I want to thank Jason Oliphant ( at http://www.thegreatpatzer.blogspot.com/) for helping to chisel me out of some sticky amber with his question on whether there is still anyone out there keeping tabs on Adult chess improvement seekers (ACIS) or like the now defunct Knights errant. His email, blog post and the other pertinent bloggers that posted in response to this hot topic prompted me to write about what I feel is still a HOT issue for the adult chess community trying to break the chains of the “class” struggle.
When I asked my readers about the curiosity I have towards what contributes towards retention of skill, I was pleased with the debate that was generated both here and on chess.com. I liked the NM’s response of “just play don’t memorize” as it attempts to be Zen like but comes off more like a “field of dreams” approach to improving.
Let me talk about tactics after doing over 10,000.
The bottom line is that being a “successful” knight errant back in a day and completing the 7 circles of hell over and over and over again… is that I still score mediocre to just above abysmally. I can’t do speed solutions. AomoxomoA also seemed to hit a “wall” after over 4000 problems. Another NM over at Chess.com prompted this response:
“I'm puzzled when you say that you are missing tactics even going through 10,000 puzzles. I think it's time to revamp your tactical training...” NM Linlaoda (chess.com)
Buzzing through the MDLM CT-ART puzzles testing per level had me blindly hitting or missing patterns that would stick in my long term memory. The repetition was good to build the elemental and more obvious one or two movers. But the complex combinations were becoming best guesses. I found myself spending considerable amount of time doing more positional evaluation and not looking for “the seeds” as Heisman would say. In retrospect, I can see that part of the problem was what I did with the failed puzzle. I merely moved on… get to the next one.. VOLUMES …MUST DO VOLUMES... hoping it would come eventually. What I needed to do was STOP, understand what I just missed. Figure out why I didn’t see it. Create a memory marker ( more on this later…but basically it’s a label I understand), move on but retry at an interval later. That last part is critical as it’s part of a deliberate training.
I still like CT-ART despite it’s limitations and seeming a bit dated. As I am taking off rust, I am going through the “test” but using the setting that parses them according to motif. So I know I am solving “removal of defender” tactics of various levels. This is a subtle but deliberate shift. I think doing these according to motifs and stopping when I fail to understand what I missed and label it, might be the right tweak suggested my online friend.
A rally cry: Looking for Improvement Seekers
I am in the process of preparing a separate post on how I plan to revise my approach to chess improvement which is shaping up to include some research in Neuroscience, more memory mapping from working memory to motor memory and some new deliberate practice technique for this busy adult chess improvement seeker ( ACIS… I used to lead this topic in various circles post Knight’s Errant). I want to make a more efficient learning and retention process tailored specifically for my skill level, goals, ability and commitment. But don’t we all?
In that light, I want to open my blog as a rally point for those brave enough to put it out on the table and declare they, too, are willing to blog about the methods they are trying to employ in the search for chess skill improvement. Some are already on the path. I started to link them on at my blogspot home under “Improvement seekers” ( I need to cull the list a little). If you want to be part of the New Improvement Seekers ( NIS? New ImpS? We’ll decide later) send me a request in the comments and a link to your blog. Creating an online support community is how one breaks out of just “dabbling” to making a commitment. Once you have others supporting your efforts, contributing to a symposium of ideas on how adults CAN, HAVE and WILL improve in chess skills, a synergy will take place.
This is not a revival of the fool’s errand of the knights E which primarily focused on tactical improvement. I believe this is only a part of the equation. I want to have discussions and consensus on multiple areas we all seek to improve our game.
If you sign up, the only requirements are:
- You are over 21 with some road weariness about life
- You are actively looking into ways to improve at chess
- You can commit to a post at least once a month on your efforts
- You create a cross link on your blog as well
- Optional: if you have a plan that is really working, be willing to share it.
So who’s in?