Tuesday, December 31, 2002

New Year's Resolution

New Year's Resolution: A great time to rededicate myself to the mission. I must admit, I've been slacking lately. But with the new year around the corner, I'm turning over a new leaf. Amazingly, I've remained faithful to my vow of not playing any fast time control chess on the internet. So there... I haven't been all bad! I wish everyone a Happy New Year... may 2003 bring all of us closer to our goals!

Friday, November 08, 2002

Starting on The Amateur's Mind

Tonight I finished the first chapter of Silman's The Amateur's Mind titled The Battle Between Bishops and Knights. I knew most of the principles behind this minor piece imbalance already, but it was instructional to go through the chapter and see how to take advantage of this often overlooked and misunderstood imbalance. Now that I've been made aware, I'll be more alert in my own games when minor piece trades are possible. In particular, I'll be looking for possible knight outposts and the ability to open up lines for bishops, for both me and my opponent.

I'm about 1/4 the way through The Chess Tactics Workbook. The problems are slightly harder than Bain's Chess Tactics for Students, but not by much.

My chess studies have been slowed down lately, because my harddisk crashed. Luckily, it was still under warrantly, so I got a replacement one from Maxtor and have been spending time restoring everything. However, I lost a lot too. Oh well, sh*t happens.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Friday, October 18, 2002

45 45 chess

It's 6:20 AM in Hawaii and I just finished my first 45 45 game on ICC! My opponent was rated 2236 and had a string of standard wins in his history. I was intimidated from the start. I lost a pawn fairly quickly out of the opening, but I didn't fold. I aimed to create complications and found myself in a position to win back the pawn. And guess what??... I didn't take back the pawn but opted to activate my pieces instead, as his pieces were passively placed. Even though I was a pawn down, the position was fairly drawish. The heavy pieces were still on, but our remaining bishops were of opposite color. My pieces were actively placed, and I created a tactical situation in which I won back the pawn!! Unfortunately, in time pressure (I was in time pressure for the last 15-20 moves of the game), I walked into a tactic that lost a piece, so I resigned on move 39. But even though I lost, I was very pleased with my play. A normally defensive player, I took the fight to my opponent and had great chances to win. Overall, a nice first experience with STC chess and a needed break from book study.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The Chess Tactics Workbook: a preview

I started The Chess Tactics Workbook today. It's 128 pages of problems, organized 6 problems per page. At the pace of 3 pages per day (18 problems), I should be finished in 6 weeks. The problems start with mate in 1 and move up in difficulty to mate in 3 and other combinations. This will be the tactical training that supplements my study of The Amateur's Mind, which I'll begin tomorrow.

Studying isn't as fun as playing. So I will start playing STC games using accounts I have on ICC, FICS and US Chess Live.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Chess Tactics for Students DONE!

One down, many to go.

Woo hoo! I've completed Chess Tactics for Students! A few years ago, I bought a document embosser with my monogram in the middle and "Chess Library of Edward Seid" around the seal. To commemorate this special event, I've affixed my library seal to the first page of the book. This is the ritual I alluded to in my previous post. The "Chess Books I Have Read" list now consists of 1 book :)

A few comments about Chess Tactics for Students before I move on. Overall, this simple workbook suited my needs perfectly. The material was nicely organized into 13 chapters, plus a quiz chapter. Each chapter was short enough to complete in a single one hour session. (Remember, I had not read a chess book cover-to-cover in over 10 years, so I purposely didn't choose a hefty first book, which might dishearten me.) There were about a half-dozen positions that were a little tricky. For a couple of the problems, I was able to find an alternative solution.

I would make a couple of suggestions to the author for the next edition. First, I would label each position with "White to move" or "Black to move". The game score indicates which side is to move, but the game score also has some moves filled in which is a big hint. I prefer to be told which side is to move and be left to find the solution myself. Some positions have non-forcing solutions, ie you make a move and IF the other side makes a mistake, then the tactic can be executed. For those positions, you have to look at the game score. Second, I would use new positions for the final quiz instead of recycling positions from the other chapters like is currently done.

So now I'll take a few days to rest and straighten up my workstation before moving on to The Amateur's Mind and The Chess Tactics Workbook.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Light at the end of the tunnel

Only two more chapters to go till I finish book #1 on my journey to become Master! I've got a little ritual planned to celebrate the occasion. I'll reveal what it is when I actually finish... don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. If all goes as planned, I'll be done on Tuesday.

I've rearranged my computer work area to make it more comfortable for when I start playing STC chess on the servers. On a 5-foot folding table set at a right angle to my computer table, I now have a full-size one-piece wooden board and a wood version of USCF's Club Special set (item S471 in their catalog). Now I need to locate a swivel chair to replace the one with legs.

It's also time to give a little thought to what comes after Chess Tactics for Students. I'll continue my tactical training with Al Woolum's The Chess Tactics Workbook, available from his website. Additionally, I want to start studying chess strategy and positional concepts. For this, I've chosen Jeremy Silman's The Amateur's Mind. Silman is a highly acclaimed chess author and is best known for his book How to Reassess Your Chess. For anyone under Class A (1800), I recommend starting with The Amateur's Mind before graduating to HTRYC.

As I'll be studying two books simultaneously, things will be slower going. I aim to be finished with both by mid-December.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Return to Hawaii

Finally, I've returned to Hawaii. A few more lost study days due to travelling and such. I'm now half way through John Bain's Chess Tactics for Students. Overall, my impression of the book is good. I should note that the target audience for this book is the 1000-1400 range. At my current rating of 1669, I've had a pretty easy time with the problems. However, I want to have a solid foundation before I move on to more advanced topics. Starting with a book like this serves to reinforce basic tactical motifs in a structured, organized manner.

I purposely chose a book that would be easy for me to complete. As I mentioned before, I own 300+ chess books, most in mint condition. (It's probably closer to 400 now) Completing Chess Tactics for Students would be a great accomplishment for me, as it would be the first chess book that I start and finish in probably 20 years! I'm alone on the road to Master, with no one to keep my company, so I need events like this to keep me motivated.

I've stopped playing bullet and blitz games on the chess servers. These time controls are habit-forming. I'd been fooling myself to believe that I was "training". In reality, I was chasing the ego boost that accompanies one reaching a new "best" rating. Having done this several times, I can attest that the euphoria is often short-lived, as the ill-gotten fortune is lost in a string of sequential losses. However, not all online chess is bad. After I finish the current book, I will limit my online play to very slow time control games, probably 45 45 and 60 15. Blitz chess has gotten me into the habit of shallow thinking. I miss the "long think"s of OTB tournament play and am looking forward to playing slow chess online.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Taking a break in Las Vegas

I just returned from a trip to Las Vegas around 4 hours ago. My brother had a conference at the Bellagio and we thought it would be a good idea to take my dad for the weekend. 72 hours in Vegas can make a nice dent in one's wallet, but at least they had fun. I'm not much of a gambler, but my dad enjoys the craps tables so I spent a large part of the trip placing bets for him.

What does this have to do with chess? Well, every night we were getting back to the room past midnight. On the first night, I stayed up to do a chapter from Chess Tactics for Students but the lack of rest affected my attention span. Imagine me sitting in the bathroom working through Double Attack problems at 2 am while my brother and dad slept. Not wanting to compromise the quality of my study, I decided not to do this again and took a timeout from chess study until I returned from Vegas. I'm back in San Francisco now, and will resume tomorrow.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Today I start

Today, I started studying Chess Tactics for Students. It's basically a workbook covering 13 common tactical motifs. Each chapter consists of 5 instructional diagrams to introduce the motif, followed by 26 problems for the student to solve. Following author John Bain's suggestion, I worked through the first 5 diagrams in each chapter to get an overview of all 13 tactics. It was fairly easy.

I can see how this workbook format would appeal to educators who want to introduce chess in the classroom. It reminds me a lot of the vocabulary texts that I used when I was in middle school.

Now that I've completed the overview, I'm supposed to work through all chapters in order. The chapters are:
  1. Pins
  2. Back Rank Combinations
  3. Knight Forks
  4. Other Forks/Double Attacks
  5. Discovered Checks
  6. Double Checks
  7. Discovered Attacks
  8. Skewers
  9. Double Threats
  10. Promoting Pawns
  11. Removing the Guard
  12. Perpetual Check
  13. Zugzwang
To prevent burnout, my goal is to complete one chapter per day.

Chess is 99% tactics

Chess is 99% tactics - Richard Teichmann

This saying rings true especially for the class player. In his book Rapid Chess Improvement, Michael de la Maza describes a study plan based solely on the study of tactics. Surprisingly, he recommends the intensive study of basic tactics, not the 4, 5 or more move combinations that are presented in advanced tactical texts. Taking his advice, I've decided to begin my chess study with basic tactics.

Searching for an appropriate book, I came across NM Dan Heisman's Chess Page, where he lists the book Chess Tactics for Students as his "first recommendation for learning tactical motifs". I already own this book, so I'll begin with it tomorrow.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

A journey of a thousand miles begins

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - Chinese proverb

This blog was created out of frustration. For the past 10 years, I've been stuck in class B (1600-1800), with a current USCF rating of 1669. My chess career has been sporadic, consisting of long periods of inactivity mixed with infrequent tournament play and even more infrequent periods of chess study. I have a chess library of over 300+ volumes, most of which are mint and unread. The ones that aren't mint were probably bought at used bookshops.

I'm tired of inconsistent chess results. I'm tired of superficial thinking, fostered by years of blitz play. I'm tired of chess mediocrity. These pages will document my journey on the road to Chess Master.