Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Part 2 on AoW: Chapter 2 Waging War

"He who wishes to fight must first count the cost”
Since chess costs money to play competitively in rated events,  I thought I’d attempt this chapter line by line and make sense in the chess sense.

1. In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots, as many heavy chariots, and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front, including entertainment of guests, small items such as glue and paint, and sums spent on chariots and armor, will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day. Such is the cost of raising an army of 100,000 men.
IN Chess,  costs add up. In the US, there are national dues ( USCF  annual membership), Local dues ( State affiliate dues)  entry fee of the event.  Says this is your first event of the year and all membership fees are due and you are going to local weekend warrior and not spending any nights in a hotel, this could run  at least $100, just to get you through the door.  If you are spending the night at the hotel and use the “chess rate” that the organizer lobbied for, you can expect to add at least $90/night. Depending on how well you can do meal planning and such, hoping for a continental breakfast as part of the plan, you can easily rack up at least $30 or more a day in food/beverage costs.  Let’s not forget travel costs of merely driving to  place that might consume ½ a tank of gas.

So in this scenario, a weekend event, in an adjacent state where you stay at the hotel for two nights, for a chance at a moderate prize fund of about $500  you can expect to spend about $375 to get you to that first event.  If you are like me, I have to negotiate with my wife why I want to spend $375 on a self-indulgent weekend of sitting in a closed room with a bunch of other likeminded chess nuts.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.
If all your games go to the time limit, and you only have ½ hour to recoup between rounds, you might be better off requesting a bye for the evening round. Otherwise it may impact your next campaign in round 3 on a Saturday evening.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.
I read this and say to myself, Know when to quite. If after 3 rounds you are still losing in a 5 round event. Cut your loses and regroup and recoup.  How many times have I rolled in on Sunday morning round thinking, “This time will be different.” This is tough for me, as I have a hard time letting go and have crashed and burned on several occasions whether it’s the World Open or the Mass Open.  Been there done that, You’d think I’d know better.  Let’s see if I can follow this ancient advice.

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.
I read this and think, “How prepared am I for this tournament?”  I can go in unprepared and wonder why I am not playing to my expected skills. On the other hand, if I am coming back from a long hiatus, with some preparation, knowing my main goal is for OTB experience, then this is worth the campaign.  

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.8. The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice.
My experience says this about these quote: If I want to remain married, I must find a balance of attending tournaments and spending time with family and doing what the wife would like. In other words, as much as I would like to go to tournaments every weekend, I like being married too.  It’s all about balance.

9. Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy. Thus the army will have food enough for its needs.
I wonder if it would be appropriate to wager loser pays for dinner when you shake hands and start the game?  I tend to extend this to asking my opponent to go over the game so I can learn what he’s learned.  I figure if I am paying for a weekend of chess, I can also benefit as each opponent is a potential teacher offering different perspectives.

10. Poverty of the State exchequer causes an army to be maintained by contributions from a distance. Contributing to maintain an army at a distance causes the people to be impoverished.
When away at a tournament, it’s important to call home and stay connected to remind my loved ones I have not forgotten them. The impoverishment of my spouse is my lack of attention ( and the physical costs to attend).

11. On the other hand, the proximity of an army causes prices to go up; and high prices cause the people's substance to be drained away.12. When their substance is drained away, the peasantry will be afflicted by heavy exactions.13, 14. With this loss of substance and exhaustion of strength, the homes of the people will be stripped bare, and three-tenths of their income will be dissipated; while government expenses for broken chariots, worn-out horses, breast-plates and helmets, bows and arrows, spears and shields, protective mantles, draught-oxen and heavy wagons, will amount to four-tenths of its total revenue.
11 through 14 underscores the costs of attending tournaments far away.  I like  how costs are itemized in fractions for the people and the “government”.  It’s all relative to household income, where the event is located, how much start up costs to attend and if you can afford it even if you don’t stand a chance at the prize fund. You don’t go to Vegas thinking it’s a bank transaction. It’s “entertainment” and can you afford it?

15. Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own.16. Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.17. Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first. Our own flags should be substituted for those of the enemy, and the chariots mingled and used in conjunction with ours. The captured soldiers should be kindly treated and kept.18. This is called, using the conquered foe to augment one's own strength.19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.

The next few versus remind me of the motivations of attending a large tournament. For instance, the draw of the World open are those that offer attractive class prizes  that far outweigh the cost-benefit analysis of entering the event. Yes, the prize entry is more creating a higher risk, but you can stand a chance of breaking even if you finish with even a decent score.  You’d better get your game on and be well prepared.  But don’t lose sight of picking up rating points and merely gaining better OTB experience.  IF you lose, turn it around and make sure it’s a lesson and ask from your opponent the time to review at least parts of the game where they saw something you didn’t. You can still gain something, knowledge for the next battle.

20. Thus it may be known that the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people's fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril.

If you are like me and married find a balance in your desire to play in chess tournaments otherwise be prepared to deal with the perils of home life.  If you are not committed in a relationship and live for chess, let me know how that’s working for you. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Part 1: A self study in Sun TZu's Art of War and how it can relate to chess

An Introduction to a series

I have one of those Shambala Pocket Classic books I used to carry around at chess tournaments. I don’t know why I never really invested the time to read it thoroughly until now. I used to use it  to cover up my moves  on my score sheet and create an intimidating persona of “one who is ready for battle”.  A lot of good a fa├žade does when you still loose to an 8 year old with a more intimidating alligator pencil case.

I needed direction as I am in a sort of holding pattern with a busy schedule but looking to get myself back in the game and blogging again. I like putting ideas out in this forum because in the past, it’s always been a good resource for debates and varying POVs. I just hope I can sustain this and not lose momentum especially if others don’t contribute to the discussion.

There are 13 chapters. I will try to use these as guides for upcoming posts.  Today I will begin with the first one.

  1. Laying Plans/The Calculations 
  2. Waging War/The Challenge 
  3. Attack by Stratagem/The Plan of Attack 
  4. Tactical Dispositions/Positioning 
  5. Energy/Directing 
  6. Weak Points & Strong/Illusion and Reality 
  7. Maneuvering/Engaging The Force 
  8. Variation in Tactics/The Nine Variations 
  9. The Army on the March/Moving The Force 
  10. Terrain/Situational Positioning 
  11. The Nine Situations/Nine Terrains 
  12. The Attack by Fire/Fiery Attack 
  13. The Use of Spies/The Use of Intelligence 

Chapter 1: Laying plans/The Calculations: 

To elaborate more on the first chapter, it explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. Sun Tzu hypothesizes that by thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration.
In tournaments, the grave matter for the state is losing games and rating points. To the serious competitive chess player, this is a high priority.

The five fundamental factors:

(1) The Way (also called Moral Law) relates to getting commitment and buy in from the people in the state to wage war. I relate to this concept of the state being people in my life and also my mental ambition to want to do this. If my wife and family are uncomfortable with my attendance at a tournament, I will be at a deficit going into the battle as some of my energy will be out of concern of my state. Likewise, if internally, I am not up for it, all bets are off. I’ve had those weekends and can see in retrospect that this is a critical factor.

 (2 &3) The seasons relates to the weather conditions of the battle field. The terrain is related in this case as well.  (This is also referenced as Heaven and Earth in some text).  Since most tournaments are held indoors, I see this more as a condition of the venue. Are there wedding receptions in an adjacent ballroom? Is there a car show the same weekend? Does the room have a squeaky fan in the ceiling?  All are contributing factors that may distract me and my opponent. Going into this knowing what’s at hand, I can be better prepared. One more comment on terrain, “home turf” versus opponent’s board and pieces can also make a difference, especially if the black knights have glowing red eyes.

(4) “Leadership (or Commander) is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage and sternness.” –Sun Tzu ( translated).
Humaneness is a virtue once held high for a ruling monarch. Having compassion and love for the people meant holding steadfast even more under greater opposition. I think it also boils to the quality traits of the player. Being ruthless to the enemy but protective of your own pieces does seem to remind me of “safety checking” before committing to a move.  

(5) Management could also be understood as organization, discipline, chain of command or logistics.  I believe in a well regulated militia.  This could also mean how well you can fortify yourself at the venue ( supplies) and getting proper rest.

The seven elements that determine victory:

(2) Which of the two generals has most ability? ( Rating is one indicator)

(3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven  and Earth? ( Seasons, weather, terrain, conditions of the playing field)

(4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?  (Which player is more apt to follow their own training, preparation and regimen?)

(5) Which army is stronger? ( This could relate to rating but also endurance in a long weekend boiler maker tournament.

(6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? ( Having a coach is one thing, but how well are you able to put your studies to practice?)

(7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment? ( Playing at a consistent strength has been my downfall).

So there you have it, according to the first chapter, one can ascertain with almost certainty the outcome of a chess match after evaluating each player’s ability parsed through  the 5 fundamental factors and 7 elements.  Ratings alone, don’t always matter. The weaker opponent have be less distracted by the wedding receptions booming bass reverberating from the adjacent room while the stronger player may be going through a divorce.   You never know. 

From the list of the above 7 elements, my weakest are the first and the seventh, but I think they go together. My own experience, if my “governess” is not in favor of me and the rest of the troops going to war, I know I come in at a disadvantage. Consistency in my play ( number 7) is the other one that often brings defeat into my realm.

I’d like to hear from others on how they fair on self evaluation of the 5 fundamental factors and 7 elements.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Eidetic Imagery and Total Immersion in Chess

How I found this rabbit hole

One of the books I got from dear old dad was Fischer’s “My 60 Memorable games”.  I vaguely recalled a blurb somewhere that Fischer had trained by studying in depth old classic games and was trying to relate some early Najdorf Sicilian to a broader database with older games. Then I got frustrated because nothing seemed to correlate nor did I want to sift through reams of games by Fischer and search on branched mainlines of the time.  I also couldn’t find “the Blurb”. I have a life outside of chess , so I googled  “fischer chess training.” The only reference I could find to the old games study was when he first trained seriously with IGM William Lombardy and the phrase: Eidetic Imagery and Total Immersion came up.

Wait, What?

When I first encountered the phrase, I had NO CLUE what it meant. So I googled  that phrase and discovered it was related to a form of psychotherapy that relates to a true vision so vivid that the person can recall exact details and more.  Another description puts this in the category of  photographic memory. I am not doing it justice so read it for your self here.  It’s more than just a vivid memory, it sounds very similar to what native Americans would refer to  a vision quest where the answers unfold in front of the person unhindered by presuppositions or ones own preconceptions. It has to do with clarity and some sort of “ultra vision”.  William Lombardy at about the age of 17 dropped that hallucinatory thought on a fertile prepubescent Fischer ( age 11)back in 1954 before retiring from competitive chess in 1962 to pursue a career as a Roman Catholic Priest. You may want to reread that last sentence.  He wanted to teach the young Bobby how he was able to have a meteoric rise to competitive chess.

What does this mean for Chess Training?

Training a student for meteoric rise sounds suspiciously like “rapid improvement” techniques.  For all you Royal Knight Errant fans, you might recall the Michael De La Maza’s (MDLM) Rapid Chess Improvement in Chess plan?  This was a kind of force feeding method of increasing imagery to the memory in hopes to make your brain light up when a tactic is available through pattern recognition. ( Been there done the 7 circles of hell…so I can speak from experience here) This process may work varying degrees of success to a student depending on their learning style. One may be visual learner and gain some ground but if you don’t have a photographic memory the results are somewhat static and not long lasting .  When experts ( not me) talk about Eidetic Memory, they speak about it falling between the memory image and after image in one’s mind. For those with photographic memories, the after image is just as vivid as the first. The problem with MDLM’s method is it force feeds the memory imagery. If your learning style is auditory it makes it more difficult. Bottom line is that there is no silver bullet.

Can someone develop a better capacity for “After Image” in their memory?

Let’s face it, calculation holds the key to many advanced chess skills and this means the ability to “see” the board in one’s mind. Here is  nice article on learning how to improve one’s blindfold chess skills. I like because it  further elaborates on how different masters have approached or viewed the inner chessboard making me want to pick up YET ANOTHER chess book by George Koltanowski called, In The Dark. In the past, I played games against a computer on a lower setting to practice blindfold. I would start on the lowest level and play until I could win consistently before going to the next level.

DeGroot, who wrote a psychological study about Masters versus amateurs called Thought and Choice in Chess, noticed that masters do have a better ability to recall patterns in order of magnitude greater than the amateur. He goes on to mention the concept of “chunking” parts of the board visually and recognizing lines of forces from the pieces as favorable traits for the Master. He had also done tests on positional recognition by showing positions from real games for a few seconds and having the subject reconstruct the position from memory. Masters obviously scored better again. But when shown random positions, there was no significant difference between the ability to recall random positions from Masters and amateurs. There must be something “meaningful” behind the image we are committing to memory. Does this mean, Masters find more “meaning” in their games? As an amateur, as much as I love the game, I still am struggling to comprehend all the positions, and fear of being put into an unknown position dampens my ability to find true meaning.

Back to the entrance of the rabbit hole

Lombardy also mentions spending hours with Fischer going over “quality” games. The key operative is getting the right set of games to go over.  I would also add having the right coach early on that can help guide you to a stronger sense of meaning in the positions and nuances of the games is part of the “immersion technique” Lombardy mentions. I also think going over whole games to the point where you can commit them to memory is good. If you can then recall these after-images of strategic components or tactical elements during your own games then I can see how this might rapidly improve your playing strength rather than just making you good in one area of the game like tactics. For the amateur like me, its learning to set aside all the other elements outside the game ( mortgage, job, life) and being at ease when I reach an unknown position over the board. I wish I could afford ( time and money) for a coach but in the meantime, I search for meaning in some games I study.

See you across the board.


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Dare I blunder some more?

For the past couple of years, my priorities in life had shifted pushing chess to the bottom shelf behind the therapeutic guitar. One thing I’ve learned is that given time, things do change and shift.  Things tend to level off, a new harmony restored in a once chaotic shift of life events. As long as I am patient, my passions can return.

Nostalgia’s past.

Chess has been calling my name. I’m “inheriting” all of my father’s chess items as my folks are downsizing  and culling possessions. The sets I learned on, the books I dog-eared, the table I admired that my father created, are all now in my office. The familiar feel of the pieces come back like an old song I would always play. Nostalgia reaches deep into my heart of a time I unwrapped a hand carved set of red and ivory, too fragile for play yet reminiscent of a time of the romantic age of this great game.

As I put the broken pieces back together of a long almost forgotten memory, it parallels the journey I’ve been on over the past couple years. Revisiting my chess origins provided a cathartic convalescence on my difficult journey through a turbulent period. Chess taught me that even though I may be behind in material, given the right initiative, ingenuity, and spirit, I can overcome many circumstances.  I’ve never turned my back on this game as I never turn my back on life.

Life through simulations

Tactics marks the slow rise back out of the depths of a long hiatus. Daily puzzles reminds of my core strength of problem solving.  I’m not rushing things or feeling the frantic pace of a once Errant Knight. Rather, I am absorbing through a new set of eyes these patterns once committed to an errant rote memory.  Each problem is a story worth learning. All stories have main characters, protagonists and supportive players that augment the lead’s style.

Perhaps now is the time to revisit my repertoire and make revisions. Exploring new ways seems apropos to my greater life. Like a new song to learn, I need to make it in my own voice so I can carry more meaning with it. There is no rush. Time is not running out.  The litmus is on my computer, the true tests will follow at club. Chess is nice like that.

Setting a lower threshold             

I am still working through the logistics of life and how to fit chess back into it. Chess can be a demanding mistress for me as I get caught up in the competition. What do I really want to achieve in the game? Chasing ratings creates a big demand. Can I just play chess for the enjoyment? That would be a practical goal. 
My local friends may see me come back to a club in the near future. For now I am slowly building up to that.  I am going through a culling process of my own.  I may start by selling some of my books on my return to the club as way to sustain my dues to play in the arena.

The magical chess history tour is looking more like a reality to come back to this blog. I enjoyed those journeys. Right now, this fits more into my chess goals.

See you soon.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Looking for a little Geeky help.

Yes, my chess set is still on a shelf. I am in the process of revamping my online presence from a professional stance as I am looking for greener pastures in the job market.  What this means is that I am networking through the professional mediums.  One method I am trying to improve my professional online presence is though a technical blog.

I looked at how I had success with Blunderprone ( and I still wish to wear that hat in the future). It really helped me improve my chess skills. I saw an increase in my rating as I used this social media to track my training and collect insights.  I decided to attempt to apply the same blogging intensity now to my professional life. 

Where I need your help is just to visit my deep dive of a geek fest from an electrical engineering perspective and comment if you will, or “Like” or “Follow” this even if you are not the least bit interested. I need to ramp up the online presence.

The name of the site was chosen partly because I wanted to leverage a little from the “Blunder” association but merge that with a positive solution space … yes I call it Blundersolved, with a tag line “ Putting the double E in Geek”

Sunday, April 07, 2013

While my chess board gently weeps….

For my fans of Blunderprone desperate for my return to blogging, I’m afraid you will have to wait a bit more for regular  in depth imaginative, chess study  entries with a bend towards chess history and  “old dogs, new tricks” improvement techniques.  I’ve been working on my other cerebral hemisphere lately.

I had a bit of a personal storm hit on the home front and had to put my  chess endeavors on the shelf. For how long? It is still undetermined. I’m not ready to add that layer of stress and complexity into my new routines. (Not quite yet... but not too far away either.)

I’m focused on some non-chess related improvement as a means to fill a hole in my soul. Music is one avenue I’ve been channeling some growth as well as other intense personal learning and discovery.

 What brings me here today is the fact that MY BLOG has taken a life of it’s own. In my absence, a couple of outside interests has asked for my participation based on content they found on my blog.

The first came from a  book author, Stuart Smith , who wrote  Kings of the Street  It’s a gritty crime novel, fast paced and even has a good plot twist. More importantly, it even has a chess theme. He approached me about the main character a while back. The character relaxes after a tough day with a drink of whiskey while  going over a classic game of chess. He asked for advice on who would be a good historical chess figure. I suggested none other than the whiskey drinking  Blackburn famed for his come from behind wins at the tail end of the 19th century. Sure enough, he includes a chapter where he reviews a chess game I recommended.  He also has a chapter where the main character reviews a game of Nimzovich versus Tarrasch and gets into the nuanced personalities of the players and how it mirrors a modern day struggle the main character is having.  I have to admit that I  was partial to the chess related  chapters but the book was fast paced and exciting.  I got a free e-copy on my kindle app  for my input and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Then, I get an email from a guy putting a website together on memory  improvement techniques.  He wanted me to review the website and “feel free to comment” on my blog.  To be honest, its loosely “scientific” but more related to weblink generation. So I won’t point you to it unless you really want to check it out. In that case email me  and I’ll forward the link.  I found fellow bloggers like Linux Guy, Empirical Rabbit , and Temposchlucker   having  a much more thorough grasp and proof of the generalized concepts this guy was calling “published”.

Until we meet again,