Friday, October 11, 2013

Preparing for the Denver Open

As the title says, I've been doing my best to prepare for the Denver Open coming up two weekends from now. I've been studying my openings and tactics as per usual however I have fallen short of finishing my Circles on the problems 401-800 in CT-ART. This is mainly due to me getting a new job that has been taking up my time. That being said, I did find some of the problems much harder (difficulty 40+) than I had previously expected. I think for now I will only focus on problems with level difficulty 30 and below until I get them 96% or better. This should be much more manageable and more realistic to actual improvement.

I played at the Denver Chess Club this week for the first time since week 1 of September when I beat Andre Patin(1818 USCF). I had the white pieces against a 1705 rated player and I played much too quickly. We had a nice, slightly tactical middle game that wound up with me having an isolated d-pawn and I made a horrible positional mistake that cost me the game a few moves later. I went home and analyzed the game and learned from my mistakes as much I could.

Last night I was down in Colorado Springs and decided to play in the monthly Panera Bread tournament that runs on Thursday nights. Time control is G/90 + 5d. The tournament only costs $10 for the entire month and since I wasn't there last week I opted to take a bye for that so I could play someone else who had half a point. I was paired with Anthea Carson(co-author of Tactics Time); her USCF rating is 1713. I took my time on my moves and played a damn solid game of chess. I had the black pieces and came out with a full point. Below is my game if you're interested:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

First 400 Circles completed - Training Schedule.

The last 8 days have been hell and fun at the same time. I managed to complete the first set of circles on the first 400 problems within CT-ART with a success rate of 98% over 4 circles. My progression of success was pretty steady, as you can see from the image below:

All this means for me is that the next 8 days will be even more hell as I'll be doing problems 401-800. I suspect I will have to repeat this set of circles twice as I do not expect to reach my goal of 96% when all is said and done. Would be nice though! 

Now lets get on to the how I'm studying chess aside from tactics with CT-ART. I will give a rundown of my normal day to day training schedule:

  • 1-2 hours(depending on which circle I'm on) - Tactics with CT-ART
  • 5-15 minutes - Break
  • 1-2 hours - Studying openings from the ICS Course
    This is actually a two step process:
    1) I study the opening and it's variations on a real board to get the natural feel for the opening. I pay close attention to the middle game plans and ingrain them in my mind for future reference.
    2) Input the opening into Chess Position Trainer and train the the openings without having the demo line, then I move on to blind fold mode.

    By doing this method, I have memorized all the openings from Month 1 of the ICS course with a recall rate of 100%. I will be moving on to the Month 2 openings tonight.

    NOTE: I do not feel that opening knowledge like this is crucial at my level of play. That being said, it's more of a personal goal of mine to memorize these openings and their typical middle game plans. 
  • 5-15 minutes - Break
  • 1 hour - Strategy problems via GM Igor Smirnov's course tasks.
    These are golden imo. I have learned quite a bit from his courses. The material is nothing new and is covered in a lot of chess books and articles, however his systematic approach to teaching really clicked with me. 
Within the next week I plan to incorporate training games into my schedule as well as analyzing games. I tried playing training games against Fritz 11 however I find it discouraging. I don't want to feel like cheating myself by setting the computer's playing level to a lower rating so my plan is to join an online slow chess league and get some games in with real people. I know this will suit my needs well and will help prepare me for my OTB encounters at the Denver Open. 


Let's move on to another topic that is quite touchy within the adult chess playing community; the topic of improving your chess skill as an adult.

Last night I came across the following forum post: Inspirational Adult Improvers 
Seeing the amount of negativity some of the posters are throwing at these guys is really appalling to me. Like most adult players, my goal is to improve my skills and I know that jumping from 1100 USCF to 1500 USCF isn't that hard of a task I still like to think that it's quite a great accomplishment. As you all know, my goal is to reach 2000 USCF by the time I'm 30 but according to these guys that's impossible. Here's to not feeding into the negativity and going after my goal regardless of what the general public thinks! 

Till next time,

- Sir Nemo

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Circle 1 Completed - Magnus breaks 3000 USCF!

Circle 1 of the first 400 problems was completed today. I'm pretty sure I lost track of time on one of the days as I completed a day early. Just can't figure out which day I managed to completed 100 problems but that's neither here nor there. The results of Circle 1 are as follows:

As you can see, I finished the problems with level difficulty level 10 no problem, then started to falter about halfway through the level 20 problems. As for the level 30 problems, there was only a total of 4 near the end of the first 400 and I obviously did poorly on them. This gives an average success rate of 85% which is something I had expected.

I've learned during this first circle that I have a lot to work on when it comes to my thinking process and calculation skills. I believe a lot has to do with my lack of visualization skills. I've noticed that a lot of the tactics I got right were by luck and not by pure calculation. What I mean by this is that I would often not see the entire calculation until after I've made my first move and the computer would make it's move... at that point the solution would become clear to me. Obviously one cannot be this reckless in an actual game so for the next circle I plan to iron this out. I will start with Circle 2 in the morning and hopefully get my first 100 problems out of the way. Here's to the grind!


In other exciting news, Magnus Carlsen had a solid performance rating of 2966 during his trip to USA at the Sinquefield Cup. His provisional rating is now 3004(based on 16 games). I know it's just a provisional rating, however seeing an actual rating above 3000 is quite exciting. The man is on fire and I will be cheering for him 100% come November. Best of luck, Magnus!

That's all for now ladies and gentlemen. Have a wonderful day!

- Sir Nemo

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Breaking Barriers: Ready for circles!

Well it's been a little over a week since my last post and since then my rating has shot up to 1539! That officially puts me over the 400 rating points improvement mark. I'm very proud of this result and will continue to work hard to improve even further. As I've pointed out in a previous post, my goal is to reach 2000 USCF by the time I'm 30 yrs old. I'm more than halfway there but I know it's going to be a tough uphill battle to get there... especially with the caliber of players I'm coming up against here in the Colorado area.

The Denver Open is coming up in a little over a month away and I'm doing my best to prepare for this. My study plan is a little sporadic at the moment and it's not very structured but I will work on this tonight. So far this is what I have planned for study/preparation:

  • Igor Smirnov's GM Positional Understanding course and tasks: I've gone through the material already, working on the tasks right now. These are tougher than I had previously thought them to be. That's a good thing right? 
  • Opening's from the ICS Course: My opening study has been quite on the lax of late but I hope to iron this out soon with the help of CTP. 
  • Physical stamina: I have yet to go on my daily walks. This is all my fault and I have nobody to blame but myself. I'm just too damn lazy :| I need to get out there and walk already...
  • Training Games: So far I use my DCC and Taco Bell Club games as training games, but I also plan to incorporate games against the computer for training games. I think this will help me out quite a bit. 
On top of all of this I feel like I'm ready to tackle the Circles program that we've all grown to love & hate! I won't be doing it exactly how it was written due to time constraints, so here's my plan:

I will be doing the circles in chunks of 400 problems at a time. I will also be doing them in 4 circles as opposed to 7 circles and will do them in this order...

8 days - 50 problems
4 days - 100 problems
2 days - 200 problems
1 day - 400 problems

If at any point I finish a circle and cannot get a score of 90%-100%, I will do the circle over again. From my studies so far, I'm fairly confident that my first 400 problems won't be a problem to get anywhere between 94%-100%. However, I may have to repeat the second set of 400 problems a couple times before I get such a score and most definitely will have to repeat the last set of 400 problems multiple times to achieve such a result.

Today marks Day 1 of the first set of 400 problems and I've already completed my 50 problems for the day with a score of 100% so far. I will keep you guys updated once I have finished each circle and also when I have a proper study schedule to prepare for the Denver Open.

See you guys soon!

Monday, September 2, 2013

350+ Points in 90 days!

First and foremost I would like to start this post off with an apology. I know I promised to be active on here but as we all know life sometimes gets in the way. I will do my best to post more often, but can't promise a daily or even weekly update as I may not have many interesting things to say (haha).

When I started playing again back in May, I fully expected to progress slowly. My rating was 1135 USCF. I had set small goals for myself and the first of which was to reach 1200 USCF, then 1400 USCF. I had imagined the first goal taking me only a couple of months and the second goal taking anywhere from 6-9 months to achieve with constant study and practice. Needless to say, I not only shocked my opponents during my May 26 tournament, but I shocked myself even more. I did not expect to perform that well and because of it, my first goal was realized: Reaching 1200. As a matter of fact, I nearly reached the second goal of 1400 as my rating post-tournament went up to 1396! I started going to the Denver Chess Club every tuesday and have made some awesome friends there. Colorado chess players are a different breed from the New Mexico players that I'm used to; they're much more friendly here.

Since return to chess, I've played in 3 weekend tournaments and have played in 3 Denver Chess Club tournaments(3 months = 3 tournaments). My results in the weekend tournaments were absolutely horrible and have given me something to work on. I have yet to score above a 2.0 in any of the three weekend tournaments but I have been performing REALLY well in the Denver Chess Club's monthly tournaments. I believe this is due to the fact that the DCC only meets on Tuesday nights and it's one-round per week. Let's give some examples:

Weekend tournaments:

  • Lost to a 900
  • Drew another 900
  • Have yet to score more than 2 points
  • Have amazing positions until I blunder. 
  • Lack of focus after 2 rounds.
DCC One-round per week monthly tournament:
  • Full concentration 100%
  • Only lost a couple of games.
  • Beaten 1800's, 1700's, 1500's and 1600's
Last week at the DCC, I beat a good friend of mine, Andre Patin(1825 USCF). The week before that I beat Dean Clow(1758 USCF) and got Game of The Week honors....

So why am I doing so well at the DCC but so terrible in the weekend tournaments? The only logical answer I can think of: HEALTH! 

I'm so far out of shape it's not even funny. There's nobody to blame but myself and I have not a single excuse for my current state of health. I have some serious lung issues due to the fact that I'm overweight and smoke a lot of cigs so any kind of medium to heavy cardio is out of the picture. The only way I can see myself fixing this issue is by taking a 30 minute walk on a daily basis. Maybe this will work, maybe it wont... All I know is my weekend tournament results will continue to be poor unless I get my physical stamina up to par. What are your thoughts on this? Bobby Fischer was always quick to say "healthy body, healthy mind"...

Needless to say, thank goodness for my results in the DCC. This has allowed me to bounce back from some embarrassing losses in my weekend tournaments and has allowed me to bring my USCF rating to 1493! That's an increase of 358 points in 90 days of active tournament play.  

During this time, I opted to not do the 7 circles program as of yet due to time constraints but I perform solid tactics practice on a daily basis. All of my wins against my higher rated opponents have been awesome tactical blows as you will see shortly. 

Now lets get to the notable games:
I hope you guys enjoy viewing these games as much as I enjoyed playing them. The last game against Andre was quite brutal and was later annotated by LM Brian Wall and he showed how I blundered quite badly out of the opening. Fortunately for me, Andre also missed the combination that would have won him a piece on move 14! Andre is a good guy and a friend; he was quite upset with this loss. Hopefully he can have a positive bounce back from the loss. 

List of upcoming tournaments:
  • September 28-29 - New Mexico Open
  • October 5-6 - Tri-lakes Open
  • October 19-20 - Denver Open
Here's to working on my health and finally performing well in a weekend tournament! 

- Sir Nemo

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Denver Chess Club: June Game 4

Two posts in 24 hours! w00t!

After this weekend's tournament I continued my bad play at the Denver Chess Club. Luckily for me, my opponent played worse and I was able to score the point. I learned several things from this game; the most important being the theory of "sit on your hands" as I fell for the touch-move rule and was forced to make a move that ruined my plan and position.

I also annotated this game briefly by myself without the use of Fritz or any other computer. These are just my thoughts and you may disagree with them. If that's the case, please discuss with me! I'm here to learn :]

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

1st Annual Summer Solstice Showdown

Well the tournament came and went... as did my confidence! I lost my first three rounds and had a solid winning game in the last round only to blow it and manage a draw.

I must say however, I've learned quite a bit from analyzing these games away from the computer. I have not had the chance to put these annotations in chessbase yet, mostly due to me wanting to spend my time on study and not so much on data entry.

 I learned a lot about myself as a chess player this past weekend. Mostly that my thought process is far from perfect. I found myself second-guessing myself quite a bit. I often found in after-game analysis that my original plans in the games were actually correct but I was afraid of carrying them out OTB. This is something I need to drastically iron out before this weekend's tournament.

 Although I didn't do so hot in the main event, I managed to perform quite well in the blitz tournament on Saturday night. I know what you're thinking, it's just blitz but it still made it a little more worth it for someone in my position :P

Anyways I'll keep this post short and sweet so I can focus on studying for the tournament this weekend.

Feel free to completely tear me a new one in the comments :] also I accept any personal bashings for throwing Game 4 away. I should have had the point but I played terribly entering the endgame. Oh well :x

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Goals & Motivation

After my recent success at my last tournament and my continued success at internet slow chess, I've decided to post my goals and what I wish to achieve with chess.

First and foremost it needs to be said that chess is not just a game to me. It's a beautiful outlet and passion that keeps me wanting more and more. I've never had a passion for anything like I do with chess. My current profession is the second closest thing as far as passion is concerned, but it still doesn't compare to the thrill of a chess match....

That being said, let's lay out some facts:

  • I'm 26 years old; turning 27 in August.
  • I have two children (4 yr old son, 18 month old daughter)
  • I work 40-50 hrs/week; however I have plenty of time to study as my fiance works graveyard shift. 
  • I have already completed the 7 circles program years ago. 
  • I still have access to my old ICS account and have recently added Years 2 & 3 of the coursework to my lineup of study material. I have a lot of faith in this course as it has helped me 5 years ago. 
  • I have roughly 15-20 hours/week to study.
  • Denver Chess Club meets once a week and has rated games. 
With all of those factors in place, it seems 50/50 that I may ever reach an official rating of 2000+. I'm getting older everyday and my health isn't exactly all that great due to being overweight and I smoke a pack of cigs/day. 

However, I have the determination and will-power to reach almost any realistic goal I set for myself. I have proven this to myself time and time again in the past and with chess I plan for nothing different but the same amount of success as I've had with my previous endeavors; poker, gaming, etc. 

I know I can reach my full potential if I give it my all. There will always be nay-sayers and the like, but those are the ones who could not reach greatness so they must pass on their negativity to others in a 'similar' situation to make themselves feel better. I remember one older gentlemen in particular who told me 6 years ago that since I started playing chess at such an advanced age, it was unlikely that I would even reach 1400. At the time, he was rated 1650 and I beat him consistently at the local club. Granted, he always used the excuse that since the games were not rated that he wasn't really playing his A-game. This may or may not have been true... but I bring my A game to every OTB encounter I have. At least, I do now... as we all know, in the past I played two tournaments and went in overconfident in myself and wound up performing horribly. This is the new, mature version of myself and I'm here to prove to myself that I have what it takes to compete at a high-level in this beautifully complex game of ours. 

My most recent tournament was a 'feeler' tournament for me. I was using it as a gauge to determine where I'm at and what I need to work on. I surprised myself when I had a performance rating of 1980 and managed to beat out tough opposition. I did not take this lightly though as I knew I made mistakes(we all do). I went over my games and gave myself hard criticism. I found that I was often making good and logical moves but I fall into the trap of not looking for a better move. I've been playing a lot of slow chess on FICS to train my mind to find good candidate moves but not play any of them until I've found the absolute best continuation. The ICS course and Dan Heisman's articles are a huge help with the thought process. Particularly when looking for threats, checks, and captures after every move by you or your opponent. That one simple rule is what helped me perform so well at the last tournament....

Since the May 26th tournament, I've been grinding and studying hard. I've completed the Month 1 material for the ICS course and will be going over the material over and over until the tournament on the 22nd of this month. I know Month 1 of the ICS course is just an introduction, but I feel it's necessary to have this stuff drilled in your head. I have also been working through CT-ART some more and have found that my tactical abilities are seriously lacking. Previously I talked about how I breezed through the Problems with difficulty 10 with a 100% success rate... but anything above difficulty 40 is giving me a run for my money. That's what 5 years of absence will do to the brain. As I've stated before. I plan to start the 7 circles yet again, on July 15th of this year. I will finish on November 3rd :]

Now we'll move on to my ultimate goals with chess. I plan utilizing my attention to chess study and play when I have the time to do so, which at the moment is quite extensive. Starting this week, I will also be attending the Denver Chess Club's weekly rated games... That adds 52 rated games a year! There is also tough opposition here including several masters so I know I'll get some good games in! With all of that being said, here are my long term goals:

  • Age 30: 2000+ USCF/ELO
  • Age 35: National Master / FIDE Master
I don't think these goals are unrealistic at all. That gives me 3 years time from right now to reach 2000. I think I am well within reach of that. I also feel 8 years is plenty of time to reach master level play if I give it my all. 

Anyways, that's all for now! Till next time!

- Sir Nemo

Monday, May 27, 2013

Results: UPDATE

Ok so the tournament results have been posted and my new rating is 1396! That's a jump of 262 rating points in one tournament! I'm quite pleased with this result and look forward to my future progress as a player. I have a strict study plan set up for when I finish with this certification course. For a list of tournaments that I will be participating in next:

  1. 1st Annual Summer Solstice Showdown, June 22 - 23, 2013 [Link]
  2. Albuquerque/Rio Rancho Open, June 29th-30th, 2013 [Link]
I'll keep you posted as the time nears for each of these tournaments :]

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tournament Results!

Well today was the day of the Denver Memorial Day Weekend G/30. I was up bright and early and ready to play some chess! I was really nervous going into this tournament being that it was my first in 5 years. I didn't let the nerves psyche me out, however, and I performed quite well! I beat an 1858, 1557 and 1550 and lost to a 2078 and a 2000, giving me a score of 3.0/5.0 which was good enough to win my section and a hefty $60 for my efforts!

Here's a list of my opponents and the score by round:

  1. Jules Carter(1134P) vs. Isaac Martinez(1858) 1-0
  2. Daniel Herman(1557) vs. Jules Carter(1134P) 0-1
  3. Jules Carter(1134P) vs. Mark A. Jimenez(2078) 0-1
  4. Buck Buchanan(2000) vs. Jules Carter(1134P) 1-0
  5. Tim Kohler(1550) vs. Jules Carter(1134P) 0-1
Now I must study for a certification for work so I'll be back in about a month or so! If you need to find me, you can leave a comment here or write to me on :D

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Here we go again!

Well it's been YEARS since I've last made an appearance here and I must say loads of things have happened and changed in my life. I want to get it off my chest that this post will be about my return to chess after 5 years of not playing. I will give my story and what I plan for the future of this blog...

Where has Sir Nemo been? Oh man, I've been all over the damn world. Jumping from hobbies and obsessions like I was changing underwear. My last post was May, 2009. As some of my loyal readers remember, I had started dabbling in poker and I had a somewhat newborn I was learning how to take care of. I was also engaged to my son's mother and had plans to get married...

Well, things didn't work out with me and Brandon's mom. It ended on pretty bad terms and I won't go into much detail about it but the outcome was a major plus for me, as it meant I got my son the majority of the time. This happened in late May of 2009. Shortly after, I quit playing chess so I could focus on poker and really start to take it seriously. In June, 2009, I was invited to move to Austin, TX to live at the SNGIcons mansion with all the big name online tournament players at that time. I learned a lot about poker and I was on my grind. I managed to build up a quite impressive bankroll of around $8.5k in 6 weeks but I had also developed another 'hobby'. It's not something I'm proud of but let's just say I spent a good portion of my winnings on it and nearly cost me my life. I moved back home to Albuquerque, NM nearly empty handed... I believe I had $500 to my name when it was all said and done. I had hit rock bottom. No motivation, no ambition. Nothing. I was an unemployed father who lived with his parents, with a child of his own. I thank the good Lord my parents were there to help me raise my son as I would not have been able to do it on my own.

After a period of a couple of months, I was at a friends house and was watching him and one of my brothers playing a video game on the XBOX 360 called Call of Duty. I hadn't played a video game since Quake III Arena and this game looked appealing to me. I went out and purchased a console and the game and was quickly obsessed with yet again another useless game. I got damn good at the game and started competing on Major League Gaming's Game Battles website. After about a year, I had reached the #1 spot for best 1v1 sniper back when the Game Battles had the sniper ladders. I held that title for 6 months before I was bumped from the top. I started making YouTube videos of my gameplays and montages of my best clips. I was so hooked and looking back on it, it was [almost] a complete waste of my time and life... I say almost, because there was something really great that happened because of my video gaming that will always be important and relevant for the rest of my life. I'll get to that next...

One evening some friends I knew in real life and myself were playing some Call of Duty: Black Ops when one of our friends invited one of his friends and his friend's ex girlfriend into our party. Now if you've never played a video game in your life you won't understand what it's like when a girl joins a game or lobby. All the horny geeky guys go goo-goo and do their best to try to get her to talk to them. I wasn't one of those guys as I typically viewed gamer girls as how girls view gamer guys... fat, ugly, full of acne and generally smell bad. I had asked my friend who invited her what she looked like and he had said she was fat and ugly. To be fair, his friend (who was her ex) was present when he said this to me.... Anywho, I digress... After a few months went buy of all of us playing together and me never really talking to her aside from making her laugh every now and then and vice versa, the gang decided to meet up at the annual Comic Con in Albuquerque. Normally, I wouldn't go to a Comic Con... but the actors from The Boondock Saints were going to be there and since that's one of my all-time favorite movies I just had to be there. Turns out, she was going to be there and even showed up at my house to pick me up with one of our mutual friends. That was the first time we met in person. We really hit it off and started talking daily. I don't want to get all mushy so I'll sum it up by saying that we quickly fell in love. She's my best friend and there's not a single person on this planet that understands me better than her. Shortly after getting together, she got pregnant and 9 months later our beautiful daughter was born.

During this time, my new loves in my life completely motivated me and gave me the ambition I needed to be a real man and get off my ass to find work. When all was said and done, I managed to get a job up in Denver, Colorado as a Penetration Tester. If you don't know what that is, it's a politically correct way of saying 'professional hacker' or 'hacker for hire'. This is by far the best job I've ever had and I'm damn grateful for having it. You can check out my main site at for random articles and tutorials on infosec stuff. Life is good now, and I will continue to make it better from here on...

Now we can get to the chess! w00t! Up until about a month ago my hobbies still consisted of lots of Call of Duty. I love the game, what can I say. However, my problem was that I was getting too damn frustrated all the time and would often let it effect my emotions outside of the game. I had to stop. I've always said that chess was my passion, and thus here we are. I started playing again about a month ago. I dabbled in a few games on on my old sir_nemo account and quickly realized that I had much to remember. But the fire was re-ignited and it was game on! I started going through whatever books I still had from 4-5 years ago and I quickly got back up to speed; nearly to the point of where I left off before I quit playing.

I've created a new account so that I could start fresh. I've also played a few slow games on my old FICS account (SirNemo) and have won every one of them. I will update the sidebar with my current stats once I've finished posting this.

There are a couple of tournaments coming up that I will be participating in:

  • May 26 - Denver Memorial Day Weekend G/30+5s
  • June 22-23 - 1st Annual Summer Solstice Tournament
  • June 29-30 - Albuquerque Open
I also plan on starting the 7 Circles again on July 15th. I've dabbled a little with the CT-ART program and got a 100% on the problems with difficulty level 10. I know this is not that impressive of a result as I'm sure most of you can do that by now, but the fact that my tactical abilities are still present after 5 years of not playing really shocked me. 

I will let you guys know how the May 26th tournament goes this weekend. As we all know, I usually go into a tournament overconfident and wind up playing terribly. Lets see if the mature version of my prior self can overcome this obstacle and prevail finally!

Until next time!

- Sir Nemo