2013-2014 Training Recap
So how did it go?
It generally went well. I know I have improved my general knowledge, my pattern recognition, and my thought process. But I am disappointed I didn't achieve my USCF goal of 1600 by June 30th. I came close, peaking at 1583 in March, just 8 months into my program. But the last few months have seen me in a trading range, if you will, as my rating has gyrated between 1460 and 1583. Fortunately, I believe I have diagnosed these issues and have a plan to overcome them.
Here are some stats that I track weekly:
|Rating||July 1st, 2013||July 1st, 2014|
I'm pretty happy with the 12 month 199 point USCF gain though I am surprised at the chess.com rating. It always surprises me that my chess.com rating trails my USCF rating by 50-150 points.
Here are a few numbers to give a taste of what was involved in following my training plan for the year:
- 18,469 tactics problems (primarily Tactics Trainer and Seven Circles)
- 240 calculation problems (primarily from Chess Training Pocket Book and Manual of Chess Combinations 1B).
- 76 slow online games
- 100 slow OTB games
- 121 hours reading chess books
- 52 master games
- 95 of my own games reviewed
- 26 hours studying openings
- 22 1-hour chess lessons with IM Turzo
- 148 hours spent on misc. chess activities
- For those of you who are considering the Seven Circles training program, I have two things to say. The first is that it is not a panecea for chess improvement. Yes, one needs to have the tactics patterns and the calculation/visualization skills that it helps build. But there are many ways to gain those skills. Second, what is good about the Seven Circes is that it is a prescribed system--one doesn't have to invent one's own, but just follow the one Michael de la Maza has laid out.
- The most important thing for under 1600 players is probably solving 2,000-5,000+ easy-to-medium level tactics problems, repeating them as needed until solving them becomes muscle memory.
- If you are serious, get a coach or befriend a higher-level player to review your games with you. I think this is critical to rapid improvement. If this isn't an option, review your own games and then, afterwards, compare your notes with a computer engine. If this person is at least 200-300 rating points higher than you, that is probably fine.
- For me, improving both my chess thought process and my psychology when playing OTB games ended up being very important. I feel I've mostly found a thought process that works well for me, though I know as I move up beyond 1800, it will likely have to be further refined.
- I believe the psychological aspects of competing, controlling my ego and emotions (fear, greed, wanting, etc), are what is currently holding me back from achieving class B and am currently working through those issues.
- The most important lesson learned over the past year is that individual improvement is very personal. My strengths and weaknesses may or may not match someone else's. So, having good self-reflection skills and/or someone else who can give one objective feedback is crucial to improvement as an adult.