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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Chess Notebooks

    Back in 1986 GM Andrew Soltis wrote an article in Chess Life in which he stated his belief, supported by some of his research, that a player reaches his level of play somewhere around 8 years after learning the game and then improves very little, perhaps not more than 100 Elo points.  But there is hope.  National Master Rolf Wetzell published a book back in 1994 titled Chess Master...at Any Age in which he told how, at the age of 50, went from being a 1700-1800 rated player to achieving his Master rating. One thing he advocated was carrying around handmade flashcards with important positions and brief notes on them. A personal notebook is sort of an expanded version of Wetzell's method.
     All the great masters of the past, and most modern masters, had hand written notebooks and it sounds like a good idea even in this age of computers. I even have some of my old ones that I have not looked at in years.  For whatever reason, you will remember things better using handwritten notes rather than a computer database.  Using a real chess set is probably better than using a computer, too.  Loose-leaf notebooks are a good choice because you can easily add or rearrange pages if you want.  But, why should you keep one what should you put in it?  

     First, coaches always recommend analyzing your games, even casual ones, without using an engine and only then checking you analysis with an engine. So, one notebook could be for game analysis. You could write down your analysis on one side of the page and on the other engine analysis plus any lessons learned, mistakes made, etc. 
     Another notebook could be for studying opening, middle and endgame positions. You could keep notes and analysis to endgame themes, middlegame themes...anything you have studied. 
     When playing over master games most of us do it just for enjoyment, but it's also not a bad idea to try and relate them to your own games by asking yourself what you learned that you could apply to your own games. 
     By dividing your notebook up into sections (K and P, R and P endings, isolated d-Pawn formations, back rank mates, weak square, etc.) you can paste in positions that illustrate that concept, either from your own games or a master game that you found especially instructive.  Diagrams can be made easily enough using just about any chess program and you can cut it out and use a $2 glue stick to paste it into your notebook. 
     Yasser Seirawan claimed to have filled over 30 such notebooks and if you Google "alekhine chess notebook" and click on images, you'll find many pictures of what was in his. You can also visit the a blog about Alekhine's notebooks HERE.

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