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Old 07-15-2014, 05:24 AM   #1
goldaxe
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Mid-high level improvement thread

Hey guys and girls,

I've been stuck at 2250 for 3 years now . I used to think I would try and become a GM, but for now I'll set my long-term target as reaching IM, since progress has been more difficult than expected! I'm going into my final year of uni in September, so tournament practice will be limited, although I'm still hoping to do 6-10 hours of chess study a week. Anyway until September I have some time off, and after just having a mediocre tournament (lost 1 rating point ) I am quite motivated to put in some work.

Are there some others here with similar rating/ambitions? I will post my study materials and if there is interest some TRs and annotations, and anyone is welcome to join in! I have 2 FIDE rated tournaments planned before September, the Riga open and the European Club Cup (which I will be board 1 for a small club, so should get some really tough games there).
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:35 AM   #2
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Current study material:

Tactics training: I use chessity, I don't know if many are familiar with it.

Workbooks: Strategic Play and Calculation by Jacob Aagaard.
Calculation is a very difficult book, but I am almost finished it! There are 2 more published volumes in the series that I will move onto next, Attack+Defence and then Endgame Play. I like these, they are full of good exercises.

Games collections: I haven't done this recently, but I have Kramnik's book Life and Games that I will try to work through at some point. My former coach advised me to play through the game moves on my board, but trying to visualise any given variations in my head. I would like to get to the point where I can read everything straight from the book, but it's hard!

I will post any exercises I get wrong here, and maybe find some recurring weaknesses.
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:43 AM   #3
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

My strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths: My best phase of the game is the middlegame, I like activity over material.

Weaknesses: Calculation is probably about par for a 2250, but that is not really a good thing! I feel I can improve tons in this area, I am very imprecise and often cutting variations way too early or missing candidate moves.
I am very bad in simple positions, I don't really understand them. I am not sure how best to improve in this area, there aren't many books about the subject. Especially when my opponent is the one pressing but it should more or less be a draw, I have lost many positions of this kind in embarrassing fashion.
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:54 AM   #4
Rei Ayanami
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Dvoretsky has a section on simple positions ("semi-endgames") in School of Chess Excellence 3: Strategic Play -- it's about fifty pages worth of material. He uses an exercise-heavy format. A bunch of simple positions are strewn throughout his other books, afaik.

Quote:
Originally Posted by goldaxe View Post
I feel I can improve tons in this area, I am very imprecise and often cutting variations way too early or missing candidate moves.
This question was addressed to someone else, but it might be relevant here. But neither of us are as strong as you, so it might turn out to be irrelevant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rei Ayanami
Also, when you calculate variations do you mostly visualize the pieces moving around w/o any sort of inner monologue, or do you try to find the correct "idea" before searching for a move?

A couple of examples of what I mean by "ideas":

http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/sh...postcount=4244

(Format: cues -- "ideas" -- followed by the moves in one variation.)

"Getting the bishop safely onto the a2-g8 diagonal clearly would be great. We have to block the queen's influence on c4." 1. Rc5.

(After some deliberation w/r/t the captures on c5.) "Black needs to try to stop or neutralize the effect of Bxc4+ somehow, maybe by allowing his bishop to interpose the check." 1.-Qb6 and 1.-Qd6.

The rest was almost purely visual, since Black's responses were so forced.

The problem in the spoiler required a lot more verbal thinking.

It seems like getting better at narrowing down the search space with verbal thinking has helped me a lot -- especially with spotting defensive resources.
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Old 07-15-2014, 06:58 AM   #5
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Openings: I wish openings didn't exist, because I hate wasting study time memorising variations, but I think it becomes quite important when you are playing 2300+ players. I am mainly working on the Grunfeld as black at the moment, to replace a dodgy King's Indian. As white you can get away with not knowing your stuff so well, I play either 1.e4 or 1.c4. Against 1.e4 I used to play the Dragon but now I am very happy with 1.e4 e5, I have found it is is good against weaker players and stronger alike, and there are many options to mix it up.
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Old 07-15-2014, 07:48 AM   #6
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread



Tactics training

Spoiler:
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Old 07-15-2014, 08:03 AM   #7
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Hi Rei, welcome to the thread

I'll check out the Dvoretsky book, thanks. I have some of the other ones and he is in my top 3 authors. (along with Marin and Aagaard)

I definitely try to take in what is going on in the position, like weaknesses and stuff before starting to crunch variations. I think the problem is more one of lazyness, for example '*move**move**move*... and we will surely have something there' lol...
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Old 07-15-2014, 10:08 AM   #8
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Hi goldaxe, great thread. I read the first post and was about to ask what you're doing for training and what you feel are your strengths/weaknesses, but I see you already covered those nicely

I'm very interested in this thread because I'm in a similar, albeit weaker, situation. I went from 1700 to 2000 in about a year's time, but for the last 2 years have been stuck right around 2000. Plateaus aren't fun, I feel your pain.

Here's a question: what do you think is holding you back from improving? Sort of a tough question since chess improvement is a vague, difficult topic anyway. Often times the brain has to takes its time trying to understand new information, so even though you're putting the time/study in, your brain won't accept and assimilate it into your play for potentially a long time.
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Old 07-15-2014, 10:57 AM   #9
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

I've been hovering around 2300-2320ish for 10 years now. I think I understand a lot more about chess than I did back then but this is compensated by the lack of youthful fighting spirit Dreaming of making one more push at some point to get to 2400. Vacationing right now but I'll try to contribute here in the next weeks
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Old 07-15-2014, 11:19 AM   #10
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Not to derail the thread, but wlrs do you have any IM norms? I can't recall ever seeing you post one way or another. IM is within striking distance
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:14 PM   #11
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Nah, been annoyingly close a couple of times in recent years with TPRs in the 2440s
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Old 07-15-2014, 12:21 PM   #12
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by goldaxe View Post
Hey guys and girls,

I've been stuck at 2250 for 3 years now . I used to think I would try and become a GM, but for now I'll set my long-term target as reaching IM, since progress has been more difficult than expected! I'm going into my final year of uni in September, so tournament practice will be limited, although I'm still hoping to do 6-10 hours of chess study a week. Anyway until September I have some time off, and after just having a mediocre tournament (lost 1 rating point ) I am quite motivated to put in some work.

Are there some others here with similar rating/ambitions? I will post my study materials and if there is interest some TRs and annotations, and anyone is welcome to join in! I have 2 FIDE rated tournaments planned before September, the Riga open and the European Club Cup (which I will be board 1 for a small club, so should get some really tough games there).
Definitely interested in a thread like this.. Have always had real time staying motivated in chess and as you said openings are really important and is tilting just getting obliterated in the opening vs strong players in slow chess and sit there suffering for hours. Not just memorization but understanding the ideas and such that arise from the opening seems to be extremely important, makes like a lot easier. Im around 2400 USCF fide is pretty low in comparison. Been the same level forever, would like to try to make IM.. Was like 1960 USCF at 9 so in terms of crappy improvement over the years
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:10 PM   #13
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Frankly you sound like a lot of juniors who get to the mid 2200s - good at active play, "ok" at calculation, trouble in simple positions, not interested in studying openings. This pretty much works because at that level, the straight calculation skills are all you need to beat most people in the 2000 and under range.

If you seriously want to get to the next level, I think:

1) A real opening repetoire that you understand and fits your style is needed. Grunfeld is fine. 1.c4 or 1.e4 e5 don't really sound like good options to me.

2) Simple positions can be improved greatly by working backwards - take endgame positions that you can use as checkpoints and learn to play them perfectly. That allows you in simple positions to search for lines that lead to those checkpoints.

3) Tactics always.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:13 PM   #14
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

goldaxe, would you mind posting a "simple" position that gives you trouble so we have a clear idea of what you're describing?
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:19 PM   #15
goldaxe
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Hey Tex, I would say the biggest factor has been poker and then uni getting in the way! This has lead to training being haphazard and irregular, as well as having long stretches without playing tournaments. One thing I really need to start doing properly again is analysing my games in depth without the engine. I honestly can't remember the last time I did that.

By the way, I wasn't intending for this to be some sort of personal blog, so anyone is welcome to post their games or positions. It's more of a motivation thread

I'll try and post at least one position I found interesting every day.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:28 PM   #16
goldaxe
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Some positions I have lost in the last 3 years. I am whichever side is to move:







These are some of the worst, but I can easily find another dozen exmaples
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:36 PM   #17
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Here's a general question for the stronger players out there, maybe some of y'all have gone through something similar or have some insight. This might sound a bit too rambly, but bear with me...

Sort of relates to goldaxe's problem of not knowing how to play simple positions. I've realized one of the biggest problems with my game is not knowing what to do in positions where there is no clear course of action. I worked hard on the dynamic/active part of my game and feel much more comfortable where there is a clear weakness to attack, or the opponent has an exposed king, or something like that. But in positions where there is no clear plan or line of play, I feel like I always end up randomly shuffling pieces. Or worse, I get lost and waste tons of the clock calculating endless variations because both myself and the opponent have several possible moves and replies because the position is still undefined.

I realize that's probably very general, so here's a position to illustrate my point. This position comes from Capablanca-Milner-Barry, 1936 (full game link if anyone is interested to see how the game finished).



Here I really don't know exactly. b5/a5/a6 looks natural, maybe d4, perhaps there are more options?

My psyche is messed up right now haha
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:37 PM   #18
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Thanks for posting, those are troubling for me too, particularly #2 and #3. I feel like there are tons of reasonable moves for each side in those positions, and don't know how to proceed.

I'm curious to read the advice you get here.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:41 PM   #19
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by Punker View Post

2) Simple positions can be improved greatly by working backwards - take endgame positions that you can use as checkpoints and learn to play them perfectly. That allows you in simple positions to search for lines that lead to those checkpoints.
Hey Punker, thanks for the advice. However I'm not sold on this point. I actually know my 'book' endgames quite well...Dvoretsky's Endgame manual type stuff. The type of decisions I am getting wrong here are not calculation ones for the most part (although they do slip in when I have started making mistakes and actually come under pressure). I'm wondering if it may be partly psychological, I 'know' it should be a draw but my opponent is still playing, man, just give me a draw already
I think I'm also making some positional mistakes and not focusing enough to start off with.
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Old 07-15-2014, 01:56 PM   #20
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by TexAg06 View Post
I realize that's probably very general, so here's a position to illustrate my point. This position comes from Capablanca-Milner-Barry, 1936 (full game link if anyone is interested to see how the game finished).



Here I really don't know exactly. b5/a5/a6 looks natural, maybe d4, perhaps there are more options?

My psyche is messed up right now haha
This position is interesting. It looks like an english where indeed the normal plan would be to open up the queenside with b5. However here the specifics are very important. Black missing his light-squared bishop is the first thing I thought of when looking at this position, so our main plan is opening up the light squares. Secondly look at where Black's rooks are- normally Black is trying to organise a king-side counter, which is why playing on the queenside is logical, but here he is quite well prepared to deal with this. That is why trying to open up the centre and the kingside makes a lot of sense. Finally notice Capa cleverly uses tactics to fullfill his goals: 22.d4! when e4? is desirable but not possible due to 23.d5!
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Old 07-15-2014, 02:28 PM   #21
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Great instructive breakdown, thank you for the help. Apparently I need to get better at identifying and playing around imbalances.
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Old 07-15-2014, 03:02 PM   #22
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Interesting thread, I am in a similar position where I am not sure the most efficient path for me to take to improve.

About me: Didn't play my 1st game of chess until I was 21, am 32 now. I read 2 books when I started out but other than that I have never really studied, I don't even go over my games anymore.

I am ~2100. Last tournament I played was the U2200 of the National Open where I scored +4 -2 = 0 without any prep. One of my wins definitely should have been a draw but one of my losses should have been too.

I am really interested in putting in about 20+hr/wk until October and taking a shot in the Millionaire Chess U2200. There is a really good chance of a small field and an overlay in that section and if I can get into form in that amount of time maybe I'll have a chance.

I would say my strengths are in the endgame, transitioning into the endgame from the late middle game, and slow positional middle games.

My weaknesses are opening theory. Never studied it. I just try to get a playable position out of the opening and then play chess but this leaves me vulnerable to players who are really booked up.

Another weakness is deep calculation while a strength is instinct. I am more confident in sharp positions when there is less time on the clock. If my opponent and I are both in time trouble I can find good moves very quickly. When we have lots of time I struggle to consistently find the best move in critical sharp positions.

What is the best way for me to approach improvement? Any must reads for the 2100-2300?
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Old 07-15-2014, 04:14 PM   #23
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by goldaxe View Post
Some positions I have lost in the last 3 years. I am whichever side is to move:







These are some of the worst, but I can easily find another dozen exmaples
A lot of these positions look simple but at first glance I feel your opponent was slightly better and their was a good amount of play left in the position. After watching Magnus play out a lot of these top notch players in similar type positions while everyone is kibbing wtf is he doing this is a simple draw and grinding them down. Makes me think people underestimate the play left in the position. Carlsen vs Pomanerov when he won 4 pawns and took vs 4 pawns and took on same side comes to mind
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Old 07-15-2014, 04:19 PM   #24
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Opening play definitely becomes a lot more important at 2100+. You don't necessarily need to play main lines and know all the theory for 20 moves, but you do need to have a pretty solid foundation in the openings you are playing.

Also the mental side of the game becomes more important. You'll be forced to play longer games and face more difficult decisions - it's important to have the stamina and mental toughness to focus and find the right solution. I know this is the area that held me up - losing focus and becoming careless, failing to recover after making a mistake, trying to force a win too quickly rather than grinding it out, and so on.

How to plug these holes, I don't really know.
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Old 07-15-2014, 04:35 PM   #25
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Re: Mid-high level improvement thread

Quote:
Originally Posted by lkasigh View Post
Also the mental side of the game becomes more important. You'll be forced to play longer games and face more difficult decisions - it's important to have the stamina and mental toughness to focus and find the right solution. I know this is the area that held me up - losing focus and becoming careless, failing to recover after making a mistake, trying to force a win too quickly rather than grinding it out, and so on.

How to plug these holes, I don't really know.
It's like you're in my head, particularly the part about trying to win too quickly instead of grinding it out. I think it was Alex Yermolinsky, in his book "Road to Chess Improvement", that said that a chess position is hard thing to ruin, so dig in for defense. Conversely, it's tough to just force a win against someone unless they're significantly weaker.

Also really like your part about failing to recover after a mistake. One thing I've noticed in tournament play is that 2200+ players are really tough to beat. In my games, when I make a mistake, I'll fold like a cheap suit. But strong players are fantastic at making things difficult for the superior side; creating complications, digging in for defense, etc. It's certainly a skill worth perfecting, many half points can be saved this way. Plus, when playing over GM/IM games, I'm amazed at how much of a back and forth battle the game can be. I sometimes fall into a trap of thinking "well I made a mistake, this one is over" against a 2100 player, but that's not the case. GMs and IMs go back and forth all the time.

Thanks for not knowing how to fix this stuff haha
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