It has come to my attention that comments haven’t been working since the site redesign. This was due to a malfunctioning plugin, and has now been fixed. I have also added a ‘Contact me‘ page which should allow people to let me know if comments ever stop working in the future.
Some time after returning from China I began thinking seriously about chess improvement again, and devised a simple study plan. It is my hope that the successful completion of this plan will result in my strength increasing by at least 100 points. It is based on two observations about my game:
- Despite having spent many hours over the course of this project thinking about and working on my openings, my opening repertoire is still a sorry thing, cobbled together from different sources over the years, often with little regard to how well a particular opening suits me stylistically. It is also full of holes, one early example of which can be seen below:
I’ve played 1…e5 all my life, but after 3. Nc3 in a tournament game I would be forced to start thinking.
- My endgame knowledge is extremely patchy. I recently purchased Silman’s Complete Endgame Course (excellent, by the way) and found that I didn’t even know everything presented in the ‘Class C’ (1400-1599 rating) section – knowledge that Silman thinks players rated 400-600 points lower than me should have.
The position above is an example of the famous ‘Philidor position’. Black to move draws easily with Rh6! I expect I have known this in the past, but I had forgotten, and would probably have played Rh1?! in a tournament game (after which it is still a draw with best play, but black must demonstrate some technique). (For anyone wondering, I did remember the even more fundamental ‘Lucena position’.)
These two observations led me to formulate the following three-step plan:
- Analyse all the serious games I have played in recent years, with a view to understanding which types of positions I play especially poorly and which types a little better. I took my method from this Chessbase article and the book Chess for Tigers (a book which has been recommended to me many times, and which I have finally got round to buying, and, even more remarkably, reading cover-to-cover several times).
- Devise a complete opening repertoire based on the results of stage 1, and learn it thoroughly.
- Obtain a thorough grounding in endgame theory by reading Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual in its entirety. Retain said grounding using a technique I will talk about in a future post. This step has now been modified slightly to include reading the Silman book mentioned above before Dvoretsky (more about this in another post).
Of course, my openings and endgame knowledge are not the only two areas of my game which could be improved. My calculation, positional understanding, and almost any other area you care to name leave much to be desired. However, I’ve chosen those two areas to start with because it’s easy to see how to improve them and I’m fairly confident that my plan to do so will have measurable results.
The first stage has already been completed, and saw me look through around 175 of my long time-control games and record my observations in a spreadsheet. It would certainly have been easier and I would have learned more if I had had a very strong player looking over my games with me, but even without that assistance I have gained one or two useful insights. Stages 2 and 3 can be completed in any order, and I have been dabbling with both. I am inclined now to focus on stage 3 until it is completed, before turning my full attention to stage 2.
Please let me know in the comments section what you think of my plan, but don’t be surprised if I disregard any suggestions to radically change it. I believe my main problem so far has not been my method of study, but rather my frequent changes of approach, which has led to me starting to study many areas/openings/books and finishing very few. I have learnt a thing or two about how not to get things done in the process, and my completion of the first stage makes me hopeful that this time I may be able to stick with the plan to the end.
It’s been nearly four years since I started this blog with a post titled ‘Road to Grandmaster‘. In the year following this announcement I worked quite hard on my chess, and made decent progress towards my goal, but in the ensuing three years my priorities shifted (to my degree, learning Mandarin in China and getting a job, respectively). Although I never completely stopped playing or studying chess, with my focus elsewhere it’s not surprising that I wasn’t able to do more than maintain my level (at about 2000 rating, or weak ‘Expert’ strength).
The job thing is finally sorted: in three weeks’ time I will be moving to London to work for Network Rail, the company responsible for Britain’s rail infrastructure. With this arranged, I find my thoughts turning more and more to resuming my chess improvement project and blog. Of course, with a full-time job finding time for chess study will be challenging, and my chances of making Grandmaster don’t seem to be any better than they were when I started in 2010. With that said, I enjoy writing about chess improvement, may still have some interesting things to say about it, and have found that at least a handful of people enjoy reading what I write. This seems sufficient reason to start blogging again, though the blog will not be entirely as before: welcome to the ‘Road to 2100’.
Nope, it isn’t April the 1st. While I won’t be changing the domain name, the revised aim, at least for the time being, is to achieve a 2100 rating. I have been advised more than once either to set a more realistic final target, or to set intermediate targets, and this is me finally taking that advice. The 2100 target is a bit of both; I certainly hope that the ‘road to 2100’ will prove to be merely a ‘large step to 2100’, and that before I know it I will be writing about improving to Candidate Master strength. However, if and when I do reach 2100 (and any subsequent targets) I will make a decision about whether or not to continue based on my priorities in life at that time, which I can’t foresee now.
I also envisage the content of the blog changing somewhat. Updates on my progress, tournament reports and analyses of my games will still appear, but they will be less frequent than before. Instead, I hope to feature more content about the theory of learning in general and chess-learning in particular, and perhaps also instructional content helping lower-rated players with aspirations to improve to ‘Class A’ or ‘Expert’.
As before, my blogging will only be worth the time and effort which goes into it if I have readers who find some value or interest in my content. I hope many of the old readers who have been with me from the beginning will continue with me in this new phase of the blog, and I welcome any new readers who have just found it. Please say ‘Hi’ in the comments section below, and let me know if you have any ideas for what you would like to see on this new old blog.