Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Attempting Deliberate Practice

I was away over the holiday and became ill, this slowed down my enthusiasm to train for the upcoming tournament on the  weekend of January 10th and 11th.  Despite these life obstacles, I still managed to continue my quest of creating more Cornell Chess Notes to drill with.  Since that post, several readers had responded that there aren’t any “silver bullets” to training and how I must explore other means.  I appreciate the well wishes and passionate discussions. Please, rest assure, I am way to ADD to use only one training method.  In this post I will let you know what other deliberate training methods I used.

As for the Cornell Chess Notes:

I focused on my weakest opening structures as black to really “fill the pages”.  I knew the nuances of move orders in the Slav  have tripped me up in the past where I “think” I recognize a pattern which requires a certain piece positioned ( like Black’s QB) only to find out the move order calls for a different strategy.  I made several opening patterns around the first several move choices for the Slav so I could drill on White’s and Black’s plans. I chose about 5 complete games to walk down this trail.  The positions from the branches  all became “notes fodder”.  

I was studying endgame strategies and wanted to create drills to remember key concepts more than move orders. I have only a few key positions for rook and minor piece endgames with dynamics for each side that require understanding.  Writing the ideas seems to help underscore an important concept but, without any drills to refresh in the memory, I can see how this will escape through my sieve.

I wanted to create some positional strategy drills. I tried combining using the strategy lessons along with the Cornell Chess notes methods. This created several drills with the starting position of the lesson and 4 or 5 bullets of strategy from the lesson for single page summary.
It goes without saying that IF I DON’T DRILL myself of the positions regularly, I will not retain ANYTHING from these notes. Being sick as I was, I had a hard enough time sticking to a regular regimen.

Playing against an Engine:

To help with the opening and game retention, I would play my opening to practice against ANY chess engine I had available depending on if I was in an airport, on my tablet, phone or at my desktop. I managed to set up an opening line to practice. I used my notes as a guide at first and would continue to play against the computer until I could do favorably well through to move 10 or 12.

I’ve yet to do this with the endgame positions I studied. I think it would be a great way to drill and experience the consequences first hand when I make the wrong choice. Not sure I’ll have much time between now and the event but this will become a part of my regular training routine. Likewise, the strategy positions I created would be great exercises to review.

Using the Lessons:

I decided to use the interactive lessons on to augment the deliberate training  for positional strategies. My weakest part in the game is transitions in general. This can be transitions from opening to middle game or from middle to endgame. Thus my focus on positional strategy lessons over at 

The problem with these “canned” lessons is that they are never tailored to typical positions of the repertoire I tend to play. Some were relevant but others were not.  Yes, the advantage of getting a real coach for this type of training can be the value add… but I am cheap and I was sick and on vacation trying not to infest relatives.

I played over annotated games from my repertoire and created similar “strategy” notes for the drills. I found these just as effective as the stuff for strategic goals  and much more relevant to my games. 

Deliberate Practice with a Database.

One of the articles I mentioned in a previous post about studies with amateurs versus experts indicated that one of the common themes of the experts was their training with a database. Again, because of the travel, I had a multi-path approach to this. On my PC I have Chess Opening Wizzard and have built up a huge database on my repertoire. I couldn’t travel with this. So I imported PGN’s to various applications for my phone and tablet with marginal success.

One tool I found moderately helpful was Perfect Chess Trainer on my Android.  The opening database was limited but it contained enough of a games database that I still could get move statistics through to move 12 in most lines. It also allowed me to get through a line and “play against the computer” from that node.   

The games database allowed me to import PGNs of annotated games. This helps in my positional strategy studies as well.

Whether openings training or positional training, on hard stumps, my intent was to create handwritten notes  to help with the learning process.  I’ll be honest here, with all the travel, getting sick and distractions, this became more of a passive activity. At best I would create a separate PGN of a position and save it in the database to review later and mark up as Cornell Chess Notes.  

No Perfect system: 

I never said I had a perfect system. I love experimenting on myself to see what works.  As much as I like the Cornell chess notes for learning, I am having trouble disciplining myself to follow up with the drilling that is required.  This is where some folks were mentioning the benefits of the modern age and all, yes… I agree. The question I have to ask myself is whether it is better to risk a less qualitative approach to note taking ( making digital diagrams purely with  a database) with an improved chance of following through with drills versus the method I described in the previous post with a less convenient  implementation to drill.

With anything new, it’s always good to try it for 30 days as much as possible before throwing it out.  This would give the new method more of a chance of sinking in as a vice or habit. For the sake of the old “college try” I shall continue. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good luck bp... I'm actually playing in the Boston CC this weekend. I think same section, same schedule, same Bat channel. I'll introduce myself.