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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Well, I had something of a break from chess for a few weeks. First, we took a trip back to the US for a family reunion type deal. Got to hang out in Seattle. I recommend the Victrola coffee shop there.

They have free tastings on Wednesdays that are fun.

After getting back from that trip it was only a short time later that my mom came to visit us here in Taipei.  We did various fun things like going over to Hualien to visit Taroko Gorge, a very beautiful place.

 On the other hand, during that time, I was able to set up a Team 4545 League team. It's my first go as a captain. Basically, I was a little disenchanted with being on other people's teams from last tournament. Not a big deal but I got kicked off of one team because of a schedule mix up. The captain had a rule that if you forfeit a game, then you are off the team. He had this rule every time and he always announces it at the beginning of the tournament so everyone knows. So I think it was fair that I got kicked off, so I'm not mad at him at all. Still, it seemed lame that I got kicked off just because I made a mistake in the times I offered and the other guy refused to even acknowledge that I had asked to reschedule. Then, the other team I was on used me for like one game and then I just was on the bench. So I decided to start my own team. I got lucky in that my friend that I play a regular weekly game with just happened to express interest right about then and gave me the extra prompting to do so. Anyway, I wouldn't say the process was easy. There were some mixups involving another team captain and such, but I negotiated the troubles and got us off the ground. Unfortunately, the tournament hasn't been going terribly well for us. So far we have only scored 2 game points and round 3 is almost over. We also have forfeited a game due to both a regular and the backup being unavailable on a given week. Still, it's been fun, and I'm happy to have my own team.

As far as getting back into playing, I've noticed that I have made a bunch of blunders since that break. I felt that I had gotten to a good place where I was making mistakes but not outright blunders. (I define a blunder as a mistake that is well below your normal capabilities). It seemed like I went through a period where I was quite frustrated by blunders, and that I got through it and was playing much more consistently and that my rating improved as a result. Since getting back, I've done things like imagining a sequence where I use a piece at the beginning and then later on in the sequence again use that piece as if it hadn't been moved. I lost a pawn due to that. Then I recently played a team league game where I dropped my queen from just not seeing that it wasn't guarded.

globulon (1461) - matthewc (1341)

Result: 0-1
Site: Internet Chess Club
Date: 2013.09.01
[...] 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.♘d2 ♘f6 4.♘gf3 dxe4 5.dxe4 ♘c6 6.g3 ♗c5 7.♗g2 ♘g4 8.O-O ♗xf2 9.♖xf2 ♘xf2 10.♔xf2 ♘d4 11.c3 ♘xf3 12.♘xf3 ♕xd1 {Game 1554 (globulon vs. matthewc) globulon resigns

The funny thing is that I took plenty of time on the previous move and imagined the sequence that happened, I just didn't see that my queen wasn't protected. So after he played I just went ahead and made the response I had already imagined and then he immediately snagged my queen and I resigned. It was pretty embarrassing particularly because it was a team league game. Then last night I played a game, with opposite side castling and mutual attacks.

globulon (1457) - Toalla (1308)

Result: 0-1
Site: Internet Chess Club
Date: 2013.09.08
[...] 1.e4 c5 2.♘f3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.♘xd4 ♘f6 5.♘c3 a6 6.♗e2 e5 7.♘b3 ♗e6 8.♗e3 ♗e7 9.f3 ♘c6 10.♕d2 O-O 11.O-O-O b5 12.g4 b4 13.♘d5 ♖e8 14.h4 a5 15.♘xf6 gxf6 16.g5 a4 17.♖dg1 axb3 18.gxf6 ♔h8 19.♗h6 ♗xf6 20.cxb3 ♖xa2 21.♔b1 ♗xb3 22.♗g5 ♖a1 23.♔xa1 ♕a8 24.♔b1 ♕a2 25.♔c1 ♕a1# {Game 1265 (globulon vs. Toalla) globulon checkmated

I overestimated my attacking chances and underestimated his. There were a sequence of moves where I played to heighten my attack while ignoring his moves. Unfortunately, this so-called "heightening" really didn't amount to much and the moves he was making did. I class it as a blunder, because I was capable of seeing the situation more accurately but I let psychology distort the picture.

So, this has been a bit of a challenge for me because I really hate making blunders. So, the question is what do I do about it. One thing of course that I do is to look at the game and try to understand why I made the error. This can be a bit confusing though, because there can be contributing causes but the problem is to still find the more root causes. For instance, in the game where I dropped my queen, the opponent was playing at bullet speed in a 4545 game. He was also trading off every single piece he could. So I think because of that I got in the mindset that "This guys a clown." Now to be fair, I made attempts at my end to not get caught up in the pace he was playing at. I even purposefully stepped away from the computer to break up the intensity and not get caught up in a click war with him. My feeling was that I would win out against such an opponent if I just took my time and played my usual kind of game and used my time properly. Instead I hung my queen. So, the question is: "Where should I put the blame?" Was it the fact that in attempting to not get caught up in the click war I actually took myself out of the game? Was it just simple overconfidence? Or is it more general, that my thought process is really suspect and that the break has brought to the fore again the fact that I am really not systematic in my play?

I think one thing I did before that helped me to make fewer blunders was to focus on my thought process during the game.  Doing the checks, captures, threats deal.  I wasn't very successful at actually instituting a rigid thought process on every move, but the attention to the process seemed to help none the less.  So the answer for me right now, is probably to get back to spending time on those things as often as I can.  I would just like to get back to feeling that I am playing at my own ability level instead of playing below it.

Other than that I have still been doing other things.  I played a simul on ICC against engineer78 again.

engineer78 (2326) - globulon (1457)

Result: 1-0
Site: Internet Chess Club
Date: 2013.09.07
[...] 1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.♗b5 a6 4.♗a4 ♘f6 5.O-O ♗e7 6.♖e1 d6 7.c3 O-O 8.d4 ♗g4 9.♗xc6 bxc6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.♕xd8 ♖fxd8 12.♘xe5 ♖d6 13.♘xg4 ♘xg4 14.♗f4 ♖d7 15.h3 ♘f6 16.♘d2 ♖b8 17.♘c4 ♖b5 18.♖ad1 ♖xd1 19.♖xd1 ♘xe4 20.♗xc7 h6 21.♖d7 ♗c5 22.♔f1 ♗xf2 23.♖e7 f5 24.♖xe4 fxe4 25.♔xf2 ♖g5 26.♗f4 ♖c5 27.b3 ♖d5 28.♔e3 ♖d3 29.♔xe4 ♖xc3 30.♗d2 ♖c2 31.a4 ♔f7 32.♔d3 ♖a2 33.♘e5 ♔f6 34.♘xc6 ♔f5 35.♘b4 ♖a1 36.♘xa6 ♖g1 37.g4 ♔g6 38.a5 ♖f1 39.♘c5 ♖f6 40.a6 ♖f7 41.b4 ♖c7 42.♗e3 ♖c8 43.b5 ♖b8 44.a7 ♖a8 45.b6 {Game 939 (engineer78 vs. globulon) globulon resigns

I don't know what to think of these simul experiences.  It's cool in a way to play against a grandmaster, but I wonder after this last one about the quality of the games.  He's playing about 20 boards at 3030 each and of course he ended up in time trouble.  He was down to 19 seconds against me at one point.  I thought I might win on time.  Also, I don't think he is playing the best quality moves against me, so what should I make of the educational value?  Hard to say.

Other than that, I have been watching a couple of chessbase dvds.  One is Andrew Martin on the KID.  It's pretty good.  I think he is an engaging speaker.  Of course these dvd's seem kind of scattershot a lot of times.  They usually aren't very systematic at all.  Still they are fun to watch and I think.

The other dvd is the Daniel King Power Play 2  Attacking the King.  It's good, but I kind of blame it for my loss to Toalla above ; )   I think when I watch these, I start to imagine that I am an attacking genius for absolutely no reason.  So I think it's part of the overconfidence I had in that game.

I also have been playing some blitz against the Stockfish app.  Generally I am anti-blitz but against the computer it seems to be more educational for two reasons.  One, the computer plays book lines, so it can be good practice to memorize and familiarize with opening lines.  I actually feel pretty comfortable playing against the Sicilian as white because when I was getting back into chess in late 2011 I played a lot of games against the HIARCS app.  It would play the sicilian almost exclusively.  (As a side note, one thing I like about the Stockfish app is that when I play e4 against it it will play a good number of both c5 and e5.  I can't seem to get HIARCS to play that way, though I've messed with the book options a bit.)  So, I think that can be a real positive.  Of course, real opponents will deviate a lot but I think there is a confidence that comes with just being familiar with the positions and when someone deviates from what you are familiar with, it feels more like there is still some basis for comprehension.  The second reason that I think blitz against the computer is ok is that the computer is tactically sound even on lower settings.  It won't hang pieces and a lot of the time it will punish moves that leave me open to tactics.  This is good practice because it shows me where I am making a mistake.  If I just play crappy chess against someone my own level who is also playing crappy chess I just don't see what the good or fun is.  But if I am punished for my (at least more egregious) mistakes on a regular basis then I think I actually have a chance to improve through that process.

Here's a game I played against Stockfish where I actually started out as black and was happy to get to play KID.

Stockfish - Me

Result: *
Site: ?
Date: Sep 5, 2013
[...] 1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 g6 3.♘c3 ♗g7 4.e4 d6 5.♗e2 O-O 6.♘f3 ♘c6 7.O-O e5 8.d5 ♘e7 9.♘e1 ♘d7 10.♘f3 f5 11.♗d2 f4 12.♕c2 ♔h8 13.♗d1 ♘g8 14.♗e2 g5 15.c5 g4 16.♘xe5 dxe5 17.♗d1 ♘h6 18.♕a4 ♘f6 19.♕a3 g3 20.hxg3 fxg3 21.f3 ♘h5 22.♖e1 ♕h4 23.d6 ♕h2 24.♔f1 ♘f4 25.♗xf4 exf4 26.dxc7 ♗d4 27.♔e2 ♕xg2 28.♔d3

 I feel that I was able to use some ideas from the Andrew Martin dvd and that I actually got an attack going.  So, obviously I didn't win the game or I would have posted it that way, and I actually tried a couple of different lines from the end position that weren't very good.  Also keep in mind that the app strength is set to 1300 so it's not like I was playing against full strength opposition but again, I think as practice to play with some ideas it was good and I was happy that I felt like I was able to get something hopping on the king side.

Other than that, I did head back to the Wednesday live club once and had a good long game and some crappy blitz.  One nice thing about the crappy blitz was that it was using a clock, and I really have only played with an actual chess clock a couple of times in my life if at all.  I was planning on going to a tournament here that weekend so the practice with the clock was nice although it seemed to distract me a lot and take the fun out of the games.

I did go the tournament, unfortunately it was canceled.  So I just ended up hanging out in a hallway with a couple of other people that showed up.

Anways that's about all the chess news here.  I will be focusing on the thought process stuff, though I will likely keep up on watching videos and other random stuff as well.

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