Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Evolution of a Thought Process

BDK asked me if I practice any thought process. Also, with recent chatter on the other Chess Blogs on the same subject, I thought I'd shed some light on what goes on in the head of the troubled knight known as Blunder Prone.

First of all, my thought process has evolved over time. In the beginning, it was very rule of thumb oriented based on axioms of Reubin Fine and Aaron Nimzovitvh. You may know them, these are the "Knights before Bishops", "few Pawn moves in the opening" , " Don't move the same piece twice", " prophylaxis " " Rooks on open files" etc. These carried me through scholastics ( back in a day).

Then I tried the brute force rote memorization of openings until I got thrown out of the book... which I would then rely on these trusty rules of thumbs again. This got me into Class D. I then started to bump up against the "what's the" for middle games and that took me on a quest for knowledge of what i thought was the holy grail.

I read up on Kotov's middle game planner as well as how to think like a GM. I got Lost in the trees and took a different route. So I built up new axioms based on Siman's HTRYC and tried to practice imbalances and recognizing them. The rudimentary rules from Fine and Nimzovitch finally had caveates that Silman was abel to articulate. This brought me to class C.

Dan Heasiman's "real chess" philosophy rings true to me. I practice looking for Checks, Captures and threats at the least... for the most part. But for me to have a complete list of checks and balances per move will render me time trouble every game.

Realistically, I find that my thought process depends on what stage of the game I am in. I am working on a consistent method. I have to mention that part of my problem is consistency. I make make some great moves for 39 out of the 40 moves played... but then i will fall prey to human nature, let my guard down... move that piece and hit the clock only to realize it was not the best. I used to be able to write the move down before playing it and "catch" myself before I pull one of those. Since January, I am practicing the law of the land ( that is intended to accomodate the Monroi).

During the opening, its all memory. I do a cursory check to make sure its not out of the ordinary and make sure I know I recognize that my oponent made a move in line with the "book" and that I know which variation was planning to follow in my preparation. This works until about move 2... Ha... Kidding aside... I've been "thrown out" of the book by move 4 often.

When I am "thrown" I change pace now. I look at the position and say " I don't recognize this move ... is there a way to exploit it since its not part of the main line?" I ask what makes it inferior or superior ( "Crap! a novelty... my lucky day"). I follow a process like this:
- I look deep into my game for any tactics at this point focusing on Checks captures and Threat My oponent can give. ( I don't always do this and this is a fatal flaw...let's just say I'd like to do this everytime)
- If none exist, I look for the same that I can do ( I've gotten to the point where I do this rather consistently)
- If no tactical shots exist then I look for a normal developing move ( since I am still in this phase of the game)
- I look to see if I can survive the move
- I ask myself if there is a better one.

For the next few moves as I transition to a middle game, I also start to look at making a plan. This requires the Silman imbalances and looking making a decision to close the center or open it up in most instances. Since I am still in the opening... this is mainly all I got. It helps decide piece placement for me and whether I can take the time to move another pawn for protection or as a supporting role.

Middlegame is muddy waters. Sometimes I get excited because I see an opportunity to attack. Like being ahaed in development means I should really turn it into a tangible long term gain by opening the position up. This means I may launch a hit on my opponent before I complete the development. The trick, I learned the hard way, is to be able to fully calculate it out before I launch it. The other trick...even if it looks to not act on it if I can't see it clearly. I still have trouble with this. In those instances I fall back to normal developing move orders.

Let's say my game has me fully developed, I am now in the middle game. I look for weakness to go after and weigh the possibilities. I go back to the Checks captures and threats routine for both sides, and force myself to ask for a better move before acting on it.

If I am in the position with an advantage, I have learned to not get too excited since I squandered too many "won" games. I've learned to step back and make a new plan. Draw back and regroup is usually in order. I will usually try to pair down the pieces to simplify...but I don't do this often enough.

Now, being Blunderprone, when the tide has turned the other way, I apply the rule of tenacity on my opponent. I make teh little bugger say "check mate" in other words. I become the biggest pain and obstacle to my opponent drooling over the point they think they will mark. It has saved me on several occasions. I had a great swindle last year at the Eastern class. Last weekend, all was not lost, my first game was a come from behind win ( I was a rook down!) That game I will post later. Last night I played with a pawn down out of the opening and ended up winning. Initiative is usually on the side of the loser at the instant the material loss has occured. Thus my cautious approach to a "won" position.

So, all in all, I have a thought process that I've internalized over the years. ( and still refining) Why don't I win more? The answer mainly has to do with the fact that I will forget to check my oponents threats captures and checks because I get ahead of myself and move before I think. The other times is that while in the middle of the battle, I see a fork in the road. I have a hard time properly assessing the pros and cons of each. I make a bad plan in those cases. Plane and simple. Lastly, I've put too much trust on my memory. The openings have killed me in the past. I've since taken a different tract and try to understand the opening as it applies to the whole game rather than rote memory.

Good luck ( I will post a couple of those games I mentioned in a day or two).

Blunder P.


Blue Devil Knight said...

Initiative is usually on the side of the loser at the instant the material loss has occured.

Great point. When ahead, I try to play convervatively so as not to self-implode. I think the above explains why this is important, especially right after you get ahead.

It is amazing how simply looking at Checks, Captures, and Threats (for both sides) leads to wins. This is what I am focusing on nowadays. When there is nothing there, I try to increase the activity of my pieces.

BlunderProne said...

Increasing the activity of teh pieces then becomes a question of planning. What are the targets? Are there outposts for Knights, open files and diagonlas for Rooks and Bishops? Can I do something to limit the mobility of my opponents most active piece? These are the "other" thoughts that go through my mind after I see no C,C and T's,

Rocky said...

Great post BP! The biggest challange I face is deciding what to do when I don't spot any tactics. So I liked what you said about coming up with a plan and by having a plan in mind you can then increase the activity of your pieces.

Thanks for sharing!