The Monthly Chess Resolutions Check-In! (January ed.)
Well, I said I was going to do it - here, if you're interested - so here goes. One twelfth of the way in to 2010, it's high time to reflect on my resolutions, take a hard & objective look at my performance to date, and finally... to start making excuses.
So, it hasn't been the best month for chess training, but I shouldn't be too hard on myself, especially after December, where I had two full weeks of unstructured time to feed the beast. Conversely, January brought a surfeit of bedlam at work, and to-do lists to make a mockery of a mere weekend. (Ok, so I thought I'd start with the excuses instead of leaving them to the last...)
Ok, let's get specific... Here are my goals & promises from the original 'resolutions' post, complete with evaluator's notes and a meaningless letter-grade:
Goal 1: By 2011 be able to articulate my plan at any point in any game I play (Focus areas = strategy, endgames)
I guess there was some small progress here. I did study Silman's Complete Endgame Course, which is sort of relevant, but there were no activities specifically devoted to strategy or planning, as such. I'm going to get back into How to Reassess Your Chess and a couple of other books on strategy right after I review my last chapter of the Endgame Course one more time.
Having said that, I can't say enough good things about the Endgame Course. I wish I had studied this thing ages ago... I think this should be one of the first three chess books a person ever owns. It's certainly giving me a lot more confidence in an area that has troubled me for as long as I've played chess. Sure, there's probably going to be some 'review' in the early chapters, but give it a while... You'll be learning how to turn utter defeat into an amusing draw in no time. Etc.
I learned quite a lot working my way up through Part IV: Endgames for Class “C” (1400-1599), and it is at Part IV that I shall stop. From here on in my goal is to cycle through the examples and exercises from sections 1-4 again (recursively) till I can call these positions in my sleep. Then (and only then) I'll tackle V.
Goal 2 (secondary): Complete basic repertoire blueprint for Black (Focus area = openings)
F (or maybe N/A)
I have done nothing related to opening study this month. I'm actually eagerly anticipating version 4 of Chess Position Trainer - mostly because the earlier version seems broken in Windows 7 - before I get back into any serious repertoire work. So in a way, I meant to get that "F." I'll probably get another in February. (Since it wasn't really a January goal, perhaps I'll just discount the whole thing for now.)
Now on to the 'promises' section...
Chess Promise 1: Weekly Chess Training (6+ hours) and Keeping a Weekly Training Log
Wow, I'm actually relieved because up till just now, I thought I'd committed to eight or more hours a week, and man, did I ever not achieve that last month. In fact, I only got above six hours per week twice, and there were a couple of stretches where I went days chess-free.. The HORROR! Serves me right for going to see Avatar, I guess.
...But there is an up-side. My tweaked training log now does a much better job helping me visualize how my training investment reflects (or doesn't reflect) my training priorities. I blogged earlier about avoiding aimless chess training, and by applying some of my own advice in the log (i.e. tracking time against specific focus areas and using a chart to make my time visible), I really do feel a stronger connection between goal and practice.
Looking at the pie chart, I can see that January was all Tactics with a side-order of Endgames. That's actually not too far off of what I wanted to concentrate on this month, so although I didn't devote enough time to chess, at least I apportioned the time I spent appropriately.
Next month, I'm going to shoot for 40%+ tactics, 25%+ endgames and 20%+ strategy (books & master games). We'll see (really!).
Chess Promise 2: Participate in an official, rated event in 2010
I'm not going to grade myself for this, but I do deserve some brownie points at least, because I think I've picked the event!
...because, hey, you only lose your chess innocence once, right? :)
That about does it. So... looking ahead to the present (i.e. February), here's the plan I'll be making excuses about next time around:
Wish me luck - as I do you in your chess-improvement endeavours.