Concentration Drills Pt.1

Concentration Drills Pt.1

Feb 23, 2009, 8:12 AM |

I had been planning this post all weekend. Once I finally logged into and made my moves on various boards, I broke my own rule.  I made a rushed move.  Now I have done this periodically over the last year.  It would appear every 3-4 weeks, I might rush a move or if I am playing a lot of games, invariably one of those games will benefit from a rushed move.  Today I made a rushed move and it won't cost me the game, but it will give my opponent some activity that he didn't deserve.

Anyway, on to my original post.

Concentration drills.  How often do you find yourself looking back at your games and saying why did I do that?  Or how did I miss that move?  Maintaining concentration throughout the entire game is another characteristic that separates the master from the amateur.

I was reading recently on the US Chess Website about Gata Kamsky spending 30 minutes reviewing one move!  Here is the excerpt.

“I don’t think he’ll see [the forced win 43.Bxf8!! Rxd2 44.Qc1!!],” Sutovsky would mutter to himself. “It’s not a human line.”

A few minutes later Sutovsky would reverse himself, deciding that Gata had seen the winning line and was just checking it. “Maybe there is some variation that is easy for the computer but hard for him to refute,” Sutovsky speculated, quite correctly as events transpired.

After half an hour’s thought Kamsky eschewed the brilliant win – he had in fact found a variation that he could not refute – and went for a safe extra pawn. The position seemed to be difficult to convert but Kamsky made it look easy – although not until he had further frayed his manager’s nerves by declining to venture a series of computer suggested forced wins which Sutovsky was begging him to play.

There are several points that we could talk about from the above dialogue, but let's talk about concentration. Apparently, Kamsky kept searching a line that he clearly thought was winning for complications that he felt his opponent might find should he play a certain move sequence.

Now that is what I call welcome to Master level play.  He chose another line because he felt that even though his move would be winning, his opponent would have the opportunity to find counter-play with accurate moves.

Concentrating for 30 minutes is actually not that difficult. Most tournament players will be able to do this without much effort. However, concentrating on one move for 30 minutes and still play a solid game is a whole different matter.

One of the exercises that I have recently begun is audio training.  I am basically recording the moves of my games out loud using the built-in computer microphone and speakers.  I am reciting the moves at a slow pace while I make the moves on a real board. I am not doing any analysis or annotation, just simply making the moves and saying them out loud for the recording.

Once I have completed the game.  I then play the recording back. Only this time, I have my eyes closed and attempt to follow the position in my mind. 

Now let me clarify.  Most of the openings that I play, I can ramble off the first ten moves with some variations without much effort.  But this is different from being able to see the board in your head while you rattle off variations.

My goal is to be able to play the entire game in my mind with variations, without consulting the physical board. 

This concentration drill will prove invaluable later for tournament over the board play.

If you would like to try this yourself, I recommend you use one of your own games first. Record a game that you have played that way you will be a little bit more familiar with the positions.

As you get comfortable, you can move on to doing this several times a day.

This concentration drill finds a really nice home on any ipod or mp3 player while commuting or jogging.

More on this technique in Part 2.