Thursday, 16 June 2016

Clear learning path and no time.

I remember the days when I made my first leaps in rating learning chess, I had a ton of spare time. I was living off savings, enjoying life to the most. A thought crossed my head. If you achieve chess master level, some might put it down to me not have a “real” adult life! (I really did have that much spare time!). Well fast forward a little bit and sparing you all the details, today I hardly have time to have a break. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum now.
If I had to estimate my chess study time since 2016 begun? I’d say 50 hours in total in almost 6 months, most of that in Chessable opening study (which has paid off its dividends!). Contrast that to the 50 hours I’d put in just one month before when I made quicker gains in chess performance.
On a positive note, I have been improving my chess-meta-learning skills. Due to writing my MSc Psychology of Education (BPS) dissertation (it has to do with chess), I’ve been picking up ideas and direction on the most optimal way to improve. What does this mean? Well, once I can make the spare time and put in the hours, improvement should happen! Here are the important points (not all, I'm saving a few sweet details for perhaps, a future publication):
1. No Blitz: Blitz only helps once you’ve improved a lot on slow time controls. Until then, it can be but a disheartening confirmation of your lack of improvement. I’ve endorsed Blitz for opening repertoire “hole” finding before. I still do, but only at the early stage of your repertoire building. Thanks to opening study on Chessable, I am now at a stage where most Blitz openings I get right, and there are few surprises. The problem comes in the first few middle game moves, or last few opening moves when you really need to have a good plan, recognise the pawn structures, and play accurately. If you don’t, and in Blitz you often don’t, it's a gamble, whoever makes the first mistake is on the back foot, defending an often unpleasant position. This can happen in ‘slow’ time controls also, when a couple of logical looking moves got me into trouble resulting in my last tournament being a flop, 2/5, 1700ish performance rating. Ouch. So how do we get these last few opening/middle game problems sorted? See 2.
2. Play more slow games. If I could play one classical FIDE/BCF rated game a day, that would be awesome. Of course, they can last over 3 hours. I’d happily put in the 3 hours 5 days a week, but there are no FIDE/BCF games daily, and right now I don't have the time anyway. So I have to go back to serious online time controls again, at some point, when I have the time. Perhaps my Youtube 15 10 rapid games will do? We will see, I'm currently playing none of those anyway. I have to figure out the best approach, but the goal is to make sure that you are comfortable in all the positions that arise from your opening repertoire. If you are not, you better do some studying to make sure you are. It's important. I have a few ideas on how to go about this which I will try and if they work out well, you can expect them to be part of Chessable in the future.
3. Make sure you review the games where you've felt uncomfortable so that next time, you do better (and by playing slow games, this will hopefully give you more material for this point!). Very often we just go through the computer eval without figuring out why. If the opening is part of your repertoire, you really should know why. I know I haven't done so always, but from now on I will, and I've got some great plans on how to do this. I will let you know how it went.
4. Endgames. Really. No matter how good you think you are at endgames you need to be better to the point you are confident of converting and endgame against a GM. That's the end goal anyway, isn't it? Chessable has a few end-game repertoires, this one by John being particularly good, and thanks to Chessable I've mastered them, but this point is about more complex endgames. Mastering the simple ones is a great first step, but not enough.
I don’t know how much time I will be able to devote to studying chess in the near future, Chessable is a big priority (and of course, finishing my dissertation!). However, as soon as the spare time becomes available, I will have a concrete plan to follow, and I do expect 2,000 FIDE to be an achievable goal pretty soon. I look forward to referring back to this post when I get there!

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