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drjake
11-10-2006, 10:43 AM
I've stalled out. I picked up chess a few months ago. And I've read all of the Complete Idiots Guide to Chess, don't know if that did me good, but it seemed I was consistently improving from game to game. But for the past two weeks, I've played every day, on the free chess server, or the playchess.com server, and I've been getting railed. Most of the time they're stupid mistakes but I think I have trouble seeing the board. Any suggestions on improving my awareness to what the other guys plan is?

likesforests
11-10-2006, 04:07 PM
Hi DrJake,

Are you "drjake" on freechess.org? I've annotated one of your recent games below.

Here's my advice:

1. Forget about openings, endgames, strategy, even tactics for for now.
a. Develop your pieces as quickly as possible.
b. Exchange pieces when you're ahead.
c. Avoid exchanging pieces when you're behind.

2. Stop hanging pieces!
a. Before any move, consider your checks and captures.
b. Before any move, consider your opponent's checks and captures.
c. Avoid blitz until you master these skills at standard time controls.

[Event "rated standard match"]
[Site "freechess.org"]
[Date "2006.10.10"]
[Round "?"]
[White "dolphinsfan"]
[Black "drjake"]
[Result "*"]
[WhiteElo "1095"]
[BlackElo "1165"]
[ECO "C20"]
[TimeControl "1200+1"]

1. e4 e5 2. d4 d6 3. d5 Nf6 4. Nc3 c6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 Be7 7. Nf3 Bg4 8. Be2
Qb6 9. Qd3 Qxb2 10. O-O Qb6 11. Rab1 Qd4

{11...Qd4?? hangs your queen. 11...Qc7 would have protected your queen and your b7-pawn.}

12. Nxd4 Bxe2 13. Ncxe2 c5 14. Nb3 g5 15. Bg3 Nbd7 16. Na5 O-O

{16...O-O? hangs your b-pawn. 16...b6 was better.}

17. Nxb7 Nh5 18. Na5 Nf4

{18...Nf4? is a strategic error. When your opponent is materially ahead, you need to avoid exchanging pieces. It's like basketball. If 3 vs 5 players is a tough game, 2 vs 4 is worse, and 1 vs 3 is impossible.}

19. Bxf4 gxf4 20. Rb7 Bd8 21. Nc6 Bb6

{21...Bb6?? hangs your knight. Nf6 and Nb6 were better.}

22. Rxd7 Rad8 23. Rxd8 Bxd8 24. Nxd8 Rxd8

{22...Rad8?? Now you can see why it's wrong to exchange pieces when you're behind? It's Rook vs Queen + Rook + Knight now.}

25. g3 Rb8 26. gxf4 f6 27. fxe5 fxe5 28. Qg3+ Kh7 29. Qh4 Rb2 30. Qe7+ Kg6 31. Qxd6+ Kh7 32. Qe7+ Kg6 33. Qe6+ Kh7 34. Qf5+ Kg7 35. Qxe5+ Kh7

{35...Kh7? You walked into a skewer. Kg8 was better.}

36. Qxb2

{Good time to resign. I like that you fought 'til all your pieces were gone.}

firegoat7
11-10-2006, 05:34 PM
Fantastic work likesforests!!

cheers Fg7

MichaelBaron
12-10-2006, 02:30 AM
I've stalled out. I picked up chess a few months ago. And I've read all of the Complete Idiots Guide to Chess, don't know if that did me good, but it seemed I was consistently improving from game to game. But for the past two weeks, I've played every day, on the free chess server, or the playchess.com server, and I've been getting railed. Most of the time they're stupid mistakes but I think I have trouble seeing the board. Any suggestions on improving my awareness to what the other guys plan is?

Do not be dejected by these losses. It happens to all of us. As a novice, you have to go through a stage where everyone you play is going to beat you for one reason or another (mainly because of your inexperience). Just keep up the good work and you will improve in no time.
good luck,
Michael

drjake
12-10-2006, 04:44 AM
likesforests,

I am drjake on the freechess server. Thanks for annotating my game. It's nice to get a different point of view. I will definitly be going through that game again and taking in your observations when I get home from work.

Again thanks for your help.

And thanks for the replies guys,

Jake

b1_
12-10-2006, 10:31 PM
Do you know tactics?

Forks
Pins
Discovered attacks
Skewers
Deflection
Decoys
X-rays

Knowing these and practicing them will give your first acceleration in your chess skills. Start here.


Do you know positional play?

Development
Space
Active and inactive pieces
Good and bad Bishops
Knight outposts
Pawn holes, semi-pawn holes, passed pawns, backward pawns, doubled pawns, isolated pawns, pawn islands, pawn majorities, duos, pawn chains, center pawns vs rim pawns, home pawns, ranger pawns, levers
Control of key squares and colour complexes

If you don't know what any of the above means you're at a distinct disadvantage to someone who does.

Do you know how to devise a plan? Being able to do this is vital to success in chess?

Good beginner books on these are Seirawn's Winning Chess Strategies and Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess (personally I read Seirwan's cover to cover in a few weeks and annotated the whole book [a fun and to the point book with large fonts :)] - it was my first exposure to positional play/strategy, and it was a revelation. Silman's book has similar material only in the first 100 pages it teaches how to come up with a plan! Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess is considered one of the best beginners books ever written on chess. If you're only going to buy one book that's the one.)

[Check this post for an annotated game and explanation of a lot of the positional concepts mentioned above: http://chesschat.org/showthread.php?t=2973]

Knowing about positional play and strategy will give your second acceleration in chess skill.


Do you know basic endgame theory?

The opposition
Triangulation
Zugzwang
Pawn+King v King, Rook+King v King, Bishop+Bishop+King v King, and other
Basic pawn endings
Basic rook endings (50% of endings are rook endings)
Basic bishop endings
Basic knight endings
The Lucena ending
The Vancura ending
Key squares
The square and The Floating Square
Pawn races and counting tempi

THE endgame book is Muller & Lamprecht - Fundamental Chess Endings. This book has a comprehensive amount of endgame theory, not just beginner stuff. It's a one stop shop.

Endgame knowledge will give you your third acceleration in chess skill.


Are you over analysing openings?

Leave openings alone until you're good at the middlegame and the endgame. Beside, it's boring, and it's funny how that opening you've just been studying never gets played by your opponent. Get by with
1. Control the center
2. Development
3. King safety


And finally, do you know what the number 1. rule to follow in chess is?
Restrict your apponents play. Repeat this like a mantra throughout all your games.

Chess is surprisingly scientific. You do not have to have a "superior intellect". Just know your stuff and you will do well. Knowing all this basic theory will elevate any player's ranking.

Play the board and not the player. Take joy not from winning, but from understanding each new position in a game. After all, a win will give you one thrill, undertanding the position each turn will give you many thrills.

Once you know and are applying all of the above you'll still be on a plateau, but it will be three tiers higher up :)

MichaelBaron
13-10-2006, 01:15 AM
Do you know tactics?

Forks
Pins
Discovered attacks
Skewers
Deflection
Decoys
X-rays

Knowing these and practicing them will give your first acceleration in your chess skills. Start here.


Do you know positional play?

Development
Space
Active and inactive pieces
Good and bad Bishops
Knight outposts
Pawn holes, semi-pawn holes, passed pawns, backward pawns, doubled pawns, isolated pawns, pawn islands, pawn majorities, duos, pawn chains, center pawns vs rim pawns, home pawns, ranger pawns, levers
Control of key squares and colour complexes

If you don't know what any of the above means you're at a distinct disadvantage to someone who does.

Do you know how to devise a plan? Being able to do this is vital to success in chess?

Good beginner books on these are Seirawn's Winning Chess Strategies and Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess (personally I read Seirwan's cover to cover in a few weeks and annotated the whole book [a fun and to the point book with large fonts :)] - it was my first exposure to positional play/strategy, and it was a revelation. Silman's book has similar material only in the first 100 pages it teaches how to come up with a plan! Silman's How To Reassess Your Chess is considered one of the best beginners books ever written on chess. If you're only going to buy one book that's the one.)

[Check this post for an annotated game and explanation of a lot of the positional concepts mentioned above: http://chesschat.org/showthread.php?t=2973]

Knowing about positional play and strategy will give your second acceleration in chess skill.


Do you know basic endgame theory?

The opposition
Triangulation
Zugzwang
Pawn+King v King, Rook+King v King, Bishop+Bishop+King v King, and other
Basic pawn endings
Basic rook endings (50% of endings are rook endings)
Basic bishop endings
Basic knight endings
The Lucena ending
The Vancura ending
Key squares
The square and The Floating Square
Pawn races and counting tempi

THE endgame book is Muller & Lamprecht - Fundamental Chess Endings. This book has a comprehensive amount of endgame theory, not just beginner stuff. It's a one stop shop.

Endgame knowledge will give you your third acceleration in chess skill.


Are you over analysing openings?

Leave openings alone until you're good at the middlegame and the endgame. Beside, it's boring, and it's funny how that opening you've just been studying never gets played by your opponent. Get by with
1. Control the center
2. Development
3. King safety


And finally, do you know what the number 1. rule to follow in chess is?
Restrict your apponents play. Repeat this like a mantra throughout all your games.

Chess is surprisingly scientific. You do not have to have a "superior intellect". Just know your stuff and you will do well. Knowing all this basic theory will elevate any player's ranking.

Play the board and not the player. Take joy not from winning, but from understanding each new position in a game. After all, a win will give you one thrill, undertanding the position each turn will give you many thrills.

Once you know and are applying all of the above you'll still be on a plateau, but it will be three tiers higher up :)

Thats a very long list to focus on..while some of the points on the list are generic, others are specific (e.g. Lucena position..you can reccoment philidor position, or saavedra position...etc). I think it would be good to narrow down the focus a bit.

Southpaw Jim
13-10-2006, 06:30 PM
I'd treat b1_'s advice as a long term learning plan, starting at the start with tactics. Most games (AFAIK) under the 1800ish level are decided on tactics, so it stands to reason that this is the first thing you should invest your time in. There's so much chess literature out there, it's easy to drown. I agree on the Seirawan and Silman books though! Both have a clear and engaging writing style without too much condescension.

So long as you're looking for tactics on both sides, and sticking to general opening principles (not theory/variations), you should start to improve. Learning opening theory by rote, without at least tactical understanding, will mean you'll often either (1) follow the wrong variation for the moves your opponent is making and open yourself to a tactical trap, or (2) get taken 'out of book' quite quickly and feel all at sea. Thus, tactics need to come before comprehensively studying openings.

Similarly, strategy - whilst important - must also follow tactics. Strategy is engaged in using tactics, so it's all very well to know that (eg) an isolated queen pawn (IQP) is often a problem - but if you don't know your tactics, you will find your opponent will be able to push you into an IQP situation and you don't know how to avoid it.

Again, endgame play is partly based on tactics too, so you need to have good tactical knowledge to survive in the endgame. Fortunes can be reversed in the space of 1 move in the endgame, on the basis of simple skewers and forks.

When you're familiar with tactical motifs and have become good at spotting tactics you'll find that other parts of the game make a lot more sense. You'll understand the basis of why certain moves are made in particular lines of your chosen opening. Also, you'll be able to adjust a plan to take account of the changing situation on the board.

The solution? Buy a tactical puzzle book is my advice. There's several good ones out there - I have "Sharpen Your Tactics!", which has ~1100 problems of varying difficulty, but doesn't tell you what you're looking for - so you have to find the tactic in the position. Take this everywhere with you. Do problems on the bus. Do them at lunch. Do them in the ad break during your fave tv show. Do them day in and day out, and you'll begin to recognise patterns instinctively - enabling you to take advantage of your opponents' mistakes and to avoid the traps they might be setting for you.

The other thing to do? Play lots. Preferably longer time controls, so you have time to actually look at the position and see what's going on - eg at least 15min games, preferably 30min or longer. Blitz/lightning might be fun, but you're playing on instincts that you haven't developed yet. Play as much as you can, online and OTB. Also - seek to play stronger players than you, as much as possible. It's hard on the ego since you'll lose way more than you'll win, but it's good for your game, because it pushes you to find the best move. Playing against weaker players allows you to be sloppy and you can get away with dumb mistakes that stronger players would instantly punish you for.

I'm not far ahead of you really, and whilst I've read bits about opening theory, strategy and endgame, my plan for the next 1-2 years is to focus on tactics, and maybe a bit of endgame play.

;)

PS - make sure you analyse your own games as much as possible, either the old fashioned way (playing through it again later looking for your mistakes), get advice from better players (like you did above), or use a computer engine, eg Fritz (or HIARCS/Rybka/whatever). Strive to find out where you went wrong and why, and you'll progressively learn not to repeat the same mistakes.

b1_
14-10-2006, 11:03 PM
Thats a very long list to focus on..while some of the points on the list are generic, others are specific (e.g. Lucena position..you can reccoment philidor position, or saavedra position...etc). I think it would be good to narrow down the focus a bit.

Actually it's a very short list if you compare it to everything thats been written on chess. If what I listed is too much then of course tactics are where to focus.

My intention was not to overwhelm, but I thought that if he wanted to be strong in all areas with the minimal of effort that's pretty close to what he should be looking at.

These are the basics. What this means is that learning them will give the most improvement for the least effort. And yes it's a long term plan, but not overly long. You could learn all this in a year going at a slow easy pace. But you might find, like I did, that you start to devour the theory faster and faster as you start to recognise it in your games, exactly as described.

What you do after you've learnt it is up to you. Personally I don't have the time or the desire to study further. I'm now happy with the strength of my game. If somebody beats me I have the knowledge to find out why I was beaten, and perhaps not make the same mistake again. What's most thrilling for me is the understanding; being able to decode positions and find the best move.

I hope this helps.

drjake
15-10-2006, 06:57 AM
Thanks guys. It's certainly is alot of help. And not overwhelming at all.

One quick question? Where do I post questions for advice on games I've played?

Thanks again,

Jake

likesforests
16-10-2006, 09:36 AM
drjake, I think the Games and Analysis sub-forum should be fine. I will try to comment on one game per week, as long as some human self-analysis is done before posting.