25 March 2012

Training Log

My weekly training update begins with my 2012 New Year's Resolutions, and this week adds a fourth element.

1. Solve a minimum of 50 tactics problems per week.

Continuing with the puzzles in the Shredder iPad app, I solved 58.
1440 puzzles: 11292/14400 points 78%
last 10 puzzles: 74/100 74%

In addition, I did one session with the Tactics Trainer at Chess.com. Without prior logging, and with a viewing limit of the past twenty-five problems, I do not know the total number of problems attempted during this session. There were certainly more than twenty-five attempts. My cumulative data going back to summer 2008 provides a benchmark for future weeks.

At Chess.com, I constantly strive to get each rating--blitz, bullet, tactics trainer, etc.--equal to or above my USCF rating. After adjustments to the rating formula at the site a bit over a year ago, all ratings have dropped. Just staying over 1800 in Tactics Trainer proves challenging.

2. Spend thirty minutes once per week solving problems in Lev Alburt, Chess Training Pocket Book II and Paata Gaprindashvili, Imagination in Chess.

The thirty minutes spent with Alburt's text was not high quality time. During two hours of chess classes where the students were all engaged playing each other, and wanting no interference from me, I managed to work through a few problems with this text. That I failed more than one suggests that the text meets important criteria for effective training: deliberate practice. See Temposchlucker's informative post last week, "More about plan A." Temposchlucker's definition, "you only train puzzles you did slow or wrong," differs from how Neil Charness, et al. explain the term in "The Role of Deliberate Practice in Chess Expertise." Charness refers to an earlier article that defines deliberate practice as "appropriately challenging tasks that are chosen with the goal of improving a particular skill" (152). "Slow or wrong" does seem to be a reasonable measure for "appropriately challenging."

My difficulties with Alburt and Gaprindashvili have been that: I get them wrong, or I spend an inordinate amount of time solving the problem. Problems in the Shredder app must be solved successfully, and the scoring is based on time and number of errors. Full credit requires speed. Speed is a vital element in the Chess.com problems as well, but the problem ends when an error is entered or when the time expires. Chess.com's Tactics Trainer does present "appropriately challenging" problems because success brings harder problems, while failure brings easier. My pass rate of 45.7% is encouraging in this aspect, but careful reflection is not an integral element.

Sanjoy Mahajan has an article at Freakonomics highlighting careful reflection as the heart of deliberate practice. Mahajan's article also links to an earlier Freakonomics article, "The Science of Genius: A Q&A with Author David Shenk." It was Shenk's The Genius in All of Us (2010) that led me to articles by K. Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness (see "Seeking Failure").

This past week, I did only a few problems in Alburt, but did reflect on my failure. I have gone through the first eighteen problems in the text.

3. Complete my Pawn Endgame flash card project.

An earlier scholarly article by Charness led me to start a project that has limped along: 200 one-hour sessions on pawn endings. I put in one quality session this week, and posted a detailed description of that session in "Pawn Endings Flash Cards."

[R]esearch by Chase and Ericsson (1982) on the effects of practice on a specific task measuring the capacity of STM [short-term memory] has shown that through extended practice (more than 200 hours), it is possible for subjects to improve performance by more than 1,000%.
K. Anders Ericsson and Neil Charness, “Expert Performance” (1994), 735.
4. Additional Training Focus

Yesterday, I posted "Memorizing Chess Games." Tactical and strategic elements of chess skill can be developed through active pursuit of memorizing entire games, especially as these games increase in quality. The brief games that I memorized this week are more useful in teaching than training. But, the ease with which these were learned inspires me to put forth the effort needed for longer, higher quality games.

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