An Experiment in Rapid Chess Improvement

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

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Second Lesson with Dan Heisman

Boy, things have been busy. November and December is a super-hectic time at work for me so I've not been playing much lately. Fortunately I have lots of games played at slow time controls I can go over with Dan, but it would be better if they were more "fresh" in my mind. Perhaps this is not the best time to be starting chess lessons, but I'm forging ahead anyway. I had my second lesson on December 10.

We started out going through a game I played against Chris Kilgore a month or so ago. I had white and played the bishop's opening. I started developing my pieces and after Chris castled queenside I tried to start a pawn storm before I had finished developing and had stablized the center. So Chris of course played ...d5 and I started suffering. We ended up trading down into an equal-material endgame where I had numerous pawn weaknesses and about five minutes left on my clock to Chris' 45 minutes plus. Needless to say I lost.

Going over the game Dan yielded two major insights. First, I never did finish getting my pieces out. Many moves Dan suggested were simple developing moves. Nothing fancy, nothing special, just getting my pieces out. I know I am supposed to do this, but for some reason I have always had this fear that if I make planless, standard developing moves I might find that my pieces are not well-coordinated or ill-equipped to handle some threat from my opponent. Dan's reasoning was to first worry about getting my pieces out consistently, and *then* worry about getting them perfectly coordinated. This makes a lot of sense...a lot more sense than my current policy of worrying excessively about piece placement and using tons of clock time while not getting my pieces out. So this seems like a simple thing to fix and should also help with my frequent time trouble.

The second major issue we discussed was my time trouble and in particular, why I spent 11 minutes choosing between Nf3 or Ne2 in a quiet position. Dan's suggestion was that if two moves are very similar in evaluation, then just pick one and move. I can spend as much time as I want after the game determining whether one move is 0.12 pawns better than the other one. So this is another thing for me to work on- realize when my candidate moves are nearly equivalent and just pick one.

So after two lessons I have been happy with Dan's approach and I feel like I'm getting a fair amount out of the lessons. I'm only doing 1 hour at a time and it goes by fast, but for now I'll keep on my schedule or 1 hour lessons every other week or so. Given the upcoming holiday my next lesson is not until December 31, but I'm looking forward to it. If you've thought about taking lessons with Dan, so far I can recommend him.

Happy holidays everyone!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Some Things Just Are Not Meant to Be

Well folks, I really was looking forward to the tournament this past weekend, but work conspired to foil my plans. I had been studying a lot (working on my opening repertoire and reviewing tactics problems) but last week was just hell at work (long, super-stressful days). I was just so mentally worn out at the end of each day that I was a zombie, so I didn't study at all the week before the tournament. I was still feebly thinking about playing anyway, but Friday I was informed I had to be "on call" over the weekend, which means my cell phone had to be on all weekend. That pushed me over the edge, so I opted to skip it. Turns out it was a good choice anyway since when I woke up Saturday (tournament day) I was feeling bad, and later I discovered I had a mild fever. Not sure what the deal was, but I would not have been in any condition to play had I gone.

Anyway, there's nothing promising in the area for the near future, so I think my tournament debut will have to wait... C'est la vie...