Monday, January 26, 2009

A Simpler Explanation

On further review, the shortcoming that prevents my further improvement is that I'm a moron:

I didn't want to post about this one, but my friend Tim saw the result on the Marshall website. He emailed me demanding the game, and I was reluctant to disappoint half my readership, so here it is.

Do I have a theory about why I play moves like 6...Bf5? (Aside from the above obvious explanation.) Of course I do--my brain produces theories like rotting meat produces maggots; nor do the similarities end there.

But there's no reason anyone should be even slightly interested in my latest theory, since I clearly know nothing whatever about Chess. So to hell with it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Long Answer

In the comments to my last post, Tempo asked me what my shortcomings are that prevent further improvement, and I replied: "The short answer is that it probably poor selection of candidates and/or limited ability to visualize positions 5 or 6 ply down a forcing sequence. That's why I'm trying the Hertan and Dvoretsky books. The long answer will be a blog post in a day or two." I guess this is that post.

The long answer is that every part of my game seems weak, to the extent that everything I've done to improve has resulted in finding new ways to lose.

In a post last March that I've referred to recently, I listed all the things I did in the last couple of years. I concluded, "a hundred point difference could be chance", and I have begun to think that it was. Also, you could argue that it wasn't a hundred points, either--my rating only moved 50 points, the other 50 was a combination of bad performance when my rating was crashing down and good performance when it was recovering.

I worked my opening repertoire, partly because I'd noticed that in games where I used a lot of time in the first 10 moves, I did poorly even when I got a good position. That "worked"--I rarely get out of book early now, and when I do it's just as likely that it's because I'm refuting bad play by my opponent as forgetting my lines, and so my score in those games is just as good as my score in games where I don't use up a lot of time in the opening. But my rating overall doesn't move.

I did a lot of work on tactics, and I can see that I make fewer outright blunders than I did. By my rating doesn't move--I miss tactics several moves down a variation instead in the first couple of moves.

I worked on visualizing positions, and I can play through games blindfold pretty well--but I don't seem to see the possible continuations in the positions I visualize.

And so on. I do things to improve certain perceived problems, and those problems get a but better--and something else causes me to lose anyway, so my rating doesn't move.

Maybe I'm just grumpy. Maybe having a rating 50 points higher than a couple of years back indicates a real (but slow) improvement.

Anyway. I'll be working on visualization and especially on candidate selection, because those seem like obvious problems. I can point at places in my games where I didn't consider the strongest move at all, especially a few moves down the tree of variations. We'll see how that works.

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 In Review

Warning: I'm the kind of geek who keeps detailed lists and statistics. Here come some now:

I played 56 tournament games in 2008. That's a lot for me--the most since 1988, when I played 57. (I also played 57 in 1976; 68 in 1987; and 90 in 1977). I had five wins against players rated 2200 or over, the most I've ever had in a year.

Almost all those games were played at 30 moves in 90 minutes (followed by one hour smash clock); 5 games from the Marshall Championship were 40/120, and 4 from the Marshall Amateur Team were Game/120. I never played much at fast time controls, and don't think I ever will.

Total score for the year was +28 =17 -11, a performance about 2172; +16 =6 -6 with White (2175) and +12 =11 -5 with Black (2168). That's a very small difference between White and Black performance; +80 Elo is more typical, and it probably means my White openings could stand a little work.

Looking at individual openings, as White, I had a lot of games with the Symmetrical English with d4, and did not do great (2140); I also did poorly with the Reti opening ("London" lines where Black plays ...d5 and ...Bf5 or ...Bg4) (2100), and was +0 =1 -1 against the Dutch. I did very will with the Catalan and Tarrasch QGD (close to 2400), and my Larsen Variation King's Indian was OK (2240). So maybe I need to start playing 1.d4 instead of 1.Nf3.

As Black, my Caro-Kann continued invincible (+7 =9 -0, 2190), with a performance over 2350 against players rated 2000 or above. I've lost only one game with the Caro since I took it up, against GM Charbonneau. I draw a little too much with it against weaker players, but that's the last thing I'm going to worry about at the moment.

Against closed openings, not so successful, although my Queen's Gambit Declined started doing OK (almost 2300, in fact) after being around 2000 the last couple of years). But I've already looked over Vigus' _Play The Slav_ and will start using that. Maybe playing 1...c6 against the English and ...d5/...c6 against the Reti will help with my sub-2000 performance against those.

Anyway, I hope not to study openings too much this year. My wife--who indulges my hobby terribly--got me three books for Christmas: Hertan's Forcing Chess Moves, Lars Bo Hansen's How Chess Games Are Won And Lost, and Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual. I'm working on the Hertan book now, and a bit on the Hansen; later I'll move on to the Analytical Manual. I also need to buckle down to analyzing my own games.

I suspect it's all futile in terms of improvement, but I won't know unless I try.

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