Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving : A.C.I.S. Update

HI everyone. In America, today is holiday that is meant to remind us of all the things to be grateful for. I hope all of you enjoy this day as well as my readers outside the USA.

I am grateful for the energy the A.C.I.S. of Caissa movement is experiencing.

Loomis is chugging along a la MDLM, brushing off the CT-ART rust. He’s such a classic.

Bannat is trying real hard to break the USCF 1200 barrier. Wish this improver some luck.

Chess Tiger has an interesting game where he plays a Colle-Zuckertort against some 1…b5 line. He’s looking for some feedback. Get you annotation pens out.

Chunky rook has amazing animated chess graphics ( How does he do it) and bemoans an inglorious blunder.

Harvey is new to the quest and seems to be trying out my database suggestions as he files off some rough edges. Please, pay him a visit and welcome him.

Steve Eddins psoted his first training position created in Chess base ( using his Chess Imager utility to display the position on his blog)

Wahreit gets all philosophical. Let him know why imporoving is a quest for you. And then enjoy the Cake he serves up J

I’ve had a couple others on the close fringes of joining “the movement” asking about what plans and others just don’t want to advertise and that’s fine too.

As for me, I am gearing up for the Harry Nelson Pillsbury memorial. MY database already grew to 440 positions. I have gone through the first 60 positions every day with increasing results. I plan on having a daily hit list and a weekly mash with more problems and a once a month brain burner where I go through the whole set. I also took the advice from one of my readers to start using category names so people can find this under ACIS. I went back only as far as the Zurich series and created category tags for that series as well.

Hope the tryptophan is off set by coffee. Set up the pieces!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Part 3: Finding training patterns in your Repertoire

In part 1 I proclaimed my new training regimen which basically consists of creating a personalized set of positions from my own games, repertoire and study material.

In Part 2 I showed you how I used chess base to create my own training positions to have a set of tactical and positional puzzles themed from my own games.

In this entry I will show you how I develop a repertoire data base and how I use this to create study positions.

But first a brief update on the growing A.C.I.S of Caissa movement:

Following an action from the playbook of Loomis, I plan on keeping the ACIS of Caaissa updates limited to THIS blog and not on my mirrored site at the greater community at I like the smaller closer circle of friends here as it tends to promote a more supportive environment. The "how to" stuff will get forward to

Unlike the brutish Knight’s errant DLM movement of the mid ‘00’s, A.C.I.S. of Caissa is proving to be more accessible to the “common folk” as the final circles of the MDLM method was just unreachable if you work, have a family and want to practice good hygiene. If the truth be known, most of the knights errant had modified the MDLM method to smaller circles and approached it in a more realistic manner.

Loomis has joined in this universalistic approach and proclaims to be Baaaack.

Steve (learn’s chess) Eddins is firing up the blog to declare his mission and thoughts.

Chunky Rook has fired off a series of gif patterns worth checking out on his blog

Linuxguy reviews a game he played on FICS and shows appreciation to having studied Zurich 1953

And finally, Chess tiger was lulled into this quest with this line:

What pulled my attention is that one may choose his or her own study plan. So
one isn't pushed towards Rapid Chess Improvement of Michael De La Maza or How to Reassess Your Chess from Jeremy Silman or Novice Nook written by Dan Heisman orInternational Chess School (ICS) or Lev Albert's Chess Course or ... . This is a good thing because for all we know, all combined may bring a bigger outcome chess wise then following only one of these courses.

Building a repertoire database.

I use chess base for a lot of reasons. One of the things I’ve done was create a blunder-rep database with games centered around my openings I play. First, I pull in games that I have studied from the classic tournaments that are in any shape or form close to what I play in my chess games.

Hastings 1895, London 1924 and Zurich 1953 is not enough resources for what I am looking for. There are several ways to approach this. You can set up a position using chessbase and use the search online tool to pull games from their huge inventory. I find this tedious as I haven’t found a clean way to import the large volume of games as a result of this method. The best I was able to achieve was dumping them all into one huge game file or saving each one individually. I will use this method to find key players ( grandmasters) who play this variation but not as a means to build the volume I seek for the purpose of building a training database.

I wanted a quicker method to build the base up. I use google to search for PGN or CBH data bases of specific variations. There are several websites that fill this gap. will allow a search for the position and provide a collection of games to download as PGN. Chessopolis ( is another resource I use frequently and they actually have CBH files that can import directly to Chess base. There are plenty more if you search.

The trouble with “canned” data sets from some of these places is the quality of games are littered with amateur games. But my philosophy at this stage in my improvement path is that I can still learn from these amateurs.

Panning for gold.

Once you have a repertoire database built up, the next step is to use the search capability of chess base to find positions to study.

Finding Traps in the opening to avoid or inflict:

The first thing I do is to find the opening traps I want to avoid. I will set the search to find the games that end in 15 moves or less where the side I would most likely play loses.

I will create training positions described in my previous post for each of the unique wins. Some are duplicates and worth skipping over. What you get is a clear pattern of what not to play in certain lines. Optionally, you could run the engine on each of these to get some annotations and ideas what to play. I merely reference my books and make a quick note where to improve and what not to play. The opening tactical trap becomes the positional study that I solve for the aggressor. Then I look at the notes in the game centered around the failing position. This is where having an amateur database comes in handy as you will more likely have a lot of examples to chose from.

On the flip side, from the same repertoire base I will change the search to games where my side wins and repeat the process. The result will build up tactical positions found in the openings of my games that I can inflict if my opponent doesn’t play exactly in this line. Positional themes start to come about from these and I get a better understanding of the opening.

Finding Mating themes:

Another search I will conduct in the bluder-rep is to find those games that have ended definitively with a check mate. To weed out the previous search I set the move order to a range greater than 15 to include the long games. I go through the same process of looking at wins for both sides to see the kind of attacks typical from both perspectives. I then create training positions from these making notes of the type of attack as a memory marker for the pattern.

For added measure I use the same filter but instead of definitive mates, I search for results being my side to win. This will include winning endgame positions to come about in my games with higher probability.

Middle game positions:

There’s no way around this but to review games against masters who play the same openings in your repertoire. I am building on this with my tournament games studies and include several positions from each of the highlighted games.

So far I have just over 100 positions as I build upon this. I think it’s a good start. I’d like to build this to at least 500 by Spring, but I don’t want to get stuck in the process before using it. 100 problems to start with will be a good litmus for the upcoming Pillsbury Memorial here at the end of the month.

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.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Adult Chess Improvement Seekers ( ACIS)

I will be stepping out of the time machine between now and through the holidays. Partly because I am waiting for Christmas before I pick up my next tournament book ( Dear Santa, I want the Grandmaster Chess: The Book of the Louis D. Statham Lone Pine Masters-Plus Tournament 1975 for Christmas).

There is a large community of adult chess improvement seekers out there. You know who you are. I believe improvement is still out there for us old dogs as long as we are willing to put in the right effort. Coaching is a big benefit but if you are like me, sometimes, the financial resources aren’t there. Which books to buy, what method to choose and how to train vary with the individual ACIS.

In a recent post by Eric, aka Blue Devil Knight. The question of whether the ill famed cult of the knight errants DLM have died off. In brief, and for you new comers, a Knight Errant DLM is basically an improvement seeker who has attempted to follow ( loosely) the Rapid Chess Improvement method of Michael De La Maza by doing what I call the seven circles of hell. There was a blog community that had formed as a result and for the chess blog-osphere… this was a viral moment. Like a moth to a flame, I too, did the MDLM method and saw moderate results ( gaining roughly 300 USCF… warning results vary widely).

Most of us realized the original author was unemployed and could focus the time and effort to reach the 400 points in 400 days idea. The rest of us did modifications according to our real world experience. For instance, I chose a concentric circle method, doing each level of CT-ART 3.0 seven times before advancing to the next level. MDLM, suggests doing all 9 levels sequentially and repeating it 7 times decreasing the allotted time by one half ( roughly). Some felt a smaller set of circles was more beneficial and others used a different set of tactical problems… like How to beat your dad in chess.

The plus side of this method is that it is a brute force way to etch a bunch of tactical patterns in your noggin especially if you score poorly in tactics in the first place. The repetitious nature of the MDLM method is a good way to ultimately a good way to increase your base of pattern recognition into long term memory. In his landmark book, Thought and Choice in Chess. Adriaan de Groot determined the fundamental difference between Master and amateur was the ability to recall these patterns. A master is in order of magnitude greater than that of an amateur thus, underscoring the idea of finding a way to improve your base of patterns to recall. De Groot’s study was lot more complicated than that but I don’t want to digress from the plus side of having some kind of method to increase you ability to recall and play with confidence a certain number of positions.

Aside from the outrageous time commitment ( which can be dialed down to practical real-life terms), the down side to the MDLM method is that it’s like pheasant hunting with a canon. Once the circles are completed you may recall only a few of the patterns. This is because in practice, you only use a small subset of those patterns. The rest never or so rarely occur that they don’t make it into long term memory. Sustaining the 1000 tactical patterns in memory is not realistic with this method. You lose it if you don’t use it.

What should one do? I believe the answer requires picking the right problem set for the individual. The best results would be to study patterns and positions that occur in your regular games based on your opening repertoire. Notice how I also say patterns and positions and not necessarily tactics alone. I believe you have to include the whole game. Making the right choice in an opening, middle game and endgame requires an understanding of position and patterns.

I point back to Adriaan De Groot. He believed players went through four stages to determine the right move:

Stage one: “Orientation phase” requires the player to assess the situation and determine generally what to do next. Now, whether you use a method like Silman’s imbalances or Nimzovitche’s system … there is a requirement to recognize patterns here.

Stage two: “Exploration Phase” is the calculation phase and Kotov’s Think like a Grandmaster “tree of analysis” is a good example of this. Does pattern recognition help here? Sure it does. In order to evaluate a branch in your head, if you can recognize a winning position that can be reached it saves time OTB.

Stage three: “Investigation phase” is where the subject actually chooses a line to play as the “best move” and then Stage four is the “Proof phase” where the player confirms the choice being valid.

Here is what I plan on doing over the next couple months and will blog on my progress and efforts.

1) I will select a personal set of problems based on my recent games and put them into chess base using the training position tool and setting scores based on complexity. These will mostly come from my losses and even some wins.
2) I will create opening training positions where I have difficulties
3) I will use chess base to filter miniatures out of the database based on my specific repertoire. I will create additional problems to add from these.
4) I will select games from my previous historical games studies that pertain to my openings I encounter and find specific middle and endgame positions that are most beneficial to my repertoire.
5) As the data base grows, I will apply the circles training method ala MDLM.
This is a work in progress subject to modifications. My next post will be on the mechanics of setting up my own problems using chess base as I work on the first item.