Ideas for Chess Resolutions for the New Year

Ideas for Chess Resolutions for the New Year

NM SamCopeland
Dec 31, 2014, 12:58 PM |
Despite a rather unsuccessful track record, I really enjoy New Year's resolutions. I've kept track of my New Year's resolutions for the past several years, and it's pretty cool to look back and see what I have and haven't achieved.

Earn the USCF Master Title (Success!)

Become the Highest Rated Player in Buffalo (excluding IM Regan) (Fail)

Achieve Rating of 2250 (2310 peak!)
Acquire 25,000 Blog Reads (Success! Thank you Laughing)
TD a Tournament (Success! I ran a scholastic tournament series.)

Achieve 2200 FIDE
Win the SC State Championship

I have had a lot more success with my chess resolutions than other categories. For instance, I constantly miss fitness goals (although I did complete my marathon this year), and I'm rubbish on the guitar. Smile With three years of track record, it's also clear that certain categories of resolutions work better for me than others. I have NEVER completed a daily resolution like do 100 push ups a day or keep a daily journal. After a month or so, I always fall off, and I start to feel defeated.
For me, the best categories are the ones that have a clear completion point. I.e. they are the ones that I can say on a certain day, "Yes! Got it." That doesn't make it easy. For instance, making National Master involved playing in every available local tournament for months and grinding out rating points one at a time. Of course, that is unrelated to the study itself. Still, it helped a great deal to have a clear point of completion. Resolutions like "Learn the Najdorf Sicilian" lack a clear point of completion. That can make it hard to stay motivated.

There are obviously countless potential New Year's resolutions, but here are some ideas for chess New Year's resolutions that might be fun.

This is a great cateogry because it's specific, measurable, and can provide a real sense of achievement.

Win (or place in) Tournament X (I'd be cautious about this one. Don't select one that is unrealistic or arbitrary.)
Compete in Tournament Y (A major - relative to you - tournament that you have never played in. Perhaps, it's the state or city championship or a major national event like the World Open or the Millionaire Open. Perhaps it's simply your first tournament!)
Achieve first win against an expert, NM, or other titled player (Don't set a goal to draw Undecided A draw might be a great result, but you should never be playing for a draw.)

This category is mostly about incentiving oneself to practice and play more. Having a clear rating goal can help a great deal.

Achieve Rating X
Achieve a FIDE Rating
Achieve a Title (CM, NM, FM, IM, GM, etc.)

There are lots of great books to read, and almost all will make you a better player. Here are some challenging or completist works that can really help you master certain skills.

Read Tal and Khenkin's 1000 Checkmate Combinations (This book is an outstanding collection of checkmating patterns. There are good alternatives such as Reinfeld's 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate. Anyone who has never worked through such a book should absolutely do so.)
Read The Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations (Good alternatives are Blokh's The Art of Combination, Lein's Sharpen Your Tactics, and Reinfeld's 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations. Again, an encyclopedic knowledge of tactical patterns is critical to a chess player. Tools like's Tactics Trainer or ChessTempo are great, but they don't systematize the patterns.)
Read Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (I don't know of any better work, but Muller's Fundamental Chess Endings is close.)
Work through a challenging problem collection (e.g. Hort and Jansa's The Best Move or Volokitin's Perfect Your Chess)
Read Dvoretsky's School of Chess Excellence series

Switch to e4 or d4
Abandon Opening X (Something that is holding you back: The Colle, The London System, The Grob, or any of a million dubious gambits) Wink

This is a tricky category. Endgame work is hard, and sometimes unrewarding in the moment, but it is necessary. I recommend identifying key theoretical endgames and drilling them with a training partner,'s computer workouts or some alternative thereof. Here are some examples, but you may easily think of some ones more suited for you. Note that even if you don't come across the endgame in a game, the practice often helps in other areas.

Mate with a Bishop and a Knight
Mate with 2 Knights vs. a Pawn
Win with Q vs. R (This is actually very hard against an engine.)
Win with Q vs. R + P
Win with Q + P vs. Q (It has to be a bishop or center pawn.)
Win with B + B vs. N
Draw with Rook against R + f + h pawns

Start a Chess Club
Volunteer with a School Club (Many schools have clubs, but lack skilled instructors. You can achieve a lot by helping out!)
Become a Tournament Director
Become a FIDE Arbiter

Take Chess Lessons (A self serving one I know Smile Still, if you feel you are in a rut, one of the best ways to break out is to take private lessons from a good coach. There are lots of great online instructors on - including myself. Expect to do lots of additional work too to get the most out of lessons.)
Learn other Strategic Games (Go, Xiangqi, Shogi, Backgammon, and many other games are also fascinating mental exercises. In addition to being fun, such games can also help deepen chess skills such as calculation.)