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tonguetide 235 ( +1 | -1 )
How to improve I'm pretty new here. I've only finished 39 games. I'm returning to the game after not playing for a while--ten or fifteen years, I guess. I was never a tournament player, but I used to play recreationally against at least some players who were "serious." I love the game but have never been especially good. Here at GK I've won a lot of games but I've been, so to speak, working my way up the ratings scale, in terms of my opponents. Now that I'm playing mostly people in the 1500s, I have the feeling that I've hit my current "ceiling."

I'm 54 years old, and this is just a hobby for me. I have no plans to play in OTB tournaments or anything like that. I love the web-based correspondence format, and it has given me new enthusiasm for the game. Like everybody else, I'd like to try to get better.

I know there are hundreds of books about chess, written by masters, telling patzers like myself how to improve. But what I'd really like is to hear from someone who has started out at something like my level, decided to improve, and did so! That is, I'd like to hear from people who are now, say, playing at 1700 or higher, but who can remember playing at the 1500 level not so long ago. I'd like to know what things you see and do now, that you didn't see and do before. And what did you do to bring about the improvement?

Let me give an example from my own vantage point. I am familiar with the common tactics, the fork, the discovered attack, the pin, the skewer, and so on. I use them when I can. I try to see them coming. I can remember back when I was only vaguely aware of these things, and they seemed like magic when used against me. So I guess I'm wondering what principles I'm probably oblivious to *now* that might help me to make it to the next level. I recently found this interesting web page, home.comcast.net, which is a bit overwhelming. But maybe some of the better players here can identify the ideas that have been most helpful to them.

I only recently heard of the "worst piece principle," for example. Even though it's somewhat obvious, it had never really occurred to me before as something to think about in quiet positions. I've been trying to do so, but it's too soon to say whether it is helping my play. I'm very interested to hear how the better players got better.
cascadejames 79 ( +1 | -1 )
tactics My history is similar to yours, though I am years older and had a bigger gap in my playing
time. I don't quite meet your rating requirement of 1700; but I got close, 1680, until recently
when I started playing mostly against players at 1700+ and started losing pretty often.

But FWIW, my advice is -- study tactics, tactics, tactics. OK, you already know the basics, but
recognizing a pin, skewer, fork, etc. is not the same as really understanding their use and how
to create them.

I suggest paging through the book, "Winning Chess Tactics" by Seirawan and Silman. If it
looks too basic, and it may; then move directly on to the book "Understanding Chess Tactics"
by Martin Weteschnik. The first was a good review and base for me. The second was an eye
opener that moved me from the low 1500s to the mid-1600s
cascadejames 6 ( +1 | -1 )
Also Dan Heisman His article on the Seeds of destruction has been very helpful to me.
cascadejames 12 ( +1 | -1 )
link www.chesscafe.com
lighttotheright 46 ( +1 | -1 )
All of it. Dan Heisman has some great information.

Just take it one step at a time and at your own leisure.

Learning principles and learning from your mistakes is the best thing you can do. Analyse every game and find mistakes that you can avoid, including those made by your opponent. Get someone higher rated to help you with positions that you do not understand. Asking someones opinion is a form of flattery. Just don't abuse the privilege.
gamlet 40 ( +1 | -1 )
try studying endgame I reached the 1700 level by studying tactics, but easily slid when I met the strong opposition here. I think that a strong endgame background holds you in good stead against guys in this level. I studied the games of the strongest endgame player ever-Capablanca. Now, I'm climbing back to 1700 and have won quite a few games against 1700-1800 guys.
cascadejames 25 ( +1 | -1 )
About endgame study Clearly gamlet is correct, if you are playing against 1700-1800 players, and losing in the end
game. My personal experience is that I don't have to wait that long. :-) I lose against them in
the middle game. Your mileage may vary!
spurtus 66 ( +1 | -1 )
1500-1700.. I believe the essence of this journey is mostly confidence, consistency & calculation.

1700 is largely defined by the level above 1800, where players rarely drop pieces play consistently well and miss very few primary tactical tricks and 'cheapos'. The game is often moreso attritional & strategically positional, don't expect any game to be easy, every game will require good speculative judgement calls.

Experience is something too which will in time help guide you, one important tip is when you eventually find your ceiling this is the time to try new things out.

hope that helps.
bhidragon 39 ( +1 | -1 )
Play one at a time ... I'm also just south of 1700 and play here on GK to improve my game. I tend to play only one game at a time ... and find that concentrating on a single game helps me find strategies, tactics, moves, themes, etc. that I might otherwise miss.

It may not work for you, but play a couple of singles (and seriously study the positions before you move) and see what happens.
apastpawn 134 ( +1 | -1 )
Web help I to returned to chess after not playing for 10 plus years. I discovered the internet and chess about the same time a few years ago. I have returned close to my previous rating level withthe help of web sites.

I would like to give you a few links to some of my favorites that will help you improve I hope.

The first is an opening site that has thousands of openings and there main lines. If you surf around the site a bit you'll find help info also. You can use this site to learn new openings or to find best responces to unformilar openings. id=www.eudesign.com

The second is a site for tactics training. I strongly believe that tactics are what seperate the ratings. In other words the more tactics you know the higher your rating will be. If you practice these often you should improve. The site has a timer for each problem to solve. I recommend that you just sign in as guest and not worry about the timer or the score it gives you. What is important is to get the problem right or to understand it if you don't. id=chess.emrald.net

May these two sites help you or anyone else who reads this.

Wayne
tonguetide 82 ( +1 | -1 )
Good stuff Thanks for all the suggestions!

I'm on vacation in LA (having a beer at a Pink Taco at the moment). Although I can can in principle play my games on my Blackberry (i.e. It works), I've learned that trying to analyze positions on the tiny screen is a short route to blindness...and even worse play. But no problem reading the forums!

After looking at all the replies, and some of the sources recommended, I'm beginning to understand that I need to pay more attention to positional things. I think that in a lot of games I find myself putting out fires that probably could have been avoided. But probably the biggest fault is this: infatuation with my own attacks. That is, I spend a lot more time trying to understand my attacks than my opponent's. So I fail to see threats until they are immediate and hard to deflect without damage.
doctor_knight 92 ( +1 | -1 )
one little thing I know I'm rated a little under you, but I found something that has recently helped me a lot. Before each move, do a little "reconnaissance." Check what squares each piece, minor piece, and pawn commands. That way, you'll get a good view of the whole board and will usually not be surprised by something the opponent can do on the other side of the board. You will know what each piece can do. It can help a lot and with a little practice doesn't take much time at all; it can really save you from getting surprise attacked or brutally counterattacked. When doing it, you also want to consider the "X-ray" effect that the queen, rooks and bishops have by "looking through" a piece so you don't get surprised by a discovered attack or something.

(by the way, this advice is actually from C.J.S. Purdy, the first World Champion of Correspondence Chess. He's got a lot of really good advice that I'm just now starting to follow)
gamlet 15 ( +1 | -1 )
About Endgame study It's not all about holding on but recognizing when you have a positional advantage in the endgame and simplifying through exchanges. This was where Capablanca's genius lay!
cutawhant 14 ( +1 | -1 )
Polgar Susan Polgar's advice to a club players was study middle game tactics and end games, leaving all the rest until later.
steverand67 123 ( +1 | -1 )
My take... I joined Gameknot about 2 years ago, and my rating quickly settled in the 1400's. It stayed there for a while, until after about a year and a half it suddenly began rising, and continued to do so until leveling off in the 1600's. Since then, it has risen slowly to 1700 level. I attribute much of those increases in rating to looking at the annotations made by good GK players like heinzkat, ionadowman, marinvukusic and many more. In addition to that, annotating your own games and making the annotations public has the potential to be very helpful. As previously noted, tactics are very important as well. I'd reccomend "Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player" by US GM Lev Alburt if you're looking for a book, and chess.emrald.net if you're looking for a website to practice tactics on.

Hope this helps...
ionadowman 195 ( +1 | -1 )
There's a lot of good advice here... ... but I would like to add my endorsement to gamlet's recommendation in respect of the endgame.

It's my firm belief that a good feel for the endgame will actually help your feel for the rest of your game, not only positionally, but tactically as well. Quite a few noted tacticians like Em. Lasker, Frank Marshall, and Savielly Tartakover were very strong endgame players. So is/was Harry Kasparov.

Endgame studies often have a tactical component that, in a relatively empty board, crystallises out into something quite beautiful to see.

Consider this:
w
White to play and draw.
The thing looks pretty unlikely: WR 'en prise', the d-pawn about to promote. Even a check doesn't seem to get the rook into a position to snaffle the pawn:
1.Re5+ Kf6 Has White's position improved in the slightest?
2.Kxd2 Kxe4 Now White is a whole rook down, and the BN is protected. Surely White can't hold!
3.Kd3 - Big deal, Black can protect the pinned knight by ...Rh4 or ...Rd7. Try
3...Rh4
4.Kc4! - Um... Black can do no more (bearing in mind that the R vs B endgame is a "book" draw - something one might have to practise a little, though it's not difficult for the B to draw), Black can do no more than shuffle his rook along the 4th rank, and the bishop does the same along the long diagonal. A whole rook up in a 5-man endgame, and Black can't win!

Could he have improved earlier - at move 2, say?
1.Re5+ Kf6
2.Kxd2 Nf6+ - Oo - a fork. Gotta be good.
3.Ke3 Nxe5
4.Ke4 ... Not again! Same scheme, different place! Try defending the knight from the file, then, instead of a rank:
4...Rd7
5.Kf4! ... Same thing: the BK and BN are locked in place; the rook may not leave the file. White's bishop moves back and forth on the long diagonal unless and until he can take the knight for nothing.

Just 5 pieces illustrates the power that a pin can develop.

Cheers,
Ion
heinzkat 126 ( +1 | -1 )
Nice example... Although you inverted the coordinates of the board a few times:

w
White to play and draw.
The thing looks pretty unlikely: WR 'en prise', the d-pawn about to promote. Even a check doesn't seem to get the rook into a position to snaffle the pawn:
1.Re5+ Kf6 Has White's position improved in the slightest?
2.Kxd2 Kxe5 Now White is a whole rook down, and the BN is protected. Surely White can't hold!
3.Kd3 - Big deal, Black can protect the pinned knight by ...Rh4 or ...Rd7. Try
3...Rh4
4.Kc4! - Um... Black can do no more (bearing in mind that the R vs B endgame is a "book" draw - something one might have to practise a little, though it's not difficult for the B to draw), Black can do no more than shuffle his rook along the 4th rank, and the bishop does the same along the long diagonal. A whole rook up in a 5-man endgame, and Black can't win!

Could he have improved earlier - at move 2, say?
1.Re5+ Kf6
2.Kxd2 Nf3+ - Oo - a fork. Gotta be good.
3.Ke3 Nxe5
4.Ke4 ... Not again! Same scheme, different place! Try defending the knight from the file, then, instead of a rank:
4...Re7
5.Kf4! ... Same thing: the BK and BN are locked in place; the rook may not leave the file. White's bishop moves back and forth on the long diagonal unless and until he can take the knight for nothing.

Just 5 pieces illustrates the power that a pin can develop.

Cheers,
Heinzkat
blake78613 64 ( +1 | -1 )
I have one disagreement with the guidelines set forth on the site you gave (castenet), and that is the one about "don't make a threat unless..." . If possible, always try to have at least a small threat in any move you make. Lasker says that any move should contain at least a "drop of poison". Euwe also says that looking moves that make threats is one of the keys to improving. If you keep making your opponent respond to threats you have the initiative which is worth quite a lot. One type of threat to avoid however is the threat that forces your opponent find a good move.
wschmidt 436 ( +1 | -1 )
tonguetied, The query in your original post was, "I'd like to hear from people who are now, say, playing at 1700 or higher, but who can remember playing at the 1500 level not so long ago. I'd like to know what things you see and do now, that you didn't see and do before. And what did you do to bring about the improvement?"

I pretty much meet that criteria, having inched my way up over a period of a few years from the 1400's to the 1700's. So, I'll take a stab at answering the questions.

First, as to what I see now that I didn't see before, I think it boils down to four things:

1. I see more tactical possibilities than I used to.

2. I see the potential for favorable endgame transitions that I didn't see before.

3. I see opportunities to make threats that, while not turning out to be tactical wins, force responses that work to my advantage positionally. (As a corallary to this, I'm more successful in my responses to tactical threats so I don't end up being positionaly disadvantages.

4. I understand my openings better than I did before.

Please understand, I don't consider myself really good in any of these areas, but I have improved in each of them in the last 3 years and if I, a 58 year old with only modest chess talent, can do it, I think most people can as well. (By the way, this improvement also extended to my OTB play which has gone up by a couple of hundred points since returning to the board two years ago.)

So the second part of the question was, how?

When I decided to come back to chess about 4 years ago, I decided that I needed to start all over with the basics. Like many players, I had a smattering of chess knowledge, but I really felt there was a lot of basic knowledge I simply didn't have. Maybe I had been exposed to it, but didn't really "know" it. For me that meant methodically working through Chernev's "Winning Chess" tactical drills several times along with other chess tactics books (before, like you, I was "familiar" with the patterns but there is a world of difference between that and doing drills repeatedly - think of it as the difference between one who has spent a few hours on the basketball court dribbling and doing a few layups and one who has spent hours practicing.)

Similarly, I methodically gone over the positions in "Pandolfini's Endgame Course" three or four times in the last few years. I'm not convinced it's the best endgame book available, but it moved me from A to B and has pointed the way to C.

I also read through some well annotated games aimed at players on my level: "Best Lessons of a Chess Coach" by Weeramantry. Two famous books by Chernev - "Logical Chess" and "The Most Instructive Chess Games" . "Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking" by McDonald. These have all been excellent for that murky middle game positional thinking that seems so challenging at my level. I'm also a big believer in the value of the Dan Heisman columns called "Novice Nook" at Chesscafe.com. I've read all of them a couple of times and for quite awhile was heading up a discussion group to talk about them in this forum.

I've improved my opening play by selecting a narrow repertoire and sticking to it, figuring out where I go wrong in the opening or if I could have responded better when my opponent leaves book.

Related to that, I've tried to do a better job of analyzing my own games overall. (It's really so much easier just to do a drill or read through someone else's annotated game.) For a while I was doing well at annotating my game and then running it through Fritz, sometimes I just have Fritz do the work. Sometimes I just don't have the time or energy. My New Year resolution for chess is to do my own analysis of every game I complete in 2009 (GK and OTB) and then have Fritz do the same. If I've got something really interesting, I may even ask Craig or Ion to add their thoughts, something I'm always hesitant to do.

So there you have it, one patzer to another. I'm living proof that, even with limited chess skill, improvement can occur over time. There are setbacks (I've just lost 5 in a row OTB) and at times I ask myself why am I putting myself through this drudgery? On the other hand, the slowly increasing sense of mastery is a real pleasure when you see a path to a winning endgame or a threat that leads to a positional advantage. And, for the most part, I actually enjoy the studying (except for rook vs. rook and pawn endgames, which are the product of the devil.) Have fun. ws
ccmcacollister 148 ( +1 | -1 )
Something very useful .... I recall seeing in these forums, several years back, a link to a site that gave a list of principles, axioms, etc and must have given 50 to 100 of them. But I cannot remember even the slightest suggestion of what the site might have been named or URL. Can anyone else ? Perhaps someone copied of bookmarked it? Or still using?

It seems to me that would be quite a good read for you tonguetide , since it would be many things like the "worst piece" advice you mentioned.

Let me just toss out another here and see if you know it? (I actually never thought about this one myself until after being a CCM~! But read it from Pandofini or Silman. I was following it, but not knowing I was :)

"Attack in the direction your pawns point". EG if you had your WT pawns on c3,d4,e5 they would be "pointing" at the Kingside of black and so that would be the "natural" wing upon which to initiate an attack, generally. (There are exceptions, expecially in the french. But generally) One major reason this will be the natural attacking field is that you would most likely have SPACE ADVANTAGE there, which probably also translates into greater freedom of movement there for your pieces ... whereas BL would have less space there and so find it harder to respond to your attack or probing.
}8-)
ccmcacollister 319 ( +1 | -1 )
oops ... It looks like the LINK you gave yourself may well be the one I was thinking of. Or the Exeter Chess Club that is mentioned there, which sounds Very familiar to me now. Well, good to hear you found it interesting~! :))

I believe that undertaking to learn and understand the material there would be a very good project for your Chess.

Other than that, it seems to me that when one is at a rating plateau, the way to improve would be to try to better certain portions of your game modestly. It is most often said to try bettering your Strengths, rather than attempt to eliminate all your weaknesses. But no reason not to improve your strongest area(s) and work to reduce several weak ones at the same time. Do you Know what you are Strongest at, and least Strong at? If not, then that would be a good place to start by taking inventory of your game as it exists now. A baseline to work from.

Do you understand each of These Skills? If not, learning them may bring dramatic increase to your game:
1) How to use forced line opening, and what that requires. THE primary attacking skill, IMO.
2) How to play the most common endings well? K+P, R+P are by far the most common. Also chose another ending to have expertise in. Mine was Knight & Pawns. Fischer's most notable was Bishop vs Knight endings.

3)"TENSION"~! Do you REALLY understand it ... Do you know what it is; how to create it; why it is useful To create it; and how to use it to gains Wins or Advantage? If you do not understand the use of TENSION in the Opening & Middle GAme .... JUMP on this skill Now to learn FIRST THING. And it will serve you VERY well, especially because most players at your rating (and often ones Much higher) will NOT understand it. I should have put this as #1 ! Once someone learns Tension handling, it is then good to review their handling of the Center for improvement there, viewed in the light of this new knowlege.

4) Can you defend against a Pawn storming attack, or "Roller" as it is often called? Most often 1500's players cannot do this well, and may find the prospect intimidating.
So you would be ahead by learning how from review of related games & annotations. Also the flipside ... You should know how to Attack in such a manner.

5) If you do not know "Stock Attacks", for EG's sac's of Bxh7+, or opening a Rook file to the opposing King, or attacking vs a fianchetto, attacks vs f7 or f2, f-file attack, etc., then that is a very good matter to study. It not only saves thinking time, since once you know such attacks you need only look for Exceptions to the position that might interfere with yours ... but also makes you much more aware of the attacking potentials that exist at a given moment.
******
Hope some of these thoughts might be helpful. I worked up from being 777 at age 12 to finally make OTB Expert about 15 years later, and CCM about that time too. And Not a natural Chess player at all. Like Walt suggests ... if not a Natural Player then we have to do a bit more work. But the rewards are commensurate (Except for CASH, that is~!! haha For CASH rewards you must Golf or play Poker ... }8-)