Adult Chess Improvement Seekers ( ACIS)

Nov 6, 2009, 7:25 AM |

I will be stepping out of the time machine between now and through the holidays. Partly because I am waiting for Christmas before I pick up my next tournament book ( Dear Santa, I want the Grandmaster Chess: The Book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament 1975 for Christmas).

There is a large community of adult chess improvement seekers out there. You know who you are. I believe improvement is still out there for us old dogs as long as we are willing to put in the right effort. Coaching is a big benefit but if you are like me, sometimes, the financial resources aren’t there. Which books to buy, what method to choose and how to train vary with the individual ACIS.

In a recent post by Eric, aka Blue Devil Knight. The question of whether the ill famed cult of the knight errants DLM have died off. In brief, and for you new comers, a Knight Errant DLM is basically an improvement seeker who has attempted to follow ( loosely) the Rapid Chess Improvement method of Michael De La Maza by doing what I call the seven circles of hell. There was a blog community that had formed as a result and for the chess blog-osphere… this was a viral moment. Like a moth to a flame, I too, did the MDLM method and saw moderate results ( gaining roughly 300 USCF… warning results vary widely).

Most of us realized the original author was unemployed and could focus the time and effort to reach the 400 points in 400 days idea. The rest of us did modifications according to our real world experience. For instance, I chose a concentric circle method, doing each level of CT-ART 3.0 seven times before advancing to the next level. MDLM, suggests doing all 9 levels sequentially and repeating it 7 times decreasing the allotted time by one half ( roughly). Some felt a smaller set of circles was more beneficial and others used a different set of tactical problems… like How to beat your dad in chess.

The plus side of this method is that it is a brute force way to etch a bunch of tactical patterns in your noggin especially if you score poorly in tactics in the first place. The repetitious nature of the MDLM method is a good way to ultimately a good way to increase your base of pattern recognition into long term memory. In his landmark book, Thought and Choice in Chess. Adriaan de Groot determined the fundamental difference between Master and amateur was the ability to recall these patterns. A master is in order of magnitude greater than that of an amateur thus, underscoring the idea of finding a way to improve your base of patterns to recall. De Groot’s study was lot more complicated than that but I don’t want to digress from the plus side of having some kind of method to increase you ability to recall and play with confidence a certain number of positions.

Aside from the outrageous time commitment ( which can be dialed down to practical real-life terms), the down side to the MDLM method is that it’s like pheasant hunting with a canon. Once the circles are completed you may recall only a few of the patterns. This is because in practice, you only use a small subset of those patterns. The rest never or so rarely occur that they don’t make it into long term memory. Sustaining the 1000 tactical patterns in memory is not realistic with this method. You lose it if you don’t use it.

What should one do? I believe the answer requires picking the right problem set for the individual. The best results would be to study patterns and positions that occur in your regular games based on your opening repertoire. Notice how I also say patterns and positions and not necessarily tactics alone. I believe you have to include the whole game. Making the right choice in an opening, middle game and endgame requires an understanding of position and patterns.

I point back to Adriaan De Groot. He believed players went through four stages to determine the right move:

Stage one: “Orientation phase” requires the player to assess the situation and determine generally what to do next. Now, whether you use a method like Silman’s imbalances or Nimzovitche’s system … there is a requirement to recognize patterns here.

Stage two: “Exploration Phase” is the calculation phase and Kotov’s Think like a Grandmaster “tree of analysis” is a good example of this. Does pattern recognition help here? Sure it does. In order to evaluate a branch in your head, if you can recognize a winning position that can be reached it saves time OTB.

Stage three: “Investigation phase” is where the subject actually chooses a line to play as the “best move” and then Stage four is the “Proof phase” where the player confirms the choice being valid.

Here is what I plan on doing over the next couple months and will blog on my progress and efforts.

1) I will select a personal set of problems based on my recent games and put them into chess base using the training position tool and setting scores based on complexity. These will mostly come from my losses and even some wins.
2) I will create opening training positions where I have difficulties
3) I will use chess base to filter miniatures out of the database based on my specific repertoire. I will create additional problems to add from these.
4) I will select games from my previous historical games studies that pertain to my openings I encounter and find specific middle and endgame positions that are most beneficial to my repertoire.
5) As the data base grows, I will apply the circles training method ala MDLM.
This is a work in progress subject to modifications. My next post will be on the mechanics of setting up my own problems using chess base as I work on the first item.