lol...everybody's a critic.
I think that the most important thing to improve at chess is to have good positional understanding. I recently broke 1400 uscf and am nearing 1500, when a few months ago I was a 1200 player. In fact my supplement is still in the 1300 range (it lags by 1-2 months). But I went on to a tactics trainer and actually scored about 50% worse than I had then, so the most obvious reason I improved is a positional understanding. To try to show the difference between me and an 1800 I played, I will use the following drawish game that I lost.
The Ken Smith article is mostly focused on openings and gambits which I assume one shouldn’t spend much time on until reaching an ELO around 1600-1800? The way Smith links a course of reading to ELO was very helpful – that was the kind of approach I was hoping for.
Right now I’m following TonyH’s advice on openings, playing the Scotch as white and as black playing e5 against e4 and the Tarrasch against d4 – I hope that’s a good approach.
Shepi, if I’m understanding your comments correctly they seem inconsistent with what I’ve been told so far. I’m a complete beginner so most people have been advising a course of tactics, tactics, tactics, and more tactics with slow chess and reading mixed in. I’m curious, at what ELO would most of you advise that a player start focusing more heavily on positional chess?
Positional chess comes in many shapes and color : "develop your pieces" is kind of positional chess, and so is : "if you spot a weak square in your opponent's territory, try to remove the main defender of this square before installing a Knight on it". Obviously, the first item is more useful to a beginner than the 2nd, but I'd say it's never too early to get acquainted with the basics of positional play. This may come along with building your first opening repertoire (from 1300), when it's good to understand what you're aiming for with your set of chosen openings.
Tactics matter more at an early level, which probably includes me. However, I play at a chess club vs 1800s, and the slightest positional blunder can cause a loss. So you should study tactics until you get reasonably confident that you won't miss easy wins or drop pieces. After that, positional play becomes the main differential between higher rated players. Thus, if you really want to be good you need to know positional ideas, to beat friends who don't play competitively you should learn tactics.
Not castling is overrated. Even in queenless middlegames, although the king is not necessarily in danger of being mated, sometimes it's nice to have it still tucked away, because the king being on a central file can interfere with your rooks that want to be there, and it's common for the king to get caught on some pin on the e or d file. That tactical awkwardness can get in the way of achieving a plan. I don't think there is anything wrong with 16 0-0. Sure, the king is not being made active just yet, but at least now the king won't get in the way of the other pieces, and white doesn't have to worry about the e file opening up on him.
Your ...Bxa1 (the move that got you into trouble) is, to me, more of a result of endgame inexperience than anything else. The way his rook won tempi on the bishop so many times is typical in an endgame: minor pieces are a lot looser in endgames because there are less pieces protecting each other and less squares under your control. White could only make a successful rook lift like that in an ending. So I would say your mistake was not being sensitive enough to how powerful the rook would be, and how it would exploit your loose bishop, which I would categorize specifically as an endgame skill. Moreover, the rest of the game was about endgame technique, and again, that kind of skill can often have surprisingly little resemblance to the sort of strategy that works in middlegames.
I'm not really sure, the differences are to complicated for me. In the game I fully expected 16. 0-0, but the higher rated player played Ke2 and my engine thought it was best when I analyzed it. I think it might be that white doesn't plan to use the e file and black has pawns on the e file so there is no chance of a pin. Also, as show later the king wants to go to d2 or d3 to prevent the rooks from penetrating.
I'm sure Ke2 is a pretty valid idea, I'm just saying that it has its drawbacks. For example, maybe black can try 16...0-0, put a rook on the e and d files and play for ...e5. That rook opening up on white's Ke2 could be annoying.
In this particular position, I'm not sure which king position is better -- perhaps here the material is just limited enough to beg for the king to come in, but it's a close call.
I've given some thoughts to this question.
This is highly subjective and work in progress, but you're welcome to input comments. I'm sure we can fill in the blanks and refine it together
hicetnunc, that was an AWESOME reply to my original question. Thank you so much!