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A copy of the shared excel spreadsheet I use with Andreas to organise, track & record our progress & problems.

The Program in full:

Posted by pablito15 on April 15, 2010

Hey there!! Before going specifically into parts of our study, I thought I’d put up our “program” in full. For anyone interested in structured study, I think we have a couple of nice ideas.  The picture below is the central hub of our study, a shared gmail spreadsheet, which we can both access, view and update through our email accounts- a great innovation!

On this shared spreadsheet, we detail everything from our progress with shared texts, to our tactical studies (which you can see above- I’ve crunched it together to make it fit on the page), to a page dedicated to ICC games we play. But you’ll see all that later on in picture form (if you choose to read on!!)

  • Page 1: Tactics etc : As you can see this is just a record of tactical problems attempted & completed. The week highlighted in green is “errors week”- I’ve set myself a reasonable goal of 105 tactics a week, and once the error count reads 105 I go back and that week’s study is all the previous errors I made.

Perhaps the most useful sheet is sheet #6, where we’ve created a detailed record of any games we play on the ICC or over-the-board (OTB). I did this in an attempt to start making the time I spent playing games online not just mindless time-filling:

As you can see, I’ve tried to get an idea of the specific (ie. A poor response to an inaccuracy in the Lopez) and the general (type of tactics i’m missing [so… many… skewers…] / type of games i’m losing). This has been fantastic- before this spreadsheet the time I spent playing games on the ICC was largely “relaxing time” – games I wouldn’t take seriously that usually blew out into an hour of “chess” I’d gain nothing from- it would be better called “filling in time” than “relaxing”. In any case- after starting this sheet I have a clear record of what type of positions I’m playing comfortably against, any specific opening inaccuracies I failed to exploit or made (ie. on row 8,  I played black and lost to “Kingsryche” where white made the common mistake 12. d5 against the Keres variation of the Lopez- which I knew was a mistake, but responded with the incorrect 12. f5?! This is now noted and I’ve made a “to-do” to go back and annotate Fischer-Keres 1962 0-1) I’ve been able to notice the recurrence of specific tactical mistakes, like skewers, and also the good effects of playing positions I’ve annotated deeply, which has lead to wins against players rated 1800-2000. All in all, the biggest positive in this is that it’s helped me take something from my online games, and greatly improved my concentration & calculation effort online, which I have always had problems taking seriously. I will use this sheet a great deal before playing tournaments this year.

Next up, (my) schedule itself. At the moment(January-July 2010) I have a lot of time for chess, so I can devote about 14 hours a week to study. That may sound a lot or a little to you (depending on how much time you waste playing blitz!), personally I am overseas at the moment, single & working part-time. Also being away from family and the raucous scenes of Melbourne gives a little more space. The schedule is no different from any other, apart from two things:

  1. Each month, we have a “focus area”, represented by the coloured ranks in our weekly plan, which we vary from month to month. The idea of this is not to “cast the net” so wide that we don’t really take in anything, and to make use of our mind’s love of repetition and really focus on a topic per month (without neglecting the rest of the schedule and letting it waste away). Repetition is a bad word, what we’re really looking for is to go through the same themes with many different teachers & books, from many different angles and in many different shades of light! I believe repetition and memory have a place in chess, but a far smaller one than most give it- all this Michael De La Maza tactical repetition nonsense gives you some false ideas about chess training- repetition should just be one tiny technique you use occasionally in a tapestry of learning. Anyway- more on that later.
  2. The other idea is I’ve picked two interlinking end game texts and placed the corresponding chapters within 48 hours of one another (Bernd Rosen’s “Chess end game training” & Lamprecht & Mueller’s “Secret of pawn endings/Fundamental Chess endings” which are basically brother-sister books; the Rosen just provides examples on the same themes). “They” say, “study something once, look at it again within 24-48 hours, then once again within a week and it’s yours forever,” well.. I’m taking the first half of that advice.

This month, the theme (chosen by me) is combination & tactics, so on Tuesday/Wednesday the variable session we’re giving to Pandolfini’s Chessercizes Checkmate- basically a book on mating patterns from 2-7 moves. This will naturally overlap with some of our normal study of tactics, and the message will hopefully repeat and sink in. Next month the focus is annotation, we’ll be looking at 4 games we picked (I picked Keres V Kotov from Vukovic’s Art of Attack, & Tal Botvinnik from Tal’s 1960 book on their  match): first we’ll annotate them by hand, then go through the book, then with fritz.

Wednesday night fixed opening series V Andreas

I had to chop this one down a bit! This is a page on our hugely useful Wednesday night fixed opening series. It’s amazing how beneficial playing several fixed opening games against the same opponent can be, you both get an idea of each other’s style, strengths and weaknesses and help motivate each other to study certain strategies (strategies -not openings! Never ever openings…). We alternate picking the opening every week, for week 7 I’ve chosen the classical Sicilian, which I know very little about as a GP Attack player, so i’ll use the Monday “annotation” time to go through some middle game books looking at Sicilian games. The graphs I don’t waste too much time with (there is another one with a small pie chart- a breakdown of exactly what type of tactical blunders/opportunities we are missing [double attacks & skewers, by the way;]), but when i’m annotating the games I quickly update this graph occasionally- not every week. It does give some useful infromation though; in all of the last 5 weeks I’ve given away a pawn for free, which really makes me think I need to develop some sort of “thinking process” I go through before every move.

The categories of errors include: Structural, Calculation, Opening, End Game, “Misunderstanding of Position”, Missing counter-play, Removing an active piece needlessly, Ignoring development too much, Missing a simplification, Missing a stronger move, Dropping a pawn & “Mistakes of tempo”.

As I said, I don’t waste too much time with this, but I find the process of monitoring your training, results and progress not only helpful but fun too. It’s rewarding to have a log of the training you’ve done and some nice colours as it stacks up.

The other categories include scores from tests we’ve taken (ie. these “bratko-kopec” tactics tests), which we’ll repeat in a few months and look for any improvements, a section for the exercise based end-game training we’re doing, Andreas’ sections on his games which are cool (but i’ll leave them for his blog!) and a small sheet just saying what page # we’re up to in the books we’re studying.


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The program: week 6

Posted by pablito15 on April 3, 2010

6 weeks into the training plan embarked on with Andre, I’ve notched up:

  • 1000 tactical problems
  • 5 chapters of Meuller & Lamprecht’s “Fundamental chess endings”
  • 5 chapters of Bernd Rosen’s “chess end game training”
  • Chapter II: The Slav Formation of Soltis’ Pawn Structure Chess
  • 4 consequetive weeks of our Wednesday night fixed opening game where i’ve played:
    • The white side of the c3. Italian game:  1-1
    • The black side of the Worall attack: 1-1
    • The black side of the classical Ruy Lopez: 0-2
    • The white side of 2 crazy Sicilians & one Taimanov Sicilian: 3-0
  • 2+ annotations of master games from these systems.
  • 2 Correspondence games
  • Some middle game training with Mr. Bent Larsen. (not personally)

Which i’m very happy with. I’ve done at least 15 tactical problems daily for the last 6 weeks, which for me, is incredibly constant! It’s all improving our chess a lot, and whilst we might not see some of the gains instantly (ie. with the end game stuff), it will all come out in the end. In the next few posts i’ll try to go over each of these sections above, telling you what these great books have done for my chess & why I suggest you follow suit! I’ll start… as the masters suggest, with the end game!

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A bit more on our program

Posted by pablito15 on March 12, 2010

So as I say, I’ve recently teamed up with Andreas, an enthusiastic Austrian player of around 1700 strength, we’ve made a weekly schedule covering most aspects of chess from tactical to end-game, and it is proving not only motivating & fun to have a partner waiting to discuss & exchange annotations on certain chapters/themes/games at certain dates but it’s the most focussed I’ve been on improving my chess in a long time. A brief run down on what we’re currently doing:

  • Bent Larsen’s: “Good move guide: Section II: Find a plan“, for this we are going through the 50 exercises, and after, creating a pgn mini-test with 10 positions analogous to those in the 50 that taught us the most.  The idea is to reinforce the themes & provide a test/exercise for our partner.
  • Wednesday night: Fixed opening game. 20+5. Each week Andreas or I pick an opening, prepare for it as we please and play as many games with it as time permits. This week we played a 4. c3 Italian game, which I prepared for by annotating ancient and modern master games. This gave me a considerable advantage in the first game (Andreas studied only the “opening lines” due to time constraints) where I took him by surprise down the c-file. You can see our annotations of the game as an appendix, just copy them into Fritz/Rybka. I’ve also created a brief visual summary of our errors in the game:

Which doesn’t show much after one game, but eventually will give us a practical idea of average moves we’re making.

  • 1 chapter of Bernd Rosen’s Chess End-Game Training per week, which is not a very instructive text, but we use it for it’s 15 test positions per chapter, which we learn about first using a different manual of our choice. I use Mueller/Lamprecht, Andreas uses Silman. The Rosen certainly could not be studied alone. For each aspect of our program we have a shared googlemail excel spreadsheet which we udpate accordingly:
  • 115 tactical problems per week. We try to use some of the same texts but Andreas prefers the C.T Art format whereas I find non-moving images more usefu!l (as you can see I have been a little more focussed on tactics recently!)
  • One chapter of Andrew Soltis’ Pawn Structure Chess monthly; a book that has taught me more about chess in one chapter than any other text I have ever studied. We have both been inspired & have been enjoying reading this text by one of Chess’ best pedagouges.
  • And we also try to annotate one game of our partner’s monthly.

Here’s our game from wednesday, I won’t show the second one, as I was soundly beaten- you may find that on some kind of Andreas’ motivated blog…!

  • 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d5 7. Bb5 Ne4 8. cxd4
    Bb6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Bxc6 bxc6 11. Be3 Bf5 {A nice diagonal for the bishop.
    After Bg4 white has Qa4 with some tactical chances. NxN is also interesting,
    “blocking” the black weakness at c6.} 12. O-O Qe7 13. Rc1 Qb4 {Not a bad move.
    Whatever black does it must be active, as after white plays Nd2 followed by f3
    he will have a total domination on the c-file.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: The
    queen move had no real plan behind it, which is bad. Playing on the queen side
    seems to be Black’s best option though.} 14. Na4 $1 {In tune with the white
    strategy.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: annoying move for Black but the exchange
    knight-bishop cannot be avoided.} Ba5 $2 {Most likely played to try something
    along the dark squares, however a3 is coming so that will be quickly finished.
    Obviously there is no threat of NxB realigning the pawns.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10
    Andreas: right. I should have thought about a different plan. Actually the
    exchange wouldn’t be too bad because the pawns will be undoubled.} (14… Bg4 {
    Andreas. Trying to create some tactics based on the overloaded queen.}) (14…
    h6 {Rybka. Nice idea!} 15. Rxc6 Bd7) 15. a3 Qb5 (15… Qe7) 16. b4 Bb6 17. Nc3
    $2 {Played to simplify the position, I thought this was a strong move. It
    bring’s the rook to the third rank where it can (a) be doubled (b) switch to a
    KS attack. Also a nice black piece is removed from the board. Perhaps the
    reason it is weak is that on a4, after black plays a5, the knight can take the
    bishop, followed by Queen to e1 where white hopes that he will end up with a
    pawn on the closed b-file and black with a backward pawn on the open c-file.} (
    17. h3 a5 {10 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} 18. Nxb6 {6 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00}
    cxb6 19. Qe1 (19. Qe1 {7 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} Bd7 {3 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:
    00:00} 20. Nd2 {15 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} axb4 {2 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00}
    21. Nxe4 {2 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} dxe4 22. Qxb4)) 17… Nxc3 18. Rxc3 a5 $1
    {Very strong move- I felt losing after this. You had some excellent tactics
    based on Ra1 when the Queen is pinned due to the black queen also attacking f1.
    After simply doubling rooks on the a-file black has excellent practical
    chances.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: This is a nice freeing move. I have to open
    the position to make use of my bishop pair.} 19. bxa5 {With which piece should
    Black capture???} Rxa5 (19… Bxa5 20. Rc5) (19… Qxa5 20. Rb3 Qa4) 20. Qc1 (
    20. Nh4) (20. Bd2) 20… Bd7 $2 {A bit of a let-off. Again the tactical shot:
    Ra8, Rxc6, Rxa3, and now Ra1 is coming & black generally will have an
    excellent position with rooks storming down the a-file.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas:
    holding on to the pawn. I completely missed the dynamic of my pieces so I
    should have looked for a stronger, more active move. And always remember: try
    to avoid backward moves…} (20… Rfa8 $1 {[%t bLon] Proceed with the plan:
    double the rooks and put pressure on White.}) (20… Ra4 {Rybka. Hard to find
    move.}) 21. e6 {“Clearance sac” as in the evans gambit- I like this
    manouver!^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: yeah, but is the move good??? White gives up
    all hopes to win a pawn and opens the position. I don’t know if the
    “clearance” is in White’s favour!} (21. Bh6 $1 gxh6 22. Nh4 {29 [%clko -0:00:
    00] 0:00:00} Bxd4 23. Rg3+ Kh8 24. Qxh6 {2 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} Rg8 25.
    Qf6+) 21… Bxe6 22. Ne5 c5 $2 {The position is still in black’s favour but c5
    was perhaps a miscalculation.^13 ^10 ^13 ^10 Andreas: right, I didn’t
    calculate the move to the end and I agree that this is almost a blunder.} (
    22… Raa8 {I have to move the rook anyway after Nxc6 so this might have been
    an idea.}) 23. dxc5 (23. Bh6 {Rybka. Going for nasty tactics. Paul, you can
    see that all strategical ideas are worth nothing when it comes to tactics. :-)}
    ) 23… Ba7 24. Qc2 (24. Bh6 $1 {If you have the rook on the third rank, you
    should be aware of moves like this!}) 24… c6 $2 {“Securing” the position but
    there was no danger around.} (24… Rb8 {The better idea! Pile up with queen
    and rook to create some threats.}) 25. Rb1 Qa6 26. Bd4 (26. Bh6) 26… f6 $1
    27. Nd3 Bf5 {Two attacking moves in a row. Black is better again.} 28. Qd2 {A
    pawn up, black may have a winning position after simplification & the doubling
    rooks.} Rxa3 (28… Bxd3) 29. Nb4 {Andreas: completely missed the knight move.}
    Qa4 $4 {Missing the tactical threat.} (29… Bxb1 30. Nxa6 Rxa6 {Almost even
    material wise. I should look at the piece value better next time.}) 30. Rxa3 $1
    Qxa3 31. Ra1 Qb3 {Andreas: and it’s basically over.} 32. Nxc6 Bb8 33. Ne7+ Kh8
    34. Nxf5 Bc7 35. Qe3 (35. Nxg7 $3 Kxg7 36. Qg5+ Kh8 37. Bxf6+ Rxf6 38. Qxf6+)
    35… Qb4 36. h4 (36. Qe7 $1 {“ah i’ll play it next move!” I think as I notice
    it.}) 36… Rb8 37. Qe7 $4 {White is saved by the x-ray defense.} Be5 (37…
    Qb1+ {1 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} 38. Qe1 {11 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00} Qxf5 {
    1 [%clko -0:00:00] 0:00:00}) 38. Qxg7# {2010 Summary: A good contrast of our
    differing styles, with you playing for strong diagonals with Bf5 & Ba5 coming
    naturally to you, and moves like Nc3 trying to “improve the relative position
    with tempo” coming naturally to me. I got myself into some real trouble
    against a5 and you had an active & strong position. Perhaps moves like Rb1-Qa6
    let the initiative slip a little to me, whereas agressive moves like
    threatening a1 would probably have seen me blunder. A nice game & a nice
    exercise. I think we’re both learning something about our play from doing it,
    and improving too. How do you feel about the two games? Enough or would you
    like to play more c3. Italians?} 1-0

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