2015Q1 Study Plan
I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about my current chess weaknesses and the best ways to overcome them. As some of you know, I keep extensive records of my training activities and like to plan out my weekly training activities and then track how well I am meeting my activity goals. My belief is that this helps provide discipline that I otherwise would not have. It also allows me to take a look at what is working and what is not and adjust accordingly.
About every three months I've been updating my training regimen based on my current inventory of weaknesses. Here they are in priority order, with my solutions to address each:
In about 1/3 of my games laziness or impatience overtakes me on at least one move. This causes me to fall into a sort of intermediate-level "Hope Chess" where I either forget to do a final blunder check at the end of my thought process or during calculating variations, I do some "hand waving" where I don't look at all my opponent's possible replies or I don't push the calculation until the point of quiescence and then accurately evaluation the resulting position. I hand wave and say, "Ok, this looks pretty good for me in the lines I've looked at."
EDIT (1/10/2015): A chess.com friend who is also a strong player suggested, after review many of my games, that I may also be failing to see all the possibilities of my opponent's pieces. IE, I am either missing threats caused by certain unfamiliar piece configurations or I am just not being diligent enough in reviewing my opponent's checks, captures, and threats. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment and tend to think it is more of the latter (not being diligent enough) with some of the former (unfamiliar piece configurations).
- Deeper calculation and evaluation training by taking a hard tactical position and spending 20 minutes calculating all lines with evaluations and writing all of it down. Only then, comparing my notes to the problem's solution.
- During these exercises, practice my game thought process.
- For my daily tactics problems, switch from Tactics Trainer to ChessTempo Mixed-Mode, which doesn't emphasize quickly guessing at moves like Tactics Trainer. I believe Tactics Trainer, unfortunately, encourages the bad habit of rushed and truncated calculation that is more useful for blitz players than long time control players.
- Increase the regularity of my cardio and strength training routine in order to decrease tiredness during long tournament days.
Misunderstanding the position's needs
It is rare anymore in middlegames when I can't come up with a plan but I often don't come up with a plan that is congruent with the position. This causes me to fight against the imbalances instead of leveraging them. For instance, not launching a minority attack when I should. Or taking on a IQP when I shouldn't.
- Review typical pawn structures and middlegame plans for the openings I play regularly.
- Finish studying How to Reassess Your Chess (currently about 1/2 way done).
- Review master games in order to see how strong players exploit different imbalances.
Fumbling endgames or other won games
I've lost several endgames in 2014 that were won games. I drew several more games that should have been reasonable wins. Some of these were because I lost my "situational awareness" and allowed myself to become flustered because of the emotions of the moment or because of time trouble. Other times I just couldn't find a reasonably easy win because my calculation skills were not adequate.
- Again, I will focus on deeply solving harder problems to practice accurate calculation.
- I'll do a thorough review of Silman's Endgame Course through the Class A chapter and I will begin reading de la Villa's 100 Endgames You Must Know
- I'll continue at the pace of 8 games a month to build my OTB nerves and judgement.
So here is my new weekly plan for the 1st quarter of 2015, which assumes a 20 hour a week commitment (including OTB games).