Friday, October 02, 2009

Pachman Fever

After my most recent Hauptturnier game, I was chatting with David Pressman at the club about chess study. Magnus Carlsen is hardly about to pay big bucks to work with me, so I'll freely share some of my own methods (for anyone who might enjoy bouncing up and down off a 1700 USCF rating floor like me).

Because I pretty much play only in weeknight tournaments at our club, I normally have a week between games. For the fraction of that week which I use on chess, I generally concentrate entirely on opening preparation for my next opponent. At this moment, that would be you, d(f)an. ;-)
(Actually, I'm probably looking forward more to an enjoyable postmortem, regardless of the result.)

I often play through entire games in various "likely" opening variations, generally using books that have wordy descriptions of strengths and weaknesses, which are far more useful to me than charts of numerous move variations followed by symbolic evaluations of the position. In this fashion, I'm also studying middlegames and endgames which might develop from an opening that I expect may appear.

I've never really enjoyed doing chess puzzles, which will surprise no one who knows of my atrocious ("squib-tastic") tactical skill. Consequently, I rarely study middlegames specifically. I am, however, fond of the endgame, and I often keep such a book or two at work, for occasional reading while eating lunch.

Recently I've been looking over Chess Endings for the Practical Player (1983) by Ludek Pachman. The other day I was digesting the concept of the shorter side of the board in rook endings along with a tuna sub. Pachman's engaging writing style keeps me interested in reading and rereading sections of his book. Is there a finer compliment for a chess author?

I'm currently also keeping L'Art de Faire Mat (1973) by Georges Renaud and Victor Kahn at work. That French language book was translated into English, and also converted from algebraic to (shudder) descriptive notation, as The Art of Checkmate. Occasionally I'll review some of those checkmate tactics over lunch. Probably I don't do those test exercises often enough. Okay, okay, I never do those exercises - didn't I say I don't like doing chess puzzles?

I did enjoy reading some of that book's back rank mate material recently. Back rank weakness was present (though not always critical) in wins I had this year against Harold Dondis and Larry Eldridge. Heck, I could have won against Simon Warfield with such a tactic, too, but he's apparently not rated close to master for nothing....

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