With my degree complete, it’s time to look ahead to the next phase of my life, and for the summer at least, that means making another determined effort to improve my chess. Last September I assessed my progress so far, and concluded that, whilst I had got stronger, my method of study was stopping me from improving as much as I’d like. This academic year I’ve focused much more on my degree than on chess, and as a result I think that post is still a fair reflection of the state of play.
In it I argued that I was trying to learn too many things at once, with the result being that I didn’t obtain or retain any great depth of knowledge about anything. Despite having hundreds of hours of practice under my belt, I still don’t have, for example, a strong and consistent opening repertoire, but rather a patchwork thing much of which has been hastily cobbled-together in the lead-up to tournaments, and much of which I don’t understand thoroughly. I also lack, for example, a solid grounding in many basic rook and pawn endings.
You may already have guessed that my new plan will involve studying just one thing intensively and repetitively – immersing myself fully in it – so that I cannot fail to really learn something about the topic before moving on to another (this is called ‘deliberate practice’, and I talk briefly about it in my September post).
There are a couple of other features I want to work into the plan to force myself to use my brain when studying and not just coast. One is writing. I find it all too easy when reading about something to passively agree with whatever the author is saying and not subject it to critical scrutiny. Writing about a topic (especially for an audience) forces you to formulate your own opinion and think carefully about it. The second is thinking under time pressure. There’s nothing quite like a ticking clock to focus the mind.
Tomorrow I start work on a book about the King’s Indian Defence.
Hold your objections for just a second. I know I’m neither a titled player, nor an openings expert. However, my co-author, GM Damian Lemos, is both. Just as importantly, this is not intended to be the latest word on cutting-edge KID theory, but rather an exploration of the process of learning the King’s Indian. My sincere desire is that, not only will I become an expert on the opening in the process, but that the book will present a clear path for the reader to do the same.
The core of the book will be a number of instructive games, annotated by both myself and Damian. Damian has selected nine ‘Mar del Plata’ games (the absolute mainline) for me to start with, and I will be playing through approximately one per day with a time limit, trying to ‘guess the move’ and recording my thinking process. I will post the games here each day, and would welcome your comments. Between myself, my readers, and GM Lemos I hope to be able to gain some insight into how my thinking (and to an extent that of other amateurs) in King’s Indian positions differs from the masters’.
During the same period I intend to play and analyse lots of King’s Indian games myself. If you are about as strong or stronger than me, have an ICC or ChessCube account, and play the white side of the KID, you can help with this! (Just post a comment if you’d like to play.)
My plans for the book will no doubt evolve as I write it, but other features could include a quick repertoire section, or a section on common types of tactic or ending which we uncover. If at the end of the process I have managed to produce something which could be of value to people, I will make it available for download as an e-book, probably on a ‘pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth’ model, so that people can choose either to have it for free or to support my project financially (which would help me with travel to tournaments, training materials etc.).
I’m excited to start! As always, your comments, whether supportive or constructively critical, are much appreciated.