30 August 2012

Elementary Tactics: Discovery

In Gligoric -- Averbakh, 1966, Black did not play 32...Qxd6. Why not?

Black to move

2rq3k/6pp/pp1Pp3/3N1p2/P7/3Q1P1R/1P4PP/2rR2K1 b - -

28 August 2012

Benefits of Chess

Benefits of Chess

Chess is a great game. It has been played longer and in more places than any other comparable game. In addition to its cultural value, chess play and study offers many benefits that go beyond chess.

Chess improves mental skills of observation, pattern recognition, memory, analysis, logic, and critical thinking. It stimulates the development of creativity, concentration, and persistence. Studies have demonstrated clear improvement in math and reading skills for students receiving a few hours of chess instruction per week.

Emotional Growth
Chess competition encourages growth in the personal qualities of patience, self-control, coping with frustration, self-confidence, and selfesteem.

Social Skills
Playing chess develops sportsmanship, responsibility, and respect for others.

Global Dimension
Chess is played on every continent. Its history spans more than a millennium. It probably originated in China or India; it became popular in Europe during the Renaissance. Chess notation and evaluation symbols permit chess players of all languages to communicate games and analysis.

21 August 2012

Svetozar Gligoric, 1923-2012

Grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric passed away 14 August 2012. He was among the top players in the 1950s and '60s. Gligoric was a top chess commentator, an innovative openings theorist, a fierce competitor, and a true gentleman. He avoided psychological ploys against perceived weaknesses in his opponents, preferring as he put it, to "play against pieces."

When I started reading chess books in the mid-1970s, Gligoric was a regular at top GM tournaments, and an excellent chess writer.

14 August 2012

Tactics and Strategy

How do we distinguish tactics from strategy? Strategy refers to grand objectives, while tactics are the means to achieve these. Archaeologist Richard Fox offers an explanation that may interest chess players.
For standing armies, battle is undertaken in accordance with codified tactical prescriptions. On the battlefield, tactics dictate the maneuvers of soldiers in quest of strategic goals, and they standardize individual actions for the common good. Tactics among standing armies, then, are the codified manners in which strategy is carried out.
Richard Allan Fox, Jr., Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle (1993), 10.

Knight forks, occupation of key squares, batteries, discovery, and other tactical motifs are comparable to the U.S. Cavalry's 1874 prescriptions to deploy companies in a particular manner.

13 August 2012

Training Log: Travel

For the first time since February, I attempted fewer than fifty tactics problems over the past week. During the week, there were two or three solving sessions consisting of perhaps thirty problems--I'm uncertain as to the precise number. The last of these sessions was Saturday morning while eating breakfast in a hotel in Butte, Montana. My wife, my youngest son, and I pulled out of the driveway at 7:00 am Sunday morning, and we pulled back in very near 5:00 pm Saturday evening.

During the week, I drove slightly more than 1600 miles (2575 kilometers). We visited museums with admission fees in Wallace, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming; just outside Powell, Wyoming; Butte, Montana; just outside Crow Agency, Montana (my son and I); and Garryowen, Montana (my son waited outside, and my wife was at her conference in Billings). We saw Mammoth Hot Springs, a herd of bison, Old Faithful, and the Fishing Bridge in Yellowstone National Park. My son and I toured the Little Bighorn Battlefield. We visited the World Museum of Mining in Butte, as well as a small mining museum in Idaho's Silver Valley. We walked through the downtown area of Wallace, Idaho where every building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We visited three National Forest ranger stations that had historical exhibits. We stopped at dozens of roadside historical markers. Although I left my fishing gear at home, I bought a hat and two river maps at three different fly shops along our journey. We drank wine with picnic lunches along the road in two states, and we consumed beer in a brewery. We ate bull testicles in a bar in Wyoming (my son is 21). In Cody, we spent an hour in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's collection of some 15,000 guns, and then in the afternoon, my son and I spent some time discussion particular weapons with the curator of the gun collection. We glanced briefly at the exhibit of another 12,000 guns downstairs in the museum. We spent ninety minutes or so in the Plains Indian section of the museum, and then another couple of hours in other exhibits after lunch downtown.

We watched short historical films about silver mining in Idaho, Japanese-American Relocation during World War II, Mandan and Hidatsa earth lodges, the Custer battle. At the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center between Cody and Powell, we walked a trail that presented us with a sense of the size of the WW II concentration camp, and then visited the museum where there is a reconstruction of one of the guard towers and some excellent exhibits.

We photographed the Anaconda Smelter Stack and a large slag pile that remains uncovered alongside Montana State Highway 1.

We drove through the middle of an oil field after accidentally taking the longer road from Powell, Wyoming to Billings, Montana. After more than five hours at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, my son and I drove through the middle of the Crow Indian Reservation to visit Fort Smith, Montana but failed to locate the historical marker for the Hayfield Fight (1 August 1867) that is on private land (we did not trespass).

It was a busy week that left little room for chess. It was an excellent week for a historian of the American West.

05 August 2012

Training Log

My focus the past two weeks has been drifting away from chess. Although the U.S. Open began yesterday only a few hours from my home, I am traveling in the other direction. When I teach a six week history course, as I am doing beginning 14 August, my attention shifts almost wholly to it for a few weeks before it begins. Nevertheless, I keep up on daily chess: tactics training, correspondence games, occasional rapid and blitz games online.

After an eight hour session working on my history course on Friday morning, I played ten 3 0 games on Chess.com. Losing five of the first six games was frustrating, but then I finished with four consecutive wins. The past few weeks, I have played very little 3 0 chess, using most of my online playing time for 15 0 games.  Reducing junk is important to chess improvement.

As for tactics training, I solved a handful of problems in the Shredder iPad app, the Tactic Trainer app, and attempted 113 problems through four sessions on Chess Tempo. My two posts the past week, "Failing at Tactics" and "Tracking Failures," detail some of the challenges through which I struggled. My last session on Wednesday was ten problems with an 80% correct rate.

The graph shows steady progress upward through the end of July until I scored a mere 41% correct through 80 problems on Monday. I regained over half of the rating reduction through a mere ten problems. My average recent time per problem went up from ~75 seconds to 98.

I waffle a bit over how low I should aim to keep my average time per problem. Is speed important in training, or do I gain more from seeking a high degree of accuracy?

Stats for Standard Tactics
Problems Done: 2481 (Correct: 1316 Failed: 1165)
Percentage correct: 53.04%
Average recent per problem time spent 98 seconds

I spent a bit of time going through game three from the Spokane City Championship, but have not yet completed my annotations for posting.