Monday, February 28, 2005



Inspired by PMD, I decided to take on Silman. Wham. :-).

First, he talks as if everyone visualizes and calculates deeply and accurately. No problemo! ;-)

Second, re: "Rules of Combination Recognition":

Lastly, re The Amateur's Mind:
He has organized and collected many important chess principles, but it comes across to me like he invented nearly all of it. He seems unrealistic about how fast chess principals translate into know how. Lacking all the "nuts and bolts", beginners are expected to go from positional observations to putting together a plan. Then he is insensitive and critical when his students get it wrong, which unfortunately reflects on him as a teacher. Taking one of the problems in the back as an example, this problem's answer is to make a prophylactic move to prevent a center pawn advance. The mistake done in the game (instead of that prophylactic move) was to castle. His advice of "castle early" is clear earlier in the book, and it's easy to imagine that castling makes sense there. No mathematical system to weigh decisions like these is presented, but practically expected. It's all about how obvious it is to him, like 1 + 1 = 2.

Anyway, strong players have been around for decades, long before Silman wrote anything. I guess it's a case of taking what you want, and leaving the rest behind.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Quick Note

I am considering getting more diligent about logging mistakes. Perhaps 1 diagram per disaster... hmm.


Completed circle 6 of problems 121-160. Got to 1700 on and got in a 2 move behind visualization training game.

Saturday, February 26, 2005


Are We Saying It Right?

We say we are learning tactics. Yet we all know a fork, pin, or a skewer when we see one. It seems odd to say that, as if we are learning this for the first time. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we are learning to
What a mouthful. This probably falls short of what it needs to be, but ya get the idea :-).
Completed circle 5 of problems 121-160.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Fundamental Checkmates

Today's post is for the total beginner. There are a few important things nobody ever explained to me when first I learned chess. Way up there is the list of fundamental checkmates. I have read several beginning chess books and don't recall ever seeing it, although the closest I've seen is in Kane's Find the Next Move where he talks about corridor mates. Well in my view they all boil down to a few basic patterns.

I hardly can imagine that my work here is original, but if it is well, cool! I don't even know if it could rightly be called a theory, but that's a place to start. Anyway here is my Theory of Fundamental Checkmates:

All normal checkmates are
one of eight patterns.
All double-checkmates are one of five patterns composed of two normal checkmates.

Addendum Mar 4, 2005:


This picture shows the 8 normal checkmates using Black pieces instead of capital "X"s.

The next 3 pictures use the same rook mating pattern. In each, the "X" squares are handled differently: first by White pieces controlling those squares, then by a mixture of Black pieces occupying those squares and White pieces
controlling those squares, and lastly by a mixture of Black pieces occupying those squares, White pieces controlling those squares, and the Black King on the edge of the board.

<-Note: you may need to go full screen if the sidebar acts funny or goes away :-(.

Completed circle 4 of problems 121-160.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Quick Note

Completed circle 3 of problems 121-160.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Endgame Stuff Part 5

I found a nice combination that leads to a won endgame rather than mate. It's from the recent Laura Ross vs Dimitri Gurevich game. I have annotated it starting at Black's move 25. If you want a challenge, try to figure out the combination from White's move 25. Ross vs Gurevich

I have attempted to make my annotation simple enough for even me to understand! I am a beginner in writing them, and would appreciate any comments about it from those more experienced annotators out there in blog space.

Working on circle 2 of problems 121-160, which I hope will be last of book circles
One more for you Polgar fans - beat the master on 5087! Answer in comments.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


Endgame Stuff Part 4

I found an example here that contains an endgame, albeit blown by me. Given enough time I did figure that one out :-)!

I think my style is positional and I am more likely to trade pieces than a strong tactical player. So... I do study the endgame. I figure doing 30-40 endgame problems per every 1000 tactics problems ought to be ok ;-).

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Circle 8

I did an extra circle while everything was still fresh in my brain. 60 minutes, 120 problems. Whew! I honestly feel a little sick, but a bit more competent. The speed/accuracy/speed/accuracy/...approach is working well. What isn't working well is using books. Polgar's 4881 (of 5334) is the perfect example; lots of variations and an incorrect answer in the book. If anyone wants to beat the master and feel like a genius, try coming up with the correct line for 4881. I tried for a total of 5 hours and still couldn't get it, although I still am a beginner at calculation. The plus thing is my instincts were on target about 4881's answer being inaccurate.


Endgame Stuff Part 3

I was looking the the Bill Robertie endgame book and realized how little I know. Sigh. Nonetheless, I've organized some positions around the earlier Queen v. Rook pawn promotion threat. I thought this mini-collection would be worth sharing.

endgame pgn link

Friday, February 18, 2005


Hanging Pieces

The situation in my post My Chess Mistakes, Vol. 1 brought up an old beef of mine. I am tired of trying to follow the adage "Don't hang your pieces!". I have encountered this advice in many beginner books, and plenty of examples to back it up. Furthermore, I have found it to be a critical consideration at the intermediate level. Heck, inadequately guarded pieces is one of Silman's rules of recognition for tactical possibilities. How could anyone have a problem with this?


Take a look at it the other way:

Visualize two people at chess board in the starting position with a single spectator watching. You can hear the thoughts of the spectator. This spectator has been brain-washed into thinking hanging pieces is actually good. Oh, and hanging material normally freaks him out!

Looks bad with all rooks unprotected.
Only four pieces hanging... got to get things going here.
1. e4 e5
OMG six pieces are unprotected!
Hmm only six now...give me more!
2. Bc4 Bc5
Ten!? No way, no way, somebody is gonna lose, and real fast.
Ah ten men hanging, it's looking good now.

All seriousness aside, my point is the end position is ok.


Anyway, doing tactics problems repeatedly has driven home that occasionally you must hang your pieces. I am writing down the following note in hopes I start checking for those types of moves.

"Sometimes hanging a piece is the best move."

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Quick Note

Woot! Finished circle 7 of problems 81-120.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Endgame Stuff Part 2

I found a great game viewing applet at the ICC. If you found my last post too easy, try this: Endgame link

Finished circle 6 of 81-120.


Endgame Stuff

I've been thinking more about the 30 + endgame problems. I am considering getting 10 problems that illustrate the transition from the middlegame, 10 problems that force me to calculate several variations, and 10 problems to show two or more themes simultaneously. The goal is to be better prepared, not an expert. Of course, anyone who gets through the whole CT-ART collection could become a holy terror in the endgame.

Here is a two or more themes type of example that I composed. Enjoy.

White to Move After Draw Offered

If you took the draw, look again. The a position is similar to the Queen v. Rook pawn on the seventh draws, but just one pawn changes that. Oh, and it does has more than 1 solution.
P.S. I updated my blog email link - Spam filter is a godsend (lol).
P.P.S. Anyone know of a simple to use chess Java applet for fen/pgn files? Uploading graphics seems ridiculous.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Quick Note

Completed circle 5 of problems 81-120.

I am thinking of doing a mini-endgame circle of 30 + problems that cover the typical intermediate endgame situations. Chess FM has some nice understandable Flash lectures with's Danny Kopec.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


My Chess Mistakes, Vol. 1

To me, intermediate chess is alot like beginning chess. Intermediate players make the same mistakes that beginners make, but are just a bit more aware of it. Of course, if players never made the same mistake twice, eventually everyone would become a Grandmaster...Yikes!

Some mistakes seem happy to crop up again and again, no matter how many times one might see it. To battle my own beginner tendencies, I began writing down notes. This note still holds true a year later:

"Bishops on the move leave b and g pawns vulnerable, and the c pawn becomes a target if the Queen moves very far."

Pretty simple, huh? Well, I suppose it is. If only I could remember it.


I was Black here:
1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 e6 4. O-O Be7 5. b3 O-O 6. Bb2 a5 7. c4 a4 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9. d3 Bf6 10. Qc2 axb3 11. Qxb3 Bd7 {see diag.} 12. a4 Bc6 13. Ne5 Qc8 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Nc3 Rd8 16. d4 Nxc3 17. Bxc3 Bxd4 18. Bxd4 Rxd4 19. Rfd1 Rd6 20. Rac1 Qa6 21. Rxd6 cxd6 22. Rb1 Qc8 23. Qb6 Na6 24. Qxc6 Qxc6 25. Bxc6 Rb8 26. Rxb8+ Nxb8 27. Bb7 Kf8 28. a5 Ke7 29. a6 Nd7 30. a7 Nb6 31. a8=Q Nxa8 32. Bxa8 1-0

(Actually black might have a winning or at least drawn position is 22 ...d5)
11...Bd7 {DOH}

Not seeing the Qxb7 threat was my mistake. I have been calling this and other similiar glitches "after the move" mistakes. If you want, leave a comment on whether or not White can safely take the b pawn.


6 more problems to do in circle 4 of 81-120.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Mind Wide Open

That's the title of a book I read part of recently. It describes the mind as having a modular design and yet it produces a singular "us" identity. I think this makes a ton of sense and definitely fits my chess experience. This is how I see my brain in chess:

Looking over all of this, it becomes apparent why I and other intermediate players have shifted to a more focused tactical study approach. We need to learn use the best brain parts for the job at hand!


Slogging through circle 4 of problems 81-120.

Friday, February 11, 2005


Guide to Magnetism

Before studying tactics, I had a usual regimen of first doing some mate in 1 or in 2 problems, then losing some games. I like to start positive :). In my preparation, once in awhile, I would encounter a string of decoy and distraction (a.k.a. deflection) problems and get on a roll. Like Sancho and Temposchlucker I occasionally got the feeling as if my pieces were able to magnetically attract or repel.

When you run into problem after problem where the solution is unusual from a beginner's point of view, you develop countermeasures. You can pretty much figure that they are going to put in postions that will first trick you, and then teach you. I determined that my solutions were being arrived at ever so slowly because I calculated all natural responses before examining the weird and suicidal ones. I switched my calculating the other way and viola! Think about it; it's easy to eliminate crazy looking moves, so why not calculate them first?

It's odd, but now that I get mate in 2 correct regularly (Horray!), the magnetic perception has mostly gone away, and when I encounter a decoy or deflection tactic now I simply feel that these moves are forcing.

I feel like I have walked away from this with something more than just checkmate familiarity, although it is difficult to verbalize completely. I would summarize it like this: Attack squares and lines, not (necessarily) pieces.

Sancho and Temposchlucker say that this happened to them when they began shifting their focus from the pieces to the fields they cover.

If your really into feeling the power and have Polgar's 5334, these problems seemed to feel that way to me:
1285, 1286, 1290, 1291, 1294

If your really feeling it, try these slightly harder ones:
1252, 1243, 1229, and a the ever so tricky 1198

On a similar track, I have noticed feeling similar solving line/square clearance problems, although the difference is like you are somehow stealing time:
Line clearance 1230, 1196

Square clearance 1997, 1242, 1200

And finally, one that gave me the feeling of stopping time all together:
Decoy and double checkmate 1211

Remember, Kamikaze attacks first for maximum magnetism. I would be interested if this works for anyone, so feel free leave a comment if you succeed. And if the feeling just is not happening, you might consider sleeping on it and then repeating them 6 more days in a row ;).


A Taste of Tactics

In case somebody out there is thinking about doing DLM's 7 circles using books, I offer up my first group of 40 exercises as a starter. They are from the following books:

  1. Seirawan's Winning Chess Tactics - great writer and player
  2. Burgess' The Mammoth Book of Chess - more towards intermediate and advancing players, a helpful reference
  3. Laszlo Polgar's 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games - fun, large, and bricklike, containing many, many mate problems
  4. Problems at the end ("Ben's") of my list are from positions I have gathered. Warning! One of the positions is illegal - I use Winboard to open it; it's from Chessmaster 8000's "Move to Safety" drills which has no Kings. Position 4 and 5 are mistakes I would rather not repeat. Ahem.

It's a fairly easy group, but still a challenge to do all in 20 minutes. The Polgar 5334 list covers every major theme for mate in 2, using the most essential examples I could find. Good Luck!

---Ben's Essential Tactics Index.txt
Checkmate In 1: Polgar # 23,37,43,64,93,98
Checkmate In 2: Polgar # 457,501,502,504,532,564,624,796,
Zugzwang: Polgar # 5334
Double Attack/Multiple Attack: Mammoth p. 41
Overloaded Defender: Mammoth p. 45
Zwischenzug: Mammoth p. 47
Triple Fork: Seirawan p. 21 Diagram 14
Pin: Seirawan p. 38 Diagram #33
Overworked Piece: Seirawan p. 73 Diagram 66
Doubled Rooks: Seirawan p. 81 Diagram 75 (71-75)
Queen + Bishop Battery: Seirawan p. 87 Diagram 83
Pawn Breakthrough: Seirawan p. 91 Diagram 87
Pawn Blockade: Seirawan p. 91 Diagram 86( Need Easier Example)
Sacrifice for Pawn Promotion: Seirawan p. 93 Test 70
Underpromotion: Seirawan p.96 Test 75
Skewer: Seirawan p. 100 Diagram 95
X-ray/Back Rank Threat: Seirawan p. 112 Diagram 106
Stalemate Prevention: Seirawan p. 199 Test 98
Sacrifice/Petite Combinations: Seirawan p. 199 Test 96,101,102,106
Avert Checkmate: Ben's #1
Attacking the Defender: Ben's #5
Move to Safety: Ben's #6
Checks, Captures, Threats, Hanging Pieces List, Space Total, Center 4x4 Totals: Ben's #8
Forking a Square: Ben's #9

--- Ben's Tactic Training Positions.pgn---

[Event "Avoid checkmate"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "?"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[FEN "8/5k2/4r1b1/8/3q3r/2n5/1K3b2/8 w - - 0 1"]
[SetUp "1"]

{Avoid mate
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . k . .
. . . . r . b .
. . . . . . . .
. . . q . . . r
. . n . . . . .
. K . . . b . .
. . . . . . . .
white to play

[Event "White gains a tempo"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.11"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "-"]
[Result "*"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d5 3. cxd5 Nxd5 4. e4

[Event "White gains a tempo by snatching a pawn and pawn fork"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.11"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "-"]
[Result "*"]

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nxe4 4. Nxe4 d5 5. Bd3 dxe4 6. Bxe4

[Event "Smothered mate"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.12"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "-"]
[Result "*"]
[FEN "N3r3/pp1k1p1p/2np2p1/q7/P7/1b1PQ3/1R2KPPP/5B1R b - - 0 1"]
[SetUp "1"]

{Black to move-Mate in 1
N . . . r . . .
p p . k . p . p
. . n p . . p .
q . . . . . . .
P . . . . . . .
. b . P Q . . .
. R . . K P P P
. . . . . B . R
black to play

[Event "Attacking the defender hangs a piece!"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.13"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "-"]
[Result "*"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d3 Bg4 4. Bg5 Bxf3

[Event "Move to Safety"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.14"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "-"]
[Result "*"]
[FEN "7q/3r4/5p2/3b4/1n1b1q2/3p1p1n/4R3/8 w - - 0 1"]
[SetUp "1"]

. . . . . . . q
. . . r . . . .
. . . . . p . .
. . . b . . . .
. n . b . q . .
. . . p . p . n
. . . . R . . .
. . . . . . . .
white to play

[Event "a3 pawn pin example"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.15"]
[Round "?"]
[White "bms"]
[Black "bms"]
[Result "*"]

1. d4 c6 2. c4 d5 3. Nf3 e6 4. e3 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. a3 Qa5 7. Bd2 Bxc3 8.
Bxc3 Qd8

[Event "Checks, Captures, Threats, Hanging Pieces List, Space Total, Center 4x4 Totals"]
[Site "Cuernavaca MEX"]
[Date "2004.12.13"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Nakamura,H"]
[Black "Karjakin,Sergey"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2620"]
[BlackElo "2576"]
[EventDate "2004.12.09"]
[ECO "B23"]
[FEN "r1bqkb1r/pp1npp1p/2np2p1/1B2P3/3Q1P2/2N5/PPP3PP/R1B1K1NR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[SetUp "1"]

r . b q k b . r
p p . n p p . p
. . n p . . p .
. B . . P . . .
. . . Q . P . .
. . N . . . . .
P P P . . . P P
R . B . K . N R
white to play

[Event "Forking a square and a pawn"]
[Site "BMS1"]
[Date "2004.12.17"]
[Round "-"]
[White "-"]
[Black "-"]
[Result "*"]
[FEN "6nk/6pp/8/4N3/2p5/8/6PP/7K b - - 0 1"]
[SetUp "1"]

. . . . . . n k
. . . . . . p p
. . . . . . . .
. . . . N . . .
. . p . . . . .
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . P P
. . . . . . . K
black to play

Thursday, February 10, 2005


Well met

"You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player" Jose Raul Capablanca

Well, he never saw my wins. ;)

Greetings all. Another Knight Errant in the fold reporting in.

I too was tired of making tactical errors, so I began a modified De La Maza 7 circles approach in December 2004. I have been using books, doing groups of 40 problems 7 times, 4-6 days a week for 30 min. to 2 hours per day. I am not attempting to get rating points as quickly as his program is designed for, but simply have a good regimen of tactics practice and have a life.

I would say that all but 5 of the problems I have used would be in the "10-30" in CT-Art difficulty terms, over half in the "10" range.

In spite of the complaints I have read, I am going to eventually get CT-Art because it's simply much better at covering the themes than I would be, scouring books for a well rounded collection.

So far things look like this:

For problems 81-120 I am now using a speed/accuracy see-saw approach:

Circle 1 - 4 min/problem - Attempt to get first move, best reply, and next move(s)
Circle 2 - Take as long as is needed- Attempt to accurately calculate every variation
Circle 3 - 2 min/problem - Attempt to get first move, best reply, and next move(s)
Circle 4 - Take as long as is needed- Attempt to accurately calculate every variation
Circle 5 - 1 min/problem - Attempt to get first move, best reply, and next move(s)
Circle 6 - Take as long as is needed- Attempt to accurately calculate every variation
Circle 7 - .5 min/problem - Attempt to get first move, best reply, and next move(s)

For what it's worth, in making a version of the plan that uses less time, my feeling was that it's the regularity of the tactical problem solving much more so than the time per day that was important.

Even though my time investment has been a fraction of you all, I have experienced identical frustrations with the whole process, feeling like this is taking something fun and making it a grind. Even worse, my standard games have gotten a little bit worse, especially in messy positions, although on the plus side my blitz rating has improved. I limit my blitz games out of concern over getting bad habits that detract from whatever ability I have to play standard games. I figure the standard drop in performance is temporary.

Anyway, this is my "have a life while your learning tactics" formula.

The other thing worth mentioning is playing vision training games (where both players either write current moves and the chess board is updated regularly to show the position 2 half moves back).

More on mistakes later. Much, much more.

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