NM Quest #2: Setting Goals and 100% Efficiency?

NM Quest #2: Setting Goals and 100% Efficiency?

Mar 18, 2018, 4:50 AM |

Any serious chess player realizes at some point in time that they have to set goals to make progress and maintain motivation. Concrete goals create markers of improvement that reflect hard work even when one’s rating appears to be stagnant. For instance, my longtime goal has been to “break 2200.” However, with that goal alone, I have had periods of lacking motivation after a bad tournament, low-quality game, or other setback of some sort. Instead of letting another disappointing result discourage me or more long periods without any tournament games drain my motivation, I have finally decided to set quantifiable and achievable goals related to my chess study, not just my official rating. By setting certain expectations for myself related to book study, chessable learning, and game analysis, I hope to maintain my drive to improve in the midst of ups and downs.


My motivation to train this past year has looked a lot like a sine graph: lots of ups and downs. It’s time to change that with consistency and achievable goals!

Reflecting my thoughts above, I created two lists of goals: one for my long-terms objectives that I want to achieve by the beginning of July (a little over three months away) and one list of short-term aims for this coming week; each of my objectives for next week will bring me one step closer toward accomplishing my bigger goals.

Long-term Goals (to be completed by 7/1/18)

  1. Complete Yusupov Book 1: a book that I have been working on inconsistently for a long time. It is densely packed with valuable information and instructive exercises, so I suspect it will take a while to finish.
  2. Finish learning Christof Sielecki's 1.e4 book: I’ve just started learning this book to develop my 1.e4 knowledge; it is quite a monster of a repertoire, so it will also be tough to tackle.
  3. Complete tactics book on chessable: just some daily tactics on chessable to keep my mind fresh; hopefully I can finish this book by the end of April as it is much shorter than the two listed above.
  4. Play and analyze 10 tournament games: fairly self-explanatory!

Short-term Goals (to be completed by 3/26/18)

  1. Complete lesson 5 of Yusupov
  2. Learn first 2 chapters of 1.e4 book
  3. Complete 200 tactics in the tactics book
  4. Play and analyze 2 tournament games

All of the study goals above are ambitious yet achievable. For example, the entire Yusupov book contains 25 lessons, four of which I have already completed; that leaves approximately 20 lessons to be completed over the course of the next 13 weeks or so. My plan is to tackle one lesson per week until school ends in late May. After that, I can study more intensely during the month of June (summer break) to finish the book just before I leave town. Moreover, the chessable goals should be attainable through consistent effort whenever I have spare time. One of the great things about chessable is that I can review lines on my phone while riding the bus or waiting on the benches before soccer practice.

That brings me to my next topic: “100% efficiency.” The idea of 100% efficiency first came to my mind during a chat with a friend of mine. When I mentioned it to him, he laughed and pointed out the obvious: how could one possibly be 100% efficient? Of course, true perfect efficiency is essentially impossible; it is important to take breaks and relax from time to time to maintain one’s sanity. However, the notion of 100% efficiency, if not taken too literally, is quite powerful: I realized that if I add up all of my spare 5-minute time slots on an average school day, they add up to quite a substantial block of time. By using these short time slots to train chessable or do some other productive chess study task on the go, I should be able to reach daily chess goals much more easily.


I still have a long way to go on my chessable goals, but maybe aiming for “100% efficiency” will expedite the process.

The only long-term objective that leaves me with some doubts about its feasibility is my goal to play 10 tournament games by the end of June. Compared to just practicing, the tournament chess situation is more difficult for me. With a heavy school schedule and other activities on my plate, it is difficult to find time for chess tournaments, which take up entire weekends. Nevertheless, I have a couple of events planned to meet the 10-game goal that I have set for myself in the coming months. First off, I will be playing a two-game match against a player of approximately equal strength this Saturday (keep an eye out for a recap of that event in next week’s blog!). Secondly, I plan to play in a 5-round FIDE Open event on the week of April 14th. I don’t have anything specific planned after that, but if necessary, I can always participate in a 3-round swiss at my local chess club. Therefore, if all goes well, I should be able to squeeze in 10 tournament games by the beginning of July.

I’d like to conclude with an apology for the boring nature of these last couple of blogs. I am quite aware that a long read about the details of my own study regimen and goals isn’t very entertaining. Putting my thoughts on paper, however irrelevant they may be to the vast majority of readers, brings structure and clarity to my chess improvement journey. However, please bear with me! As stated above, next week’s blog will be about an exciting 2-game match that I am playing this Saturday. Stay tuned and until next time!