Getting better at tactics !

Getting better at tactics !

May 13, 2015, 6:00 PM |

Been doing tactic puzzles for some years now.

And this week something very surprising happened.

On with the TT I've gone over 2300 (which number surprised me) and then I've reset it after a while, starting from scratch and now over 2000 after some puzzles.

On Lichess I've gone over 2200.

But ... at chesstempo tactics I've done tactic puzzles I never managed to go over 2001.

I know it's just a number, and a temporary number, given time and concentration etc. but I tried countless times to break that best active rating, and probably as a result of all the "too hard" trying eventually my CT rating dropped to 1850 or so.

It gives one the impression that something is stuck or wrong, and there's no improvement for some unknown reason.

Then I stopped with chesstempo puzzles for quite some months.

This week I suddenly felt like doing some puzzles there (A friend started doing puzzle there again every day, and told me about his results).

That day I felt very good, and I could concentrate well, and I took my time per puzzle, and was patient.

And it was hard to believe what happened, but that day I managed to go forward and go over my 2001 record, making it even to 2130 as max. and now back to 2080 or so.

Wow !!! What a surprise.

So, that made me wonder :

  • Am I really getting better with tactics ?
  • Or is chess tactics solving based on feeling good, being able to concentrate, not being annoyed by noise and having some inner peace ?
  • Or was I just lucky to get some 20 or 30 puzzles which were having patterns which were do-able for me ? (I remember that in the past I sometimes got 4 or 5 puzzles in a row, which ... completely puzzled me. I could simply not solve, or would fall for some nasty trick in it.

My conclusion for now is :

  • Yes, I got better at tactics because I kept doing 4 or more tactic puzzles every day (During breakfast to be precise :), and because of playing blitz, and analysing games and posting annotations, as well as reading chess news with game annotations.
  • Yes, feeling good helps.
  • Not being tired also helps.
  • And I probably have not managed to "grasp" all possible patterns, because there are still puzzles which I simply fail to solve, even the not so difficult ones. For example. I needed 15 minutes to solve one puzzle because I was focusing on certain squares and ideas, simply overlooking another square/idea. I asked members in my study group to solve the same puzzle, and a few members of the group managed to solve it much quicker than me. That leads me also to the conclusion that some human brains have certain patterns which are rusty or mechanical. Which lead to either the same errors over and over, or to the same blind spot over and over, or slow the solving of tactic puzzles down.

Let's have a look at some of these puzzles.

Why was this first puzzle difficult but also interesting for me ?
Because in puzzles and in games I've had to make the choice between f2f4 and h2h4 several times, and a few times I made the wrong decision.
It is like having to play against your angstgegner again.
One needs to be calm, forget about the past, and concentrate on the current chess position and forget anything else :)

Next one :
This puzzle I've seen in the past at least once, and I managed to fail it. Now I saw the elegant finish quite quickly.

This following puzzle was incredibly difficult, and in the end I almost got the last few moves wrong (By calculating too quickly and not being accurate). But I took my time, and then found the last few winning moves.

I failed the following puzzle, and I thought that the winning move in the solution is quite amazing. Try it :

This one was not so difficult, but I found the solution elegant.

And here's a difficult one which I failed. I saw the idea, but got the move order wrong.
Today I showed this last puzzle in real life to a 2100+ player, and he looked 1 minute at it, and also got the move order wrong like me. First wanting to play Rd2 as first move, and later pushing the a pawn.
I did look much longer at it before, got the move order wrong and could not "grasp" the solution before failing it.
Here's my tactics stats on CT :

Epilogue :
Here's a puzzle that I was proud of to solve.
In the past I probably would have spend a lot of time finding a "complicated" win which isn't there.
Now I saw the "simple" solution quite quickly.

This was the first puzzle in the serie. Quite nice.

Here is the puzzle that took me 15 minutes to solve.
I kept focusing on squares b5 and c7 and also at h5 and h6, and simply had a "black spot" for another square for a while.

This puzzle was so amazing that I have to include it here.
(I solved it, though I didn't see the whole line till the end before moving the 1st move)