Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Human Nature 1 - Human 0

Well, in my last four games I have lost material to relatively simple tactics.  Last Thursday I was playing a game against a 2100, was up material after he made an unsound sacrifice, and then managed to blunder the exchange and eventually lose the game.

So what does that tell me?  It tells me what I already know and that is that I haven't been spending enough time working on tactics lately.

Now I've said a few times on this blog that I was going to do more tactics work that I had been.  And I have.  But not enough.  I was doing almost none and know that I should be doing about 15-30 minutes a day.  Instead I have been doing about 15-30 minutes a week.

So what am I going to do about it...

Well, two things.  First, I am going to make a more concerted effort to actually do the work I know that I need to.  It's not enough to say that I know I need to do the tactical exercises.  If I don't then follow through and actually do them then I will not progress to master.  Of that much I am sure.

Second, I am going to try to use a tool that made me a better typist and see if it will make me a better chess player.  In order to develop my typing skills I created a "punishment" for mistakes, and that was that if I made a mistake then I couldn't just mouse over to the mistake and insert my cursor for a simple one or two character fix.  Instead, I made myself delete all of the text back to the mistake and retype everything. 

At first that was a huge pain.  Sometimes the mistakes were a paragraph back.  At first I hated having to retype entire paragraphs because of one lazy mistake.  But what happened next was startling...I developed the ability to instantly notice and correct on the fly every mistake I make when typing.  It's more than double my wpm from 40 on a good day to 70 on a good day.

So what is the chessic version of this?  I'm glad you asked...I am going to purchase this book: 1 Move Checkmates by Eric Schiller and any time I find myself not properly working on tactics I am going to force myself to solve every single exercise in the book before allowing myself to work on anything chess related.

It may seem silly but it will accomplish two things...

1) It was still help to develop my board vision to some degree.  I picked up this book at a book seller one time and glanced at it.  You'd be surprised how often it took 5-10 seconds to spot the mate even when you already knew that one was there.

2) It will help instill the discipline I need to work on my tactics.  Refer back to my previous post about tactics being too much of a good thing and you will quickly discern that I am no La Maza devotee who feels that one should spend several hours per day on tactics.  Nevertheless, I know that I need to quickly get 15-30 minutes a day in or even making Class A in a timely fashion will be tough.

Another book I am very interested in getting is one that Dan Heisman mentions from time to time and that is Chess Tactics for Students by John Bain.  Although for the time being I have tons of tactics books to read and so I'll stick with them.

I'm curious as to what others do to work on their tactics.  Does anyone have any advice or input?


  1. These days, most of my tactics study comes through the chess.com tactics trainer. The timer element tends to encourage superficial analysis, but I try to solve each problem to completion even after my time has elapsed.

    In my experience, opening study and tactical form are negatively correlated. Building an opening repertoire is something which tends to provide value in the long term.

    Keep up the good work. I'd love to see you break Class A this year.

  2. I was using the tactics trainer on chess.com for a while, but I think that the timer there takes away from the training.

    I don't mind the idea of a timer because I think that to some degree that simulates the pressure of the clock. But the timer at chess.com seems to simulate a blitz game it's so fast.

    I find myself moving more on instinct rather than by calculation and in so doing I don't think that I get the most out of the process.

    I prefer www.chesstempo.com for tactics training. There is still a timer, but it's not as insane.

    I agree with your point that there is a negative correlation between tactical study and openings study, but there is no reason that both cannot be done at the same time. I spend a solid 10-15 hours of in depth study time per week with another 10-15 hours of light study such as watching chess videos, etc. And then on top of that I play at least one rated game per week at the club.

    So overall I think I have time to simultaneously study both items.

  3. OK, I feel a bit better about my day. In addition to working on some Najdorf-Scheveningen flash cards and playing through a couple of annotated games I managed to do about 25 minutes on chesstempo.com

    So I feel like I got in my tactics for the day. I will continue to find the time for this on a daily basis. The only exceptions I will grant myself are days where I play slow rated games.