Saturday, January 24, 2015

Looking beyond the basic pawn structures : Advanced D5 chain

One of the revelations I had at the Boston Chess Congress was that I could get to the middle game in most of my openings going on previous training and some rust removal.  In a couple of games where I played against the King Indian’s defense and a Nimzo-Indian, I reached a nice d5 pawn structure, giving me some space and some play. But I had no clue as to what that play should be and ended up playing to conservative and allowed my opponent to attack.

A few years ago, I was looking at pawn structures to help me understand the openings. You can see these as they are linked on my side bar. This was really helpful in understanding the ideas behind certain openings where these certain pawn structures show up.  This, I believe helps me with openings as I have a basic understanding of roughly where I want my pieces given certain structures.  Thus I no longer fret openings  and usually get a playable position.

With some pawn structures, I know more advanced ideas beyond “getting to a playable middle game”.   I know the basic concepts for handling  Isolated Queen Pawns whether I own it or attacking against my opponent’s.  I also have a comfortable footing with the Carlsbad pawn and know enough when I can get into a minority attack or launch a central attack.  But these only make up a small portion of the openings.  What I felt I needed to get a grip on was what to do when I reach an advanced d5 pawn chain.

Pawn Chains Basics to advanced concepts

I decided to dust off Andrew Soltis’ work on Pawn structure chess  and explore a little deeper on the advanced d5 chain.  He gives great praise to his predecessor, Aaron Nimzovitch. In My System, he has a chapter dedicated to Pawn chains and attacking the base. Andrew Soltis modernizes this in his 1995 work on Pawn structures.

My focus for this post falls on the chapter he calls Chain Reactions.  The goal for both sides is to break the chains. For white this means getting c4-c5 in to attack the base at d6. For black, it’s advancing f7-f5, g5 followed by f4 if allowed. Queenside versus Kingside attack boils down to who can get there first.

Here is a game showing what happens when Black doesn’t get counter play in. This  is  Rubenstein Variation of the NI. Later, I will look at a a Samisch Variation of the KID … This is why I liked the book these are opening variations I typically play:

 Botvinnik-Kholmov Moscow 1947

Move 15 is the critical position. Andy points out that Black has made a major giving up the Bishop pair without any compensation. The passive defense on the King side limits any counter attacks.  White plays 15 c5 and opens up the c-file to focus the root of the attack on c7. Go ahead and play the game, I will wait.

Samisch- KID position with Black getting coutner play on the King side.

(Position after 11…Nh5)  

It’s a race for who can score first. White can’t ignore the threat of f7-f5. 12. B4 does grab initiative for white and he can continue to build the pressure on the c-file with rooks to c2 and c1.  Balance this with threats of Black advancing a boa-constrictor of f5 g5 f4 etc.

The target for Black is the White king.  If white sees this coming and is castled on the kingside… side stepping to Kf1-e1-d2 is not uncalled for.  Positional games can allow for “slow” maneuvers if there are no forced moves.

What I gather so far:
As I see it, as White, in an advanced d5 chain, my goal is to open up the c-file by attacking the base on d6.  Build up a battery on the c-file supplemented by minor pieces to get my rooks to the 7th.  Got it, great!

Black *should* try to counter on the Kingside like any good little KID player by prepare a pawn advance to cramp up the white kingside.  Black will try to first break on e4 with f5 and open up the chain. If white has too many reinforcements on e4, then f3 is the next spot.
What to do if both are “going for it”?

Good question. Here I wanted to be careful of the platitudes that come from books like My system and Pawn structure chess.  There are no silver bullets and at some point you have to get a “feel” for how its played.  Generically, white can get a counterstrategy against Black’s king side advance with g2-g4 at some point so he can continue with the c4-c5 thrust to have the c-file action.  But by then Black may have counter measures of his own limiting  the effectiveness of White’s Queen side attack.

It’s all about Balance and knowing when to shift gears. White may find that exf5 needs to be played giving up the chain. If Black recaptures with a  pawn white will either try to fix that pawn with f4 or it now becomes a new target for attack.  If black uses  a piece to  captures on f5, white now has e4 as an outpost.  Nothing is easy. Mikhail Botvinnik always says “ One always captures on f5 with a pawn on f5 in such positions.

In this example, the critical position in on move 13 for black where playing e4 looked good but gives up strategic outposts.  The correct move is 13…exf4.

Where to go from here.

I went through complete illustrative games from this book and decided to see if this was true in my openings reference book with reference games for Samisch-KID.  I have to look at these games closer as the modern approach seems to tackle these chains differently than what was brought up in Nimzovitch’s time, or Zurich 1953  and the references made in Andy’s 1995 Pawn structure.  I see other ideas by white like going after the Fianchetto Bishop of the KID with an early h2-h4!  Other games showed opening the d-file with early Q exchanges that made absolutely no sense to me.

Bottom line

I can get behind the basic ideas of breaking the chains with opening c-file to get rooks on the 7th for White or Black’s counter attack on the king side with pawns to choke him… if he’s there.  I am starting to get the nuances of counter play with g4 and maybe making a stand-off on the f5 square in case its attack versus attack. But one thing is for sure, beware my next passive opponent if I am granted an advanced d5 chain… I’m going for the point. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Games I played ( Boston Chess Congress 2015)

For me, an adult with a full life outside of chess, there never seems to be enough time to prepare for a tournament, let alone any rust that forms after any long hiatus. I set aside the “poverty mind” , and signed up to play in a section higher than a comfort zone. This placed me 2nd from the bottom of the list. I knew I was going to take some lumps but I approached it as a learning experience  for the following:

1.      See what I recall from my past training
2.      Test the recent training with the Chess Notes methods
3.      Walk away with new directions to study
4.      Have fun

Before I get into each of the games, I thought I’d summarize the experience. First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for the tournament directors, Chris Bird and Bob Messenger. They kept the pace and their cool with the largest turn out to date for this annual event.  I won my first two rounds against players 200 points higher than I was. I was saying to myself “ when is the rust going to start showing?” but alas, it showed in the third round of the day as the time limit converged with the rest of the 3 day players as I entered into the 2-day schedule.  My morning round 4 the following day allowed me a great position in the KID but I couldn’t put a plan together if my life depended on it and gave the initiative away.  By round 5 my stamina was failing and I settled for a draw.

Round 1:

I had done a tremendous amount of recent work on the Slav defense  in preparation for this event. This was my weakest area and thus I spent the most time bringing it up.  The chess notes seemed to actually help as I felt a sense of comfort and familiarity with the position through to move 9. I had some clear plans and ideas.  I was granted a great outpost for my knight and I pounced on a tactic winning me material in the middle game. 

( I'm having trouble getting the embedded code from to display the games here at blogspot. You may be better just going to my blog for these: )

Round 2:

This was bit more of a straightforward QGD with a Carlsbad pawn structure. There was nothing recent in my studies that I covered on this. I was able to conjure up from my long term memory  the ideas around this pawn structure. I think the reason why this was an easier recall, was that a while back I studied these pawn structures quite regularly, went over games that had this pawn structure, and encountered them quite regularly and successfully.  This felt like putting on an old glove.  I knew about minority attacks, IQPs and center pawn pushes for these structures. 

Round 3:

I played the black pieces against an Advanced  Caro-Kann. I’ve struggled with this variation in the past. I simply hadn’t prepared well for this.  I managed to  hang on against a queen side attack I could have easily prevented had I played it correctly.  But being the third game of the day and getting bleary eyed, after the attack I castled because I was more anxious about leaving my king in the center than looking at the piece mobility of my opponent. It allowed the attack to shift to the kingside. White having more mobility I couldn’t swing my pieces over in time. Then I blundered a piece and resigned immediately after.  This is where the rust of an old dog started to show.

Round 4:
Oddly enough, I realized the loss in round 3 broke my momentum.  I had the white pieces as I walked into a King’s Indian defense.  I got an advanced pawn center, one I used to be familiar with but struggled in the past to have solid results ( unlike the QGD).  Part of my timid play could be partially a result of my “fighting spirit” partially broken from the round 3 loss. However, I’ve struggled with fully understanding  this pawn structure, it’s nuances and proper plans for white and what to watch out for from Black. In this game, I found myself playing more passive, not knowing what to do with the space advantage. Is this because I am too “at home” in the cocoon of a cramped position as black? 

Round 5:
I was familiar with the first few stumps of the Rubinstein variation of the Nimzo-Indian to get to a playable middle game.  But I struggled again with coming up with a plan. I could see my opponent was having the same issues. So when he offered a draw, I didn’t want to blow it. With tired eyes, I accepted and shook his hand. 


Every single one of my opponents was higher rated.  That meant finishing with a 2.5 score gained me almost 60 rating points.  Not bad for a getting back into the game.  I think there is some merit doing the chess notes for securing chunks in early positional understanding BUT… and this is a big BUT… I really need to be more disciplined on following up with the drilling with these notes in order for them to be effective.   I am giving myself until February  to see whether the hand written notes  is going to continue or if I go back to making my drills in a database.  On one hand I feel like I get a deeper understanding of the subject I am studying if I do this by hand and not assisted with the computer.  However, I am more likely to do drills (which reinforces the ideas)  using a computer. I may compromise and do initial studies with the “Cornell” chess notes methods with the intent of creating drill diagrams in a database I can take with me on my tablet.

Another thing that came out is how I really need to improve my ability  or, more so, my comfort level with playing the White pieces of an Indian defense where I can get more space.  It’s back to reviewing Zurich 1953. 

Did I even get to any endgames that required special attention? No, I was already lost in one N+R vs N+R ending.  I will prioritize my next round of studies on game studies mentioned above. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Attempting Deliberate Practice

I was away over the holiday and became ill, this slowed down my enthusiasm to train for the upcoming tournament on the  weekend of January 10th and 11th.  Despite these life obstacles, I still managed to continue my quest of creating more Cornell Chess Notes to drill with.  Since that post, several readers had responded that there aren’t any “silver bullets” to training and how I must explore other means.  I appreciate the well wishes and passionate discussions. Please, rest assure, I am way to ADD to use only one training method.  In this post I will let you know what other deliberate training methods I used.

As for the Cornell Chess Notes:

I focused on my weakest opening structures as black to really “fill the pages”.  I knew the nuances of move orders in the Slav  have tripped me up in the past where I “think” I recognize a pattern which requires a certain piece positioned ( like Black’s QB) only to find out the move order calls for a different strategy.  I made several opening patterns around the first several move choices for the Slav so I could drill on White’s and Black’s plans. I chose about 5 complete games to walk down this trail.  The positions from the branches  all became “notes fodder”.  

I was studying endgame strategies and wanted to create drills to remember key concepts more than move orders. I have only a few key positions for rook and minor piece endgames with dynamics for each side that require understanding.  Writing the ideas seems to help underscore an important concept but, without any drills to refresh in the memory, I can see how this will escape through my sieve.

I wanted to create some positional strategy drills. I tried combining using the strategy lessons along with the Cornell Chess notes methods. This created several drills with the starting position of the lesson and 4 or 5 bullets of strategy from the lesson for single page summary.
It goes without saying that IF I DON’T DRILL myself of the positions regularly, I will not retain ANYTHING from these notes. Being sick as I was, I had a hard enough time sticking to a regular regimen.

Playing against an Engine:

To help with the opening and game retention, I would play my opening to practice against ANY chess engine I had available depending on if I was in an airport, on my tablet, phone or at my desktop. I managed to set up an opening line to practice. I used my notes as a guide at first and would continue to play against the computer until I could do favorably well through to move 10 or 12.

I’ve yet to do this with the endgame positions I studied. I think it would be a great way to drill and experience the consequences first hand when I make the wrong choice. Not sure I’ll have much time between now and the event but this will become a part of my regular training routine. Likewise, the strategy positions I created would be great exercises to review.

Using the Lessons:

I decided to use the interactive lessons on to augment the deliberate training  for positional strategies. My weakest part in the game is transitions in general. This can be transitions from opening to middle game or from middle to endgame. Thus my focus on positional strategy lessons over at 

The problem with these “canned” lessons is that they are never tailored to typical positions of the repertoire I tend to play. Some were relevant but others were not.  Yes, the advantage of getting a real coach for this type of training can be the value add… but I am cheap and I was sick and on vacation trying not to infest relatives.

I played over annotated games from my repertoire and created similar “strategy” notes for the drills. I found these just as effective as the stuff for strategic goals  and much more relevant to my games. 

Deliberate Practice with a Database.

One of the articles I mentioned in a previous post about studies with amateurs versus experts indicated that one of the common themes of the experts was their training with a database. Again, because of the travel, I had a multi-path approach to this. On my PC I have Chess Opening Wizzard and have built up a huge database on my repertoire. I couldn’t travel with this. So I imported PGN’s to various applications for my phone and tablet with marginal success.

One tool I found moderately helpful was Perfect Chess Trainer on my Android.  The opening database was limited but it contained enough of a games database that I still could get move statistics through to move 12 in most lines. It also allowed me to get through a line and “play against the computer” from that node.   

The games database allowed me to import PGNs of annotated games. This helps in my positional strategy studies as well.

Whether openings training or positional training, on hard stumps, my intent was to create handwritten notes  to help with the learning process.  I’ll be honest here, with all the travel, getting sick and distractions, this became more of a passive activity. At best I would create a separate PGN of a position and save it in the database to review later and mark up as Cornell Chess Notes.  

No Perfect system: 

I never said I had a perfect system. I love experimenting on myself to see what works.  As much as I like the Cornell chess notes for learning, I am having trouble disciplining myself to follow up with the drilling that is required.  This is where some folks were mentioning the benefits of the modern age and all, yes… I agree. The question I have to ask myself is whether it is better to risk a less qualitative approach to note taking ( making digital diagrams purely with  a database) with an improved chance of following through with drills versus the method I described in the previous post with a less convenient  implementation to drill.

With anything new, it’s always good to try it for 30 days as much as possible before throwing it out.  This would give the new method more of a chance of sinking in as a vice or habit. For the sake of the old “college try” I shall continue. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

How I take chess notes using a modified Cornell Notes method

It does feel like I got the band back together after a long dormant period in the chess world. I’ve previously posted about waking up, rallying an online community for support,  establishing a baseline and improving study techniques. Consider this my online psyching up to play in my first OTB tournament in a little under a couple weeks after taking a bit of a long hiatus.
I thought I’d share where I’ve taken my approach to an  active studying regimen.  I want to maximize the “generation effect”  and apply the Cornell Notes to chess notes.  Since chess diagrams are necessary in a lot of note taking to  help create patterns for the long term memory recall,  I needed to create a note pad for this that allowed the left hand stimulus , right hand response and bottom summary.  So I created a model sheet, went to staples and had them printed and cut for cheap to put in a mini binder.

Here is a sample of the page:

For the freehand drawings of the diagrams, I am getting into using Rolf Wetzell’s method for his “flashcards”.  I taped a “key” on the inside cover of my notebook.

I am currently reviewing openings and whole games associated with them and recording key positions using a stimulus like “Whites plan?”  and the response below the diagram.   I am not only including opening positions but middle game plans as well from the games I am studying. I plan to add key tactics that I have a hard time seeing ( those I miss during drills become fodder for the chess notebook in a section for tactics).  I plan on a similar technique for endgame patterns that I am weak on.

This is an experiment.  I will see how this works in short order come the Boston Chess Congress on January 10-11th

Friday, December 26, 2014

On Old Dogs Learning New Tricks:

What does chess improvement , neuroscience, Rolf Wetzell, and Cornell Note taking methods having in common?  For some reason I’ve been putting these concepts in my blender-brain ( or should  that be “blunderprone blender brain”) and trying to make sense of it all as I prepare for training. I hope to tie these all together in this post.

On Chess Improvement:

The discussions stemming from recent posts and connected improvement seeking blogs all have the same goal in mind. They are all after the same holy grail of figuring out how one improves their game at a later age in life and get off the plateau.  Some have argued that we should just accept the fact that we are on a plateau and just enjoy the game. Others, indicate you can’t get there without a coach, I believe that is important as well. I am a bit of a rebel at heart only mellowed by life experiences and lessons learned over the years. First, I believe that there is ALWAYS opportunity to improve even as an adult. I don’t believe that neuro-plasticity is just for kids.   Secondly, I am a self starter, DIY person. I want to first understand more my current limitations. Under self discovery, I’d rather explore this personally so I can better understand the type of teacher I seek before I  spend money.  I believe I am putting together a good base plan with some input from supporters like you and elsewhere.  

Before I describe what’s in my “buckets” and how I plan to fill them ,  I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve been reading  about the learning process itself and how I plan to enrich my chess training with some of these concepts. Among the many irons I have in the fire, being a part time adjunct professor is one of them. I am also looking at ways to improve the learning process especially to non-traditional students ( adults) seeking  a career change.  One thing that stands out is PASSIVE LEARNING doesn’t work. The more engaged the student is in the material, the greater the benefit. Project based learning is a much better model and I usually structure my lectures as such. In chess, passively reading books, listening to lectures without enough interaction, or mindlessly doing tactics without engaging myself are “habits” I am recognizing that have contributed to my plateau.  I plan to remedy this.

Deliberate Training and neuroscience:

I am not a neuroscientist nor do I claim to be an expert. Let me just get that out of the way. I do not have the capability to provide an in depth analysis on the subject.   When I read about this topic, I tend to put the content through a chess sieve.  What I tend to focus on are topics around working memory ( WM) and Motor Memory (MM).  WM is what I relate to as the short term static memory that we need to process more complex information. MM are the “chunks”, patterns, or stumps we create as we develop skills towards an expertise in a subject. This is the area I will focus  more on this post.

I was really inspired by  Empirical Rabbit’s blog  about his approach to increasing pattern retention through use of deliberate training and metered repetition ( see this post for example: ) He had several posts on applying this technique. Unclear about how this impacted his OTB performance as he seems to have stopped blogging which may be because of some understandable life events.

AoxomoxoA pointed me in the direction of an article by Gobet and Campitelli on, The Role of Domain-Specific Practice, Handedness, and Starting age in Chess ( ) . Which seemed to indicate that given the population of chess players, there are more left handed players than the general population  in a  statistical significance sort of way. However, there are arguments out there that say it doesn’t matter what handedness you are to develop expert skills in chess.  The “talent versus practice” debate still seems to support practice can still achieve expertise in chess.  A little further down this rabbit hole and another article by this same team, lead me to The Role of Practice in Chess: A Longitudinal Study (file:///C:/Users/George/Downloads/Campitelli-Gobet_LID08_TheRoleOfPracticeInChess-ALongitudinalStudy.pdf ). It is worth further exploration.

But here’s the thing,  I find that a lot of these scholarly articles are  derivative of Thought and Choice in Chess, by Adriaan De Groot ( I have this book) written 50 years ago.  All of these ideas seem to support deliberate repetitive training of   what is being learned are  meant to be made into chunks, patterns, stumps or what ever you want to call them in your MM.  Neuroscience seems to underscore the key to getting this into your long term memory for skills.

I like using the term “Deliberate Practice” . Duvivier et al. (  reconstructed the concept of deliberate practice into practical principles to describe the process as it relates to clinical skill acquisition. They defined deliberate practice as:

  • repetitive performance of intended cognitive or psychomotor skills.
  • rigorous skills assessment
  • specific information feedback
  • better skills performance

They further described the personal skills learners need to exhibit at various stages of skill development in order to be successful in developing their clinical skills. This includes:

  • planning (organize work in a structured way).
  • concentration/dedication (higher attention span)
  • repetition/revision (strong tendency to practice)
  • study style/self reflection (tendency to self-regulate learning)

I realize this may be a lot to absorb in one post and this is just scratching the surface.  I probably lost a few readers by now. So let me congratulate those hoard core enough to soldier on. Let me now introduce the other related item in my blender:

Rolf Wetzell is a role model for an Adult Improver.

Rolf  Wetzell wrote a book,  Chess Master…at any age, back in the 1990’s which described how he, after the age of 50, went from a being stuck on a plateau between Class B and Class A to becoming a USCF  titled master. He’s proof to me that old dogs can learn new tricks and a true inspiration. I’ve picked his brain before because he used to frequent our local chess club. He has a formulated approach to increasing chess skill and talks about the “evaporation of memory” and how to minimize this. The heart of his method is about increasing “images” which is basically an application on deliberate practice.  He describes a method to develop flash cards that he used to quiz himself and even went as far as ripping up dollar bills when he fell short of a goal or repeated a mistake. I joked with him on how Spartan he was to do that. “ I’ve stopped ripping dollars since I wrote that book.” There’s a lot of nuggets in this book about applying the scientific method to improvement. I’m giving this a second read on an upcoming long flight.

You probably read through this last paragraph and said to yourself, “Wait, did he say FLASHCARDS?” I had the same reaction and thought that creating a PGN database was MUCH better and proceeded to do as such with various tools like COW ( Chess opening wizard) and simply ChessBase. In my quest to create as many “images” as possible from what he prescribes in the book (because I was always in a hurry), I was taking many shortcuts, downloading other peoples work and importing to the database only occasionally adding to the comments and annotating specific positions. In other words, I was passively learning, which leads to my next topic in an already lengthy post:

The Cornell Note (CN)  taking method:

No, I am not an Alumni of Cornell. I ran into this topic as I was searching for learning techniques. I wish I knew this back in my college days as it makes good sense.  The basic premise is that you make your own system of chunking the knowledge you are learning by creating a stimulus (left side o the paper)  and response (right side of the page) set of notes that you can later use to DRILL YOURSELF. 

Whether CN is the best method or not, there are a lot of articles that debate one versus the other shows more effectiveness. The Jury is still out. All studies conclude that the act of good note taking improves the learning and retention.  I was then lead to this article  on Cognitive effort during Note taking: ( ).  So you don’t have to trudge through this document, the key takeaway for me was that “the generation effect” of note taking, that is, when you deliberate synthesize, paraphrase and rewrite what you just read, sat through or listened to, is most effective in retention of skills.  I simply liked the CN method as it sets up any chess studying I plan on doing to be ready for “drills”.

Conclusion of this long post:

Tying all this together, I am in the process of outlining a training regimen which I will share on my next post. This will include deliberate practice methods that I can do experimental repetitive, metered and measured exercises tailored for specific “buckets” I need the most help with.   I will reread Mr. Wetzell’s book  but I want to explore using his note taking methods to create hand written drills. I may later look and transposing those “flashcards” to PGN viewer…but only after I have maximized “the generation effect”.  This will be a fundamental shift of my previous training where I will focus mainly on creating my own training material with deliberate cognitive effort …this time.

Yes, I was that kid in school who asked for more homework. Sorry.    

Monday, December 22, 2014

Establishing a baseline on retention of skills Post hiatus

Update on the New Imps:

Before I get into the main topic, I want to mention how the New Imps is meant to be a support community for those adult chess players seeking improvement where we can share encouragement, ideas and stories as we journey together on chess improvement. Paladin64 ( and others on messaged me about limited time to attend OTB tournaments. I believe  there are a lot of us are in the same boat. So maximizing that time is what this is all about. Linuxguy mentions that despite having a decent memory he struggles with other OTB experiences around clock and focus.  He also believes increasing visualization is valuable in chess improvement.  The message I am getting from the rest of the blog like AoxomoxoA and The GrandPatzer is something I concluded a while back: a practice diet consisting purely of  Tactics may lead to some gain but in my experience, nothing long lasting.  Continue on with the discussion.

Creating a baseline skills
I ran across this article  written by Dr. David H. Small:
He talks about using neuroscience techniques for training and developing patterns in six specific categories:
  1.      Opening patterns
  2.         Early middlegame patterns ( specific pawn structures)
  3.       Positional Patterns ( Learning to place pieces and pawns on optimal sqaures)
  4.      Tactical patterns
  5.        Strategic Endgames
  6.     Technical Endgames

I was curious about the distinction between 5 and 6 so I managed to contact him and this is how he differentiated the two:
“A technical endgame would be one that is a position that is well known or is similar to a position that is well known.  These endgames are theoretical and it would be clear that it was won, lost or drawn.  These are normally most of the endgames found in elementary endgame books.  Examples are K+P vs K.  K + 2P vs K+P.  Strategic endgames are more complex and the outcome is often unclear.  By definition, they are endgames because the K is safe to come out and be used as an attacking piece.  But they are not middlegames because some of the key strategic elements different from middlegames.  Understanding how to play strategic endgames is one of the key steps to move from the level of strong club player to titled player.” --Dr. D.H. Small
I wanted to get a baseline of what I retained in terms of these six buckets ( sort of).  I also didn't want to spend an enormous amount of time getting OCD about classifications so what I did was a “rough estimate”.  Nothing worthy of big data probability or regression curves.  I used excel, I made a workbook for each “bucket”. 

Under opening patters, I found a comprehensive list of openings on line that I cut and pasted into the spreadsheet.  Across the top, I listed Move 1, Move 2 and so forth up to move 10. For each of the openings I counted a “1” where I knew it and how deep I could recall with out a book. So as not to duplicate, variations I omitted “1”s on earlier moves.  Then I tallied up the 1’s.

For pawn structures, I did a similar thing where I found a list of pawn structures. I included the major pawn structures  like Caro-slav formations, d5 pawn chain etc. I included minor pawn formations  like pawn islands,  3 versus 2, backward pawns. I added my own “early middle game transition” ideas on openings I was able to go more than 5 ply deep.  Across the top, I made columns for  “skeletal” (meaning I know the pattern but that’s it), knowing White and back piece placement, White and Black strengths and weakness, and plans for both sides.  Emphasis is on the “knowing these visually” .

I went on to do things for Positional play with similar columns like the pawn structures. For  Tactics, I listed the common mating patterns and various labels I could find with a quick google search.  The columns were associated with level of difficulty and I only went 4 deep ( thinking CT-ART).  Then came the endgames. I’ll be honest, I was overwhelmed and decided to not complete the spreadsheet. MY ADD overcame my OCD J as I wanted to start spending time practicing.

How much have I retained after a hiatus:
The unofficial results of by 6 buckets of patterns:
  •         Opening Patterns: 489
  •         Pawn Structures : 813
  •         Positional Patterns: 1026
  •         Tactics : 460
  •         Strategical Endgames :?
  •         Technical Endgames : ?

I think I am really weak in Strategic Endgames and could use work on the technical ones as well.  Looking back on my last evaluation in 2013 using Chess Exam with the caveat that this is not an entirely accurate assessment due to the fact that this book was written by an experienced coach’s bias and not based on empirical data collected for a large enough sample size to limit the margin of error to under 5%.  

Chess Exams results back in 2013:
  •         Endame:  1726
  •         Middle : 1200
  •         Opening: 1226
  •         Calculation: 1550
  •         Standard Position: 1828
  •         Strategy: 1375
  •         Tactics: 1169
  •         Threats : 1210
  •         Attack: 1450
  •         Counter attack: 1858
  •         Defense: 1281
  •         Sacrifice: 1500

These results I took about a year ago seem to correlate with the “quick evaluation of pattern retention” I did. Positional patterns , because I tend to play positional games, is a strong plus and retention for me! My next post, I will  attempt to formulate a plan that is focused for biggest retention on the largest gaps.