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wschmidt 78 ( +1 | -1 )
Novice Nook #49 Closing in on the big Five-Oh, this week's article is called "Every Good Chessplayer..." I've just had time to skim it but it looks like a good discussion of the traits that make up a strong player - not the talent aspect, but the things that one can consciously work on.

I do have a question about one of them, #13, Board Vision. I'm sure it can be improved over time, but, as someone who doesn't have much "chunk vision" I question if there's a big part of that that isn't talent related. I guess I could experiment by working up from small portions of the board to progressively larger portions to see if I can improve that particular skill. Any thoughts?

The link is:

-> www.chesscafe.com

Enjoy!
ionadowman 17 ( +1 | -1 )
It pretty much explains... ... why I have never been a very good chessplayer. Sort of useful, but not ... good. I'm not sure quite what Heisman means by "a good chessplayer" though...
sf115 3 ( +1 | -1 )
you're a good chess player
ionadowman 516 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks sf115 ... ... but the rating you see on my GK profile is largely due to quite a lot of enemy timeouts - strong players at that. In real life I never got past 1900 (though I came close: last I looked -about 20 years ago- I got to 1899, but I haven't played any serious chess since then) and the main reason was too few games. Possibly my most successful and active year ever was 1979 (2nd= in a Labour Weekend tournament in Auckland, 1st in the Second Tier Club Championship), but even that year I doubt I played as many as 50 long games (of which at most 30 would have been serious (i.e. tournament or similar) games.
And why so few games? For some reason after playing for about 4 months I wouldn't want to look at a chessboard again for about 8. So I would play maybe 4 months in any given year (1979-80 was the exception). And I certainly wasn't interested enough in the annual New Zealand Chess Congress just after Christmas! Usually it was a tournament that did for the enthusiasm, and it didn't seem to matter whether or not I was happy with my performance. So, it wasn't fun for long enough (no idea why). In fact, I fall short in almost all of Heisman's "most good chessplayers ..." criteria!
***
Just to round of this shamelessly egotistical posting, I thought I would append a game played just over 20 years ago: a club game. My opponent was one Russell Dive, now an IM. Three weeks or so after this game Russell won the South Island Champs ( I shared 6th-9th place with 5/8, seeded about 14th in a field of 30-35).
***
White: Russell Dive Black: Ion A. Dowman
Civic Club Tournament, Round 3; 5 August 1986
King's Indian Defence, Kramer System
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 g6 4.e4 Bg7 5.Nge2 0-0
Not having seen the kramer system before, I'm on my own. I have no idea what lies behind White's odd deployment of the knight.
6.Ng3 Nbd7 7.Be2 e5 8.d5 a5
-With a view to developing Nd7-c5 where this pawn will enable the knight to maintain its post.
9.h4 h6 10.Be3 Nc5
-White could consider Bxc5 here, but one suspects he would rather keep his bishop striking at h6.
11.Qd2 Kh7 12.h5 g5
-The alternative is 12...Ng8 though I can't say Black's position after 13.hxg6 fxg6 14.Bg5 Qe8 is especially joyful...
13.f3 Ne8 14.Qc2 a4? Loses a pawn for nothing.
15.Bxc5 dxc5 16.Nxa4 b6 17.Nc3 ...
-Losing a pawn in this way has been a recurring error in my games, but it does have an up-side: White spends a couple of tempi taking out the pawn...
17...Nd6 18.Nf5 Bxf5 This bishop's future doesn't look too bright compared with the -knight's...
19.exf5 Bf6 Absolutely no way did I want a pawn on f6!
20.g4 Re8 21.Bd3 Ra5 22.0-0
-The king looks better protected on the Q-side, but surely he's safe enough here? White, a pawn to the good, seems to have a distinct edge here.
22...e4!
-I really like this move, whatever its objective value. Passive defence won't do, so Black tries for counterplay.
23.Nxe4 Nxe4 24.Bxe4 (24.fxe4!?)
24...Qd6
-Suddenly Black has play on the dark squares in the centre and in the vicinity of the White King. There's probably nothing doing for the rooks on the e-file, but the a-file looks useful!
25.Kg2 Qf4 26.Rf2 b5
-Black would like to play 26...Be5, and it might even be best, but I didn't like the discovered check 27.f6+, forcing the king to the back rank. Forever after Black would have to worry about threats of a back rank mate. So we wait for better times.
In the meantime, let's see about those rooks...
27.cxb5 Rxb5 28.Rb1 Be5 29.Kf1 Qg3 30.Qe2 Reb8
31.b3 Qh3+ 32.Rg2 Bd4 33.Ke1 Ra5
-Black's attack has become quite fierce in the last few moves, and 33...c4 now would have added to the pressure.
34.Qf1? c4?
-Now it's not so good. Both sides overlooked 34...Bc3+ here: 35.Kd1 Rxa2 36.Rf2 Qxf1+ 37.Rxf1 Rb4 (threatening ...Rd4+) 38.Kc1 Bd2+ 39.Kd1
35.Rd2 Qh4+
-Ever since this game I regretted not trying ...Qg3+ During the game, I thought quick access to h1 was likely to be important, but possibly the h2-b8 diagonal was the more important.
36.Kd1 Be3 37.Rc2?! ...
-The move I feared and expected here was Re2, after which it is hard for Black to find play.
37...cxb3 38.axb3 Rb4 39.f6+?
-Ever since Move 28 this move has been hanging over Black's head. Glad not to have to worry about it any more. But it was ill-timed at that. Black's attack suddenly roars into life:
39...Rxe4!! 40.fxe4 Qxg4+ 41.Ke1 Qxe4
-with what looks like a useful masked battery against the White King. But this inaccuracy lets slip most of Black's new-found advantage. The intermezzo 41.Qh4+ Ke2 42.Qxe4 was the way to go.
42.Qc4! Bd4+ 43.Qe2 Qh4+ 44.Kd1 Rxd5
_Black's attack seems still to be going strong, though!
45.Qf3??
-At this point I had maybe 2 or 3 minutes left on the clock with that horrible "club night" time control that puts the kibosh on endgame play. Russell had managed his time much more adroitly. After 40 moves he had had 25 minutes left to my 6. I wonder if this was a try-on to exploit my lack of time? It took only a second or two to find the killer:
45...Bc3+!! 46.Ke2 Qh2+ 47.Qf2 Re5+
48.Kf1 Qh1+ 49.Qg1 Rf5+ 50.Rf2 Rxf2+
-Now I was down to my last minute...
51.Kxf2 Bd4+ 52.Ke2 Bxg1 53.Rd1 --
No. I didn't win the game. I didn't even draw. With seconds remaining, I quit recording here, but my flag fell several moves later when Russell had just his f- and h- pawns left. So:
1-0
But what the heck: this was probably my most fun loss ever...
Cheers,
Ion
wschmidt 95 ( +1 | -1 )
A fun game to play through, Ion, thanks for sharing it.

As to the substance of the article, I read it more as advice to novices regarding things they (we) can do to improve. Heisman, of course, has got to keep coming up with new ways to say the same basic things over and over again. Study tactics, review your games, read over master games, practice good time management, etc. You notice he didn't say "Almost every good chess player has a lot of natural chess talent". I presume that's the one aspect over which none of us has any control.

On of my particular issues has always been how to balance all those suggestions. I'm one of those Germanic types who are forever building up practice schedules of 1/2 hour a day for tactics, 1/2 hour for endgames, 20 minutes for this, do that in the morning, etc., and sooner or later, the whole edifice comes tumbling down. I've learned as I've gotten older that it works better when I keep it simple, but old habits are hard to change. ws

ionadowman 38 ( +1 | -1 )
Cheers, wschmidt! ... I make a point of reading all these "Novice Nook" articles as they come up on this forum (also making a point of not looking ahead before they come up!). They are useful and entertaining, though I do admit to some wistful feeling as I read them.

So they have good advice for me - an I were to start playing OTB again!
Cheers,
Ion

wschmidt 201 ( +1 | -1 )
Actually, Ion, I have just started playing OTB again and have been trying to apply some of Heisman's lessons. I've been taking quite a drubbing for the most part but I keep telling myself that little bit by little bit I'm gonna get off the plateau I'm on.

It was interesting to read your statement that " I have never been a very good chessplayer". When one is a 1700 player like myself, seeing a 2000 player write that the first inclination is to say "yeah, right!". But everything is relative, of course, and while I might be measuring myself against you, you're no doubt measuring yourself against players 300 points higher than you are.

I regularly have similar experiences as an amateur musician. Many people compliment my guitar playing and I'm grateful that it gives them pleasure, but I know how little I really know about the instrument and how much more there is to learn.

When I came back to chess after a hiatus of many years (and I was never really particularly good at it) I determined to start from the beginning, learning basic stuff that I had never methodically worked through before. Stuff I wish now I had really worked through as a child or young man. It's harder now because my memory is not as good as it once was, but one of the positives for me is that I do, in fact, enjoy methodical chess study. So I can patiently work through a book on endgame technique or review, over and over again, tactics puzzles until they are, finally, second nature. So, I score well on one of Heisman's traits anyway.

As I mentioned before, one of the areas I don't do well in is the "chunk viewing". I've always been envious of players who, during analysis sessions after a game, can run through alternate lines and then quickly set up the pieces five, ten or fifteen moves prior. Again, I don't know if that's a skill that can be learned, but I definitely don't have much natural talent for it. (And I think it is, in fact, reflective of chess talent generally.) ws
ionadowman 151 ( +1 | -1 )
I reckon it's a learned skill ... ... the ability to do this comes with chess experience, more than likely, though it is probably not one that is learned consciously.
(Experiments have been done with chess-players and non-chess-players attempting to memorise locations of chessmen on a board. Players tended to remember game positions far better than non players, but there was little difference in recall when the pieces had been distributed randomly about the board.)
My own memory in this respect isn't any too reliable: at least twice on GK I have set up my chessboard wrong and consequently played a blunder.

I can understand your response to my ... "modesty". But if I were to start playing OTB now, more than likely my own OTB rating would head south fairly rapidly!

On GK I've been lucky. Take a look at this recent game, board #6681078, for an example. 16...Be3? was due to forgetting to insert my planned 16...a6; and 46...Ba7? owing to mistranscribing White's previous move. I was busted, pretty much. Admittedly, after 58.c4?! I thought Black might have some chance to save the game, 59.Kb2?? Bd4+ and it's White fighting for the draw; and then White timed out! That was by no means the first time I've been gifted rating points... Mind you 46...Kf8 would have secured a safe draw...

Enjoy your comeback ws! Once you do get off the plateau you will find your rating making a sudden jump. Do you get much chance to play plenty of games?
Cheers,
Ion
wschmidt 98 ( +1 | -1 )
Ion, I haven't been playing in as many tournaments as I'd like. Family obligations, etc.... In fact, I never even pre-register for tournaments because things come up too often that would require me to forfeit my registration money. So I pay a little extra each time when I register the day of the tournament.

My last tournament was pretty much a disaster. A win against a lower rated player, a 6-hour draw where I had the initiative but never found the win, another long draw and finally, exhausted, a blundered loss to a much lower rater player. Interestingly though, my attitude was largely unaffected. Years ago, i would have been devestated, my ego crushed. Now, it was easy to shrug off. I analyzed the games, learned from them and will move on. A large part of that comes from playing on this site actually. I think internet correspondence chess has given me a little distance and objectivity. That and being older and and so much wiser. ws
ionadowman 3 ( +1 | -1 )
ws... ... I can relate to that!
Cheers,
Ion