How do I get better at chess?
This is the question that every chess player asks himself or herself at one point or another. In fact, as a coach, I hear this from my students multiple times a day. Everybody wants to improve - however, most players don't know where to start. Over the course of my career, I've tested many different methods of "studying" (one of which involved 14-hour bullet marathons on ICC), and I want to share my findings with the chess.com community. This is the first part of my four-part blog that talks about improvement. Perhaps the story of my successes and failures will inspire you to look at chess in a new light.
The one quality that every player must have regardless of playing ability is he or she must love the game. Without a passion for chess, playing it is akin to performing a chore. Chess players with a strong affinity for the game don't just play chess - they control armies engaged in a scuffle for victory. They view the game as composition of interweaving patterns, not just notes on a scoresheet. I have a personal anecdote regarding the relationship between myself and chess that proved to be a turning point in my career.
When I was about 12 years old, I hit a plateau. The transition into high school along with the variety of social issues that plague every preteen drastically affected my ability to play good chess. My rating fluctuated around 1900 and 2000 for over a year and I was seriously considering if I should give up chess and focus on academics. The problem was that I didn't know if I had a passion for chess anymore. As I mentioned previously, if one doesn't enjoy the game, chess is a chore. I didn't look forward to the next tournament. I was uninspired.
However, the support of my parents and coach during this point in my life was instrumental in my chess recovery and rejuvenation. My dad, who took me to every single tournament I've ever been to (not in college though. I finally escaped, haha) didn't put any pressure on me to make a decision. It took a while, but I finally realized that my problems weren't rooted in an apparent rejection of chess - I simply wasn't able to handle the fact that my rating was stagnant and that others were surpassing me. It took a heightened level of maturity to face the fact that failing to excel at something is no excuse to break down and turn away from your failures. Instead, I reworked my attitude to how I approached the game, transforming my indolence and self-pity into an ethic of diligence and high self-esteem. My efforts culminated in the clear first finish at the 2008 Foxwoods Open U2100 section which marked the impetus of my ascent to Master.