I am 31 years old (soon to be 32) and I picked up chess around when I was 30. I had played chess as a kid like nearly every kid does, but that was way in the past and all I could remember from it were the basic rules of chess and how the pieces move. That was about all.
I don't remember how I got back to chess, I just seem to remember one day thinking why don't I play chess these days and soon enough I had created an account on chess.com.
The start was slow, I didn't know anything besides the basic rules.
This is the first game that I played (10I0) on chess.com. Just went through it and posted what I thought of the moves.
Not great play by any means. I have given the moves little more than fleeting glances and those annotations have been put in there.
However let me not post only games that I won. Here is a game of me losing while I had a three figure elo on chess.com.
The up and down nature of the elo continued for a while. It went as low as 859 at one point,
So how did I get from 859 to 1500? The thing with chess learning is that it is rarely definite. In school one could be really precise with what you learned. You could say I learned addition today now I can add, or I learned the table of 5.
With chess the learning is never that definitive. I could watch a video on a game of say Kasparov and think well what does that have to do my games. Suppose Kasparov played a great move in a particular position what use is that. I will never have that exact position in which I could also play that exact move and win.
Atleast this is how I thought when I started watching videos on chess online. The point that took me a long while to understand is that those videos help you understand the broad concept behind those moves. There is a reason why a particular move is great.
Moves are great because they fulfill a (often multiple) purpose(s). You understand the broad concepts on why those moves were good. Say for instance (not from an actual game) Kasparov played a great move that leads to a knight fork. The lesson learned is that knight forks are good.
Kasparov found a great move to set up a knight fork, however perhaps I could do a knight fork in one of my games with a simpler far less complex move.
If you had never seen Kasparov fork two pieces with his knight you would not know that value of a knight fork, Of course this is over-simplification, however it does highlight the intangible nature of chess learning.
When you watch videos of games of the past you will almost never get to apply the ideas in an exact same position in your game. However you will still learn something from that which will give you a new insight, a new way to think which you will then be able to put to good use in one of your games in a position vastly different from the game where you found it.
So even if you don't have time to analyse great games yourself, there are videos on youtube that do a good job explaining it to you. For instance the set of videos on the Saint Louis channel have given me a lot of learning, even though I cannot pinpoint to what each of them taught me.
However the true point of development in chess was when I started to use the explorer feature on chess.com. What a wonderful tool. It is not free and one needs to be a paying member to use it. So I was a premium member for two months just to use explorer.
For those who don't know what explorer is, it is a database of moves played in a particular position and how often did it lead to wins for black or white or draws. However very importantly you could set it to filter for just your games.
So for each move it will tell you what moves are leading to wins for you and after what moves do you usually lose.
So lets say you want to improve your play as white. So you go to explorer you select the filter to show just your games. Then you enter the move 1.e4 on the board. It will load up all the responses your opponents have made to you playing 1.e4 in the past and what the results were. So after 1.e4 lets say the most popular response was 1.e5.
Then you could see what are the moves you have played in response to that and what the results were. So it will show you that in response to black playing e5, when you played 2. Nf3 you have won 55% of the games, whereas when in response to e5 you have played h4, you have won just 10% of the games.
So you immediately rule out playing h4 after 1.e4 e5 & will play 2. Nf3 as that is the move in the position with which you have far better results. This it does for move after move after move till you have a concrete opening repertoire. This will immensely benefit your game.
This is how I found the opening I play every game as white as when I looked up the explorer I had 60% win rate in that line.
It will tell you what moves work and what don't and you will find your elo going up. I unsubscribed after using it. However I have resubscribed just to use explorer again.
Apart from that just play as much as possible. Additionally one must use the analysis engine as often as possible after games. They also provide a lot of insight into how you are playing and what you did wrong and also what you did right. For the right moves sometimes are counter-intuitive.
Frankly I know the elo is inflated, and I am perhaps not as good a player as a 1500 elo indicates. However, above all I have learned not to be a slave to that elo. That is the biggest improvement that I have had. We all tend to become obsessed with that elo and if after a few defeats it falls one tends to become desperate to raise it again.
It hampers your play as instead of playing your best chess, you are thinking got to get the elo up, got to get the elo up. Elo whether on chess.com or anywhere is not an indication of you skill, but more an indication of your form.
The thing with form is it fluctuates. Today I am in good form and could play like a 1500 player, however tomorrow I could lose form and lose to a 1000 elo player (its happened trust me). So what use is elo then. Elo is just a number that doesn't win you games of chess.
What wins you games is your moves and so instead of elo just focus on your moves and play the best you could.
Lastly, for the past few months I have almost exclusively played 3I0 blitz and as it goes with short games a lot of the games were settled by either me or the opponent flagging. I will be the first to accept that a lot of my wins were because the opponent flagged in totally winning positions. So the elo of 1500 is bloated from games where I didn't really win.
However it is equally true that I have lost games where I had by far the stronger position. However I do try and play fast, and of course there is no record of this anywhere but I suspect I flagged less than my opponents do, especially during the past few months.
I may not always have played the best chess, but I have played it fast. Its not a bad plan to use the clock as a weapon, Even if you make bad moves, but make them really fast, there is a chance that you could away with it, because your opponent was not fast enough to punish those bad moves.
Its not what you strive for. Sure you play the best you could, but its not unwise to use the clock as an extra layer of protection against defeat.
Also don't be too harsh on yourself for mistakes. I remember when I languishing in the 800s or 900s elo, I would put the games in analysis and then go through the mistakes thinking oh I missed this simple move, I am a muppet. A 1500 would never fall for something like this.
However playing against opponents at 1500 level I find that mistakes are still made. I recently had a 1700 elo player hang his queen against me. If you had told me when I was hanging queens left and right and had an elo of 900 something, that a 1700 elo guy would hang his queen, I would not believe you.
I would like to keep improving and head towards 1800, but if I don't then I think I will be pleased to have atleast jumped to 1500.