Road to 2000 Week 1

Recap of my week 1 on this journey!

Week 1 Complete!

The first week down! I had some extra time this week due to the holiday so I got to make a bit more progress than initially planned. I was able to get through at least 1 chapter in all my planned books, a good amount of game reviews, and playing time. I also made some more conscious efforts to attempt to apply the things I was learning through studying to my games. This came with varying success.

I will say my main challenge with the concepts I'm learning is to not get blinded hunting them. I noticed that in a few of my games and it cost me. For example, I'd get trapped into focusing on improving a poor knight and not pay attention to the opponent's tactics. Or I'd see a nice double attack and focus on it without considering potentially other better options. This is a bit expected as I learn new chess skills and themes, but I'm going to have to remember to keep them as another tool in my toolbox and not the only tool.

Study Recap

I noticed studying chess can be a bit challenging. My main example comes with How To Reassess Your Chess This week I was working on the Minor Pieces section, which is incredibly informative, but on the third section it was a bit tough to focus on going through all the variations. Even with my board set up, it felt a bit like a slog. However surprisingly I did the best on that section come test time, so go figure. I have always struggled a bit when it comes to reviewing full games, past say the initial teaching moment, which is something I need to improve on. I flagged one or two to revisit, as they were demonstrative of knight/bishop domination over their counterparts, I just was a bit out of steam.

So speaking of quizzes, let's see how I did!

Quiz SectionsCorrectTotalPercentage
SP Fork & Double425084%
SP Pin445088%
S&T POE Lvl 1121580%
S&T Candidate Lvl191369.2%
HTRYC Knights3837.5%
HTRYC Bishops4757.1%
HTRYC NvB81266.7%

The How To Reassess Your Chess quizzes are hard and definitely can be a bit frustrating. For all of these, I'm giving myself time limits now per puzzle. I went this route to limit myself from endless meandering in a position, to better represent the requirements when playing a game and frankly if I've gone through 4 or 5 candidate moves and don't know it, I'm missing something. I'm only scoring myself correct if I was confidently correct. Granted, that's a bit subjective, but essentially, I chose the correct move, saw the correct variation, any dangers in the position, and had correct reasoning.

The game recaps will highlight a bit of how I applied things I learned, but I discovered one big takeaway. I am poor at finding queen re-routing moves in tactical positions. (Additionally, I struggle at computing black from the white perspective, but that will be valuable to get better at computing opponent lines in-game.) To explain what I mean by queen re-routing, here are two examples.

Example 1

Example 2

Note these have different themes, the first is a pin and the second is a fork, but both for me highlighted my lack of ability when it comes to generating candidate moves.

In position 1, I didn't even consider Qh6. I think a bit of this might have been to not fully recognizing the king, but I don't recall ever having the idea of queen rerouting there in my head, so I don't think I even gave myself the chance to fail to recognize the pin. I also stared at this position for the longest in the pin chapter and ultimately got it wrong.

In position 2 I was focused on trying to get my Queen to c5, understanding the double attack idea, but missing there was another square that accomplishes the same goal, a5! I kept looking at Qd8+ but never saw the follow-up Qa5 after it.

Now I'll admit, these are easy tactics to be failing at my level, but it's good to uncover a common theme amongst some of my failures. I also suspect this happens to me a lot on the receiving end, where I miss queen rotations my opponent can make, and fall victim to simple tactics. So I have something else to focus on a bit and work towards as I improve my tactical knowledge.

Game Recap

Games went okay this week, I'm only counting my rated games (I had a fun beers blitz session with a friend of mine, but those were obviously for fun) I'll admit I played a bit of blitz in a bad mindset. I was tired after a tough day of dealing with things at work and wasn't focused. Then I let it get the best of me mentally and lost 3 straight games.

My Lonewolf game also was mixed, I, unfortunately, made a critical blunder, but then fought back a draw. However, I'm proud of my play leading into the blunder and not instantly throwing it away right after the blunder. I will say Survive and Thrive did pay off a bit there, even if I missed the blunder check at one point. I was very good before that performing blunder checks every move.

Rated FormatWinLossDraw

Worst Moves/Ideas

Move 1 38 .. f4?? - jackaardvark (1736) - dcuomo56 (1838) - 1/2-1/2

This is just going to haunt me. I wrote about it in my analysis in the study, but in short, this was a huge calculation error. A blunder this egregious should not be one I am making in a classical game. This highlights however some of my goals from Week 0. Patience, patience, patience. I looked at this move, thought it kicked the queen, and played it without blunder checking. I had been doing an excellent job in this game earlier calculating and blunder checking but stopped here. I stopped because I knew I was in a significantly winning position and just wanted the game to end. A close buddy of mine reminded me of the age-old quote "winning a won position is the hardest thing in chess". This just further stresses the value the survive and thrive will have on my game as I focus on adding blunder checks and better focusing on recognizing opponent's threats.

Best Moves/Ideas

Sequence 1 24 ... Qxg4 - jackaardvark (1736) - dcuomo56 (1838) - 1/2-1/2

I'm proud of this move, while although obvious, I recognized an interesting tactical motif and figured out this would be an advantage. My opponent had calculated out to the position at move 26 with I believe the idea of pinning my queen with Rg1. However, they missed the mate and this caused them to pause and have to take a significant think. This left me with a significant advantage going into this game's late middlegame and endgame. I'm mostly proud as I calculated this out and saw that this whole sequence was protected by a tactic, showing an improvement in my visualization and computation.

Best Game dcuomo56 (1844) - nadule9 (1845) 1-0

My best game this week was a strong win with white in the French Advance. I feel like I do pretty well against the French Advance (my win rate suggests it). I chose this game as my best because of the following:
* I took my time and used my opponent's time to do a lot of variation calculations.
* I focused on some of my positional learnings this week, silencing my opponent's minor pieces and focusing on improving my own. Not rushing to use my good pieces but making sure every piece gets involved.
* I had a very nice combination of tactical motifs that I was able to spot based on the positional advantages I generated in the early and midgame.
* I didn't blunder!

Other Interesting Notes

Here are two fun tactical positions, one that my opponent and I both missed and one I missed. My study spoils them a bit, but you can try to solve them without the study.

The other thing I wanted to highlight was a really interesting position I encountered that highlighted a lack of patience and understanding of minor piece imbalances. See the position below:

I blitzed out f4, to attack the knight, why I can't tell you other than I wanted to attack the knight, which is problem number 1. Problem number 2 is that just allows the knight into my territory. My opponent played a worse Ne4 as opposed to Nf3, but even then I swung an even game to -3!

Once their knight landed there I noticed I was in big trouble. Suddenly my rook had no open files, all of the back pawns were attacked, and while my bishop could control the dark squares it was never going to be able to coordinate with the rook. Meanwhile, their knight and rook could work together to lock down my king and pick off pawns. It was a slow grind to defeat.

Now while I want to blame this on patience, I went back and looked through this game and didn't even notice the blunder here. I kind of assumed my game was already lost. I missed the saving move Re3. See I instantly ruled this out in my game review, because my opponent was going to get my b and a pawns. However, if I did a bit of calculation, I would have seen I would have not only won those pawns back but created an open board. For example the line 28 Re3 Rxb2 29.h4 f4 30.gxf4 Nh3 31.Rxe6+ Kf7 32.Rxc6 Rxa2. This not only keeps material equal but creates a more open position where my black bishop and rook could coordinate. It would by no means be won for either side and it would be a battle of the separate pawns, vs blacks connected pawns and the minor pieces. It would have at least had some winning chances.

My point here is this highlights a flaw I found in my calculation that I'm sure others at my level share. I reject lines that might put me at a material disadvantage and don't do my diligence to see if some forcing moves can win it back. So my goal for next week is to not rule these lines out quickly in-game and in analysis.

Wrapping Up

Sorry, this was a bit long, but as I mentioned I had a bit of extra time last week. So let's talk about what's next on the docket for studying:

  • How To Reassess Your Chess Rooks
  • Susan Polgar Chess Tactics for Champions Deflections & Discoveries
  • Survive and Thrive Blunder Check Lvl 1
  • Review Incorrect & Challenging Puzzles from Week 1

I'm considering adding in some endgame work soon, but I think I'll finish off one of my tactics courses, or put it in on a rotation schedule.

If you made it this far I appreciate you! If you are a fellow adult improver feel free to reach out and share any recommendations you have for studying!