Quality Chess Challenge Wrap Up

On February 13th one of the more interesting events of my chess career came to an end.

The Quality Chess Book Challenge started by an offhand comment by my friend, NM Richard Martin, that QC’s products were so good that it should be possible to improve greatly using nothing by their materials.

So I decided to give it a year.  The one thing that I refused to be dogmatic about was not using anything when no QC product existed.

So for example, lacking much material on endgames I used Minev’s book on rook endings when I wanted to study them.  I also used a lot of online and book resources to work on tactics.

So how did things go?  What were the successes?  Failures?  And where do we go from here?

The first, and most obvious, thing to look at would be rating.  My rating started at 1804 and ended at 1761.  So no real measure there.  I don’t consider a 43 point rating loss a failure, but nor would I consider a 43 point gain to be any real mark of improvement.

The reason why I don’t consider these small types of moves to be much of anything is a situation like in my final game at my most recent tournament. I lost a game that had I won would have made more than a 30 point swing.  Losing that game put me at 1761, while winning that game would have left me at 1793.  I don’t see long term success and failure as measured by the results of only one or two games.

Things I though went well:

I think that my approach started out more disciplined.  Knowing that I was limited in what I could use to study, I tended to put more focus into one thing at a time instead of flitting from thing to thing.

Sadly, that didn’t last, and by the end I was reading a few pages of one book before switching off to something different.  Yet for the first eight or nine months I was definitely more focused.

So if I can tap in to that focus and keep it going I think that only good things can happen.

Another thing that I felt went well is that I developed more of a taste for solving that I used to have.  Solving is a very important part of improvement as it’s the closest one can come to replicating game conditions while not playing.

What didn’t go well:

I was hoping that this challenge would give me more drive to push through and increase my study time.  My friend Susan Polgar has said things along the lines of champions train when others are sleeping or watching TV.

Unfortunately I didn’t really study any more than I already do.  On a great day I’ll get two hours.  Typically that might be on a Saturday morning.  On a good day I might get an hour.  On a typical day it’s less than that.  Maybe 30-40 minutes.

Partially this is due to being married.  I’m not going to come home from work and tell my wife “Hi, bye, gotta go study chess now.”  Which means that I typically don’t get to start working on chess until after she goes to bed.

So 10:00-10:30pm is usually my start time.  As I get up at 5:15am to go to work I can’t push the envelope too far.  Of course this means that I’m not exactly at peak performance when I do study.

So where do we go from here?

The first thing that I am going to do is set myself a new challenge.  I plan on reading books two and three in the Yusupov series this year.  Sure, that’s not much, but it’s easily doable.

The second thing that I plan on doing is starting to spend at least one hour going over the openings of each game I play.  I need to learn more theory than I currently know, so I’ll do this in bite size chunks.

The third thing that I’m going to do is to work on making the study time I do have more efficient.  Primarily I’m not going to spend my evening study time working on tactics.  My plan to keep on working on tactical acumen is to just solve a few here and there throughout the day on my phone.  That should give me the 15-30 min a day I’d like to spend, and still leave my evening time open for other things.

My goal this year is to exceed my all time peak rating of 1896.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The 100 Days Rolls On

Yesterday I didn’t solve on chesstempo at all.  This is because I played a tournament game last night which didn’t leave me any time to solve.

The odds that I’ll solve tomorrow and Sunday are also slim since I’m playing in a tournament this weekend.

Today I did OK.

Day Rating Correct/Missed
Day 1 1650.2 14/4
Day 2 1667.1 17/4
Day 3 1658.2 12/8
Day 4 1677 18/4

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Day Three of the 100 Days

Today I suffered a minor setback.  For one thing, I waited until too late at night to work on chess.

Some days you just get more tired than others.

So today I took a slight step back.  However, considering that I started out something like 3/5 I can live with the final numbers.

Day Rating Correct/Missed
Day 1 1650.2 14/4
Day 2 1667.1 17/4
Day 3 1658.2 12/8

Tomorrow I may not get a chance to solve much since I’ll be playing a game tomorrow night at the Southwest Chess Club.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Day Two of the 100 Days

Today was day two of the re-launch of the 100 days of tactics.

Here are the cumulative results:

Day Rating Correct/Missed
Day 1 1650.2 14/4
Day 2 1667.1 17/4

Interestingly I felt the same kind of surge I feel in an actual game when I’m in time trouble as I neared the end of my 30 min session.

This led me to miss the last two problems in some sort of “ratings chase” as I was practically gambling by rushing my moves to try to get back to my all time high on chesstempo.  Because of course it tells you when you set a record.

Clearly I’ll need to work on emotional control while solving.

I am fortunate in that I’m not a jittery player.  I don’t shake or fidget when sitting at the board and I rarely get nervous until I’m deep in time trouble.

Now I just need to work on that same calm while solving.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

How Do Pros Solve Puzzles?

I’ve always taken exception to the fact that so many tactics trainers are timed.

Yes yes, in a game it’s you vs. the position *and* the clock.

When training, however, I think that it’s much more important to work on absorbing the patterns.  The downside to the clock is that it practically eggs you on to make rash decisions which you haven’t properly calculated, thereby missing out on the opportunity to learn new stuff.

So how does a pro approach solving?

Let’s take a look at IM Andrey Ostrovskiy, who has many wonderful videos as well as an excellent Twitch channel.

As you can see, IM Ostrovskiy is not rushing to solve these positions.  He’s taking his time and properly calculating everything prior to selecting a move.  It’s also interesting to note how he flits between candidate moves the way that all of us do, rather than clean calculations to the end ala Think Like a Grandmaster.

Subscribe to Andrey’s YouTube channel here.

Follow him on Twitch here.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

100 Days of Tactics Relaunch

A few weeks back I set a goal of solving tactics on chesstempo for an hour a day for 100 straight days.

A couple of issues immediately befell me. The first is that my job suddenly got more demanding. In fact, it looks like I’ll be travelling for work quite a bit over the next few months.

The downside to that is that those days are rarely short. And to be brutally honest the last thing I want to do when I get done with a 12 hour day in a strange city is rush back to the hotel and solve tactics.

If you happened to see my interview on chess^summit then you know that I was asked about this project and that I said I would be revising it and rolling it back out.

So the new plan is this…ideally I will get 30 minutes a day of tactics.  However, I’m not going to focus too much on  the length.  If I feel like going longer I will.  If I don’t have time to go that far, then I won’t.  But the goal will be 30 minutes a day with at least *some* puzzles each day.

There may be unforeseen travel days, etc. where I am not able to do any, but I will try a more realistic goal this time.

The other issue I was having is that when I was spending an hour a day it was cutting far too deeply into my study time for other stuff.

So let’s see what happens.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

The Quest for Dynamism

Yesterday I played a game at the Southwest Club that I’m proud of.  As you will see, it’s far from perfect, but I’m happy with the fact that I didn’t “play it safe” when it comes to material like I usually do.

I plan on making this the start of a new trend in 2018.  It’s time to get back to my attacking roots and to be much more aggressive as long as I’m not being reckless.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

A Very Nice Endgame Conversion

This game, played a couple of months ago, is a nice example of converting a minor piece ending.  I was up a pawn, but that isn’t always enough in these types of games.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Tactics: Day 2/100

Today I sat down for the second time to focus on my tactics training with http://www.chesstempo.com.

One thing that I noticed yesterday that really came in to laser focus today is that I have a tendency to overly complicate things a lot of the time.  There are many puzzles that I solved incorrectly because I would take an approach that would solve it while missing that there was a way to do it in fewer moves.

I’ve also started to notice that I have a tendency to miss tactics that involve pieces that hang in the middle of the lines.  I also only notice loose pieces maybe half the time.

So those are things to work on.

After my session today my rating is 1579.7, representing a drop of 3.9 points.  Insignificant whether that was a gain or a loss.

I also decided to start tracking how many problems I am solving correctly vs. missing.  Today I solved 40 and missed 25.  So again, this shows the percentage I will need to solve correctly in order to increase my rating.

I did email the admin of chesstempo regarding this challenge and something interesting I got back was this:

“Regarding your blog post, it is probably worth pointing out that to gain rating points you don’t really need to get that many more problems correct than incorrect to gain rating. The default difficulty setting (“normal”) gives you problems that are on average 100 points below your current rating. At that level of difficulty you get around a 66% success rate (again on average over a large number of problems, and assuming stable skill level). If you get higher than a 66% success rate, you’ll be gaining rating (again , on average over a large number of problems, short term fluctuations can lead to short term bursts of rating loss or gain). You can also change your difficulty level to change the success rate required to maintain a level rating. ‘Hard’ mode produces a 50% success rate over time if your skill level is stable as it gives you problems at your current level (on average). ‘Easy’ gives you problems 200 points below your rating, and you’ll get a roughly 80% success rate.” – Richard.

That is all interesting to know, although I think that I am going to just leave the settings as is and see what happens.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott