30 January 2013

Training Log: January 2013

I posted my resolutions for 2013 on the last day of 2012. On the penultimate day of January, it is time to assess my progress thus far.

1. In 2013, I will solve correctly 300 tactics problems each month.

I met this goal last week. Most of the 300 were solved on the iPad, which has proven its value for chess training. Moreover, last week a friend at the Spokane Chess Club (I should call him an adversary, as on Thursday he handed me my fourth OTB standard rated loss since September 2011) introduced me to Chessimo--a comprehensive chess training iPad app.* I am not counting the 330 problems that I have solved in that app (120 unique) as they are all checkmate in one. When I reach the point where I am solving tactical combinations, I may count those encountered through this app.

Lev Alburt has been sitting on my desk. That is to say, Alburt's Chess Training Pocket Book II has remained on my desk unopened through the entire month. My non-use of that book and my relatively limited use of the Anthology of Chess Combinations are both sources for self-criticism.

I finished my second run through the puzzles in Shredder's iPad early in the month, but have not yet begun the third cycle. The third cycle will be completed in 2013 with the goal of 80%+ score. With eleven months remaining, that amounts to 91 problems per month.

My four sessions on Chess Tempo were short (13 correct in 25 attempts on the longest session), but I emphasized accuracy while keeping my average solving time near 100 seconds.

One of the Chess-wise exercises that I did this morning was familiar from having encountered it somewhere else a few months ago. I immediately knew the first move, but sought to calculate the whole sequence before playing the move. Chess-wise cannot tell me if this calculation was correct. If the first move played is correct, the problem is solved. Chess Tempo, Shredder, and other sources mitigate this defect in training with Chess-wise.

White to move

2. In 2013, I will study whole games and whole books.

When writing my resolutions, I anticipated that I might have finished Logical Chess: Move by Move by now. That expectation overlooked that I often spend the latter half of January focused on the games in Wijk aan Zee. Following this year's games as I did, with an emphasis upon one game each day certainly counts as studying whole games even if it will be several months before those games make their way into books.

Magnus Carlsen said that Aronian -- Anand was the best game of this year's Tata Steel Chess tournament. I watched part of the game while it was in progress, and then memorized it that evening after work. I am close to memorizing Rotlewi -- Rubinstein 1907, which Anand referenced in the post-game interview. John Donaldson and Nikolay Minev, Akiba Rubinstein: Uncrowned King (1994) compile annotations from several writers on Rubinstein's immortal game. I am going through these.

I count my January progress on this second resolution adequate.

3. In 2013, I will finish my Pawn Endgame Flash Card project.

I am continuing to use these flash cards in elementary classrooms while teaching beginners chess, and some of the positions came up in the first endgame lesson that I completed in Chessimo. Nonetheless, progress studying Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual and mastering the blue diagram positions must be rated substandard.

The bright spot in pawn endgame training this month came while watching a game in the C Group at Wijk aan Zee. I watched part of round nine at home, then part in my classroom with two groups of homeschool students. After the games in A Group finished, we watched the ending in one of the games in C Group. I thought the ending was drawn, and yet GM Robin Swinkels managed to win. At lunch, I tested my hunch that it was drawn by playing the position against Hiarcs for the iPad. Later, watching the post-game interview with Swinkels the following day, he admitted that he had won a drawn ending. I drew the ending against Hiarcs.

4. In 2013, I will lose fifteen pounds.

Not at this rate, I will not. January ends with me at the weight I carried when the month began.

Update: 10 February 2012

*We discussed iPad chess training before beginning our game, which was the last one to finish that night. Two weeks later, I clarified the iPad he had raved about. He has not used Chessimo, but was raving about Chess Quest. I have completed over 1400 problems in Chessimo--very basic problems in two weeks. The past few days, I have started exploring Chess Quest. I now understand his enthusiasm for the latter.


  1. Nice post. The problem you posted is, I don't think, too hard, if you know to look for the combination. I am trying to figure out when the heck I should be looking for them. Any suggestions on this point? I've heard some good things about "Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna." Are you familiar with it? Do you have other suggestions?

    1. I don't know that book. I do think, however, that studying whole games helps develop the ability both to see tactics when the moment arises, and also the ability to set up conditions (problems for the opponent) that makes them more likely.