Thursday, June 14, 2007


Well, folks, I have done it: I began Michael de la Maza's notorious Seven Circles program on January 10th, 2007, and completed it on June 8th 2007. The following day(s) I competed in the U1600 section of the KY Open and went undefeated. Since May 20 I have played twenty-four rated games, losing only three; my current USCF rating is 1568, but I'm pretty sure I will clear 1700 by the next supplement. These words are meant not to boast, but to inspire.

Here are my thoughts on the program:

One-Those of you who have begun the program might be frustrated with the requirement that you finish each exercise within ten minutes, as the last 200-300 problems simply cannot be fully understood within that amount of time by the average player. So why did MDLM demand such a short time limit? Here are three possibilities. They are by no means mutually exclusive:

A) Mr. De la Maza was a man of exceptional natural intelligence and memory, and was able to see all of the variations (including critical lines not listed in CT-ART) within ten minutes.

B) The positions can be understood in that time limit provided that one put his full focus into its solution. Many times during my training, I caught my mind wandering or at least ruminating over the same line. I really wish I hadn't done this, but then again, the art of concentration may be a nontrivial one.

C) MDLM was not going for perfection in his understanding of the position; rather, knowing and understanding only the given lines is sufficient, as is one's ability to assimilate subconsciously much of the material.

Two-As a result of my frustration with #1, I actually spent thirty minutes to an hour with many of those problems, analyzing unlisted variations with Fritz. I feel no shame in this, but it did cause me to take an extra month for the overall program (well, this and the fact that I took off ten solid days of training to catch up on schoolwork…)

Three-I am actually going to go back through the entire set of problems in CT-ART, at my own pace, and make sure that I perfectly understand and can calculate with lightning efficiency all side variations-listed or unlisted-that I deem important for my own understanding. This will be my "Eighth Circle," so to speak. Essentially, I want to make sure I know the positions "by hand," to use the terminology of my new chess love-interest, IM Rashid Ziatdinov.

For the rest of the summer, I plan to study only tactics and openings. Silman and Shereshevsky will come next (as will an end to my blitz-free diet!), but not until I am at least a solid Class A player. Yes, I did say openings-I believe it is important that I play this phase of the game quickly and confidently. Further, I'm going to defy the spirit of RCI and play some "real" openings (Sicilian, Scotch, Benoni), rather than offbeat lines like the ones MDLM used to throw off his opponents. This is because I plan to make Master someday, and I think MDLM's dubious opening repertoire would have hampered his ability to make it there. (Not that he wouldn't've made it, it just would have been a really tough climb, tougher that if he had played better openings.)


transformation said...


i love your blog. you have all accounts right. these days, i dont have a lot of time to look at new blogs, but curiosity never leaves me... at a glance, it is immediately and quickly clear that you are a supurb mind.

your desire to do CT-Art 3.0 if not slowly, carefully, reminds me of those folks who take five weeks to visit, say, a country in eastern europe instead of five days, not deluding themselves that they 'actually saw' the country in short frame....

moreover, i also plan to read shereshevsky, and of course have other work in front of it, but dont plan to wait for more than a year or year and one half.

i am very serious about chess, but do have other interests, and so life is full!

i not only added you to my sidebar, but up in the top third--thereafter sequence is not very formal, but you are up there to remind me to keep stopping by, and i will.

bright expectations for you. you are special (himmm? no, no. im totally a straight male but more than straightforward!).

warmly, david

Blue Devil Knight said...

Congrats on your monster performance!

Loomis said...

Excellent work!

Are you able to calculate all the variations from the starting position before moving any pieces without missing a variation? I often miss some variations in the later levels.

Studying openings is not a bad way to spend one's time. Why would it be ok to study in depth some tactical position or motif that may never occur in your games, but not ok to study a position you know will occur in every game? I think studying openings gets a bad rap because so many people do it the wrong way. In reality, there is nothing wrong with learning about the positions that arise out of the starting position.

likesforests said...

Congratulations--you've accomplished alot finishing those circles, and winning the U1600 division. I'll be sure to stop by again, although our interests are very different! While you plan to focus on the opening, I dedicate most of my focus to the ending. The tactics, we agree on. ;)

BlunderProne said...

Well done! Huzzah!

I peaked 1700 last summer after the completing the circles... then I went inot a slump because I didn't continue with tactical training. I am now on my 11th circle.

Good luck, great insight.

Underpromoted Knight said...

Thank you all for your kind words. One thing I have not yet mentioned is that this study program has saved me from a seven-year depression (more details on that elsewhere/later.)

transformation--I also have other interests, though for this summer I have the luxury of studying and playing chess like a professional :-)

loomis--No, I can't calculate all side variations of all problems within a few minutes. The purpose of my "Eighth Circle" is to remedy this. I'm also picking out some phantasmagorical "pet lines" in the Benoni (Qh4+...)

likesforests--I actually love endings as much as I love tactics and openings, perhaps more so. I just want to play the opening with confidence. I have Nunn's Tactical Chess Endings, which I will read later this summer.

transformation said...

i know a LOT about depression. lots. but, if i may ask, arent you a little bit young to be talking of a seven year depression? im not kidding.

im not suggesting that as a younger person like you cannot suffer deeply. no. but this is awfully young for 7 years?

pls let me know.

depression is not just in the heart, but in the body, insufficient energy to face life when we more than know what to do (the perenial dieters who know all about 'techniques' and 'methods' yet systematically overindulge), or not having strength to go out, or open mail, or return phone calls, or visit a friend... depression can take many forms.

physical injury? loss of a parent? or social position? or traumatic loss? or heartbreaking lost love or betrayal? or having major proporty or rightfull assets taken or stolen from you??

caring. dk

Underpromoted Knight said...


No, I'm not too young. (Or, I should say: I wasn't too young.) Give me your email and I can explain in detail, as we're starting to diverge from chess. The brief answer, though, is that simple perfectionism plus a desire to find the "right" values, the "right" philosophy, the "right" path a priori (i.e. without recourse to real-life experience) can easily lead to depression.

transformation said...

thank you. in confidence:

dk_experiment at y! **crazy youwho spammers yahowe!** dot ***nonsense computor cannot read this message?** com.

pls put a conspicuous title down, since i open virtually no email there, and get few... ('they' have not found me yet).

warm regards, thank you, david

dk spiritual basic stuff et. al.:

transformation said...

able to decypher that?

dk_exper iment at yehew dot communicate!

eager to hear!

transformation said...


Phil Willis said...

I might be a bit late, but I should leave a note to say a hearty: Congratulations!

Awesome achievement indeed!

I look forward to going through some of your past blogs to see what wisdom I can glean.