Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Hello loyal readers and fellow Knights! Since starting my Business Management studies, I have little time for chess. This is a sorry state of affairs, believe you me. The worst of it is all those tactical exercises rotting within my brain and my openings becoming antiques. I try to play a few times a month on Playchess just to keep my account active so I do not revert to a pawn in the Playchess social status.
This term at the university, I had the task of opening a bakery. While all this was theoretical, I did impress by creating some baked goods as part of my business plan presentation. Nothing like fresh baked jumbo oatmeal-raisin cookies to produce the desirous A. Additionally, my son loves it when I bake. The smell of seems to draw him out of his room and he hovers about the kitchen while they least until I ask him to help wash the dishes.
Happy Holidays to all and enjoy the cookies!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 you get stronger at chess

When I first began my quest to improve my play through tactics, I had quite a few people willing to play the game with me. These people would come to my house for dinner and we would enjoy a game or two with our drinks. Of course this was not just one way, as they always returned the favor.

Fast forward to today. I sit here writing this piece wondering when is the last time I had company for chess? When was the last invite? My gut tells me it was before last Christmas. I do remember it was at one of my chess playing buddies home. His wife was playing the appletini variation while my friend was hopelessly lost as black in the Philidor. That was the last friend to play me.

How did this happen? When you start playing chess you are unfamiliar with the game and no clear plan for winning; therefore, most of your friends do not mind a game with you. Your chess playing friends stand a good chance of winning while you are in this state, but as you get stronger at chess through studying tactic, as well as other facets of the game, your friends stop playing you. It was fun for them when they could crush you, however, now you are crushing them, even after three appletinis, the fun is no longer there.

The only games I get between tournaments is from playchess. I go to the cafe room and find guests to play. This gives me games against strong and weak players, which provides excellent training. You have to play each and every one with the strongest game possible. No tricks or you will be crushed! It is a shame it works out this way, but there is hope someone will stop by after a year and engage me in a battle of chess armies.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Retired Pawn II v. Retired Pawn...Showdown on Pennsylvania Ave.

Let me start by saying that my son (Retired Pawn II) dislikes playing chess! It is my opinion that this dislike has its roots in the fact that he struggles when playing against his Papa. I never meant for it to be a chore, only a fun thing between father and son...something we would have for our entire lives. If I had to guess, I would say that it harms his self-esteem when he loses and the pain of feeling inferior is what keeps him from enjoy our time together. This is only my opinion.

Nevertheless, not long ago he challenged me to a game. I don't know why my son found it necessary to play that day. Perhaps he just beat all of his friends and was looking for stiffer competition. Maybe he ate a box of Wheaties and found new confidence. I may never know the why, but play he did! Retired Pawn II didn't start out timid either. No, sir! He was talking trash while setting up the White pieces.

In this position, as Black, I made a simple draw by repetition. The real reason is obvious....I like our time together and want to encourage my son to play more often. However, he did play rather well. I may have a passed b pawn, but I also have the weakness of three pawn islands...a direct result of my son's play!

How does Black proceed from here?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What is up with the Retired Pawn?

"How come you don't post any longer?" I hear it all the time from folks who follow my postings. Once upon a time, I would post many times a month. These posting covered subjects concerning my life in retirement, chess, and my amusement park outings. I loved to post about trains and my hometown in Dansville, NY. I never started this blog with the idea that it would be just about chess and my quest for tactical proficiency. No, that came later as I strove to improve my chess play. Once the blog became one dimensional, it began to become hard to post good articles. Couple that with the demands of my degree program and you get one post a month saying I am sorry for the lack of content. Just to be clear, I have no intentions of quiting my quest with the Knights Errant, nor am I quiting my blog. I ask for understanding and support while I work on personal life and my degree program.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I am still here!

Alas, I have not the time to play much chess at the moment. I hope to make a fresh chess posting in the near future. As a progress report, I have learn 1200+ tactical positions with the Personal Chess Trainer and I realized a gain of 113 Elo points (USCF) in my last tournament. This does work!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

2008 Chess Club Championship, Round 2

Here is the Retired Pawn during his second round game. If you look back by the vending machine, you will find me wearing a yellow shirt at board 7. One of the brighter spots of not moving off the last board is the proximity of the coffee Enjoy the following annotated game. Thanks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The 2008 Chess Club Championship, Round 1

I had hopes of coming away this year as my class champion, but this year they changed the format at the last minute, thereby making me play against much higher rated oponents. I never gave up, nevertheless, I lost in each round. I let Mr. Fritz analyze my games. In some of the games I added anotations. Someone please help me!!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Upper Iowa University...Dean's List of Scholars

I made the Dean's list for the Spring session. Most of my time is spent studying and doing class projects; leaving little time for my chess activities. I am proud of myself for this showing because I was out of a classroom for 28 years and I naturally worried how I would perform academically. Not to worry, I have a 4.0 GPA as I enter my Senior year. Just think, only 30 credit hours to graduation.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What is the payoff...I still suck at chess!

Let me be real. After a hard year of doing tactical exercises until I am sick of chess and seeing the PCT program interface, I still suck at chess. Why do I say this? First, there is the annoying realisation that I still miss elementary tactics. I don't mean the positions I see in training. If any opponent would have the misfortune to walk into one the those he would be dead meat. No, I mean those new positions; the ones I haven't trained myself to see. I miss about a third of those altogether, and of those I can find something....hmm...tactical, I have about a 50 percent failure rate of seeing the correct solution from start to finish. So my fellow Knights, what is the payoff? Why do we (I) push so hard to improve? Maybe the answer is in the next tournament or perhaps in the next game even. I do know I have improved, but I feel I fall a bit short of the ideal.

This is my Playchess ratings chart. As you can see, I have improved over the course of the last year. At the start of this Knights Errant adventure, my rating was around 1250. The chart shows steady improvement until I reach my present peak of 1520. That might be all the payoff I ever

Friday, May 16, 2008

China...Pictures Are Better Than Words!

My heart goes out to the people who lost loved ones. You can replace material things, but how do you replace a family member? Please be generous and donate to help!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Kansas City Quick Championship 2008

This is a position from my last game in the Kansas City Quick Championship. At this point I was tied for first place and had the white pieces; however, in time pressure I lost the tread. What is the winning sequence of moves? White to move.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Chess in Education Part VI


As reported in this series of articles, the game of chess has long been associated with human intelligence and mental development. From its inception, chess has been an educational tool primarily due to the mental challenge it offers. In the United States, Benjamin Franklin was an early advocate of using chess in public school to develop original thinking in students and many educators support this view presently. Numerous studies argue the positive benefits of chess in the development of the cognitive process and these studies offer valid reasoning as to why chess ought to be part of school curriculum. Chess objectively increases mathematical and verbal abilities in school-aged children, and, as a side benefit, teaches invaluable lessons to students in proper planning, conceptualization/visualization, analyzing problems, weighing options, and decisive decision-making. Those chess skills confer the ability to be successful in business or a field of study for any student who chooses to apply them. Educators achieve desirable results when chess is made part of the school curriculum, in part due to the increase in standardized testing scores; however, teachers also reap the rewards of having students participate in an activity that is not only thought provoking, but also fun. Moreover, teaching students to appreciate chess in school will give these individuals a life-long pastime that continually offers a mental challenge, thereby maintaining cognitive ability and reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease substantially.

The author feels that every school, whether public or private, needs to make an investment in a chess program. The start up costs for such a program is minimal and the benefits to a student’s education are great. This makes chess an excellent value. Since the cited studies prove that chess has the greatest impact on a child’s mental development during their elementary education, chess study should be mandatory for grades Kindergarten through Sixth, and thereafter, chess should be an elective course of study. Teaching our children how to think is what chess in education is all about.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chess in Education Part V

Chess Maintains Cognitive Ability

Chess is undeniably the world’s greatest puzzle, and as such, it is a difficult and challenging game to play. Chess is not physically demanding, but it requires a cognitive ability of the highest order and an astonishing degree of concentration to play the game well. Studies report that people with Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease derive great benefit from playing chess, and are less likely to experience a rapid mental deterioration. Patients who regularly play chess are forced to remember how the playing pieces move, and must call upon encyclopedia-like knowledge to play the opening, middle game, and end game. This mental activity will stall the degradation of cognitive ability that is a hallmark of these diseases, therefore, enabling the people who are afflicted with these disorders to enjoy a fuller life (Russell, 2006). Furthermore, Chicago, Illinois, researchers report that playing chess reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease since the game keeps the brain active, and the practitioners’ of the game are 260 percent less likely to develop the malady (Childers, 2007).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Breaking the 1500 Barrier...A New Playchess High

It was a week ago I played a rated game on Playchess against a 1664 and won. This sent my rating upward in a crisp fashion. Most of my victories come as a result of taking advantage of my opponents inferior position, a position he/she creates for themselves. One day, I will be good enough to force this on lesser opponents, but that requires many boring hours with static positions from a book by IM Jeremy Silman or IM John Watson. For now, the tactics that can be found as a result of inaccurate play from across the board is my gain!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chess in Education Part IV

Chess in Education

Chess has positive benefits for students because it forces the full utilization of an individual student’s cognitive ability. According to chess master Jerry Meyers (2005), chess increases a student’s intelligence by teaching them important skills that, while not specific to chess, are part of the game. Students learn the how to observe what is happening, and how to respond in a logical manner. Further, students learn how to think ahead, develop and weigh options, analyze concretely, and handle and prioritize multiple considerations. In a New York Times article, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley asserted, “A lot of times [in] education we try to teach kids the one right answer [to a given problem] and that leads….to robotic thinking. We need kids who know how to think.” Grandmaster Ashley believes that chess encourages students to think of candidate solutions to problems before choosing the alternative that offers the best solution (as cited in Saulny, 2005). In a recent Rocky Mountain News article, Colorado chess master Todd Bardwick emphasized, “The time management and logical-thinking skills required of a chess master can be applied to any business or field of study.” Mr. Bardwick declared that the skills he had taught to one of his chess students made it possible for this particular student to complete law school in two and a half years and enjoy considerable success as a lawyer (Bardwick, 2007).

The benefits of chess are not just for students; educators have much to gain by incorporating chess into their curriculum. Mr. Stephen Lampkin (2000), in a Chess Life magazine article wrote about how the North Tonawanda School District, a city located near Buffalo, New York, introduced chess as part of the school district’s program of study, and how chess was responsible for the remarkable gains in the district’s standardized test scores at the elementary school level. Dr. Calvin Deyermond, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, reported, “We have seen improvement in mathematical reasoning skills as well as critical thinking as a result of this [chess] program” (as cited in Lampkin, 2000). Additionally, studies demonstrate that chess-in-school programs in New York City, Houston, Texas, and Bradford, Pennsylvania, have led to higher scores on the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (Ferguson Jr., 1995, pp. 8-11; Meyers, 2005).

Friday, February 8, 2008

My Playchess Rating...The Highest Ever!

Since I started my association with the Knights Errant and this crazy world of tactical training through torture, my Playchess server Elo has increase by 150 points. Much of this is due to the increase in tactical vision and awareness. I must confess it hasn't done a thing for my USCF rating, which seems to be stagnant at 1294. Perhaps if I would play in more tournaments that too would increase to around 1400 or so. As for now, I am celebrating my new best Elo!

I have added this chart of my progress on Playchess. A good eye for detail will notice that I don't play many rated games; however, let me assure you I do play everyday! I usually play against guests while learning an opening. Then I try it out in a rated game. So far so good.

One item of note: There is going to be a free chess tournament in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with a prize of $300. It doesn't sound like much, but if you are in town it doesn't cost you a thing, except your time.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Chess in Education Part III

Chess and Mental Development

In an important study in the mid-1920’s, the psychologists Djakow, Petrowski, and Rudik concluded, from their observations of chess grandmasters, that accomplishment in chess came from “exceptional visual memory, combination power, speed of calculation, power of concentration, and logical thinking” (as cited in Ferguson Jr., 1995, p. 1). Further, other psychologists have theorized that besides requiring the aforementioned attributes, chess essentially cultivates them. John Artise draws upon his years of psychological research in chess to identify the contribution chess makes in mental development. In his article Chess and Education, Mr. Artise asserts, “Visual stimuli tend to improve memory more than any other stimuli…chess is definitely an excellent memory exerciser the effects of which are transferable to other subjects where memory is necessary” (as cited in Ferguson Jr., 1995, p. 1).

In an effort to confirm that chess does develop mental abilities, Dr. Albert Frank conducted an experiment at the Lisanga School in Kisangani, Zaire, during the 1973-74 school year. This groundbreaking work became the article Chess and Aptitudes or the Zaire study. The experiment had the following organization:

"Ninety-two (92) students, 16-18 years of age, were selected from the fourth year humanity’s class and distributed at random into two groups (experimental and control) of 46 students each. All of the students were given a battery of tests which included the Primary Mental Abilities test (PMA) in the French adaptation, the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT), the General Aptitudes Test Battery (GATB), and a Rohrschach test. The tests were administered to all of the students both before and after the school year, except for the DAT which was administered only before
the school year and the Rohrschach which was given only after the school year. At the end of the first semester, a partial retesting was made. The experimental group was given a required chess course of two hours each week with optionalplay after school and during vacations." (as cited in Ferguson Jr., 1995, p. 2)

Robert Ferguson Jr., (1995, p. 2) reported that Dr. Frank had two hypothesis concerning chess and its affect on cognitive development. The first hypothesis concerned itself with the necessary skills that form the basis of the ability to learn how to play chess well. The second hypothesis theorized that learning to play chess well contributed to the development of the ability to learn other skills. The result confirmed the first hypothesis, specifically, “There was a significant correlation between the ability to play chess well, and spatial, numerical, administrative-directional, and paper work abilities.” Additionally, confirmation of the second hypothesis, in particular: “… learning to play chess had a positive influence on the development of both numerical and verbal aptitude.” Dr. Frank found that playing chess assists in mental development because chess makes the most of an individual’s potential and enhances it further, therefore, making chess beneficial in education.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chess in Education Part II

The Game of Chess
Chess is a board game that has a playing surface consisting of 64 light and dark colored squares set in an alternating pattern, and arranged in eight horizontal rows and eight vertical rows. The chess opponent’s designation is by the color of the pieces they play with, either white or black—no matter the colors of the set in use. The opponents sit opposite of one another with the board between them. Each chess player has an army consisting of 16 chessmen; one of these armies will be a light color for white side and the other will be a dark color for black side. The white player always has the first move and all the moves must be in accordance with the rules of the game. The object of the game is to capture the opposing king; however, chess games can end in a draw when neither side can force a capture (Chess, 1993).