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Laramonet's journal 
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Pawn

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 am
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Post Laramonet's journal
Hi all, I'm a 43 year old chess addict and have just hit on a way to stick to my chess improvement plan. I'll write this journal and have to be honest with my story of success or the lack of it ! I play league and tournament chess in Wales, with an occasional tournament in England. I play by email on Chess.com and a "Welsh and other languages but not English" site called Gwyddbwll.com.
First off, I've written down my improvement plan and review and update it maybe once a month. I've played since I was about fifteen and have been through many of the traps and pitfalls common to others, especially changing openings too often, and studying them too much, time trouble, neglecting endgames and neglecting tactics training.
My weaknesses I'd list as follows:
Inconsistency
Lack of disciplined thinking process
Not blocking out distractions before coming to the board
Not reacting to mood
Calculation lapses

With fingers crossed I haven't included time trouble, as I seem to have improved that in the last two seasons by setting time targets for each set of ten moves and hitting them almost regardless of the quality of the moves.
I've set myself some targets and will hopefully keep you updated on my progress from now on !

Current O.T.B. grade is 1949, live grading is 1925, best ever was 1960. Targets are 1950 by next grading list (01/07/10) and 2000 by 01/07/12, last grading list before I'm forty five.

Current Chess.com rating is 2020, my target is to get to 2200.

On Gwyddbwll.com I'm currently fourth on the list and my target is the top !

Thanks for reading, hwyl !


Sat Feb 13, 2010 2:14 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Good luck! I appreciate the honest tone of your journal so far. Your weakness list sounds pretty similar to mine. It's both comforting and distressing to realize that players 300 ELO points higher than me are dealing with almost identical issues.

Thanks for posting and welcome to the forum! :D

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Sat Feb 13, 2010 10:02 pm
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Pawn

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 am
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Thanks Kamus. Are weaknesses shared, halved ? Let's hope so !

Tactics
Problems in my games show up in tactical accidents. Does this mean my tactics are weak or that other influences (fast time controls, striving for the killer blow) result in tactical mishaps ? Anyway, I can certainly improve and am trying to achieve this by working through "The Art of Checkmate" by Renaud and Kahn. Thinking back, the biggest improvement in tactical ability I can remember was early in my obsession reading "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess".
I have CT-Art and want to use it but don't find working through tactical exercises comes easily, particularly on the computer screen. On from this the plan is "Looking for Trouble" by Dan Heisman and "The Art of Attack in Chess" by Vukovic.
I truly believe that tactics arise naturally from well-played positional chess. This is a key sign for me when I'm in good form. However, extra sharpness to perceive and calculate accurately when the tactics are in the position are the improvements I'm after.

All the best !


Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:05 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Yes I agree about the weirdness of tactics on the computer screen. I play so much online, that when I actually play OTB, it has an element of the unreal- (though it should be the other way around) and I get distracted by the shape of the pieces and the 3d nature of it. I bought a DGT board for that reason, but I've yet to hook it up. Have you tried Chesstempo.com or Chess.emrald.net for tactics yet? Many players enjoy those sites for tactics training- myself included.

Hwyl fawr!

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Last edited by kamus on Sun Feb 14, 2010 2:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Feb 14, 2010 1:55 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Everybody is different. For example, I don't notice any difference between playing OTB and playing on a computer screen. Probably just the way my brain works...

To attain tactical excellence there are just a certain number of patterns that you have to learn well enough to see them in all of the clutter that sometimes arises on the chess board. I don't think there's any way around that. Everyone just has to figure out how to master that material. If solving tactical problems doesn't help you much, then maybe a systematic book is the way to go. Most of my tactical skill I learned from playing lots and lots of games back in the late '60s and early '70s. I find that working tactical puzzles has a way of stimulating my memories of these things so I'm much sharper tactically when I've spent at least a little time regularly on puzzles. If I don't do puzzles, playing CC games on line helps but I have to be extra careful I don't miss things.

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Sun Feb 14, 2010 2:15 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Kamus, I get that same thing! I play hundreds of games online each year, and it actually slows my calculation down until peak power in real life form. Nevertheless, I find online play so useful that I shall not back down. DGT boards sound expensive :?

Lara, welcome! :) Your otb rating (grading is exclusively for the English list) is 1949: is that direct from Elo or a different system? I'm just approaching 1800 myself -dies of happiness-. Since I was at about 1680 I've been trying to put every position from Art of Attack into Fritz, with the book's and my personal annotations, for easier access. I agree that the root of some tactics is a stronger position (many of my games will attest to that, when my opponent lashes out unjustifiably), do you consider positional play your current forté?

You also mention mood and general atmospheric conditions as a consideration for your OTB games. Have you a specific mindset you like to get into, or certain things to do before a game that might help induce more consistency? I personally have found over the last couple of years that not playing for even just a week can have dramatic results in the negative spiral, but that even then, I ebb and flow. I therefore am now trying to work (somewhat fruitlessly, I might add), on raising my performance floor, so to speak. Having no natural ability this isn't easy, but helps me feel better about the off days. I agree with the other posters about chess tactics server and chesstempo, but don't be too discouraged if you find these puzzles (especially series in the former) yielding very low percentages at first. Tactics on its own is a monster, because of course, unless you have strongly distilled positional eval. knowledge, you can't know what you're looking for. Given your high rating you must hold yourself to high standards: do you set seasonal targets too, such as expected score percentages against particular rating bands, or percentage score from certain openings? :)


Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:41 pm
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Pawn

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 am
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Hi Arbiter, Kamus and all,
Thanks for the posts ! I haven't tried the tactics sites suggested. I'll look them up.
To answer some points:
My OTB rating is from the Welsh Chess Union. It is an ELO system but I do not have a FIDE rating.
What is my forte ? I find that difficult to answer, just like when someone asks "what's your style ?". A number of books talk about style as if it is supposed to be obvious to everyone what there own style is. I know I like to "know" what's going on in a position. With a thematic plan in my mind I find I can play well. Having said that, when a thematic position breaks up into chaos, I find I play better because I kind of know where I came from, if that makes any sense.
Mood and distractions - I find there is a direct affect on my play from what has happened during the day, for example. I try to get to the game calm, with ear plugs, a spare pen and maybe a packet of mints. I used to find noise particularly distracting and still appreciate good manners at the board. However, if you do something like using ear plugs it shows you have taken steps and are not prepared to blame the noise.
Other habits include marking the scoresheet at the time control move and at move 10, 20 and so on. I then have targets of time at each point. Our time controls are typically 2 minutes per move so I estimate 15 minutes for the first ten moves, 35 minutes at move 20 and the full 60 minutes at the time control at 30 moves. I never allow myself to get up from the board until move ten. I find this gets me focussed and into the game. I have a friend who gets up after every move, can tell you all about every game from the other boards and then wonders why he is inclined to suffer time trouble !
I agree about the effects of playing infrequently. I like to play once a week unless there's a weekend tournament. How do others prepare for single games or even tournaments ? When I have a reasonable idea of the opponent I review any previous games. I use any knowledge I have of what openings he plays to review the likely way our game my go. For weekend tournaments of five games, I used to try and go through my written out repertoire in the 2 or 3 weeks leading up to the tournament. I'm now trying to be more selective and review any particular openings I believe I may have an issue with. As I like to feel prepared, my choice of openings is directly affected by the economy they give me. For example, I like to play a line against d4 that will suit against almost everything apart from e4. I used to play the King's Indian but now play the Dutch.
I have a game on Monday where I think I know my opponent's opening and I have a five game tournament next weekend. I'll let you know how effective or otherwise, any preparation was !
All the best !


Sat Feb 20, 2010 1:45 am
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Pawn

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 am
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Preparation
The game last night went well. The preparation was wasted when the anticipated Scotch turned out to be a Caro Kann ! Maybe wasted is a bit strong. The freshness of White's options in the 4.Nd4 Bc5 line of the Scotch in my mind may come in handy during the weekend tournament I have coming up. Also, getting to the board last night with the feeling of being prepared put me in the right frame of mind despite my preparation running out on move one !
Endings
I never feel completely comfortable in endings, probably justifiably so as I have little theoretical knowledge. The feeling is probably exasperated by memories of classic mistakes. I remember a last round game, in a Major (middle section) tournament, where I was a clear passed pawn up with a bishop versus a knight. Yes you've guessed it. I fell for a knight fork, lost the bishop, the game and my chance to win a tournament. Maybe nothing to do with theoretical knowledge but hardly a comforting memory. Anyway, I am resolved to improve. I have Silman's Complete Endgame Course and have got through Part Four for players up to 1599. I learned a lot but will repeat it and push on. I also have Lars Bo Hansen's Secrets of Chess Endgame Strategy. This one will I hope give me that craved for feeling of nothing what I should be doing i.e. what is going on and what I should be planning, to add to the theory from Silman.
I feel strongly that developing a love for endings will strengthen my whole game and lead to turning losses into draws and draws into wins.


Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:36 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
The Silman book is good IMO. The simulators here have also been helpful to me though they are woefully incomplete compared to the number of positions I wish were included. I believe ChessTempo.com has an endgame section but I haven't used it but it might be worth checking out.

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Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:54 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Agreed, Silman's Endgame Course is great. Also have a look at Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics, that book is full of tricks and traps, the most entertaining endgame book I know.


Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:08 pm
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Both Silman's and Van Perlo's books are great, each in it's own way.

The chesstempo.com engame simulator is great, but you have to be a premium member or you only get two problems per day. It runs off of table bases, so you never see endgames with more than 6 pieces.

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Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:47 pm
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Pawn

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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Hi all,
The weekend tournament was a mixed bag but enjoyable none the less.
Round 1 Paired as white with a guy who has been Welsh champion about a dozen times, written books, played Karpov and would be an IM if there had been more opportunities in the seventies. So, head down try hard but enjoy it was the approach. I was very happy with how I played the white side of an exchange Alekhine. He sacrificed a pawn for a grip on d5 but there was a draw for the taking which I missed ("perpetual" on his rook with my knight) and I lost after his pressure gave him a chance against my king.
Round 2 Black against a guy 100 points below me. Queens came off early in a Caro Kann advance. I was disappointed with how poorly I handled the position and was lucky to get the draw he offered.
Round 3 White in a Rossolimo Sicilian against another opponent 100 points below me. Happy with a convincing positional win.
Round 4 Black in an Caro Kann Panov against an opponent of about the same grading. Very comfortable in manoeuvring for an advantage in an ending of queen, bishop, knight and six pawns each. Even more pleased to have the confidence to play like this and won a pawn through this work just on the time control. This led to a knight ending. My opponent was able to force off the queenside pawns and this left me 4 v 3 on the kingside with a doubled pawn. At the end, when I thought a knight sacrifice would win, I was a tempo short and it ended a draw. However, it was the most pleasing game of the weekend. Just having read some of the Lars Bo Hansen book "Secrets of Endgame Strategy" seemed to give me more confidence in this phase.
Round 5 Tired but keen to win against a rival from a local club. The win would also see me win the grading prize. He was 70 points above me. I had built up a good position and a 20 minute advantage on the clock on the black side of a Torre versus Dutch game. I missed two chances at playing more positionally accurately but was still feeling like I was better. Then one square difference in the position of my Queen meant that a combination didn't work. The fact that the position was so sharp and these small inaccuracies led to my opponent winning with a nice kingside attack, winning a pawn and getting a passed pawn on the 6th rank.
What I really must do is analyze these games properly. I write them in a scorebook and enter them into a ChessBase database of all my games but rarely do serious analysis of my games, despite having read many times that this is the basis of how to improve !
The only opening I wasn't happy with was the Caro Kann Advance endgame after a Bd3 exchange.
My next topic in the plan is positional play. I'll save that for next time. All the best !


Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:16 am
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Pawn

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 am
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Hi all,
An update on progress:
OTB Current grade is 1930. Recovering slowly from a bad loss to someone ranked 400 points below me ! It'll be tough to maintain my current 1950, never mind hit my 1975 target by 1st July.
Gwyddbwll.com Currently third on the list of the postal website. Close to second but a way behind the guy at number one.
Chess.com Always playing seven days per move, my grade is 2026, so some progress towards the goal of 2200. One niggle is that two recent opponents have lost on time, less than ten moves into the game. When playing what I would regard as a "serious" time control, why play if you are going to duck out (one guy after taking his full four weeks of vacation time ) ?

Still concentrating on the endings at present. However, to continue the plan:
Positional Play
I have the test positions to do in Silman's "The Amateur's Mind" and then it will be back to "Reassess Your Chess". I say back to as Silman suggests reading to page 52 of "Reassess", then "The Amateur's Mind", then finishing "Reassess".

My club side is doing well at the moment. We are trying to go one better than our usual second place in the league this year. There are only three games left, one against the usual champions. We are 8 points in the lead but if the rivals win their games in hand, it will all be on our last game against them. I am then hoping to play in a tournament at the end of May and those will probably be my last rated games before the new list comes out on 1st July. That means maybe 5 league games and 7 tournament games to improve my OTB grading and put into practice some of the endgame lessons that will hopefully have sunk in by then.

Between the end of the league season and the tournament i shall be on holiday for teo weeks, probably in Turkey. Now, do I dare take a chess book with me, risking my wife's wrath if I become engrossed or do I try, as I did last year, a whole two weeks without chess to create a wave of enthusiasm for my return ? Any recommendations ?


Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:56 am
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
laramonet wrote:
Hi all,
An update on progress:
OTB Current grade is 1930. Recovering slowly from a bad loss to someone ranked 400 points below me ! It'll be tough to maintain my current 1950, never mind hit my 1975 target by 1st July.
Gwyddbwll.com Currently third on the list of the postal website. Close to second but a way behind the guy at number one.
Chess.com Always playing seven days per move, my grade is 2026, so some progress towards the goal of 2200. One niggle is that two recent opponents have lost on time, less than ten moves into the game. When playing what I would regard as a "serious" time control, why play if you are going to duck out (one guy after taking his full four weeks of vacation time ) ?

Still concentrating on the endings at present. However, to continue the plan:
Positional Play
I have the test positions to do in Silman's "The Amateur's Mind" and then it will be back to "Reassess Your Chess". I say back to as Silman suggests reading to page 52 of "Reassess", then "The Amateur's Mind", then finishing "Reassess".

My club side is doing well at the moment. We are trying to go one better than our usual second place in the league this year. There are only three games left, one against the usual champions. We are 8 points in the lead but if the rivals win their games in hand, it will all be on our last game against them. I am then hoping to play in a tournament at the end of May and those will probably be my last rated games before the new list comes out on 1st July. That means maybe 5 league games and 7 tournament games to improve my OTB grading and put into practice some of the endgame lessons that will hopefully have sunk in by then.

Between the end of the league season and the tournament i shall be on holiday for teo weeks, probably in Turkey. Now, do I dare take a chess book with me, risking my wife's wrath if I become engrossed or do I try, as I did last year, a whole two weeks without chess to create a wave of enthusiasm for my return ? Any recommendations ?



Laramonet - Could you tell me a little about the two books you referenced above. I've seen the "Reassess" book mentioned on this site before (and maybe earlier in your journal? I didn't go back to check) and I'm just wondering if this is one I should add to my "To Read" list.

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Sat Mar 20, 2010 2:12 pm
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Pawn

Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 5:34 am
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Post Re: Laramonet's journal
Hi Student Of Chess,
I highly recommend both "The Amateur's Mind" and "Reassess Your Chess" by Jeremy Silman. He explains his method of positional evaluation, which is in terms of imbalances. This stresses that the position must be evaluated first, inferences drawn like which side to be playing on, imagining the dream position a few moves ahead and only then choosing candidate moves to try to get there. One way he does this is by introducing a position and showing the evaluations and first few moves that students of different grades have come up with, presented with the same position.
Another excellent book is "Simple Chess" by Michael Stean, my favourite book. It taught me at just the right time in my development what to look for after I'd stopped dropping pieces.
I'd certainly recommend adding all three to your "To Read" list !
All the best.


Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:50 am
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