Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Recap for July

"Things can only get better." - Howard Jones

July began with a three step plan.  Step one was to work on opening prep (sound familiar?), step two was to work on analytical ability, and step three was to work on calculation ability. did I do?

Well, for once I feel that I completely nailed it!!!

Let's take the steps one by one:

Opening Prep

For anyone who has been following along with this blog, you know that opening prep is the bane of my existence.  Well, I finally decided that I didn't need to fix everything at once.  So now I'm not.  Instead, I took one opening, the Slav, and I worked on it in more depth than I normally would.

I found some interesting, but rarely played, lines that I think I can steer some of my games into.  I'm going to continue to work on this opening until I feel like I have it (more or less) down.  Then I will move on to the next one.

It might take another month or it might take six.  But one thing is for certain, and that's that I won't be moving on until I "get it" with this.

Analytical Ability

Still a long way to go on this one, but I've made some progress.  I now want to analyze every game after I play it.  I still am taking baby steps in the land of deep analysis, but it's a lot better than it was.

I long for the day in which I spend 10-15 hours analyzing each of my games after playing them.  I'm nowhere near that yet, but I can see it coming if I just stick with it.

Calculation Ability

Again, tons of room to grow here.  Yet I work on tactics regularly now, which I lump in as part of calculation ability.

Some day I will also start working on pure calculation exercises and doing the 20 minute exercises that Dan Heisman recommends.

But for now it's enough to know that my tactical work is paying off.

When I played through the first chapter in the Shirov DVD I reviewed I was able to solve all but one of the examples, and most I solved within three to five seconds.

So to sum it all up...I'm getting there.

Review of And Action! How to Crown Positional Play by Tactics - fritztrainer DVD by ChessBase

ChessBase was kind enough to send me two of their recent DVD releases to review, and so it was with great anticipation that I sat down to watch this DVD by renowned grandmaster Alexei Shirov.

One of the more famous quotes by the sixth world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik is “Tactics are the servants of strategy.”  In this excellent DVD in the fritztrainer series by ChessBase world class GM Alexei Shirov sets out to prove just that.

There are few names as associated with tactical flair as that of Shirov.  Yet, as Shirov himself notes in the introduction he always has felt that having tactical finishes present themselves in his games means that he is a solid positional player.  The truth is that he is absolutely right, and in this DVD he sets out to show the viewer just that.

 The DVD is divided into six chapters.  They are:

1.       Intro and Easy Tactics (Warming Up)

2.       Developing an Attack

3.       Tactical Play in all Stages of the Game

4.       Some More Difficult Exercises

5.       Yet More Complex Attacks

6.       Even More Difficult Examples

Each of those chapters titles contain both a hyperlink to the ChessBase files containing the starting position and the analysis of each tactic, as well as a video link which launches a video of GM Shirov playing through each example while giving his analysis of each of the positions.

For those who aren’t familiar with the fritztrainer DVD series, here are some things you should know.  You will need a computer to view the DVD.  The DVD integrates video clips of the presenter, along with a board that uses ChessBase Light.  If you are not already a ChessBase Light user don’t worry, because the files are included on the DVD for easy installation!

In addition to the video clips of the presenter demonstrating the material there are also hyperlinks to the game fragments with analysis in a ChessBase file that you can play through in ChessBase Light.  One of the benefits to this is that you can then play through any sidelines you may want to explore on your own and you can do so with an engine running to check your ideas!  In this way you can come to more fully understand the position and the ideas contained within it.

When you pull up ChessBase Light you are shown a graphical depiction of a board, like so:


[FEN – “rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1”]

A nice benefit to the fritztrainer DVD’s is that if you are wanting to follow something from the Black point of view you can simply his Ctrl+F on your keyboard and the position will be flipped around to the other point of view, like this:

[FEN – “rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1”]

To flip the board back to the original viewpoint simply hit Ctrl+F again.

In the first chapter GM Shirov starts out with a number of relatively easy examples that are designed to serve as a series of warm up exercises in order for the viewer to gather their mental energies for the more serious efforts to come.

Let’s take a look at one of those examples:

Lutsko-Shirov, Latvian Championship 1986 0-1

Black to Move


[FEN – “6k1/pR6/4r1p1/8/1P6/4p1P1/P3n1BP/7K b - - 0 30”]

This is one of Shirov’s earlier games, played four years prior to achieving the GM title and is the first example shown in the video.

After giving some background information about the game and the position, the viewer is then encouraged to pause the video in order to attempt to find the solution on their own.’

To me this seems to be a very overlooked aspect of chess improvement.  It seems that in today’s age of videos the temptation is often great to take the shortcut and simply play the solution without pausing to first attempt it ourselves.

In fact, that temptation is so great that modern chess books are starting to comment on the phenomena.  In fact, two come to mind immediately.  Move First, Think Later by Wily Hendriks and Studying Chess Made Easy by Andy Soltis both touch on the subject.  IM Hendriks by pointing out that the real improvement from reading a chess book comes from solving the puzzles rather than just reading through the solutions, and GM Soltis by stating that one of the most basic ways to improve it to treat every diagram as a lesson.

In the example above, the solution is:

30…Nxg3+ 31.hxg3 e2

Another interesting example from the first chapter is a game between Shirov and Ivanchuk.  One of the most fascinating aspects of this game is that as Shirov himself points out in the introduction to the position, it’s not too often that a game between two elite grandmasters is decided by a simple tactic.

Shirov – Ivanchuk, Melody Amber Rapid 1998 1-0

White to Move

[FEN – “8/4k1p1/1bp4p/p4PnP/1pKP4/8/P1B3R1/8 w - - 0 55”]

Again, the tactic is not too difficult.  White wins by playing:

55.Ba4 Kd6

[55…Kf6 56.Bxc6 Kxf5]

56.Rxg5 hxg5 57.f6 Ke6

[57…gxf6 58.h6]

58.fxg7 Kf7 59.h6 1-0

After the initial chapter GM Shirov moves on to a slightly more taxing subject; how attacks are formed.  In this chapter the idea is not to solve the positions as much as it is to pay attention to Shirov as he works through the variations that he played or calculated over the board.

A nice example given in this chapter is a game between two future super GM’s, Alexei Shirov and Loek Van Wely.

Van Wely – Shirov, WCH U20 Tunja 1989 0-1

[FEN – “r2q1rk1/ppp3bp/3p2b1/1QPPpnp1/4N3/2N3B1/PP3PPP/2R1R1K1 b - - 0 20”]

This is the position reached after White’s 20th move.  Here Shirov starts with the comment: “ White is prepared to answer 20...h5 with 21.h3. Does Black have to defend the queenside or he has something stronger?”

He then shows how the attack was successfully formulated and then carried out with:


[20…b6 21.cxb6 cxb6 22.f3]

21.Qxb7 h5 22.Nb5

[22.f3 gxf3 23.Bf2 fxg2; 22.h3 gxh3]

22…Rb8 23.Qa6 h4 24.a4 hxg3 25.hxg3 Nd4 26.cxd6 cxd6 27.Qxa7 Bxe4 28.Rxe4 Qf6 29.Rf1 Nxb5 30.axb5 Rxb5 31.Rxg4 Rxb2 32.Rc4 Rd2 33.Rc7 Rf7 34.g4 Rxc7 35.Qxc7 Rxd5 36.g5 Qf7

[FEN – “6k1/2Q2qb1/3p4/3rp1P1/8/8/5PP1/5RK1 w - - 0 37”]

[36…Qxg5 37.Qc4 e4 38.Qxe4]

37.Qc8+ Kh7 38.Rb1 Rd2 39.Qh3+ Kg6 40.g4 Kxg5 41.f4+ exf4 42.Rb5+ Be5 0-1

I will conclude this review with an example from the final chapter so that readers can get a good feel for the level of complexity present by GM Shirov.

Shirov – Kozul, Sarajevo 2005 1-0

[FEN – “8/2q3k1/5p2/2pBpPbP/1r2P1P1/1PQ5/1KN1b3/R7 b - - 0 66”]

66…Rb8 67.Bc4 Bxg4

[67…Bxc4 68.Qxc4]

68.Ne3 Bxh5 69.Nd5 Qb7 70.Rg1 Re8

[70…Rb8 71.Rxg5+ fxg5 72.Qxe5+ Kh6 73.Qf6+ Kh7 74.Qxg5 Qg7+ 75.Nf6+]


[FEN – “4r3/1q4k1/5p2/2pNpPbb/2B1P3/1P2Q3/1K6/6R1 b - - 0 71”]

71…Kh6 72.Qh3 Rh8 73.Nxf6 Bxf6 74.Rg6+ Kh7 75.Qxh5# 1-0
In summing up this DVD I would have to say that it contains something for players of practically any strength.  If you are rated anywhere from 1200 up there is something here for you.  While the more advanced material will definitely be too complicated for many viewers, the first few chapters are much more widely accessible for players of all strengths.

Not to mention that this is a DVD that should be reviewed again and again as you improve so that you will more fully absorb the ideas over time.

To me this was like a five hour lecture with one of the best attackers of the last 20 years.  I think that GM Shirov definitely achieves his goal of showing how games that conclude with spectacular tactical fireworks tend to begin with solid positional achievement.

I give this five out of five stars!
You may purchase this fine DVD (or even download it!) here:



Sunday, July 28, 2013

Time to Narrow the Repertoire

I have talked about openings a number of times since beginning this blog a few months back.

At first I wanted to play everything.  I was playing 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, and 1.Nf3 depending on how I felt.

Unfortunately this only exacerbated my opening problems.  I'm already not too well versed in the openings I play, nor do I have much of a feel for the resulting positions that arise from them. So playing everything was just a way of keeping myself from having the opportunity for any real improvement.

Now that I have committed to working on openings more than I have been I see that I need to narrow my repertoire a great deal. 

This means I'm committing to going back to 1.e4 as my first move.  It also means that I need to play the same openings over and over again until I understand them and know them. 

For instance, Thursday I wound up playing the White side of the Two Knights (I will post the game at some point after I annotate it) and for the first time ever I played 4.Ng5.  Every time I had faced the Two Knights before that I played 4.d3 and hoped that my opponent would play 4...Bc5 and we'd transpose into the Italian.  But I wasn't doing it to get what I wanted on the board, I was doing it to avoid having to work on learning a new opening.

Now I'm realizing that I should just work on the new opening and leave it in place for the next few years.  I've kind of reached a point where I'm thinking that maybe I should just leave everything in place until I become an expert and then at that point perhaps begin to expand or change things.  That's because I assume that by that time I will know my openings well enough and understand the resulting positions to a degree that will make it easier for me to add new openings from time to time if I wish.

I've also had an epiphany that one of the mistakes I have been making that has been holding me back is the way that I have been approaching studying openings.  I know that I am deficient in them as a general rule, and therefore I have been trying to learn them all at once.  i.e. I've felt like I need to somehow work on the White side of the Italian, Sicilian, Two Knights, French, etc. all at once while simultaneously working on the Black side of the Slav, Scheveningen, and English.

That has been adding unnecessary difficulty to my goal of becoming proficient in the opening.  So now I have a plan to work on one at a time.  I plan on starting with the Slav.  Once I feel that I'm OK there (don't know if that will take two weeks, two months, etc.) then I will move on to the Scheveningen, and then from there, etc.  It might take me a year to really build a solid foundation, but if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.

One thing I haven't quite figured out yet is how much of my total study time should be devoted to openings.  I know that the two things I need to work on the most are openings and game analysis, but I don't know if I should neglect other things like endgames and positional chess until I fix the openings.

I do know for sure that I will continue to work on tactics constantly along the way.  That is a must.

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tough Matchup Thursday

So this Thursday in round two of the championship of one of the clubs I play at I am paired against an Expert.  He's had a relatively long layoff from tournament play, but nevertheless, Experts are Experts for a reason.

I have White, and know that if I play 1. e4 I may very well face a Latvian Gambit.  I am ready for that, but not sure how to handle the Sicilian.  I have been working on the Grand Prix, but he plays that as White, so no edge there since he'll know those positions better than I.

I could play my childhood favorite Alapin and hope to get an edge, but I haven't played that opening in quite some time, although I do still look at games in it from time to time since I still love it.

So what to do?  Well, I could play something else like 1. Nf3, 1.d4, or 1.c4, but should I?  I had been playing those things, but decided that it might be a good idea to go back and focus on 1.e4 until I get a better feel for the opening.

So one of life's little mysteries...

Well, the good news is that I don't have to be to work tomorrow until 4pm so I will get hours and hours to study and prepare. 

So I guess I'll have to make the most use of the time...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Good Reason to Have a Coach

For a couple of years now I have been taking lessons from NM Nolan Hendrickson off and on.

One of the things that we have been talking about lately is my poor opening preparation.  I don't really know the openings I play too well, and it's showing in my games.  I get bad positions out of the opening in most games.  Even when I win the game I normally lose the opening.

So Nolan and I scheduled a two hour lesson to cover openings.  Specifically I wanted to cover the White side of the Italian since that is one of my main openings as White these days.

So I get to his house one evening a few days ago with my Italian stuff in hand.  We go sit down at the board and Nolan says "We're not working on openings, we're working on planning.  I've been looking at some of your recent games and you are not planning at all."  I say "I thought we were going to work on openings."  Nolan says "This is a bigger problem, so this is what we're looking at."

Folks, this is exactly why you want a player who is much stronger than yourself to be your coach.  If I was studying on my own I would have just worked on openings and not even realized that I have a more serious issue going on right now in my games.

The point of having a coach is that it's a shortcut.  You don't have to take lessons every week for a coach to be effective.  When Nolan is in town and not at college in St. Louis I average maybe one lesson every 4-6 weeks.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  This works out to maybe 10 lessons over a period of about 21 months.  Since I take two hours at a time this means that I have had roughly 20 hours of time with Nolan.  But that time has saved me months of trial and error.

A coach will tell you where your weaknesses are.  Where your strengths are.  Where you should spend your time.  Where you shouldn't. 

The reason that this is such an advantage should be obvious.  Let's say that you have a problem with planning (as I do) and it will take say 50 hours of methodical study about planning to fix the issue.  A coach will point out the issue right away and you can spend your next 50 hours working on eliminating that weakness.

Otherwise, eventually you are likely to spend 50 hours on planning, but it might take you spending 500 hours on other things that aren't as important before 50 total hours have been spent on planning.

It's the same concept as making a grocery list when you go to the store.  If you don't make a list you might still come home with what you need, but you might have to go back to the store five more times before you have everything.  Going with a list on the other hand means that you'll come home with what you need on the first try.

So I highly recommend to anyone reading to take lessons.

An Interesting Quandary

"Sometimes you can press a little bit and you're trying to do too much and you're trying too hard. You want to win so bad and you want to help the team so badly that you end up trying too much instead of letting the play come to you." - Ed Belfour

Granted, chess isn't a team sport, but I think that Eddie the Eagle's quote sums up something that I find myself facing.

Last year I had a terrible start to the year.  I was at 1711 in the beginning of 2012.  By August I was down to 1560, and by January of 2013 I was back over 1700.  How did I do it?  Well, mostly by not caring about my rating in terms of my performance.  In other words, I never let the ratings of myself or my opponent factor in to any decisions I made. 

A large part of why I had slid so far from my peak was that I was letting rating issues make too many decisions.  i.e. "This position looks drawish, but I can't take a draw against this guy since he's 200 points lower rated than me."  Or "I can't play the Sicilian against this guy, he's 300 points higher rated so he'll know the theory way better than I do."  etc.

Then one day I decided that I didn't care.  I was perilously close to my floor, so why care about the rating at this point.  I just needed to fix whatever was wrong.  Almost overnight I gained 100 points back.  Now I have gained another 100 on top of that and am at my all time peak of 1763.

So you would think that it would be easy to just keep on keeping on and continue to not care at all about the rating.  But here's the goal is to make it over 1800 by the end of the year.  And at this point I'm close enough that I can taste it. 

The Southwest Chess Club Championship started last Thursday and will run over five more Thursdays.  In round one I was paired down with a 981.  I had the Black side of a Scheveningen and my opponent actually played book moves for a while and seemed to have an attack coming.  Then he managed to drop a piece.  At that point I should have simply relaxed and kept calculating as the win should be a simple matter of technique as he had no comp for the piece.

Instead I found myself becoming more tense.  I won a pawn, and then another pawn, and with each material gain I felt tighter and tighter.  It was then that I realized that I was worrying about the possible rating impact.  "What if I blow this?  I'll lose dozens of points!" I kept telling myself not to worry, but I kept worrying.

Naturally I easily won the game, but now I find myself worrying that ratings may be once again on the verge of driving my decision making. 

So I'm going to have to watch that.  I'm not sure how to pull this off, but I feel that if I can the surge will continue.

Here is one of my games played back in Jan 2012 when I was worrying about ratings and results.  I build up a ridiculous advantage and then throw it away and draw this game. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Update for July

I'd have to say so far so good this month.

Here we are at the not quite mid point of the month and so far I seem to be on track.  Let's recap shall we...

My goals this month were to work on:

  • Opening Prep
  • Analytical Ability
  • Calculation Ability

So far I think that I have done a fair amount of work on each of them.

Opening Prep

I have done some of this on my own the good old fashioned way of just playing through some variations over and over trying to learn them.

However, I have also done something I should have been doing for a long time, which is to take my games and put them in ChessBase, then scroll through the opening book to see who deviated and what the correct move was.  If I keep playing the same openings and keep doing this, then I should be able to learn my openings on a deeper and deeper level.

Lastly, I have a two hour lesson scheduled for tomorrow to work on nothing but openings.  I need to learn them desperately and it's been hard overcoming years of not studying the opening at all.

Analytical Ability

I have been making more of an effort to analyze my own games lately.  Not only have I been analyzing recent games that I have played, but I've also gone back and looked at some that were 18 months old. 

What's interesting is that as I look at the older games I am identifying a lot of areas in which I have improved.  Also, since I have gotten better in that time it's easy to see progress.  It's also easier to identify areas in which I still need to improve when I am looking at these older games.

For example, I know that one of my weaknesses is that I tend to play a large number of "groveling" moves.  Defending when I don't need to, etc.  As I look at games I played in the past few weeks it's too easy to be defensive about the moves I just played.  Especially when I had a good result.  i.e. when you are rated 1700 and you draw an expert you don't want to admit that any of your moves were weak.  Yet when I look at a game from a year ago it's easier to be objective, regardless of the result.

I don't know if others feel this way, but I certainly do.  Perhaps that in an of itself is a weakness I should work on.

Calculating Ability

This is the area in which perhaps I have done the least.  I have been working on some tactical exercises and doing some endgame work, both of which serve to help in this area.  But I don't feel like I've truly worked hard on calculating.

However, I have a cutesy fix for this...

I am reviewing a handful of books for and as I work on the reviews I intend to treat the diagrams as calculation exercises.  I think that will help me get two things done at reviews and  my calculation skills!

So at the roughly mid way point of the month I'd say I feel good but not great about having stuck to my plan!

By the way, for anyone who is curious, here are the books I am reviewing right now.  They are older books which I was asked to look at:

Mastering Tactical Ideas - by Minev

Essential Chess Endings for Advanced Players - by Donaldson

How to Win at Chess Quickly - by Williams

True Combat Chess - by Taylor
Here are some items I have reviewed for ChessCafe already...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Being Lazy or Recharging the Batteries - You Make the Call

So...the past few days have found me engaging in almost no chess activity.  I've solved a handful of tactical puzzles, played through a couple of opening lines, and played through a couple of annotated games.

But considering that I have had four straight days off work that's not a whole lot of activity.  I certainly haven't sat down for a good three hour study session or anything like that.

So the question this being lazy, or is this a well deserved and needed rest after working extremely hard for quite a long time?

I think that it is important to take time away from chess at times to get some mental clarity back, but having said that I am on a roll right now and at my peak rating, so why stop now?

Am I afraid of burning out?  Am I just tired?  Am I avoiding the issue at hand, which is that my goal of reaching 1800 by years end is directly in sight of me?
Something interesting to ponder, that's for sure.

I'd like to think that this is nothing more than just a mini-vacation.  I don't play another serious game until the 18th of this month.  So that gives me a week and a half to get ready.  To make sure that I'm ready to perform at my peak level.  To solidify my repertoire at least a bit more than it is now.

So again, I'd like to think that this is just a little break to regain my balance.

Why then is there a nagging thought in the back of my head?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Opening Prep

As mentioned in a few recent posts, this is something that I definitely need to work on.  However, it's also something that I need to learn how to work on.

I'm sure that most people who are strong in the opening have a system that they use to learn openings relatively quickly and efficiently.  I am not one of them.  For me the opening is something of a struggle to learn.  Oh sure, I can learn the first 8-10 moves of some common lines relatively easily, i.e. the KID Bayonet Attack or the Yugoslav Attack against the Dragon, etc.

But those are fairly simple lines that don't tend to deviate too much prior to move 11-12, so that's easy.

When I sit down to work on the Italian, for example, it's a whole different story.  There are a relatively larger number of branches that begin earlier, which makes for a different experience. 

I haven't quite found a technique that I like to assist with memorizing the lines I need to know and then to be able to work on understanding them once I have them memorized...

So I need to spend some time and develop the proper approach.  I'm sure that the payoff will be worth it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Plan for July

In June (as with every month so far) I started off with a well-defined plan. When all was said and done I feel like I somewhat adhered to my plan. But I don't feel like I nailed it.

One thing that I did in twice in June that I had only done perhaps twice in the preceding year was to take a lesson. I had two lessons with my original coach Nolan Hendrickson. I feel that the most valuable piece of learning that I did all month came in those lessons. What I learned was that I am focusing on the wrong things. I was worrying about certain aspects of technique that aren't that important right now in terms of maximizing performance.

In other words, when I put down that I needed to "Work on Rook Endings" I was not allotting my time where it would be the most useful. Right now the three biggest issues that I have are in this exact order: understanding of openings, analytical ability, and calculation. Those three items come in to play every game, whereas rook endings come in to play maybe one game in ten. That doesn't mean that I don't need to work on rook endings, or that I will stop doing so. What it does mean is that I need to address the real problem since it's been identified. So how to do that...

Step One - Opening Prep

I know that this is one of my biggest areas of concern.  I honestly feel like I could gain 200 rating points if I just solidified my openings.  I think that most players spend too much time working on openings, but I also feel that I have done the opposite and not spent enough time. 

I know that I have made this point before, but now it's time to embrace it.  My opening problems aren't that I don't have the latest line of ______ memorized out to move 20, it's that I don't have a basic understanding of the openings I play.

This should be somewhat easy to fix.  I need to work on memorizing lines, sure.  But I also need to make sure that I understand the positions that arise from the openings I play.  This means becoming familiar with the plans and ideas that arise from the pawn structures in those openings.

In order to do that I just need to sit down and start playing through games and analyzing them on my own.  I took a step in the right direction yesterday by going over to a friends house and looking at some openings that we both play either one or both sides for.  We literally just played around moving pieces, checking the Fritz opening book, and trying to get an idea of the plans and ideas in those lines.  This was only for about two hours, and I feel that I need about 20 or so hours per opening to really start to understand this. 

So it will take time, but I'm OK with that.  After all, improvement by it's very definition takes time.

Step Two - Analytical Ability

My analytical ability is garbage.  Absolute garbage.  I'm the guy who would try to analyze my games and who couldn't ever see anything other than what was played except for how to improve on the losing move.  Going over a game took me perhaps as many as 10 minutes. 

In fact, I'm embarrassed about the terrible quality of my annotations that will be published in an article I wrote.  They are weak and practically nonexistent.

I've started taking steps in the right direction to fix this issue.  I've worked with Nolan to begin to develop this ability.  I still think that I'm rather bad at it, but I have also started to feel the seed germinating within me.  So I'm feeling like given enough time I can really learn this skill.

One of the things that Nolan has said to me is that I should analyze every game I play from now until I make 2200.  I assume that I should continue to do so after that as well.  I've tried to take this to heart so much so that I played a game last Thursday that ended in a draw by repetition after 15 moves.  I still came home and analyzed that game.

So in order to develop this ability I will not only analyze my own games at depth, but I will try to analyzed the games of others as well.  Sure, I won't find the same things that GM's do, but I'll certainly find a lot more than I am now.  I also believe that learning to properly analyze openings will be a godsend to my openings.

Step Three - Calculation Ability

My calculation ability is OK, but needs to be much better.  I have a tendency to lose the thread of some of the stuff that I calculate, and I have a tendency to spend time calculating stuff that I should dismiss and move on from much sooner rather than waste valuable time on.

I know that those are skills that are easier to talk about than they are to learn, but I also know that as long as I work on developing them I'll improve greatly from where I am now.  And that's the real goal here.

I believe in the power of calculation so much that I honestly believe that I could make Expert by doing nothing other than learning to calculate better. 

My forcing calculation is decent, but my non-forcing calculation is very bad.  I have a tendency to stop calculating a non-forcing line too early, thereby missing out on some prime opportunities.

So how to work on this?  Well, Nolan has sent me some calculation exercises which should help quite a bit.  And I will get books on calculation as well. 


I feel that I am well on my way down the road that I want to take.  I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am starting to truly feel the results of the work that I have put in.  I feel like I am getting better on an almost weekly basis.

So let's see how far we can drive this train!
Below are links to some products that would help with calculation and analyzing.  If you are interested in purchasing them I would appreciate if you would use these links.  Amazon will then give me a couple percent of the money spent and I will use whatever I earn towards chess lessons.