Man de la Maza

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Fundamental Theorem of Chess Happiness

Despite my own dire predictions to the contrary , I have actually been playing pretty well. Well at least solidly. It seems that my disastrous tournament of the spring may have just been rust. so, to the future.

The Fundamental Theorem of Chess Happiness
Were you aware that there is a Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic? Every postive integer simplies into one and only one set of prime factors.

There is also Fundemental Theorem of Poker. If my opponent acts differently than he would if he could see my cards, I benefit.

It stands to reason that there must be a Fundamental Theorem of Chess Happiness, sort of a categorial imperative for the formulation of all Chess Training Plans. Here it is:

A chess player is happiest when s/he maximizes the number of challenging games won by training in the most enjoyable way possible.

I didn't say it was particularly surprising. Fundamental theorems rarely are. (Did you think there was more than one prime factorization for 256?) But it is very useful. Using the Fundamental Theorem I have come to the following conclusions.

1) I want to get better slowly.

The better you are the harder it is to find a challenging game. If I was a master level player today, I couldn't find but 2 or 3 players in a 50 mile radius who could give me a good game. As a 1700, challenging opponents are plentiful. I should be in no hurry to make them hard to find. Nonetheless, the game's no fun if it's not challenging, and it only remains challenging if your opponents improve.

2) Improvement should come from mastery of the game as a whole rather than one particular area.

I think Michael de la Maza is the prime example of how not to do this. He became a totally one sided expert; he could play a vicious tactical game, but that was it. In order to maintain that level of performance, he would have had to stay in remarkable "tactical shape". I don't want to get stuck relying on "keeping up" any particular part of my game.

"But Don, does this not contradict the whole idea of the Path de la Maza?"
Not really. I think everyone needs to go through a stint of intense tactical training as part of their chess education. Having done it though, there are other things to do.

"Still sounds like heresy to me, Don!"
Ahhhh, bite me!

3) Study should be fun.


Da Plan

1) Blindfold play.

I'm going to start playing two blindfold games a week. My daughter, USCF 500, makes good opponent. So far, I am 1-2 against her blindfolded. (Yeah, yeah. It's harder than you think). As a backup, I might try playing against Fritz in blindfold mode. The only problem is that it is a big advantage to be able to look at board (even an empty one) rather than having to picture the whole thing in your head. A completely textual interface would be ideal. Anybody know of one?

The purpose of this is two fold. One, it's obviously good for visualization if you practice blindfold play. Two, I'm hoping that if I do this enough, I'll be able to read chess books without having to resort to setting up positions on the board. This would make the whole study process quicker and more enjoyable.

2) Endgames

God forgive me, I love endgames. I'd like to work some of these bad boys until I know them like the multiplication tables. Working on rook endgames, and going through Dvoretsky's Engame Manual on CD.

3) Play

Once a week at club. I'd also like to get in a weekend swiss this fall.

I think this will keep me busy for a few months.