I haven't been very active lately. Particularly on the playing front. I have been playing with my regular weekly partner which is always a lot of fun. The chess.com, slow chess league, slow swiss 12 finished with me not doing very well. I won one game, and got one point for a forfeit in the last round. I signed up for slow swiss 13 but the gap has been much longer than I was hoping. Hopefully it will start this week.
As far as regular playing in my free time, I have been doing much less of that although I have been playing more correspondence games. Not quite sure why. I have been reading novels more lately so some of my free time has gone to that. On the other hand I have been doing some study.
For some reason I have always had some curiosity about the English opening. I think part of it is that I know some of the big Russians have played it like Botvinnik, Kasparov, and Karpov. Another thing is that chessadmin on his blog talks about playing the English too. So for various reasons I have started investigating the opening. I started with the material in Paul van der Sterren's "Fundamental Chess Openings" but have also looked at some of the material in John Watson's "Mastering the Chess Openings" volume 3. Recently though I asked for a copy of "Starting Out: The English" for my birthday and was lucky to receive it. I have looked at several volumes from this series, particularly the one that covered the Sicilian, and the one that covered the KID. I really like these book and feel that the format is quite good, showing you interesting lines and that the commentary is usually pitched at a very good level for me. I like a lot of the tips and tricks that they mix in with the commentary on the lines. Certainly many of these things would seem lame to a more experienced player but for me it's quite helpful to see these ideas applied to specific concrete situations.
A lot of people talk about having the problem with studying chess that they aren't very disciplined and jump around a lot. I definitely have this problem. So I am trying to be more disciplined with this book. I am reading it straight through and I am looking up every game in a database and playing through it and every variation that is brought up. It's been very interesting to learn about this opening that in many ways feels very different from the 1. e4 lines.
So far I've only played the opening in a handful of games and the majority of those have been chess.com correspondence games rather than live games. I find that the correspondence games can be good for learning about openings, but on the other hand, many times people go out of book pretty early too. My main problem with the correspondence games is that I sign up for too many at a time and then I feel I have to rush through them everyday so I don't time out, but I end up playing much much more quickly than I do in a regular game. So, I'm not sure where I stand on the matter right now. I may try to keep playing but limit the number of games I play, or I may just try to go back to playing regular single sitting games.
I've also busted out my German chessbase DVD's. It's just two of them by Helmut Pfleger going over some of the most beautiful games from chess history. I will be spending some time in Germany at the end of the summer so I want to try to get my German back to the level where I can at least carry on a conversation with my German friends. So it's kind of a two birds one stone. I get to study some chess and practice my German at the same time. Also I have some commentaries on some games in the chessbase database in German in the English opening games and I have been reading those as well.
Other than that, I have been trying to get back to chesstempo. My goal is to solve 10 problems a day. I haven't been very successful, but I am still doing significantly more problems than I was for a number of months.
I've also been following the candidates tournament. Not very seriously but I've browsed some of the game commentaries, both printed and video. I think it's cool that Anand is making a comeback.
So basically, I feel that my chess has been in kind of a low gear, mostly due to the lack of regular games, but certainly hasn't been zero. Some of my goals. I would like to get more regular about solving 10 problems a day at chesstempo. I would also like to get back to playing more live games either through chess.com leagues or just by logging onto the server to play in my free time. I also want to finish working my way through "Starting Out: The English" and then pick another book to work through in a similar dedicated fashion. A good choice might be to finish working through "Logical Chess", but also finishing the Nimzowitsch might be a good idea as well. I also want to finish watching both of my German DVD's.