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  1. Subscriber Pariah325
    Knife Wielder
    22 Oct '10 01:52
    About two months ago, here in the RHP forums I was given advice to keep a game log to help me with post-game analysis. Ever since, I have religiously kept logs of every one of my games I started since then, recording every move I make, jotting ideas, expected replies, expected lines, variations I would play depending on the reply, how I feel about the move, marking positions I'm just not sure of for analysis later after the game is over (I do use engines for post-game help). My rating has gone up, oh, 100 points or so over that span. I'm playing well, getting wins from players I normally would have lost to, turning around positions that were disadvantagious to me, etc. It has really helped, but I am still tweaking my note-taking.

    So, does anyone else on here keep a journal like this, and if so, what things have you found that are helpful? How do you use your journal to help develop and find weaknesses in your game? I'm just looking for some more ideas to make my little note-taking experiment more complete.

    Thanks
    P
  2. 22 Oct '10 09:21
    Originally posted by Pariah325
    About two months ago, here in the RHP forums I was given advice to keep a game log to help me with post-game analysis. Ever since, I have religiously kept logs of every one of my games I started since then, recording every move I make, jotting ideas, expected replies, expected lines, variations I would play depending on the reply, how I feel about the mov ...[text shortened]... ing for some more ideas to make my little note-taking experiment more complete.

    Thanks
    P
    i myself do not keep a move for move account, but when the position becomes complicated and unclear i do like to print it off and write down all the various aspects that i can notice. These tend to fall into positional, strategic, tactical and defensive considerations which again are usually subdivided and overlapping, for in many instances the positional considerations such as pawn structure lend its self to a strategy or a tactical manoeuvre. this has been a great help i think, for in CC play i have always found the best results are from forming a strategy, i loath aimless play, i cannot handle it in fact, it does my head in, making purposeless moves (blunders aside!). Writing down the reasons why i made such a move is really quite helpful in this regard, best of luck with your own games - regards robbie
  3. Standard member bill718
    Enigma
    22 Oct '10 10:38
    What you are doing is a very good idea, and will pay off with still more wins in the future if you continue on your present path. In addition to the journal, you may wish to start contacting a few strong players on RHP an submit your finished games for there opinions as well. Keep notes in your journal on what these strong players say about your games. You've set a good example for all of us to follow.
  4. 24 Oct '10 21:20
    Originally posted by Pariah325
    About two months ago, here in the RHP forums I was given advice to keep a game log to help me with post-game analysis. Ever since, I have religiously kept logs of every one of my games I started since then, recording every move I make, jotting ideas, expected replies, expected lines, variations I would play depending on the reply, how I feel about the mov ...[text shortened]... ing for some more ideas to make my little note-taking experiment more complete.

    Thanks
    P
    I do.

    (1) Don't be afraid to revisit lines. Some individuals might assume that once they've hashed out a line, then they can relax and play it by rote from their notes. I find that by reconsidering the position each move (not from scratch, but playing once again through lines I've already decided on, before moving) I not infrequently see things that I missed before, either errors or superior opportunities.

    (2) Don't play too many games simultaneously. Too many games means that you are unable to play each one at your best. Too often during a slow spot it's tempting to start a new game and then before you know if you've reached a tactically complex position in a game that you'd like to devote all of your analysis time to, but are forced to consider other games, often burning yourself out and resulting in mistakes or missed opportunities.

    (3) I try to apply a thinking process each move. The first thing I want to do when my opponent moves is to examine all of his checks, captures, and threats. Ideally I should examine ALL of these systematically, but I don't always live up to that ideal. (This takes mental stamina, especially in tactically complex positions, and practicing this builds up that stamina so that one can take on more without becoming mentally exhausted.)

    Next, and integrating information from the first step into the second step, I look at my own checks, captures and threats. I make a list of candidate moves (those that look like they may be promising). I analyze each candidate move, as far as it takes to reach a quiet position. I compare candidate moves to see which are superior with regard to material AND positional considerations. I don't want to win a pawn if it means I'm going to have a bad game otherwise.

    When evaluating candidate moves, you need to once again examine your opponents checks, captures (and recaptures -- all of them not just the "obvious" one) and threats. To do otherwise is to play "hope chess" (play a move and hope your opponent can't trump it).

    When I find a good move I look for a better one.

    Finally, when I decide that one candidate move is the best of those I've considered, I play through it once again to make sure it really is good, especially if the position is tactically complex or I'm taking a risk.

    (3) Be sure to keep notes on alternative lines that you reject: why they are a bad idea for you. Also, though expecting your opponent to always play the best move, make notes on bad alternative lines you opponent might well take -- why they are bad and how to take advantage of them. Don't rely on memory.

    (4) Be willing to revise your notes in later notes. Keep your old notes, but modify them in later notes or in marginalia if you are doing this on paper.
  5. 24 Oct '10 23:34 / 1 edit
    P.S. The selection of candidate moves is where you whittle down the move choices to a manageable load, since you can't analyze every possible move and probably don't want to.

    The selection of candidate moves is an art that will develop as your tactical vision, strategic vision, and board vision (what pieces really do, how they can really move, and who really has the advantage, in a given position) develop with experience.

    Note that keeping a journal and using a thinking process concentrates and accelerates that experience, since on each move you are in essence solving a chess problem, and are often working out, not just one, but multiple lines of tactics. You're also evaluating positions more deeply than the typical wood-pusher.

    That said, candidate moves should focus on three basic types of moves:

    (1) Forcing moves, which require some particular reply from your opponent (or one of a small set of replies). This makes your opponent more predictable by restricting his options, and tends to give you the initiative by allowing you to move the game in a direction of your choosing, not his. It also makes analysis of candidate moves more fruitful, since non-forcing moves allow so many possible replies that in just a few ply the probability of any line you examine actually occurring is close to zero; and what is the point of spending a lot of time analyzing lines that will probably never occur?

    (2) Moves that restrict your opponent's degrees of freedom (i.e., which restrict the mobility of his pieces). Sometimes this is a type of forcing move also, if it sets him up for a future forcing move or channels his reply into lines more to your liking.

    (3) Moves that develop/activate your own pieces and/or insure king safety. Combinations involve multiple pieces, so development is important though not the be-all and end-all.

    How you should view your journal:

    Your journal should be a tool subservient to the development of an organized thinking process. Weak players tend to make one or more of the following errors:

    (1) Moving without considering your opponent's pre-existing checks, captures and threats. You shouldn't react purely defensively if you can respond to a threat with a better threat, but you do have to consider what your opponent can do after his move, and not just be wrapped up in your own plans, oblivious. Chess coach Dan Heisman calls this kind of blind playing "coin-flip chess".

    (2) Moving without considering how your opponent can respond to your own move (i.e., his checks, captures and threats). This sounds like the first mistake, but that involved a failure to evaluate threats after your opponent moved, whereas this involves a failure to evaluate threats after your own prospective move. Players who perform the first check but not the second are said to be playing "hope chess" because they simply hope their opponent doesn't have a devastating response to their move, instead of determining this through analysis.

    (3) Analyzing lines, finding nothing good, then playing some other move without analyzing it, because you are tired. Don't rush moves. Don't play moves just because your opponent is online. A three-day turnaround will, in most cases, give plenty of time to perform analysis, do something else, and come back fresh, until you are satisfied. Use the timebank if you have to. (This assumes that you aren't playing too many simultaneous games. Since only strong players analyze quickly, you may wish to play a single or very few games at a time.)

    Always make a move for a reason. Use your journal to list what you gain (and lose!) by every move. For example:

    "1.e4 This move puts a pawn in the center, frees my king's bishop along the f1-a6 diagonal, allowing me to break a pin at e2, aggressively post my bishop on c4 pointing toward f7, or make a pin on b5; it also facilitates quick castling; additionally, it frees my queen along the d1-h5 diagonal, so that it can recapture on f3 (from where it eyes both f7 and b7) or check on h5, depending on the circumstances (queen/bishop/knight attack if my opponent isn't careful?)."

    When your opponent moves, do the same thing for his move in your journal. Don't forget that his move may do more than one thing: the pawn move which obviously supports an adjacent, threatened pawn, may also allow free his bishop to make a withering pin on his next move, unless you act now to prevent it or develop a better threat to force him to meet you on your own terms.

    Analysis: This is where you consider each candidate move, how your opponent can respond, and how you will continue, for each of his possible responses. Don't stop analysis too early. You want to reach a point in the game where the position is quiet, not just one where you manage to win a piece or pawn, then stop, assuming without reason that he can't win it back, or better. If you don't have time or energy for all this, do what you can regarding forcing lines and wait to see which move your opponent actually responds with: that will close off some possibilities, making it easier to look for forcing lines further along. I also like to explore to consider how a game might develop -- the kind of positions it might lead to, for strategic purposes, especially early in the opening or during quiet moments in the game.

    One last thing: in a quiet position, strategy assumes greater importance; but during tactically active positions, analysis, not handwaving general principles is paramount. (Integrate strategy then, but don't use it in place of analysis when evaluating candidate moves.) Chess is concrete: consider tactical positions specifically.
  6. 25 Oct '10 19:03
    P.P.S. One additional thing I've found that improved my playing: don't use opening databases during games. The practice is really inconsistent with the one I've outlined of developing chess thinking skills. It's very confusing for anyone except an already strong player who understands the limitations and quirks of databases. In the past I found myself acting as the woodpusher for the databases instead of their being my tools -- I call it "chess by numbers". I get far more enjoyment from the game and am learning much more about it, now that I no longer use them.
  7. 25 Oct '10 19:12 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by Schach Attack
    P.P.S. One additional thing I've found that improved my playing: don't use opening databases during games. The practice is really inconsistent with the one I've outlined of developing chess thinking skills. It's very confusing for anyone except an already strong player who understands the limitations and quirks of databases. In the past I found mys enjoyment from the game and am learning much more about it, now that I no longer use them.
    i must agree with this point, indeed, i have even followed losing lines in databases hoping to find an improvement. what tends to happen is that we find ourselves in a position with no idea how of why we got there, and if it were a large forest, we could easily say in all honesty, i am lost. thought your above post was awesome

    there is a point worth mentioning with regard to the above in that that i really do think that we analyse to few moves and many possibilities go unnoticed because of it, moves that we would never have considered.
  8. 27 Oct '10 03:33 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by robbie carrobie
    i must agree with this point, indeed, i have even followed losing lines in databases hoping to find an improvement. what tends to happen is that we find ourselves in a position with no idea how of why we got there, and if it were a large forest, we could easily say in all honesty, i am lost. thought your above post was awesome

    there is a poi ...[text shortened]... es and many possibilities go unnoticed because of it, moves that we would never have considered.
    Thank you, glad you enjoyed it.

    Regarding your second point, there is a kind of paradigm shift which players must get through before beginning to reach their potential. When players start out they learn to avoid losing material -- very useful since leaving pieces and pawns en prise is a major flaw in the play of beginning players. But, that very discipline must in turn be overcome (in a limited, special way) since combinations are the soul of "strong" chess play, and every combination starts with a sacrifice -- which is of course a loss of material, initially.

    So, players who omit consideration of moves simply because they appear, on their face, to lose material, will have a more difficult time seeing combinations, whether their own or their opponent's. That's why it's a good practice, as part of an organized chess thinking process, to consider all checks, captures, and threats. Again, this is easier said than done -- it takes considerable mental stamina to do this, especially in tactically complex positions -- so it's more of an ideal to be worked toward than something one can attain immediately simply by resolving to do so. (It is for me, and I admit falling short of this ideal quite often.) Still, simply by recognizing the desirability of this AND working toward it, mental stamina is increased and one is gradually able to accomplish more complex and deeper (and more accurate!) analysis.
  9. 27 Oct '10 08:47
    Originally posted by Pariah325
    About two months ago, here in the RHP forums I was given advice to keep a game log to help me with post-game analysis. Ever since, I have religiously kept logs of every one of my games I started since then, recording every move I make, jotting ideas, expected replies, expected lines, variations I would play depending on the reply, how I feel about the mov ...[text shortened]... ing for some more ideas to make my little note-taking experiment more complete.

    Thanks
    P
    Motivational tools such as a journal is an awesome way to keep motivated. Making short term and long term goals in your journal will help you realize how far you have come. Short term being 1-2 weeks long term meaning anything past 2-4 weeks. Don't make too big of goals that they aren't achievable because you'll get disappointed and lose interest.