Monday, April 30, 2018

The Joy of Learning Chess: IM John Bartholomew and Chessable


When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
-- Source unknown

As a chess enthusiast born and living in a city without chess clubs or chess events, I'm no more than a beginner even at 42. Yet, with a hunger to understand and improve at the game, I've been attempting the usual methods people like me attempt to keep myself motivated, to learn, and to play. While the usual books and videos did help intermittently and to a certain extent, inspiring at times, intimidating at others, beyond a certain point many of them began overwhelming my mind. Although I play chess only as a hobby, the attitude I have toward the understanding and improving has been anything but casual. With a couple of friends who play not being at hand most of the time, and expert coaches being either unavailable or just not affordable, I had no option but to accept what little resulted from playing rapid games against a couple of computer/mobile programs and on online websites.

Very recently, in one of my usual YouTube searches, I stumbled upon a chess fundamentals video by IM John Bartholomew. The presentation was unlike any other video I had ever watched. After introducing the basic concept of hanging pieces, IM John Bartholomew went on to provide a live demonstration of the concept in action. He went online and played a few 10/10 games against random opponents of a low rating range. As he played, he spoke his thoughts out clearly, keeping most of the discussion centered around the concept introduced, and how to take practical advantage of it. It actually felt like he was sitting right next to me in my room, playing online and explaining his moves. The clarity of his spoken thoughts was amazing. I was hooked.

Needless to say, I found other videos of his chess fundamentals series, which discussed other concepts such as quick development, active piece coordination, and so on, while gradually increasing the rating range he was playing against to demonstrate the specific concepts in action.

The simplicity and clarity of his thought process, and the effortless way in which his moves seem to flow, are a treat for an aspiring student/player. Each video in the series extends to about an hour of no-nonsense coaching with at least 5 (and often more) full live games per video, easily totaling to more than 7 hours of free, almost interactive, learning material. But that's not all! His channel also has another series of videos called "climbing the rating ladder", which follows pretty much the same format.

Another thing I want to share here is that through one of his videos I also got to know about a PC/Mobile friendly chess training website called Chessable. The site uses an experiential learning methodology based on spaced repetitions. Many books (earlier published in print) have been converted to their unique electronic format, supported by MoveTrainer, so people can learn actively. Many books have also been enhanced with synced videos, which is yet another unique and novel concept (at least as of this writing I had not heard of any other learning website offering video-synced learning material). The site supports both free as well as paid membership, and hosts both free as well as paid study materials. And I say without any reservations that even the free material they offer is of extremely high quality, with lots of move comments and explanations, and quite well suited for self-study at ones own pace.

Watching John's videos, and training a few variations on Chessable is now an addiction, and I'm enjoying it very much. At 42, after much seeking, I believe my teacher has appeared.

If you're an aspiring student/player of chess, and you are reading this, I earnestly encourage you to take the plunge into the YouTube channel of IM John Bartholomew, and to join Chessable today. You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain. Perhaps you may find that your teacher has appeared too.


Disclosure:
I wish to assert here that neither IM John Bartholomew nor the creators of Chessable have ever approached me to write a post about them or their offerings. Nor have they asked me to review their work on my blog. I have created and published this post entirely of my own free will, only to share information, which I think may help my readers as it helped me, and I expect nothing in return from any party. 


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Many thanks.
Pradeep K.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Strange Inconsistency Continues...


You win some, you lose some, right? That's right, and so I shouldn't really brood too much over it. Only, it isn't that simple.

Thanks to the amazing improvement in cellular technology, I get to regularly play a few 30 min games every day against my favorite program tuned down to 15% of its strength, and a few against humans each Saturday on my favorite site (while I'm relaxing over some red wine).

When I analyze them later, I observe great inconsistency in my games from one week to another.

One week I'm clearly playing quite well, saying objectively as I win most games against the program at 15% (which should easily put me at around 1200). During these games, my field of vision seems to be pretty wide and clear, my pieces quickly and easily go where they want to, I do not worry about illusions of attack created by my opponent, but am rather thinking more on the lines of: If I do this (a couple of moves), I would have more space and my pieces would be more active, my opponent has no immediate mate, if he attacks, I could simply move out or away when his pieces lose coordination, and then I will get him solely owing to my focused activity on these few squares. Then it is all about time, space and activity after King safety. At my level, that sort of clarity during a game is a definite confidence booster, and it is specially so when the result agrees.

Saturday. Chess.com 30/G has me hovering about at around 1000 (give or take a hundred). The few games I play are satisfying and enjoyable. I win some, I lose some. Bad losses come about after the wine get me. But it is all fun, and so not a big deal.

Sunday. Rest. Movies. Youtube. More rest.

The next week. I decide to continue playing the program at the same strength. The plan is, if I continue to win consistently, I would then move up by 5% strength. Only, that never happens. I lose most games the entire week. All those considerations of space, time and activity are still present as beautiful thoughts, but they just don't seem to materialize on the board. Every good looking move seems to carry with it a potential weakness, which that tactical monster in my cell phone hardly fails to accommodate. It strikes back with tremendous vengeance to cover up for its losses the previous week. Strangely, it seems as though my brain goes into into hibernation while my fingers swipe the pieces across the touch screen. It seems as though for some unknown reason I've suddenly become stupid.

This is not just the normal win some, lose some situation. This sort of inconsistency from one week to another is just not normal, is it?


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Many thanks.
Prady.
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/HungryForChess
Partner FB group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/195960723787552/

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Going Good 2

[Event "simonjosephbertrand vs. p2kpradeep"]
[Site " Chess.com"]
[Date "Nov 11, 2017"]
[White "simonjosephbertrand"]
[Black "p2kpradeep"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "1095"]
[BlackElo "1020"]
[TimeControl "1 in 0 day"]
[SetUp "1"]
[Termination "p2kpradeep won by checkmate"]
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. a3 Nc6 5. Nf3 e6 6. d3 Bc5 7. Be3 Nf6 8. b4 Qa6 9. Bxc5 Ne7 10. Bxe7 Kxe7 11. d4 Qc6 12. Qd2 Ne4 13. Nxe4 Qxe4+ 14. Be2 Rd8 15. O-O b6 16. Rae1 Bb7 17. Qg5+ f6 18. Qxg7+ Kd6 19. Qxf6 Rg8 20. Bc4 Rxg2+ 21. Kxg2 Rg8+ 22. Kh1 Qxf3+ 23. Qxf3 Bxf3#  0-1

Sent from my Android

Going Good

[Event "p2kpradeep vs. Keevinblue"]
[Site " Chess.com"]
[Date "Nov 11, 2017"]
[White "p2kpradeep"]
[Black "Keevinblue"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "1010"]
[BlackElo "981"]
[TimeControl "1 in 0 day"]
[SetUp "1"]
[Termination "p2kpradeep won by resignation"]
1. e4 e6 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e5 Ng8 4. d4 d6 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Bf4 d5 7. Qd2 Bb4 8. Bb5 Nge7 9. Bg5 f6 10. exf6 gxf6 11. Bxf6 O-O 12. Qg5+ Kf7 13. Bxc6 Nxc6 14. Bxd8  1-0

Sent from my Android

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Attempt to Create and Share Game Videos

In the last several months, I have been looking for a simpler, better, seamless way to share my games and self-analyses here in my blog.

With so much technology infiltrating into our lives these days, we may come to expect that posting our own chess games on our own blogs is just as simple a process as 1. Play chess using any program/site; 2. Add your in-game move comments and self-analysis notes; 3. Post/share on whichever site you want. And yet, in reality it is still not as simple as that. Yes, it just takes the three steps, but the process is not really seamless in practice.

I mostly use my mobile devices to play chess (either online on chess.com or other sites, or using the excellent chess apps that are abundantly available). And I mostly use my PC/laptop to blog, to take advantage of the larger display and the physical keyboard/mouse combo.

It's somewhat easy with the games I play on chess.com; all I need to do is copy my game PGN to their analysis board, add my move comments and save the game; then I can copy the URL that points to my saved game and paste it here.

However, that's not so true with the games I play on other sites/programs on my mobile devices; here it involves the additional burden of exporting the PGN out of the phone and onto the laptop and then importing it into chess.com to continue what I want to do.

Not that I am lazy, but I do wish there were more efficient ways--some API, for instance, or some way to automate the whole thing--to replace all this hardware and software jugglery.

Finally I hit upon an idea. Seeing how easily tutors and masters create videos of their games or tutorials on their youtube channels, I decided to try the same route right here. Rather than typing out large chunks of notes and move comments, I could just speak my thoughts out in a video while I run through my games, and then just post it here. Now I just need to a) find some apps to record my mobile and laptop screens, b) learn to effectively use them, and c) find free space to host my videos (the last I checked, blogspot didn't support video hosting).

So this is what I'm going to try over the next week or two. If it works out as expected, I shall flood my blog frequent posts!


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Many thanks.
Prady.
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/HungryForChess
Partner FB group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/195960723787552/

Friday, May 12, 2017

Game 20170511.001 (Chess.com)


In this game I was playing with Black pieces. I started with the idea of the Indian defense, but it deviated as early as the second move. I ended up committing mistakes and blunders in the first 15 moves, which should have cost me the game, but my opponent went on to commit bigger blunders in the next 15 moves, and lost an almost won game.

My thoughts and comments in-line.




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Many thanks.
Prady.
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/HungryForChess
Partner FB group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/195960723787552/