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Crossing the Expert hump...

Hi everyone! 

I've decided to blog about my goal to reach master strength, which in the United States means having a rating of 2200+.  Currently I am at 2104 so it seems like a reasonable goal.  But many people stall out at the expert level (2000-2200) and so I thought perhaps by experiences may be helpful to others.  And of course, I welcome any advice or training tips, especially from masters :) 

Currently, I am focusing on completing one lesson a day on the chess mentor feature of chess.com.  I especially enjoy IM Jeremy Silman's courses.  So far, I feel they have helped me a lot.  Generally, in my chess background (I'm 36 yrs old and started at 19) I've always focused on the endgame and my progression up the rating levels was swift.  Though at the expert level, I've found I needed an opening repertoire so I have been working on that.  But generally now I have directed my training more towards the middlegame.  So studying general collections as well as books on pawn structures.  And once I develop my middlegame skills a little more, I plan to work harder on my openings and see where I am then. 

Ok, that's all for the first installment and I will write again soon.  I have a tournament this weekend.

Bye,

Grumpyguru

Comments


  • 6 weeks ago

    NM grumpyguru

    Good news, I've finally made it to 2200.  Now I am at 2202.  A book that very was very helpful to me to go smoothly from about 2125 to my current rating is called Mastering Chess Strategy by Johan Hellsen.  It has lost of examples with thorough explanations.  A new focus of my training is to always focus on active training (solving problems) as opposed to passive training (reading articles or watching videos, though I enjoy that also).  Hellsen's book is all about active training and that is why it is so helpful.  Further, he is book is structured around critical moments (meaning the stategy behind certain exchanges and pawn play).  Recognizing those moments and making good decisions there is more likely to affect the outcome of the game than memorizing a few more moves in a certain opening variation.  Now I am reading his endgame book in that same series which is very good.  My next goal is to make a try for the FM title.  I am thinking roughly a one year time frame for that goal.  As for my openings I am considering changing to Kaufman's the Chess Advantage in Black and White.  One other study tip that I find very helpful, is that instead of reviewing all your games (though that is great) focus your energy on your losses.  Really annotate all your mistakes both (substantive and psychological) and consider showing that to a stronger player or coach.  By focusing on just the games you lost, I feel that it forces one to really come to terms with their shortcomings, instead of just stroking one's ego with their wins.  Plus it's less time consuming :)  So in summary, that's my big discovery...only critically review your losses!  I plan to start a new blog about my journey to become an Fide Master.  I welcome any suggestions or comments.      

  • 3 months ago

    BackYardProf

    I'm back...... I know no one will notice, but I shall attempt to play more chess as well. Hope everyone is great, and I am also making vids again.

  • 7 months ago

    NM grumpyguru

    Thanks GargleBlaster for the support and advice! A recent article by FM Boor on How to Improve also mentioned the importance of being objective. I will keep that in mind!

  • 7 months ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    Congrats on getting as high as 2177, you're obviously doing something right!  One piece of advice about getting those last 20 points - try to be as objective as possible, don't try and force the issue as the tension builds, and accept that you can't guarantee a win by sheer force of concentration alone.  Near 2200 I found myself trying too hard to figure everything out because I wanted to win too much and it was preventing me from accepting my analytical limitations.  Moreover, it also was getting me into constant time pressure.  Of course, this advice is rather easier to give than to follow, but good luck and enjoy the trek. :)

    P.S. -> Your point about "active" vs. "passive" training is absolutely right, btw  - there is no substitute for OTB experience.

  • 7 months ago

    NM grumpyguru

    Hi all,

    I wanted to make another post on my journey as I've recently had some rating progress.  I am now rated 2177.  One way I have changed my training is to focus on active training versus passive training.  I never watch videos anymore (or very rarely) or just read over master games (no matter how well annotated if they don't pose questions to reader) and rarely look at opening books.  I feel all these methods are passive, never involving the reader, never asking the reader questions, no exercises, problems, etc. The reader never has to think for himself...like in a real game.

    So now that I am focusing on active training methods, I really like the chess mentor feature on chess.com.  I try to do one or two lessons everyday.  It's like getting a personal chess lesson from a titled player everyday.  I recently finished "Build Your Technique" and "Master Your Technique" by FM Thomas Wolski.  Both were excellent.   

    I've also been reading an excellent book called Mastering Chess Strategy by GM Johan Hellsten.  I like this book because it contains lots of examples for the reader to solve, that are grouped by positional themes like "improving the bishop" for example.  I also like that the book is based on ideas and not heavy analysis which makes the book very readable.   And I feel the effects of reading that book on my play.  Meaning a game (at my current level) will never be decided in the opening, but making good middlegame moves/plans at the critical moments definitely will.  

    I also attended a series of lectures at my local chess club by GM Giorgi Kacheishvili.  He explained to us that three most important things in a chess game are 1) harmony then 2) time and then 3) space, in that order.  And since more material is used to acquire more space, a material advantage falls in the last category: space.  We then looked at a few games using this framework as a guide.  It was very interesting to review high level games with this framework in mind.  I obviously am not playing at that level but at least I can understand somewhat those games better and more importantly understand my own losses better.  

    Finally, I wanted to congratulate Gargleblaster on getting his national master title!  I have been following some of his tips but need to follow the rest :)

    I'm happy to hear any comments or suggestions others may have, especially from titled players :)

  • 9 months ago

    Conflagration_Planet

    I guess Shirts retired.

  • 9 months ago

    NM grumpyguru

    Hi all,

    Just wanted to let you know that while I had some ups and downs in my rating, my chess is improving.  My rating is at 2127 so I guess I am 1/4 of the way towards reaching my goal.  A big help has been working with a FM Danilo Cerovic of Serbia that I contacted through chess.com.  His lessons are very affordable and he is a very supportive teacher.  One big help he has done for me is that he has turned me on to the french defence.  I never thought I would like it, but I do.  It's very interesting and I have learned a lot about pawn chains, blockade, playing on the wings, etc.  In short, my positional understanding has increased which benefits all the openings I play.  I also read a nice book called Chess Strategy; Move by Move by IM Adam Hunt.  Not heavy analysis, but funny and very instructive.  Most importantly, it was a book I enjoyed reading and was able to read from cover to cover.  Hope to keep going strong and hit 2150 soon! :)

  • 18 months ago

    Conflagration_Planet

    Since Kerry's rated at 749, you can assume it was directed at you. :)

  • 18 months ago

    NM grumpyguru

    I'm not sure if the recent comments above were directed at me or Kerry but no, I have not made it, not yet!  I'm at 2131 so headed in the right direction!  Hope to do another post after crossing 2150, which hopefully will be soon :)

  • 19 months ago

    Conflagration_Planet

    I wonder why he doesn't play here.

  • 19 months ago

    Conflagration_Planet

    Have you made it?

  • 22 months ago

    BackYardProf

    Niiiiice! I too have decided in later life (I am in my early 50's) to take chess seriously and try to achieve my master level rating in chess, and am using Silman. I have been videoing my journey from the beginning on You Tube and have around 75 videos up so far. I joined the Idaho Chess Association and am actually playing in my 2nd ever chess tournament this weekend, so I am excited. If you can, please come and check out the vids and give me some comments and ideas too. Look up Backyard Professor chess videos. I am told I have a terrific knack for teaching the game, even though as a beginner, I am not all that good at it. in 6 months I have gone from 700 to 2500 subscribers and have a lot of good comments. Would love to learn ideas from you as well. Granted, my first oh say 15 or so vids are not all that hot, but the vids on my Silman Imbalances playlist are the best ones I am told. I add to it weekly, sometimes with 2-3, sometimes with 5 or more.

     

    Best,

    Kerry A. Shirts

    The Backyard Professor

  • 24 months ago

    NM grumpyguru

    Thanks so much Gargleblaster for your helpful comments!  And congrats for being so close to the promise land :)

    I'm fortunate to live in New York where there is a lot of chess action, but mostly G/30's.  I prefer slower time control games and so I also plan in the future to travel to tournaments.

    1 and 2) I'm sure I can improve my endgame knowledge/skills but with so many areas to study, I try to focus on what is my greatest weaknesses.  Which at the moment seems to be forming a solid opening rep.  I use to use Dzinzi/Perelshtyn/Alburt books but have been having mixed results.  I've decided to change to the english as white and the ruylopez as black.

    3) Good point.  I used to waste time during games socializing, etc.  But now have started focusing more on my health.  I've found that meditation before games is helpful.

    4) Good point.  I don't have a good record against lower rated players.  Usually what happens is that I get myself into a bad position and then fight back.  Sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  Or I just get a better position and then relax until I am in trouble.  So I need to work on that.  But yes, generally I like to play up as I learn more and my rating doesnt take too much of a beating!

    Thanks again for the tips!  And all the best on the road to 2200 :)

  • 24 months ago

    NM GargleBlaster

    My experiences are possibly similar to yours in some ways - I'm in my 30's and currently 2170.  I live in a small town and play OTB infrequently, though of late I've been trying to travel to events from time to time.

    So far I've found a few things that may be helpful, though I should note I have not crossed 2200 (managed 2195 a few weeks ago, but have in true Sisyphean fashion stumbled back again):

    • 1) Endgames become more and more important as your opponents become less and less liable to getting directly checkmated
    • 2) Main lines of openings become more and more important to understand, not only so as to get a decent middlegame (especially as Black), but also because the concepts behind the more counter-intuitive systems are necessary to understand modern chess strategy in general
    • 3) Training/practice/hard work start to matter more and more, as it's hard to beat strong players on talent alone.  Also, one's general health, sleeping patterns, mental attitude, and so forth need to be considered much as one would before engaging in any other competitive sporting activity.
    • 4) If you wish to gain rating points, I don't recommend large swiss events with large class prizes, as you will almost certainly encounter a large number of highly underrated A/B/C players.  I just played at the U.S. Open in Vancouver and seven out of the eight players I faced were under 2000 and almost every one of them was a very tough opponent.
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