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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Some various thoughts

New Job
One issue for me lately has been a new job. So I don't have as much time as before for chess. Just kind of tough sometimes after a longish day to come home and have the energy to play a serious game. However, blitz too requires attention and concentration. I still feel pretty committed to chess though and have been playing when I can.

Server Comparison
I've been playing on FICS again after a long time of just playing on chess.com. I like FICS because there is more of a social aspect. There's a lot more chat in the channels. I also like to read people's finger notes. But probably the biggest issue is that it is the server where I have had the easiest time finding slow games when I just want a pick up game instead of a negotiated time game like in the slow league. I quite like the Babaschess interfaces as well. I've also never had anybody abuse me on FICS. ICC is nice for some of the perks like the videos but when I was a member there it was very rare to be able to get a slow game when I wanted one. Also there's not much chat in the channels there. One problem with chess.com is all the ads. As to lichess, I really hate the smug attitude of the zealots for this site. I also had a bad experience playing blitz there where I was only able to play black because the opponents would always abort when they had black. I have also seen that they will ban you if they decide you are artificially altering your rating, like losing on purpose to lower it. I am a very erratic player though and sometimes I play really crappy. I don't want some big brother looking over my shoulder constantly ready to call me a cheater and ban me for the slightest infraction. Anyways, just some thoughts.

Training Strategy
As to training. One thing I did a couple of weeks ago was to come up with a list of various strategies for improving that I could think of. Then I listed what I saw as the pros and cons of each of the strategies. What I settled on was that I wanted to play more slow games. I seem to improve when I play more. So that was the core of my improvement strategy.

Issues with reviewing, particularly with an engine
However, I also think reviewing games is important. The major problem I find with reviewing games is that it's quite time consuming and I often don't really feel like I got all that much out of it. There's always the engine but there's some problems with that. First is a good amount of the engine output is kind of meaningless to me. I don't know what to make of the variations a lot of times. The second issue is that somehow it seems a bit like cheating. Basically instead of thinking for yourself, you just check what the engine says. I guess thirdly is that without a good bit of work the computer doesn't really comment on how sound your ideas were. It just shows a much much much stronger view of the game. That doesn't necessarily help me improve at the level where I am.

Letting some time pass before reviewing
So reviewing is tough because if I don't use the engine then it's easy for me to stay stuck in the thoughts that I had during the game. Then I don't really learn much. I think one thing that I have noticed helps is to let some time elapse before I look at the game.  Basically, it should be enough time that I am able to look at the game with fresh eyes instead of just seeing what I saw when I played the game. However, I think it's better if it hasn't been so much time that the thought process of the game has been completely forgotten, because then it just seems like someone else's game.

Thought process, the key is considering the opponents possibilities.
Quite awhile ago I was concerned with the issue of thought process in chess. I think in some ways I was really on to something but I didn't really know what the main point was.  One thing that happened when I was playing games against the handicapped engine was that a lot of the times I was just throwing the pieces around. For some reason it was really hard for me to play seriously against the engine. Basically, I realized that if I was going to play I had to take into consideration what the opponent would do.  This is actually a really big issue for me. I know it may seem stupid but a lot of times I have fallen into just thinking about what I could do. But when I force myself to actually look at the possible moves for the opponent then I do better. So the exaggerated problem I was having with the computer was actually a problem I was having in my games with people too. So I think the first step is just to remember to actually check the opponents options. I think my problem before was that I kind of heard the checks, captures, and threats idea but I didn't really realize that the main point there is just to consider what the opponents options are. The checks captures and threats is just a convenient was to actually consider that issue. I know it may seem like a trivial distinction but it has been significant to me to think about it like this. I think another way to approach it is to try to come up with a variation, a way the game might go, at every move. Maybe particularly when the situation isn't very tactical and forcing. This way I am forced to actually try to figure out the best move for the opponent.

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