What are your overall views of the course?

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What are your overall views of the course?

Post by hoopy on February 17th 2010, 6:45 pm

( CAN ANYONE HELP WHEN I EDIT THIS IS FINE BUT WHEN I SEND THE FORMATTING GOES MISALIGNED)


Is the balance right? I find that some months I do not have enough time for modules because of amount of detail. other months I read and absorb it in a day or two. Also I seem to learn much more some month rather than others. Id like others views. here is how I score:(I am not including opening theory as I have not done it justice yet)

Scale : Volume 1-10 1= too little, 10 = too much, & 5 about right
Quality 1-10 10 being superb 1 being very poor. ( I am not including quality of grammer/english & spelling) but do include where pdf could have used browser better)
Note somebody with more skills than me might set this up better but the idea is I am sure Ok. (I am also sure we will all score each month differently).


Volume Quality
Month 1 5 9 Superb First Month
Month 2 9 7 Too many examples on the pawn structures to really study it for me
Month 3 4 5 Content slightly basic
Month 4 8 3 Lots of questions to answer. Not enough annotation for me or real context for the tests.
Month 5 4 3 I did it but did not feel I learned that much
Month 6 8 5 Better than month 4 because of the defence chapter
Month 7 7 6 Very insightful but should have used browser more & way too much to really take it in for me
Month 8 4 8 Great stuff but again browser & fact that all of the theory related to openings not in their repertoire.
Month 9 4 6 OK but I had already read "My System" & felt it was a bit of a copy
Month 10 10 8 Far far too much for my small brain but I really liked the content. I am learning much more than I expected

Overall ( So far) I think the downsides; lack of browser usage, tests seeming a little random, and some material being too light in terms of explaining how you would adapt it to real situations is more than offset by some real quality insight. Note that my views on some months have changed as I go through the course.
Whilst on the course my grading has increased about 200 or so. When I am starting to use the openings it has gone down 300 ( temporarily I hope).

Month 11
month 12
Month 13
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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by Bilbo on February 17th 2010, 9:36 pm

I've been progressing all too slowly on the course thanks to other commitments but like you I loved the first month and thought it some of the most helpful literature I had read on the game.

Month 2, Attacking the King, I thought the 8 annotated games were very good, although a couple of them I wondered why they selected them as opposed to games betweeen well known grandmasters, two games being played by kids for example. Still I learnt a lot from them.

The theory sections are a good although I'm supplementing them with Daniel Kings powerplay series where he goes into far more detail on the Greek Gift sacrifice especially.

I've studied a few of the openings in the 1.d4 white reportoire and find them ok. They are useful because they are not the kind of lines one finds generally in opening books, but the depth is lacking compared to a proper openings book.

Month 11 did offer some excellent model games for most of the main openings but Month 12 was a disaster for me, just introducing, with no explanation or theory two more complicated openings, including a line against the Nimzo Indian. This in particular struck me as a bizarre choice seeing as they dropped the Nimzo from the Black side saying it was too complicated for us to study. Now they have just dumped reams and reams of plain moves without commentary on us and expect us to make sense of it.

I would have far rather had some nice model games for the White side of the Slav to continue what we were introduced to in Month 3.

Overall, I'm very happy with the main module and enjoy working through it, but think the Openings Module is very hit and miss.

Probabably an 8.5/10 for the Main module and 6/10 for the Openings.

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by phoenix7187 on April 19th 2010, 10:09 pm

Bilbo I didn't get the opening module as a I have alot of opening books already and have a repertoire that fits my play style. I tend to play easier more straight foward opening myself. This being said I play the nimzo indian as black against 1. d4. This is a very old but solid opening that is not nose deep in theory. I do not think the nimzo is that hard to play or play against. If you are having problems playing against it let me know. The problem ics is probably having is players transposing into the risky scandinavian after Nf3 and d5. these lines are very different. Some player like this better as it less cramped for black. I stick with the nimzo or transpose into a bogo indian if I need to.
I can't see them saying it's too complex. The french and sicilian systems now those are complex.

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on April 20th 2010, 1:10 pm

Thanks for the really helpful analysis hoopy and Bilbo. I'm embarassed to say I kind of got stuck in Month 3 as I realized I was so weak in tactics and calculation I was too "young" for the course (this was very hard to do frankly because I really enjoy the theory, it wasn't that it was hard to understand, but it just wasn't addressing the reasons for my crappy rating).

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by BobbyBlunder on April 26th 2010, 3:31 pm

Having gone through the entire course and reviewed it once here is my tuppence worth.

I think the idea of the course provides all the chess knowledge one needs, with the exception of standard positions (particularly the endgame)
to play FIDE 2000 plus. This is does pretty well.

BDK - I think you are right the course assumes a level of tactical ability. The material is too advanced for players who have not worked hard at getting tactics and calculating up to master or near master level. Priority number one for most players is tactics and calculation. Advanced positional concepts are simply premature at that point.

However I think the course falls short on one of its key components : the thinking process. This may be because the course assumes the point made above but I feel the course underplays some basic components of what strong players think about - Falsification for one

For me the course was about right as I have the necessary tactical skill and knew how to fill in the gaps the course leaves. I learn't some great new stuff (the center types and what this means, the TODO list, the local piece superiority stuff, and the coordinating piece were real stand outs.

For most players more work on tactics is needed. When I was starting out I read a book on basics tactics which helped alot. My next big increase in levels came when I did the Test Your Chess IQ series I II & III. Wow, that was hard work but well worth it. It was a real mind stretching experience - which is what most players need. After that I was finding amazing variations at the board.

Where the course helped me was fixing the shoddy foundations of my chess understanding which is probably typical of self-taught players.

BDG may I recommend Igor Smirnov's chess course which is a much simpler set of instructions and I thought very helpful. Do the Test Your Chess IQ I and II stuff or Convetka tactics 3.0 (I would do the Convetka tactics daily and TYCHIQ once a week and really try to solve them).

Positional knowledge is important but unless one can calculate and see tactics at near a 2200 level, then it is pretty much pointless.

Only then return to the ICS material.

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on April 28th 2010, 9:48 am

Excellent stuff. BobbyBlunder. What would you think of just working through the tactics material for this course, as an aid for calculation and tactics skills?

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by BobbyBlunder on April 28th 2010, 1:28 pm

BDK : Won't do you any harm. Much of it is a rehash of Averbach's Tactics for Advanced Players which is considered one of the best tactics books ever written. I am not sure how much practical value all those theoretical distinctions are.

Seems to me the basic points that Averbach was making was that most tactics boil down to a double attack and that a double attack was the best counter to a double attack. You see that in high level chess all the time and the play gets ludicrously sharp.

The other point worth making is that most tactics are based on loose or awkardly placed pieces and/or an exposed king. Train yourself to spot those conditions on auto-pilot.

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by BobbyBlunder on April 29th 2010, 2:13 pm

As somone who has studied chess in every possible wrong way there is, I want to expand on some of the points made above as I think I have an idea how it should be done. The central question is how should one study to improve. Does the ICS course cover everything one needs? The answer to the latter is no, but it is a truly great foundation. I cannot adequately express how beneficial this course has been to improving my understanding. The questions that follows is how does one train to turn the knowledge into playing skill and what else needs to be known? For what it's worth here is my take.

First of all I don't believe there is one right way to study. Each individual must find their own path. However I do believe there are some 'theorems' which apply to all. Secondly I am not going to deal with the dimension of training for playing (effort at the board, ability to handle emotions, fitness and so on) , I am only talking about the 'chess engine' not the whole car as it were.

First there is tactics. One cannot play chess without this. This is a huge part of chess strength. Solve all CT-ART problems going round and round until all are solved 100%. Supplement this with one TYCHIQ session per week.

Next there is analysis. Again without this we are sunk. This comes in two parts. Calculation and Evaluation. Once the basic tactical skill is obtained Calculation is all about method and effort. A disciplined structured approach is key. My personal preference is Igor Smirnov's (highly recommended) way of presenting this but to each his own . Evaluation is complex and perhaps at the heart of chess strength. While one is progressing the way to do this is to assess the activity of all the pieces as a whole at the end of the line. This is particulary applicable when we are starting out as the positions we get should arising from the Evans Gambit and not the Petrosian variation of the Kings Indian. That is primarily tactical positions not strategical.

Planning in the middlegame. Tricky stuff. This is really about identifying a weakness or set of weaknesses and attacking them. My recomendation here is the much maligned Bangiev's course. While I accept his writing is monumentally poor the basic approach is useful. For example in Bangiev's Squares Theory 1 what you get to do is 200 positions where you identify a weakness, work out how to attack it and calculate some great tactics. That's pretty good training if you ask me. Bangiev III is similar but with a positional emphasis.

Chess requires the knowledge of standard positions. We should know the standard plans when playing a rook endgame with 3-3 on the kingside and an outside pawn on the queenside, so the only thing we are doing is calculating.

Openings. We should not spend too much time on this. The goal is to reach a playable middle game where we have an active plan. As we get stronger more time can and should be spent on getting an edge.

OK back in a minute. I want to talk about two more things ...

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by BobbyBlunder on April 29th 2010, 2:53 pm

So the student having ploughed through ICS, Bangiev, Smirnov, thousands of tactical problems, got to know all the standard positions and can reach a playable middlegame is now a pretty strong player (About 2 years for all the above I would say). What next in year 3?

Well we are still a bit light on pattern recognition in terms of typical middlegame plans and strategy. We have a good chess engine at this point but now we need the rest of the car to make it go.

The quickest way to get up to speed is Convetka's Encyclopedia of the MiddleGames and Strategy 2.0 (or Euwe's Middle Game I and II and Judgement and Planning, Kmochs Pawn structure thing if you prefer books). At any rate the study of well annotated master games is vital here. The study should not be passive. The guess the move approach works well. When studying and predicting the next move, it is a good way to consolidate and practise the stuff that was worked in in years 1 and 2 while building a knowledge base of typical plans and positions.

Another much maligned author is Iossif Dorfman (Method and Critical Moment). In my humble opinion he is right about two things he has been slammed on. First the static/dynamic distinction is right on. In fact I cannot see how one can evaluate without it. Secondly he does not apply chess rules unthinkingly (despite what Watson says you cannot play chess without rules - I have played enough GM's and IM's to know this is how they do think whether they realise it or not ... along with concrete analysis when the time is right) and thirdly what a great collection of games! Dorfman is a really interesting player.

Finally we should study our games with the principle aim of finding what is wrong with our thinking process, and what is the underling source of our mistakes. Usually a bunch of different errors can be traced back to an underlying weakness or two or that needs to be addressed. A coach is really useful here if you can afford one as they might be able to see you more clearly that you can see yourself.

And now it is time to beef up those openings but only when we are sure we have the thinking process down.

In summary chess strength is :
1 The right thinking process
2 Real effort at the board
3 Pattern recognition
4 Talent

We can't do anything about 4 but 1-3 is all about how much you want it. You can be an FM, IM or even a 'weak' GM if you work hard and only in the right way but 2600 plus is where the talented players live.

Yeah. I'm not going to live there either. My mistake all those years ago was not understanding the importance of getting the thinking process right. Please don't make same the mistake I did.

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by Blue Devil Knight on May 6th 2010, 9:57 am

The GM/IMs I talk to tend to have read much less than they have simply played a ton of slow games and gone over them carefully with a coach usually, and that's how they improved. For some reason adults like to focus on books and software rather than slow games/analysis with a coach. Is this justified, I wonder?

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by BobbyBlunder on May 6th 2010, 2:26 pm

I like that BDG, yes there is no doubt playing a bunch of slow games and going over the games with a coach (the right coach) is key. One mistake I made in past was not going over my tournament games in fine detail. However according to GM Igor Smirnov GM's do read books but very slowly and very thoughtfully which means they don't read much but they do read deeply. I suspect most players who are not progressing probably rush through material and exhibit shallower reading tendencies. 5 books read deeply is better than 100 shallow reads.

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Brand new to Course

Post by RockingRook on May 10th 2010, 12:19 am

I just received my first month of the main module and the opening module. Have downloaded everything to my PC
and basically looked over the material. Looks like it will be a lot of work but I am up to the challenge.

The games are loaded in my CB 8 and will take it from there.

Will have to rewire my brain to ask myself the questions outlined in the course. The "To do" list
looks like it will definitely be of help when planning strategy for the game. All in all I
will have to restructure how I look at a chess game but I guess that is the point of the first month.

Hopefully I will catch on and it will do me some good. I have the time now to put it to good use.

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Re: What are your overall views of the course?

Post by chesstiger on May 10th 2010, 12:35 am

It may be that you will drop in rating when you first try to implement this new thoughtproces. Dont worry about that since its normal. Something new needs time to adjust to. After awhile, when one is more familiar with this thoughtproces one will get the benefits from it and your rating will raise accordingwise.
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