Category Archives: Progress report

Happy New Year!

It’s been almost a year since my last update, so it’s high time I let you know how my chess is going.  I’ve been concentrating on studying programming at 42 in Paris so haven’t had a huge amount of time to dedicate to chess.  Still, I hit a new peak rating of 2096 in January, and think I am improving gradually in areas such as time management and ‘sitzfleisch’.  By way of an example I give the following recent highlight:

On the other hand, I am still more than capable of having disastrous games.  At the last 4NCL weekend I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for playing chess, and so tried to finish both games quickly.  The result was the following car crash of a game and a marginally better effort the following day accompanied by a rating loss of 20 points.

My current efforts to limp over the 2100 mark remind me of my mindset after I passed 2000 for the first time: I was very keen not to drop below 2000 and so made some conservative decisions, with the result that I slowly bled points down to around 1950.  At that point I set my sights on the 2100 mark, after which my rating started going in the right direction again, eventually reaching 2091 in December 2016, up from 1957 in September 2015.  That’s a simplified version of what happened, of course, but I think it’s time to try something similar again, so my target is now 2200 by 25 January 2020.  The secondary goal is to post more often than last year, which shouldn’t be too difficult.

Wishing you all chess success, and a happy and prosperous Year of the Pig!

Road to 2100: T-36 Review

This is the next in my series of ‘T- reviews’.  If you have not been following them, the concept is explained in the first one.

The main news this period is, of course, the London Chess Classic, which was a fantastic event as always, even if my results left something to be desired.  I took part in the 9-round FIDE Open, followed immediately by the weekend ‘Super Rapidplay’.  My performance  of 3.5/9 in the Open was somewhat disappointing, and I am expecting to lose around 5 rating points as a result.  It was all going reasonably well until the penultimate round, when I managed to change a winning position against a 2062 into a lost one in the space of a few minutes’ play.  Had I won that game I would have been gaining around 20 ELO points; as it was I was back to parity, and lost 5 points the next day for drawing with a very underrated junior (once more from a winning position).  My performance in the rapidplay afterwards was fairly disastrous, which I think can largely be attributed to exhaustion.

To understand why I was so exhausted, let me explain my routine for the tournament.  The pairings came out at around midnight each day, and I would stay up each night for two to three hours after that with my guest, GM Tal Baron, and prepare a file with lines I was intending to play against each of the possibilities for the next game.  I would then sleep until near midday, before resuming work on my lines, trying to understand in some depth the standard plans in each position.  We left for the games shortly after 3 pm, and for the first few rounds I relaxed as much as possible on the journey.  In later rounds I changed this routine, by adding my lines to the iPad app ‘Chess Opening Trainer’, and spending the journey to the game revising the lines.  There followed a long game (my longest was 108 moves, and most at least reached the time control at move 40), the journey home, and generally an hour or two’s rest before repeating the whole process.

Clearly this was a pretty intense routine, but it may have been sustainable if I had been sleeping properly.  Unfortunately I slept very poorly most nights, as I was sleeping in my living room and being woken up by my housemates leaving for work early every day.  I will have to think more carefully about my routine for my next tournament.  However, despite the impact this had on the rapidplay and the later rounds of the main event, it was still a useful experience.  Some of the opening work I did should pay off in future games, I have picked up some useful tips from GM Baron, and I will be able to draw some lessons from my games.


FIDE standard: 1962 – 1957 (expected), -5 points

FIDE rapid: 1899 – 1877 (expected), -22 points

FIDE Arena blitz: 1944 – 1924, -20 points

I have explained these rating changes above; whilst it is never nice to lose points, I do not think they actually reflect a loss in strength.  However, I now face a long uphill climb to get the required rating points before my September deadline, so I am changing the red/green ranking of this section to red.  Note that I am still owed 24 points from my tournament in Belgium, but I do not know when these are likely to appear on the list.

Assessment: Red (cause for concern)


I have added a column to my public study log for ‘intensity’, which will allow me to record some of the chess activity I do, such as fairly casual analysis of my games, which I do not regard as ‘deliberate practice’.  I will only be counting the high intensity activities (other than games) towards my weekly target.  I have counted some of the opening preparation I did during the Classic as high intensity practice, which means that for the first time I met my target one week and then easily surpassed it the following week.  I will be leaving this at a red ranking as I am still far behind my cumulative target (2070 minutes completed against a target of 4680).

Assessment: Red (cause for concern)

That’s all for now.  There will be a T-32 review on the 17th of January, but do check back before then as I may post some games from the Classic or some more ideas about studying.  As always, please share your frank thoughts in the comments section below.

The Future of Road to GM

I’ve now returned from my year in China, but the future of my project to become a Grandmaster is still uncertain.  In order to study chess it is absolutely necessary to be alive, and in order to remain alive for any length of time access to food, water and shelter is useful.  The acquisition of these requires money, so it is to the generation of said money that I now turn my attention.

It is my hope that at some point in the future I will once again be able to dedicate a significant amount of time and energy to chess, but that point is not now.  I have set up an email list for the purpose of informing people if/when this project becomes active again.  You can sign up on the right.


Weekly Progress Report #91

I did around 6 hours of chess study last week.  Almost all of that was playing through the first two guess-the-move games in my King’s Indian project, but I did look briefly at some KID games earlier in the week.  I’ll be continuing with the KID games this week – both playing through new ones and analysing the ones I’ve already done – but I’m currently earning a bit of money painting for my grandfather so finding a three hour slot isn’t possible every day.

Weekly Progress Report #90

I did about 3 and a half hours last week, most of which was continuing some opening work from the previous week.  I was very pleased to find a novelty in a line which has been played quite a few times, so I may have a chance to use it at some point.

As I announced yesterday, I’ve now started working on the King’s Indian, but I’m unlikely to find the time to work through a ‘guess-the-move’ game until after my graduation on Wednesday.

Catch-up Report: WPRs #84-89

Hi all.  Apologies for the long break from blogging.  My degree is finally complete, so I can return to chess in earnest.  I’ll be posting about my plans in the near future, but for now this is just a quick post to fill you in on the small amount of chess I did over the exam period.

Week 84

Nearly six hours, split between online blitz, and preparation for and playing the final round of the Club Championships.  The Club Champs game was important as had I won I’d have tied for first place; as it was I blundered at the end of a hard-fought game and my opponent secured the game and the title.

Week 85

45 minutes or so of online blitz (revision breaks).

Weeks 86-87

No record.

Week 88

About three hours of opening work.

Week 89

Three and a quarter hours – mostly opening work but also a little blitz.

I’m aware that I’ve neglected to reply to a lot of comments recently – I’ll be working my way through those soon.

Weekly Progress Reports #82-83

I did 4 hours two weeks ago – mostly a league match which I and the team managed to win, thereby saving us from relegation.  Last week I did almost no chess – just 20 minutes or so of online blitz – as my (60 page) 4th-year project report was due in on Friday.  My league game is below – a 6. Be2 Najdorf/Scheveningen encounter with a young player from the club who is improving very rapidly, and is certainly worth much more than his current grade of 95 (=1410 ELO).  I got a good-looking attack, but for a long time it looked like his tenacious defense would show it to be just bombast and bravado.  Fortunately for me he eventually erred.

Weekly Progress Reports #80-81

I did about 6 and half hours’ chess in the first of these last two weeks, but very little this week (just half an hour playing online).  The time in the first week was split between a league game, a bit of opening work and some online blitz.  The league game saw a return to form, with a relatively smooth win against a 145.

Weekly Progress Report #79

I did a little under 6 hours of chess this week.  A third of that was using online 5-minute games as quick breaks while writing my fourth-year project report.  I tend to have a quick check of the opening of these games afterwards, which hopefully gives them some training value.  The other two thirds was spent having a look at John Nunn’s ‘Secrets of Practical Chess’ and a ChessBase opening DVD on the train back up to Durham.

I’ve now entered the Czech Open – a FIDE-rated event in late July which I will be playing instead of the British Championship Major Open this year.