I gained 120 Points in 3 Weeks - My Study Plan
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I gained 120 Points in 3 Weeks - My Study Plan

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Yes I know the title sounds fake, but it's true and I'm excited to share how I pushed my rating to a new all-time high. In this post we will talk a bit about my background in playing chess, my career as a chess coach, and how I was able to break through all-time highs at a stage where I didn't know it was possible. Jump down to the bottom of the article if you'd just like to see my recent study plan.

Scholastic Years

I learned to play chess when I was five years old from my grandpa during a rainstorm while camping. He taught me the basics (besides castling and en passant) and I instantly fell in love with the game. At age six I started playing rated events at the local chess club and had an initial USCF rating of 1000. With a tremendous amount of support from family and friends I kept a steady pace of improvement throughout the next eight or nine years, reaching expert level around my 15th birthday. I stayed in low to mid expert level throughout high school and was rated 2109 at the time of graduation.

College Years

I spent the next four years playing events here and there, directing tournaments, and providing instruction. My rating basically bounced around the low 2100's and I was rated 2131 at age 26.

At this point you might be asking yourself, "why does Matt keep mentioning his age and his rating?!".

Good question! I wrote a post titled The Effect of Age on Chess Improvement on my blog. The basic summary is that you can gain rating points at any age, but it becomes tougher as one gets older and as one's rating increases. At that time in my life, it felt extremely difficult to make any chess improvement. I didn't play any rated events for a four year stretch between 2008-2012, and barely touched a chess piece.

Push for Master

In April 2012, I helped revamp the local chess club and was excited to play more chess again. For the next year or so I floated around the mid 2100's USCF. At this point I became friends with a local National Master who helped me form a study plan. I was playing multiple classical OTB games every month and doing a thorough analysis of them afterwards. I started to track and notice some common mistakes in my game. 

  • Shaky openings
  • Subpar planning after the opening phase
  • Oversimplification of moderately better positions
  • Mental attitude after making mistakes

I worked hard on those aspects and made great strides in all of them. In addition to playing the OTB games, I played online blitz, an online slow league, studying openings, and studied grandmaster games in my openings. Very little work was done on endgames and strategy because I felt those were my stronger areas. In October 2015 I hit master, just two months before my 30th birthday. It was a big achievement for me and I don't think I would have gotten the title without the focused study plan.

Additional 100+ Points

This summer a good friend and I have been working on the ChessGoals website and I wanted to try my hand at improving. My blitz rating had been stuck in the low 2200's for as long as I can remember. This account I stopped playing when I hit 2300 because it felt cool to see that number, but my training account was usually around 2220. Based on the ChessGoals data I've analyzed, I knew that at age 34 with a rating of 2220 it'd be pretty difficult to make progress. I decided to follow a plan to dedicate 7 hours per week to working on chess. Here was the plan in a nutshell:

Week 1 - Slow & Strategy
Activity Hours Minutes
3 10
Blitz 1 5
Analyze Rapid Games
1 5
Woodpecker Tactics
0 20
Complete Manual Pos. Chess
1 5
100 Endgames Must Know
0 20

Week 2 - Fast & Openings
Activity Hours Minutes
Blitz 3 30
Great Predecessors
1 5
Bullet 0 40
0 20
Openings in Chessbase
1 25

Week 3 I repeated the same course as week 1. Almost instantly I started seeing results and my play felt stronger than ever, with performance ratings in the upper 2300's or low 2400's each week. A few things I noticed in my play in the first week were poor time management, a lack of opening development, and oversimplifying positions. I hit an all-time high of 2340 in the 3rd week of play, which I was really happy with.

Since week 3 I have stopped the study plan for now and am focusing on working on the ChessGoals website. We have free downloadable study plans if you sign up for email subscriptions on the site. We also have a shop that you can purchase 12-week study plans. Use code chesscomclub for an additional 15% off any order.

Free 12-week study plans are now available on!


Other Links

ChessGoals YouTube Channel

Chess Goals Club

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