An Experiment in Rapid Chess Improvement

Record of my experience in undertaking Michael de la Maza's "Rapid Chess Improvement" program.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Chess Lessons!

Boy, I'm just barely squeaking by on this "one post a month" requirement to be an active knight...

Chess Lessons!
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.

Current Focus
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.)
One thing that Chris and I have been doing that has been helpful is to practice specific opening lines. This way we can both work on our repertoires. It's been helpful, and now I feel like I have a basic grounding in playing white in the French Tarrasch (whereas before I was clueless after two moves).

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.


At 12:48 PM, Blogger takchess said...

I bet it will be worth every penny.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Pawnsensei said...

Good luck on your lessons. Let us know how it goes.


At 2:21 AM, Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

You should try playing some turn-based chess :)

At 8:53 AM, Blogger CelticDeath said...

Hey, fussy, you're a graduate, so you'll always have a place on my sidebar, whether you post once in a month or once in a millenium!

At 8:58 AM, Blogger fussylizard said...

I don't think I'd ever make a move if I had infinite time to think. I actually introduced a chess clock into my weekly matches with OJ. We played with no clocks for a while but I added one to force me to move. :-)

I'm totally psyched about the lesson. I'm not expecting miracles in one lesson, so I'll probably do 3 or 4 and then decide if I want to continue. Like I mentioned in my post I believe I've been making good progress on my own, but I'm hoping to accelerate the process.

Celtic, Thanks man! I really do need to post more often, and probably update my sidebar with the latest lists...

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Jim said...

Another Dan the Man student, eh?

Welcome to the Club. I've taken 6 lessons with Dan so far and all of them have been great. . .if not excruciatingly intense. . .


At 6:23 PM, Blogger GilaChess said...

What time control do you use vs Pocket Fritz ?

At 8:10 AM, Blogger fussylizard said...

jim, Glad to hear you have been enjoying your lessons. I can't wait until tomorrow!

gilachess, I use different time controls. Sometimes 3/sec per move, sometimes easy level 4 or higher. I (almost?) always lose. :-( PF is a lot of fun though. I can sit in a comfy chair and play...


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