01 July 2012

Training Log

Mid-Year Report

Six months ago on January 1, I posted my "New Years Resolutions" for chess:
1. Solve a minimum of 50 tactics problems per week.
2. Spend thirty minutes once per week solving problems in Lev Alburt, Chess Training Pocket Book II and Paata Gaprindashvili, Imagination in Chess.
3. Complete my Pawn Endgame flash card project.
I began posting weekly logs of my training progress in mid-March.

My work on tactics puzzles has become routine and varied. Although I have faltered on the Alburt (minimal time) and Gaprindashvili (none) texts, I have been solving some difficult problems. My resolutions did not list all of the resources that have become regular tools, and some of these tools offer challenging problems.

Fulfillment of my resolutions is a mixture of success and failure. Gaprindashvili's problems challenge me in a way that is sometimes intimidating. I have failed to pull the book off the shelf in 2012. Alburt's problems have seemed harder than I remember finding those in the first Chess Training Pocket Book. My initial statement that Shredder iPad app problems and Alburt's problem would be warm-up for the problems in Imagination in Chess has not been fulfilled. Nor am I as far along on my Pawn Endgame project as I had hoped.

Although not among my resolutions, I have been doing some work on the opening. Indeed, that has been the bulk of my study time this past week.

The relationship between resolution one and resolution two is built into the structure of Chess Tempo training, as well as Chess.com Tactics Trainer. I have been using Chess.com's trainer sporadically for four years, completing nearly 5000 problems with a 45% pass rate. My total solving time, according to the site, is 33.7 hours. For the past three months, I have logged 38.7 hours with Chess Tempo, solving a bit over 2200 problems, including unrated problems selected to address weaknesses. Chess Tempo is vastly more powerful and flexible than similar alternatives. I attempted 111 problems on CT this past week.

Problems Done: 2139 (Correct: 1146 Failed: 993)
Percentage correct: 53.58%
Average recent per problem time spent 75 seconds
FIDE Estimated Rating based on standard tactics: 1747

Chess Tempo is quite clear that the FIDE Estimated Rating "should not be taken too seriously." It is nearly 200 points below my current USCF rating. The estimate based on Blitz solving mode is regarded by most users as more trustworthy, but I have done too few problems in that mode. For the present, I am satisfied with Standard mode. My efforts are aimed at increasing my rating to a level that I do not find embarrassing, while keeping the average time under 90 seconds.

This past week, I began using a new iPad app called Tactic Trainer that also appears to increase the difficulty of the problems with success. A friend* suggested that I try Tactic Trainer (link is to review posted 3 July) because he has been using it extensively the past few months and likes the results. Alas, I do not know how many problems that I have solved using this app. Nor does it offer correct answers when the problem is wrong.

The screenshot to the right shows the last problem that I failed. It would seem that I could press the "Analyze" tab at the top of the diagram, but doing so causes the program to crash.

Chess Tempo has been providing the bulk of my tactics training since April, but I have continued to use Shredder's iPad app, Chess-wise Pro (an iPad app), Chess Informant, and other resources. I have less than 300 problems to go with Shredder to have completed the 1000 problems twice. When I reach that milestone, I will reset the tracking. The third time through the set, I intend to aim for 85% of the possible points (a combination of speed and accuracy).

In addition to training this past week, I played two difficult games in the Spokane City Championship Contenders tournament, and I hope to play the last two this week. Michael Cambareri and I are currently in the lead with 3-0 each. Michael won the event last year. I did not play last year, but tied for first in the event two years ago with the current City Champion. He had better tie-breaks and became the challenger (his other draw was against a stronger player). I annotated my two games this past week, posting the opening portion of my win against Spokane's highest rated player, and posting the whole of my win against Nikolay Bulakh.

*Kevin Baker, whom I coached when he was in high school, recently won the u/1800 section of the National Open in Las Vegas.


  1. Chess and history? You must have a VERY active brain! Kudos.

    1. Never quite looked at it that way. OTOH, I know that chess is good for the brain.

  2. By playing chess, the mental strength also increases through diversified strategies and tactics involved.