Saturday, December 4, 2010

Magazine Month

November was a catch-up month for me and my last few issues of Chess Life. I played through every game and quiz in the July, August, September, October and November issues. It took about 5-6 days per issue and as usual I was able to make a little more progress on weekends than during the workweek. I eagerly await the Decmber issue and I'll try to tackle and finish that prior to mid-month.

I also managed to get through the roughly 268 pgaes of "How to Think Ahead in Chess" by Horowitz and Reinfeld. I bought it off a clearance rack in half price books for a buck and never really thought I'd actually read it. At heart it's a basic repetoire book based on the Stonewall Attack, the Sicilian Dragon and the Lasker variation of the QGD. For a book originally published 59 years ago in 1951, the surprise is that the Lasker is relatively the same. The Sicilian Dragon is somewhat recognizable. I hadn't seen anything on the Stonewall Attack since high school but I've been dabbling with the Dutch Stonewall with roughly identical themes. Under the eveything old is new again theory, I rolled out my attempt at the Stonewall Attack in my first game at the Austin Kids tourney today and managed to win in spite of it. I won my first two games against a 1365 and 1799 before losing in the final round to a 1950 player.

I'm making my New Year's plan for chess in 2011 and hope to finish roughly 18 books along with the 12 monthly issues of Chess Life next year. Right now I'm prepping for the Austin Club Championship on Jan 7-9th and the Temple Tourney on Jan 22nd. Happy Holidays to all!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

US Game/60 Tournament

I had a little success this weekend in the US Game/60 Tourney scoring 3/4 to tie for third in the Reserve section (U1800). It's always nice to get a check at the end of a tournament. I went up to Illinois to visit the family and decided to spend a day playing. As a bonus I ran into a group of guys my age who spent some time reminiscing about all the old clubs and chess haunts of our youth. The tourney facilities were okay. I'm at that age where good lighting is getting more important. Right after the start of the 2nd round the folks in the banquet room next door to the tournament room started their "Tribute to Barry White" with a booming bass line. Perhaps the hotel personnel need a future reminder that chess tournaments and music festivals don't mix well. Best of all I picked up just enough rating points to sneak back over 1700 to 1701.

The Saturday before last I had played in the Austin Kids Tourney and flamed out badly. I dropped almost 40 points to 1690. Hopefully just an off day but they seem to be occurring more frequently as of late. Last year around this time I had just punched through the 1800 barrier and was sitting on 1803. My goal for 2011 is to play much more often, preferably in slower time control events and regain the 1800+ level.

I'm back to skipping between about half a dozen books and magazines instead of concentrating on my list. Time to buckle down and prepare for 2011.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: "Studying Chess Made Easy"

I finished "Studying Chess Made Easy" by Andrew Soltis covering the last 70 pages over the last four-five days. I really like the ideas communicated to the reader in this book. For the most part I had heard the advice on improving before in many different sources and many different forms. Here it was especially digestable.

  • Chapter 1: Chess Isn't School
  • Chapter 2: Cultivating Your Chess Sense
  • Chapter 3: The biggest Study myth
  • Chapter 4: The Right Way to Study Openings
  • Chapter 5: Two-an-a-half-move Chess
  • Chapter 6: Overcoming Endgame Phobia
  • Chapter 7: Learning to Live with TMI
  • Chapter 8: How to Learn More from a Master Game
The last chapter on "How to learn more from a master game" took advice I had heard--play over the game at least three times--and broke it down into the whys and wherefores. Play through the first time quickly (just the raw game score) to get a feel for the game (ebb and flow, crucial points, themes). Play through the second time looking at note commentary for ideas, look for points where you would have chosen a different move or didn't understand why a move was chosen. Play through the third time for detailed examination of the analysis notes and variations, do your own analysis sans computer to gain further understanding.

Soltis is also a believer of the every diagram is a lesson program. He talks about good authors of chess material choosing to use diagrams at critical/interesting/learning opportunity moments of the games they annotate. He expresses that improving players should have fun while studying. Although he knows that some areas of study will be hard and brutal work for the player that really wishes to achieve a high level he notes that choosing exciting games, practicing and analyzing with friends, and learning openings/endgames in  increments can be done without draining all the fun out of chess.

I really like several of the reviews on Amazon regarding this book and feel those reviewers are spot on with their key points. This is a strong candidate for "Book of the Year."

In addition, the working through the book, since my last  post I have finished the May and June issues of Chess Life leaving me July, August and September to work through. I have been playing on-line with some success and reviewing tactics diagrams daily. I just seem to lack the time for slow chess tournaments and weekend events. I will try to focus more on that over the next six months.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mounting a Comeback

Last night I finished the book "Chess Duels: My Games with the World Champions" by Yasser Seirawan. I bought and started the book over the Memorial Day weekend and now 2 1/2 months later I have digested its 432 pages (414 prior to index). It is a tremedous book for any chess lover and highly recommended! Yasser takes you through some wonderful chess adventures both in the games and in the stories about the players and the chess world in general. This book has received some wonderful accolades in the reviews on Amazon I agree with the bulk of them. I have seen Yasser Seirawan twice in person, most recently at a National Open in Vegas about 10 years back where he was giving a lecture and almost 30 years ago in the '80-'81 time frame when I played in a local tournament in California. The details are fuzzy due to the time lapsed but I believe it was somewhere in or near Van Nuys. Yasser was already a chess celebrity having won the World Junior Championship in 1979. I believe there was one master at the tourney and a bunch of class players. In between rounds I walked out of the high school where this tourney was being held and playing basketball on the outdoor courts was Yasser. I had the impression he was "beyond" playing in a local tourney but loved to be around the game and chess players.

It's been awhile since I last posted, time flys, life goes on, and blogs always seem like we'll get to it someday soon. I finished DCS on April 23rd and I finished SOMCS on June 6th. I haven't been playing as much as I would like, often giving up my spot in the club tourney if there is a odd number of entrants. Therefore my rating has been somewhat steady in the 1725-1750 range. I have managed to add a number of books to the chess library, way more than I can possibly get to this year but nice for the collection. During the trip to Chicago over Memorial Day I also picked up several volumes of the Yuri Averbach endgame series in hardcover at half price books. I have acquired several other bargains at half price books during trips to Dallas and just recently placed an Amazon order for "Mastering the Chess Openings, Volume 4" to complete that set, along with "Play the Caro Kann" and "Studying Chess Made Easy" by Soltis. The book currently on the side of the chess table is "Starting Out: The Scandanavian" and I've been focusing on the 3.... Qd6 chapters.

Still playing some on-line blitz at but not as much as I once was. I haven't been keeping up with games in Chess Life currently being about four issues behind. I'll try to rectify that the remainder of this month. I feel that if I could just improve a couple of hundred points to the high "A" low expert range my enjoyment of playing through the chess library would be greatly enhanced but I can't seem to spend the time I know is necessary to study tactics, tactics, and more tactics nor focus sufficiently at the board when wearing the dual player/TD hats.

For the immediate future I'll set the smaller goal of just trying to update this blog more frequently. To any and all readers out there play well and enjoy the game.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Plodding Along

Life does get in the way of chess study. But overall things are progressing abet slowly. I've moved the bookmark in DCS up to page 116 for a gain of 24 pages over the last month. In SOMCS I've advanced to page 118 for an additional 42 pages covered. I've progressed through several games in the April issue of Chess Life. I have played in the March Club Swiss finishing tied for first with a score of 3.5/4.0 including a .5 bye. Boosted my regular rating from 1718 to 1754 and QC rating from 1732 to 1760. Then played in the March 31 Quick Chess Quads and finished 1st with a 3.0/3.0 and added 25 more points to 1785 Quick. The Club Swiss for April is off and running but due to an odd number of entrants I took a 1st round .5 point bye. I turned 50 on April 3rd and my presents included "Knight Endings" by Averbach, GrandMaster Repertoire 1. d4 by Boris Avrukh, and an Amazon order including "The Improving Chess Thinker" by Heisman, "Forcing Chess Moves" by Hertan and "Starting Out: The Scandinavian" by Houska. My cup runneth over! I have played some on-line blitz over the last 30 days but less frequently than the prior month. I'll really have to work at carving out study blocks for chess in the future.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Depressing Update

The improvement program would be rated highly successful by government standards. My rating has fallen from 1806 on 11/4 to 1795 on 12/16 to 1714 today. The government official explaining this rating drop would say that by increasing my knowledge in a wider varitey of chess positions than I am normally accustomed to playing I'm increasing my overall chess knowledge and in the future this should begin to show a steady increase in rating which always lags the accumulation of knowledge. In addition, once I become acclimated to the wider variety of chess positions my intrinsic value as a chess player shall increase.

In reality, I have meandered through a few more pages in DCS up to page 82 and SOMCS up to page 76 which represents about 24 total pages in 8 days since the last update. I did play in one 3-SS Game/45 tournament on Saturday winning two games but losing to a 1672 player. The areas of book study included the discussion of playing Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) positions which I normally don't get in my opening systems. However, after reviewing that section I had the chance to enter one in the tournament and didn't shy away from it. It's interesting to sit at the board thinking "The book says this is how I should play the position and that is how my opponent should play the position" and then watch somewhat helplessly as he achieves his aims while I barely hang on and eventually slip off.

Much less time for on-line blitz in this time period although I played a few sessions. My goal for the next week is to average at least 6 pages a day, spent less time on the computer and more time studying and, perhaps, not just playing through the moves.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Too long between updates, I know, but here's where I'm at now. In "Dynamic Chess Strategy" I'm on page 72 and in "SOMCS" I'm on page 62. I have played some blitz on almost every day and the regular Wednesday G/60 club contests. Also played through Game 24 in "Why Lasker Matters" (pp. 82-86).

Taught the kids class on Friday afternoons, last week's main lesson was Queen and King mate v. lone King. Tomorrow will be two Rooks vs. lone King and if successfully King and Rook v. lone King. I hope it's going well. Had several returning attendees and a few new ones.

Got hammered in the Club February Swiss sinking from 1757 to 1724. I will try to remain optimistic about the March Swiss starting next week. Good luck to all you chess players seeking to improve!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Progress Report

Four days in and here's what's happened so far. On Monday, I played about an hour of 3m3s blitz games on (GarGus). I received an ebay purchase of "The Black Knights Tango" read through the first 6 pages--bookmark inserted. I also managed to progress from page 34 to page 38 in SOMCS covering passed pawn and blockade info. Played through one game out of "Why Lasker Matters."

On Tuesday, perhaps 30-45 minutes of on-line 3m3s blitz games. A couple of pages in SOMCS and restarted "Dynamic Chess Strategy" covering the first two games of the introduction.

Wednesday, some more blitz at lunch (my default seek is 3m3s) then the club night OTB game at G/60. I was better out of the opening (white side of KID Samisch), soon up a piece for two pawns, added an exchange to boot, and then lost on time in a losing position having let my opponent advance the passed pawns and win back a pawn and piece in a time scramble. I had an easy draw in time trouble but wanted more and got less.

Thursday, I managed to progress to page 45 in SOMCS and page 17 in DCS..

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The new plan

Within the last week I have finished two books I had been working through since December. On January 31st I finished "Dutch Stonewall" by Jacob Aagaard and on February 4th I finished "Tal Botvinnik 1960" by Mikhail Tal. However, my wandering path to these books tells more of the story of why I am where I am as a player and speaks as to my  meandering study habits.. The months prior to starting these books I had finished "Starting Out: The Dutch Defense" by Neil McDonald had gotten excited about the Stonewall Dutch. I won a couple of games even playing up and decided I would pursue this addition to my opening repertoire. I ordered "Win with the Stonewall Dutch" by Sverre Johnsen and eagerly awaited it's arrival. While waiting for it to arrive I started going through the Aagaard book which I already had in my library and even after the "fresher" new book arrived I decided I would finish the Aagaard book before preceding. So now I have played through the 77 illustrative games and many additional games and game fragments in the notes while the newer book languishes on the shelf. I did have some additional wins with the Dutch Stonewall in the meantime and will continue to pursue it subject to the plan below.

I had also in those prior months finished "Starting Out: The Caro-Kann" by Joe Gallagher for the only reason that I had been beaten twice in a short period by C-K players, first in the classic main line 4... Bf5 and then with the Bronstein-Larsen Variation 4 ... Nf6 5. Nxf6 gf6 and I thought a refresher of C-K lines would be in order. While reading the Gallagher book he mentions how playing through the Tal-Botvinnik matches is excellent material for studying the C-K and since I had always wanted to get through TB1960 there was no time like the present (although I had purchased the book 4-5 years earlier and it too had just been sitting on the shelf in the interim). Regarding the Tal book, I had read his Life & Games book back in the '70s and enjoyed it immensely, both works by Tal are deservedly classics of chess literature and highly recommended.

Of course after finishing the Tal book I was tempted to jump into "My Great Predecessors, Volume 2" and compare the match/game annotations. This is precisely the disorganized jumping around , way-leads-onto-way study that I have pursued throughout my chess career. As an aside, I have over 600 volumes in my chess library--more than I'll read in my lifetime. I average maybe 8-10 books a year in a good year. I try to buy the classics and book-of-the-year winners and those with high marks from reviewers on Silman's site or ChessCafe or Amazon but also have a lot of "junk food of chess" type books as well (miniatures collections, openings I have no real intention of ever playing in a tournament game--"Play the ...", outdated opening books that I just like to have to complete a set--the "Winning with" series and Chess Digest/Contemporary Chess Openings  hardbacks from the '70s. All too often, I'll buy a book or books, come home and read the introductory pages and maybe play through a game or two then stick a bookmark into it and up on the shelf it goes. I would wager most of those 600+ volumes have a bookmark somewhere within the first 20 pages.

Of course I try to play through all the games in Chess Life each month as well, which has become a lot easier to do now that they are only averaging 15-20 games per issue versus the 45-50 games we were seeing as little as four or five years ago. I recently upgraded from Fritz 6 to Fritz 12 which included the Playchess membership so I've been playing blitz at Playchess on-line and in the game/60 tournament at the club weekly and maybe an outside tournament every other month or so.

Now for the Plan. I have been meaning to work my way through all those book-of-the-year winners and always seem to get sidetracked. I picked up and started "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" probably half a dozen times (when I checked today the bookmark was on page 34). So my path to chess improvement over the remainder of 2010 is as follows:

I will finish SOMCS and "Chess Strategy in Action" by John Watson, I will also squeeze in "Dynamic Chess Strategy" by Suba and "Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal" by Keene. I will follow those with "Chess Strategy for Club Players" by Herman Grooten. This should keep me busy for the next 4-6 months or so. If I am able to complete these by August I will move on to "The Road to Chess Improvement" by Alex Yermolinsky, "Understanding your Chess" by James Rizzitano, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins by Jonathan Rowson and "Instructive Modern Chess Mastepieces" by Igor Stohl. During this entire period I will occasionally play through a game or two weekly out of "Why Lasker Matters" by Andrew Soltis and perhaps tackle some endgame work using "Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman. Even as I write this it seems overly ambitious and lacking at the same time. I will need to throw in some work on tactics and pattern recognition perhaps with CT-Art 3.0 and a tactics book or two such as "Understanding Chess Tactics" by Martin Weteschnik or "How to Calculate Chess Tactics" by Valeri Beim.

I plan to update often regarding my progress.  

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I learned to play chess at the age of 12 during the summer of ‘72 against the background of the Fischer Spassky World Championship Match. I joined the USCF in late ‘76 and played in my first rated tournament in January of ‘77 achieving an initial rating of 1243. In 1985 I achieved my peak rating of 1913. During the ensuing twenty-five years I have drifted up and down within roughly 100 points of 1700. Regardless of method, amount or subject of my chess studies, my journey towards improvement in this enjoyable hobby leaves me feeling like the Wayfaring Fool of Chess.

I will turn 50 later this year and would like, even at this later stage of life, to achieve a new peak rating and preferably one that starts with a 2. To that end I intend to outline a program of study, practice and tournament play that will allow me to realistically pursue that aim.