Monday, March 26, 2007

A Painful Eye Opener

«UPS! Undefended Piece Scan! You must do this automatically. You must know where the undefended pieces are at all times. Maybe you cannot win them, maybe your opponent has not blundered. But you can still use them, hit them, force them to move while your pieces go where they need to with a gain of time.»
Tim McGrew, ChessCafe 11/20/2004

I lost my last game. This is bad. I lost it against a 1450. This is worse. I lost it from a won position. This is even worse. And I lost it by missing a tactic. This really hurts.

I have spent a lot of thinking about my chess training approach since then. The conclusion is that my approach has been wrong, and that I have wasted too many hours with useless exercises. Namely at Chess Tactics Server. Today I did ten problems there and then stopped. Enough for this day and for many days to come.

My mood has improved markedly. I am really happy about this loss now. I have the feeling that it has saved me many hours that I can spend with more useful training. Say I lost 18 points with my last game and this saves me 180 hours, cautiously estimated. Then I pay 0.1 points for every hour saved, which is more than worth it.

The tactic I have missed is a knight sac that I rejected because it seemed to win only a pawn to be lost back some moves later. But there was also an unprotected rook that I could have taken. It was there, and I calculated moves without having spotted it at all. I just was not aware. I was blind. This must be the crucial point of my training from now on.

I name my new method UPS training, after the term by Tim McGrew quoted above. My next step is to go back to my earlier games, even those ten and more years ago. Play them again, at the computer screen and also on a real board. Do an Undefended Piece Scan (UPS) after every move. Memorize all UPs spotted. And now comes the hardest task: Go on with the next move, without doing any calculation!

This may seem strange, but it addresses one of my main weaknesses: I always begin my calculation too fast, before I have collected all relevant raw material. This leads to the typical errors such as in my last game.

Now, what is an undefended piece? There are three types:
  1. a loose piece or pawn
  2. a piece or pawn equally attacked and defended
  3. a piece or pawn with a guard that can be removed

A training method that makes use of own games rather than puzzles has more than one big advantage. Firstly, it confronts you with position types that occur in your real games all the time. Secondly, to follow a game move by move mimicks the situation of a real game. Thirdly, the positions are quiet most of the time, and every now and then a tactic emerges. This is far better than sitting before a puzzle that tells you that you must find the tactic to win.

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7 Comments:

At 7:31 AM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Fritz has a useful feature for building up UPS skills. Tools-->Training-->Attack training, and you have to click on all material that can be captured by either side in a given amount of time.

They have similar training for checks (click on all material that can deliver check) and undefended pieces (click on all undefended material).

I used to do it every day, and I think it helped some.

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Mousetrapper said...

Thanks for the hint, Blue. But as a Macian I am fritzless. So I have to do it the slow way. But this is no disadvantage because my goal is to improve in slow games.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Mousetrapper said...

One important question, Blue: How does Fritz classify a piece that is attacked once and defended once? In my opinion it is undefended. Does Fritz agree?

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Mouse: I'm not sure I haven't actually used that feature. My guess is that it only looks at pieces with zero defenders. I guess the GMs see undefended pieces (in this sense of the term) almost instantly, and this is meant to build up that vision.

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Dean said...

Nice tips, I'll try and incorporate the undefended piece scan into my games. And more importantly for me, I'll try and do an undefended piece scan on my own pieces :)

 
At 12:55 PM, Blogger transformation said...

bravo. bravo. BRAVO.

i agree. CTS is something, once you have done, twenty or thirty thousand (and i am serious and not joking, that is to say, ten thousand is not that many efforts there), then the daily activity is more to maintain this rythem or speed rather than to gain some great chess knowledge.

i am playing rapids more again, and CTS is my warm up. it is quite different to do a LOT of CTS and some chess, rather than some CTS and a lot of chess.

or a bit of CTS, a bit more LIVE chess, and then a bit more yet again of analysis or review of those: 20/35/45% or 2tactics, 3.5play, and 4.5analytic.

CTS is a good exercise to do daily, like a short run or pushups or situps, or meditation, but now to make a life of it. it teaches that you can find a GOOD move that will win, but to look for a better move and FAST. and how does it test it? by throwing in enough odd exemptions or exceptions to otherwise good moves, so that it exercises our rapid sight of the board, that is to say UPS scan!

nice post. thank you. warmly, dk

 
At 1:00 PM, Blogger transformation said...

bravo. bravo. BRAVO.

i agree. CTS is something, once you have done, twenty or thirty thousand (and i am serious and not joking, that is to say, ten thousand is not that much of an effort there), then the daily activity is more to maintain this rythem or speed rather than to gain some great chess knowledge.

i am playing rapids more again, and CTS is my warm up. it is quite different to do a LOT of CTS and some chess (which surely has diminishing returns as tempo, wormwood, me, and you all have found after GREAT effort), rather than some CTS and a lot of chess (which has increasing returns).

or a bit of CTS, a bit more LIVE chess, and then a bit more yet again of analysis or review of those: 20/35/45% or 2tactics, 3.5play, and 4.5analytic.

CTS is a good exercise to do daily, like a short run or push-ups or situps, or meditation, but not to make a life of it. it teaches that you can find a GOOD move that will win, but to look for a better more correct move and FAST.

and how does it test it? by throwing in enough odd exemptions or exceptions to otherwise good moves, so that it exercises our rapid sight of the board, that is to say UPS scan! we learn to do that fast, and see pins, hanging pieces or undefended squares, open lines, and access king safety.

nice post. thank you. warmly, dk

 

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