2016 Year in Review

2016 Year in Review


My 2016 training plan was pretty audacious. I think I actually did pretty well except for that rating thing--but who cares about ratings, right? We're not our rating. We're people with names and families that love us and dreams for our futures.

Ah, heck, I'm not fooling anyone. I really wanted to hit that 1900 target I had set. I had to settle for topping out at 1751 after starting the year in a slump, trying out new coaches and new openings, and then a big rating run up at the World Open over the summer. 

I didn't grab a new rating high but I can hang my hat on this past year performance against masters, getting my first master draw and then my first master scalp! At one point in the year I had a four game undefeated streak going against masters in rated long time control OTB games!

Ratings will go where ratings want to go. We have no direct control over them. But we do have control over our training activities. So what about my training goals, those milestones that fuel my week to week efforts to improve?

The overall theme I set for 2016 was to work weekly with a coach and continue to hone my attacking skills. To that end, here were my specific goals:

  1. Play 100 OTB games
    1. ❌ Actual: 92 OTB games. I attribute the shortfall to the fact that I was out of commission with illness for 4 weeks during the summer and had a bit of a motivational chasm I needed to jump when I felt better.
  2. 20% of OTB games in open section, 60% playing up one section, and 20% in my own section.
    1. ✅ Actual: 66% of my 15 tournaments were in the open section; 13% were playing up; 20% were in my actual section so I did much better in this category!
  3. Play in either the US Open or World Open.
    1. ✅ Actual: I played in the World Open!
  4. Read 100 Endgames You Must Know
    1. ❌ Actual: After spending many hours on the first 20 endgames, I threw this book away (figuratively) when I got frustrated with his lack of explanations of key diagrams. I then purchased DEM (Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual) but only got through about 20 pages because it is beyond my level. I can learn from it but there are many assumptions he makes about the readers' existing endgame knowledge and so leaves out mention of some elementary and intermediate concepts, just assuming you know them already. This is fine because the book is clearly geared for Expert or above, which I am not. It does mean that I am going to be hitting Silman's Complete Endgame Course for a while. That is fine too, because I've only completed through the "Class A" chapter of that book and have plenty more to learn from it. With that said, I've spent many weeks this year training endgames with my coach so I do feel I've progressed considerably in this area, which was the point of the goal.
  5. Read Pawn Power in Chess
    1. ❌ Actual: This is a fantastic book. I read the first 50 pages and learned several key ideas. But, upon reflection I had to admit to myself that the reason I was losing games at the beginning of the year was because I wasn't attacking when I should and I wasn't playing dynamically. I decided to set this aside and really focus my time on those two issues.
  6. Read Chess Tactics for Advanced Players
    1. ❌ Actual: I haven't finished this book, as I just started reading it at the end of the year. It fits in perfectly as a "capstone" on the previous 8 months of attacking training that I've been doing with NM Joel Johnson and will finish it off in the first few months of this year.
  7. Read an annotated game collection book of an attacking player (Tal, Pillsbury, Stein, etc)
    1. ✅ Actual: I initially marked this as incomplete but decided that I have read many annotated games of my coach, an attacking player and that qualifies having completed this goal. 
  8. Add the Catalan or another new white opening to my OTB repertoire.
    1. ✅ Actual: I've added the Modern Reti as white and also the Polish as black vs d4 and e4.
  9. Finish and release to the public my chess trainer (a piece of chess training software I've been working on the past few months).
    1. ❌ Actual: This was a total fail. I lost motivation for writing this software because I've found some good tools that I can use to accomplish my purposes.

I've finished four out of nine and made significant progress on a few more. Not too bad.

I've been thinking a lot of chess in 2017 and what my plan is. I've created an initial draft of a training plan and shown it to some friends for feedback. For the first time, though, I am not setting any kind of rating target for the year. The rating will end up where it ends up. (Yes, okay, I do still secretly harbor lustful desires to cross a certain round number.)