2014 Training Recap

Dec 31, 2014, 9:46 PM |

What better way is there for me to spend New Year's Eve than hanging out with my family, while watching Kathy and Anderson on CNN? With just 15 minutes to go before the ball drops, it seems like a perfect time to do some quick number crunching to see how my 2014 chess training panned out. (Here is some background on my chess training and my effort to achieve a herculean goal as an adult improver in his mid-forties.)

So how went 2014? Here are some stats that I track weekly:

Chess Performance
Rating 7/1/2013 1/1/2014 7/1/2014 1/1/2014
USCF 1311  1533 1510  1530
Chess.com 1408  1458 1457 1552 
Tactics Trainer 1395  1453 1620 1607 

As can be seen above, both my OTB and online ratings have held steady for the year (given that chess.com adjusted everyone's rating earlier this year, causing mine to increase some 90 free points). My tactics rating increased some 150 points, which makes sense considering the amount of time I spent this year solving basic-to-intermediate problems via both Tactics Trainer and books.

Here are a few numbers to give a taste of what was involved in following my training plan for the year:


Let's look at the number of hours I was able to spend on chess during the year:

2014 Chess Hours: 925 Total / 17.8 per Week
Lessons Learned
After a nice rating increase from 1311 up to a high water mark of 1583, it was a bit disappointing to get stuck in a trading range for much of 2014 and not be able to break through the 1600 mark. Well, to be honest, my goal for the end of 2014 was 1700! So, that goal was an utter fail and it just goes to show that no matter how many hours one puts in, chess improvement depends on so many other factors, including the health of one's body and mind, psychological discipline, emotional control, will to win, etc.

With that in mind, one of the biggest lessons I learned this year was that rating goals don't mean much. We cannot control what rating we reach. The best chess goals are ones where we control whether they are reached. So in 2015 I will be basing my chess goals on accomplishing certain training milestones instead of rating milestones. For instance, number of tactics solved, number of games played, number of chapters read, etc. Of course, as you can see above I did also track those, but this year they will be the only goals I will worry about. Ultimately, if one does the work and does it with as much effort as can be mustered, the rating will eventually follow along. That is all we can ask of ourselves.

A second lesson that I learned this year is that I've done more than enough "pattern recognition" tactics. These are basic level tactics that one tries to solve very rapidly, by pattern recognition instead of calculation. Tactics Trainer here on chess.com was built for exactly this purpose and I've done 1000's of problems on it. But, this pattern recognition only takes us so far. The other half of tactics is to be able to accurately calculate whether a tactic actually works and be able to visualize and evaluate the ending position.

It is time for me to move on from Tactics Trainer, at least for now, and focus my tactics training time on strengthening my calculation and visualization skills. I'll post more about this and the other changes I'm making to my 2015 training plan soon.

Happy New Year!