Saturday, November 14, 2009

D.I.Y. ( Do It Yourself) CT-ART

In my last post, a movement was started in terms of Adult Chess Improvement Seekers. The movement has morphed from the ashes of the old Knights Errant to a new form that is calling itself A.C.I.S ( pronounced as Axis) of Caissa. A few bloggers have thrown their hats in to the ring to claim “membership” in this method-agnostic quest to improve ones play that is individually tailored to suit your ability and keep you seeking. The demographic seems to be mostly adult amateur players stuck in a non-master level ELO rating. The only real requirement is that you establish a method you can sign up for and blog about your journey. More details will follow as this movement is still on the ground floor. If you identify with this and feel like becoming a part of a growing community, state your quest on your blog and give us a glimpse of your chosen method by dropping a comment with a link. I will add you to a growing link list. I ask you do the same. ( The link list will be on my home and not necessarilly on my mirrored site on

Here are a few ACIS of Caissa members to consider to date ( note:If I left you out, it was entirely unintentional) :

Wang : States his claim and starts talking

Whareit is ROCKING the world with his claim ( and nice Eddie Van Halen clip)

ChunkyRook : stakes a very well thoguht out claim on "yet another improvement post"

LinuxGuy is foucsing on endgames and developing calculation skills

Continuation of my Quest:

I mentioned in my last post that I am looking at creating my own pattern training database so I can do a “circles” method training. This will consist of a mix of positions from my own games, reference games in my repertoire database and positions from my games studies. This week I will talk about the mechanics of creating training positions using Chessbase. Next time I will talk about building a reference/repertoire database and how to I plan to use it to create training positions for my “BP-ART”.

Choosing games and first entry into the database:

An integral part of my plan involves playing games on a regular basis. I can play on ICC, or other online servers, but I am mainly going to focus harvesting positions form serious OTB games played under arbitration of a tournament or club event that gets rated. Going over your very own wins and losses is a very important aspect of training. I have a database of my games dating back a few years. I have decided to select only the games where I changed my white repertoire in 2008 on forward as it is most pertinent to my immediate improvement.

How am I coming up with positions in my own games? Some are rather obvious. Taking time to go over the game with my opponent after a match provides the first line of input. I am practicing to improve my annotations during this phase as my thinking as well as my opponent’s is very fresh and provides valuable insight in certain positions.

I start by entering the games in Chessbase, I will start with self annotations based on the post mortem analysis. ( see picture below). I double click the position to annotate and enter the text. If I want to add text before the move, I “right click” and select Add text before. This may seem basic to most my readers but for others just navigating around CB tools, I hope this helps.

After I enter my self annotations and commentary, I then use a chess Engine like Fritz or Rybka to run the full analysis. I make sure I select “save old annotations” so not to over write my original mark up. I also use the “replace” otherwise I end up with all kinds of extra games in the database.

Finding Positions for training.

After the analysis, typically a critical position comes out. Often the post mortem has a critical position I want to recall. The resulting analysis from the chess engine will also typically pop out a few blunder checks. If the game was tight, I look at the various evaluations and look for when the equal sign starts to shift in the other direction and look at that position for clues.

I will also check to see how far down the line we went in an opening variation. I may create a position from this discovery if I feel a need to improve that aspect of the game.

The Ideal game will have a training position for the opening, middle game and endgame. In reality, I have games that were clearly decided in the opening stage. Not much else to learn in the crash and burn that followed unless a good defensive maneuver was passed.

Making Training positions:

First thing I do is create a new database specifically for training positions as I use the games database to harvest positions. This is an important step to really get the CT-ART like action. From the games database, in a selected position from one of the games, I then use the right mouse button selected over the move. I select over the “Special annotation” and it opens another drop down list. From there I select “Training annotation”

A box pops up and you can enter any text you wish. The score is usually automatically set for 10 points. Often I have a position that branches into a better variation. When that happens, the list of moves will include it. The mainline ( the bad move I made) is automatically set at a score of 10. To make the winning variation a the correct choice in training, I select the top move and demerit the score to 0 and the winning variation I increase to 10.

Now, the other thing I will do is delete moves prior and after that critical position. This helps for the focus. You can do this easily with Right Mouse Button , scroll over Delete and select from the list of options. Then I do a “save as” and select the training data base to stor the position as it will keep the whole game intact in my games database so I can go back for future reference.

A dialog box will open asking for game information, Typically this has been filled during the games entry phase. What I would like to suggest is in the “annotators” tab, you enter a “head line”. It’s no coincidence that my sample position is against none other than Rolf Wetzell, author of the book “Become Master at any age”. This is my modern version of doing flash cards. Setting the headline in the annotator’s index allows it to appear in the headline. Don’t forget to save.

Next time I will continue this series with how to build a repertoire to add opening positions to the training database.

I hope you find this helpful as some of my readers were asking about building their own training database. Again, this is only one aspect of my new regimen. I have just begun to enter positions and almost have 50 positions set up from my own games. My goal is to get to about 500 positions in my database with a mix from my own games, my tailored opening repertoire and of course the magical history tour positions that are most pertinent to my games.


Loomis said...

You can count me ( in the Chess improvement group. I have a link here from my sidebar.

As far as defining my quest, I tend to do something "for now" and see where it takes me. At the moment, I'm heading back to CT-Art tactics training. We'll see where that goes.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Cool I didn't know Chessbase had so many features.

Steve Eddins said...

Hi George,

I'll sign up for ACIS. Although I haven't posted much recently (my last post was about my loss to you!), I have several things on my mind related to adult chess improvement. Over the next couple of weeks I'll try to address the following:

* Why I never joined the Knights

* My current rating plateau and whether I think I can improve

* What if I fail to improve

* A surprising discovery I made about the disparaged practice of memorizing opening lines

* My experiences with a technique using ChessBase for practicing thought process.

* Why the rating system fools people about how much work it takes to improve

And anything else that comes to mind.

LinuxGuy said...

Steve, I clicked on your link and got this message:

"Error 403 - Forbidden"

Perhaps the web pages don't have public "read" rights on those files.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Steve Eddins is back?! Wow!

BlunderProne said...

I have a link on my growing ACIS of Caissa list for Steve ( learns chess)

Grandpatzer said...

I tried the following just last week, and I'm very pleased with the results so far. Will blog on it sometime during Thanksgiving break:

I took my 800 most recent ICC blitz games and fed them into Rybka (using the CB interface, not Aquarium). I did a blundercheck but specified a 5-ply search depth instead of an amount of time to analyze, and I selected "training annotations" as well as numerical evaluations after each move. I also specified that a blunder had to be worth at least 3 pawns (300 points). It didn't take too long for Rybka to tear through those games. I then declared the database as a training database, with randomizing of positions. I also deleted any game that didn't get a black "blunder" medal.

Double-clicking on the database loads a random game. If there's a training annotation, I immediately get the window asking to make a move.

Some editing is still required. For example, if a resignation occured immediately after the resignation, you have to add a move and make your own annotation. Some of the games have worthy blunders, but the computer didn't select them as problems so I manually entered them. Sometimes there's a move that's almost as good as the computer's best move that I need to add as an alternative, or partial-credit solution. Finally, sometimes one side is overwhelmingly winning but Rybka makes questions based on the quickest path to mate, which can be annoying.

Nonetheless, I'm already finding the results useful for training, and the computer has found some very cute tactics. One advantage with this set is that it covers the range of difficulty from hanging pieces to "How To See Three Moves Ahead" and simple counting problems.

Steve Eddins said...

Sorry about the broken link.

I really appreciate the tips on creating training positions in ChessBase. I just started a new training database for myself.

Here's a tip to quickly delete all the moves in a game except the training the move. With the training move selected, press "]" (delete remaining moves) followed by "[" (delete previous moves).

Steve Wollkind said...

Most of my training positions, I suspect, will be ones not where I missed a particularly good continuation, but where I made a particularly egregious blunder. For those sorts of positions, would you recommend a similar approach, or do you think this only works for positions where there is a good move you want to be able to find next time...