Knights Errant FAQ

The following FAQ answers questions about the Knights Errant,
a group of chess enthusiasts blogging about their quest to improve at the game. If you are curious about the Knights, or want to be a Knight, this post should answer your questions. If you have a question that isn't answered, please leave it in the comments.


1. Who are the Knights Errant?
2. Who invented the Circles program of tactical study?
3. Who was the first Knight?
4. What is the meaning of the term 'Knight Errant'?
5. How can I become a Knight Errant?
6. As a Knight, what do I need to do?
7. How do I update my sidebar?
8. What software should I use for the Circles?
9. What if I want to do the Circles with a book?
10. What if I want to do Circles, but not with tactics?
11. Why do you repeat the same problems multiple times?
12. Do I have to do multiple circles of the same problems?
13. How can I stop being a Knight Errant?
14. This seems like a very narrow approach to chess. Isn't there more to chess than tactics?
15. Do the Circles actually work? Have your ratings improved?
16. I'm a Knight but I am not on your sidebar. What the heck?
17. Who is 'DG'?
18. Who are the 'Friends of the Knights'?
19. Is there a leader of the Knights Errant?

1. Who are the Knights Errant?
The Knights Errant are a group of bloggers that are trying to improve their tactical pattern recognition using a method known as The Circles. The Circles training program involves thoroughly learning the solutions to a large (usually 1000+) set of tactical problems by working through the problems many times (usually seven or more cycles through the problems). We became Knights because, while working through such a strenuous program, it is very helpful to have others out there to ask for advice, give encouragement, and generally foster comradarie. There are many Knights who have finished the Circles (Knights Victorious on my sidebar), and it is fun to read through their blogs to see how they fared.

2. Who invented the Circles program of tactical study?
Michael de la Maza, whose USCF rating went up over 600 points in two years while working through the Circles. He wrote about the method in two articles (here and here), and then expanded them into a book Rapid Chess Improvement. Note that the book contains very little information that is not already in the articles. The general idea, that to improve at tactics it helps to learn a large set of basic tactical positions extremely well, has been independently suggested by many chess instructors.

3. Who was the first Knight?
Man de la Maza was the first to begin blogging about his experiences with the Circles (in September 2004), and when Sancho Pawnza joined in the fun, they whimsically dubbed themselves the Knights Errant. The name stuck, and the ranks of the Knights grew.

4. What is the meaning of the term 'Knight Errant'?
It is an homage to Don Quixote, who calls himself a Knight Errant in Cervantes' master work. In Cervantes' day, the term invoked images of knights wandering in search of adventures, which was Don Quixotes' raison d’être. Now it tends to invoke images of a bumbling fool. We try not to take ourselves too seriously.

5. How can I become a Knight Errant?
If you are blogging about your Circles-inspired program of study, and want to be a Knight, just email the listkeeper (secretary.knight [at] yahoo [dot] com). It is always fun when new voices enter the chorus!

6. As a Knight, what do I need to do?
To stay on the list of active Knights, just blog regularly (once a month or more) and maintain a list with all of the active Knights on your sidebar. The sidebar list allows new Knights to quickly become known amongst other Knights, and it provides a useful way to quickly navigate through the Knights' blogs to check in on everyone. It also guards against link-leeches trying to increase the "value" of their site.

7. How do I update my sidebar?
Blogger describes how to do this here. For an approach to maintaining the list of Knights in your sidebar that will stay current as Knights come and go, see this post.

8. What software should I use for the Circles?
There is a list of potential software here.

9. What if I want to do the Circles with a book?
This is great: it gives you freedom! A couple of Knights have done the Circles with books of tactical problems.

10. What if I want to do Circles, but not with tactics?
This is fine. You might want to apply the Circles to study endgame problems, master games, or even your favorite opening book.

11. Why do you repeat the same problems multiple times?
The repetition is meant to burn the patterns into your memory, so you can eventually do the problems quickly without thinking, the way you can multiply 2 and 3 or recognize a human face.

12. Do I have to do multiple circles of the same problems?
No, actually things are quite flexible (every Knight has modified de la Maza's original program in some way to suit their preferences). Some Knights have worked on huge problem sets defining their goal as doing N problems. One Knight, Temposchlucker, did 70,000 problems at Chess Tactics Server!

13. How can I stop being a Knight Errant?
There are a few ways to bow out of the Knights. You can email me, or blog, that you no longer wish to be a Knight. You can also simply let your blog go inactive by not posting for a month.

14. This seems like a very narrow approach to chess. Isn't there more to chess than tactics?
This is the most common criticism of the Circles. Jeremy Silman voices it quite stridently in a review of de la Maza's book here. Clearly, in practice chess involves more than tactics. Strategy, opening theory, and the endgame are important aspects of the game. The Circles are a kind of Intensive Care Unit for those of us who are especially challenged in the area of tactics. If you are dropping pieces every game, then studying the subtleties of an arcane opening is probably not the best remedy. However, the Circles are only one of many possible avenues to tactical competence, and we always enjoy a good discussion of alternative methods that we might incorporate into our study.

15. Do the Circles actually work? Have your ratings improved?
This is the big question, and deservedly so! Most who have finished the Circles say it has improved their tactical vision in games, and hence their rating. Quantitatively, the average rating increase amongst the 18 Knights who have finished the circles is 186 (with a standard deviation of 112). You can see the original data here. Note that de la Maza's rating jump is unusually high, especially for nonbeginners (he devoted himself to chess full time during the Circles). Based on the data, it is more realistic to expect your rating to go up by a bit under 200 points. Each individual must decide whether this justifies the amount of effort involved in the Circles.

16. I'm a Knight but I am not on your sidebar. What the heck?
Oops, sorry about that. Please email me or leave a comment here and I'll take a look.

17. Who is 'DG'?
DG, often called the 'Official Historian' of the Knights errant, is a blogger at the Boylston Chess Club in Boston. From the start, DG has supported and discussed the Knights Errant on his blog. His first post on the Knights can be found here. Incidentally, Michael de la Maza used to be a regular at the Boylston Chess Club.

18. Who are the 'Friends of the Knights'?
Some of the Knights Errant have a 'Friends of the Knights' partition on their sidebar. It isn't an "official" list, but is used by some Knights to acknowledge those non-Knight chess bloggers who make positive contributions to the blogosphere.

19. Is there a leader of the Knights Errant?
No. Every Knight is an independent blogger whose posts on chess, the world, and everything represent only his (or her) perspective. There is one volunteer among the Knights who keeps the FAQ up date date and serves as a point of contact for people interested in the Knights. This is a secretarial rather than a leadership role. Once the secretary finishes his or her Circles, the responsibility is passed on to another Knight. Right now this job is filled by Likes Forests. You can email the Secretary Knight at secretary.knight [at] yahoo [dot] com.

6 Comments:

At April 27, 2008 at 6:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a minimum rating limit?

 
At May 2, 2008 at 4:25 AM , Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

There are no rating requirements to join the Knights.

 
At May 30, 2008 at 4:27 PM , Blogger Banatt said...

I sent an email, but i'm not on the list. Can you please double-check? My blog is www.mychesstrainingquest.blogspot.com

 
At February 23, 2009 at 8:07 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

HELP ME!!!
my name is Bryon Doyle I'm a uscf rated player at 1788 right now (about 11 months ago I was rated 1585) but I felt that even though my rating had improved my chess had actually not improved, Rapid chess improvement really spoke to me! so I started the program 15 days ago at 50 problems a day! well I've gotten really behind I'm only at problem 540 and I'm supposed to be at problem 750 should I hunker down and try to knock out 200 in a day, or should i just try to get back up to doing 50 a day? and If I'm already falling behind at doing 50 a day how am I supposed to do a hundred a day??
greatly needing your advice
Bryon Doyle
chessman102

 
At May 22, 2009 at 12:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to do the exercises in the book, but I have a question that I can't find the answer to. When I do the concentric square exercise, I put my white queen on the board to fork or skewer the two black pieces. When I put my queen on the board, is it then my turn or is it black's turn? This makes all the difference in the world. but it isn't clear from the instructions. I hope my question makes sense and is not too stupid.

 
At August 31, 2009 at 6:10 PM , Blogger Secretary Knight said...

Anonymous: perhaps you should start a blog!

Banatt: Sorry, if that you should email other Knights.

 

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