Watching …

As my vacation approaches and my big pseudo-New-Year’s-Resolution thing of taking New Year’s Day to reassess and reorganize my schedule and priorities starts to loom large, I’m reminded that one of the things that I want to do is start playing chess again with an eye to actually learning the strategies as opposed to the ad hoc experience I have. I’ve also been pondering the advice/admonishment of an old professor of mine (Jim Davies) and so have been looking for things to do that are more productive while waiting for things like compiles, installs and people to scream for help that aren’t blog posts (you would be surprised at home many blogs posts in the last few months have been written in somewhat slack times at work as opposed to my every dwindling free time at home). And one of the more obvious things to do is to find a way to play chess against the computer and get some experience in, especially since at times I already have been making my Battlestar Galactica board games in those times at work. So I discovered a site called chess.org (which is a promising name) and mused about setting up a game there to play against the computer. I haven’t done that yet. However, they also have a feature where on the main site they pick an active game and display it live, so you can watch a game without playing one. Here’s what I’ve learned from doing that:

1) I’ve noticed a number of cases where at least one player in the game seems to be missing moves that I would have made. Sometimes, when the next two or three moves are made I see how their move worked out better for them than my move, but a lot of the time they really end up in a worse position than I would have been in. I’ve especially noted a few instances where I saw a checkmate move and they didn’t, or at least didn’t right away. This makes me feel better about my chess abilities. I don’t know how good the players are in each game — they don’t seem to say who’s playing — but that there are some players that I find I’m better than suggests that I am at least an okay player. Playing against the computer — with other programs — I’ve tended to find myself overwhelmed at times which makes me think that I’m terrible, so this helps me think that I’m not quite that bad.

2) One thing that I never really considered important but that turns out to be really important in those games is pawn management. I’ve seen lots of games where pawns are targeted in the mid to end game and where lots of pieces are exchanged to leave pawns around, which the players then try to push into promotions to win the game. So pawn preservation is crucial, but so is pawn positioning, setting things up with support for each other and support from what few major pieces remain to have the best chance of getting a promotion and having the only pawns left that can reasonably do so. There haven’t been many games that have ended before that point, and in those games its usually only because one player dominated the each (or was sneaky, which is my usual forte). This is something that I used to do, but never really thought about, and so am certainly less skilled at it than I’d need to be. Something to consider.

I have no idea when I’m going to actually get into playing chess again, even against a computer. But so far watching the games on chess.org has been an interesting distraction while I’m waiting for other things to happen and have nothing better to do.

One Response to “Watching …”

  1. Reacting … | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] I’m still occasionally watching chess games while compiling and installing and the like. And another thing that I’ve noticed is how important it is to keep your opponent reacting to […]

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