When I first started out on this journey to improve at chess I knew I had to have a plan. Now that it has been a while it makes sense to revisit that plan and see how it has evolved. I posted my overall plan in my first blog post here on April 22, 2016 let's review the key points and how they have changed.
Do 50 Tactics Puzzles per day:
LOL what? Did I really say this wow! Thinking back I remember I actually did this for a few months and I also did my tactics here on chess.com. Let's think about this 50 a day say I am doing about an hour of tactics study per day. That is little over a minute for each problem no wonder my tactics rating was 1100-1200. Looking back now that is way too fast and way too many per day. Maybe I didn't take my time because chess.com puts a timer on your tactics and you get fewer or more points based on how quickly you do them? Who knows but 50 per day is crazy.
Right around the time I started working with a coach he suggested to switch to chesstempo.com, once I got used to it I never looked back. With the lack of a timer on their "standard" tactics I learned to take my time. I calculate, each line starting with the most forcing ones until I see a solution. I frequently take up to 10 minutes for the more advanced puzzles. My current plan is to do 10 per day and really take my time with them. I think this has really improved my calculation ability. When you bum rush tons of tactics per day you are probably doing minimal calculation and just playing the first good idea you see or recognizing patterns.
There is nothing wrong with pattern recognition but I don't think it should be the primary goal of tactics training. Being able to calculate is more important I think. If really want to drill a whole bunch of patterns, which I do occasionally, I will breakout my Chess Tactics for Beginners program which has a bank of simple problems you can drill quick.
Here is an example of a puzzle I was able to solve in about 5 minutes. No cheating you have to calculate the whole thing before you move.
Endgames - Work through Silman Book:
Wow it has been 5 months and I still haven't finished this!?!? SLACKER!
Okay I did pick up the book and go through one more chapter. When I last talked to my coach about this he said I should try to work up to the part on Rook and pawn endgames. But I will be honest I still haven't mastered King and Pawn endgames as I lost one the other night which should have been a dead draw. So I think I will dedicate one day per week to be endgame day to work through the book and master the examples. I have started in the last two weeks to do endgame training on chesstempo at least 2-3 times per week. So my plan remains the same work through the Silman book at least up to 1600ish and master those concepts. Also continue to train endgames on chesstempo.
Play more live "Rapid" games online:
Here is one plan which I can say for sure I have stuck to and has stayed the same. In April I was around 1030 rated now I am up to 1273 as of yesterday. I just need to continue this progress. I still make bad mistakes but they are much less frequent and at this level my opponents still make bad mistakes pretty often so most games are a battle of who blunders into a tactic first. I still think the best way to get past this stage is to play through it.
Start Playing Over the board:
I have been successful here too. I have played 21 rated USCF games and am currently at 945. This is probably one of the most important parts of the plan. Nothing compares to a live rated OTB game especially with long time controls. I played in a big Tournament a couple weeks ago and there are small tournaments pretty much every week in my city. So my current plan is to play in at least 2 small tournaments per month and 1 big tournament every 2-3 months. I think a realistic goal would be to get my USCF rating to 1100 within 6 months.
This wasn't part of my original plan but playing OTB made me realize I need to be prepared as real OTB players tend to know something about openings whereas most of my online opponents eh not so much. I wouldn't say I spend much time studying openings but if I run into something I have never seen before I spend some time going over it. Especially traps I like to know my traps so I don't fall for them. Other stuff I will just go over openings I play with my coach so he can explain what the common plans are and how to respond in different variations.
Working with a Coach and Reviewing Games:
This also was not really part of my original plan. Well the reviewing games part is something I almost always did if I lost. I would usually copy the game into the lichess.com game importer and get a basic computer analysis of what I did wrong. I still do that for most of my quick online games but for my more serious OTB games I try to review them myself and then review them with my coach. This helps quite a bit as there are often teachable moments in my games. I also just have someone who is a lot better then me to bounce things off of or help me understand something I am not getting. Like refining my plan half or more of these ideas came either from working with my coach or directly from him. For someone like me it's not a huge expense if you can afford cable and to go out to eat a few times a week you can afford a coach. Just make sure it's someone you can build a good rapport with.
So that is pretty much my plan... that's about it. You might notice there aren't a bunch of books in it I do have some and I do plan to add those in at some point. But right now pretty much 99% of my games are decided by tactics so that is my main focus. I go over some strategical concepts with my coach and I did start reading a strategy book but I haven't picked it up in weeks. I just don't need it when most of my losses come from falling into tactics.
I have started to play some blitz. I noticed an issue I have with blundering really badly when my time gets low so I mix in a few blitz games per week but probably no more than 10-15% of my playing time. I would like to get my blitz rating up to 1000 soon certainly by the end of the year.