Improving One's Capacity To Improve - Part 4
In the final installment of the series, I want to focus on the value of coaching and the importance of reviewing one's tournament games. I have covered a variety of studying habits up to this point such as analyzing annotated Grandmaster games and sharpening tactics a few days before a tournament. However, the practice of self-critique is perhaps the most useful habit that I've ever employed in my chess career. The review of tournament games, especially if performed under mentorship of a coach, is instrumental in pointing out flaws specific to one's play. The previously covered methods aren't necessarily “personal” suggestions as nearly every player can buy the same books and cover the same material. Mistakes are universal, but the manner in which they manifest themselves is unique to each individual player. In such, the process in eliminating mistakes is a path every player embarks on his or her own (or with a coach), but I can offer a few tips in expediting the process.
It is natural to consider tackling mistakes at its cause. However, how do you identify what the issue is from the games? Is it lack of effort? Lack of concentration? A poor grasp of chess principles? Even if we somehow pick out the problem amidst a sea of questions, a whole new level of complexity introduces itself. How does one fix the problem? Study more? Sleep better? Sit on one's hands to avoid moving too quickly? For the average chess player, it must feel overwhelming to deal with a multitude of dilemmas that he or she has never faced before.
It's clear that there are many issues to be discovered from going over a game. However, it's also quite evident that a player's lack of experience will hinder his or her capacity to improve. I'll attempt to outline a common issue I see in my students' games. The most common question I receive is “how do I come up with a plan in this position?” My evaluation process is very similar to the imbalance method outlined by IM Jeremy Silman - I attempt to identify the differences between white and black, I establish plans for both sides based on these imbalances, and I finally select from several candidate moves generated from my evaluation. The concept is fairly straightforward and Silman does an excellent job explaining it to the reader. In his book *The Amateur's Mind*, he cites several examples of his students' attempts at implementing his method when evaluating positions and conceptualizing plans. However, it's very evident that each student encounters several roadblocks during the sessions - they fail to acknowledge the plans of both sides, they focus on attempting to attack, or they simply cannot assess the position. These problems aren't limited to the lessons between Silman and his students - they appear in every game a person will ever play.
Allow me to reiterate my main points - the average chess player encounters many obstacles while trying to improve, and these obstacles are specific to each individual. This player also often lacks the experience necessary to properly address his or her issues. Hence, an approach which incorporates both the guidance of a seasoned coach and the review of one's own tournament games is sufficient to tackle player-specific difficulties.
That concludes the series "Improving One's Capacity to Improve." Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! Please let me know in the comments section what you thought of the series, including any suggestion for topics you would like me to cover in the future. Follow me on Twitter to see when I'll make my next post!