Knight Keystor

A record of my journey of chess improvement.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Questionnaire Tag

Korsmonaut -'re it!

Alrighty, here we go:

1) What is your blogger name and URL?

Kknight at

2) How did you learn about the circles?

I came across the book Rapid Chess Improvement at Barnes & Noble while browsing the chess section.

3) When did you learn about the circles?

Around December of 2005 or January of 2006

4) How long have you been going through the circles or how long did it take if you are finished?

I did my first set of circles in 2 months or so using Chess Tactics for Beginners. I did 20+ circles with that collection (including reviews since.) I've also done a similar number of circles using Advanced Chess School and again using the first 3 tactics modules of Personal Chess Trainer. I can now sit down with any one of those collections and burn through the 1,000+ problems involved in an hour and a half to two hours...less for the 720 problems in each of the PCT modules. Combining those collections gives me a total of over 4,000 problems that I have "circled" through.

5) How is your progress?

Online, I improved by ~500 ELO in a year on about 1400 to about 1900. Live, I had a performance improvement of over 500 between two tournaments a year apart. In the first I ended with a PR of 997. A year later at the same tournament, I ended with a PR of 1502.

6) Does working with the circles alone work for chess improvement, or is it more helpful to join the Knights?

I'd say joining the Knights Errant is beneficial because of the accountability and sense of community that it provides...but that certainly doesn't mean that you can't do it on your own. I joined the Knights after completing my circles with CTB, Adv. Chess School and Modules 1 & 2 of PCT on my own. I did Module 3 of PCT during my time with the Knights.

7) Are you a scholastic player?

Nope...I'm a 28-year-old working adult with a young family. The oldest of my two boys plays chess occasionally though...he's seven years old.

8) Would you recommend the circles to a scholastic player?

Yes, but not using CT-ART...I'd recommend starting with either CTB or PCT before moving on to CTI (Chess Tactics for Intermediates) or CT-ART.

9) Do you use other chess training methods to supplement the circles?

While I was still training regularly, I was studying master games and doing some endgame study in addition to the tactics training. I also played regularly both live and online. I would then analyse and critique the majority of those games using Deep Fritz 10 and semi-regular input from the strongest player at our local club (he is currently a Strong Class A player and was USCF Expert rated about 10 years ago.)

10) Any general comments about chess training or the circles?

It can be hard work, but if you are willing to stay consistent and are determined to improve, this can be the ticket. I averaged at least 1-2 hours of study per day for close to a year and a half (not including playing time.) I'm somewhat the exception in that I did not find the circles to be drudgery, but truly enjoyed them. I think the work paid as I did see the "promised" improvement. I essentially improved 500 points across the board (online and off) in one year's time. Best of luck to anyone willing to take on the task of chess improvement!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


It's amazing how much you remember, even after a two month hiatus. I just polished off a review of Tactics Module-3 in PCT 2007 as a refresher. I ran through it with probably about 95-97% accuracy. I'm going to try to pick up where I left off in Module-4 next. We'll see how it goes...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The End?

"Pre-script" (is there such a thing???) - If you aren't up for reading this admittedly long post, please at least read the last paragraph and know that I do plan to stay "semi-active."

Well, it's been about a month since I've been to the club or played a game (online or off.) I've spent some time doing tactics (and am planning to do some more today,) but it has been a very small amount of time in comparison to the pace that I've kept up for over a year.

Before I explain what has happened, allow me to make it perfectly clear that I have not "burnt out" on chess...nor have I gotten tired of tactics. I still get and will continue to get immense enjoyment out of both. I'm one of those strange people that thinks it is fun to do 1,000+ tactics in a period of a few hours. I still plan to enjoy chess and everything involved with it for years to'll just be much more infrequent. Now...with that out of the way...

Over the past month, I have come to the realization (although I'm not sure that's the best word as I've always known this but not thought much about it) that I am putting a very significant amount of time and effort (along with a less significant, but still decent, amount of money) into something that I will never get anything out of (aside of course from the aforementioned enjoyment.) Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that...but I've decided that if I am going to put that time and effort into something, it might as well be something that has at least the potential to give me some sort of return on my investment of time and effort...

After a fair bit of reading and research, I have gotten involved in the world of Fixed Limit Texas Hold 'em Poker. It is very much a game of strategy and statistics...and I have found that I enjoy it at least as much as I do chess. I study, I practice, I use a database to keep track of my played hands and look for mistakes in my'd be amazed how many similarities there are between chess improvement and poker improvement. Most poker players don't put much effort into improvement because of a mistaken over-emphasis on the factor of luck. I'm already used to putting a significant amount of work into improving at something I enjoy. I figure that if I put as much effort into this as I have into chess, there's no telling how far I can go with it...and I have to "expert" rating in poker is quite a bit more profitable than an expert rating in chess.

In closing, I'd like to thank everybody for the support, encouragement, and kind comments that I've been given during my time with the knights. I'd ask you not to take me off your sidebars just yet. I do plan on staying active by posting at least once a month in regards to the infrequent continuation of my chess journey. Don't worry, this won't become a poker blog. See you next time...

Monday, May 07, 2007

Not Much to Say

I don't have a whole lot to say at the moment, but did want to let everyone know that I haven't fallen off the planet. I'm just working my way through PCT Tactics Module-4 at the moment. I'll continue to update my sidebar with my progress...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Play the Ruy Lopez Mini-Review

Having now spent about a week with IM Andrew Greet's Play the Ruy Lopez, I figured I should post my thoughts on it. In short, if you enjoy playing the Ruy Lopez (a.k.a. the Spanish,) but want to stay away from the enormous amount of theory associated with the main lines, this seems to be the best way to go.

There are lots of original ideas and analysis based mostly on the second or third most popular (but still solid) lines. Everything is well explained and easy to understand...and just about every semi-reasonable response by black is covered! The book is divided into three parts: Part one covers black's third move alternatives (after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5,) part two covers black's fourth move alternatives (following 3...a6 4.Ba4,) and part three focuses on the Worral (4...Nf6 5.Qe2.) Each part is divided into chapters, with a chapter devoted to each of black's systems (Steinitz, Classical, Bird Defence, etc.)

This is the first opening book that I've ever purchased, so I can't give any kind of comparison to other opening books or to any kind of "standard." What I can say is that I'm very happy with the purchase and look forward to getting quite a bit of use out of it. Two thumbs up!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Another Win vs the Club Expert!

This one is really exciting for me due to the fact that it is one of my first games with my newly minted Tarrasch Variation in the French. What a confidence booster in a new line!

Chris abandoned a bishop on move 17 thinking that it was immune to capture because of some back rank trickery. He missed that after attacking my queen with 18...Rad8 that I had the logical reply 19.Qe7, which left me up a piece and with a perfectly safe back rank. After the game he said that he was disappointed to have missed the opportunity of 19...c4, but I don't think that it wouldn't have worked anyway because of 20.Rae1, which would have been my reply had he played it instead of the 19...f5 that he did play. You can see it all here:

Ron - Chris [C09]
Unrated Club Game - No Clock - 18.04.2007
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.exd5 exd5 6.Nxd4 Nc6 7.Bb5 Bd7 8.N2f3 Nf6 9.0–0 Be7 10.Re1 0–0 11.Bg5 Ne4 12.Bxc6 bxc6 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Nd2 Qf6 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Rxe4 c5 17.Nb3 Qxb2 18.Qxd7 Rad8 19.Qe7 f5 20.Ree1 c4 21.Qe6+ Chris Resigns 1–0

In regard to my training, I think I'm finally going to get started on PCT Tactics Module-4 on Monday. I will have achieved all of my review goals (listed in my March 1st post) by then. Also, I received my copy of Play the Ruy Lopez a couple of days ago. So far I'm very impressed with both the writing and the analysis. I'll be sure to get a mini-review up in the next few days. See you then!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Good Books on the French Tarrasch?

Can anyone recommend a good book or two on the French Tarrasch from the white side? I'm making two (relatively) major changes to my opening being to switch from 3.Nc3 against the French to 3.Nd2, the other being to switch to the Worral Attack in the Lopez.

I'm not making these changes due to poor results or unhappiness with my current lines, but rather to stay more consistent with the philosophy seen in the rest of my opening choices. I've built most of my repertoire around less popular and less well-known (but still solid) lines. I've done this largely to increase the likelihood that I'm more booked up than my opponent, as well as to minimize the need to spend significant time on opening study.

The French and the Ruy Lopez (a.k.a. the Spanish) have been the two biggest exceptions in that I have played more mainstream lines. Unfortunately, this has meant that these sections of my repertoire have been significant in size and time-consuming to keep on top of...thus my decision to change things up a bit.

Anyway, I have ordered Play the Ruy Lopez by Greet and am looking for a book to kickstart my Tarrasch knowledge. I'd prefer something that is more on the "talky" side rather than just a large book of variations. If anyone can make a recommendation or two, I'd appreciate it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Retaining PCT 2.0 Training History

Pale Morning Dun brought up a good point that I neglected to mention in the Personal Chess Trainer 2007 review. The issue is whether the training history and progress is carried over from PCT 2.0 to PCT 3.0 when you upgrade. The short answer is no, but there is an easy solution. First though, let me give a quick explanation of the situation...

When you install the new version of PCT, it is a fresh install into C:\Program Files\Personal Chess Trainer doesn't overwrite or upgrade the install of PCT 2.0 which is located (at least by default) in C:\Program Files\Personal Chess Trainer. On the one hand, this means that you can still access version 2.0 and everything still works as normal, but on the other it means that none of the user data, history, or progress is carried over to the new version. With that explained, on to the solution...

If you want to keep your existing history and current progress from PCT 2.0 intact when you move to PCT 2007, it is relatively easy to do. Once you have downloaded, installed, registered, and activated PCT 2007, create a user account and then close the program. Open either My Computer or Windows Explorer (whichever method you prefer) and navigate to C:\Program Files\Personal Chess Trainer\Users\username, where username is the name of the user account you created in PCT 2.0. Select all the .dat files (and ONLY the .dat don't want to copy the .ini or .pc* files) and then click the "Edit" menu and "Copy." Now navigate to C:\Program Files\Personal Chess Trainer 2007\Users\username and then click the "Edit" menu and "Paste."

Once this is done, you can close the window and start PCT 2007 back up. If it was done correctly, all of your history should be intact and if you were in the middle of a unit in PCT 2.0, you should be able to pick up right where you left off.

I hope that helps...feel free to let me know if you run into any problems.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

PCT 2007 Mini-Review (Updated)

I was going to wait until I had completed Tactics Modules 1-3 before doing the review, but after completing a little over half of Module 1 I think that I have enough information to do it justice. I can confidently say that Personal Chess Trainer 2007 (a.k.a. PCT 3.0) has a fairly substantial number of corrections, revisions, updates, and extensions to the problem set presented in PCT 2.0 as well as some completely new problems.

To expand a bit on that, I have run across a few problems so far in Module 1 that used to be in Module 2, meaning that they have re-arranged the problem set in some places. I'm assuming that this is to improve upon the progression of difficulty. There have been a few revisions and updates where problems have been changed (slightly in some cases, more drastically in others.) There have been extensions...for example there was a problem that used to be a two-mover in PCT 2.0 that ended one move before mate (the mating move is largely obvious) that has now been extended to include the mating move. Finally, I have run into problems that start the same as those in PCT 2.0, but follow up with a different reply from the opponent. In one case (problem 389) it was changed from a mate-in-three in PCT 2.0 to a mate-in-six here...same problem, but more difficult reply/variation. UPDATE -- After finishing Module 1, I can add that (perhaps best of all) it seems that the few problems that I was never able to completely "understand" or that just didn't seem to make sense (even after studying them extensively with Fritz, variations and all) have been revised to make them and their associated solutions much more clear and less ambiguous.

In addition to the changes to the problems and problem sets, the interface has been fairly heavily updated. It's a nice looking change in my opinion. Probably the two largest functional differences are the integration of the crafty engine and the ability to traverse back through the problems that have already been completed. Previously, once a problem was finished, you could not back up to it without re-doing the unit. A very nice update...

Finally, two new sets of Modules have been added: Openings and Commented Endgames. The Openings Modules seem somewhat offbeat, offering King's Gambit, Queen's Gambit, English Opening, and Larsen's Opening. The Commented Endgames include modules on Elementary Checkmates, Pawns, Minor Pieces, Rook, and Pieces vs. Pieces.

All-in-all, it seems to me that Personal Chess Trainer 3.0 is a worthwhile upgrade for owners of previous versions and highly recommended for those who've never tried it. At the very least, run over to the PCT website and give the free trial version a go.

Sidebar Pruning (Updated)

I just finished doing some cleanup of the Knights Errant section of my sidebar. Basically, I removed any knights that hadn't posted in three months or more. I made a folder in my bloglines feeds called "Inactive Knights" and moved them all there so that if they return I'll remember to link back to them.

For the record, I removed Celtic, Reborn, Man de la Maza, Pawn Sensei, Board Scholar, Guru, Lucky Bobby, Loomis, Samurai Pawn, and Poe Ripper. I also removed Tempo and Underpromoted Knight as they have both stated that they are done blogging (at least for now.) Finally, I moved Fierabras to Other Chess Blogs as he has left the knights but continued to blog.

UPDATE -- As noted in the comments to this post, I've added DK Transform to my sidebar and moved DutchDefence from Knights to Other Chess Blogs.

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