"...a Chessmaster should be a combination of a beast of prey and a monk."

Monday, February 25, 2013

End of February

I have been playing a fair bit.  I recently bought chessbase Houdini 3 which comes with a free years subscription on playchess.com.  One of my hopes here was that it would be easier to get a game there, because it's a European server and so the time zones are a better fit than the US.  So far it hasn't been like that.  I have found some longer games but a number of the games I have played here are at time controls that are less than I want though they generally aren't too bad.

My Ratings
  • FICS: 1494, my best was 1518 at the end of Jan this year.  I've had steady upward movement on my rating here which I am happy about.  It has gotten harder to find games at my time control preference as my rating has gone up.  It's not really hard but I do have to wait awhile often now and sometimes give up.
  • ICC: 1273, my best was 1308 mid December of last year.  I have stayed between 1250 and 1300 since then.  I don't play a lot of games here, but it definitely seems to me that the competition is much tougher at this rating level than on the other servers.  I'm not sure why that is exactly.
  • Playchess: 1432 after 11 games.  I hit a peak of almost 1700 after some early successes including beating a 1600's rated player but I have been on a down slope from there which makes sense given that my rating is still provisional.  I do find that the competition is softer here than at ICC.  I am losing more often than not to 1500's here.
  • Chess Tempo: 1402 standard tactics.  My peak is about 1545 and I maintained a rating in the 1500's for a good period of time while I was doing tactics a bit more regularly.  1502 endgame practice.  Here I hit a peak of about 1566 and have been maintaining in the low 1500's for awhile during my recent spate of endgame problem solving.
I haven't been going to the live chess club here for about a month.  For the first several weeks of that time I was working on a special schedule where I had to be up really early and so I didn't want to go out in the evenings.  Since then I've been staying away due to some personality friction with a couple that goes.  It's nothing major but it kind of sapped my enjoyment and since I feel sort of busy in general and it was a bit of an effort to get myself out on a Wednesday night I have found it easy to stay home.  I'm not sure where I am with it.  I can see myself either staying away long-term or going back regularly.

There was one of the small tournaments here on a weekend I didn't actually have to work on and I thought about going, but I don't like getting up early and it starts in the morning.  I also figured I would probably lose all my games so I wasn't sure whether I would actually get anything out of it and decided to stay home.  I would like to get to one of these monthly tournaments sometime.

 Team 45 45 League has started up again with tournament 56.  I am playing on two teams.  One u1200 team where I am board 1, and one u1600 team where I am board 4.  So far it had an inauspicious beginning.  The guy I played in the u1200 division had a league rating that was lower than mine but his actual server rating was much higher like 1600's.  Basically he was significantly stronger than me.  I was playing white and he played a Sicilian dragon.  I kind of like this.  My general idea is to castle queenside and then send my pawns.  I learned this from the "Starting Out: The Sicilian" book.  Anyway, I played a decent game and I would say had an advantage going into an endgame.  I had an extra pawn on the queenside and it looked promising.  Then I made a blunder and lost the exchange to a knight fork. From there I think I might have been able to salvage it but I was kind of psychologically wiped out and I just started playing pretty fast.  Even then I was able to queen my pawn but I let him queen one of his too and it was over in short order.

The second game I was playing another player who was significantly higher rated than me also.  This one I was more pessimistic about and just sort of played to not make a blunder.  I played reasonably (for my rating against such a high rated player) and I put up some resistance but he won first one and then a second pawn from me and then my position started to get weaker and then I made a blunder under a lot of pressure which was bound to happen.  I felt ok out of the opening but from there on out it was mostly a slow downward slope till my key mistake and then I resigned.

I have signed up for some lessons with a different teacher and have had a couple of two hour sessions with him.  He seems ok.  We played a couple of games and then analyzed them and he gave me some tips on thinking process that I had heard before.  Basically it's the checks, captures, threats mantra.  I could probably gain significantly by following his advice but somehow it seems kind of lame.  I guess it just seems like if you really spend all your time thinking about all those moves then you will waste a lot of time.  We'll see where I will go with it though.  Otherwise I'm sort of lukewarm on this teacher.  He's fairly cheap and he's in a convenient time zone but my lesson day pretty much needs to be a Tuesday and he's not available in my preferred time slot.

I must admit that part of me feels like it's almost cheating to take lessons.  Somehow I feel I should be seeing how far I can get purely on my own steam.  I don't really take that voice too seriously and hence I have actually done some lessons, but I will admit that it does cause me to be ambivalent about the lessons.  So far I actually like my first teacher better just because I felt he was more content oriented than this one.  Still his times aren't really convenient for me.  I also feel that he could be a bit abrasive at times.

I have considered taking lessons from both for a bit until I can really decide.  I'm not sure I can afford that though even though these are about the two cheapest coaches that I have seen.  I've also thought about trying other coaches.

My main problem with the first coach was just feeling like I had trouble coming up with good quality games.  He could be a bit rough when he felt the games weren't good enough.  In one sense I don't like that because I am at a level that I think those kinds of large mistakes are just part of it.  Still on the other hand, I do think it would be good to strive to eliminate those mistakes and maybe a little bit of pressure that way is a good thing.

I guess on the other hand I don't feel like I have had enough time with the new coach to really evaluate what working with him would really be like.  Well, I guess it will remain for future posts to see how I work this issue out.  I can also see this working out in various ways.

 As far as openings go I have stuck with the Italian game as white.  I really have been getting e5 the majority of the time.  When they don't play e5 its often the French or the Philidor.  I don't see many Sicilians at all, and almost no Caro-Kann's.  I still play the open Sicilian.  Against the French, I play 2d4, 3Nc3, and 4e5.  As black I have switched to e5 against e4.  I don't think I have played a single Ruy Lopez though in that time.  It has just been all Italian games.  I play the Giucco Piano instead of the 2 Knights.  I like it when they play the Evan's gambit too.  Against d4 I have been sticking with the Tarrasch but I have felt a little dissatisfied with it lately.  Just sort of feeling a little plan-less sometimes.

In terms of study on my own I haven't been very disciplined.  I haven't been doing many problems though I have picked that up a bit in the last week.  In terms of reading I haven't been doing much and when I do, I tend to jump around, one day an endgame book, another day a game collection, another day opening study, jumping around in a middle game book, just pretty random.  I feel like I want to learn endgame because I feel that is a really huge thing and when you have that it will be a huge boon later on.  At the time though it still seems that tactics are crucial for me.

I guess in terms of goals I would like to keep my playing rate near where it has been.  I would like to do more problems, both tactics and endgame.  I would like to study endgame, maybe not really intensively but at a reasonable pace for my level.  I would also like to get back to Logical Chess by Chernev and finish that.  I feel that is a good book that I can learn a lot from.

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