Man de la Maza

Monday, March 28, 2005

Saddler -- Chapter 1

Finished Chapter One of Saddler's "Queen's Gambit Declined" last night. I am enjoying it very much. He has put thought into the games selected and the method of presentation. The explanations are just at my level. At the same time I am watching Kasparov's "Queen's Gambit" CD which I am less impressed with. Though Kaparov's knowledge is far-reaching, one gets the impression that they set up a camera and said "talk about the Queen's Gambit Declined, Garry". Nonetheless, I find jumping back and forth between two different presntations of the same material to be useful. Kasparov paints a broad landscape and Saddler fills in the details.

Played a Queen's pawn opening in my club game last week against a B player. Naturally, he played the Slav, and I displayed my ignorance of the nuances of that opening system very well. By move 4, I had trapped my Queen's bishop behind an adavanced e pawn. I hung in there and was eventually able to bust up his queenside and win the endgame. Tactics never came into play directly, but I was able to do a few things because of tactical threats. He had back rank problems most all of the game which kept being useful. One thing I find different now is my evaluation of postions. I feel like I can smell danger a lot better which means I don't waste a lot of time calculating.

I'm not sure what kind of study pace I will be able to keep up with in coming months. I am on a new health and fitness quest which takes up at least an hour and change a day. The Empress and I also had words about how I was "sneaking off to play !!@$%^ chess" every chance I got. Sadly, I had to admit she was right and that I really needed to cut back on my caissaic activities (at least until the kids go to bed).

Friday, March 18, 2005

Man de la Maza v. Kramnik

In a suprise move, Vladimir Kramnik has announced that he will play unknown Don Queue, the Man de la Maza, in a 12 game match for the Classical World Chess Championship. We bring you the transcript of their press conference.

Kramnik: Through generous sponsorship of the GP tobacco Company, match will take place in Holiday Inn in Cleveland, Ohio. Prize fund of $750 is modest, but I wanted to put silly unification talk behind me and get back to playing chess.

Press: Mr. Kramnik, do you think that there is much credence to a title defense in which you are playing against a player who is not even a National Master?

Kramnik: Yes, but he has done lot of chess problems and is club champion in home town!

Man de la Maza: Runner up actually ...

Kramnik : Yes, excuse me, runner up, but you were better in final game, you just should have kicked bishop on move 17. It is not always about titles; it is about creativity and excitement.

Press: But if you really wanted an exciting choice, why not play Annand?

Kramnik: Annand is great player and I am sure we will meet over board in a match in very near decade, but I feel future of chess is America. I want to play Amercian.

Press: How about US Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura? He is American.

Kramnik: That is interesting point that I would like to address directly ... Any other questions?

Press: For the challenger, Mr. Queue, what do you think your chances are?

Man de la Maza: I'm just here to kick ass and chew bubble gum.


Man de la Maza: And I'm all out of bubble gum.

Press: Ah, exactly ...

Man de la Maza: This man ain't no champ; he's a chump. My grandmother plays better chess than him, and she doesn't know how to move her knights.

Kramnik: (Smiles) Oh yes, I see. In my country, we have no tradition of gamesmanship. Actually what you have said would be considered a little bit rude ...

Man de la Maza: I ain't gonna take a dive like Sugar Daddy Kasparov, and I ain't no rosy cheeked Hungarian marionette poster child for lederhosen abuse. Bring that weak ass Berlin defense against me and see what happens.

Kramnik: I think perhaps we should end ...

Man de la Maza: How many Kramnik's does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Press: How many?

Man de la Maza: I dunno but would you like a draw?

Press: (laughs)

Kramnik: This is not funny. It does not even make sense. If you want funny joke, I tell you one ...

Man de la Maza: Please don't trot out the one about the the man and the dog playing chess in the park.


Kramnik: It is funny joke.

Man de la Maza: You're a joke Comrade Drawzavich! I'm gonna beat you like I was your Daddy.

Kramnik: OK, enough. Let's ...

Man de la Maza: Take the trophy off the shelf, cause I'm gonna do it in twelve.

Kramnik: Quiet, please!

Man de la Maza: Since you ugly as sin, I think I'll beat you in ten.

Kramnik: OK, Mr Nancy boy. Now you make me angry! I not take slow approach but blow you off board.

Man de la Maza: I'm too pretty to beat. No one who looks like Dracula's gay librarian brother gonna beat me.

Kramnik: AFTER match, only job left for you will be my girlfriend!

Man de la Maza: That's OK cuz she's been living large at the castle de la Maza for weeks now. Says I paint better than you too!


At this point the press conference came to an abrupt end. In the ensuing scuffle, Mr. Kramnik glasses were broken and Mr. Queue spilled his Tab. The players were separated by their seconds, GM Peter Svidler and a guy named Dave. The match is scheduled to begin on March 30, 2005.

Hat Tip to DG and HarleyWriter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Opening Theory

So, I've been reading opening books lately. Yes, I know heresy, but I've paid my debt to society, so I'm moving on. My theory is that if one learns one opening really well one will be introduced to all the major themes in chess strategy. Sort of like great literature. It is said that you if you read the whole body of work of any one great author -- Shakespeare, Dante, Proust, Faulkner, or Spider Robinson -- you will introduced to all the major themes of literature.

I started a topic on Chessninja a few months back to come up with the opening to study. My main criterion was that the opening have an excellent resource for study, presumably a book. I had three recommendations.

1) Trompowsky (1d4 Nf6 2. Bg5) -- Winning with the Trompowsky by Peter Wells
2) French Defense (1e4 e6 2d4 d5) -- Play the French by John watson
3) Queen's Gambit Declined (1d4 d5 2c4 e6 3Nc3 Be7 4Nf3 Nf6) -- Queen's Gambit Declined by Mathew Saddler

It was hard to reach a decision without studying the books ... so ... I bought all of them. This may seem wasteful, but you must recall that the second criterion for admittance into Heaven is possesion of chess books. (First being completion of the MdlM training program). I took a look at the first two chapters of each.

Winning with the Trompowsky is a wonderful book that I will enjoy reading in 3 years. Undoubtedly a trenchant and incisive treatement of the opening, it left me a little lost. Statements like "This leads to a Benoni structure unless black plays c6 in which case we have a Siclian Robatch chocolate flavored structure". When I know all the pawn structures and their meanings, then I'll pick this lovely book back up. Lots of people love Play the French. I don't get it. It seems to be one of those repetoire books that lists variantions without explanations. "d6 can be played here but one must consider e3. The h pawn lends itself to Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 Nxe5 Bxe5 Qxd8 RXd4 with a postional advantage. Of course, Karpov once played d6 in a blitz in Minsk in 1992, but he was drunk and not wearing pants. The game proceeded ..." Again perhaps in a few years.

I was going to toss in the towel and just go straight to Alex Baburin's Winnig Pawn Structures when Queen's Gambit Declined arrived. This is exactly what I was looking for. Simple. Basic. Explanation of the ideas and plans involved. So there it is. I'm a QGD player until further notice.

PS Thanks to Fussy Lizzard who recommended Mr. Sadler's book

And One More

A warm welcome to Salcido. My hats off to anyone trying chess improvement while obviously keeping an ear out for a baby. I am happy to see someone bringing the Knight's Quest to the open source world. Hopefully, Psalcido will discover a way one can do de la Maza's program without being dependant on the Dark Lord from Redmond (like me).

Welcome aboard!

New Category
Generalkaia seems to be taking a break but claims to not want to abandon his quest. To put him under "Abandoned Efforts" seems inaccurate and probably de-motivating which would be contrary to my purpose. Yet, one can't stay in limbo forever. Therefore, I'm trying out a "Sabbatical" category. Probably a bad idea, but a bad idea whose time has come.

Monday, March 14, 2005

New Knight

I stumbled across our newest knight's website a few days back. To be honest, I haven't had time to read it all. He may be new to blogging, but he certainly has put a lot of material out there. He may give King of the Spill a run for his money as the Loquacious Knight. A warm welcome to José.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


I've been doing a lot of thanking this week. There is one group of people who has helped me a quite a bit who I have not thanked -- the people at blogger. Having this blog available to me for free has been a great service. It occurs that the proper way to thank them would be to open up the site to advertising. I had avoided anything like this all along because I didn't want distractions. This isn't about money; this is about chess.

But, it is about money for the people at (ultimately the people at Google, a company for which I have a lot of respect). They are running a business. Though they have not asked for anything, it seems ungrateful to continue to use their tools and server space without offering them anything in return. As such, I propose applying to participate in the Google Adsense program . Whatever meager revenue that is generataed by the site, I will donate to charity, probably buying sets for local scholastic clubs and the like.

I am well aware that this has become a group effort though, so I would like to hear everyone's input. I will go with the simple majority of votes cast by the Knights and DG before next Sunday. I'd also be happy to hear the thoughts of our readers.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'll miss you, Gary.

I just read on Chessbase that Gary Kasparov is retiring from professional chess. I'm sorry to hear that, but I understand his decision. (Apparently, some are taking it harder than others.) He has always been a favorite of mine. Though occasionally a little high strung, I think overall he has behaved admirably as a top player and world champion. He may well be the greatest chess player ever to have walked the earth.

Of all that he ever did, he gained my respect most for winning game 24 against Karpov in Seville to retain his title. This was his hero's moment in my view. It was the equivalent of Muhammmed Ali beating George Foreman -- a task imposssible to accomplish (though in Kasparov's case he did not risk been beaten to death).

Thanks for all the games, Gary. Best of luck.

Back in the Saddle
Since I didn't have umpteen hours of chess problems to do tonight, I went to chess club for a change. I went 3-0 in the top quad. We played G/25 which I usually stink at, so it was gratifying. Two of my oppponents were not that good, but one was a solid class B player. Hope to play in a tourney or two in the coming months to take the new tactical me for a spin.

New Ratings Peak
It's unofficial, but I have reached a new ratings high of 1663. I just checked the USCF site, and I picked up about 100 points in the club championship. At the end of the month, I will officially be a class B player and achieve my highest rating ever. 137 points to class A. That'd be sweet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Thanks to all the well-wishers. One of the things that is very gratifying about the blog is when someone checks in who in retrospect you realize has been reading for a long time. A great example of this is a was the comment I received from Eerikki yesterday. He and I have been emailing on and off since the very early days of the blog. I thought he had long since stopped reading, so it was very nice to receive a note yesterday. Will of Soul Beaver fame and Bachsinger fall in this category as well. Thanks for the notes, guys. As long as I'm on the subject, thanks also to Cubefarmer for bringing me snacks midday on Circle 7.

Link of note
A week or so ago Nezha posted the idea that we should write a book. It got me thinking that Everyman press, the publishers of "Rapid Chess Improvement", might be interested in what we are doing, so I fired them an email. I got one back from Dan Addelman saying that he thought our blogging experiment was "very interesting". He has deemed us worthy of inclusion on the publishers list of Recommended Sites under "Organizations, Clubs".

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Welcome Viking Sword

I may be done, but Knights' roll ever grows. Welcome to Viking Sword. Clearly a man of style, I quote from his email to request joining the Knights.

My skill lacks luster, but my sword is sharp. Therefore, woudst thou add me to the list of Knight's Errant de la Maza. I am currently on day 7 of my long journey and would like to share my travel to promised land. If added, I would gladly add your blogs to my blog listing.

Not new to blogging though. Looks like his blog has been out there for a couple years. Best of luck Viking Sword and welcome aboard.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Isle de la Maza

I stopped in on the old man who lives up the street on the way home today and found him in a terrible state. He was lying on the floor in front of a laptop showing a chess problem and a window that said "Test Complete". Two empty 5 lb bags of Cheetos and a plethora of Tab cans littered the floor. He looked not well. I was going to inquire if he wanted me to send for a doctor, but his time on the earth looked like it would counted in minutes, not hours.

"Shall I send for a priest, Don Queue?", I asked.

"No," he said, "I'm not Catholic; I'm a Quaker."

"Oh, shall I send for ... what do Quaker's send for before they die?"

"No one, but they often form a mourning committee. Never mind ..."

"Shall I send for the Scrivener that you may prounounce you will", I interupted. "It is time for your to renounce your knightship and tell your daughters they will get none of your estate if they marry a man who plays chess."

"What?" Don said.

"Yes, it's in the book", and I showed him the last chapter of Cervantes' masterpiece.

"Ah," he chuckled in a raspy voice. "I see your mistake. Many make it. I am not Don Quixote and never have been; I am Don Queue. Don Quixote was a lonely old man who thought he was a knight; I am a young man who is one of many knights -- Knights Errant de la Maza."

At this the old man started to cough, and I feared I had seen his last breath. But his words returned.

"You are a good boy," he said, "and I must call upon you for a service. I fear my time is almost done, and it is up to you to perserve the gift."

I was naturally puzzled as he wanly reached into his vest pocket.

"Take this and throw it upon a clear water."

"Ct Art 3.0?" I said

"It is the secret of those who quest," he said. "Someday a I king will come and he will need it. Go! Now. I have not much time."

He was a silly old man, and I should have rather gone for the doctor, but I did as he bid. I journeyed to the James River and hurled the CD like frisbee into the water. It floated such that I wondered that it would ever come down. But as it did, Caissia's silver white arm reached from under the waters and caught it. I should have thought I imagined it but that the arm stayed straight as God holding the disk aloft. And then in a wink, it disappeared to the depths below.

Naturally, I was excited, and I ran to tell the old man. When I arrived, he was gone. All that remained was a single scrap of paper on which was written, "Will".

God's speed to the old man. I was ever fond of him.

End of the Journey
I did it. It took 155+ days, but I did it. The last day was actually not that bad. It took about 12 hours chronologically, but I took a few breaks and went for a midday run. Sitting at home all day doing chess problems is not nearly so hard as doing a 3 hours worth after a full days work.

It was a good day, and I think I was in particularly good form. Damn near got the whole lot memorized now.

Circle Seven Stats:
Level 10: 98%
Level 20: 99%
Level 30: 97%
Level 40: 97%
Level 50: 95%
Level 60: 85%

Future Plans
1) Finish this Arrogant Bastard Ale
2) Finish the other AB Ale in the fridge
3) There's some nice white wine in there too!

I don't plan on doing anything formal for quite a while. The words "chess" and "must" will not appear in my life for at least 6 months, probably a year. I think I shall take up some Opening Study for fun. When I want to get serious again, I think I'll try endgames.

I shouldn't have been able to do this without the support of all of you. In particular, I thank:

1) The Empress. Though you thought the idea quixotic, you were ever supportive. I shouldn't have made it if you hadn't been willing to pick up the slack.

2) DG -- your site helped spread the word. I don't think I would have reached so many without you.

3) The Knight Errant de la Maza. After the First Circle, there was not question in my mind that I had to complete this. I couldn't dissapoint all y'all.

4) And especially, SANCHO. I would have given up without you, my friend. Thanks for giving me strength when I wanted to quit. Thanks also for being so damn funny. I needed that most of all.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Once More unto the Breach

Circle Six is done. In a hat tip to the rigors of tomorrow's Seventh Circle, I am foregoing the traditional celebratory Ale. It's almost 11, but I want to look at the Level 50's I missed.

Coming together nicely.

154 days down, 1 to go
1039 problems to go

Circle Six Stats:
Level 10: 98%
Level 20: 96%
Level 30: 93%
Level 40: 91%
Level 50: 82%
Level 60: 75%

In the Middle of Circle 6

It's been quite the 24 hours of chess probs. Saturday morning I slept in. Slept "over" would perhaps be more appropriate since I did not arise until after noon. The Empress and my youngest daughter were out and about, so the house was quite nice. Unfortuantely, the eldest daughter told on me (I was supposed to get and do some of the problems in the morning, so I wouldn't be tied up all day). Thus I woke in Dutch with the Empress. Did a charity storytelling event in the afternoon, and all in all, it was after 3 PM yesterday when I sat down to start circle 6.

I finished sometime after 11:30 PM. Took a few breaks here and there, and I did some background studying of the level 40's I had missed on earlier rounds. Doing 700 chess problems in that span on time was more difficult that I thought. The problems themselves weren't that bad, but after about 600, my eyes started to glaze over. It's tricky because you can recognize patterns a little better when you think a little passively rather than actively. There is a fine line between doing this and spacing out.

Putting together a lot of problems that I had had trouble with before. In fact, I have achieved my goal of getting 90% + on both level 30 and 40. Just finished level 40 as part of today's probs. Visualizing things in a new way on some of the advanced problems. "Seeing" the whole combination in my mind's eye as though the collection of moves is a pattern. Hard to describe but definitely something new. A clearer picture somehow.

Having already knocked out 121 probs today, only 218 remain. That doesn't sound like a lot, but I have to remember that Friday night I did only 180 of these 218, and I was very difficult. I hope that better rest and another time having been through them makes it easier. If time permits, I want to spend some time with my Level 50 mistakes tonight. I should be very pleased if I could get that one up to 90% tomorrow. Bit of a tall order, but worth a shot.

153.33 days down, 1.67 to go
821 problems down, 218 to go in Circle Six
Level 10: 98%
Level 20: 96%
Level 30: 93%
Level 40: 91%

Friday, March 04, 2005

Circle Five Done

Just finished Circle Five. It is after midnight. Boy, did that suck. I'm pretty sure I started to doze a bit in the last set. Always kinda at the end of my rope be Friday evening, but I had to do a school event and an extended family dinner today as well. Didn't sit down to get going until after 8 PM. Took a couple of breaks to talk to Dulcinea and to go to the store to buy the necessary post-circle 24 ounce Arrogant Bastard ale (which I am now drinking). Probably spent about 3.5 hours on the clock.

Level 50 and 60 are kind of a train wreck for me still. Though percentages are improving, I would really need to spend some more 10 minute problem time with them before I would feel comfortable. Almost feel like I am just going through the motions with them. The real question for circle 6 and 7 is what will happen in level 30 and 40. I'd like to see both over 90%. We'll see.

Tomorrow's a big day. 700 chess problems. Yikes! I should go to bed, but I'm a tad wired yet.

152 days down, 3 to go
1039 problems down, 0 to go in Circle Five
Level 10: 97%
Level 20: 97%
Level 30: 89%
Level 40: 82%
Level 50: 75%
Level 60: 65%

Me and Willie

Mama don't let your babies grow up to be patzers
Don't let 'em pick variantions and drive themselves nuts
Make 'em play baseball and meet girls and such

Mama don't let your babies grow up to be patzers
They'll never leave home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love

151 days down, 4 to go
858 problems down, 184 to go in Circle Five
Level 10: 97%
Level 20: 97%
Level 30: 89%
Level 40: 82%
Level 50: 77%

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Pattern Recognition v. Memorization

The mind is a funny thing. Well, mine is. Even when focused on doing chess problems, it thinks about other things. Last night, I find that my second tier thinking was about the difference between pattern recognition and memorization of a problem. Clearly, I have just plain memorized some of the answers. In fact, in some cases, I have gotten so frustrated with a problem that I have "just memorized it" as a way to not have to deal with it. The more times I go through, the more I feel that my knowledge is more akin to memorization than pattern recognition.

I don't have particularly clear thoughts about the subject (I WAS doing chess problems while thinking about it after all). Both would seem beneficial, but pattern recognition ability is clearly the goal. The funny thing about pattern recognition is that what has been much more striking to me is how the 2nd and 3rd time through the problems, patterns have jumped out. For example, in level 30 and 40, there are a lot of kingside attack patterns with a sacrifice on the defending f-g-h pawn cluster. In Circle 2, I noticed that there was a whole sub-genre of these where f6 square was blocked (usually by a pawn or black bishop) and then because of this mate was unstoppable on the h 7 square by the white queen and bishop. I went through 5-10 of these in Circle One without noticing a pattern. It was all "bishop takes, and then rook check", etc.

Guess what I'm getting at is the fruit of these final circle may not be so much that I get more right because I know the patterns but that in the deluge of chess chaos that flies before my eyes I may discover a new hidden relationship between solutions. It might be interesting to go through the problems and give names for all the major patterns. Several famous mates -- Boden's mate, Anatasia's mate, and Blackburne's mate* -- appear again and again. Having a name for them helps as a sort of intellectual shorthand. "Knight to e7+, if king to h8, then we have Anastasia's mate. If rook takes ..."

150 days down, 5 to go
617 problems down, 422 to go in Circle Five
Level 10: 97%
Level 20: 97%
Level 30: 89% (so close)

* These names come from "How to Beat Your Dad at Chess". Not sure how widespread their use is.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Exam Time

Caught up on the probs yesterday and managed to make a passble repast for the Empress(Even managed to toddle out to the florist in the afternoon.). As the numbers show, I've pretty much got the level 10 and 20's down. The occasional miss is due to a finger slip or carelessness. I puzzled over maybe 5-6 probs last night total.

Doing the probs is now like exam time used to be. Not the studying part, but the actual taking of the tests. Once you sat down to take the test, your fate had been sealed. Good or bad, this was often oddly relaxing. There's not a whole lot of calculating I can do in 37.5 seconds (soon to be 30). For the most part, I either know it or not. The problems come so fast that I can't get too hung up on any one of them. Will be interesting to see what happens to my solve rate on the level 30's and 40's. I had solid improvement the last circle, but I'm wondering if I'll be able to improve (let alone hold) my current solve rates under the lower time constraints. I would sure like to get level 30 above 90% and level 40 above 80%. Fatigue is sure to start to be factor. If not on circle 5 then surely on 6 and 7.

Falling Behind
The one thing I have been falling behind in is reading the blogs of the the Knights Errant. There looks to be some interesting stuff out there, but I haven't had to take more than a cursory look. It is perhaps a sad comment on my level of geekiness that when I find myself in possession of 3 extra hours a day, I will spend it reading chess blogs.

149 days down, 6 to go
340 problems down, 699 to go in Circle Five
Level 10: 97%
Level 20: 97%

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Flu

Woke up yesterday in a pool of sweat. I had been feeling a bit dodgy the night before, so I went to bed at 8:00. I had expected to wake up refreshed and ready to go, not like I had been hit by a bus. Though I spent the day sleeping, I continued to get worse until by temp topped at 102. If you've never had the chance to try a chess problem with a 102 fever, well you're not missing much.

I was supposed to do 340 probs, but all I could manage was the 110 of Level 10. Fortunately, I had planned to take today off because it is the Empress' birthday. Assuming I can stay awake longer than 10 minutes, I should be able to catch up the probs and be right on schedule for tomorrow. Who knows? I might even get my act together and make Dulcinea a nice birthday dinner as well.

148 days down, 7 to go
110 problems down, 929 to go in Circle Five
Level 10: 97%