Saturday, December 09, 2006

Frequency Of Play

The act of playing good competitive chess is, of course, the primary goal of the GCTS. Every player will transgress at some point the various classes of chess skill as his understanding and competency of the game increases. Let's discuss for a moment the Frequency of Play within, and outside, the framework of the GCTS.

Play As a Training Tool
Playing chess as part of the trainig environment (The "PL" Sessions in our GCTS) is not the same as competitive chess. The differences are subtle. When you play as part of your training, typically games less than G30 or so, you are playing games to evaluate your understanding of your current knowledge of opening theory, the implementation of middlegame plan construction, strategic decision, etc. Training games typically are shorter and more relaxed as it is more important to display a wide set of ideas in your games, and to play more games, and not so much the end result. Of course, we want to win all games, but the focus is not on winning exclusively. The focus should be on applying what one has concentrated his studies on.

Playing Competitively
When you play competitively, these ideas hardly enter your mind, and the focus is primarly on winning the game. You do not risk by experimenting with openings you are still in the process of learning; generally you stick to what you know. In addition, the time limits on competitive chess are usually at least 40 moves in 2 hours, so the quality of play is better overall. For example, I personally usee to play the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense faithfully if given the opportunity. Since my re-emergence back into the local chess scene, I don't even play the Sicilian against e4. For several months prior, I prepared an opening repertoire around the Slav and the Caro-Kann Defense - both very similar pawn structures with similar ideas (e5/c5 breaks, q-side expansion, etc.). I will, however, experiment with the dragon in short training games until I bring myself to the point where I feel comfortable playing it in a longer, competitive game.

This is very important because every chess player has certain openings they dislike; types of positions they loathe. Until you feel comfortable with those positions, you should avoid competitive games that lead to such positions. In my case, the Dragon was a great opening for me as it was sharp and led to quick victories (and losses) for both sides. In my age, I now seek out more solid opening choices. My experimentation continues with the Dragon, however.

Playing is Working
For most, getting down to their local chess club might seem like a journey on foot across the Alps. But playing at your local club has several advantages that you cannot get on the internet. There is the socialization, immediate commentary after the game (how often does that really happen online?), making of friends, and the discovery of others like yourself who love this game that are local to you. The USA was made infinitely better by the Fischer Era in the early/mid 70's regarding chess clubs and the availablility of places to go to hang out with your friends and play this great game. Rantings aside, he did bring chess to the mainstream public in the USA, however briefly.

I think it is important for chess players who take the game seriously (we all do here, right?) to get to a local club and play and mingle with other players if you can physically do so. Placing your personal pride on the line in the flesh is a great motivator. You can't simply click the big 'X' in the upper right corner and disappear when you are in a chess club. Facing your conquerors again and again will make you a stronger player and a better person. We learn how to deal with loss and victory when we play chess; some people never get to experience this strange facet of chess because they simply play online exclusively. Actively seek out players in higher classes at local clubs and ask for a game. As Susan Polgar says, 'Win with Grace, Lose with Dignity'.

It is my belief that any serious player must play one major local tournament per month to improve his competitive play. Nerves, conduct of the game, rest, fatigue - all these aspects of competitive play come into being at a good tournament. Playing 4 G15's is not the same as playing 2 rounds of 40/2 G60 on a Saturday.

After your tournament, you MUST take the time to correctly evaluate your games, identify where your weaknesses are, make adjustments to your training, and continue working toward the NEXT tournament. It is important to have that next tournament in mind as soon as you complete the current tournament, if for nothing else than motivation to do better.

Frequency of Play is an important part of the GCTS training. Without a reasonable playing schedule, your newfound ideas may dissipate from non-use and be forgotten. Try and play as frequently as possible.

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