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  1. #1
    CC FIDE Master Southpaw Jim's Avatar
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    The rocky road to improvement...

    Hi all,

    I feel Iím in a bit of a hole, chess-wise, and Iím looking for some free advice!

    Iím doing pretty woefully in our current club tournament (currently on 1/8 with 2 games to play against stronger opponents). For those that donít know, Iím rated 1293 (and likely to drop lower based on this current tournament). Iíve been playing ďseriouslyĒ for a bit over two years now, and feel I should be better by now. Iím pretty sure know my problems are mainly stemming simply from not playing enough. Most weeks, the only time I play is the one game at the club

    Iím studying middlegame and tactics at the moment, but obviously I need to play more often. However, Iím interested to know whether my study program is the best that it can be.

    Iím doing about 15-30mins of tactical puzzles per day, probably 3-4 days per week. I was using CT Art, but Iím not sure that the way it gives hints is a good thing. Also, I think that the way it gives partial marks for getting some moves right is misleading Ė if you donít get all the moves right, then the tactic doesnít succeed! Hence, Iím now using Leinís puzzle book (Sharpen Your Tactics!), which has no hints whatsoever.

    Iím also slowly working my way through Euwe & Kramerís The Middlegame volumes 1 and 2. I donít think this is having a direct benefit on my chess, and a lot of it is probably above my level. I do think it is beneficial in a general sense, in that itís exposing me to strategic concepts and making me aware of them in my games, even if Iím not currently equipped to put them into practice.

    I am usually able to devote 4 of my 5 lunch hours to study, and I was thinking that rather than using this time solely for working through the one book (ie Euwe and Kramer), itíd be more constructive and productive to divide this time up between different subjects and activities, eg:

    • 1hr: Euwe & Kramer (or other strategy books, eg Marovicís Understanding Pawn Play is next)
    • 1hr: endgame theory Ė I have Silmanís Complete Endgame Course. I may follow this up with something like Shereshevsky or Mednisí Middllegame to Endgame.
    • 1hr: more complex tactical exercises (ie those that require a board and pieces to work out), as compared to the simpler ones I can do on the bus.
    • 1hr: endgame exercises (I have Hallís Endgame Challenge).


    Is this reasonable? Should I drop the strategy study for more tactics for the time being perhaps?

    Now, my other issue: opening repertoire. Obviously thereís little value in me ďbooking upĒ at this stage, and hence I devote no time to this. However, Iíve read many times that the conventional wisdom is to become competent at the open games before anything else, since the semi-open and closed games will often involve a decision to transition to an open one anyway. Hence, the ability to judge whether a particular open position is favourable is important.

    Historically Iíve played mostly semi-open defences as black, ie Pirc, KID, Sicilian. Should I switch to 1...e5/1Öd5? Iíve always shirked this, given the sheer volume of variations that can occur (at least, my impression). Should I switch? Which variations should/could I steer towards? Main line QGD/Open Ruys?

    Finally, with regard to increasing my frequency of play, I often find that there are few ďlongĒ games available on FICS. Would it be better to play a few games of blitz, or a longer game against Fritz? IMHO blitz isnít good for developing players, but then again, Fritz doesnít play like a humanÖ

    Thoughts? Apologies for the lengthy post, but Iím keen to get some direction to my study and improvement
    "the other lefty"

  2. #2
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Iím also slowly working my way through Euwe & Kramerís The Middlegame volumes 1 and 2. I donít think this is having a direct benefit on my chess, and a lot of it is probably above my level. I do think it is beneficial in a general sense, in that itís exposing me to strategic concepts and making me aware of them in my games, even if Iím not currently equipped to put them into practice.
    They are very good though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    1hr: endgame theory ó I have Silmanís Complete Endgame Course. I may follow this up with something like Shereshevsky or Mednisí Middlegame to Endgame.
    Mednis should be tackled before Shereshevsky. It is at a lower level, and will round out the transitional phase. Shereshevsky is good for the more complex endgames, discussing things like IQP (another thing you like), the B-pair and "the principle of two weaknesses".

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Is this reasonable? Should I drop the strategy study for more tactics for the time being perhaps?
    Possibly,given that games at club level are more often decided by a tactical loss of material than by a strategic grind, although I've noticed recent stragetic lapses in your games that would be remedied by the Euwe/Kramer books.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Now, my other issue: opening repertoire. Obviously thereís little value in me ďbooking upĒ at this stage, and hence I devote no time to this. However, Iíve read many times that the conventional wisdom is to become competent at the open games before anything else, since the semi-open and closed games will often involve a decision to transition to an open one anyway.
    It's more a corrolary of having practice with tactics. But at a more advanced level, open gambits are less popular because the tactics fizzle out too quickly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Historically Iíve played mostly semi-open defences as black, ie Pirc, KID, Sicilian. Should I switch to 1...e5/1Öd5? Iíve always shirked this, given the sheer volume of variations that can occur (at least, my impression). Should I switch? Which variations should/could I steer towards? Main line QGD/Open Ruys?
    That's not so important. For Black, it might be worth choosing between light and darks square strategy, and choosing openings accordingly. E.g. KID, Pirc and Dragon Sicilians emphasise dark squares and in particular fianchettoed KB; while Nimzo/QID/French emphasize light squares, as do Slav and e6 Sicilians. You seem to have moved towards dark square openings with Black.

    I think QGD goes well with closed Ruys rather than Opens as far as playing style.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Finally, with regard to increasing my frequency of play, I often find that there are few ďlongĒ games available on FICS. Would it be better to play a few games of blitz, or a longer game against Fritz? IMHO blitz isnít good for developing players, but then again, Fritz doesnít play like a humanÖ
    Blitz games might be useful for you to gain some practice with the openings you like, getting a "feel" for the right plans in various positions. Then you could use this practice in the club games, which are the important ones.
    ďThe history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.Ē
    ďThereís no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.ĒóThomas Sowell

  3. #3
    CC FIDE Master Southpaw Jim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jono
    They are very good though.
    Indeed, although very dense - I suspect it will take me multiple readings to really get to grips with their content. The material covering pawn structures was quite arduous to wade through. Volume 2 is looking more lively, for obvious reasons - dynamic play, attacking the king etc.

    Mednis should be tackled before Shereshevsky.
    Next on the shopping list then! I've also been considering Howell's endgame book, or will that duplicate material I already have?

    That's not so important. For Black, it might be worth choosing between light and darks square strategy, and choosing openings accordingly. E.g. KID, Pirc and Dragon Sicilians emphasise dark squares and in particular fianchettoed KB; while Nimzo/QID/French emphasize light squares, as do Slav and e6 Sicilians. You seem to have moved towards dark square openings with Black.
    I always used to get trashed with the Pirc, so dependent on precise move orders

    I've been considering a move from attempting Najdorf to the Dragon. Will investimugate further perhaps a "starting out" book on it, I think IM Martin has one out.

    Blitz games might be useful for you to gain some practice with the openings you like, getting a "feel" for the right plans in various positions. Then you could use this practice in the club games, which are the important ones.
    Noted, and thanks for the above
    "the other lefty"

  4. #4
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Indeed, although very dense - I suspect it will take me multiple readings to really get to grips with their content. The material covering pawn structures was quite arduous to wade through. Volume 2 is looking more lively, for obvious reasons ó dynamic play, attacking the king etc.
    Yes, as well as games from great players and typical errors people make.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Next on the shopping list then! I've also been considering Howell's endgame book, or will that duplicate material I already have?
    Don't know that one, sorry. Have you seen Averbakh's Chess Endings Essential Knowledge, which is cheap and written by one of the world's best experts on the endgame.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    I always used to get trashed with the Pirc, so dependent on precise move orders
    It's probably more a case of violating the rule: the best means of defence is attack. Inexperienced players of the Pirc don't fight back soon enough, so find themselves unable to defend once White has built up a strong position.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    I've been considering a move from attempting Najdorf to the Dragon. Will investimugate further perhaps a "starting out" book on it, I think IM Martin has one out.
    Yes, so you have some idea how to handle the Yugoslav without losing in 20 moves.
    ďThe history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.Ē
    ďThereís no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.ĒóThomas Sowell

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    Is this reasonable? Should I drop the strategy study for more tactics for the time being perhaps?
    I'd say almost definitely. Proper calculation (and simple tactics) is the most important for moving to at least 1500-1700 level.
    Endgame study also bolsters both tactics and calculation. However I agree with Jono that shereshevesky, while very good, is a bit premature until you reach 1500-1700 level.
    For private coaching (IM, four times VIC champion) call or SMS 0417519733
    Computer tells you what to play. Good coach explains why.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw Jim
    I always used to get trashed with the Pirc, so dependent on precise move orders
    Don't play Pirc. It is too complicated. Stick to something simple and classical. With black play 1...e5 against 1.e4, queen gambit declined (or sometimes accepted) against anything else.
    It will lead to a quicker improvement.
    For private coaching (IM, four times VIC champion) call or SMS 0417519733
    Computer tells you what to play. Good coach explains why.

  7. #7
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Igor_Goldenberg
    Don't play Pirc. It is too complicated. Stick to something simple and classical. With black play 1...e5 against 1.e4, queen gambit declined (or sometimes accepted) against anything else.
    That's what I started off with (1.e4 e5 and QGA), and I kept it till I was about 1800 strength. I still mainly play ...e5. [/QUOTE]
    ďThe history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.Ē
    ďThereís no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.ĒóThomas Sowell

  8. #8
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    Next on the shopping list then! I've also been considering Howell's endgame book, or will that duplicate material I already have?


    This is a brilliant, easy to understand, fun to read, endgame book. You might find it very helpful.
    I can lend you a copy!
    cheers C

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