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Chess and Improving: How Does It Happen For You?


  • 13 months ago · Quote · #1

    Phylar

    How does it happen? I mean, you study, you play, and your rating and abilities increase. Congratulations, you've leveled up! But how?

    Do you improve in leaps and bounds? Are you one of the rarest of players who steadily increases their strength? Are you perhaps like me, unable to hold a rating while studying and dropping as much as a hundred points, only to counter later with a 200+ point increase?

    As irritating as it is, that is what happens with me and it can be down right frustrating and even depressing if it occurs for a long period. Right now is a good example. I am able to play approx. evenly with people not quite at the 1500 range (think 1400-1499 but not quite past that plateau) and yet here I am at 1350ish.


    Do you know why? Well, I've decided to get my head out of my ass to see the light of day and I've come up with a list, in order of greatest need of study, to least, below:

    • Anticipating and correctly estimating my opponent's strengths, weaknesses and overall capability on the board (what can he/she do at this moment ~ four moves from now?)
    • Blunders and Mistakes. Not so much ridding myself of them but rather gaining an eye for what not to do and most importantly why. A recent game is a prime example; I put my opponent in check, appropriate at the time, but neglected the correct square and was therefore unable to gain a free piece. Which brings me to my next point.
    • Take my time. I am playing at about a 1450 level and my time (15|10) doesn't go below 14:00 until about move 18 most games. Gotta slow down.
    • Endgames. This is last because I must improve the above to have a chance to make it to a winning endgame. Furthermore, if I improve everything listed, I will, by definition, improve my endgame capability.

    What do you need to improve? Are you doing it? If not, why not? By brainstorming, I've come to the realization that to improve in chess, one must concentrate on a single area and when finished, then and only then move onto another one. "If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither." (or something along those lines). So concentrate all your resources on one endeavor, improve, transcend, and finally succeed.

    Thoughts?

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #2

    D_for_DJ

    Chess is 99% tactics.  -  Rudolph Teichmann

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #3

    D_for_DJ

    take 30,000 tactics and memorize them = 2000 uscf

    read 

    Rapid Chess Improvement (Everyman Chess) by Michael de la Maza 

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #4

    Peter-Pepper

    Phylar wrote:
    Take my time. I am playing at about a 1450 level and my time (15|10) doesn't go below 14:00 until about move 18 most games. Gotta slow down.

    Do you find yourself in roughly equal positions coming out of the opening?

    When you lose, do you often have a lot of time left on the clock?

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #5

    NajdorfSlayer

    Moses2792796 wrote:

    I find my chess improvement occurs like alot of other things in my life.  I will play alot of chess and study it for a short period of time, during which I will improve very little, then I will get sick of it for a while and not play at all and when I come back to it I am significantly better than I was the last time I played.  I don't know if anyone else has this experience.

    I have this problem with many activities, not just chess. I always assumed that it was common but IDK for sure, it certainly seems logical. By practising and studying something heavily over a short period of time you learn a lot but also start to develop bad trends. After a break most of the knowledge remains but the bad trends which didn't have time to develop into habits are gone. That is how I see it anyway.

     

    About your list Phylar - I would say that studying endgames are far more important than you believe and avoiding mistakes is far less important. Avoiding mistakes will only imrpove you so much, it isn't "short term" but it can only make maybe 200 difference whereas having a better understanding of positions can improve you 1k+. Studying endgames will improve your middlegame too, it is more about knowing how to trade down to the endgame than playing it itself IMO.

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #6

    SmyslovFan

    D_for_DJ wrote:

    take 30,000 tactics and memorize them = 2000 uscf

    read 

    Rapid Chess Improvement (Everyman Chess) by Michael de la Maza 

    So you drank the cool-aid too?

    I hope that anyone who considers buying this book will read the reviews. 

    The book is mostly self-advertisement. The basic point that tactics and hard work are necessary to improve is valid. Most of the rest of the book is just self-promotion. Can you imagine a book with 16 pages devoted to letters praising the author for his new book?

    Here's a link to one review:

    http://www.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/Rapid-Chess-Improvement-p3511.htm

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #7

    Peter-Pepper

    NajdorfSlayer wrote:

    I have this problem with many activities, not just chess. I always assumed that it was common but IDK for sure, it certainly seems logical. By practising and studying something heavily over a short period of time you learn a lot but also start to develop bad trends. After a break most of the knowledge remains but the bad trends which didn't have time to develop into habits are gone. That is how I see it anyway.

    I think it is to do with the brain needing time to make new neural connections, which it cannot do if you are working it too hard without a break.

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #8

    Alec847

    Phylar wrote:
     I've come to the realization that to improve in chess, one must concentrate on a single area and when finished, then and only then move onto another one. "If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither." (or something along those lines). So concentrate all your resources on one endeavor, improve, transcend, and finally succeed.

    One must practice a hell of alot against strong opponents (not strawberries) who fight like lions and tigers and push you hard to be better and accurate combined with alot of studying and work in front of a chess board and men to see real improvement there's no other way.

    Without practice against solid opponents in very slow games forget it.

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #9

    TheGreatOogieBoogie

    D_for_DJ wrote:

    take 30,000 tactics and memorize them = 2000 uscf

    read 

    Rapid Chess Improvement (Everyman Chess) by Michael de la Maza 

    That's only one base covered.  Experts also have a different thought process from the rest of us and aren't just intermediate players on steroids. 

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #10

    TheGreatOogieBoogie

    SmyslovFan wrote:
    D_for_DJ wrote:

    take 30,000 tactics and memorize them = 2000 uscf

    read 

    Rapid Chess Improvement (Everyman Chess) by Michael de la Maza 

    So you drank the cool-aid too?

    I hope that anyone who considers buying this book will read the reviews. 

    The book is mostly self-advertisement. The basic point that tactics and hard work are necessary to improve is valid. Most of the rest of the book is just self-promotion. Can you imagine a book with 16 pages devoted to letters praising the author for his new book?

    Here's a link to one review:

    http://www.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/Rapid-Chess-Improvement-p3511.htm

    >Stu is 1500+ in tactics

    >In the game both players demonstrated no tactical skills.

    Silman contradicted himself here but he's a good teacher on the whole.  But yeah, I remember reading that book once at a book store now that I'm thinking about it, wasn't too impressed but the advice to study tactics and not needing to know positional nuances when you or your opponents frequently drop pieces made sense. 

    "Is he trying to turn us into soulless chess machines made of flesh?"

    But we are, and some meat computers such as Anand and Carlson are on par with the silicon ones. 

    Here is a sample of what I do for chess work based off the stronger players'  protocols in Heisman's Improving Chess Thinker:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Black has weaknesses on the light squares, and while pins are usually great active moves black typically needs his lightsquared bishop in the Sicilian due to his c5-d6-e7 structure.  The d4 square is clearly the square of contention and black obviously has this square on his mind with the …Bg4 move.  However, …Nc6 accomplishes this better, though black likely felt that …Nc6 was too committal in case it is better at d7.  Knights are normally better on the third than second anyway.  Operative word normally though, there are exceptions.  Position is still equal and in the opening despite white’s odd Bd3 move or maybe even because of it since black’s goal is to obtain equality. 

    1…e6 supporting a d5 thrust and making way for bishop development.

    1…g6 putting the bishop on a better square, knight moves then bishop exerts influence over the central dark squares. 

    1…Qc7 is hope chess, bishop merely moves to c2 as intended though the move is normally played in a typical Sicilian anyway.   I see nothing wrong with this move but playing it because of …c4 gaining a tempo is hope chess.  Besides it would give up d4. 

    Need to develop the kingside bishop and castle, …g6 preparing castling and placing the bishop on the dark squares keeping in line with black’s darksquare control strategy pushes clock. 

     

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #11

    TheGreatOogieBoogie

    Yeah the comment kind of squished so I deleted it.

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #12

    Phylar

    Peter-Pepper wrote:

    Do you find yourself in roughly equal positions coming out of the opening?

    When you lose, do you often have a lot of time left on the clock?

    I almost always have a roughly equal position coming out of the opening. Occasionally I'll mess up an opening playing say the Alekhine Defense or King's Indian (both of which I am far less familiar with) but am generally fine with Queen's Pawn or King's Pawn Gambits or Normal Variations.


     

    @D_for_DJ

    Sorry mate, but the circles program is highly dependant upon the person using it. Statistics by The Knights have shown that your rating may or may no increase and the standard increase is about 127 with a Median at about 325 and a SD of nearly 300. In short, it is a gamble and that is playing it nice.


     

    @Najdorf

    I certainly understand that. However, I tend to make heavy mistakes against stronger players during the middle game which often leads me to a losing endgame anyway. I am lightly studying it, but also must start somewhere. Lets just say that for the moment, my concentration lies elsewhere. I am certainly not throwing endgames to the dogs though.


     

    @Alec

    No doubt about that. This is why (on here) I have my search parameters set to 1350-1500. Above that, I find many players just sort of let the game abort. The old, "You're not good enough to give me a decent game." mentality, and they are probably correct. For the most part the people I play are stronger than me in at least one area. When I figure out that area I try to play their game so I am forced to think. Against players plainly stronger, I just fight hard as I can. Win or lose, at least I'll get the satisfaction of having played my best.


    In short, the above is only a rough list. I will change it if needed. The way I am thinking is...think of Rock Climbing. If you go on your own, things can be difficult. If you go with a group but nobody helps one another, things can be difficult. Now if one person goes up and helps the one below him or her, then another reaches the person above and turns to help, and another, etc, until finally the person at the bottom has it much easier because so many people went before and are able to practically pull him/her up.

    A fairly loose analogy, but it gets the general point across I think.

  • 13 months ago · Quote · #13

    thoughtson64

    There are two main schools on thought that I frequently run into when discussing chess improvement. The first and more common is singular focus study. You pick a topic or certain theme, chess aspect, and you you go in and master that material (or what you think is mastering it). Then you move on to another topic,theme, aspect. The other school of thought that I run into a lot is a more wholistic approach; you take turns studying different topics, themes, and aspects in a rotation like manner, possibly spending more time on the ones that interest you or you like to work on more. If you're critical and disciplined, you'd even focus a little more on your weakest link. Both approaches are valid and more dependent on the individual's need in my opinion. People who want to see improvement now are usually in the first school of thought, while people who are more long term sighted and in no hurry to jump the ratings ladder tend to be in the second. You do what works for you.

    Tactics and opening study are usually the most popular study materials because they offer plentiful resources, many free online, and they have concrete value (easily able to see the benefit and results). They are important to learn and understand and you'll improve your chess for sure by it, but many people avoid the study that requires a lot of abstract thinking and usually isn't considered fun, are harder to find materials on, and much more difficult to see the value of. Things like recognizing weak squares and critical squares ( the keys of the position as I was once told), how to determine a weak piece and play against it ( I had a game yesterday in an OTB tournament where I had to use that idea! I was unsuccessful though), pawn structure and how to place your pieces according to it, and even end game study.

    To me the value of endgame study is more important than opening study. I spend maybe 10%, probably less, on opening study. The bulk of my study is tactics( easy and fun to do), end games( fun too! but have to be more in the mood and time available), and reviewing and analyzing games of mine and masters (again, when I have time available, like an hour or more). I'm working on learning about squares, weak pieces, and things like tht but it is hard to find resources about it. I'll probably need to look for a coach for that stuff in the future. I bet a master would make a killing off of a book based on understanding how to determine and use weak and critical squares, I doubt t would have much competition for awhile.

    For my improvement I need to learn tactics better, I'm weak with them still, and I need to master basic endgames. Like my friend told me, you don't have an endgame type mastered until you can go up to a GM and place a money bet you can play it right against them. I need to reach that level of understanding and confidence in endgames. I would like to learn a few openings well enough to get playable positions from them but I'm not worried about mastering ny openings until I reach a much higher level. I have a lot of basics to learn right now still before I get into that. Chess improvement, it's like money. You never seem to be where you want to be with it and there are so many options and resources on how to get there!


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