Saturday, 21 May 2016

New all time high ratings and a busy-busy schedule.

I’ve meant to write this post for five days. Finally, today I have time to get around to it. The point is not so much to say how busy I am (ok maybe a little bit), but rather to document well what is going on with my chess progress. I have been working on a business plan for Chessable, so as to raise investment and bring the chess community even more kick-ass learning tools. I have been working on my Master's dissertation and a few essays. Tried sneaking in a few programming updates onto Chessable when I could. And other than that, a bunch of personal life stuff has kept me busy. Regardless of all that, chess remains an important priority, and I’ve tried to do what I can to maintain my chess skills. Time to report on what has happened:
In the last two weeks, I achieved a few chess milestones, with no studying aside from practicing openings (and a few endgames) on Chessable. I would say, averaging 5–10 minutes a day at most. This has helped me reach a rating of 1,854 in Blitz chess online. To put things in perspective, exactly three years ago I one day clocked in at 1,131. That is a 700 points rating difference! I was euphoric, and then I got matched up with a WFM on blitz chess. Her FIDE rating about 2,100. I lost my games against her and went on a bad run, stabilizing around 1,750. Regardless of the slight loss (due to focusing on rating and not playing well), I was very happy with my on-line Blitz rating and went onto the 39th Hampstead Chess Congress with confidence.
I finished the Congress with a performance rating of 2,023. My highest as of yet. This means that my FIDE rating will break 1,900 for the first time, it should be a shiny 1,913. For a breakdown of my games on the tournament, see the FIDE tournament card here: Kramaley, David June 2016 FIDE Individual Chess Calculations
Obviously, I have failed to reach the goal I set myself, 2,000 FIDE by April 2016. However, considering how busy I have been, I am happy enough with 1,900, it's a step closer to 2,000. Where to next? Well, studying the openings further with Chessable is definitely something I will maintain. Other than that, I really think it is time to improve my endgame technique. How exactly that will be achieved is still a mystery. I will either use Chessable to memorise De La Villa's 100 Endgames you must know or find another way that perhaps is more useful to me right now. Or maybe both, needless to say, the endgame is what I should be focusing on and I will try to make time for that before the next tournaments.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Settling into 1800-1900 FIDE rating: an update on my chess progress.

My last blog post about my chess progress was in October 2015, it's been quite some time. I set myself a goal to reach 2,000 FIDE by April 2016, and today being the 1st of April I can report that I am still not there! Why? If you are curious, read on, I've got good reasons why, and I still plan to get to 2,000 FIDE asap!
Chess wise, what has happened during this time?
  1. I played two more OTB tournaments, on one my performance was shocking and I went down to 1,844 FIDE, on the second I played pretty well and I've risen back up to 1,869. It's safe to say, the 1,800-1,900 range is an accurate reflection of my play, since I have got around 20 rated FIDE games at that performance and more in the BCF as I played for Bristol University Chess. Considering I haven't studied chess all this time, putting in a 1,950 tournament performance rating is impressive.
  2. I released the chess web site I announced back in early October 2015, which is something I have been working on since mid 2013 (first for personal, private use), and now it is available to everyone: Chessable. This is a great achievement because it took a lot of work to get it from private use MVP stage to public open beta MVP stage. We are now working on getting it out of open beta converting it into a stable, awesome product. I've hardly studied a drop of chess since October 2015, the main culprit is really all the work that has gone into Chessable. It has been worth it though and the value it will provide for future tournament prep and chess education, will be invaluable. Of course, anyone who wants to play the same openings I play in my OTB and on-line games, now can do so by learning the Able's repertoire on Chessable!
  3. I realised once again how important it is to stick to a repertoire you know well, it helps tremendously in Blitz chess. For instance, last FIDE OTB tourney I played an awesome game that while perhaps wasn't 100% accurate it was intense enough to beat strong opposition under a one hour clock, it was even shared by the TD on their official web blog. I came across a very similar looking position in a 1 min lightning game I played the other day and was able to employ a similar  strategy, with devastating consequences to my opponent who got checkmated in 12 moves, he did not have the luxury of an hour to find the best defense! Of course, this wouldn't work against the computer! Find the mate:
Chess wise, what should I do to get to my goal, 2,000 rating?
Okay, so I've admitted to not studying and perhaps I am lucky to maintain my respectable 1,850 FIDE rating, perhaps it is all the ground work I did before October 2015. However, 2,000 remains one of my main goals and I know I can get there. I do need to start making time for chess and at the moment it is unclear how that I will happen. I maintain, the reason adults can't learn skills (and chess) as impressively as the younger generation, is simply because we are multi-tasking so much, and multi-tasking is one of the worst things you could do if you want to have optimal performance! We have to earn our own money, feed ourselves, develop our careers, etc, etc. I am working full time and studying a taught MSc degree full time. How could I possibly make time? Well, it will have to come from somewhere at some point because to get to 2,000 FIDE here are all the things I need to do:
  1. Familiarize myself with the common middle game structures in the openings I play most commonly. I have done this with the Italian Game and I feel very happy and good playing those positions, however, I rarely get them. I need to learn more about Ruy Lopez middle game plans, Rossolimo Sicilian middle game plans, French, Caro kann, etc etc! This will take time.
  2. I need to work on my endgame, I still have not had much time to improve this area of my game and since the middle game plans are closely linked to the kind of end game you want to reach, this should be prioritized. Luckily, we are working on bringing efficient end game study to Chessable, so perhaps, while working on that I will make this task easier for myself!
Signing off for now, I hope this post is useful for someone also trying to improve their chess rating as an adult. We can do it, that's for sure, you've just got to make consistent study time!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Your Chessable: Newsletter #1
Sorry it has taken us so long to get in touch, we've been busy making Chessable awesome so that you can soon enjoy it.

John's YouTube Preview
John briefly introduces one of the key features of Chessable in today's video.
See The Video

Able: The Chessable Mascot
Meet Able. Our official Chessable mascot. He will make a few appearances around our site, let's just hope you don't have to play him, in the ape world he is a GM!
When will we open to the public?
We are hoping to finish up some key features and polishes by mid February, at which point we will launch the web site in 'Open BETA'.
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Monday, 26 October 2015

Second Tournament Report & Actionable Points

So I returned from my 2nd FIDE rated tournament yesterday, which means I have completed my 10th game. I have heard it takes about 25 games to get an accurate FIDE rating but based on my own analysis I think my rating of around 1850 FIDE is pretty accurate.

This rating is based on my performance vs similarly rated players, a recent victory in a ECF game vs someone rated approximately 2000 FIDE and the relative ease with which I can handle players rated around 1600 FIDE (not that they aren't dangerous players!).

A quick summary of the tournament would be that I should have scored 2.5/5 points but after refusing a draw in my last game against an opponent rated 1915 FIDE I only secured 2/5 points, giving him a performance rating of 2000 and lowering mine to about 1770, instead of maybe keeping us both at an even 1900! Lesson? Take time left on the clock extremely seriously when considering a draw and forget 'what should have happened if time was infinite!'. I knew I had winning chances at a few points of the game and computer analysis agrees and could obviously not let this go. When I was under 10 minutes and my opponent still had 30, I started making questionable moves giving black an advantage!

See the position below, I did seriously consider Bf1 and was going to play it, but after considering his rook gets quick access to a2 and I didn't have enough time to calculate the ramifications of that, I decided to just 'push the pawn'. It was all downhill from here really, keeping my bishop out of the game and even so the draw offer came about 5 moves later, with my opponent missing a blunder the computer did see.

Sad state of affairs towards the end-game but I can be somewhat proud of my overall opening and mid-game play, aside from the time it took I guess!

So what did I learn, what are my actionable points to improve? What are my next goals?

Actionable points:

  1. Continue studying the end game (I must have done about 6 hours of end game study the last month, not good enough. Recalling the principles now, I know i should have pulled my bishop back to provide the support from long range, horrible move, b5!
  2. Close the holes in my opening repertoire so I can remain competitive longer against players who know opening lines I don't and thus save time. The way I will achieve this is by playing more 20 minute games again (have hardly had any in the last month!) and perhaps even Blitz could help, and every time I am not happy with my opening performance, study the line using the tool I've developed. Eg, I got destroyed by not knowing some fundamental differences between a Dragon setup and an Accelerated Dragon, ouch! I want to get to a stage where no matter what reasonable opening my opponent choose I can feel comfortable for at least 10-15 moves. I am not sure  correspondence chess can help patch up my opening repertoire as the flow of games isn't anywhere near as fast to find the gaps that exist. The correspondence games mainly help with middle game positions, finding plans.
The positives of my actionable points are that they are fully in line with the Russian school of chess which often backs the study of chess from the opening and the end game first, leading towards key middle game positions later.


I am not sure I will play the next FIDE chess event in London, as I feel I have some improving to do before I can go there and seriously challenge the players on the 2000-2100 band. However, I think I can really kick their ass next year, perhaps by April, so let's make that the goal. 2000 FIDE by April 2016. Here i come!

Friday, 16 October 2015

The reason I memorise opening lines. Does it make us robots?

Is memorising opening lines worth it?

So yesterday I played my second league game for the University of Bristol. I was slightly familiar with the position my opponent, rated ECF 176 (about FIDE 2020) chose with the white pieces. Perhaps a better description is, it's not like I have never seen it before; however, I haven't played it all that much at all, moreover, I definitely haven't studied any opening lines for it.

This quickly lead to a big time advantage for my opponent who obviously plays this line all the time as white. Unfortunately I did not know who I was playing beforehand so preparation was out of the question. So despite having about 40 minutes left once we got into the middle game, playing against someone with half an hour more than you and no time increment is pretty challenging.

"memorising doesn't make us machines, it just helps us get an even footing versus players who have played a lot longer than we have"

I kept going, I managed to finally get a good position and perhaps at some point a good advantage (with equal material), however, time became more and more of a factor leaving me with 7 minutes vs. my opponents 15-20 (I managed recover some time!). Eventually, I was forced to make my moves in under 30 seconds (since there was no time increment!) and this led to an unfortunate move giving my opponent easy targets. The extra pressure resulted in an eventual blunder by me. So what are the lessons to take home from this game?

Basically, any rated league/tournament game I play where I am familiar with the opening lines, I manage to go out of the opening with a time advantage and put all the pressure on my opponent. Making moves so confidently definitely gives you a psychological edge, so, I need to make sure my repertoire has no gaps. It almost doesn't, there are only a few lines where I need to brush up. Soon, I should have a good idea of what to do regardless of my opponent's first moves.

So despite anything negative anyone might say about memorising opponents, claiming its all about understanding the position, well, it's all fine to go about it that way when you are already a master or have limitless time available to you, or a great teacher perhaps. However, if you don't, surely it is a lot quicker to memorise the lines and get good positions out of the opening so you can play on an even ground where both players need to think! Eventually, by memorising you will also build an understanding of the positions.

So I will go on memorising more variations, it's pretty quick I find, and very very useful thanks to a software tool I developed (name to be revealed very soon!). Time to learn some Catalan lines. If anyone is interested in memorising lines with me, contact me and perhaps you can gain some early BETA access! Oh, and no, memorising doesn't make us machines, it just helps us get an even footing versus players who have played a lot longer than we have!

Friday, 9 October 2015

My first tournament and more!

In my last post I talked about moving to Europe, having less chess study time and my goal of getting above 1850 FIDE in my first chess tournament. Well time has passed, I am in Europe, I have played my first tournament and was slightly disappointed with my result, although, I am probably being harsh on myself as my current FIDE rating is 1873!!!

I played in the
Hampstead Chess Congress on the 26-27 September 2015, and for my first game I got white vs. Jake Hung (1708). I made a point of not looking at my opponent's ratings, so when I played Jake I did not know what his rating was. I knew the player pool was mostly above 1900 and 2000 so I assumed Jake to be the same. I was pleasantly surprised after the first few opening moves when my opponent played 8..e4, which seemed overly aggressive to me and dangerous for him considering his king side was so underdeveloped.

You can see from the analysis that after this move my advantage in the game rose steadily without much difficulty and the game was finished pretty soon. I doubt I played a splendid game and some inaccuracies got me in slight trouble later on giving my opponent counter-chances, but I managed to finish with a nice mating pattern. Here is the full game.

Having started on the right foot, I knew my opponent would be better in the second game as he also, had won his first game. I played Zoltan Kovacs (2009) as white and neither one of us managed to get a large advantage as we both missed good chances. In the end, we agreed a draw as the position was overly complicated and neither one of us wanted to take many more risks than necessary. I had a good time advantage takes to my opening preparation as I caught my opponent in lines he was unfamiliar with while I executed the first 12 moves very quickly, I should have slowed down for the 14th move though...!

In this position after 13..gxf6 white has a considerable advantage, but I go on to mess it up and give black a decent yet complicated game. You can find the full game here. 

I will be brief about the last three games, which you can find on the same lichess page, but I went on to win the third game in spectacular fashion after over 60 moves, I clinged to a draw for a while as black and eventually got my chance to go for the kill. This allowed me to go into the second day as one of the tourney leaders with 2.5/3 points. I was in dreamland!

On the final two games of the tournament, first I played Koby Kalavannan (1989). In this game I had the pressure of being one of the tourney leaders, I was in contention of the prize money and moreover, Koby decided to reveal to me that he was rated 2170 just a month ago. This probably influenced my game at some points. I did compose myself and gave Koby an extremely good game, he ended up in time trouble first but I quickly joined him as we both lived off 30 second increments. I managed to get a good advantage with a winning position just to eventually leave my knight hanging in the most obvious of fashions! This brain dysfunction (let's call it that) destroyed me emotionally and I never recovered for the next game where I just wasn't myself. Of course, the game against Koby also lasted a full 3 hours so I did not have more than half an hour to recover for my game with James Golding. I probably need a full night's sleep!!

The picture above shows the position after move 38 against Koby, black has enough of an advantage to play for a win but I completely forget my knight is hanging (although I was aware of it) and give Koby the game.

So that was my first tourney, a great first day and a terrible second day for a total score of 2.5/5 and a performance good enough for a FIDE rating of 1873! Above the target I set myself nonetheless. However, after this tournament I left with the strong feeling I can definitely play at a 2000 FIDE level and hence my disappointment to not have scored at least one more point.

I took this confidence into my on-line correspondence games and managed to climb to 1906 rating on chess [dot] com, still not good enough for the 99th percentile, leaving me at 98.2%! I also played confidently an English Chess Federation league game representing the University of Bristol, taking down an opponent rated approximately 2100 FIDE with the black pieces!!! I imagine my ECF (BCF) rating is going up!!! For more details on that victory check out my opponent's match report here 'The luck of the draw'.

Oh, to conclude, if you noticed the University of Bristol mentioned, it's because I am now studying a taught Msc there, it's really time consuming!!! Hence, the lack of blog posts, the lack of chess study and youtube chess videos. Nonetheless, my game is improving with the limited study I do and especially so thanks to my opening preparation, which is done via a web site I will soon release to the world!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Update on Improvement

It's nice to have constant improvement, but often in chess plateaus are reached. Sometimes you don't understand why, but if you do, then you can make a plan to break the plateau and progress. Luckily, I have plans.

First, I have reached a plateau in Tactics Trainer, I cannot seem to get above 2,000 rating points, I believe the problem to be mostly psychological, whenever I am close to breaking 2,000 I solve tactics faster to get more points and then after getting a few wrong I get into a bad emotional state that make me spiral down. I have recently decided that I no longer seem to be losing games due to missing tactical patterns, in fact, my tactical awareness seems pretty strong, so I am going to cut down on tactics. However, I am not sure how much yet, maybe I will only do 5 TT problems a day and any others on other sites or books, but definitely no longer 30. To get 30 mostly right is just frustrating! For now, I am doing none as I am moving back to Europe! Here is a photo of the last set of 30 TT/day. (the last week was 20p.d.)

Second, I have kept in touch with an IM chess coach and have had a few lessons. It has mostly been about changing my opening repertoire and playing 1.e4 as well as 1.e4 e5. Before this I used to play mainly the 1.d4 and 1.e4 c5. The idea is that by changing my repertoire I will be able to improve some weak areas of my game, specifically dynamic play as well as become comfortable across a wider range of openings and positions. My Page on has videos of me mostly playing these new openings and I am finally feeling comfortable on those lines. Other than changing the opening repertoire my coach is helping me analyse my own games and correct some faulty positional decisions taken every now and again, example, which pieces are correct to swap and which aren't, correct plans in certain positions, but mainly most of my mistakes have come from not correctly defending or taking over the center. Either way, with a coach, it is nice to be able to improve this part of my game.

I am in a transition period of moving back to Europe, which has reduced the amount of chess study I have been able to do (I still did some! ;-)) but it also means that soon I will be able to play a tournament and get my first FIDE rating. I am really, really, hoping for 1850+ FIDE based on my chess . com ratings compared to other players who seem to have a FIDE rating of around 1800. I also have been getting to play more National Masters lately on ICC hence I really think I may be able to come up even with 1,900. That would be great, but of course, 2,000 will be even better. I plan to make it happen. Wish me luck!