Today I attended the first session of my school's chess club. I am interested in pursuing and developing my skills of the game as I play both within and outside of school. I decided my first step towards developing my skills should be to get an idea of how I compare amongst my peers to provide a base level of comparison and a reference point. As a result, I went and challenge two active participants of the chess club. I found that, after losing both games, I only understand the mechanics of the game in so far as the rules. According to one opponent, I lacked “a lot of commonly known tactics that made me easy to beat”. I asked both players as well as the organizer how I might go about improving my skills in chess. The organizing teacher informed me that practice, like in any game, is “key to improving”. As such, I have committed to coming twice a week to play with unfamiliar opponents to improve my skills.
Reflecting on the comment made by one of my peers, as mentioned earlier, it seemed that I also need to develop my theoretical understanding of the game as otherwise, practice will be laborious and ineffective. In recognizing this, I went online and discovered that there are several chess books available for purchase that outline a considerable volume of chess theory. I found that the Sydney Chess Academy of Chess published a series of books to help new chess players improve their game. I decided to purchase the first two books in this series for two reasons. Firstly, they are all written by Laura Moylan, a FIDE Master. This means that she had an international ranking of 2300 or higher which is an incredible feat as it is the third highest title a chess player can be awarded in the world. As a result, I was sure the work she published would be to a high standard. Secondly, as they are a series, the information will be sequential and will follow a steady increase in complexity and difficulty. This should ensure that the content won’t be at any point too easy or difficult but instead continually challenging. Below is the tax invoice I received via email after purchasing the first two books.
Furthermore, I conducted my own research and discovered that there are a number of tournaments throughout the year run by the Sydney Academy of Chess. I decided that an apt way to expand upon measuring my progress could be to attend these tournaments. This is because by playing you attain a NSW ranking. Subsequently, by following my progression in these tournaments, I would have a numerical indication as to how I am developing in addition to a competitive standard against my peers. For reference, it also seemed like a good idea considering that the pool of players within my school is somewhat limited, by participating in outside tournaments I will be exposed to a greater variety of styles and players that will, in turn, allow me to challenge myself against a greater level of skill variation. After looking at the tournament schedule, below, I found out that there are several tournaments these holidays. I intend to register for the Inner West Chess Challenge 24 on the 16th of April.
Following on from this I also asked another student, who is a highly ranked and competitive chess player within NSW, who informed me that in addition to playing here “it would be a good idea to download the Chess.com app”. He elaborated on the features of the app described the advantages of using it. Apparently, the app allows players to practice against a computer of varying difficulties as well as online against other players, it also provides me with daily puzzles that exercise my problem-solving abilities, helping me to improve. This seemed like an excellent tool to accelerate my progress as it would allow me to player daily rather than twice weekly. As such I have downloaded it. Furthermore, to ensure that I stick to my plan of playing daily I have constructed a time table, below, outlining exactly when each day I have spare time to play.
The yellow highlighted time slots mark the daily half-hour period I have built into my routine to play chess. I chose to allocate a half-hour to playing chess as having downloaded and tested the Chess.com app it seems that one game against the computer. Notably, if I am playing against the computer and I don’t finish within the half-hour period, I am able to exit the app and still resume the same game at a later stage from the same position. Finally, the time allowed on the weekends is 3 times to time allocated during the week. This is because the same feature discussed above isn’t available when playing against another person. This seemed to pose a problem as one of the means through which I intend to monitor my progress is my Chess.com ranking. However, if I have to leave games, it counts as a loss and will impact the reliability of this data. As such, I intend to only play against other players on the weekend when I have an hour and a half. For reference, I chose this amount of time as in a game of chess the maximum time limit is one and a half hours. This means that no matter what I will have the time to finish my game.
Finally, upon watching some chess online, I noticed that players often noted down their moves using a pen and paper. Initially, I didn’t know what they were doing. However, after a quick google search I found out that there is set notation for each move in chess and players often note them down to ensure that if players disagree over where a piece was moved or board set up, both players have a reference as to what the board position was. I decided that I could extrapolate this idea and use it to analyze my games. When I attend the bi-weekly chess club meetings I will note the moves of myself and my opponent in every game I play. Following this, I will log the results into Chess.com that can analyze my game and reveal any moves that were “mistakes” or “blunders”. I hope this will give me an indication as to what stage of the game I am struggling with; whether it be the opening, middle or end phase. As I am new to the game of chess, I do not have an idea of where to set my sight for a specific goal. As such, I will use my performance at the chess tournament in the upcoming holidays to judge where I currently stand and where I would like to be.
In this document I have concerned myself with what I am currently doing, the goal I wish to achieve, and the processes I intend to implement to achieve this goal. I believe that the steps and plans I have outlined relate to a number of the LO’s. Below is a list of the following outcomes I believe my opening reflection addresses along with why:
LO1. I believe that I have in recognizing my lack of skill, but pinpointing why this is the case, and what specific areas of my game are undeveloped, I have clearly identified my current strengths as a chess player but also my weaknesses. I believe the importance of doing this as it provides the first indication as to how to improve by informing me on what I need to work on.
LO2 + LO4. I believe that I have outlined some of the challenges and obstacles such as time restriction and limited variety that could impact my ability to improve or accurately monitor my improvement (LO2). However, by implementing a number of solutions, I believe I have signified my awareness of the challenges I face. In addition, in being proactive and developing time management strategies, I think I've outlined a clear plan as to how to get better, showing commitment to my ideas (LO4).
It has been two weeks and five days since my initial creativity log. In that time I have stuck to my plan and begun developing my chess skill set. I have begun completing activities out of the first book. The content in the first book so far isn’t very challenging. It runs over the very basic moves. So far I have covered how the pieces move, which I already knew, but also, how to write the coordinates, as well as some simple checkmate and stalemate problems. I was a bit unimpressed with the standard of the book’s complexity as I have been finding these easy. However, I have looked ahead and some more challenging problems present themselves later in the book. As such, I will continue to work through the book until reaching these.
In addition, I have played against the computer on chess.com and have found that I situate around a level 7. To ensure I don’t fluke a victory, I always play the same difficulty 3 consecutive times. After this point, I feel confident that I can move onto the next level of difficulty. I have beaten level seven twice but unfortunately, this streak was broken by a loss and so now I am starting again and hoping to progress to level 8.
Playing at school has been enjoyable. There is a variety of skill sets. In the 4 sessions, I have in the last two weeks I was happy that I was able to win 3 out of 4 games. I have found that with the strain on time, only a 40 minute period, it’s best to only try and play one game rather than rushing through games to play more.
On weekends I have also had 4 games on chess.com’s live feature. Unfortunately, I have only won 1 out of the 4 games I played. Thankfully, I am developing an online ranking which I believe, the more I play, will eventually rank me at an appropriate level as currently I am ranked too high.
Finally, I was presented the opportunity by the chess co-coordinator, Mr. Adrew Davies, to attend the Friday afternoon chess sessions. I went to the first session this Friday, the 22nd. To my surprise a great number of boys, more than those who come to the chess club at lunch. I found that at the top level the skill level was much higher here. As such, I will continue to go. Interestingly, if I perform well enough I may have the opportunity to compete on behalf of the school in the GPS league. This seems like it could enhance my abilities as well as be fun and so I have updated this as one of my short term goals.
Below is a series of screenshots from my games with the chess.com computer at various levels -