A Game Plan
"Amateurs practice until they get it right. Masters practice until they can't get it wrong."
I have seen the the above quote, or variations of it, a number of times in different places. I don't know who originally said it, only that it struck a chord with me. In my experience, I have found that I fit the amateur moniker in many of my endeavors, especially chess. Even when I feel that I'm good at something, I rarely take that extra effort to truly master it.
So, while this isn't really a set of New Years Resolutions, I have made some decisions, a game plan as it is, for chess throughout the next year. At least, this is a start and a personal plan to get better; to practice until I can't get it wrong.
First off, I have a lot of things I need to work on to get better at chess. To make it easier to digest and to make it more realistic, I'll break it down to some fundamental areas and specific routes I'm going to take to improve. As always, time is limited and I will try to make the best use of the time I have. Also, I expect the plan to change throughout the year, as I get a chance to work through it and see what what can be done in the time I have.
Puzzles and Problems
Each day, I am going to dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes to various chess puzzles and problems. I will alternate this between standard tactics puzzles, endgame problems and "find the best move" type of puzzles. To help in this part of my study I will utilize a number of resources I currently have:
- Problem/Puzzle books and computer based versions of these books when I can get/create them
- Endgame Books
- Chess.com's Tactics Trainer
- Chess Tactics Server
I will analyze at least one Master level game a week. It will take a while for the quality of my analysis to increase but I hope this will improve my game play, both by going over the games and by trying to determine the hows and whys of the play.
My initial plan is to use as many of the Chess Life Solitaire Chess columns by Bruce Pandolfini as I can get my hands on. I also plan on getting game collections that are well annotated to continue with, after I have exhausted the columns. I have purchased a couple of older tournament collections to help out:
- Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 annotated by David Bronstein
- New York 1924 annotated by Alexander Alekhine
I hope to add to that collection with additional well annotated collections, tournaments and player specific, as time goes by.
General Chess Reading
Each week I will read at least one chapter from a general, non-puzzle/non-problem chess book. Depending on the subject matter and my comprehension of it, I may go over the same chapter each week, until I truly understand it. At this point I don't have a specific book planned and I may swap which books I read chapters from each week.
I hope that with my other study I will be able to pinpoint areas that need the most work and tailor my reading to those subjects.
Play and Analyze Games
I have been playing a number of online correspondence games consecutively and I plan on continuing that, though I still need to set a maximum number of active games at once. Along with the correspondence games, I will play at least three live games a week, with as many of those as possible OTB.
In addition to analyzing master level games, I will analyze at least one of my games each week. Since I won't have the benefit of master level analysis, I will utilize a chess engine (or engines) to assist with checking my analysis.
The primary goal of this study is to get better at chess. My measurable goal by the end of the year is to be at least 1600 USCF rated, if I can get in enough rated games. If I am unable to get enough games in then I hope to be performing at least at that level in my games (based on the ratings of my opponents).
It should be a fun undertaking. Along the way, I plan on sharing at least some of my personal game analysis. If you have any suggestions or critiques, feel free to let me know.
(originally published at www.joplinchess.org)