Man de la Maza

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Pretty beat last night. Did manage one time through the concentric squares exercise. I think I'm getting a glimmer of when I will see the patterns rather than having to calculate them. This is particularly tiresome with the bishop and knight.

One week down, 21 to go

Monday, September 27, 2004

Starting to slog

Slogged through exercises today. Am starting to see the patterns, particualrly with the rook. Takes me an hour to do two full circuits of rook, bishop, knight, and queen. Not the most exciting activity in the world. Much less intersting than the chess study I was doing last week before I became the Man de la Maza. I was going through David Bronstein's tournament book for 1953 Zurich International. Thump, thump,thump, Ahhhhh! Splat. Thump, thump,thump, Ahhhhh! Splat. -- (Sound of chess intructors Jeremy Silman and Bruce Pandolfini hurtling out of windows to their deaths).

Actually, reading Bronstein kinda pushed me towards a tactical regimen. His tournament book is fantastic (well the first 11 games are), but I found that I had a hard time following some of the parenthetical tactical sequences. I should like to be able to "see" these more clearly to focus on the game. It's almost like I have learned to read, but I still have to sound out the words.

Other chess tidbits:
  • I learned how to pronounce the name of current Fide Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov.
  • I am looking forward to game 3 of Leko/Kramnik. I hope Leko can win one and make this back into a match. All the same, I would be sad to see Kramnik knocked off as World Champ. He's kind of growing on me.

6 Days down, 149 to go.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Read the Book

I have over 50 books in my library devoted to chess improvement. I am proud to announce that I have now completed reading ... one. It's been a 20 year process, but I knew if I stuck with it I would eventually complete one. I was very close to completing Silman's Essential Endgames Explained Move by Move several times, but I could never finish off the chapter on bishop and knight endgames. To make myself feel better, I bought a new book about bishop and knight endgames (still mint).

The book is very results oriented. The title should be Rapid Ratings Increase which De la Maza, not unreasonably, equates with improvement. It is a bit embarassing to hear someone talk so frankly about the desire to improve one's rating. Yes, we all feel this way to greater or lesser degrees, but couldn't you have the decency to pretend that you play for the enjoyment of the game?

I think perhaps he did not. It is particularly telling that Mr. De La Maza has not played tournament chess is 4 years. Either he got so burned out that he no longer wants to, or he has gotten "out of tactical shape" and does not wish to bleed rating points by playing now. It seems he may have become a prisoner of his own success.

Early in the book, De la Maza gives an example game from when he was a class D player in 1999. His opponent was R. Oresick whom I looked up on the USCF website. His rating is about 100 points higher than what it was in 1999. Not very impressive compared with De la Maza 700 point increase, but Oresick is still playing.

The book fleshes out De la Maza points a bit. His simple thesis I think is right on the mark -- chess knowledge is not too useful without chess ability. Until you can calculate with the best of them, your chess knowledge is of very limited value. His program is also on the mark IMHO. The chess vision drills to lay the foundations of pattern recognition and the SEVEN CIRCLES to cement it. Seven times through the same 1000 problems; each cirlce completed in half the time of the prior until you complete the last circle in one day. Very cool.

Did the concentric square exercise with the captures only tonight. (My wife informed me that it was this or continuing my chess scholarship in the garage).Did rook, bishop, knight and queen twice.

CT-Art 3.0 CD arrived today. Not the prettiest interface, but whatever.

5 down, 150 to go.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Got the Book

Today, I received my copy of Rapid Chess Improvement in the mail. I figured if I was going to do this, I might as well buy the book. Most reviews said to skip the book and just read Mr. De la Maza's article on This seemed a tad ungrateful to me, so I bought the book.

I particularly liked Jeremy Silman's review. I have a lot of respect for Silman. He writes a good book, but I honestly think De la Maza has scooped him whe it comes to training adult class players. This had got to stick in Silman's craw which I think might have colored his review (ya think?).

Did an hour tonight.

4 down , 151 to go.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Near Miss

Well I almost didn't get time in today for chess drills. Only half an hour, but hey, it's Friday. Working through the concentric cirlce drills. I've starting to do the drills such that in each position I look for forks and skewers where a) the kind can move to a square where he take back or the other piece can interpose and b) postions where I will the piece outright no matter what black does. For the A positions, I move the queen to the square and tap once. For the B positionis I tap twice.

3 down, 152 to go

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why bother?

It really all started about 4 years ago. I came across this article on the Internet that the author used to improve his chess rating 400 points in 400 days. Very impressive. I've been playing chess seriously for 20 years and my rating has risen about 300 points in that time. Granted my chess playing career usually comes in short bursts of interest followed be long peroids of inactivity, but the author's success was impressive. I printed out the article and put it in my chess file.

I think I printed out the damm article about 4 times now. It always sounded like a great idea, but I could never resolve myself to putting that much effort into chess improvement. A chess rating is ,after all, just number that means nothing to anyone except another chess player. There's a whole world of people to impress, and chess players frankly don't belong anywhere near the top of the list.

So why bother? There are so many things that I could spend this time on --
  • In less than 2 months, we will be picking a new president. I could go to rallys and pass out pamphlets.
  • I could complete one of 6,000 projects around the house
  • I could drag my carcass around the block and stop the mysterious process whereby my underwear get smaller every year
  • I could meditate and get a good start on reaching enlightenment
  • I could actually read Don Quixote beyond the first 7 pages ...

But no, I'm gonna spend an hour or two a day for 5 months doing chess problems. OK, I'm not (see post 1), but pretend I am. I really have had to come to peace with why I want to do this. In my experience, there are 3 reasons why people try to improve at chess.

1) They want to improve their rating. It's a sickness really. A sad sickness to which I admit I am not totally immune. Every chess player would like to be able to say "I'm a chess master". That's a pretty select group of people. Less than 1% of the serious, tournament playing chess population can say this. To most of the world, this statement probably sounds like "I'm really frickin' smart". It shouldn't. Anyone can be a chess master. It just takes a lot of work.

2) They want to win big class prizes. These people piss me off. I happen to know that there is a special section in Hell reserved for people who play amateur chess to win money. They sit between the pedophiles and the faith healers. It is largely an avoidable problem if you stay away from big money tournaments.

3) They can't help it. At some point in my freshman year of college, I simply fell in love with the game of chess. This too is a sickness, an obsession. I have told my wife many times that chess is jealous mistress. She wants all your time and often you want to give it to her.

So number 3 is my rationaliztion ... I mean ... reason for doing this. I've been playing chess a long time, and I'd like to take my understading of it up a notch. Tactics really is my weakness and Mr. de la Maza seems to have a good plan for raising your tactical game.

Did my exercises for an hour today.

Day 2 down, 153 to go.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Oh just stop reading. This isn't going to work

I am starting this blog to track my quest to follow Michael de La Maza'a program from Rapid Chess Improvement. It is a 5 month intensive approach to chess improvement focused soley on tactical play.

I hate to spoil it for you, but it will never work. I'll bail out somewhere, and my reason will be unknown to you. I'll just stop posting much like But, I started today by doing the concentric squares exercises for about an hour.

Day 1 down, 154 to go.