Blogging Better Chess?: Resolutions for 2010
As '09 draws to a close and 2010 looms, there's a buzz in the air. By "air," I'm really referring more specifically to the world of chess blogs, and by "buzz" I mean a renewed enthusiasm for sharing advice, ideas and personal experiences related to that noblest of goals: getting better at chess. After all, with the end of the Mayan calendar just around the corner, it really only makes sense that folks would want to start brushing up on their endgames.
So why spend perfectly good leisure time blogging about training instead of actually training? Well, for one thing, establishing a sense of community around a shared goal can make the endeavour seem a lot more fun; also, once you've declared yourself and your intention, there's that whole "public accountability" thing nipping at your heels and prodding you along. Finally, blogging allows you to contribute to a process by which a larger group shares new ideas and develops collective insight into what's working and what isn't: obviously a force for good.
For instance, witness the recent birth of the ACIS (Adult Chess Improvement Seekers) of Caissa, rising out of some comments made on the Confessions of a Chess Novice blog and sparked to a flame by Blunderprone here (and here and here) and by Robert Pearson's blog here. ACIS of Caissa - pronounced "a kiss of Caissa" (if only by me) - represents a blogging circle of improvers whose methods are completely diverse: a quality that will surely invigorate the group, encourage its members to think broadly, and help avoid the stultifying effect that can sink groups whose raison d'etre is bound to a single methodology.
Then there is Farbror's call for a thoughtful chess resolution for 2010, in which he also leads by example and suggests making the process public via blogging. Well, I'm a big fan of goal-setting, so that struck a chord with me as well.
So I'm throwing my hat in. Here are my goals and training plans for 2010 (some of which have already gotten an early start), using Farbror's goal-promise-penalty format:
Goal 1: By 2011 be able to articulate my plan at any point in any game I play (Focus areas = strategy, endgames)
A lot of goals could probably be related to measurable stuff like ratings, etc.; however, my focus is more about dispelling a feeling of being lost in situations where material and position is about equal and I'm just shifting my weight around on the board as I wait for my opponent to err. If I lose a game, I want it to be because my ideas were relatively inferior, and not because I had none. Sure, achieving this goal will probably improve my play, but more importantly, it will enhance my enjoyment of the game. Win-win.
Goal 2 (secondary): Complete basic repertoire blueprint for Black (Focus area = openings)
... because I can't just keep resigning every time someone plays 1. d4.
(I'm actually putting off doing any serious repertoire work at the moment because the possibility of a new computer in early '10 might open some doors for me in terms of how I store and study my openings. ...More on that subject another time perhaps.)
Chess Promise 1: Weekly Chess Training (6+ hours) and Keeping a Weekly Training Log
With respect to this promise, I'm trying to follow my own advice from an earlier post on how to avoid aimless training: I'm thinking hard about where I most want to improve (focus areas) and giving emphasis to the training methods that best serve those goals - without allowing myself to become bored. I re-tool (or at least re-evaluate) about monthly. At the moment, my focus is on endgames and strategy, but I also always keep some tactics in the mix to stay sharp. As such, my training looks like this, priority-wise:
What I haven't managed yet is to firmly affix these activities to a concrete schedule. Be that as it may, I can't say enough about the importance of keeping a training log. For one thing, mine has shown me that I actually spend more time on chess than I thought! For another, it makes my efforts seem more concrete and helps me to be retrospective when comparing my goals to my actual practices.
For my training log, I now use a Google Docs spreadsheet; feel free to have a gander if you're interested in doing something similar. (And yes, I use my log to track my running and weight as well, but that's obviously an aside.)
Chess Promise 2: Participate in an official, rated event in 2010
It's time to conquer my fear of score-sheets, start the clocks and get real. My buddy and I are already playing "tournament rules" (clock settings, touch rules, writing down moves) for our formerly-casual OTB games. Eye of the tiger, people.. Eye of the tiger. More on this later, for sure.
Penalty for Failing: A self-deprecating blog post?
That was the best I could come up with... I'd actually prefer to think in terms of how I'm going to reward myself, but maybe the answer is the same either way. For good or bad, my ability to act my plan (or not) will define its own rewards and/or penalties, I guess.
The notion of a critical blog-post retrospective, however, does get me to thinking about how blogging might factor into - or alongside - my 2010 efforts. I'll have to play it by ear at first. But rest assured, if I don't think it's going to hold interest for an audience larger than me, I'll try to save it exclusively for my spreadsheet. On the other hand, if I happen upon a useful bit of practice methodology, a really great book that I want to review, or maybe even moments of drama at a real-live chess tournament, I'll probably chime in.
How about you?