Dvoretsky: Training for the Tournament Player 1
This is my first blog post. I just started reading Dvoretsky and Yusupov's book 'Training for the Tournament Player' and figured I'd post my thoughts after each chapter and how it applied to my game. Likely this blog can become something else, but this is a fine place to start.
Chapter 1 seems like a basis for the rest of the book. The authors try to prove that the chess struggle between two players isn't abstract and ungraspable, but that chess play involves a combination of highly specific strengths and weaknesses. Not only can one define a player in terms of their specific playing attributes, but that player is usually very consistent from game to game. The book takes us into a match scenario between two players and the authors explicitly list the strengths and weaknesses (objective and otherwise) of both players. After going through the two games and with helpful commentary it was clear that the moves in game were merely a factor of the explicit attributes listed earlier, and they were consistent.
This phenomenon was something I hadn't truly considered before, but it's very logical when you think about it. We are creatures of habit, and given the same position 100 times I might make the same exact move almost every time. Also, chess skill can be highly compartmentalized.
The consequences are far reaching, especially for how we improve as players. First, change goes hand in hand with improvement. I won't get better by playing the same move in the same positions as a do now. This seems obvious but isn't, it's very easy to justify certain aspects of your play because of how you feel. "Well, I know that what I'm doing here isn't the best but that's just how I play these positions blah blah." This attitude can't be right. Question your play at every move (in analysis) and find a better way to play.
Since chess skill can be a combination of highly specific subfactors, we should first seek to detect our own specific attributes and then train to nurture strengths and eliminate weaknesses. Simple, yet profound. My routine in chess training has always been well rounded (and no doubt beneficial) but has lacked focus on the weakest aspects of my play. I will improve the most per unit time by targeting my shortcomings. Once I have patched up one area, another may stand out. In this manner I will slowly but surely improve in all areas.
Lastly, it is important to understand that one cannot gain an acute understanding of their own chess attributes without extensively analyzing their own games. The point of this is not necessarily to find mistakes. For example, running an engine or giving your game to a coach would be an easy way to find mistakes. This is helpful, but finding them on your own is even better. Nevertheless, the most critical aspect of analyzing your own games is to understand why you made those mistakes. The coach might have an idea why, the computer definitely doesn't. You are the only person that knows why each move was played. Therefore right after a game, it's valuable to simply recall and record the exact thoughts you had at each stage. Right down the variations you calculated, the positional analysis, the clock situation, whatever. This will be helpful when you are assessing the difference between your moves and the optimal ones, and what thought processes you need to change.
I'll continue to post my thoughts on the book as I go along. Thanks for reading!