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.


  • I guess this might be old news to you. CPT has also a blindfold mode to practice openings. I'm happy to see that the idea of trying to learn to play blindfold in order to be able to read chessbooks without a board it's not just mine.

    BTW, I've tried to follow published games without a board stoping every 2 moves (4 plys) to see it in my mind. And for some strange reason I've also noticed that looking to and empty drawing of a board makes a BIG difference.

    Inspite of that effort I'm still a patzer, which plays as if blindfolded when he isn't.

    By Blogger Yet Another Patzer, at 6:55 PM  

  • Sorry, I meant CPT correct link

    By Blogger Yet Another Patzer, at 6:59 PM  

  • One of the potential pitfalls in improving one's game is the tendency to become reactionary. That is to say, you look at one single loss and all of the sudden decide, "My god, I need to study X more!" You then spend a week studying X, which could be endgames, tactics, a particular opening etc. Then another loss comes around and all of the sudden it is something different. Next thing you know you have spent a few months studying a mix bag of this and that with nothing really to show for it.

    A well rounded approach is the best I think. After nearly 2 years of this chess improvement stuff, I find myself sticking to a small range of activities for study: a bit of endgames, a bit of tactics, and a touch of openings. I try to keep it consistent and flowing. It also keeps it interesting and doesn't promote the suicidal behavior of the Seven Circles. Although I agree, tactical study is important early on.

    What do I have to show for it? A bit of a rating bump, and a great hobby that I can enjoy forever.

    By Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza, at 4:43 PM  

  • I still have Fritz 8 and i played it blindfold ( on a low level) on occassion by shrinking the board and using the keypad to enter the moves. Its been a while since I did that and as i recall the Bishop had to use a different letter ( I have to look at the help files again).

    My recent quest is balance in studying having done teh circles of hell. I stopped tactics training mostly and focused on openings this summer then my rating dropped. The sword of tactics was rusty adn i was rapidly getting out of shape. So I am back to mixing it up with Tactics, strategy, endgames and openings.

    By Blogger BlunderProne, at 9:24 PM  

  • Have once again joined the Knights Errant in search for improved OTB play. Enjoy reading your posts and just wanted to say hi.


    By Blogger SamuraiPawn, at 3:00 PM  

  • :)

    By Blogger Sancho Pawnza, at 4:28 PM  

  • Shooting my mouth off again.

    By Blogger Don Q., at 9:20 PM  

  • Dan

    Great to pick these posts still. Two things,

    1. I completely agree with you about the holistic approach to chess..

    2. In relation to blindfold play. Our club have a couple of very strong blind players (a national champion and an olympic medalist.. Im talking strong strong). They use a special blind wooden board where the white pieces have spikes on them. The white and black squares are raised and lowered so as you can feel the difference in the squares. The pieces also slot into the squares. There is no problem obtaining these boards as they are widely used for blind chess. Personally I think every club should have a few of these and encourage help more blind players to play.

    By Blogger St. Patzer, at 8:17 AM  

  • Blindfold is awesome practice. Playing 1 a night is what I credit for what I've gone up so far.

    By Blogger classplayer, at 4:13 PM  

  • Crafty can be run from the command line with no graphics.
    I'm not sure, though, how you can tell crafty not to show you what it's thinking.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:22 AM  

  • play with sounds (notation) and power off your monitor..
    or use poyglot and play all UCI engines to command line.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 AM  

  • Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:12 AM  

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