What's important to become a better chess player?
In the past i wondered much about my opening and forgot about what is really important in chess. I have cleared my bookshelf by giving some stuff to my chess club and selling most of the opening books and i will not buy any new book until at least some books are finished. E. g. i own three tournament books with annoted games by Alekhine. When i have finished all, i want to get the book on world championship 1948 by Paul Keres. But now i only finished 3/22 from the first one! Or when i finished all of my seven training books by Yusupov, and likely have gone through them a second time, i could get the first of the remaining three books.
Here is what i will use myself and also the consequences what helped me and what helped me not to to reach the acutual strenght (from 1200 to 1700 german rating in five years, aduld in the mid-20 with university and then a fulltime job).
- Play! Most likely otb. For real improvement most trainers write about playing between 50 and 100 tournament games each year. In my most active year i played 56 games followed by 41 and 39 and 30, the years from 2005 to 2016 are covered. For this year it will be hard to get into the top three, but i will try. I will also look for otb quick and blitz chess as well. It's something different to watch at the large tournament board or to watch at the 2D board at the monitor. As any practice is better than no practice, i will also play online, there i hope i will mainly play rapid chess (15+10 or so). If you play more rated games and tournaments, one loss will not have the same significance than when you only play 9 games each year.
- Analyze your games. Don't make the same mistakes again and again. Concider to get a coach who can spot the main iussues better.
- Work on tactics and combinations on a regular basis. One can use the tactics trainer here or on other websites, programms like CT Art or my perfered material, books! Do them maybe 15 minutes each day instead of a four hour session on sunday. Get all tactic pattern good enogh to spot most two and three moves combinations within a few seconds. Solve harder exercises to work on your calculation and vision skills.
- Play over annoted games, there are so many great game collections. I prefer the old masters beginning somewhere in the 1920s up to the 1970s (Alekhine, Botwinnik, Bronstein, Fischer, Keres,...). There are also good books which teach you with games or fragments on positional topics (e. g. "Chess Structures" and "The Power of pawns"). You also find annoted games in opening books.
- Get proper endgame skills! I think "Silman's endgame course" has the right ammount of material when one only wants to do a minimum. You should know and be able to play all positions up to your level. I think those levels even in the german edition are USCF-ratings, so class A (from 1800 to 1999) is for FIDE 1700-1899 and DWZ 1600-1799.
- Know the FIDE rules / your national rules. Don't accidently get penalized, e. g. by moving the rook first when you castle. Or don't lose on time when you could have claimed a threefold repetition or when your opponent just moves around in a "quickplay finish". You can stop your clock to get the arbiter. When you have less then 5 minutes for all remaining moves i a time period you don't have to keep score (but it's practical to mark each of your moves). And so on... Many club and also too much tournament players have knowledge holes, which could be fixed by 1 hour reading or one evening seminar about rules with a experienced arbiter.
As mentioned before i work with yusupov's books (the german titles are "Tigersprung", the english "build up your chess", "boost your chess", "mastery" 1-3). He has chapters on tactics, strategy with some annoted games and also endgames. If you use no book else you can get happy with that material alone.
It it itching to put my opening books into a database and use the chesspositiontrainer to memorize... But i will keep away from that! Just play a couple of games and look afterwards about the openings.