Getting Stronger (A Review of My Recent Performance)

Getting Stronger (A Review of My Recent Performance)

Mar 7, 2016, 7:59 PM |

Hi all!

The last time I created a blog post about my OTB chess was in August of 2015, so I decided to do another one.

In 2015 I think I made great strides in chess. After a slow start I reached the Expert level and then kept playing well. I also finished 2015 quite well, ending up with a rating of 2067.

2016 started quite well for me. Early on there was a quick and blitz tournament. I didn't do well in the quick part of the event, but in the blitz I beat my two toughest local opponents, the State Champion and a former State Champion. This really improved my confidence.

As I've mentioned in another post, I think part of what has helped me improve recently is sticking with a few openings and learning them deeply. It used to be quite common for me to not know an opening past 5-7 moves and get in some trouble on the board and on the clock, but defend for awhile and eventually win. Even though that might be fun to look back on, I think it was a real weakness, and one that some strong players will punish mercilessly.

There are other things I've been doing to improve, but more on that later. First, here is a nice game I recently played:

That game was part of the Tom Nard Memorial, a tournament I shared first in after this and another win followed by two draws. After that tournament my rating rose to 2087.

The week before the Tom Nard Memorial I had played in another tournament and shared first in it with 3.5/4.

So overall I feel that my play has been quite good. In the past 12 months I've played 36 regular games (not counting rapid on blitz) and won 20, drawn 14, and lost only 2. I'm quite proud to have kept my loses down, but to keep raising my rating I need to draw fewer games. Despite my success, I have to say that I've dodged quite a few bullets: In the Tom Nard Memorial I probably should have lost my last two games after serious blunders.

In terms of training, I've recently really focused on quality over quantity. There are so many online articles and puzzles and videos, but I've found that going over a lot of material is not always beneficial. What has resulted in my improvement is deeper, focused study that I'm forced to put effort into. I've been reading several chess books and making sure I don't just skim over the variations, but actually go through them.

Another things I've been doing that has greatly helped me is to put time into correspondence chess. I used to play carefully, but more recently I had started moving really fast and carelessly. Here's one result of careless play:

Ouch! After that game I decided that I no longer wanted to play bad chess like that.
I started taking notes after every single move, something I used to do. I've had several great results; here's one against the same opponent:
That's more like it! I felt I played well and actually learned a lot from this game, and also exercised my mind.
That's basically it for training; I'm focusing on quality in everything, not quantity.

What am I going to focus on improving in the future? I think some of my weaknesses are:
  • Moving too fast. It's good to be confident, but not overconfident.
  • Being lazy in calculations.
  • Missing opponent's threats.
  • Sometimes moving without an idea.

I'll leave you with a position from my first round of the Tom Nard Memorial. My opponent just played 17. a3 and at first I really wasn't sure what to do. I knew there were probably lots of decent moves for Black, but I didn't have any longer terms ideas, so I sat on my hands until I came up with a plan. See if you can also come up with a plan (or at least an idea) for Black.