Thursday, July 19, 2007

Almost 1800, lone trees in the field, and the power of Empty Space

So I've decided to take--*gasp*--a balanced approach to my chess study. I have now heard from two reputable sources that the purpose of endgame study early in one's career is not necessarily for the purpose of playing the endgame better. Rather, by doing so, one gets a feel for the power of each piece as an individual, as well as how, say, two pieces work together in harmony, e.g. learning to mate with Bishop and Knight. Of course, I won't necessarily study the B+N mate just yet; I do, however, have respect for the concept, used in the Soviet School of training and relayed to me by recent acquaintance Olexsandr Lozitskiy from Ukraine (USCF 1938.)

The other reputable source is the amazing Josh Waitzkin. Quoting from his latest book,

"Once he had won my confidence, Bruce began our study with a barren chessboard. We took on positions of reduced complexity and clear principles. Our first focus was king and pawn against king--just three pieces on the table. Over time, I gained an excellent intuitive feel for the power of the king and the subtlety of the pawn. I learned the principle of opposition, the hidden potency of empty space, the idea of zugzwang.... Layer by layer we built up my knowledge and my understanding of how to transform axioms into fuel for creative insight. Then we turned to rook endings, bishop endings, knight endings, spending hundreds of hours as I turned seven and eight years old, exploring the operating principles behind positions that I might never see again. This method of study gave me a feeling for the beautiful subtleties of each chess piece, because in relatively clear-cut positions I could focus on what was essential. I was also gradually internalizing a marvelous methodology of learning--the play between knowledge, intuition, and creativity. From both educational and technical perspecties, I learned from the foundation up." ("The Art of Learning, "pp. 34-5.)

In any case, I've purchased Silman's Complete Endgame course, and I'm working my way through it in addition to my opening studies and, of course, tactics. Speaking of which, if any of you followed Ziatdinov's "Training Tips" on, you would have found his rather bold claim that if you take a collection of 1000 tactical problems and learn them "by hand" (i.e. so automatically that all your calculations are actually subconscious) then you "will have the tactical ability of a Grandmaster." I don't know whether or not this claim is true; however, I'm going to, ah, pretend it's true, and spend the next year or so (as long as it takes) internalizing all main lines and side variations of the problems in CT-Art, to perfection.

As for openings, I've decided to switch to a more "solid" repertoire, for some very dark reasons of my own. (I'm very, very curious to see how this repertoire will combine with my "tactical ability of a Grandmaster," once I've earned it over the next year or two.) I still want to play gambits, but perhaps only against weaker players <:-)