Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chess Study: Shades of Mediocrity

Chess Study: Shades of Mediocrity

As a young man there was a time that I would try to be the best I could be at everything I did; from being a student, playing board games, sports, the social graces, to what have you. Then several decades ago, at a family reunion - an epiphany, I learned to revel in casting mediocrity: I decided that I was going to be a bad fresh water fisherman, to the consternation of my crazy brother in law. Subsequently this philosophy has crept into other areas of my life. Leisure time is for my enjoyment.

Also I think over time one's ambitions for success get tempered by the realization that one is stuck on one plateau or another of ability, with no probability of a DeLaMaza* bust out.

Chess is what I do for fun; an avocation of mine where I use a "higgily piggily" chaotic approach of sampling this that or the other thing; so I wouldn't call it study. Spending only enough time on any subject so it doesn't resemble anything like work. It's a fair to poor job, contrasting my methodologies with the way I do research in my real job. Occasionally I will work through a whole chess book, but I'm more apt to hunt and peck through a chess book, (as previously described by Ken Ho). Also I have found that I really like the ICC lectures by the likes of Larry Christiansen and Joel Benjamin that analyze a game in a fun way, typically using 30 to 50 minutes, and you are as passive as can be just watching; you don't even have to move the pieces, or turn any pages, or even point and click more than a few times.

So what's the best way for a guy like me to learn anything about chess? Probably by getting a chess coach; but coaches cost money, are critical, give homework, would want me to change my stylin way of playing; all painful stuff like that. And well I'm not having any of that for my recreation.

Above all else I love the competitiveness that OTB brings. I can no longer play basketball or football without serious consequences, but I can have a slugfest via chess. Personally, the pain of a loss is the best motivation for me to want to fix my play. While trying to be a sportsman and understanding that losses are part of the game, some losses go deep and stay around a long time. Frank Wang says that such feelings make chess important to you.

I try to review every loss and determine why I lost the game. I have a better chance in learning something and remembering the lesson when it contains an associated sting of pain. I first enter the game into my old version of ChessBase Light (ver 4) and then cut and paste my game score into Fritz (ver 6.5) and run it through Blunder Check which usually takes a dozen or so minutes to look for major tactical blunders. Then I play through the analysis. If the game is interesting I will ask for a deep analysis which I run through the night, so I can review it the next day. I may look up the theory in one of my chess books or try to find grandmaster games in a chess database with the position (or similar ones derived from the same line.) This methodology is a far greater improvement from the old days when the best you could do was maybe have a chess buddy to work with. Using the computer you catch more of what you missed tactically than ever before, although strategically a coach would lend more guidance than any computer could. And you can use Fritz as a lab/strawman and play against it. Probably this approach is myopic: there may be fundamentals unknown to me that if learned might be helpful.

BTW I keep ChessBase Light (ver 4) because it was free and it appears you have to pay for newer versions (maybe I'm wrong). Also there are free open source chess databases out there to store your gamesl. And if you don't have analytical software like Fritz buy the previous to current version for much less money than the latest and greatest. It will kick your butt anyways. You want to use it as an analysis tool.

What is your approach to chess study? What do you think the best approach? Do you know of any good software that is helpful? Please Comment. Thank You. Mike Griffin 01/21/2009

*Michael DeLaMaza's story on 400 points in 400 days. r-link

No comments: