Lots of people have asked me whether I'm doing anything radically different these days to recently achieve some of my cherished goals (three IM Norms, several GM scalps) in the last couple of years - having failed to achieve them in almost 30 years as an FM!
The answer is not anything radically different, but I have learned a lot about chess development since I returned to chess in 2003, and used this to more proactively plan and train my chess, so I would offer the following tips to those (mature and not so mature) readers who wish to maximise their results:
1. Have self confidence
Techniques like self hypnosis, and performance psychology can help develop this and really persuade your unconscious self that you can and will cope, whatever the challenge. Giving yourself the chances to be lucky also helps.
2. Be sharp
Lots of practice to the build up of an event helps a lot, as does daily tactics exercises (eg, CT-ART, puzzles in the magazines, etc). My own personal favourite is to heavily concentrate on solving endgames studies (eg, Studies 2.0 from Convekta) in the build up to an event since it develops skills in precise calculation, imagination and resourcefullness.
3. Have energy
These days I only play in events where there is one game a day, and try to have a little nap before a game. I will NOT play when I'm tired (eg, at the end of a day's work) and I travel the day before I play. Also, some energy supplements for a long game are handy - that's why people always see me with my bottle of Sprite and bag of bananas!
4. Prepare well
The usual tip of analysing your games thoroughly is always helpful. Given limited time (which all us amateurs suffer from) it also makes sense to play fewer opening systems - but prepare them very well. I find that Solitaire Chess is very powerful for deeply understanding classic games and developing my inuition and thinking skills. Dvoretsky's books are also very powerful and demand a lot of effort and humility! Also, if you can afford it, hire a Russian coach - I have used two Russian coaches on ICC over the past four years and I gained a great deal of chess wisdom, chess culture and self awareness from both of them.
5. Play the strongest possible players
You really have to be constantly stretching yourself against the best that you can get access to. The lazy habits you develop that suffice to beat much weaker players do you a severe dis-service when facing tougher opposition.
A couple of recent games showing me in action. First a near miss against a very strong young GM from Croatia:
And now a win against a very fast-playing young IM from England:
The best of luck in your games - except if you are facing me of course!