Friday, March 3, 2017

Mistake Check-in #2

In the previous check-in I mentioned several of my crucial mistakes. Let's revisit the old mistakes

Poor Concentration - I have had a much better time maintaining my focus lately. I increased my stamina through a recent trend toward martial arts practice (specifically the grappling arts as these build greater stamina than the other martial arts I have practiced for years).

On the negative side I have noticed two problems in my concentration. Firstly, I tend to play online games in a "for fun" frame of mind. I divide my attention by multitasking and then lose games for silly reasons. This could lead to very poor play in the future due to bad programming. At the very least it is time spent goofing off when I could be growing in skill instead. Secondly, my internal calculator is still a slow starting engine. This means that in early rounds of day tournaments I'm not "firing on all cylinders" as it were. I'm not sure quite how to "flip the switch" to the on position. GM Igor Smirnov and some other masters I have listened to or read have said to do a few puzzles before a round (meaning a single round in a day of course). To me this just leads to a waste of effort, a use of brain cells that could be better used aimed at an opponent. But is there no other way?

Playing Without a Plan - To put it simply, I have been exposing myself to various opening schemes and the resulting variety of middlegame plans. The result has been a far richer view of chess and at times the formulation of winning plans. I will continue doing this moving forward.

Time Management - I have found a happy medium place in blitz games where I simply play the opening quickly until I need to think and then I tend to use the time efficiently conserving only a small portion to finish the game if an endgame is necessary. We will see if this trend continues in the upcoming G/30 tournament I will be playing in in Lexington, Kentucky.

King Safety - I do not know by what means but somehow this has not been an issue any further. Perhaps I have now developed a sufficient amount of skill in the so-called "Blumenfeld Rule" ... checking to see by habit whether or not a move I want to make falls into a basic problem (checkmate, checks, etc.).

"It often happens that a player carries out a deep and complicated calculation, but fails to spot something elementary right at the first move. In order to avoid such gross blunders, the Soviet master B. Blumenfeld made this recommendation:- When you have finished your calculations, write down the move you have decided upon on the score sheet. Then examine the position for a short time 'through the eyes of a patzer'. Ask whether you have left a mate in one on, or left a piece or a pawn to be taken. Only when you have convinced yourself that there is no immediate catastrophe for you should you make the planned move." - GM Alexander Kotov

Pawn Weaknesses - Alas, this one still plagues me. I have studied very few endgames and have not reviewed pawn structure since the last check-in. Most often when I lose in blitz it is due to this weakness. Thinking back on my tournament this was the case as well in two games and the third game was a closed position and difficult for my opponent to drum up a structural complication. It should also be noted that in that game (against Bob Faust) I played on my experience rather than needing to find a new idea (except in the end fighting for the draw and most of the newer ideas were based around piece play not the pawns). I have finished an interesting book by GM Andy Soltis called "What it takes to become a chess master" and I am now free to find another source of information (a book, article series, or perhaps video series) that addresses this specific weakness.


  1. "masters I have listened to or read have said to do a few puzzles before a round (meaning a single round in a day of course). To me this just leads to a waste of effort"

    I do a bunch of puzzles out of a beginner's book to warm up before tournaments. It is zero effort and makes me feel like a genius for getting them all instantly right -- a nice way to boost my confidence and get my vision warmed up.

    "Playing Without a Plan" "Pawn Weaknesses" "I am now free to find another source of information"

    Please read "Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide" by GM Rios. It is fantastic -- one of the best chess books published recently, and it should help you with properly playing different pawn structures.

    1. I just now saw this ... thanks for the Advice, Matt!