Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Just What Does Chess Do?

Current Status
RHP: 1326
Gameknot: 1258
Playchess: 1182
*note...my goal is reaching 1400 in each of these (and then tackle ICC) by June 28th.

I am not a great chess player...and yet right now I have done reasonably well in life in terms of a very satisfying job and wonderful personal life. Perhaps I'm merely deluded. Basically my questions boil down to four loosely interrelated inquiries. First, what possibly can chess teach me and more importantly --- my students? Next, if I reach my goal of ELO 1400 by July will I be, say, 200 points wiser in some other way? Are the attributes that are supposedly enhanced by chess measurable in some quantitative way? And finally, can the use of chess to hone the various alleged skills be justified in the classroom (and not just chess club)?

Clearly chess must enhance many qualities. Over 200 years ago Benjamin Franklin argued in his essay "The Morals of Chess" that chess has much to offer in terms of foresight, circumspection, caution, and an overall sense of dealing with adversaries and competition in real life. And even now, chess players such as Kasparov, Waitzkin, and others (see above) attempt to illuminate readers about notions of chess and its relation to topics ranging from making business decisions to meaningful life philosophies to learning in general. Empirically there do seem to be actual studies linking chess playing to a slew of abilities...but in almost each study there is some question in how they chose to quantify variables in both terms of reliability and validity.

I believe this is why I originally began this blog and where I would like to see it go in the future. Basically, what can chess do...both in the classroom and any insight it can offer me as both a teacher and a person. I would like to spend time looking at the current books out, the research, and hopefully insight from others (such as you). I have read "The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin (and loved it!) and am currently involved with Garry Kasparov's book "How Life Imitates Chess" (and enjoy it for reasons beyond what the title suggests) and have loads of ideas to put out into the blogsphere for anyone to munch on in the future. I will also continue to note any progress in my game and ultimately continue work on my chess club at school if anything for my own record.

I look forward to this ambitious journey!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Reawakening

Playchess: 1205
Gameknot: 1316
Red Hot Pawn: 1225*
--> I just restarted playing RHP after 6 months off.

I have not had the opportunity to blog for some time...as a matter of fact a new home and coaching duties with football really have kept me jumping (we did win the championship though...and the parallels to chess are astounding). I have made little progress on my dissertation...'nuff said. My chess is pretty neglected...I asked for PCT for X-mas but now the site doesn't work (!?!). I find it ironic that the debate between CT-Art and PCT is a minor topic right now in the blogsphere!

I have started the chess club at my school and we have 21 members so far. I spent some of my own money on chess sets (BTW...the football budget from the Booster Club and fundraising was $24,000!!) and a few clocks. It is very hard to get the school to purchase such items. Anyway...we will elect officers and gear up for our own fund raisers next year. Mostly though...we want to play and get new members! This week we will go over ideas for 'classical theory' and then perhaps begin looking at recording a few of our games the next week.

I am also looking into what it might take to begin/administer a website like Gameknot, uchess, or Red Hot Pawn for younger players -- one that is more protected and geared for middle school players. Mine will have teacher/sponsors that have been checked out and are responsible for the basic behavior of their students.

All in all, it has been great taking the time to travel around and read the chess blogs! As for me, the goals are the same...1400 by the time I'm 40 (next June) --at least in Playchess and Gameknot.

Monday, April 2, 2007

A Long Winter's Nap....

This has been a very busy time for me as work, school, and home seeking took much of my time. I played heavily on Gameknot and RHP. As a matter of fact I played the maximum number of games I was allowed most of the time. I now have mixed feelings about the sites in terms of chess improvement. Perhaps many people do well with this but I seem to have clearly lost any edge I gained over the last few months. My play on ICC and Playchess.com have been horrid!

Blitz (5/12 or longer):
ICC: 837
Playchess: 1099
Average: 968
My goal for April 1st was 1025. I am clearly well below my pace (although I was well above this a month ago).

I think much of this has to do with trying to keep track of so many games at once. When I have blundered it has almost always due to confusing games. To be honest, I've seen my opponents do the same things as well.

Currently my wife and I are in the process of selling our home in Naples, Florida (anyone want to buy a great 1-bedroom condo in paradise? click here) and working on acquiring a home here in Atlanta. This has taken a long time...and I hate to use chess in an analogous manner...but dealing with builders and lenders takes a lot of the same thinking in terms of strategy!

Nonetheless, I hope to devote more time to chess this month and especially ICC where I can quickly go back through my games when I'm finished.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

To Blitz or not to Blitz...

The topic of tactics has come up amongst many blogs and, after taking all the ideas in, I've changed my routine to reading a concept from Seirawan's Tactics book and then practicing the same tactic in the "303 Tricky Tactics" book. That is all I plan to do for now in terms of tactics as I'm still an emerging player...I need to play and play often. I do think that I could be ready for the "Chess Tactics for Beginners CD" someday soon. Is there a better way to invest my next $23???
Perhaps the best and worst that I've done the last few weeks is playing almost all of my games from the correspondence sites of: www.playtheimmortalgame.com (see my games here) as "edukator" and www.gameknot.com as "recess_bully" (see my games here ). I did this to slow down my games and perhaps lower my blunders (and perhaps it has done this) but it has also probably lowered my blitz ratings. I attribute some of this to the fact that I love to play the Scotch opening as white in blitz and I am certain that it confuses people at first (a definite plus in blitz) but it does little in the correspondence games. I also wonder, however, if the fact that I've played fewer chess games as a whole in correspence than in Blitz has something to do with my lower blitz ratings as well.
I have been playing with the French defense with black just out of interest as it really seems to change the type of game in ways I'm not sure I understand (more later)....
Blitz (mainly 5/12 Blitz) as "edukator":
ICC: 899
Playchess: 1163
Average: 1031
Disseration: Proposal to be worked on for President's Day :)
Addendum (correspondence chess):
Playtheimmortalgame (RedHotPawn): 1409
Gameknot (as recess_bully): 1301
I have collected a series of "checkmate-in-one" games and my students seem to enjoy them...I can see them pointing to the sheets and trying to find the checkmate before their buddies. This is promising...perhaps I should add "Checkmate-in-two" soon.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A Surprising Change of Pace...

I've found a wonderful way to tone down the blitz habit. I (re)discovered this site, which is really Red Hot Pawn in disguise, on many other blogs but didn't seem to make any connections until recently (click here for my games). It has allowed me to play six games at once but spend a good amount of time digging into the positions...and has greatly limited my blunders. The irony of it all was that I had joined it a few months ago but now vaguely recall thinking it was boring. I didn't do a thing with it until now. I've continued my solid play on the site and even improved my ratings on ICC and Playchess even though I've probably only engaged in 4 or 5 games on these sites over the last few days.

Ultimately it is wonderful having the time to attempt grasping the details of each game and also more time to read other chess blogs (from the incredibly advanced to clubs [esp. in England] to people like me [or were like me not to long ago]).

Blitz (5/12 and longer)
ICC rating : 948

Play Chess: 1165
Average: 1057
Dissertation: HELP!

Plans: Continue with "303 Tricky Tactics"
I am thinking of purchasing: "Chess Tactics for Beginners" CD on advice from BDK's Blog.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Reconciling Both Marriage and a Burgeoning Chess Habit.

Just a few observations on my part...but perhaps others could add to this?! (or is that "!?").

I don't want to have my wife feel like a "chess widow" and I've went to a few extremes to show her how I appreciate her patience. I have found a few promising practices:
  1. Show "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and promise to work with children on chess.
  2. Start a workout routine between internet chess games. I gained a few pounds that I can directly attribute to chess. Now I am beginning a regime emphasizing a different set of exercises after a game. So say, two sets of push-ups, then a game, a few sets of push-ups, then a game, etc.
  3. Similar to #2...solve chess problems (for circle training) while on treadmill. I even have enlarged and laminated around 100 problems (mainly mate-in-2) for this purpose. Could this mean I am running circles around my competition? How about calling the session "circuit and circle training"?
  4. Avoiding humor such as the last comments on #3.
  5. Attempt to play people from the Philippines and then brag about how good they are (actually those on chessbase are almost always at least 500 to 600 points better than myself). My wife is orignially from the Philippines.
  6. Time for her.

Any suggestions for a spouse?

Ratings Inflation: You too can improve 112 rating points in two weeks...I'll show you how.........

Tip for rapid improvement: It isn't quite as hard to gain 400 points in 400 days (if that is your goal) if you start in the low 900s.

Joking aside...certainly the biggest lesson I've found so far in this game is that of making sure to be alert and rested before I play. Caffine in moderation is a plus :) Since cutting the late night "doh" sessions ("dohhhh...why'd I do that?", "dohhhh...I never saw that coming!", "Dohhhh...I fell for that AGAIN!") , and playing when I'm alert, I've clearly made gains -- in a very big way. In many ways this has very little to do with actual chess skill though.

My goals have been to gain at a pace of ~25 points a month. I figured this based on the fact that I'm starting very low to begin with...I have "regression to the mean" on my side!! I'm sure this will not be so easy to do if/as I improve. My goal for January was to average (between ICC and Chessbase/playchess) 975, February 1000, March 1025... all of which would lead me to 1400 by the end of June 2008 (my 40th b-day). But I've been playing very well this week...very well. These are ratings from blitz games but I can only recall one game below 5/12 or 10 minutes (it was against one of the 'bots' on ICC). But...officially for January:

ICC Rating: 952
Chessbase: 1128
Average: 1040
Dissertation Progress: Desperately needed!

Basically I really did well...gaining over 110 points in two weeks. I know reality will set in sometime as if I had continued success at this rate I'd be at 1400 by the middle of March!! LOL. I'm sure there will be times when I regress but it has been fun to be on the winning side more often. Furthermore, I have played a lot of games and, as noted above, I will need to tone down and get more finished on my dissertation. Next week my plan is:
  • Continue playing (toned down) on ICC and Chessbase/playchess.
  • Continue working through "303 Tricky Chess Tactics"
  • Play challenging games with "Chess Genius" on my PDA and study moves w/ blundercheck.
  • Next Thursday (Feb.8) I have penciled in a trip to a chess club in Marietta.
  • Paying less attention to ratings...especially when seeking opponents!
  • Purchase a chess clock for my classroom (I use chess as a "center activity" and a 5 or 6-min blitz would work well in a class that often has 15 minute centers).
  • Optional: Begin replacing "Blitz" with "Standard" (based on numerous posts on other blogs...clearly seems like sage advice!)