Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Lesson with an International Master and Training Diary #1

Note: This article was originally posted on June 29th, 2015 on
After taking a lesson from International Master Attila Turzo, I have decided to begin making blog entries detailing my goals and what I've been working on to achieve those goals.
My studies will be divided into several distinct areas.  First, I will be doing tactics training every day.  I divide that into two areas: adding patterns to my "instant-bank" (tactical patterns I can recognize as close to instantly as possible), and using those patterns in combination to calculate harder tactical problems.  The first area I train by solving simple problems using spaced repetition to build up the pattern in my "bank."  The second area I train by solving problems at that are appropriate for my ever changing tactics rating there.  This week so far, I have improved my standard tactics rating by about 130 points!  (I haven't done serious tactics training at chesstempo in a while, and my rating was languishing at some absurdly low 1500 rating, so this is rise is just correction-related and not indicative of some hard work paying off, most likely)
I will detail the "instant bank" side of training that I do in a later post, as I work out a good way to track it statistically.
Mr. Turzo recommended I pick out a set of books for each phase to concentrate on, and commit to them and finish them.  The idea we agreed on is to alternate the three books by week to avoid one book getting stale.  I have thus committed to:
1) How to Reassess Your Chess - Silman
2) 100 Endgames You Must Know - Jesus de la Villa
3) Chess Openings for White Explained  - DPA (Roman D, Perelstyn, Alburt)
I have since decided that I'm going to study a different source for the opening phase based on some feedback from others and a review by John Watson.  The book is consistent with a lot of openings I like, which is why I chose it, but the content isn't the greatest.  This also coincides with a desire I've had lately to try out 1.d4.  Therefore, I'm going to be learning a whole new d4-based repertoire.  I'll be leaving my black repertoire alone for now, and revisiting that later.
I have read a lot of How to Reassess Your Chess in the past, but never systematically studied and finished it.  I have committed now to studying it thoroughly and 100% finishing it.  Well, the 100% is slightly wrong, because I'm going to skip the random section on the endgame thrown in at the beginning, since I already have a source for that.  So far, starting at the beginning, I have worked up to pg. 42.  
Finally, I will be practicing visualization by training for blindfold chess.  One intriguing idea Mr. Turzo recommended to me was to place a knight on a chessboard in my head and try to move it from one square to another, of course, only in my head.  Initially, I didn't know how to select a start and end square for this journey, so I wrote a little script to pick two random squares.  This worked when I was sitting at my computer, but I found that I would be out somewhere waiting in a line or something and realized it would be nice to practice it right there and then!  I then decided to do it systematically.  I put a knight on a1, mentally, and tried to move it to b1.  Then a1 to c1, etc.  When I finish with a1 to h8, I'll change the start square to b1 and do it again (starting with c1, not a1--I'm not going to do it backwards until I do it forwards all the way).  I can, of course, do this with other pieces, but the knight work has really helped me build up that "mental board."  
I also do some blindfold play on the computer from time to time.  I found something interesting when I tried this for the first time.  After 15 or so moves, I had a pretty decent idea of what the position was, but I decided to turn the display back on and look to see how I did.  When I did, I was blown away by how chaotic the position looked.  It felt like there were twice as many pieces on the board when I saw them visually.  It was a stark contrast from the empty board I  had been looking at.  It was almost as if my mind was much more calm when I couldn't see the pieces.  It was much harder, of course, and calculating and evaluating while blindfolded is a skill I have almost none of, but it was the first time I'd ever thought of seeing the pieces being something like a "distraction."
I'll conclude my first entry with some goals.  First, I would like to attain a 1700 rating in the USCF rating system by June of next year.  I would ultimately like to achieve a 2000 rating some time in my life.  Second, I would like to make one training diary blog entry per week, and annotate at least one long time control game of my own per week, also in this blog.  My last goal is to finish the books I have started, no ifs ands or buts.  If you have any suggestions or comments, let me know!

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