I was wondring what methods you used to increase your chess rating. What worked? what did not work?
I added 200 points to my USCF rating after I started doing 30 minutes /day of tactics problems. Went from 1500-1700 real fast.
I recommend www.chesstempo.com. The problems are pretty tough. They let you do rated problems either timed or with no time limit. And you get a breakdown of your success rate. For example, I have 100% scores in problems tagged as "Zugzwang", "Smother", and "Unpinning", with performance ratings in the range of 2100-2300. But I have <50% scores in problems tagged as "X-Ray Attack", "Counting", and "Desperado", with performance ratings in the range of 1400-1800. Based on that, I have some picture of my strengths and weaknesses.
Obvious but still practical is just playing a lot. You learn very well through experience and repetition, especially for me, and analyzing your games to find flaws and errors in your thought process and understanding of various positions helps you find corrections or areas of study you need to focus on. Books can help, depending on how you relate to the author and if your a more technical book type learner or not. I find that I don't do well learning from books, except I have found that IM Jeremy Silman's writing style somehow helps me understand what he is saying better than others. I also think that creating and sticking to a study plan, whether it is daily, weekly, monthly, or whatever, will greatly increase your chess ability over time. Constant routine exposure to various chess elements helps prevent you from losing things you may have learned as well as keeps adding to your chess knowledge and understanding.
For example you could set aside one hour daily where you study with a specific guideline of 15 minutes practicing tactics and learning typical tactical patterns (both here and chesstempo.com have tactical trainers that may aid you in this). Then 30 minutes going over a game you played that is older than 3 months (pick losses because then you know you made a mistake somewhere!) and guess what moves you made as you play it out, noting any differences between your guess and the actual move you made, and any mistakes during the game. Then at every move where you made a different move choice than what you had actually played, try to determine why your choice differed, and if for the better. After that use a chess engine, or if you know a stronger player who could go over the game with you, to review the game and find errors you missed (you may have to set aside additional time if you don't use an engine). After that, you have 10 minutes left for either looking over an opening/variation, or some typical mate or end game pattern. Thats an example of a one hour study routine to help you improve, and naturally increase your rating. :)
And as naughtybishop suggested, increasing your tactical awareness is probably the fastest way to increase your chess ability/rating.
Basic end game knowledge. Cant stress this enough!!!
You have to learn and understand the Lucena, and Philodor positions.
Rook and pawn endings. These will account for roughly 70-80% of your endgames.
"The Amateurs Mind" and "How To Reassess Your Chess" by Silman.
Playing over and trying to understand the games of Karpov, and Petrosian.
And obviously tactics.
Thanks for great replies :)
UGO, I love the way you think! I'd emphasize the general statement about endings, while agreeing about Rook endings being the most important (other than, possibly, pure Pawn endings, as they are the base derivative against which you must evaluate many piece trades in endings).
I'd also add that, in the opening, it's more important to understand than to memorize. You have your foundational principles - no more than 3 Pawn moves in the opening without a good reason, don't move pieces twice without a good reason, castle early, etc., and you have the specific plans and goals of the opening you will play. These will serve you much better than memorizing a few lines 25 moves deep.
Excellent additions! I'd also like to add my "2 cents" regarding openings. I definenitely agree with you, but i would like to add that until you are at least a Class A player, as you said understanding the general ideas of openings will serve you well. Master strength and above is when you should be worrying about finding a "new move" in the French...
Unfortunately, "new" moves are usually "new" because they've already been refuted...
playing lots of games, opening middle game and ending fundementals and principles, and figuring out why i lose a game then work on that weakness. Those alone got me 600 rating points
A different spin on the question: don't think about ratings at all!
Rating fixation can be a problem. Some people have been known to avoid risks because they are too frightened of losing. Thus the other way to look at gaining rating is to play full blooded chess, taking the losses with the wins.
In this respect, keep playing and playing. Do not offer or accept draws, unless you really stand bad (here, you must wait for the opponent to offer; you must never, as it's bad manners) or the position is a dead draw (eg. opposite coloured bishops with 1 pawn). Playing out a position until it is exhausted and there are no more winning chances is an excellent way to gain much needed endgame experience.
My usual saying is: when you improve your playing skills through regular training/exercises; active study of theory in all parts of the game (ie. opening, middlegame and endgame); take part in regular tournament play against players slightly stronger than one's self; and do an analysis of own games and errors with a view to rectifying them, then rating will simply take care of itself.
playing lots of games, opening middle game and ending fundementals and principles, and figuring out why i lose a game then work on that weakness.
So simple, yet so complicated. Don't rush yourself - set SMART tasks (look up the acronym) and you'll get there. Chess improvement is not a sprint. Set reasonable goals and plan accordingly. Most important, at least for me, as a former chess instructor - ANNOTATE your games, your wins, draws and losses. Don't just look at what Rybka finds as your mistakes, but what you were thinking when you made them. Most mistakes do not come alone but are a result of repeated mental error.
Finally, ratings are not important - quality is your goal.
I'll second centercounter.
Time and long, hard sustained work on the game! The only people who shoot up 500 rating points in 18 months tend to be developing juniors.
The problem is the mathematics it never lies. Just because you beat a player 200 points higher does not mean you are improving it is merely one statistic. You can climb up and down 100 pts over many games look at your statistics so neatly graphed on this site.
It is a common experience from GM downwards this bobbing up and down on the sea of grading. Hope springs eternal in the chess players breast, each new game is the start of a new approach. It may be compared to the gambler who is convinced he will take the jackpot next time.
Pushups. The chess kind, though.
Play a lot, blitz is ok but especially longer time control counts. Solve tactics, and read up on the things you think are a problem. For example if you think you can't win a rook ending with an extra pawn while you should, you analyze that. Rook endings aren't that clear cut, but it's already a good thing if you tried. If you play to win, be solid in your opening. Know it well and stick to it for at least a year. Again if you get into a troublesome line, focus on solving that for the next game. For general growth of understanding it is good to switch openings eventually. You will encounter new structures and as you tackle those you will find you know more about chess in the end. Arguably at first you will suffer a bit.
I never had any dramatic rating explosions I remember. Whenever I was playing actively and practicing my rating would grow a bit. Sometimes maybe at 100 points a year, sometimes not much would happen. At some point not much was happening anymore and I also started playing less.
I increased my OTB rating in the late 1970's from mid 1700s to mid 1900s in a year or two when I finally realized that constantly playing Alekhine's Defense vs 1.e4 and King's Indian Defense vs 1.d4 didn't work for me. I then started playing the Latvian Counter Gambit(!) vs 1.e4 and Budapest Defense vs 1.d4 but this was way before PCs and DBs were available. BUT the point is one way to increase your rating is to ditch your pet openings no matter how much you like them if you consistently have crappy results with them and find openings that work for you.
Whether or not you have to re-adjust your opening repetoire read Nimzovitch's "My System" and begin studying endgames as well. See my blog on endgame books: http://blog.chess.com/NimzoRoy/endgame-books
All my games are 10 minutes per player. Does that sound like a long enough game to learn from?
My strength goes up by analyzing my games myself, and also by reading chess books that are good for my level. It also goes up by being conscious of time.
I'll let you know when I find something that works! For me I've studied tactics intensively and also read six books or so and haven't seen a rating point increase to show for my effort. I'm starting to think more and more that improvement comes from looking back at your games, seeing the mistakes, and un-earthing why the hell you played such and such move. I'm not convinced of the magical tactics pill, or the read a thousand books approach. Your own games are probably the key.
1. I studied the openings I was playing.
2. Played better players regularily in serious tournament games.
3. Refused to get discouraged after a loss.