Saturday 25 August 2012

Improvement in chess - Part two, Do the right thing

All right, after we took decision to change things in our training and after we understood that we have to train all aspects of chess it is time to say something about real training.
I planed this serial of articles like something that will help you understand what actually needs to be trained in chess in order to improve but mostly from theoretical point of view.
All kinds of practical examples you could already found on this blog, and it will be published in the future, but not in this structural way as these theoretical articles (only if I fail to explain something strictly in theoretical way).

I shall start from my explanation what actually builds our strength in chess.
Two main things are our knowledge and our process of thinking.
What is the knowledge is not so hard to define.

Everything that we knows about some aspects of chess, for example if we knows some variations in opening theory, how to play against some pawn structures, how to make a draw with a pawn down in some sorts of rook endgames and so on.
If we compare this with computers (not chess related) it is like a hard disk. We can store all kind of information on hard disk and these informations can be used when we need them.

The process of thinking is actually an algorithm which happens every time when we are thinking about our next move. It can be trained and methods of training are much more complicated than methods of improving our knowledge. If we again compare this with computers it is like our processor. It works with informations which are stored on hard disk (or just in RAM but this is not so important now).

It is very easy to imagine that we (neither the computers) can not operate without one of these two things.
Let´s imagine Player A who knows many openings variations, knows everything about QIP structures (and many more themes), somebody showed him 10 000 combinations (with solutions, he did not tried to solve them) and knows many bishop (for example) endgames, but he never played chess, just learned the rules and took all this knowledge. In theory, this could be enough for a decent level, but I am sure that Player A would play on the very low level.
If we now imagine player B who knows the rules of the game, and who trained how to calculate variations and that he trained this to perfection, how to compare things but he did not seen any opening theory, knows nothing about rook endgames (he can calculate) but he should be able to find by himself how to make a draw with rook vs. rook+pawn.
He would be the horrible player as well.
He just could not take right decision if it is right or wrong to enter such an endgame.
A conclusion is that we need both.

This extreme example which I took just illustrates importance of balance in our training.
For instructional purpose I shall talk about training in a middlegame.
If we play some position with hanging pawns and knows many rules about these positions, knows some classical games from Fischer-Spassky and Petrosian-Spassky matches but still fail to perform on the level which should be corresponding to our knowledge, than we have obvious problem with our process of thinking.

It can be the other way round that we can calculate very precisely and see very long variations but we just calculates almost everything and failed to evaluate correctly positions from last points of our calculation tree (or just can not compare them ) it can be a sign of lack of knowledge.

What should be done in that case is that we need to find a balance between our knowledge and our thinking process.
A player with the very big database of their knowledge (and luck of good process of thinking) can not improve if they learn new opening, change something in their repertoire or if they go trough many examples in some endgame book. They need to train their process of thinking, calculation, recognition of typical patterns (they don´t need new patterns, they need to learn how to use that they already knows), problem solving technique e.t.c.
What is the good thing to do?
I think that solving studies can be the real thing to do. Chess studies are in a way irrational positions and these players can not rely on their patterns which helps them guess right moves (like in combinations). They need to find ideas and to learn how to think out of the box.
Other thing to do is to train their calculation abilities. It is highly possible that they will not manage to find right exercises to do that.
In my training repertoire I have some positions in which one can train structure of tree of calculation. In these examples, there are no hard moves which needs combinational vision, they contain just usual moves which needs to be put in right order and correctly compared.

On the contrary, there are many players which can calculate very good and their structure of famous three of calculation is perfect, even their pattern recognition is very good, but they failed many times to find a combination.
What can be recommend to these players is that they need to train combinations on daily basis even if they can not solve it, it is very important to go trough many combinations and that "a database of patterns" in their brains grows constantly.

This training methods need to be done to the moment when we feels that our knowledge and process of thinking are balanced.
If these are already balanced a good way to do a training is solving of combinations, but a performance needs to be highlighted.
This is very common method for title players, because it helps to improve both, our knowledge and our thinking process.

If you are not IM/GM you are not advised to do the same kind of training which IM/GM does, but the same kind of training that they did when they were untitled players.

The special question is how hard these exercises have to be.
I think, that they have to be slightly above our level. If you are a player rated around 2400 Elo you can train combinations which are common to see for 2500 players, easy to see for 2600 players and hard to see for 2300 players.
I understand that this can be very challenging to do, because it is hard to find just these examples, but than, it is useful to read preface for every book and to see how easy/hard are examples in the book.
Very important thing is to do this in accordance to your actual rating, not your self estimated rating (which is usually not right), otherwise your training can be without effect.

In the next article I will write something about training of strategic play and endgame training.

To be continued....