ACIS of Caissa Improvement Post #8, or, From Chunk to Plan

I would like to draw your attention to this article, “Moving up the Ladder: A Class Player on Gaining 200 Rating Points”, that was recommended by ACIS member Harvey. The author’s suggestions in a nutshell:

  1. hire an instructor
  2. study plans and structures instead of lines / variations
  3. play up the ladder, i.e. play against stronger players, not weaker ones
  4. play serious blitz and analyse your blitz games
  5. solve tactics puzzles daily (30-45 minutes a day)
  6. get in shape

Not to beat a dead horse, but here’s a quick response, anyway:

  1. No money, sorry. I’m already extremely frugal with my chess expenses (no new books, no new chess software), and yet I feel the pain of travelling expenses and club/tournament fees.
  2. YES! (more below)
  3. Makes sense from a rating viewpoint, I guess; but even more importantly, is, I’d say, to play consistently. Don’t don’t care, neither when playing significantly weaker players nor much stronger opponents. Always try to find the best moves within your abilities.
  4. For me, Blitz = a chance to practise openings and plans. And, it’s fun.
  5. Sorry. I want to, I really do. But it just ain’t fun.
  6. See 5.
  7. Also: find yourself a practice buddy! Why does nobody ever mention this? I guess because chess players are more the lonesome ranger type of guy? I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to find a regular online training sparring partner for months… any takers? ;)

Alrighty, back to 3.: Study plans and structures, not variations and lines. The longer I think about it, the more feasible and important this sounds to me. Nothing feels better than investing your position with meaning! Because when you have a plan, it feels like you’re really playing chess. And here I get the impression I have improved. I’m not scoring significantly better yet, but more and more often, I have a sense of what’s going on in a game or position. And more and more often, my moves seem to have purpose. You may have noticed that I haven’t been producing that many chunk-gifs lately. I believe this in fact mirrors this development: I’m still trying to learn new chunks and ideas, but my games are now more about incorporating existing chunks into an overall strategy, or about pursuing a plan such as “dominate the centre, make piece placement awkward for him, then prepare for an attack” or “opt for an isolani and utilise the the potential of open lines/outposts/isolani push“. The gif format doesn’t lend itself to such general plans.

This is not say, though, that there are no more chunks to be had! In a recent game, for instance, I picked up the following two “defensive” chunks: the dangers of unprotected queens behind pawns and of the fianchettoed bishop pawn-pin:

For some reason, I’m more prone or willing to leave the queen unprotected than other pieces when positioning them behind the pawns, perhaps because she’s so mobile and powerful. That often leads to annoying pins. So assess carefully if you can afford leaving your queen unprotected behind your pawns.

Long-range threats along diagonals are particularly tough to spot instantly. That’s part of the appeal of the fianchettoed bishop, especially because the long diagonals (a1-h8 and a8-h1) target the weak b/g pawns or the rooks while at the same hitting the centre. So when you see a fianchettoed bishop, make sure your long-diagonal-danger-sense is in full gear.

In conclusion: I’m going to spend much more time on plans. One effective way of practising this, I believe, is to choose classical openings. My “teachers” here are Jeremy Silman and Katar (and let’s not forget Katar’s commentaries on Their analyses are clear and straight-forward, and often revolve around the domination of the centre and sensible, active piece placement, maintaining the tension in the position and consolidating it until it’s time to attack where your opponent is weakest. This is a philosophy I can understand, and that I think is a tremendous asset for the improving player. It invests their games with meaning, and turns their ideas into plans. Studying master games will be the key component in my future training; not studying them in painful detail, but playing through them rather quickly, trying to understand the general ideas, plans and themes of the game. This is similar to what Dan Heisman advocates. Studying master games in detail is just a waste of time at this level, I believe. The key goal here is to recognise recurring patterns à la “Oh, I’ve seen this knight hopping from f3 to e5 and then sacrificing on g7 before!”. That’s the kind of improvement I’m after.

One other aspect of my recent “improvement”: SCID! I’ve finally converted my annotated Aquarium games into SCID databases and I intend to use only SCID in the future. It’s not particularly intuitive and takes quite some time getting into, but I think it’s worth the effort. If you can handle SCID, you won’t have to spend those 200 bucks on ChessBase, and with Stockfish, you’ve got a free 3000 ELO engine that saves you the 100 bucks you would have paid for Rybka. Chunky out!

PS: Quick question to anyone using ChessFlash: How do you sign up on the ChessFlash website so that you can publish your games there? Do I have to bothr Glenn by e-mail or am I missing something? WordPress still doesn’t support ChessFlash, and I would like to link to annotated games in the future.


8 Responses to ACIS of Caissa Improvement Post #8, or, From Chunk to Plan

  1. NN says:

    Hey, I’ve been looking for a stable practice buddy for a while too!

    What time of the day (and timezone) would you be able to play? Besides blitz and post-blitz analysis, what kind of practice do you have in mind? My blitz is about 1450 fics right now.

    • chunkyrook says:


      My timezone is UTC+1 (ie London time +1h, New York time +6h, LA time +9h). So if you’re in the States, it’d probably have to be on the weekend unless you’re home early. I don’t have a regular playing schedule, but I tend to play between 6pm-10pm during the week.

      Primarily, what I have in mind (apart from blitz) is either longer games with post-mortem or “themed” games, that is, games where we agree on playing a particular opening or playing from a particular position. Say, “let’s play 5 games with an isolated pawn” or “5 games in the Scotch gambit” or “5 rook-versus-rook-and-pawn endgames”. Also, “practice buddy” would entail playing games where we are allowed to take back serious blunders (since it’s not all that useful to practise playing through clearly won positions) … that’s what I have in mind.

      My FICS blitz rating is 1411, so strength-wise that’d be a great match.

  2. NN says:

    Sounds good! How about doing a first session this Saturday or Sunday on fics? Let’s just discuss this further by email.

  3. katar says:

    just wanted to say that it is an honor to be mentioned at this great chess blog. thanks.

  4. Concerning ChessFlash and WordPress you could try the plugin I wrote. You can find it on the WordPress site ( WP-ChessFlash)

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