February 2020 Update

Published on 16 Feb 2020

It’s roughly a month that the Chess Atlas is online. I think it’s good to look back every now and then before moving forward. It’s hard to understand where you’re going if you have no idea where you come from anymore.

As I wrote in the previous blog post, I decided to focus most of my attention to endgame study and write about what I was learning. But, as always, plans change. A few things changed already, so I’ll start from what changed.

The first big change is that I just started to attend online lessons with an international master. While I plan to write a blog post in a couple of months about it (I want to have a few lessons before I share my experience in a structured way), I’m already sure I should have done this months ago. The reason may seem obvious, but it’s important to underline because humans don’t often do obvious things: you have to be in contact with players that are much stronger than you to improve. And I’m pretty sure an international master is always going to be stronger than me!

The second big change is directly connected to first one. The coach asked me not to play any blitz while I’m working with him. I’m sure you came across similar advice as an adult improver, but one thing is agreeing this is good advice and another one is following it. Not playing blitz is having a very interesting effect on me:

  • I play a lot less. Which I don’t like.
  • I remember most of my rapid games for days. Which I like a lot.

So, while I’m not sold on the idea of playing a lot less, playing rapid only is making me more thoughtful. I think more about Chess in general even when I’m not playing. It’s helping me envisioning a structured plan for my playing sessions. I’m not so sure about the details yet, but it’s going to be something along the lines of “one rapid game per day with post-mortem analysis”, “one classical game per week, again with analysis”, and “some blitz on Sunday morning”. I’m not good at being structured: life gets on the way for me and I lose focus. So I will see how this evolves in the coming two or three months and then I’ll write about my experience with time controls. The key point here is the after game analysis. I don’t think I’m any good at analyzing games yet but I can still find obvious things I can do better next time. It’s also nice to validate with an engine that a move you spent a few minutes on, it was indeed (or not!) the best move in the position. As analyzing your own game is a very important topic, I will also be writing about it in the coming months.

Let’s move on to my study plan, where things didn’t as much.

First of all, I’m indeed studying endgames which I find tiring so my sessions are always short but intense. I also always set up a board for these sessions. It’s time consuming but it helps my ability to visualize and retain what I learn. For my studies I’m using the best-seller 100 Endgames You Must Know. The book is very good, and I will definitely add it to the chess atlas reading list once I’m done with it. I plan to read at last one or maybe even two more books about endgames (suggestions are more than welcome!). Right now the plan is to read Silman’s complete endgame course but, as always, it’s just a plan and I may run into a book I find more interesting and change the plan.

What changed about my studying plans is that I’m doing more tactical work. Following the suggestion of my coach, I’m using Chess Tempo. While I can’t say I love the UI (even though they just updated it and it’s much better than the old one), I’m in love with the problems they present you. Chess Tempo’s puzzles are always interesting, and there’s always a tactic you have to find. Most websites I tried focus more on the concept of best move and in my experience that’s not as instructive. Sometimes the best move too machine like for me and I don’t feel I learn anything when I don’t guess it correctly. When I fail a puzzle on Chess Tempo, I always can see the tactic I missed, and that’s very instructive.

Another resource I’m using daily is a chessable course called weekly checkmates. There are more than five thousands checkmates to solve, they’re batched in weeks and they get progressively harder in a given week. That gives you the opportunity to warm up with simple checkmates before moving to harder ones in the same sessions. I really enjoy that aspect and, for a reason I feel no need to explore yet, I find solving checkmates relaxing.

As for the atlas itself, a few things changed since the website went live. The most important thing is that now the Chess Atlas has some content in most sections.

A big, but quiet, change went live a few days ago: diagrams are now interactive. I wrote the initial code for a diagram viewer and I’ll be slowly converting all the diagrams on the website to use this new version. This way, it will be easier to understand a given position as you can go back and forth in a position to better understand a sequence. It looks like this:

While I’m happy about how it works right now, I know it needs improvements (like showing who has to move, the move list itself, squares highlights and annotations) but, you guessed it, the diagram viewer is also a work in progress!

The latest update is about over the board tournaments. I’m going to my first tournament and I couldn’t be more excited. In may, I will be going to the third International Emanuel Lasker Blitz Tournament. While I’m not a big fan of blitz over the board (and I’m not playing any blitz at the moment), the tournament is in Berlin Germany, the city I live in. If you’re planning to go (and reading this :), more unlikely I think), please reach out! I’d love to meet you in person.