Joining chess^summit!

NM blitzcopter
Jun 11, 2016, 4:17 PM |

As part of the famous "2100 trying to break 2200 USCF" club, I'm happy to announce I will be joining chess^summit in a few weeks!

I highly recommend following chess^summit if you have not already. Isaac Steincamp is closing in on two years of writing, first about breaking 2000 and now about his path to the US Junior Open, which is next weekend! His dedication and improvement has been impressive to follow and will be difficult to match. Fortunately we will be also be joined by fellow experts Vishal Kobla (VA) and Alice Dong (NJ), as well as a lineup of guest authors.

Each of us four plan to post biweekly. My first post is scheduled for July 5, although Isaac will launch a little before that. I'll defer to him for more details since he hasn't officially posted anything yet.

Of course, I am all for posting anything that I am knowledgeable about and that people will read.

But in an earlier discussion Isaac emphasized his development as a chess player through writing for chess^summit. So I'd like to discuss what this specifically means for me now that I have an obligation to regularly produce content in a slightly more official setting.

First, some comparisons. Chess^summit and this blog are more different than they appear. For the most part this blog has served as an organized collection of my tournament games since April 2015, even the ones I hate (partially because I needed to store my games and never figured out how to install any chess database software on my computer). However, Isaac, has a very deliberate focus on material of interest in his posts, which are also mostly game analysis, but include study material, his games, grandmaster games, and even readers' games.

I haven't mentioned that my posts (this one being a major exception) take far less time than they appear to take, because most of my commentary is from my thoughts during/immediately after the game (along with the crucial sidelines of the Stockfish variety). It still makes for substantial (and even good) commentary but naturally emphasizes practical issues, which are easier to internalize and improve with experience. Isaac's analysis is more substansive at a conceptual level (without ignoring practical matters - a common pitfall for lower-rated players!).

Neither approach is necessarily the "correct" one, but several experiences have changed my view on each over time. Most recently, after the Cherry Blossom Classic it became more clear than ever that not every game is worthy of extensive commentary. And from a logistical POV, it's nearly impossible for me to replicate the same format on a Wordpress blog, barring embedded boards, as I would be sacrificing crucial brevity or clarity (depending on the number of static diagrams).

Cherry Blossom also made me realize that some of those "failed tournaments" weren't just bad days; they legitimately exposed my relatively lacking experience and thus knowledge/intuition. I still believe theoretical knowledge, while important, is highly overrated by lower-rated players, who are more prone to subjective overthinking. I prided myself on having the "natural" concentration and mentality to stay tactically to get through a whole game.

Naturally, the aforementioned "legitimate exposures" came more as I had to face stronger and better prepared players. If I had an off-day (e.g. slower, less alert) I didn't have "other factors", especially intuition, to compensate.

Interestingly, I do have a perfectionist side that is not satisfied with lack of familiarity of anything, in particular categories (e.g. certain classes of openings). However, I abandoned this complaint when I realized there was too much material to practically learn everything.

But gaining knowledge in any field is a gradual acquisition. As my rating climbs have grown slower with more bumps (again, culminating in the Cherry Blossom Classic!) I have begun to appreciate this more.

Finally I get to address what I plan to post. I will certainly still analyze my games. However, as I stated earlier, I am going to be more selective about this, especially since I want to delve more into games by other players and because not all games are meant to be. During an earlier discussion, Isaac mentioned Carlsen endgames as a primary example. The pitfall is that us mortals are prone to misinterpreting moves, and more importantly, plans, so I will be in experimental phase with regards to grandmaster games and the like. More on this later.

Finding endgame material isn't as easy as practical endgames vary much more than openings. But if you extend this concept to the whole game, there are too many different game structures as well. Thus this can be viewed as a miniature version of "how to study/explain games." The only issue is that my games haven't gotten to interesting endings very often. I might borrow a page from Isaac here (without reusing his games, of course).

Opening ideas are the most appealing to me as I have specific ideas I have wanted to explore. Naturally this will lean towards openings for which I have more outside resources, or those for which I am the most knowledgeable about, but as I get better at studying games I expect the range of ideas to broaden.

To summarize (in approximately decreasing order of emphasis):

  • analysis of my games (more selective than now; potentially with more emphasis on instructive phases)
  • opening ideas (Caro-Kann/Nimzo-Indian being early targets)
  • observations or opinions on practical aspects of chess
  • endgames (potentially similar to what Isaac did with Carlsen's games)
  • other (e.g. my potential quest to became a top 100 blitz player)

No matter what ensues, I am excited to be part of the next phase of chess^summit. Thanks, Isaac, and good luck at the US Junior Open!Cool