What Are Your Chess Goals For 2018?
It is New Year's Eve and millions of people are making their New Year's resolutions.
The top two resolutions traditionally have something to do with weight loss and achieving certain financial goals. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that chess players have something chess-related on the long list of their goals for 2018.
So, what are the most popular chess wishes?
1. Gain rating points.
Based on my experience, this is the most popular chess goal and also the worst one. Surprised? Let me explain. I bet many of you have heard this old joke:
Two friends meet at the end of January and discuss their New Year's resolutions.
—My resolution for this year is to lose 20 pounds.
—So, how is it going?
—Good, only 25 more pounds to go!
This common situation explains why by February the vast majority of people already drop their New Year's resolutions! Indeed, it is extremely discouraging if instead of losing weight you are gaining it! Similarly, if your resolution is to gain 200 rating points and instead you dropped 20 points in the first tournament of the year, it is very depressing to put it mildly.
Another bad side effect of this unfortunate resolution is most chess players (especially kids) move their focus from playing chess to playing for rating points. As a result they are afraid to sacrifice even a pawn to start a very promising attack because, quoting one of my students: "What if the attack doesn't succeed and I will lose the game and 10 rating points?"
I could go on and on, but I hope you already get the idea: When you set a goal to gain a certain amount of rating points, you shift your focus from chess to rating and therefore the fear of losing will ultimately stifle your creativity.
2) Play more tournaments.
This is a very good resolution, provided that you use your common sense. It is difficult to get better in chess if you don't play serious over-the-board tournaments. However, if you play a new tournament every single weekend and don't have time to analyze the games, it might be very entertaining experience, but you are not going to improve your chess much.
Ideally you need to find a tournament frequency that will allow you to analyze the games, learn from your mistakes and play every new tournament as a new, improved self!
Here is a simple example from my own games. For many years I played the Richter-Rauzer variation of the Sicilian, where I liked the following nice idea:
I analyzed it quite deeply, prepared some improvements and was waiting for a hapless victim. Nevertheless, when I got this position on the board, I allowed a very promising opportunity to slip through my fingers:
When I analyzed this game, a simple and a very efficient improvement was found. I didn't have to wait for too long:
So, say your New Year's Eve resolution is to play two over-the-board tournaments each month, make sure that you allocate time to analyze your games!
3. Analyze more games of great chess players.
It is impossible to get better in chess unless you analyze the games played by really strong players. Moreover, you can use those games to improve certain areas of your chess. When I was a student of the Botvinnik-Kasparov school, Kasparov thought that I had to improve my tactical skills. So he asked me if I had his newly published book, The Test Of Time.
When I affirmatively nodded, Kasparov asked me to find his game vs. Korchnoi from the Olympiad 1982, analyze it and find as many mistakes in the annotations as I could.
It took me over two weeks to finish this task, as the game was incredibly complicated. A whole notebook was devoted to this game and I think I found eight big mistakes in the annotations. It is a shame that I lost this notebook with my analysis, but the major point was that my serious work on just one game tremendously improved my chess, and the very next year I got my master title!
If you decide to analyze one great game of a top player every single week, that will be a great chess resolution!
4. Solve chess studies.
One of the best ways to improve your calculation and creativity is to solve chess studies. Not only will it make you a better chess player, I guarantee you will enjoy the beauty of chess there!
Take for example the following famous study, which looks like an endgame of a tournament game. How can White stop Black's pawns?
If you successfully solve 5-10 puzzles like this every week, I guarantee you will see progress soon!
We have over 20 million members here, so let's share our New Year's resolutions! This way you can learn some great ideas as well as get some feedback about your own resolution.
Happy New Year!