An Experiment in Rapid Chess Improvement

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

Sunday, February 26, 2006

More Lessons

Just thought I'd do a quick post since it has been a while. I think I've done four more lessons w/ Dan Heisman since my last post. Here's a brief re-cap:

We went through the De Groot exercise. Dan has an article on it at the Novice Nook so I won't go into it here. Needless to say it was very enlightening to hear how Dr. Euwe went about analyzing a chess position. The takeaways for me were:
  • You are trying to find the best move in a position given reasonable time spent. You *do not* need to figure out how much better it is than the other moves. So if you have convinced (or "proved" as Dan would say) that you have found the best move, make it. You can find out how much better it was than the alternatives during your analysis after the game.
  • Dan talked about the "king of the hill" algorithm that Euwe used. Basically the idea is that as you analyze candidate moves you always compare it to the best move you have found so far, and if you find a better one, replace it. I actually used this in a game today against Chris Kilgore when I had an opportunity to trade my knight for one of his bishops, thereby depriving him of the bishop pair (which is worth about 1/2 a pawn). So in my analysis, I compared each of my other candidate moves against neutralizing his bishop pair. When I saw nothing better than that, I took the bishop.
  • Dr. Euwe only focused on forcing moves. Since he had a beneficial forcing sequence available, he didn't bother to analyze moves that were not forcing (i.e. routine development, improving piece placement, etc.).
  • I found it interesting that his analysis was not nearly as ordered as I would have thought, but it was still a lot more structured than mine. For example, at the start
Overall I thought it was useful and very instructive.

We went through a game I played with Chris Kilgore and discussed, among other things:
  • I moved a piece twice when I still had reasonable developing moves for other pieces that had not yet moved. At least I'm gettting better since in my game today I thought about that and developed my undeveloped pieces instead of improving the position of another piece.
  • The benefits of not castling too soon.
  • How I dawdled around in an opposite-side castling scenario instead of throwing those pawns forward as fast as possible (needless to say, Chris' attack landed first).

Went through another game I played with Chris in which we discussed (among other things):
  • In the opening I ended up with an IQP in exchange for a tempo. Dan was really excited about gaining the tempo, whereas I was worred about the isolated pawn.
  • We discussed (again) taking a good, hard think on your first move out of book. I'm trying to remember to do this, even when there seems to be many natural moves to play. It's a bit of a challenge since my inclination is to play way too slowly, so I am really trying to get better about playing faster when appropriate. It's taking some getting used to.
  • I'm still taking too long on essentially forced moves, such as protecting a pawn that is hanging when there is only one or two reasonable ways to do so.

We reviewed a game I played with OJ in which we discussed among other things:
  • We discussed a number of positional elements that I had completely misunderstood.
  • I was still playing routine developing moves too slowly.
  • He had me do a simple quiz. Of course I completely messed it up. Just shows I still need to work on simple board vision...
In Summary
I'm still very happy with the lessons. Again, Dan's approach (at least with me) is to help me with the "basic" stuff I'm not doing well such as time management, developing my pieces, etc. It is very frustrating to not be able to do these things. They all seem so simple, but for whatever reason it all goes to hell during my games. Many of the topics have been covered in the Novice Nook articles, or is common chess knowledge. So again, maybe others could learn all this stuff themselves just by reading articles, etc. Me? I just set up two more lessons. :-)

Hope everyone is playing well...!


At 3:03 AM, Blogger Temposchlucker said...

Very interesting to read about your experiences with a coach.
Euwe has had a tremendous influence on dutch chess. In fact we are still in the aftermath of the wake he induced.

How is your score against OJ compared with a year ago?

At 11:02 AM, Blogger fussylizard said...

Tempo, My score against OJ has been flat for a while now. After I did MDLM I was kicking butt and taking names. Then he went to the Philippines for a few months (during which I didn't do much tactical study), and when he came back we were about even. Overall I should probably pick up my tactics study some more to keep sharp, but my tactics have been okay in most of my games lately.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

Sorry for the late reply. I've been on vacation. You had asked me about my experiences with Predrag. I have to say that overall it has been a positive one. However, some lessons I definitely walk away feeling I learned something, while other lessons I feel like I didn't gain that much. Some of that has to do with the internet interface I think. There are some situations where I think having some one right there is easier. And some of that inconsistency has to do with the level of the lesson. Sometimes it's just cranked up a little too high and I spend the majority of the time just guessing moves (that is also my own fault).

At 25 bucks for two hours of lessons, I think it is a good buy. Here in Montana, I have no other option. Predrag would probably also be more effective he assigned homework, like Heisman. I just sort of do what ever I want between lessons.

Interestingly, my best lesson was a tactics lesson. I smoked every problem he gave me. There was not much to teach there ;)


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