Friday, August 10, 2018

Formalizing a training regimen

After spending 7 weeks in San Francisco, I'm back in Hawaii and ready to dive into chess.

I've identified four areas for book study: opening, strategy, tactics, endgame. After a long 15+ year break from chess, I feel I need to start with basics and rebuild from there.


I've always been weak in the opening, causing me to begin the middlegame with an inferior position. I've always been a defensive player but now that I think about it, maybe that was out of necessity, not choice. Perhaps defense is not my natural style of play at all.

I'm ready to rehash my opening repertoire completely. Seeking guidance, I stumbled upon John Watson's Mastering the Chess Openings series. Chapter 9 of Volume 4, titled "Choosing and Preparing Openings", gives general guidelines for the types of openings to study based on a player's general skill level. For beginners, Watson recommends open games that typically result from 1.e4. I will take his advice to heart and explore the Italian Game, Two Knights Defense and other related openings. But before that, an in-depth study of Chapters 1-3 of Mastering the Chess Openings Volume 1 is in order.


To master the strategic ideas of the middlegame, I turn to Jeremy Silman's two excellent books, The Amateur's Mind and How to Reassess Your Chess. In Jeremy Silman's FAQ, Silman suggests starting with Part One of HTRYC which introduces the reader to the concept of imbalances, followed by The Amateur's Mind, then returning to HTRYC.


I've chosen to start with Susan Polgar's Chess Tactics for Champions. Each chapter covers a tactical theme, starting with a short introduction to the tactical device with a couple of examples, then closing with 50 practice positions with solutions. I really enjoy how the solutions are presented with prose and lines, instead of just lines.


Surprisingly, I'm really looking forward to studying the endgame. Again, I turn to Jeremy Silman's Complete Endgame Course.  Like how John Watson suggests openings based on the player's strength, Silman takes a similar tact with endgame study. I really like this approach, as I feel that it will help fill in the gaps of my chess knowledge.

The 2018 Hawaii State Championship

I sent in my advance entry fee to play in the 2018 Hawaii State Championship. My first rated tournament since 2002. I'm not expecting much, just want to get the competitive juices flowing again.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer in San Francisco

After a long hiatus, I find myself in San Francisco with nothing to do. Ordered Winning Chess Tactics for Juniors, an oldie but goodie from 1994. I picked this tactics workbook because it's short (534 positions) and it targets the lower class player.

With a steady diet of 20 positions/day, I should be finished within a month. Then I'll have to decide what to do with my chess life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A 10 year break

It's been 10 years since my last post. My USCF rating is still 1669. I had packed up my chess books and never expected to look at them again. Until...

Beau Mueller, webmaster for Hawaii Chess, sent an email announcing the 2015 Hawaii Chess Festival. The last time a big chess event was held in Hawaii was the 1998 US Masters/US Open.

Suddenly, thoughts of a comeback fill my head. Yesterday, I ordered the 4th edition of Jeremy Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess. I broke out the instruction manual for my Chronos chess clock and figured out how to program Game/120 + 5 second delay, the time control to be used in the Under 2000 section. In the near future, I plan to join to see how much rust built up from 10 years of inactivity. It's starting to get serious.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Progress report

Progress Report: I'm about half way through Simple Chess, with 3 more chapters the go. It's a well-written and concise book. I could have finished it by now, but I'm going at a leisurely pace, picking up the book every few days and reading 10 or so pages at a sitting. I'm also doing daily tactical exercises from The Chess Tactics Workbook by Al Woolum. I've completed 40 of 130 pages. Though the first 1/4 of the book was pretty easy, it's become more challenging quickly. I find myself searching for a solution for 10 minutes sometimes. Of course, once found, the solution becomes obvious and I wonder why it took so long. Also, some of the positions are tricky. Either the obvious way doesn't work because of some overlooked tactical save, or you find a win of material but the solution is a mate. For a 3rd edition of a book, the editor could have done a better job. I've found typos in the solutions, as well as alternative solutions. However, overall I like this book for my purpose of daily tactical training.

I've started playing standard chess on US Chess Live, soon to be simply Chess Live. After 35 games, my rating is in the high 1900s. IMO, the standard ratings there are around 300 points higher than USCF over-the-board ratings. My win-loss record is very good, but probably attributable to playing players in the 1600-1800 range. I think playing other 1900s would be a challenge for me. Despite the good record, I'm not very happy with my play. Even in standard, I find myself falling for one-move tactics. Last night, a pawn forked my knight and bishop. The night before that, a knight forked my king and rook. In both cases, I moved a piece into position to be forked, so perhaps a quick 5-10 second check for simple one-move tactics is in order. This might also indicate a blind spot in my visualization, so hopefully my tactical training will help remedy it.

Concerning standard, I find that at 15 0 time controls, I still run short of time. I think I'll start playing the rapid time controls (25 10 and 30 0) or longer. I've joined the STC Bunch and am looking forward to playing in their STC Gauntlet 2003, a 45 5 elimination tournament. I'm also planning to play in the 2003 Hawaii State Championship, to be held over Labor Day weekend. With events to look forward to, it helps me to focus on my chess study.

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Goodbye ICC

Goodbye ICC: Today, I gave the remaining time on my ICC membership to a friend. One less distraction to have to deal with. As a farewell to my old handle 'yolk', I played a final 15 0 standard game this morning. Even though I won, I missed a very nice mating sequence. I guess I have to work on my visualization. I'll still log onto ICC as a guest to check in with my friends, but the bulk of my serious chessplaying will take place on US Chess Live. I'll probably get another ICC handle in the future. after I get some booklearning behind me. I'm toying with the idea of organizing a Hawaii team to play in the STC 45 45 League. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

Relapse to blitz

Relapse, Revelation and Salvation: I miss chess. So much so that I've again started playing blitz and bullet on ICC in my spare time. Like a habitual drinker or smoker, I know it's bad for me, but I do it anyway. And any feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction is an empty one. My blitz and bullet ratings are so volatile that any euphoria associated with a new peak rating is accompanied by the certainty that it will be short-lived. Fear sets in, for the next game might be the beginning of a string of losses. What's supposed to be fun has become a chore.

I've developed a particular distaste for bullet. Even if one side were to achieve a superior position, it all boils down to who can move the mouse faster or who has the presence of mind to make unexpected, material-sacrificing checks in the last few seconds. Is this the kind of chess that Botvinnik would be proud of? I think not.

I'm lucky to have some good chess friends. (You know who you are.) They help me keep my eye on the ball, and don't let me stray too far away from chess. I'm going to try to ease myself back into study mode. Tonight at Border's, I picked up a little book called Simple Chess. It's a Dover reprint of an older work which received favorable reviews. Thumbing through its contents, I think it's manageable for me. Hopefully, this will be my salvation from the evils of blitz and bullet.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


All things are on hold while I spend time with my dad and help him recover. He spent 5 days in the hospital after taking a nasty fall, hitting his head full force on a cement sidewalk. He was admitted when the CT scan showed bleeding both inside and on the surface of the brain. A subsequent scan showed improvement, so he was discharged. However, he is markedly weaker and gets dizzy and nauseated easily.

Suddenly, becoming a chess master isn't important any more. So for now, the quest is paused until I can start again with a clear conscience that I did what was most important first.

Lesson of the Day: Chess is a game, not life.

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.