Monday, February 18, 2008

Correspondence Games- 8 in one blow!

Wow. I just spent the last 2 hours cranking out variations for 8 correspondence games I'm playing (6 IECG games and 2 in a forum championship). After awhile, all the lines run together and I start thinking that I've emailed the same person two different moves, or even the wrong game to someone.

The forum Championship is in the 'Finals'. We had 6 groups of 5-7 people play round robin. The group winners, runners-up and two wildcards are playing single elim matches. This round its 2 games, the next two are 4 games and the finals is a six game match.

The forum isn't a chess forum, but there are some very good players there. The group stage was a mixed bag. One game in an unclear middlegame was awarded to me by abandonment, another with me a rook up was abandoned, one I swindled my opponent (down a piece and he missed a mate in one) and the last (actually the first finished) was a legit mate. I think I won the exchange and just forced my way in from there...I forget.

The two games I'm in now I expect to win, and one of them I can't wait to share. I missed a move and thought I was going to drop a piece, but it turned out I could switch the subsequent move order and have ended up with the Bishop pair, a Knight, a Rook and a bonus pawn versus two Rooks and a Bishop.

I'm trying to visualize as much as possible without just pushing the pieces and saving all the variations. I'm still missing stupid stuff, but I'm checking myself fairly well and have avoided disaster so far. One of the IECG games does have a position I can't wait to get a computer to look at- I think my opponent missed a line winning at least the exchange, maybe even a piece.

Hopefully, the occasional frenzy of responding to 8 games at once will pay off :P

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Babas/FICS tips and tricks for LEPers

Glenn and I had a little trouble getting out game started for round 1, mostly because my formula was set to restrict my opponents to between 100 points below my rating and 200 above. Babas has a great little feature to make it easy to turn my formula on and off without needing to recreate it over and over.

First off- how to create a formula in Babas:

Go to the View menu and choose Formula Wizard. It goes through several pages of options letting you narrow down what kinds of games your looking for. Personally, I like ~30 minute, rated games with players about my level and no guests, computers or abusers.

Once you have the formula created, the wizard will display it. Highlight it all and copy it to the Clipboard. Click Finish if you'd like to turn it on right now.

Now, pop over to the Quick Commands menu and choose Configure. Click the New Command button. Name it something clever, like Formula On, in the Name field. In the Script to Execute field, delete all the text, type "set formula" and then paste the formula from the wizard. Make sure there is only one space between the word "formula" and the next character, or there could be syntax problems.

Click OK and bam! You can now turn on your formula whenever you like!

To get full use of the ability to turn your formula on whenver you like, you need to create a Formula Off command. Create a new command, as above (do not go through the Formula Wizard this time). In the Script to Execute field, simply type "set formula" and save the command. Choosing this new command will turn off the formula whenever you like.

If you play a variety of games, like blitz or bughouse or whatever, you could create several formula commands specific to each type.

The main benefit to using formulas is that the Seek Graph and list in Babas will only display people looking for what you want, and it prevents random people from poking you for a one minute game with 17 second increment. My graph is often empty with the formula on, because not many people play 30 minute games, but I rarely wait more than 5 minutes when seeking for what I want.

When you use the Action->Seek command in Babas, you can save your preferred time limits, choose to use the formula and get exactly what you want, generally improving the online chess experience.

The second big question Glenn had was about examining the game.

There are several ways to start an Examine session on the server. If you're doing a post-mortem, you should each automatically be examining the game on your own. As long as the other person (or anyone you want to be able to move the pieces and make circles and arrows and stuff) is listed in the Observers tab (under the board), go to the Console window (press F2 if you can't find it- that'll bring it to the top) and enter "mexamine USER" where USER is that person's name.

Now they can move stuff around. I've never done this, so I have no idea exactly how the variations are added and saved or how it works (like a Pushmepullyou, I'm sure). Using the Edit->Examine menu, you can see commands duplicating the arrows most people have below the board, but also the Circle and Arrow tools. These do exactly what they say they do. Go to the Actions menu and choose Examine last game and play around with it. Nifty stuff.

To customize the appearance of the Circles and Arrows (as well as everything else board wise), go to File->Preferences. Choose Board, then Piece movement and scroll the Move Input box almost to the bottom and you can change the color of your Arrows and Circles. If you have an examined game with stuff on it, choose a color and hit Apply and you can see what it'll look like without having to go through the menus again.

Some of this info is in the Babas Help files, some in the Fics files and some by just fiddling around. I hope this saves others a little bit of time, and I'll add other cool stuff as I learn it myself.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

gorckat vs NoTB: LEPers 1, Round 1

Since LEP has plans to run/coordinate more tournaments, I'm calling this inagural event...LEPers 1! Damn, I'm clever.

Here's a few positions from my Round 1 game with Glenn (he has a viewer with the game as well as his thoughts over at his blog, Houston Chess):

I think b3 and then Bb2 to support the d-pawn long-term would have been better than Re1. Maybe I'd push the f-pawn later, or need to get the rook to d1? I think the rook move was premature.

Crafty likes h3 better than my d5. I pushed to avoid dropping the pawn and/or getting the kingside ripped open (which happened anyway after 12. ... Ne5)

Played Qa3 to save the b-pawn. I missed that after 19.Rb1, my Queen was covered by the g3 Bishop and thought 19. ... Bxf3+ won my Queen. I often miss long Bishop moves, but usually in a way that drops a piece, not defends my own. Anyone know good Bishop move drills to make those long moves pop more?

I didn't give b4 enough thought, but it's about a pawn better than my Na4, according to Crafty. The line would not have been much easier as Crafty gives (with my own !s) 22.b4 Bxf3+! 23.Kxf3 Qc6+ 24.Ne4 f5 25.Qe3 Bh6!! 26.Qe2 fxe4+ 27.Kg2 e3+ and then there's a few ways to go, either trying to squirrel away the King or blocking with f3:

Nasty stuff.

This was my last shot, hoping for a "cheap" Mate in 2, but Glenn found one of several ways out with g5.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What moves should I study?

Thinking about Sticky Chess, it just hit me: what moves would be best "taught" by repetition?

The Circles focus on combinations and winning moves. All the software and books that people use for repetitious study teach people how to win a won game, for the most part. The moves are forcing, with any deviation leading to less than the best result. The benefit is tangible- you will, most likely, not miss winning opportunities less often than before the course of study was begun.

But what about those moves that are sound, solid, "normal"- the moves that don't lose? I think this is what I've been reading on Tempo's blog, as well as in the writings of other people beyond Circles and hardcore tactics training.

In what I've read about chunking and GMs having familiarity with (iirc) ~100k positions, it seems the subconscious makes the normal moves, and only pings the conscious mind if something is there to be looked at deeper.

It's those moves that I think need their own training circles. I'm imagining a database of thousands of game fragments starting with "normal" positions and proceeding through a balanced move set where neither side wins or loses outright- no blunders. Watching the moves repetitively would instill the instinct that says it's time to move a knight back to the first rank and then across the board, to shore up a pawn, to open or close the center- whatever is called for. looks like I'm asking for the mythical easy way out of chess study, but knowing how hard it is to complete the Circles, I doubt it'd be easy. I could only watch chess moves for so long before wanting to play :P

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sticky Chess

I'm reading a book called Making Things Stick. Or maybe its Ideas That Stick. I forget. Its, shocker!, about ideas that are simple enough and profound enough that they, shocker again!, stick.

"A bird in hand is worth two in the bush" has parallels in like 50 different languages and cultures. The razor blades in apples parent's check for at Halloween never happened.

The ideas have similar traits that make them stick, and since my wife took the book back (its her's, really) I can't recall them concretely enough to make it sensible. I do recommend strongly that anyone interested in learning, teaching or in a position that needs to convey information to check out the book. (I'll get the right title tonight).

Reading it, I see so many lessons for a teacher to use when teaching someone chess. Concepts and methods.

Somewhere, yesterday, I heard, read or saw a report on scientists teaching toddlers words by showing them two pictures side by side and saying the name of one of the objects (like a picture of an apple and a pumpkin and saying apple). They think the kids' brains acted like computers processing the info and after a short while repeating the testes with a variety of images, the kids did something cool.

I can't recall if it was say the word when shown the picture, or pick the picture out of a larger set when the word was spoken.

My prowess at recalling variations over the board must be stunning you right now, huh?

Some people watch chess games movie style, and over time the positions get processed and they can use what they saw- chunking I often see it called. Perhaps there's a way to make a Baby Einstein-like DVD that teaches chess not by here's this and this is what it does, but the way Kasparov (iirc) says he learned it- watching and then just knowing.

If the game could be taught "indirectly" that way, then so could openings, endgames, tactics- the whole shebang. Maybe that's the mechanic behind the circles working, and maybe there's a better way.

UPDATE: Here's the authors website-