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Ariel Tzentner’s Beginner Study Plan

FiftyTzent

Day 0: Getting Started

Hi everyone! After the (relative) success of the novice plan, I wanted to keep it going and venture further in my chess journey. Now that I’m classified as a “beginner” of sorts (900 rapid), I will call this my “beginner study plan”, to differentiate from the earlier plan. 
After acquainting myself with the enormous world of chess, I want to study more effectively, play more games and practice more, without worrying about my ratings.

With the help of Matt (shoutout to @SmarterChess) I have created a custom beginner plan, largely based on the intermediate rapid & classical plan, while trying to increase the amount of tactics training at the expense of the daily games, which I don’t really find enjoyable.

This plan will be 12 weeks or longer, depending on the time it takes to reach “intermediate” status (stable 1100 rating).

My long term goal: get official FIDE Arena International Master title in 2 years - requires 50 games above 1700 in rapid games

My study plan goal: reach stable 1100 rapid rating and improve my blitz rating to 800+.

My psychological goal: take games easy and not stress over ratings

(Taken from the FIDE Online Arena website)

Plan Structure

This plan will alternate two weekly structures, with 20 puzzles per day (at least), one game review from “A Book of Morphy” and either one 30+0 game, two 15+10’s, three 10+0’s or four 5+5’s. The weekends will feature endgame and opening studies, with an optional 60+0 game. 

Recently there have been many ChessGoals games in various formats, but mostly 30+30 games, and mostly on Sundays. I will do my best to complete my daily tasks alongside those games. 

Let’s go! 🏆♟🤩

SmarterChess

Looking forward to these updates! Good luck!

FiftyTzent

Week 1 - Day 1

Today's tasks

Efficient

  • 20 puzzles - 19/20 in easy mixed set
  • 30+0 classical game + detailed analysis
  • Morphy book game review

Game Analysis

Positives

  • Sticked to my black opening, played the right moves until move 9

Improvements

  • Don't break in the center without adequate support and defense! Make sure all attacked pieces are properly defended
  • I pinned my knight to the queen voluntarily...

Morphy game notes

  • In a winning position, sometimes it's okay to give up the queen in order to simplify the position and bring more threats
  • When unprovoked in the center, take it with two pawns! (assuming you know what to do later)
  • Exchanges relieve cramped positions, and if you have a space advantage, try not to trade!
  • Don't move the same piece twice in the opening... unless you have a promising attack (or an aggressive developing move, or a mate threat!)
FiftyTzent

Week 1 - Day 2

Today's tasks

Efficient

  • 20 puzzles - 17/20 in easy mixed set
  • two 15+10 rapid + analysis
  • Morphy book game review

Analysis

Game 1 - Loss (Rated)

Positives

  • Looked for good tactics throughout the game, gaining pawns and trading while ahead
  • Had a comfortable advantage going into the endgame
  • No major mistakes until move 24

Improvements

  • Proceeded to throw away two pieces en prise!!! I was really off near the end, not used to open games with few pieces
  • The main takeaway - I should always ask "Is my move safe?"

Game 2 - Draw (Unrated)

Positives

  • Led throughout most of the middlegame
  • Held the draw after taking the opposition!

Improvements

  • Missed winning the queen with a nice tactic - Bishop check with a discovered attack on the queen by my queen
  • Missed an opportunity to turn the tables near the end with a free rook!
  • The main takeaway - look critically at the position, aim for checks-captures-attacks (or discovered attacks)

Morphy game notes

  • When you have an attack rolling, move all your forces towards the attacked side to amass a concentration of force
  • In the opening, look to control the center, develop the pieces rapidly and look to attack whenever possible
FiftyTzent

Week 1 - Day 3

Efficient
- [x] 3-min puzzle rush - scored 10
- [x] 3 puzzles (calculation)
- [ ] 10+0 rapid + analysis:
- [x] 1
- [x] 2
- [ ] 3
- [x] Morphy book game review

Analysis

Game 1 - Win by checkmate

Positives

  • Opening: when’s opponent brought the queen out early, I just developed normally
  • Looked for tactical advantages throughout the game
  • Checkmated him with 5 seconds remaining on the clock!

Improvements

  • Missed many chances to mate (in 2 or more moves)
  • Could’ve taken a pawn for free while winning temp on the queen and then aiming at the rook

Game 2 - Loss by timeout

Positives

  • Tried to keep everything defended throughout the game

Improvements

  • Opening: Missed taking a free e5 pawn, took the developed (and defended) knight with no real purpose
  • Took a lot of time to think and lost on time - resorted to hope Chess near the end, sacrificed a rook for a hope tactic
  • Could’ve tried to trap the knight with my queen

Morphy game notes

  • With each move, try to create new threats the opponent must respond to
  • It's best to do it while developing new pieces or improving their position
  • Sometimes you can be down material but still attacking, with the initiative and throwing threats at the opponent left and right
  • Castling without the pawn wall can look dangerous and outright risky, but sometimes it has justifications
jberrHTX

Ariel - thanks for posting, you give me hope!  I've been discouraged given my performance in Blitz and Rapid and it's great to see that I am not alone.  I look forward to following your next study plan!

FiftyTzent
jberrHTX wrote:

Ariel - thanks for posting, you give me hope!  I've been discouraged given my performance in Blitz and Rapid and it's great to see that I am not alone.  I look forward to following your next study plan!

It’s truly amazing to hear that from you! My pleasure, actually one of my intended goals with these posts is to share my journey hoping other players with similar strength (or different for that matter) will benefit from it! Good luck to you on your journey and thanks for following, stay tuned 😁

FiftyTzent

Week 1 - Day 4

Efficient

✓ 3-min puzzle rush - 13/13!
✓ 5 puzzles (calculation) - 3/5
✓ Two 15+10 rapid + analysis
✓ Morphy book game review

Analysis

Game 1 - Win by resignation (Rated)

Positives

  • Opening: implemented the Spanish game (Ruy Lopez) to perfection (even got a badge grin.png)
  • Looked for sharp tactics throughout the whole game, trying to exploit weakness in my opponent’s play
  • Took the time to calculate several moves deep, to get the resounding victory!

Improvements

  • Watch out taking the pawn on e5 after the exchange, can be risky!

Side note

  • My 4 last opponents rated 900+ brought out their queen (all of them coincidentally to f6) way too early (as early as move 2), interesting to think about how to exploit that

Game 2 - Loss by resignation (Unrated vs my friend)

Positives

  • Opening: Ruy Lopez by the book! (I'm getting White a lot recently)

Improvements

  • Tried blocking the mate but blundered the queen instead... Wasn't calculating that well
  • In an equal position out of the opening, don't open up the center just to open it up! Think it through
  • I felt like it was a horrible game (we were voice chatting during the game), but turns out that up until the queen blunder I was pretty fine (although he has the initiative)
  • Again, the thing that tripped me up was not calculating deep enough (or disregarding calculations and going for hope chess) - losing the queen and the rook on the spot

Morphy game notes

  • If a pesky piece is defended from capture, try attacking the defender!
  • Try to develop the worst piece every time, ideally with a threat
SmarterChess

How do you like the calculation puzzles?

FiftyTzent
SmarterChess wrote:

How do you like the calculation puzzles?

I like them very much! I like the idea of forcing myself to consider all possible replies by the opponent, in order to find the best move and continuation. 
I’m still a bit hasty in my moves, but I’m working on slowing down and really considering everything. 
The fact that I’m aiming to get them all correct will boost my puzzles rating a lot! grin.png

FiftyTzent

Week 1 - Day 5

Efficient

✓ 3-min puzzle rush - 13/14
✓ 5 puzzles (calculation) - 5/5!
✓ Four 5+5 blitz + quick review
✓ Morphy book game review

Blitz game reviews

  • Game 1 (Win by checkmate): near Wayward queen attack by opponent -> solid development of pieces, looked for tactics to exploit
  • Game 2 (Loss by resignation, forced mate): Solid queen’s pawn opening -> got myself in a bad position even though up a rook… Should’ve improved my position gradually and not look for a hasty attack
  • Game 3 (Loss by checkmate): Got a really good attack going, exposed his king, but then given up material and later got embarrassed by a back rank checkmate… bad game by me
  • Game 4 (Loss on time): As long as I play more games, my playing quality goes down… Made some wild moves to try to create something, but instead played mostly hope chess

Morphy game notes

  • Always try to get out new pieces, do not try to attack with the same two pieces
  • A check trumps all other threats and must be reckoned with
FiftyTzent

Week 1 - Days 6-7 - weekend study
Efficient

✓ Defense tactics - 30 minutes
✓ Intuition tactics - 30 minutes (ChessKing Tactics for Beginners)
✓ Strategy lessons - 30 minutes
✓ Endgame study - 30 minutes
✓ Opening study - 30 minutes

+Maximize

✓ 45+45 classical
✓ Detailed analysis

Analysis
Quads game vs arghasen (loss by checkmate)

Positives

  • Opening: Ruy Lopez Morphy defense by the book, no major mistakes there
  • Came back to equalize after blundering my knight

Improvements

  • When attacked by a lesser piece, move the attacked piece! Defending it doesn't work
  • In the endgame, it is imperative to centralize the king prior to any lunging forward pawn moves
FiftyTzent

Study Plan Update

I've had quite a busy week with a few personal matters, so I've taken a small step back from my plan (which I have modified during week 1 itself) and taken the time to recalibrate.

I figured I still obsess over my rating, which isn't a good thing, since I'm constantly pressuring myself that I have to win every game I play, and since I lose more often than I win (may not be true but certainly feels like it), it takes the wind out of my sails.

So, after reading some articles and watching some videos, I've concluded I need a different approach: An effort-based goal rather than a result-based goal (ratings). My plan is to improve, of course, but I need to let it come naturally, in its own time, rather than getting disappointed when I fail to reach a random rating number after a random number of weeks.

With that in mind, my study plan goals are:

  1. Improve my tactical vision
  2. Improve my calculation ability
  3. Playing more chess games
  4. Learning from my chess mistakes
  5. Enjoy playing chess (that is the main thing after all!)

The methods with which I will achieve these goals are:

  • Practicing intuition tactics (easier) for at least 10-15 minutes every day
  • Practicing calculation tactics (harder) for at least 30 minutes every day
  • Playing chess games (mostly rapid/classical)
  • Analyzing my chess games
  • Playing some Chess960 games (just for fun happy.png)

The tools with which I will practice are (all of which are in Chess.com):

  • Timed puzzle rush
  • 5-10 rated puzzles
  • Live rapid games
  • Self-analysis
  • Live960 games

The main point: This study plan will be considered a success if I have successfully implemented this outlined chess practice as a routine/habit, regardless of rating!

Notice also I intend to analyze my games mostly by myself, since I suspect I have developed a bad habit of not thinking for myself and over-relying on the engine to evaluate the position at hand. In the upcoming weeks I'll try to limit my use of the engine in favor of my own analysis.

Plan outline

This study plan consists of 5 weekdays of playing and practicing, and a weekend for deeper study. I've tried to keep it relatively "slim" in terms of mobility and time to spend during the weekdays, so I stripped away the annotated game review (which is harder to do without a physical chess set) and reduced the number of puzzles required each day.

Weekday tasks:

  • 3-5-minute puzzle rush
  • 5-10 rated puzzles (~30 minutes)
  • Practice games with analysis: either one 30+0, two 15+10's or three 10+0
  • If possible (+maximize) - one more game, or up to four 5+5's in the day of the 30+0 game

Weekend tasks:

  • 30 minutes defensive tactics - using the book "Looking for Trouble" by Dan Heisman
  • 30 minutes intuition puzzles - using the Chess Tactics for Beginners app by Chess King
  • 30 minutes endgame study - using the book "Silman's Complete Endgame Course" by Jeremy Silman
  • 30 minutes opening study - using the book "Learning Chess Openings" by Jef Kaan
  • If possible (+maximize) - one long classical game (60+0, 45+45, etc.) with deep analysis

Expected gains

After 12 weeks of following this plan, I'm expecting to gain:

  • At least 300 more puzzles
  • At least 100 more rapid games
  • A random number of rating points (no pressure!)

"10 Years of Silence"

I've just finished reading some articles by James Clear (the author of the critically acclaimed "Atomic Habits") and realized that most of the world-class performers took a lot of time (roughly 10 years) before they produced a true masterpiece or reached a peak! Applying this finding here, with less than 6 months passed in my chess journey, I should give myself the benefit of time and just keep practicing, with the thought of "I'm in it for the long haul". Not expecting some serious jumps in short periods of time (although they might occur), only slow and continuous improvement is the way to go! In the spirit of the Italian Game: "Chi va piano va sano" (Roughly translates to "slow and steady wins the race").

Just for fun: Chess960

I've heard of Fischer Random Chess (aka Chess960) a while ago, but only lately did I become enamored with this fascinating variant - no opening study needed! Chess960 prides itself on being "skill-first", since no memorization of opening lines is necessary (or humanly possible for that matter), and only principled chess is the way to win games. I've played some games and today I participated in a Chess.com Live960 10+0 tournament, in which I scored 1.5/5 and even managed to win a game with less than 10 seconds on my clock! I think I'll keep on playing this variant from time to time, just to keep things fun and fresh.

Here we go again! happy.png

FiftyTzent

Restart Required

After yet another busy week I haven’t actually started the study plan, instead resorting to resource acquisition and meta-study. This has led to me stalling in playing more games, settling on studying and trying to find the ideal conditions for my improvement. 
Truth be told - this doesn’t seem to work out for me… I have been stalling my new plan for about a month, and in light of the recent July play challenge in ChessGoals, I figured I need to get back to business.

Therefore, I’m starting anew with specific goals in mind:

  1. Play at least 5 slow games a week, ideally 1 per day (or 2-3 faster games if able)
  2. Solve at least 5 puzzles a day with deep calculation
  3. Play the London System exclusively as white - and stop studying opening variations
  4. As black, adopt the “King’s Indian setup” (Pirc Defense vs e4 and the King’s Indian Defense against everything else)

I’m prone to switching openings every few games, which is actually detrimental to my understanding of the opening and learning the key themes of the positions I’m getting. So my goals revolve around limiting my opening study forcefully, hoping to gain accountability with these forum posts here happy.png

The structure of the plan is specified above, with the resources for the opening study is not the mentioned book, but rather chess.com lessons about said openings and/or video courses about those openings.

Stay tuned wink.png

SmarterChess

I stopped reading at London System

JK :-)

You played a good game today in the team match!

FiftyTzent
SmarterChess wrote:

I stopped reading at London System

JK :-)

You played a good game today in the team match!

LOL grin.png

The thing is I want something simple to work with, and get a playable position, without needing to study the opening that much.

About the team match - thank you! I felt like I was doing my best, but a few inaccuracies cost me the game little by little, and Safuya played all the best moves, it was hard to combat this.

FiftyTzent

Week 2 - Day 1

Efficient

✓ 5-min puzzle rush - 11
✓ 5 puzzles (calculation) - 4/5 (the missed one was a mouse slip, but the retry was still wrong...)
✓ One classical game (90+30) + analysis

Analysis

  • ChessDojo Classical tournament round
  • Lost by resignation

Takeaways

  • Opening: London System - not the best moves against early ...c5 and ...Qb6, targeting b2, but our inaccuracies diffused that situation.
  • Look for opportunities to capture with higher value pieces if the capture square is guarded adequately.
  • (-) When ahead (in material and time), go slow! Use the clock as a weapon but take the time to analyze the candidate moves, don't pull off hasty moves - they might cost the advantage or the game!
  • (+) I felt really comfortable in the first 40 moves of the game, going super solid and not trying to go on an all-out assault unjustified - solid positions suit me if (and only if) I take the time to think and find solid moves.
FiftyTzent

Week 2 - Day 2

Efficient

✓ 5-min puzzle rush - 20!
✓ 5 puzzles (calculation) - 4/5 (Missed a pin in a mate)
✓ One classical game (30+30) + analysis

Analysis

  • ChessGoals classical tournament round
  • Won by resignation (forced mate)

Takeaways

  • My first ChessGoals win!! Really proud of myself, played a really good game grin.png
  • Opening: Solid Jobava London System with an interesting trap of Nb5 executed well.
  • (+) Keep the initiative and go for a calculated attack!
  • (+) Took my time to play good solid moves, not rushing things even though well below 10 minutes.