactics, your middle name should be tactics, and your last name should be tactics. CT-ART comes with over 1200 tactical positions ranging from difficulty 1400-2400. I only have the demo version for now, but look forward to buying the full version soon! Check it out if you want a challenge.

CPT 3.3: Chess Position Trainer is a program to study your openings. It drills you with sub-variations until you have them memorized. On top of this, you have the option to do it blindfold, which I have found very useful. I can play 4 sub-variations of the Sicilian Najdorf 10-moves deep each in blindfold mode. I absolutely love it!

Well that's about it for now. I hope one of the above products is/becomes as useful to you as it has to me!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Big news and next tournament

So I just found out that I'm going to be a daddy! Congrats to me! I'm very excited to be a father and I know it's going to be a tough challenge but I'm ready and willing to take it.

It seems that my next available long tournament(which will actually be my first rated long tournament) isn't until January 19-20. That's a long wait but it gives me more time to prepare. I hope to have a decent rating coming out of this tournament. Maybe something around 1500-1600. We'll see what happens. I think I'll start using CT-ART over this Christmas holiday.

First Quick Tournament.

Well this past saturday I played in my first USCF Quick Tournament(G/10). I thought I was going to do well but I think arrogance gets the best of some people. I placed 29th out of 40. My last round was against a 9 year old with a whopping rating of 685(quick) and I beat him badly in one game, but blundered a way a queen for a pawn in the second game. The USCF hasn't given me my provisional rating yet and I'm getting really anxious to see what it is considering I've never officially had a rating before.

All in all, don't underestimate an opponent who is much younger and has a much lower rating than you are expected to play at. You never know what's going to happen in a blitz game. I learned my lessons saturday.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


Hey everybody! Welcome to my little corner of the internet where I'll be tracking my progress as a tournament chess player.

Let me start by a little introduction of myself. The name's Jules Carter. I'm a 21 year old chess player from New Mexico, USA. I've been playing for a total of 10 months and like many other chess players, my goal is to become a Master.

Here is where I'll be posting all things relating to chess in my life. I hope you enjoy and if I ever attain the rank of Master then you all will have the honor of following my every step along this journey!

Thanks and good luck to all chess players worldwide!

- j.c.