May and June Training Recap

Jul 11, 2015, 7:43 AM |

USCF Rating: 1753

Year to date: +223

At the beginning of the year I identified several of my chess shortcomings that I thought were holding me back from crossing the 1600 level. They included:

  • Lazy/impatient thinking
  • Misunderstanding the position's needs
  • Fumbling endgames or other won games
  • Poor visualization skills
In addition to the above, I recently paid a National Master here on to review my last 10 games. Under "Misunderstanding the positions needs," he added Insufficient understanding of dynamic play.

I've been working hard on the above weaknesses and tailored my 2015 study program to specifically address them.

To address my Lazy/impatient thinking, I've been working on hard tactical problems, giving myself at least 20 minutes (sometimes much more) to work out the answers. This has included joining a private group on where we practice weekly (usually tactically-oriented) Stoyko exercises.

I've also been using ChessTempo's mixed mode for my daily tactics training, having switched from TacticsTrainer. I'm averaging 30 problems a week between ChessTempo and several other tactics sources I use (like books, etc). I'm happy with my switch to ChessTempo as I like the way its timer works and the positions seem to be of higher quality.

To address misunderstanding the position's needs I've continued with Silman's How to Reassess Your Chess, finishing both the "Target Consciousness" and "Statics vs Dynamics" chapters. I also did some extracurricular study of chess dynamics, using videos and ChessMentor lessons.

To address my poor endgame play, I haven't yet started reading 100 Endgames You Must Know. I have, though, been working through Endgame Challenge (John Hall), which is an endgame puzzle book, and I've been reviewing material in Silman's Complete Endgame Course through the "Class A" chapter. I feel like I have decent knowledge of endgame concepts but need much more practice calculating and playing out positions.

In addition, I've master the Bishop and Knight vs King ending and the Philidor Position in the Queen vs Rook ending.

To address my poor visualization skills, I've been following the advice of IM Rensch in his Full Board Awareness videos. So far, I've memorized both the squares of the board and their "sister squares" and am currently working on memorizing diagonals. I've found Blindfold Chess Trainer to be invaluable in this. 

I am continuing to use Anki on a daily basis to review positions from all of my openings.

Some highlights from the month:

  • My first time going above 1700!
  • I beat one class A player and drew against two others in the recent DC International tournament.
  • I believe my in-depth study of Statics vs Dynamics, along with my visualization and calculation training, is what helped me go 6 of 9 in the recent World Open U1800 section, even though I was one of the lowest rated players in the section.
  • I've been asked to represent Illinois as a Delegate to the USCF's Annual Meeting, being held in August during the U.S. Open in Pheonix. As a Delegate, I'll attend meetings and voice my opinion on various issues being addressed by the USCF.

Some current challenges:

  • I continue to struggle with finishing off winning endgames. In both my draws in the World Open I had the only winning chances--that I didn't find. It is one thing to be able to solve an endgame puzzle and another to win an endgame under time pressure at the end of a long game.
  • I had a poor showing in the U1700 at the Chicago Open in May, only scoring 3 of 7, even though I was one of the higher rated players in the section. I lost two games where I felt completely outplayed by 1500 rated players. 

Plan for the next quarter:

  • I will double down on my endgame training, working through Endgame Challenge.
  • I will finish my first pass through How to Reassess Your Chess, completing the "Space," "Passed Pawns," and "Other Imbalances chapters." This will be exactly one year from starting the book.
  • I'll take a 6 week break from tournament play in order to spend some quality time analyzing my last 25 games from the Chicago Open, DC International, and World Open.