Book Challenge Progress Report

We’re coming up on the conclusion of the first quarter of the book challenge, so I thought I’d take a step back and look at what has gone well and what could still use a lot more effort.

First, let’s look at the objective measure of the whole thing…rating.  Since the book challenge officially began on 2/11/17 my rating has essentially stayed flat.  In fact, if you look at my MSA page here you will see that in that time I have gone from 1804 to 1790 to 1801 to 1785 to 1801.

So actually I am down three points.  Not so much of a plus when you realize that my goal was to make 1925 by the end of the book challenge.

That, however, brings me to my next point, which is to ask this question: why has my rating pinballed within that narrow range over the past three months.  The most accurate answer is, I believe, the fact that I haven’t been playing enough.

Yes, I have been playing one club game each week, but that’s it.  In fact, in the last 12 months I have played only 50 regular rated games.  That’s not going to be enough to break away from the luck factor.

Let’s face it, it’s not farfetched at all for a club player to play either 200 points above or 200 points below their rating on any given night.  However, the more you play the more consistent you get, which stops the bouncing.  In the tournaments where I lost points I was inevitably held to a draw by, or had a loss to, a lower rated opponent while not managing to offset that with enough wins/draws against higher rated opposition.

So the first hope is that more events means more consistent performance.

The second hope for more events is that more games means more chances to work what I’m learning into my own praxis.  Of course that’s vital.  It’s one thing to esoterically acquire knowledge about a subject such as positional chess, but quite another to put that knowledge to practical use.

As far as the learning itself, I do feel that is coming along great.  My tactics and positional play have clearly gotten better as you can see by my last two posts.  So now I just have to keep that up and make sure that I continue to drive home new learning.

So what could use more work?  Two things in particular.  I need to keep working hardcore on board vision.  I’m hoping that continued work on tactics will eventually get the board vision where it needs to be.

I also, according to Yusupov’s book, need a lot more work on converting material advantages in the most efficient way possible.

OK, I’m exhausted.  It’s 7:12pm and I need to meet a friend at 2:15am to head up North for opening day of open water fishing season 2017.  Then back to my friends Gelfand and Yusupov for the rest of the weekend.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

Another Day, Another Tactic

Last night I played in the final round of an event at the Southwest Chess Club.  I played Jon Hildeman, and I believe that before this game my record against him was no wins, no losses, and two draws, although I’m not 100%

Once again I think that this win shows that my tactics have come a long way, and that more importantly they have done so hand in hand with my positional chess.

Notice how I provoke the …b6 and …c6 moves which weaken Black horribly, and from there the tactical shot presents itself.

My opponent did resign a bit prematurely though.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Tactimania Indeed

For those who have been following the publishers challenge, you will know that the book I have been reading to hone my tactics in Tactimania by Glenn Flear.

How has it been working?  Like this:

This is a game I played earlier tonight at the Waukesha Chess Club.  I am really proud of having found 24.Nh6

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A More Professional Approach

For a couple of years now I’ve been bouncing between 1750-1850 Elo.  Generally I manage to split the difference and dance around the 1800 mark, but if I’m going to break out of that I need to find a way to make that happen.

For the first four years of my return to chess I was gaining about 100 Elo per year on average.  I had wild swings of 150+ points at time, but generally everything was trending up.

The past two years, however, have been something else altogether.  So I took a step back and really looked at what I was doing in those four years, and what I’ve been doing for the past two, and did my best to evaluate the situation as a whole so I can decide where to go next.

The biggest realization that came from this exercise was realizing the main reason that I was gaining the rating I did from 2011-2015 was most likely just latent talent and had practically nothing to do with work.

What I mean by latent talent is that I hadn’t reached my full potential when I started to play as a kid.  My initial tournament career was from 1988-1992 and I was routinely gaining points during that entire time.  In fact, my last five tournaments from that time are included in my stats on the US Chess MSA page.  From November 1991 to March 1992 I went from 1461 to 1526.  I have no reason to believe that I wouldn’t have continued to grow at that pace for a while.

So when I came back to chess in 2011 there was still some room to grow on raw talent alone.  Yes, I worked to speed it along, but I didn’t necessarily have a professional enough approach to working.

If I was going to solve tactics I would often just grab a book and slouch down in a comfy chair and glance at the pages and just decide that since I thought X was the answer then X must be the answer.  No need to write things down or verify them, just take my decision as gospel.  The downside is that means that while I was probably right more often than not, there is no way to know how many of those problems I not only didn’t solve correctly but may have even reinforced bad habits with.

Lately my approach has been much more methodical.  Thanks to the Quality Chess Challenge I have focused on a much more solving heavy routine.  However, rather than simply glancing and deciding that I’m right I write everything down.  I then compare my answer to the one given, and I am very harsh on my grades.  If I got something mostly correct but not completely, then I’m considering the answer to simply be wrong.

When I take this approach I don’t sit in an overstuffed chair while I slouch and half watch TV/half solve problems.  Instead I fully commit and sit at a table where I can write.

The hope is that a professional approach will lead to professional results.  Time will tell in that arena.  In a future post I’ll lay out my plan to play in more events so that I can maximize my chance for improvement to be reflected in my rating.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Still Lots of Work to Do: Luevano-Wainscott 0-1

Last night I played a game at the Southwest Chess Club which I won, but not without a struggle.  In fact, I didn’t win this game at all.  My opponent lost it.

This shows me that although I am doing quite well with Yusupov that I can’t stop now since I really need to improve the level of my strategic play drastically from where it is now.

Here is the game:

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Artur and the Lads

Recently I wrote about the concept of deliberate practice and the fact that I was essentially doing anything but.  Sure, I’d get a lot of time in, but that didn’t necessarily translate to useful study in every instance.

So over the past several days I’ve buckled down.  The main thing that I have worked on is building up a solving-heavy study routine.

I have worked through several chapters of Yusupov, which really should be my main focus anyhow.  Along with that I have solved some of Glenn Flear’s puzzles in Tactimania.  On the days where I don’t do Yusupov chapters I have found myself working on other Quality Chess books such as Positional Decision Making in Chess by Gelfand, or Playing 1.e4 e5 by Ntirlis.

As a quick side note, Nikos proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that one does not need to be a GM to write a good opening book, although I doubt that there are too many more out there like Nikos who put in the time and dedication needed to truly understand what they are doing in spite of not having a title.  Nikos is a strong player and it shows.

The main focus, however, is solving.

Solving is as close to a person can get to recreating OTB conditions, and that’s the key.  It’s also really important to take the time to understand why “move X” doesn’t work when you chose it for your solution.  Doing this will help your board vision, and in my case that is what I have been desperately lacking.

Not too long ago if I was working through a tactics book (which was really the only kind of solving I did much of) I’d either assume my solution was correct without having written it down and checked it, or if I checked the answer and saw that my guess was just that – a guess, and not correct I wouldn’t try to understand why if it wasn’t immediately apparent.

Now I’m doing my best to completely deconstruct the puzzles that I don’t find the correct answers for.  I’m trying to understand where the blind spots are.  My hope is that in doing so they will begin to be corrected as I improve the other aspects of my game.

From a practical sense it’s hard to tell if what I am doing is having much of an impact right now.  The reason for that is because I’m still only playing the one game a week with no weekend tournaments.  That will change next month as I have the Arpad Elo Open (yes, THAT Elo) coming up.

So my goal right now is to focus intently on preparing for that event.  It will take place on May 20th & 21st.  Five rounds over two long days.  For my foreign readers I should explain that three long rounds on a Saturday is sadly common here in the USA.  So my day will begin at 10am and could run easily until 12:30 am the next morning.

I assume that if I could go to Europe and play in a bunch of one round a day events my results would improve dramatically 🙂

To prepare I will mostly just keep doing more of the same.  I’d like to finish the first Yusupov volume (I am exactly halfway done) and all of the critical stuff in Nikos’s book as well.

Assuming I can get myself into reasonable playing shape this should get me heading down the road to real improvement.  So far in two months I’ve managed only half of Volume One of Yusupov because I’ve allowed myself to get too distracted with other books.  No longer.

It’s time.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

 

Ljubojevic – Miles Tilburg 1985 0-1

I just heard Ljubomir Ljubojevic refer to this game while commentating at Shamkir.  What great technique by Miles.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Deliberately Practicing Deliberate Practice

Something I have written about before is the concept of deliberate practice.

Intellectually I could speak about it at great length, but right now I’m more focused on the pragmatic aspects.  Specifically my current training regime which primarily involves books by Quality Chess and analysis of my own games.

I’ve read many different articles and blog posts which say that one of the most important aspects of trying to improve is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing.  This often comes in the form of advice to “study whatever you feel like today” with little thought given to the overall methodology of the approach itself.

The problem that I have started to have with that way of thinking is that it is in direct conflict with a saying I saw Jacob Aagaard repeat in his Calculation book in the GM Prep series.  That saying is “Improvement begins on the edge of your comfort zone.”  My apologies to the originator of that statement, but I cannot recall whom Jacob attributes it to.

Those two statements can not coexist.  One or the other can be correct, but not both.  So it’s time for me to decide which direction is right for me.

The truth is that I have been going in the first direction for quite some time.  I do what I want when I want how I want with little regard to the overall curriculum.  It’s time to change.

Deliberate is the most important part of the phrase deliberate practice.  Many things are practice, few of them are deliberate.

So with that in mind my new program needs to be heavy on solving.  The fact is that typically I get involved in some solving and then I get tired of it.  I slip into the laziness so many chess players experience and I don’t want to spend an hour or two solving hard problems that make my head hurt.  I’d rather just play through some games.

Then I start playing through some games but come to a section where there are two pages of analysis on just one or two moves, so I justify skipping over them by repeating the bit about having to enjoy the things I’m studying.

Before too long I’ve spent some time shuffling wood, but not really learning in a proper environment.

So here is how the change will occur.  My plan now will be this:

  • Solving one page (six problems) from Glenn Flear’s book Tactimania as a warm up.  This is literally just to prime the pump.  Nothing more.
  • Working through a chapter of Yusupov.  Exercises, variations, everything.
  • With whatever time is left I will play through a ton of GM games in my database of whatever opening I am working on at the time.
  • After three days in a row of Yusupov I will switch and allow myself a chapter of something else.  Romanovsky, Gelfand, etc.
  • One day per week the session will consist of one hour of Tactimania followed by analysis of my own games.  Typically the one I played that same week.

I feel reasonably confident that I may not like everything I outlined above since it’s work, but I will do it and I imagine I will begin to see real improvement.

Now, off to Yusupov!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Bhattacharyya, R – Wainscott 0-1

This past Thursday the great 1…e5 experiment continued in a game against Rishav Bhattacharyya.

My personal philosophy when it comes to playing kids is that it’s important to run up a huge score against them when you still can, because as they get older (and much better than you!) it’s surprising how often they will also remain slightly afraid of you and you can score some points and half points that you might not otherwise be able to.

I’m annoyed with my inaccuracy in the opening and with my horrendous move that threw away my advantage almost completely at the end.  Other than that I’m relatively pleased with my play.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott