Trudging Down the Road to Master

Jan 14, 2016, 10:18 AM |


This is my first blog post. I have no "official" FIDE or USCF rating. On my Blitz rating is somewhere in the 1350s, I think. (But I'm a little bitter about that because only a few weeks ago I was around 1470. Sometimes I play great; sometimes I play terribly.)

Last year I set a goal to become a chess master. Through some self-study, and lots of play on the Play Magnus app, I managed to raise my blitz score from the 1100s to 1470. I was really happy with my progress. But obviously it wasn't nearly enough to attain my goal of becoming a Candidate Master (I'd need about 2200 ELO FIDE). So this year I set a goal to get to 2000. Seems like a crazy goal, right? Maybe so. I'm in my late 20s. And I've never had any serious training. 

But I'm good at achieving goals. I recently (within the last 3 years) graduated from Stanford Law School. I scored in the 99th percentile on the LSAT. I have lots of logic training. And I've been playing chess with my family since before I can remember. I believe in myself. So we'll see how it goes. This blog will track my progress. I'm hoping I can get some good advice along the way!

I've heard that a goal without a plan is like a sailboat without a sail. I mean, what's the point? So here's my plan. 

1. Hire a chess coach. Fortunately, I accomplished this task. I recently hired IM Dejan Stojanovski to give me 100 lessons, one hour a piece. He gave me an amazing deal. I've already had a few lessons with him, and they're very helpful. But more on that in another post.

2. Learn how the masters play. I've found this to be very enjoyable. Whenever I'm too tired to study, or if I'm in the gym or something, I'll put on a video from Kingscrusher's YouTube channel. (If you have other recommendations of good chess commentators, I'd love to hear them!) Kingscrusher reviews the games of Magnus Carlsen, Bobby Fischer, and others. After watching a bunch of those videos, chess masters' games no longer look like a series of random moves. I'm beginning to understand the main ideas and themes that stretch across all chess games. As an added bonus, Kingscrusher has a soothing voice. 

3. Use my chess engine to review my games (after I've reviewed them without the engine). I bought HIARCS chess engine for my MAC a few months ago. Seeing my games through the engine's eyes has been very enlightening.

4. Learn openings. At the beginning of last year, I could not have named even one opening, much less played it. Now, I can at least recognize, and even play, several moves of the following openings: the Queen's gambit declined/accepted, the Ruy Lopez, the Berlin, the Dutch opening, the hedgehog, some of the English systems, the Slav, the semi-Slav, the Sicilian dragon and Najdorf, and probably a few more that I'm forgetting. I need to expand my understanding of these. Fortunately, my chess coach gave me a huge opening repertoire to learn.   

5. Work on my tactics. I really enjoy's tactics trainer. I got up to 1700 a few weeks ago (when I was playing better chess), but now I've fallen to about 1550. I need to do an hour of this per day. I think nothing improved my game more than doing a bunch of tactics trainer problems every day. 

6. Learn endgame theory. My chess coach says the middle game is like art and the end game is like math. 2+3 =5. You just gotta know that. Learning the endgame theory is something one simply must know. So I want to spend some time everyday learning endgame theory. I've got Silman's book. I'll start there (and do my coach's assignments). 

7. Play tournaments. I'm going to my first tournament in Houston in March. I'm pretty excited/nervous about it. 

8. Go to chess club. I have a local chess club that I attend each week. It's lots of fun and very motivating to rub shoulders with "real people", and not just online entities, who are interested in chess. 

I think that's it. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please drop them in the comments or message me!