Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More Details about New Approach

Two of the biggest disruptors to my chess are work and family. After taking care of business at work, I enjoy a fun evening with the family. But after getting the kiddos to bed, I only have a few hours to work on chess. To help me save time with reviewing the problems I have trouble with in CT-ART, I use the print feature to "export" the problems that give me trouble.

CT-ART lets you print to a file (as opposed to a printer). Once I've printed to the file, I open the file and copy the image to a Word document. I capture all the trouble problems in the same Word document and then I print that file and post it up on the wall at work. So when I take my breaks throughout the day, I can grab the problems off my wall and review them in my head.

I figure this little trick will save me about 10-15 minutes an evening when I review those problems. This way I can use that time to work on "new" problems.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Status Update and New Approach


As many know, life gets in the way of chess sometimes (if you have higher priorities other than chess). Such is my case over the last month.

I finally finished my MBA and graduated earlier this month. I've also recently transitioned into a new position at work which is requiring more time than my previous position. And lastly, we're in the process of selling our home and buying a new one. So chess has been pushed to the backburners.

But I'm hoping to get back in the saddle and back in the habit of practicing tactics.

New Approach

I've been struggling about coming up with a plan that will allow me to complete some version of the 7 circles without having to sacrifice so much time. I want to have time to still play a few games a week. I think I may have found a decent schedule that may work for me. I'll give it a try and then do more tweaking if necessary. If I do stay on schedule, then I'll complete it sometime in August 2007.

My new approach will be to take chunks of 10 problems and work them over and over again in one evening. The next evening I will start at problem 1 and go up to the current "chunk" I had worked on the night before. The next day I will work on the next chunk of 10. The day after I will again go through all the problems from 1 up to the current "chunk."

I do this until I hit 400 problems. Then I start the whole process all over again but this time starting at problem 401. Once a week, I'll go back to problem 1 and work my way up to the current chunk. I work this method until I hit 600, then I start over again with a weekly review starting at problem 1. I continue this cycle at 800 and finally up to 1039 (using CT-ART 3.0).

Click the link "New Approach" to see the spreadsheet.

I'm not giving up yet! I will finish eventually.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Level 10 Complete

I'm going back over each level to "master" it ... meaning that I'm working on accuracy and speed.

Tonight I finally got my average time per problem down to 10 seconds for Level 10. The accuracy is pretty high too. Out of the 110 problems, only 6 seem to take me longer than normal.

I plan to go through all 110 one more time without stopping before moving on to Level 20.

The Fall 2006 OCL is over and I went 1-6 ... pretty pathetic. The last game was a 24 move waste of time. I had other important things on my mind that night so I ended up blundering and resigning. Sometimes I'm in no mood for chess and this last game was one of those times.

I plan on playing some long games between now and the next tournament. I'm shooting for one long game a week. So if anyone wants to play a long game (60 15 or longer) then drop me a comment. Obviously, I'm RockyRook on FICS. I usually like to play Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights after 6pm FICS time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Level 60 Problems & Circle One Complete

I finished today at lunch ... all 1,039 problems (no, not all at once). The average time it took me to complete each problem was about the same as Level 50. I've been doing about 20 a day for a while.

The next phase ... practice and practice and practice each level until I consistently score a 90%.

This could take a while.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Level 50 Problems Complete

Obviously they are getting more complex.

I'm still chugging away ... slowly but surely.

My average time per problem for each level is:
10: 28 sec
20: 88 sec
30: 109 sec
40: 119 sec
50: 122 sec

During the last 100 problems or so that I worked on, I gave myself two minutes before forcing myself to move. Sometimes I could work and solve the solution while other times, it took me a bit longer to figure out.

I'm getting a bit antsy ... I want to hurry up and finish this first round and then get started on hammering the L10 problems in my head.

This is going to be a long battle.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Gauntlet - 821 Problems Done

I'm trying to push through the remainder of the tactics as quickly as possible while still trying to do some calculations.

I finished the Level 40 problems tonight. I just need to get through Levels 50 and 60 and then I'll be able to go back and "master" the levels. I'm doing about 20 a day.

I'll start working on mastering Level 10 around October 10th. Who knows how long it will take me from there.

The OCL starts this week. I'm not on a board in round 1. Currently my FICS rating is 1688. My RD is still high with that rating. My official highest rating on FICS is 1650 set on February 23, 2003. So as I go through the tournament and as I play more long games and as I study these tactics, we'll see how many "points" studying tactics will get me.

I'm not so interested in my rating, but that is pretty much the only quantitative measurement I can take to demonstrate improvement.

Excuse me now as I need to go to the restroom again ...

Friday, September 22, 2006

More Info on Plan Revision

I knew I had read it before ... I was over at Chessville.com today doing some reading and I was curious about their advice on studying tactics. So I found their article about studying tactics. Evan (the writer of the article) sums up pretty well what I think I'm going to do with CT-ART 3.0.

He suggests working on each level until you've mastered it. He says it better than me ...

Once you’ve worked your way through the entire set of level one problems, go
back through them again. This time, you should be able to go through them with
greater speed and accuracy. You’ll probably remember some of them, and be able
to solve them instantly. Some of them may require that you work through them
again as described above, but will go more quickly. Others will take a just as
long as before, and still others will stump you all over again. Just make sure
that you work through them again as thoroughly as you need to solve the ones you
can and understand the ones you can’t.

Q: "How many times should I go through the same set?" A: Until you can go
through the whole set (preferably in one sitting, or at the very least in as few
sessions as possible) and score at least 90%. Then you’ll be ready to move to
the next level of problems. Repeat the process until you’ve worked through all
ten levels. There’s no set schedule for this – take as much time as it requires,
even if it’s a year or two or more, as long as you work through them thoroughly
and spend at least a little time on them every day. As you can probably tell,
it’s quality rather than speed or quantity that I’m advocating. Once you’ve
finished the entire collection, you’ll be ready for the advanced plan.

That's it. But I'm going to try to be a little more hasty about it ... I don't want to just meander through these 1000 problems and finish a in few years. The one thing I hope to avoid is being caught up on the same problem over and over again. I plan on identifying the problems that give me grief and memorize them. Then as I go back through the level, I won't be stumped. My "practice" will be going back to the "problem-child" problems. My "test" will be to go through the whole set without re-do's.

I passed the 700th problem last night. About 300 to go.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Revision in Plan

I've been doing a lot of reading of the other Knights Errant blogs ... especially Tempo's, Blue Devil Knight's and Takchess' blogs. I've been trying to pin down exactly how to accomplish mini-circles of Death. As I've been trudging through CT-ART 3.0, I just don't see how I'm going to memorize all 1039 problems (levels 10-60) to the point that I can solve them in less than 15 seconds. There are so many of them and I've been having to calculate a lot.

One night, I decided to see how long it would take me to memorize the chunk I needed to do that night (17 problems). It took me a half hour to go through them once and then another half hour of going back and getting them down pat.

So after a lot of thinking and reading and deciding, I've come up with my own plan.

First, I'll complete the first circle as I have been doing. I'm on problem 664 of 1039. I'll finish in a few weeks. This will have given me a chance to at least see all the problems once and give me an idea as to what I'm up against.

Second, I'll go back and work each level until I am satisfied that I can solve the problems quickly enough (generally between 5 and 15 seconds). Once I can solve all of Level 10 problems under 15 seconds, I'll move on to Level 20 problems.

As I go through each level, I'll continue to note how long each problem takes to solve. I'll then go back and specifically work on memorizing those problems that give me trouble. This is how I study for exams ... if I know a concept, no sense in wasting time studying it ... just a quick review will do. But if something is giving me fits, I'll focus on it until I have it solidly planted in my mind.

Basically, I'll pound the patterns in my head by brute force ... there's no avoiding the work ... gotta do it.

With all that said, I seriously doubt I will be able to complete this quest by December of this year. Who knows, maybe as I pick up steam I might finish by Christmas. But realistically speaking, I think it will take me into early 2007.


Now, according to Dan Heisman, in his Novice Nook "A Different Approach to Studying Tactics," he said,
"The most important goal of studying tactics is to be able to spot the
elementary motifs VERY quickly, so studying the most basic tactics over and over
until you can recognize them almost instantly is likely the single best thing
you can do when you begin studying chess."

He explains in the same article that one of his students was working on tactical motifs and "got" the problems every time, but in real games, the student would consistently miss tactics. The reason being is because when you're doing tactical problems, you know there is a tactic there. But in a game, there may or may not be a tactic and so you're not actively looking for one. To solve this problem, Dan states that
"it is not just the ability to find the tactic that is important, it is also
important to be able to do it quickly and efficiently, or else quickly conclude
'there is no tactic.'"

Therefore I reason that if I can master Level 10, which are all basic tactical motifs, then I should have an easier time with Level 20 and so on. If I solidly build the infrastructure, then the rest of my chess studies will be on solid footings.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Error in CT-ART 3.0

I know that there are some mistakes in the CT-ART 3.0 software. I just happened to come accross one today.

I arrived at this position and instinctively chose Re4#. I got it wrong! I thought to myself, "I must've had a slip of the mouse." So I moved Re4 again ... WRONG! Now I was mad. The "correct" response is g5#. So I played the current position and sure enough, Re4 is checkmate.

Just an FYI.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Seven Castles, Seven Enchantresses ... and Seven Circles

I've begun my descent through the Seven Circles of Tactics.

In the words of Don Quixote,

... is there any greater joy than seeing, before our very eyes, you might say, a great lake of boiling pitch, and in it, swimming and writhing about, there are many snakes, serpents, lizards, and many other kids of fierce and fearsome creatures, and from the middle of the lake there comes an extremely sad voice, saying, 'Thou, O knight, whosoever thou mayest be, who looketh upon this fearful lake if thou wishest to grasp the treasure hidden beneath these ebon waters, display the valor of thy mighty heart and throw thyself into the midst of its black and burning liquid, for if thou wilt not, thou canst not be worthy of gazing upon the wondrous marvels contained and enclosed within the seven castles of the seven enchantresses which lieth beneath this blackness.' And no sooner has the knight heard the fearsome voice than without hesitating or stopping to consider the danger he faces, and without even stripping off the weight of his heavey armor, he commends himself to God and his lady and throws himself into the middle of the boiling lake, and when he cannot see or imagine where he will land, he finds himself among flowering meadows even more beautiful than the Elysian Fields ...

And so I throw myself into the boiling lake in hopes that I will find at the end of the ordeal, not misery, but flowers (or a better tactical prowess).

I finished the first set of exercises. I blew threw them. But then I went back and read some of what de la Maza and Heisman said about tactics. I need to drill the tactic in my head ... know it like the multiplication table. So now I'm slowing down a bit and taking my time to make sure I understand each exercise. If I incorrectly solve it, then I'll go back over it again a few times before moving to the next one.

And the descent continues ...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gearing Up

School studies will calm down dramatically after August. Finals are the middle week of the month. So I'm gearing up to engage the Circles. I'll be starting them on Friday.

I didn't do too well keeping up with the optional chess vision drills. But I did complete the "required" vision drills.

The time is now to take up arms to fight the enchanters and gain a noble governorship of an insula (aka finish the Circles and become a true Knight Errant).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Knight Sight: Completed

I drove Rocinante all over the chess board. I did my best to find the shortest route for him to take. After those two weeks, Rocinante and I had the board mapped out pretty well. I plan on putting these vision drills into practice by always noting (during games) where my knights can go and where my enemy's knights can leap to. This will be one of those things to check off on my thinking list.

From now until the Circles begin, I'll be going over the other chess vision drills outlined by de la Maza.

This next week, I'll keep up with the knight vision drills and then I'll be on to bigger adventures. The Knight Flight drill will takes lots of time. I plan on doing one row a day. It takes about 40 or so minutes a row. One day I'll have to do two rows. I'll save that one for this weekend.

Click on "My Schedule" to see progress and plans.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Concentric Square: Completed

I've completed the Concentric Square exercises. I found a rhythm as I worked my way through each piece. The first day or two, I had to calculate and really make sure I found all the squares. But after that, it was rather easy.

I generally looked at the diagonals the rook was on to find most of the squares. For the bishop, I looked at the horizontals and verticals the bishop was on. For the knight, I would look at all three. I began to see the patterns and easily recognize the squares to place the queen on for the fork or skewer. The queen was easy ... just had to look for skewers.

Now on to Knight Sight. I'll do the vision drills for a week and then I'll do the concentric square portion of it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chess Vision Drills

I'm not sure how many Knights Errant went through the chess vision drills outlined by the program. Did anyone do them?

To remain true to MDLM's program, I am going to go through the drills between now and when I start the circles. Since I'll be playing almost all my games on a computer, I'm using the computer to go through these drills.

I'll go through the concentric square, knight sight and then the other drills he recommends in his book. I've posted the schedule I'll follow. It is pretty rigorous. But I figure I can put an hour in at lunch for the vision drills. Then by the time I'm ready to start the circles, I'll have much less homework and can afford to put in an hour or so at night along with the hour at lunch. By the time I graduate, I'll be on the 4th circle and then I'll have a lot more time to dedicate to the quest.

I'll post a link to my planned schedule. I'll use that schedule to track my progress too (cells in orange).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Stars Must be Aligned

I've been itching to get this blog up. Ever since I read Don de la Maza's blog and his extraordinary quest, I've been wanting to do the same. Back in 2004, when I started my first blog, I intended to start a chess blog. But school got in the way. You can read all about that here.

This blog will have a beginning, a middle with many posts and an end. One day, this blog will end. It will stand as a solitary quest.

Today, on the sixth day of the sixth month in the sixth year of two-thousand, I introduce my quest. In sixty-six days, the quest will begin.

Thirty-three days from now, on July 9, 2006 I'll post my plan to complete the Circles.

Then on August 11, 2006 I'll begin the Circles.

May God have mercy on my soul.