Boy, I'm just barely squeaking by on this "one post a month" requirement to be an active knight...
The big news is that I'm trying out chess lessons with NM Dan Heisman of ChessCafe's Novice Nook fame. My first lesson is Saturday and I can't wait. He's not cheap (US$65/hr), but I figured I would try it out and see how I like it. Heck, I'm already spending 12+ hours a week on chess, so if it adds to the enjoyment of the game then it will be well worth it. I'll just buy fewer chess books instead.
Why did I decide to take lessons? Well, I have been playing two slow games per week for a few months now and carefully analyzing the games afterwards. This has been incredibly helpful. The main benefit has been to expose flaws in my thinking and analysis process. For example, a couple weeks ago I had white in a French Tarrasch against fellow knight Chris Kilgore. I was analyzing an unfamiliar position for maybe 10 minutes and had decided on a fairly commital plan that I had decided was of mixed benefit to me (trading knights and altering the pawn structure). During analysis I discovered I should have just played a simple move, improving the position of my queen slightly, but not making a major change to the game. Apparently the lesson was retained, because this past Sunday I had in a Sicilian Dragon and again spent 10 minutes and was poised to make another fairly commital move that I was not 100% sure was beneficial. However, this time I remembered my lesson and played a different move. So the move I chose was not best, and I still spent 10 minutes on it, but the point is that I'm improving.
What does all this have to do with Mr. Heisman? Well...I had recently read a novice nook about how the worst positional defect in your position (doubled, isolated pawns on an open file) is worth a little over one pawn. So the worst single positional weakness is worth less than a pawn, so in many cases if you are faced with material loss of even a pawn, unless you are getting significant positional compensation you are better off saving the material regardless of the cost (Dan calls this the "Principle of Tactical Dominance".) Recently I had a game where I had finally figured this out something similar to this on my own (before reading the article), so when I read the article I wondered how many of these other "principles" are there that I am missing? Anyway, I decided to give it a shot so I'll let everyone know how it goes.
In case anyone is interested, here's what I'm doing chess-wise these days:
- I play two slow games per week (G/120). One is with OJ over-the-board, and one is with Chris Kilgore over the internet (though I set up a board, clock, and scoresheet to simulate tournament conditions). So this is 6-8 hours per week.
- I analyze the games in detail. This takes maybe 2-4 hours.
- I'm working on building up an opening repertoire. The time taken on this varies, but sometimes I spend up to 6-8 hours per week on it.
- Various other stuff (some tactics, playing Pocket Fritz, reviewing master games, etc.)
I need to be doing more tactics problems, but I really want to get a basic repertoire hammered out before I jump back on the tactics. I sort of miss the endless hours in front of CT-Art you know...
Anyway, if you are not playing regular slow games, I cannot recommend it highly enough.