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nivag18 25 ( +1 | -1 )
Chess Vision Is anyone here familiar with Michael De La Maza techniques to help a player improve his vision of the board? As far as I know it is a tactical based exercise. Has anyone here tried it? And if so...What are your thoughts. I find his theories interesting.
durango1966z 30 ( +1 | -1 )
400 points in 400 days I think his initial article was called, 400 Points in 400 Days. I tried some of his suggestions and did find that my play improved significantly. However, that was around 2 years ago, and my play has gotten worse since that time. If you don't keep up the exercises, your chess vision weakens.
chess_champion 20 ( +1 | -1 )
i also found the above article to be quite useful... here's a link: www.chesscafe.com/text/skittles148.pdf
furryfunbundle 13 ( +1 | -1 )
Part 2 of the same article can be found via

www.chesscafe.com/text/skittles150.pdf
nivag18 20 ( +1 | -1 )
Has anyone used it? Thanks guys...But the thing I really wanted to know is...Has anyone used this method for improving their tactical skill and if so what are your thoughts about it?...Thanks again...
myway316 52 ( +1 | -1 )
I've tried it... ...and altho it has some points,it will not work. De La Masa makes the premise that all your problems on the board can be solved by tactical means,which is absurd.What if there is no tactical solution,or the position demands a solution other than tactical?.Also,he ignores all the other phases of the game,such as pawn structures,the endgame,etc. De La Masa's approach is strictly one-dimensional.It might work vs. weaker opposition,but it should fail,badly,against a more well-rounded oppoent.
nivag18 20 ( +1 | -1 )
Not answering the Question I appreciate your comments myway316...However I was asking if anyone has tried it and what their thoughts about it were...I'm just concerned about tactically ability here and how to improve it.
lespaul 4 ( +1 | -1 )
err... myway has tried it.. are his points not valid?
coyotefan 46 ( +1 | -1 )
TANSTAFL Anyone heard of this. "There a'int no such thing as a free lunch".

No one book or approach is going to improve you 400 points in 400 days, or make you a master. STUDY, PLAY, LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES, and improve to the point you get to learn from your opponents mistakes. Forget the easy fixes.

It is like take this pill and lose 100 lbs.....Oh by the way you also need to read the insert that says "eat less, exercise more"
nivag18 35 ( +1 | -1 )
one last time Okay...one last time...I originally asked about this method as a way of improving your tactics...I'm not concerned with the fact that some people may not agree with the broad brushstrokes of his theory. I was wondering if anyone has tried it and improved their tactically ability?...This is my last post on this topic...Honest...
kimbeldrv 93 ( +1 | -1 )
... I read his 2 articles posted at ChessCafe.com, unfortunately, I'm not that commited to stick to his program on a regular basis. I like or tend to bounce around alot with my chess studies. Sometimes I read up on some openings, sometimes I play through some famous games, and so on...
I always have a tactics problem book around because its quick and handy.

I think each person has to develop/find their own chess learning path based upon some good general principles, their own life/free time/commitment and their personal chess goals. And what about passion... if you are really into openings or a particular opening at this time, why not study it. You can work on tactics & endgames next month.

Here's and interesting article:
www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman19.pdf
peppe_l 1520 ( +1 | -1 )
If one studies chess At least 3 hours per day - like De La Maza suggests in his book - of course one will improve. Even if one concentrates only on tactics, neglecting strategy and endgames.

If I buy his book and start studying chess 3 hours per day, following his instructions, will I become better player? Sure. I have a book My Best Games by Karpov, where he says he used to study approx 3 hours per day!

The point is people who follow his methods improve because they start studying chess seriously, not necessarily because his methods are so good.

Some time ago I saw a review of his book, by Jeremy Silman. A quick Google search and voila...

***

RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT: A Study Plan for Adult Players
Author: Michael de la Maza
126 pages
Everyman Chess (2002)

Reviewed by Jeremy Silman

A couple months ago a young man in his 20s with a 940 rating contacted me for lessons. He had only been playing for a short time, was a very intelligent guy, and already had solid tactical skills (probably 1500+ tactics). Why then was he only rated 940? I was interested in answering this question so I accepted “Stu” as a student, and our quest for his improvement began. During one tournament, Stu was playing a 1200 player. He was winning the game easily but, in the thick of battle, made some blunder and lost. Afterwards Mr. 1200 said, “I heard you are taking lessons from Silman. Don’t bother! Instead, just read RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT by Michael de la Maza and you’ll get good, just like I have!”

A few weeks later Stu was playing another 900 player. Stu achieved a Lucena (I had taught him that it’s easily winning), forgot how to win it (sigh…) and drew. Afterwards his opponent said, “Yeah, that position’s just a draw. By the way, you know how I got so good? I read RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT.”

Aside from the absurdity of a 900 and 1200 player claiming vast improvement due to this book (and both players showed no tactical or positional skills whatsoever in the games mentioned), I admit to being intrigued by the repeated mention of a book I knew nothing about. Thus, I bought it, read it, and now completely understand where these two (deluded) gentlemen were coming from.

Mr. de la Maza is a player who (at around 1321) suffered badly from elementary tactical oversights and, rather than lie back and accept eternal misery, decided to do something about it. Creating his own tactical study plan, he followed it with incredible verve and leapt up “…400 USCF rating points in my first year of tournament play and almost 300 rating points in my second year of play.” This, and a little luck (you always need some luck to win a tournament!), helped him win the U2000 section of the 2001 World Open, which netted him a $10,000.00 prize. He then retired from active play with a 2041 rating.

That’s a nice success story, and it certainly makes the average tournament player salivate in lustful desire. Any student that looks at the de la Maza book will ask, “Can I improve as fast as he did? Can I win $10,000?”

Mr. de la Maza starts out by doing something I can’t stand: he tells you, over and over and over (page after page after page), what he’s going to do for you without teaching you anything. This technique is popular in many self-help and how-to books. It serves as page filler, it revs the reader into a frenzy, and it obscures the fact that the author actually has very little of worth to say. In short, RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT is less instructive than motivational. It incites emotion, promises far more than could or should be promised, and ultimately is nothing more than pie in the sky in view of the true lesson he’s imparting: Study Tactics and Work Your a** Off!

Mr. de la Maza’s well-intentioned manipulation is based on a sincere desire to help those who suffered as he did. I respect that. And I can’t help but agree with his true (sometimes “coded”) message: Tactical skill acquired by hard work will make you much stronger.

How much work did de la Maza do? Let’s have him tell us: “It took me about twenty months to achieve a rating of 1900 and during that time I studied two to three hours a day for a total of approximately 1500 hours of study. In addition, I played approximately 200 chess games, each of which took approximately three hours for a total of 2100 hours of study time.”

I hate to break this to the many chess hopefuls out there, but EVERY chess writer/teacher begs the student to master basic tactics. And it doesn’t take a genius to agree that hard work will always inspire some sort of improvement (sometimes small, sometimes enormous). The problem (As mentioned in my article: BUILDING A BASE OF CHESS UNDERSTANDING. To see it, click HERE) is that very few people are able to offer up this much time, effort, and dedication to chess due to the constraints of job, family, children, and life in general.

I’m reminded of the ever-renewing slew of young starlets who arrive in Los Angeles from farms, towns, and cities all over the U.S. Each has a dream, and every one of them knows that they WILL be that one in 20,000 that will succeed. Once they hit the streets of Hollywood, a variety of manipulative, shady characters meet them, tell them that he’ll turn them into the star that they know they’re preordained to be, and…well, it’s not pretty. Preying on people’s hopes and dreams is one of the oldest scams in the world, and this desire to be “a great chessplayer” makes such dreamers swoon at de la Maza’s inspirational words.

Some years ago I received a serious flier that recommended you quit your job and enter the “lucrative field of chess.” Upon reading this, my heart stopped and I had to push a finger into the wall socket to regain a beat. Imagine the déjà vu when I read these de la Maza words on page 47 of his book: “If you do not have access a computer you should make every effort to get one. New computers can be purchased with a monitor for under $400 and used computers can be purchased with a monitor for under $200. The money you spend will be immediately returned to you when you start winning prizes at tournaments.”

Note how he constantly pushes “hope” – hope that you’ll get good, hope that it will be easy, hope that you’ll win lots of money. His non-stop blither about “chess vision” makes one squint into a mirror and imagine that a super hero is looking back, while his promises to the gullible chess student of hundreds of rating points in one year and a nice income from chess prizes is, in my opinion, almost criminal and is most certainly ignorant.

Most horrifying, perhaps (how to pick one horrific moment over another?), is his sample game (one of his own in which he plays White), where he shows how one should think move by move:

Opponent’s threat: No significant threats.
Decide move: 1.e4 of course!

1.e4 c5

Opponent’s threat: No significant threats, but watch out for …Qa5.
Decide move: No tactics. 2.Nf3 or 2.Nc3 are both reasonable.

2.Nf3 d6

Opponent’s threat: No significant threats.
Decide move: No tactics. 3.e5 is most shocking. Continue development with 3.Nc3.

3.Nc3 Nf6

Opponent’s threat: No significant threats.
Decide move: No tactics. Continue to develop with 4.Bb5+.

4.Bb5+ Bd7

Opponent’s threat: No significant threats but light-squared Bishop is attacked.
Decide move: No tactics.

5.Bxd7+ Qxd7

Opponent’s threat: No significant threats.
Decide move: No tactics. 6.e5 continues to be quite interesting, at least in part because it creates a crazy position that Black will not know: 6…dxe5 7.Nxe5 Qe6 8.f4. Stay safe with 6.0-0.

6.0-0 Nc6

Opponent’s threat: …Nd4 is unpleasant.
Decide move: No tactics. Exchange pawns and open up center with 7.d4.

Is this guy kidding? Is he trying to turn us into soulless chess machines made of flesh? I half expected him to write (once a threat finally appeared): “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

My final spasm associated with RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT (or should I rename it: RAPID CHESS IMPOVERISHMENT) is the 16 pages he devotes to reader’s praise. The title of this chapter is “Success With Rapid Chess Improvement.” I read the letters with interest but soon that interest turned to incredulity. Of the more than 16 letters he lists, only two people (perhaps I missed one?) claim any rating gain! Instead, we get “success” stories like this:

“Excellent!”
NM Spencer Lower

“I would like to thank you for creating your systematic chess…I am totally stunned and surprised about this whole new idea – and I will of course try it myself!”
Torsten Hellmann

“I read your [RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT program] and really enjoyed it. I think that it will be a great help to me.”
Brian Summer

Perhaps I should write a book called, GRANDMASTER IN TWO WEEKS where I will recommend buying a Fischer signature (don’t worry, you’ll regain the spent money in chess prizes), sitting on it for two weeks straight (no getting up allowed!), and then heading for the nearest international event where you can take your rightful place as a world beater. Letters would pour in like: “I’m still sitting, but I can’t wait for the two weeks to be up so I can be World Champion!” or “When I find time to sit like that I know it will make me a great player!”

Everyone clearly loves the idea of easy and rapid improvement (who wouldn’t?), and they all can’t wait for those rating points to pour in (kind of reminds me of those late-night infomercials about instant wealth). Yet, hope alone won’t get the job done.

The simple truth is, everyone has his own individual needs, weaknesses, and strengths. When I get a new student, I look at his games in an effort to see what HIS individual problem is. Then I try to cure that particular problem, while not forgetting to give him healthy doses of information in other areas of chess thought. Many players have tactical abilities far beyond their rating, but are positionally pathetic. Others are, indeed, helpless in the face of tactics. And others have problems such as lack of patience or the feeling that all games need to be decided by a kingside attack or a trick.

Another thing that de la Maza didn’t mention (he was most likely unaware of it) is that many tactical errors occur after a strategically poor position has been reached. Confusion and/or panic sets in, the player has no idea what he’s supposed to do, and a blunder follows. In fact, this same thing happens at high levels, where a grandmaster gets himself into positional trouble, despairs in the face of helplessness, and misses an obvious tactic. This very common problem isn’t about tactics at all.

A study regimen MUST be created for the individual in question. And due to this truth, I can (VERY reservedly!) recommend de la Maza’s book to those that are falling apart tactically AND who are willing to work like dogs to eradicate the problem (and those hard working individuals will quite likely experience chess improvement of some kind). For those that need a cheerleader/drill sergeant/motivational speaker to get them started, de la Maza is there to lead you to the Promised Land of robotic tactical acumen. But if your main problem lies elsewhere, or if you have limited time to devote to chess study (translation: if you have a life), then other books, (real) teachers, ideas, etc. need to be made use of.

Winning by trickery without understanding the game at all is nothing less than pathetic. Yes, we all need tricks now and then to save us from certain doom, but to play for a cheap tactic from move one on is NOT chess. By all means, study tactics as often as possible, but don’t allow yourself to look at a grandmaster game and understand nothing whatsoever about what’s going on. To avoid this state of “chess existence without beauty,” one must seek balance. Understand a couple openings (don’t memorize, understand the ideas of your opening), understand basic strategic concepts, learn endgame basics, and master key tactical motifs. All this can be done at your own pace, and you CAN improve without the use of snake oil.

Let’s take a look at a letter I received:

The reason for his letter is to thank you. I began playing chess some years ago when I was already about 50 years of age. I have read a plethora of chess books in the meantime but none of them with real benefit. They were either too sophisticated or too simple with too few explanations. I found CT-Art on CD ROM very useful, but in spite of improving my tactical skills I lost too many games without knowing what actually was going on. Then I found your book The Amateur’s Mind. Indeed, that was the book that I was waiting and looking for. After having read it, my playing strength dramatically increased and since then I have more fun when I play chess because I do understand what I am doing and what I have to do in a given position.
Dr. Koechel
Germany

I get hundreds of letters from students worldwide that gain hundreds of points in a few months from reading my “strategically oriented” books. Others don’t improve drastically in tournament play, but simply enjoy the game more because they can suddenly understand ideas utilized by the chess greats. This is a VERY important point (I’m not pushing my books, I’m trying to make a point!): they enjoy the game more because, instead of looking for tricks while not having a clue about what’s happening on a broader scale, they are taught that chess has many hidden depths that ARE accessible to them with proper training.

When all is said and done, I can’t recommend RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT (a book that, in my view, offers a philosophically bankrupt vision of what chess is). It smacks of “the blind leading the blind.” But, as I said earlier, his book might prove useful for some.

***

clemens 15 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks for that review peppe_l, that was both revealing and amusing :)
caldazar 717 ( +1 | -1 )
Personal experiences with Rapid Chess Improvement I've worked through De La Maza's Rapid Chess Improvement before and it did improve my tactical skill (albeit on my own schedule; does anyone actually have the time to solve 1000 chess problems in one day and maintain some semblance of a life?). Looking back on the experience, I have mixed feelings about the study program.

It definitely improved my chess vision. Bishop lines, knight hops, rook ranks and files all pop out at me instantly now just by glancing at the board; it's as if someone took a marker and highlighted all the attacked squares for me. Small wonder; if you constantly stare at knight moves for days on end, the patterns get etched in your mind. That's pretty much all De La Maza's tactical training is (and to a degree, chess study in general): pattern recognition. Same thing with the thousand tactical exercises he suggests you solve repeatedly; the net effect is that those tactical motifs and patterns sink in. Think about when you were a child and were first learning multiplication tables; it's the same type of exercise.

It also built up my calculation skills, though not in the way De La Maza claimed his program would. My calculation skills didn't actually improve during the training. I'd still fumble my way through the calculations, wind up with some nonsensical muddled variations, and then I'd look at the answer key. Next time around, I'd memorized the solution so I just repeated the memorized pattern to arrive at the answer. It built up my pattern recognition but didn’t do much for my calculation skills. However, I found that I slowly began to calculate more in real games. After attempting to solve so many tactical puzzles (and filling in the blanks of solutions I only half-remembered), I began to try to calculate more forcing variations when I could. At first, my variations were all garbage but over time, because I was calculating more, the quality of my calculated lines improved through practice.

De La Maza also emphasizes a structured thinking process, something that I lacked at the time and a weakness I find common among many of my fellow amateurs. I never actually used De La Maza’s outlined process, but his discussion led me to develop a structure that worked for me. De La Maza also advocates an extremely trial-and-error based approach to learning chess after you have a solid tactical foundation, something that appeals to me. Instead of reading lots of material on strategy, openings, and endgames, you just play (and lose, probably). Only then do you try to figure out what your mistakes are by turning to references, coaching, or what have you to correct your play. This is a bit different than reading up on strategy first and then trying to apply what you read to your games. Essentially, you're recreating chess theory for yourself. You're starting with a tactical foundation (romantic masters) and then, knowing very little strategy, redeveloping various positional concepts for yourself through trial and error, progressing to ever more complex strategies (classical --> hypermodern --> modern).

I suppose another benefit of De La Maza's study plan is that it forces some mental discipline upon the student by making him stick to a rigid schedule. I guess that could be a useful side benefit for lazy chess players.

As for how "rapid" the improvement is, I think this would depend on your current level of skill. If you're an expert looking to become a master, I think it's unreasonable to expect that intense tactical training alone will help you reach your goal. But if you're a weak class player, sitting on the bottom rungs of the chess tournament ladder? I can buy that a chess player who has very little tactical skill could see rapid improvement. Look at some games here on Gameknot played by lower-rated players; invariably, you'll find one or more points where the games could have been (or were) decided by moves leading to a material gain that trumped all other positional factors. For me, I gained roughly 100 rating points during this study period (approx. 3 months, studying 1.5 - 2 hours, 5 nights a week) as a Class C/Class B US player.

I eventually gave up the training, though. I felt the training was too inefficient. Tactical training is nice and all, but a chess game is not simply an endless series of tactical puzzles. It isn't always "White to play and win." Sometimes, it's "White to play and not lose," "White to play and be slightly better," "White to play and not do anything stupid that would cost him his existing advantage," or "White to play and try to pass the move." Also, even if there is a tactical solution available, there's no master standing behind you in a real game whispering "White to play and win! Look for it!" Knowing when to look for a tactical shot is just as important as knowing how to set a tactical goal (deciding on which tactical motif to employ) and calculating the variations. Knowing when to search is just another form of pattern recognition and that can only really be gained through playing experience.

Thinking tactically and calculating variations is not always appropriate. Sure, there can be tactical shots in endgames, and people fall into opening traps now and again, but by and large, you don't go calculating reams of variations 3 moves into the game. As a counterexample, if you carefully study whole games, going through them and annotating and analyzing the moves, you start to get a feel for what types of thinking approaches are most appropriate for which positions.

De La Maza's training program is also inefficient because you're essentially reinventing the wheel in terms of chess theory. If you know what your goal is ahead of time (create a weak square, win a pawn, sac the exchange for initiative), you can take what knowledge you have and try to achieve your goal. If you have no idea what your goal should even be, you're going to flounder as you try to mix your arsenal of tactical and strategic knowledge to try to make something good happen for yourself.

Last, but certainly not least, De La Maza's training program was not fun for me. It was repetitive and boring. If one's goal is solely to become a more skilled chess player and gain ratings points, then the entertainment aspect of studying should not matter. But for me, chess is a hobby, a game I play for enjoyment. It's fun for me to look over a game by Kasparov and see the effects of a deep strategy, or seeing how Lasker swindled some other master with clever misdirection. And you can take those games and calculate variations on each move just as easily as you can calculate the solutions to tactical puzzles. But solving 100 knight fork puzzles straight? No thank you.

Overall, I would think De La Maza's tactical training program would work and most weak amateurs would derive some benefit from the study program. It undoubtedly did me some good in a period of chess improvement where I felt I lacked a solid ability to calculate. I don't think I would recommend it to others, though.