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 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 milestones 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.