Chess Techniques For Improvement - Going At It One Step At A Time
"How am I going to take my chess game to the next level?"
Not an easy question to answer. And usually, in an effort to make sure we have all of our bases covered, we come up with chess improvement plans like the following:
(1) Spend 1 hour on Chess tactics daily.
(2) Spend 1.5-2 hours on reading Silman's "How To Re-Assess Your Chess" (a very GOOD book that is now on it's 4th edition)
(3) Another hour on watching some Chessbase DVDs.
(4) Play some online chess for 2 hours or so.
And the list goes on and on. At first glance, this looks good, right? Think about it - how could studying different important phases of chess REGULARLY be bad for your game?
Actually (and unfortunately), it could backfire!
First off, if you are like me who has to work 4-5 hours a day... someone who needs to set aside time for more pressing concerns (family, work, WOMEN :) and more), it's almost IMPOSSIBLE to keep up with such a schedule.
Well, if you are planning to make a living out of our beloved Royal Game (maybe you are aiming GM, IM, etc. someday), then spending 8 hours or more a day on training is the ONLY way to go. BUT for us regular fellas (who don't have the time), we need to find a better and more practical way to improve our game.
And I think we need to start by focusing on one aspect of chess at a time. Perhaps you need to change the way you think move-by-move. Maybe you want to patch up your repertoire. For others, their endgame play might need attention.
The point is: find what you need to fix or improve in your game and spend some time on it. As for my case, after years of on and off in chess (and after spreading myself too thinly by training on different aspects of chess at a time), I would start with my thought process.
Chess thought process is a very wide topic. You have to pick candidate moves. There's the calculation of variations. You need to evaluate the resulting positions. You need to check if your move is tactically safe and so on...
Again, focus on one thing at a time! I'll do it step by step.
That said, I would start with the one of the most important components of a good chess thought process: Recognizing the motives behind my opponent's moves (the threats) AS WELL AS its drawbacks.
Now we get to another important question: "How long should we train this part of our thought process?"
Until it becomes automatic.
When I get to the point where I don't have to consciously ask yourself what the threats and drawbacks of your opponent's moves are, then I think I'm ready to move forward.
According to GM Smirnov's "The Grandmaster's Secrets" (there's a section in the course where Igor spills some really nice training techniques), he said that for a skill to be automated, it would take 23 days of CONSTANTLY training it.
There you go! Now we have a time-frame to work with.
(Smirnov took up Psychology in College so I really don't want to question the '23-days to automation' idea. I'll stick with it I guess.)
23 days of CONSTANTLY training my mind's eye to recognize the motives, threats, and drawbacks of my opponent's move. By the way, I'm now on Day 2, I've started this back in the first day of October.
And right here, in this blog, I will post my progress, significant milestones in my training program, perhaps some reviews, training positions, and what have you. I hope some nice fellas from Chess.com would jump in to offer bits and pieces of chess wisdom. They'd be very much appreciated. :)
Signing off for now,