Seven Circles Follow-Up
I was recently asked in a blog comment if I had noticed any improvement in my over the board (OTB) play since completing the Seven Circles tactics program back in early December, 2013.
I have only played in one OTB tournament since completing the seven circles and my four competitors were much higher rated than me in that tournament. I went in to the tournament with a 1547 rating and I did score a draw against a 1700 (I offered a draw in a winning position but in time trouble), but I lost to a 1640, 1800 and 2000. (This was the first time I have ever played a 2000+ in a rated game!) I had competitive games against the 1640 and 1800 but the 2000 blew me out of the water. I will post these games in an upcoming blog.
That tournament was back in mid-Dec, 2013, just a few weeks after finishing the Seven Circles program. I think it will take a number of months of tournaments, at least 20 games, before I will be able to get a feel for just how much the program helped my rating. De la Maza also said that he didn't see immediate improvement after completing his program, as he needed some playing time in order to integrate the new patterns into his play.
I can tell you that I have improved from 1311 USCF on July 1st, when I started the program, to 1547 when I completed the five month program. Previously my highest rating ever had been 1381 back in 2011.
Here is my ratings graph:
My current opinion (which will likely be revised in the coming year) is that the Seven Circles is not a magic bullet for chess improvement. But, if you use it to improve your tactical patterns and calculation and then also follow a sound thought process (look at all "checks, captures, and threats" every move, etc), use basic strategic principles, and can play out basic endgames, you should comfortably get to at least a 1500-1800 playing ability.
You have to master tactics patterns and calculation skills to improve. There is no way around that. The Seven Circles is a nice, pre-canned way to do that. It provides a framework that you can hold yourself accountable to follow.