Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How to play (more) chess?

Looking back over the season I see that between 5th October and my last game on 8th February I've played a grand total of 11 games. I might get perhaps another half a dozen games in before the end of the season at that rate. Although I'm having quite a good run this year (+6=4-1, thanks for asking) that doesn't seem like enough to get even vaguely competent at this game so I've been thinking of how I might play more.

I've come up with a few options...

  1. Stop offering early draws to make the games last longer
  2. Play Weekend Tournaments
  3. Play Quickplay Tournaments
  4. Join another club to play in Leagues other than Croydon/London/Surrey
  5. Try to get involved in County Chess again
  6. See if there's a 4NCL team I might be able to play for
  7. Play the Surrey Individual Tournament this summer
  8. Play Blitz chess on the Internet
  9. Play against my computer more often
  10. Start actually studying all those books I've collected over the years.
  11. Conduct a thorough analysis (perhaps computer assisted) of my games.

So what do people think would be (a) best for my chess and (b) most fun?

How many games a year is optimal for you and what's the format you most enjoy?


ejh said...

I strongly recommend 4NCL, so much so that I'm coming back to the UK to play the last weekend in May.

It's nearly always possible to find a team to play for - you can always email a few captains, whose details are on the website.

Also, there's absolutely zillions of leagues in suburban London even if you don't play weekend congreses. I can recommend some of those, too, if you want: as for the leagues, in my last season in England I was playing Croydon, Surrey, London, Kent and Middlesex. I played about ninety games in the season. Too many.

ejh said...

I don't recommend Blitz on the internet. Bad for your chess and not much fun.

Tom Chivers said...

12. As Martin suggested in the comments below, and as I suggested to Angus a while back - let's organise some 'chess club in a pub' nights! Whereby, we go to pubs with chessboards etc, and then blog about it later.

Paul said...

FWIW I'm going through the same process as you. Having embraced internet chess after a 25 year absence from chess, I can tell you that this has brought about no improvement at all and just winds me up! I reminded myself how I was able to make rapid progress as a teenager when the internet was still science fiction, merely by playing through annotated games. This is largely what I do now and progress is being made.

I find the Surrey League time limits very quick so County Chess and 4NCL have appeal for this reason.

Guildford ADC 5th team would have a berth for you (see 4ncl website for proof!), if you have a 137 grade.

I suspect a lot of the London area teams would be glad to hear from players willing to spend a weekend in West Bromwich playing chess!


Jonathan B said...

Many thanks for your replies.

Could the experienced 4NCLers tell me what happens about accommodation? Does it get block booked beforehand or are you expected to make your own arrangements?

Secondly, I've just noticed I forgot to include the possibilty of playing correspondence chess, either by email or the old fashioned postal system. The fact that I'd overlooked it probably says something about my own enthusiasm for it.

ejh said...

My team captain (possibly the same as Paul's) books the accommodation.

Correspondence chess - did you go to that lecture I gave a couple of years ago? I'm fairly sure that it doesn't improve your OTB chess at all. Maybe the opposite if anything. It can be a useful way of working on an opening, though.

But good, slow chess is best. Particularly when played in Spain in July of course.

Tom Chivers said...

I don't think there is one definite answer to the question: 'is internet blitz good or bad for over the board play?' Nor to the question 'is correspondence ...?'

Instead - there are potential risks and potential benefits in each.

For instance, if you handle internet blitz right, the benefits are: you sharpen your tactics and reflexes; you consolidate your strategic intuition, since a lot of games are thematic; you get a lot of quick practice at the openings that interest you. But the risks are: you might forget how to analyze deeply; you might get used to playing sloppily and impressionistically; you might get addicted to the highly competitive side of this style of play - where for instance after 1. e4 d6, 2. Bb5+ is a good move because it gains a few seconds on the clock.

Correspondence has a related set of plusses and minuses. On the plus side, you get to do real research on all stages of the game - favourite openings certainly and especially endgames - which are relatively rare OTB due to the fact a lot of games are decided by middle game blunders, or draws after one session to avoid resumption. This has the potential to seriously deepen your understanding of chess, especially if where you play has a good forum or community. On the minuses, correspondence can reduce OTB visualisation ability, since with correspondence you naturally move the pieces around (probably even worse if you use a computer programme to analyze in correspondence - which I don't.) It also makes the clock harder to handle, since you are not used to making pragmatic decisions, nor having anything but the luxury of natural mental limits to limit the scope of your analysis.

Having said that - it's easier to cite OTB players who undoubtedly benefitted from obsessively playing a lot of blitz (Fischer and Capablanca, for starters) than it is to cite those who benefitted from correspondence.

Tom Chivers said...

I spoke out too soon on support for blitz over correspondence.

In the February 2007 edition of "Chess Life" page 27:

"Play correspondence chess!" said Boris Spassky when asked on how to improve at the game.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with you about organising some 'chess club in a pub' nights, esp. now that we've lost the Priory Arms. In fact, let's just go to the Priory Arms, armed with sets and play downstairs instead of upstairs!

I already play in two leagues (Herts and LL), and I don't think it particularly makes much difference to the quality of my chess apart from (a) I get more games and (b) the move rates/ rules are different. I also play county chess on the occasional Saturday (now that I am just under 150 they are biting my hand off!).

I used to play more weekend tournaments (slowplay) than I do now, and they are more bloodthirsty as people are playing for money and draws don't cut it! The play tends to be sharper in these.

I've managed to play over 50 games for the last few seasons and the easist way to play more chess is to play weekend tournaments. Means giving up Sat & Sun though. Also depends if you want to play people face-to-face or over the web...