Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fire on the Board

I have taken up a different approach to my chess training lately, all due to a comment by Blue Devil Knight: play lots of blitz chess! And I have done just that since my last post. I've lost a lot of games and won a lot of games but most importantly, I've learned from them. I have taken with me some new experiences to longer games (via and have been pretty successful. Things seem more clear on the 64-squared battlefield and my rating has boosted over 50 points since my last post! I havent analyzed any of these games with Fritz yet, but I plan on that as soon as I get the chance. One of the direct responses is a beautiful game which I played on; it's completely wild. The position is busted open and the tactics meter is off the charts! Granted my opponent is rated about 100 points lower than myself, he played very well and I consider this one of my best games ever. Without further ado...

Now that we have that over with. I'm done with Circle 1! w00t! It's time to celebrate! I made it this far and it only gets better from here! Here is a picture of my results from Circle 1:

My game has increased substantially since the beginning of my adventures with the Seven Circles. I thought I was a good player before, but my thoughts have changed dramatically since I've been involved with my tactics study. I now see that I was nowhere near as good as I thought I was and that there's always going to be room to improve my game. I have a tournament coming up this Saturday, we'll see just how well my training has paid off thus far. I should be about 90% done with Circle 2 by the time I have to play another tournament (March 29-30) and I'm hoping that my game will have improved by double the amount that it's improved thus far.

In other news, I'm sure most of you have heard the unfortunate news that Samurai Knight is retiring from his position of Secretary. T'was a very sad day for us Knights. However, SK passed the torch to the well respected Tacticus Maximus(Glenn W.) and this in itself is very exciting. SK made a very good choice and I know Tacticus Maximus will hold true to the Knights.

Samurai's retirement has made me rethink everything regarding chess. Is it really worth it to put so much effort into something that hardly gives anything back? I pondered this long and hard and it's difficult for me to really assess the situation. Here I am, working ~30 hours a week, coming home to my pregnant fiancee everynight only to study chess 2-3 hours. What do I get in return? A few good wins on the internet and a USCF rating of 980(so far). Is it really worth it to spend so much time with chess in my current state? I'm about to be a father and shouldn't I be spending more time with my fiancee? Yes, we live together, but I spend the majority of my time either in front of a chess board or in front of the computer studying/playing chess. Isn't this kind of obsession great for those top 100 grandmasters? Who am I kidding, the odds are against me... I'm more than likely never going to reach that stage in chess but that is my goal. I want opinions people. Perhaps I should re-evaluate my position in life and take a breather from chess for awhile. Let me know what you think.

** Here's another game where I slaughtered a cocky player:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chess. Poker, Upsets.

It's been awhile since I've posted, for that I apologize. I have been keeping chess on the back burner for about a month now. I'm doing my tactics training religiously but as far as me completing(or even trying) my other factors of chess training, I am failing. I havent been playing many chess games, instead I've been more focused on studying my tactics and openings. I don't know if this is going to hurt me in the long run or not, but it seems to be working out just fine for now. For example. Both my accounts are now in the 1600's. You have to keep in mind that this is a huge improvement for me. When I first started this program, I was averaging around 1450 and now I'm averaging around 1620. I'm also taking part in a tournament on to win a Gold Membership(yearly membership) which is working out really great! It's a knockout tournament and thus far I'm one of three to make it to the quarterfinals. I've knocked out two opponents (one rated lower, the other rated much higher). I hope to win this tournament. That's my short-term goal.

I've been playing some of the best chess of my life lately(atleast in my eyes). I'm playing very loose and aggressive. I'm losing a lot more, but I'm seeing combinations that are adding to my experience. The games that I am winning are complete jewels. I'll provide a few of them here in a little bit but first I want to talk about the Circles.

I'm nearly done with Circle 1! I have about one more week to go and I'll be starting Circle 2! I'm very excited for this! It's even more exciting for me to know that my last day of Circle 1 also happens to fall on a 3-round(G/90) "Octagon" tournament at my local University. So that means I'll be waking up especially early that day and getting my tactics in before the first round starts. Speaking of tournaments. I played my third rated game this last Sunday at the Foothills Chess Club. My opponent was a 1459 USCF player. We played a very dangerous tactical game which was a winning game for me all through the opening(me with the black pieces) and middlegame, but I blundered a very important pawn in the beginning stages of the endgame and my opponent switched from tactical madman to quiet and positional and squeezed me to death. I folded under the pressure of being down that key pawn and lost the game. I learned a very important lesson in that game. SIT ON YOUR HANDS! If I had taken more than 10 seconds to think about one specific move, I would have kept that pawn and gone on to win the game. I guess you live and learn right?

In other news, I've been a little distracted by a new game(new to me): Low-Limit Texas Hold'em. I've been winning pretty decently and have been studying two books that are really helping my game. I like poker a lot. It gets me away from the sometimes senile world of chess AND it makes me some extra cash. I have yet to lose money, only gain. I guess you could say I'm a pretty decent amateur of poker, but I hope to play expertly soon as I would love to have poker as my main source of income. No worries though, I won't drop chess for poker like many other former chess players now turned pro poker players (Dan Harrington comes to mind). Chess is still my passion and always will be.

Now on to the games that I promised! Enjoy!

This first game is against one of my good friends at the local chess club. I love the Scotch Gambit because of the power it has against an unsuspecting opponent. Here's a clear example:

This next game is my second round game in the Gold Membership Knockout tournament on I had been studying the Grand Prix attack against the Sicilian and this was my first chance to use it. My opponent actually played one of the main lines that I had been studying so that made me feel a little more comfortable. I like to think of myself as a tactical genius in this game =P:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Grandmaster preaches tactics training similar to Seven Circles

I was reading an interesting collection of articles from GM Rashid Ziatdinov(Author of GM-RAM) concerning many aspects of chess and psychology in chess. After about half an hour of putting up with this guy's somewhat delusional beliefs on chess training, I came across his article titled "TACTICS vs. STRATEGY". In it, he preaches a similar tactics training program similar to 7 circles. Without giving my own summary, I would rather just directly quote the GM:

"To study tactics, I recommend my timed tactical software program, or similar software programs. A good book of combinations is beneficial too, but less efficient and not as fun. Basically, set up a cycle of ten positions, go through them until you get a perfect score, then set a cycle from 10-20, get a 100% score, then go through problems 1-20, repeating this cycle until you can go through 1000 problems "by hand" (not mind) without any mistakes. If you try this method with my tactics program and complete it, you will have the tactical ability of a Grandmaster. I have had more than a hundred students and nobody had enough will power to finish this tactical training method. Is it my students or is it me? Well, take only thirty minutes a day and slowly memorize 1000 problems; take a year or two if you have to. It comes down to will power, and that I cannot provide."

It was nice for me to see that even a Grandmaster would recommend such a training program. However, I'm not sure if I completely agree with him when he says that memorizing 1000 tactical problems "by hand" will make you tactically as strong as a Grandmaster. He also preaches that another highly effective way of improving one's tactical ability is to play blitz games. He doesn't mean G/5 blitz games(he doesn't consider these blitz), but G/1min. More commonly known as Lightning games. I had a lot of interest in this so I went out and played several lightning games and I feel it has slightly improved my intuition as far as tactical play is concerned.

Now on to a separate topic: my progress + upcoming tournaments. I have finished Problems with Level Difficulty 50 last night with an overall success rate of 51%. I thought this was very peculiar considering the level before it was only finished at 49%. Perhaps I thought a little bit harder on these problems than the previous difficulty level problems. I'm very interested to see what happens with the next level up. I also catch myself blundering a lot more these days. It happens mostly in my online games. Perhaps it's cause subconsciously I don't really care if I win or lose, or maybe because I'm just not thinking. On, I keep getting really close to the 1600 level, but drop back down to around 1550 and have to slowly climb back up just to fall again. On FICS, I'll beat an 1800, then lose to a 1600, then beat a 1900, then lose to a 1400. I'm really confused by these results. Sometimes it's really unmotivating and makes me want to give up.

Tournaments! w00t! So I finally got my first copy of Chess Life magazine and on the back of it was a nice huge advertisement for the National Open in Las Vegas, June 5-8th. I sat there talking to my mother about it and she said it would be good for me to go participate in a national event like this. I thought about it for a couple of days and I concluded with the fact that I was going to take the week off of work and go up and play me some hardcore chess! The tourney doesn't start till Wednesday but I love me some Texas Hold'em poker so I'll be occupied those first couple days. After contemplating this trip, I remembered that my rating is still provisional, which means that if I were to win a section, the most I could win was $1500. Which is no good for me so I went out and found just enough tournaments/rated games to complete my provisional before the National Opening. Here is a list of the upcoming tourneys I will be participating in:

  • Foothills Chess Club(Meets every third Sunday) Rated Game - My two rated games are from this chess club, so I will gain 4 more rated games before June.
  • Colorado Springs Open(Mar. 8-9, Colorado Springs) - 5 rounds
  • Oppenheimer Open(Mar. 29-30, Soccoro) - 4 rounds
  • Springs Denker(Apr. 5, Colorado Springs) - 4 rounds
  • Pir Maleki(Apr. 26, Montezuma, NM) - 4 rounds
  • DCC May Flowers Tour(May 17, Denver) - 4 rounds
  • Total Rated Games = 27!
As you can see, that will put me right over the 26 rated game provisional and will allow me to compete for some decent money. As you can tell, I expect to win any section I participate in. I will show no mercy =P. That is all for now.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Patience + Hard work = A gamble worth waiting for.

I first wanted to take the time to thank those who commented on my previous post. I'm sorry I've been late to respond lately. Life is catching up to me and well, it was superbowl weekend after all. I know I promised you an annotated game, and that is what you will get. We'll get to that shortly. I first want to talk about a few things as far as progress(and even lack thereof). I have now finished 920 problems in CT-ART and I'm about halfway through Circle 1(in days). Since I've started this program, my tactical ability has been INCREDIBLE! I am now seeing things I would not have seen without the aide of CT-ART and the circles program. However, I question some of what I'm learning in a sense. I have my lucky days and I have more and more bad days. This last week's chess club meeting was certainly a very lucky day for me. I was able to see combinations like it was second nature. However, I blundered A LOT in almost every one of those games and I should have lost at least three of them. So now you can see why I say I have my "lucky days". My opponents blundered worse than I did, which allowed me to come up with some of those amazing combinations. I feel disappointed about this and don't really view it as an accomplishment. If my opponents would have played at the same strength throughout the whole game, I would have lost every game without a doubt. I have taken into account(on part of de la Maza's advice) the fact that I should now start to analyze every one of my OTB games with Fritz. I don't really know how to do this that well and would really appreciate it if one of my fellow Knights would help me out with this. The point of me wanting to learn how to use Fritz to analyze my games is so I can 'get rid of the big squiggly lines' from my play. The annotated game I'm about to provide you will have annotations from Fritz, however I don't think I did it right. Chessbase products really confuse me which doesn't help my case.

Now on to the annotated game that I promised. This game needs a little bit of an introduction: It was the last game of the night and it was against my highest rated opponent thus far in the night. He knew that I had won all my previous games but he insisted on telling everybody how horrible of a chess player I was and that I was on a huge luck streak. He asked me what my rating was and when I said "980" he proceeded to laugh in my face and said I was a joke and that he would dispose of me quickly. He showed absolute ZERO respect for me, not just as a chess player but as a person. I wanted nothing more than to show this guy what it was like to get his ass handed to him, in a very royal fashion. This game caused Fritz 10 to give me " ! " on two separate moves! All annotations were provided by Fritz 10 with the exception of the ones that start with "Nemo:". I hope you enjoy this game as much as I did. Was a nice way to end the night and to shut up a cocky chess player. Enjoy!

Sir Nemo(980 USCF) vs. Unnamed(1730 USCF)
CCC Weekly

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Qf6!? (diagram 1)
Nemo: I found this move to be insulting. It proved that my opponent had no respect for me and wished to employ ignorant opening moves in the hopes that it would throw me off.
[2...Nc6 3. Nc3= ]

[3.Nc3 Nc6]

[3...exd4!? 4.Qxd4 Nc6]

[4.Nc3 Bg4]

4...Qg6 5.Nc3 exd4

6.Qxd4 c5? (diagram 2)

7.Qe3 h6 8.Bf4 Nf6 9.Bd3
[9.0-0-0!? keeps an even further grip]

9...Ng4 10.Qe2 Be7??
Black has lost his nerve... understandable when you consider his position. This allows White to win a pawn and a piece.

11.e5 Qh5 12.exd6 0-0 13.dxe7 Re8 14.0-0-0 Nc6
Nemo: This move was a mistake in my eyes as it allowed me to come up with a nice little combination to force Black to give up a piece for two pawns and a major Kingside attack or lose his Queen.

15.h3 Rxe7 16.Qd2 Nf6 17.g4 (diagram 3)

Nemo: The point of my last comment. Black either has to deal with the loss of his Queen or sacrifice a minor piece for two pawns and a horrible position. This move deserves a " ! " if you ask me.

17...Nxg4 18.hxg4 Qxg4 19.Bxh6!
Nemo: That's right! Fritz gave me the good move! This move fell directly in my strategy of attacking the King. It's kind of a pseudo sacrifice that I thought was brilliant at the time. I'm leaving the Knight and the Bishop hanging. If Black takes on h6, then Rg1 was pretty decisive. I was proud of this move.

19...Qxf3 20.Bxg7!
Mate attack.
Nemo: Fritz gave me the good move yet again! Notice how my pieces are all pointed at Black's King and his pieces are extremely uncoordinated.

20...Kxg7 21.Qg5+ Kf8 22.Rh8# (diagram 4)

What this game came down to was me isolating the King in his own corner and never giving up the initiative. I kept creating problems for this guy and it payed off. I felt victorious after this game and a few Class A players congratulated me on my victories that night and especially my victory over this cocky player. I hope you enjoyed this game as much as I did. I hope to bring more games like this to the table. One step closer to mastery!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Repetition brings success.

This last Wednesday's weekly chess club meeting was very successful for me. I played many games against decent opposition and won every game. I will provide all games here. As soon as I get the time, I'll actually annotate one of the games which I think was the most brilliant of the night. Even an 1800USCF told me it was a beautiful game. This is all proof that repeating tactical exercises pays off. However, it's not enough to just memorize tactical shots. One must be able to conduct them in their games. Here are my games from this week's chess club meeting(with the exception of the game I will annotate):