In issue 5 of the newsletter, I asked you to participate in a blindfold survey to find out how players in different rating ranges visualize the board. I have now looked at the answers and I’m excited to share the result. But first a little disclaimer: this is not a scientific paper, so do not draw big conclusions based on the results. However, I hope it might inspire others to look deeper into the subject!
The Data The survey got 165 replies and was beside the newsletter shared on Twitter and on Reddit. There was an error in the last puzzle, which I only got fixed after 8 or so hours, so some quotes did not make it into this newsletter due to my error. The age of the participants looks like this.
The distribution of the participants with the biggest group between 21-30 years.
And here is the distribution by rating with an even distribution at the higher rating groups. Blindfold chess might scare some beginners off. The rating is based on Lichess blitz-rating (chess.com users were asked to add +200 rating points to that rating).
Since 2016 where I first created an account on Chessable I have been waiting for the app. I have mainly accumulated my 914,540 XP I now have on my phone using the browser to access Chessable, so it is was great excitement I downloaded the app on my iPhone. The app will also be available on Android later in 2021, but there is no official date yet.
So to all the Android-users here is a peak view from the IOS-app.
Quick view of the Chessable iOS-app
My first impression is that everything is very well designed and the overall looks are clean and neat. The navigation in the app is also smooth compared to using the browser.
After using the app I have noticed that I pay more attention to the text and annotations to the moves, which is a huge plus.
As you can see the app looks cleaner with fewer distractions. There is also a natural flow downwards from the diagram to the text and to the ‘Next-button. In the browser, the placement of the ‘Next-button’ could imply that there isn’t anything important to read below and you can just go ahead.
The downside of lowering the placement of the ‘Next-button’ is that your thumb might get uncomfortably numb after awhile of intensive study. Since the thumb has to move from the diagram and down to the right corner of the phone. This is however only an issue if you use your iPhone with one hand.
Another difference is the size of the text. More information is packed below the diagram in the app. I think this is a great improvement since you can get a better overview of the author’s annotations. It can however be a concern for people with a reduced vision, but it is possible to expand the text and make it slightly bigger.
Overall the app is a huge step in the right direction and will be a great foundation to build on for Chessable in the time to come.
I have now tracked my chess training for two weeks with Toggl. It is helping me stay mindful about how I use the time I have carved out for chess. I managed to get 10 hours of chess practice and playing last week.
My main focus was on Chessable and playing rapid chess. This week I would like to get my playing time down a bit and invest it in more study.
One problem I have come across in my own chess training, again and again, is distractions. From the noise, my phone, tv, social media, and my own ability to keep focused on one task. The connectedness of our world has the downside that we are connected almost all the time! That’s maybe why I miss over the board chess since I’m in a protected bubble for 3-5 hours.
Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, which I warmly can recommend, has four interesting ideas related to chess practice: work deeply, distance yourself from social media, embrace boredom, drain the shallows
Here are my takeaways from the book in relation to chess:
Work deeply Do not allow distractions, and try not to set yourself up to fail by playing chess on a computer with 20 browser tabs open. If you can go offline if you are working on a PC or sit with a chess book. Try to work as long as possible on a task to train your brain to focus, before switching to a new task or finishing your session.
Distance yourself from social media Social Media is killing your focus, and should be kept on a long-distance when calculating difficult lines! I often end up checking Twitter getting distracted and losing my focus when I run into a hard problem, so I know this is a real area of improvement for me.
Embrace Boredom Allow your mind to get bored sometimes instead of filling it up with apps, playing blitz, distractions, and small tasks. Cal Newport points out that recent research suggests that if your brain has time to rest it will be more creative afterward. The creativity will hopefully also benefit your chess.
Drain the Shallows In regards to chess, this rule can be interpreted as trying to cut unnecessary activities in order to focus on the important stuff. Eliminate all pointless distractions. Maybe you should clean up your phone for useless chess apps. Sort your chess courses on Chessable and select the few courses to focus on instead of switching between 10 courses. Quality over quantity.
In regards to phone use, Newport has coined the phrase ‘Digital Minimalism’ in his newest book, which is a way of carefully selecting a few digital tools, instead of having 40-50 apps sending you notifications all the time.
I focus on this because many chess training tools now are found as apps, chess books are now read on an app too, and you play chess on your phone as well. Another important point is that you can free a lot of time up if you cut down on your phone use. I can definitely find a lot more time by going on a digital diet!
How to use Toggl for tracking your chess training
In order to be more mindful about my own time and cut down on distractions, I have started to use Toggl to track my chess training time (it’s free to use as a single user). I have previously tried different ways to track my training, but never really discovered the right platform and way to do it. However, Toggl seems perfect. You can use it both in your browser or as an app on your phone. Here is a short video about Toggl.
At first sight, it might look like it is made for law firms, but with a little tweaking, it is perfect for tracking your chess. What in businesses are named projects I have used to make focus areas in my chess training, with projects called Calculation/Tactics, Chess playing, Endgames, Game analysis/Masters Games, Middlegame/Strategy, Openings.
You can of course make your own names and projects eg. if you want to track how much time you waste on bullet, you can make a project called Bullet chess.
When you start tracking you can follow your weekly progress and see how you spend your time on chess.
Additionally, you also get mailed a weekly report with everything broken down. Under each project there are subsections with the specific tasks.
What I did notice after the first week of tracking is that I’m getting less distracted since I don’t want to stop the time. It is also a bit more motivating to pick up a book like ‘1234 Endgame Studies’ from the bookshelf when I can see some kind of result from it. Even though I’m just tracking the training time it is making a difference…at least for me. It might be compared to tracking a long run on a running app.
Most runners choose to track data to keep an eye on progress and make sure they are staying accountable during training. Those reasons alone are enough of a benefit to the process; it is the basis for keeping a training log. However, as noted above, it is what you do with that data that is important.
Accountability towards chess training and putting in the time is definitely something I can use to reach my goal, and I think others can as well. Chess players mostly track their rating progress. Rating progress is basically the end result, and the result of the training you have done. It, therefore, makes more sense to track the training time instead of the rating progress.
I will from now on systematically start tracking my training time and explore if it makes a difference over the long run.
Write in the comments if you want to try this method together with me.
“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
I have long been interested in Buddhism and Zen, and it, therefore, made perfect sense for me to join the Chess Dojo (Discord: http://discord.gg/sUUh8HD). The Chess Dojo is, in short, a hub for chess improvers, run by IM Kostya Kavutskiy, IM David Pruess, and GM Jesse Kraai. Dojo meaning s a hall or place for immersive learning or meditation
Within the dojo tournaments and long training games now are arranged, and I played the first game in a round-robin tournament last Sunday.
Before I show the game with my analysis I will shortly return to the quote by Alan Watts, since it made me think that the thoughts we arrive at during a game are not solely our own and that our chess language is taught to us by the chess community we take part in.
We often hear about the Russian chess school that has formed so many great Russian players. It makes sense that by being part of a community the power of our thoughts collectively gains in strength and affects others taking part in that community. So If I was to rewrite the quote by Alan Watts in relation to chess it would be:
“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions during a game are not actually our own. For we think in terms of chess principles and structures which we did not invent, but which were given to us by the community we take part in and the material we chose to study”
An interesting example is the streamer xQc who is coming from the Gamer/Twitch-community and is now learning to play chess. xQc coined a totally new word for a tactic “the 5headed-wooden-shield” showing that his chess language is something completely different.
By actively participating in a community we adopt new ideas and learn a new language used within that community. I think every chess improver should think about what kind of community benefits his/her improvement the most. And if you are not part of one yet, which should you join?
It was just some thoughts about the influence of taking part in a community in chess.
Now to my game from the Dojo!
My next game is tomorrow, and it is a 30+15 in the #TwitterChessTournament! Wish me luck
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”
Minimalism is to me the intentional choice to focus and enjoy the things you value most and to discard the distractions. Personally I have used this philosophy to decluttering my home, throwing or giving away countless things that I did not use anymore. It has given me more clarity in the process. By reading many books and articles about the minimalist-movement I have found that some aspects also translate to chess. In essence, the biggest problem an adult chess player has is finding the time to play and study chess. Therefore it makes sense to try to cut into the bone and focus on what you value the most.
I have tried to write down some guidelines I will try to adhere to in the future
No online blitz
Only study one book at the time
Keep posting on this blog
Analyze my games in depth
Blitz is probably the biggest time robber. One game often leads to many more before two hours have passed. I often think too much about my blitz-rating and see it as an indicator of my improvement in chess.
To help make these changes I rediscovered an old account on Lichess, SayChessClassical. My idea was to create an account with no logged bullet and blitz games, and so far no such games have been logged. By not having a blitz-rating I hope it will be easier not to waste time on playing blitz.
Now I no longer have the SayCh3ss-account but decided it was time to finally support Lichess.
The Covid-19 situation has changed a lot in a relatively short timespan. On a tiny micro-level it has also changed my daily chess routines. I have less time right now for my many chess-related projects (YouTube, Twitch, #TwitterChessTournament, Patreon, thebestchessbooks.com).
I maybe got caught up in pursuit of gaining an audience on the many platforms instead of focusing on my real goal, chess improvement. Therefore, I have decided to cut all the unessential to focus on what matters to most to me.
The projects I have decided to cut is Patreon (thanks to those of you who have supported me!), thebestchessbooks.com, Twitch, and YouTube (on pause). Instead I will focus on this simple blog.
The blog’s main function will be as a space where I can post my games with analysis and thoughts about chess improvement. A source of inspiration to make these changes was the below video by Jesse Kraai.
I hope that fewer projects/platforms will help me regain focus on my goal, and enable me to do some deep thinking. In the end this hopefully will result in the continuing climb of the chess ladder when we all can play OTB again.
I plan to play mainly longer games on Lichess and post my analysis here afterward. Let me know what you think?