1500, or, "I'm Not Worthy!"
Back in April of this year, a mere 7 months ago, I wrote this in my second blog post, (found HERE: http://blog.chess.com/Namssob/rags-to-riches)
"I'd like to achieve 1500 Online rating within a year."
...And as of last night, one of my tournament opponents prematurely resigned both games we were playing (3 moves into a pre-set Catalan opening, both games clearly still equal), and put me at exactly 1500. Don't get me wrong, I'm ecstatic! But...
Why don't I feel worthy of that rating?!?!
The interesting thing I've discovered about chess, and more precisely, getting better at chess, is that we move through the "chess improvement continuum" along with the other folks near or at our same level. When I was 1100 rated playing other players +/- 200 pts, it "felt" almost the same as being 1450 playing other players at +/- 200. In other words, the "game difficulty" is the same, or close to it.
Take this for example...as an 1100 rated player, if I had played a 1400-1500+ rated player, I would be squashed very quickly. Maybe 5-6 moves in after following my "opening principles", it would be apparent that the chess "pro" I was playing was simply making smarter moves than I was, and not blundering nearly as much or at all. The higher my opponents rating, the earlier in the game I would get that feeling.
As I have improved, for lack of a better way of putting it, I can "hang" with those players much longer, in some cases all the way to a winnable end-game against a 1700+ rated player (I'm in one right now, he's clearly got the material and positional advantage, but I've survived into the end-game nonetheless and I'm proud of that!)
Below WAS my plan back in April, along with specific notes of how my actual activities have varied from the plan:
- Tactics Trainer: I've done LESS tactics training that I had hoped. I did do it. My frustration with the TT is that it APPEARS (I can't prove it, but I am almost completely convinced) that it is different (and harder) on a mobile device. I've started ignoring my rating compleyely in the TT, and just doing the problems as I get them. The FRUSTRATING thing is that my TT rating has not gone up with my Online rating, and the main problem is I am *HORRIBLE* at time management. Online games I can spend an hour looking at ONE move. I need to get better at this.
- Chess Mentor: Yes, love it! I posted in a forum the method I use with the Chess Mentor. But in essence, I will run through all mentoring courses until I'm at the end, forcing myself to NOT re-do lessons right away, but instead to move on and come back to them later. I don't want my course score to be artificially inflated due to my immediate memory/recall helping me complete the lesson.
- Videos: I have spent a lot of time watching chess videos, but admittedly not much on Chess.com. Mostly YouTube videos of tactics, and chess openings. It is said you should not spend much/any time learning openings until you're an expert, beyond understanding opening principles. What I have found to be fun is join a "thematic" tournament, such as the Tarrasch, or "Catalan". Then when the tournament starts, I will watch tons of videos on that opening...NOT to learn the moves, but understand the tactics and positional purposes of the moves. So to this day, I could not tell you much more about any openings, but I have a better grasp of the ideas behind some of them.
- A book [actually, several books]: THIS has been a biggie. I bought Silman's "End Game Course" and used my "e+Chess Books" app to review it, up to about the 1400 rating chapter. The app itself is a little buggy. but I manage. I also bought Dan Heisman's "thinking" book, although I can't stand the "graphic" notation. And I read all but the last chapter in Silman's "Amateur's Mind" book. I also bought a Chess Puzzles book that I look at every once in a while. And my brother-in-law gave me 3 old chess books from his past, all in the old "P-K4" notation which is quite difficult to follow, but interesting to read.
- 10+ Online games to "practice": Yep. I haven't open-challenged a player to a game in a long time, since the tournaments are fun, and I liked the themed aspects of them. But I have maintained a steady stream of games anywhere from 5 to 20 by joining rating-appropriate tournaments, althought the U2000 tourney has been interesting, getting schooled by some very good 1700+ rated players.
- Chess960 Games: These have slowed down, but I think they have REALLY helped, more than I thought they would. These games take me outside the typical positions, and force me to think about where all my pieces are, threats, possible attacks, etc. I would like to play more of these.
- Online games with a mentor to get the "mindset" of chess:These have slowed down, but...one incredible thing happened that helped me a lot. We played a long "take back" game, where almost all of my ideas ended up in a losing position. At the end of the game, he asked me to analyze the game, annotate it, identify three key moves that changed the course of the game and what I could have done differently. That exercise taught me two really important things: (1) paying attention DURING a game as if I'm analyzing a completed game can be a helpful tool. In my mind t his is what Dan Heisman talks about with REAL chess vs Hope chess, and (2) analyzing completed games DOES HELP!! It's amazing the things you "see" after a game that you didn't see during the game. How many times have I said, "OMG - what was I thinking?!?!".
- Live Games: Nope, haven't done much of these at all. Would like to, but to be honest they make me nervous. I suck so badly at time control that it scares the bejeesus out of me. I need to learn how to relax. I KNOW they can help me, but for right now I am enjoying the online relaxed nature of the games.
So here is one thing I'd like to add to my plans to help me get even higher, and I'm also going to set a new goal....
- Game Analysis: I need to start doing this on a regular basis. Not just send my game to the computer analysis feature on Chess.com and read it, but really look at my own games myself, and see if I could have made improvements.
- I bought an "Opening Repertoire" app. Basically my thought here is that for some BASIC openings, I need to know what the first few moves should be. I found myself consulting the Openings Explorer ONE MOVE into a Sicilian, and it was frustrating me. So I would at least like to solve this a little.
- Increase use of both Tactics Trainer and Chess Mentor. No brainer.
New goal: I think it's do-able.....a 1700 rating within the next year.
I am quite sure going from 1500 to 1700 could take longer and more work than going from 1200-1500. Now I'm starting to get into the tougher stuff..needing to know a little about openings, needing to understand positional play a little better. My pawn structures still SUCK, I still find myself making RISKY moves that could be "awesome" wins, but are in fact unnecessary inferior tactics.