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Critical Moments – two opposing definitions

July 11th, 2017 58 comments

Having debated CRITICAL MOMENTS here on the blog with a number of readers, I received a longer email from our friend and one-time author, Amatzia Avni.

Hello Jacob,

I’m following your blog and although I haven’t yet read your “Thinking inside the box”, I strongly disagree with some observations you make regarding the nature of “critical position” (or critical moment).

First, here is your own definition: “A critical moment …is something along the lines of a moment where the problems in front of you (hold great complexity) and failing to find a good move will a) lead to great suffering, or b) lose the advantage”. 29/4/13

“A position where the difference between the best move and the second-best move is high, let’s say half a point”. 9/5/2017.

Correct. (Also, when the decision is irreversible or hard to rectify). Read more…

Solving and guessing

April 25th, 2017 31 comments

The last four weeks I have been travelling through Asia, visiting 12 cities in eight countries. Sometimes for less than 24 hours, arriving at 6 in the morning in Manila, for example, and flying out at half past midnight the same day…

On my trip, I have talked a lot about Thinking Inside the Box and the core ideas in the book. It has been an amazing experience, seeing how the ideas have resonated with people of all ages and all levels, from young kids to top grandmasters. I wish I was going to write the book now, as the ideas are so much clearer in my head and the diverse ways I have found to explain them would have improved it.

One thing I realised along the way is to emphasise the difference between guessing and solving. When I was an improving player, I struggled a lot with solving exercises. I would find ideas and then my concentration would crumble. I would flick to the solutions page and see how close I was.

Because close was the best I did – for a long time. Discipline was always a problem for the younger me. I had a spine similar to cooked spaghetti, according to a friend.

What I needed to do was to get into a habit of solving positions. When we are talking about tactical exercises, you should calculate all the variations till the end, working out all the details. This is an important skill to develop in training. It will take you far.

But this does not mean that guessing is all wrong. In my model there are four types of decisions.

1. Automatic Decisions
2. Simple Decisions
3. Critical Moments
4. Strategic Decisions

I deal more with this model in both Grandmaster Preparation – Strategic Play and in Thinking Inside the Box. And in previous blog posts, most likely. (No, I do not routinely look through them!) For here it suffices to say that only automatic decisions and critical moments require a high level of accuracy. Simple decisions are often taken on an intuitive basis and are as such, a pure guess. Strategic decisions include more calculation and logical thinking, but will in most cases include guessing as well.

This is important, because we simply cannot work everything out till the end. If you try to solve every move, you lose on time. For some people this is their existence.

The average player is directed by impulses and his inability to stay concentrated. The great practical player finds a good balance between guessing and solving and is always aware of which tool he uses. Moving from the first category to the second is a big jump and one the Grandmaster Preparation series is all about (as well as a few other things).

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Talking to Yusupov about the Yusupov challenge

March 22nd, 2017 12 comments

The Yusupov Challenge

February 27th, 2017 198 comments

I have personally taken up a challenge after reading an interesting article. It is my goal to read 100 books this year. 50 novels and 50 non-fiction books. I used to be an avid reader, but lately I have been caught up in too many things and maybe watched a few too many TV-shows on Netflix. Every second novel must be what we call a “serious” novel. At least!

In that connection, I propose a reading challenge for those who wants to improve their chess, but have never really gotten around to it. The Yusupov challenge.

Artur Yusupov has written 10 volumes in his series of training material for those starting at 1200-1800, wanting to get to 2200+. They cover more or less everything and received the first ever Boleslavsky medal from FIDE, when they started handing them out. And not without competition. Kasparov was in second place and Dvoretsky in third.

Your goal should be to read one book per month. There are 25 chapters in each book, making it a total of 250 chapters. They take maybe 10-20 minutes to read, after which there are 12 exercises, which should take you 20-40 minutes to go through. Some of you might want to spend more time per chapter, but the point stands. You can do six of them a week and make it easily. In a year, you will have learned an immense amount about chess.

Which order you should read the books in

When we acquired the books, we originally only planned to publish one from each series. We all make mistakes. For this reason, the order which the books are intended to be read is not entirely obvious. The order is:

Build up Your Chess 1, Boost Your Chess 1, Chess Evolution 1 – the orange books (Fundamentals series)

Build up Your Chess 2, Boost Your Chess 2, Chess Evolution 2 – the blue books (Beyond the Basics series)

Build up Your Chess 3, Boost Your Chess 3, Chess Evolution 3 – the green books (Mastery series)

The newest book, Revision & Exam 1 should probably be read last.

So, the order to which I suggest you read the books is:

Spring – The Fundamentals series

March: Build up Your Chess 1

Boost Your Chess 1

Chess Evolution 1

Summer – Beyond the Basics series

Build up Your Chess 2

Boost Your Chess 2

Chess Evolution 2

Autumn – Mastery series

Build up Your Chess 3

Boost Your Chess 3

Chess Evolution 3

Winter – Revision time

Revision & Exam 1

If you are up for it, sign up below.

How to train without a coach? – By GM Adhiban

February 16th, 2017 24 comments

The answer to the above questions is surely books and DVDs. However, with this huge wealth of material out there, it is easy to be completely confused. It is difficult to pinpoint on only one book, because different people at different levels have different requirements. However, I would like to tell you the story that happened with me yesterday:

Read more…

The cat is out of the bag

February 7th, 2017 No comments

Hi guys, what are you planning to do this spring. Here is my plans…

 

Doing something difficult

December 13th, 2016 8 comments

I put this on Facebook before realising that it also belongs here.

When you are trying to do something really difficult, it is important to use all of the resources and techniques you have available. Here are a few:
 
1) Have a plan to follow. It does not have to be too tight, for most people it is better if it is not. But something that tells you what the next step is at all possible moments. A simple daily or weekly routine is ideal.
 
2) Allow it to take the time it takes. As long as you are following your plan, you are succeeding. Putting an arbitrary deadline on your goal will make you a failure until you make it and be dispiriting when you get there.
 
3) Keep a track of your progress. Where there is a way, there is will. Once you see progress happening, you will get energized.
 
4) Find ways to improve your habits; use substitutions to change them. If you are fighting yourself, you will have much less time and energy to overcome the challenge of your goal.
 
5) Make things easy. Find whatever pattern and technique you can to make things easier.
 
6) You will lose your way. Get back on track quickly. Smokers on average try 8 times before they manage to quit. Overcoming your own bad habits will be hard.
 
7) Make yourself accountable for others. Ideally, get into a situation where others will gain from your success and lose out in case of your failure. An intelligent bet can solve this.
 
8) Don’t go it alone. Find someone who can support you. A gently push when you are losing momentum can be the difference between success and failure. Knowing that someone cares is often everyone.
 
9) Almost forgot. This is probably the most important. When you are working on your goal, you need to work on it with focus and attention. Too many times we watch the clock and think of when we have “done enough”. It is important that you work hard when you work; you can always play hard afterwards. Work before play, baby.
 
I am 51% of the way to my goal. More than half way. I am very determined. I have a strong routine. I follow it, thus succeeding on a daily basis. I track everything and can see the progress clearly. I have changed a lot of bad habits, not always at the speed I wanted, and not all of them yet, but enough for it to make a difference. I found easy ways to commit and have made it hard to cancel. I don’t stop for a moment when I go in the wrong direction. I turn around and keep focus. I never get disappointed with myself; I know all big achievements come hard. I have found people to help me and as I progress, I tell more and more people about my goal. I have found a World class bet. One I cannot get out of with any dignity without winning it. And someone saw that I was trying hard and took me under the wing. All I had to do was accept the help offered.
 
The most important point is that it took me six-seven months to get through the first 25% of the goal and six weeks to get through the next 25%. As the routine is getting stronger, as the faith is growing, I am now on a path that will likely lead to success. And beyond.
 
When I am done, I shall gladly tell you all about it.
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Boris Gelfand Lecture at XtraCon Open

August 8th, 2016 11 comments

During XtraCon Open in Helsingor, Boris and I enjoyed a bit too much of the free buffet food (gosh I look fat; luckily the diet has already begun) and a two hour lecture about the writing of Positional Decision Making in Chess. No spoilers from the book though… All of it was original material.