10 June 2012

Training Log

The Funk

Losing puts me into a funk. Sometimes it's not the loss, but an unreasonable concern with meaningless online ratings. Make no mistake, ratings are useful for measuring personal progress over time, and for finding appropriately difficult opponents. But ratings are too easily compared.

My USCF rating of 1933 is solid. I spent years struggling to rise above 1800, and then celebrated the achievement. Now, if I suffered a losing streak and dropped below 1900, it would put me into a funk.

Compare my USCF OTB rating to an online correspondence rating of 2275. The higher rating is deemed inflated by some, but it strokes my ego. At another site my rating is 1840, and it hovers near 1700 at yet another. These are correspondence ratings, and at my most active sites they are near 2000.

Online blitz is another matter. My blitz rating at FICS, where I have not played for several years, is slightly over 1600, and my peak rating there was mid-1700s. On Chess.com, my blitz rating is a tad over 1800, and has been over 1950. On ICC, it is near 1600, but based on a mere handful of games. Most of my play on ICC is in the 3 0 pool and the 1 0 pool. Those pools are brutal, and the ratings are embarrassing. Yesterday, I drew a Women's International Master (or lost on time in a clearly superior position)--I cannot recall, exactly, except that I was not outplayed. Her rating was near 1500, and it is a good day when my rating climbs above that. I have yet to crack 1600 in the 3 0 pool. Even so, I am mid-1900s in the 5 0 pool, albeit based on fewer than one dozen games.

I know well that ratings are relative. Indeed, I'm constantly preaching this point when the subject arises in online chess forums. Even so, some ratings put me into a funk. My response to losing or even drawing a player whose rating seems too low to me is to play more, but increasingly my play is foul: I'm playing the rating instead of the player. My play gets worse, and I play more. As the quality deteriorates, the quantity grows to gargantuan proportions and my mood worsens.

Much of my work is done from home. This convenience creates a flexible schedule that permits chess study. But, it also renders possible a wholly dysfunctional waste of days--hundreds and even thousands of online blitz and bullet with nothing to show for the time except a foul mood, a funk.

The Training

All this lamenting of my weakness for binges on nonstop garbage chess is to say that my training regimen lacked a sense of purpose this past week. No effort was expended solving the challenging and well-selected chess positions in Chess Training Pocket Book II, nor in Imagination in Chess (see "New Year's Resolutions"). No effort was put forth on my efforts to master fundamental pawn endgames. There were, however, three sessions (two quite short, and one long) working standard tactics on Chess Tempo for a total of 83 problems. As noted in "Counting Pieces," I had a pleasant reminder of the benefits of such training on Friday.

Chess Tempo total:

Problems Done: 1894 (Correct: 1025 Failed: 869)
Percentage correct: 54.12%
Average recent per problem time spent 79 seconds


  1. Easy to find you at CT ;-)
    I did put the data of your last 50 attempts in OpenOfficeCalc. You are more than 2 times faster as the average tactician in standard tactics. So with a "normal" thinking time you would be a 1901.4 at CT, and you should not drink to much wine :-)

    1. Easy? I guess I need to be more circumspect in sharing data. ;-)

      We have twenty wineries in my city, and they source most of their grapes from land three hours away where there are hundreds more wineries. Living in Washington, it is hardly possible to drink enough wine!

      1901.4 remains below my USCF rating, which itself remains well below my ambitions.

  2. My CT rating is confusing. For a while, I solved one problem per day allowing myself unlimited thinking time. That bumped my rating a few notches above 1900. Still I am forever stranded at 1250-ish playing at, say, ICC or using CM. I just cannot manage to find the leaks in my game.

  3. Hey James do you ever play slow games with some of the other chess bloggers? It seems like a great motif to pull you away from these blitz hangover you keep having. I'd be more then happy to play you now and again.

    On a side note my CT rating is 2010 about (Moth is my handle) and I'm rated a puny 1550 USCF... I don't get it.

    1. Tim,

      I rarely play slow live games online, at least not longer than 15-20 minutes per game. But I could, if you are challenging me! Which site is your preferred for play. My accounts are active at ICC and FICS, and I may reactivate my Playchess account later in 2012. I also play on websites, mostly Chess.com.

      If by slow, you mean correspondence speed--three days per move,--I currently play at ChessWorld, Chess.com, and Red Hot Pawn. I joined Game Knot several years ago when a chap I'd chatted with on The Chess Exchange Forum wanted to play. However, I see very little reason to play there, as the alternatives are vastly superior.