The Plan

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.

11 thoughts on “The Plan

  1. This seems like the exact right choice: deliberate practice and focusing on a single task or topic to really gain solid knowledge and skill in it.
    You know the Dan Plan, right? Dan tries to become a professional golfer by 10k hours of deliberate practice. He worked on one thing at a time, i.e. he started practicing putting and putting only. I think a year or so passed before he played a complete course (!).
    In any case, good luck!

  2. Hello,

    I have been inspired by your plan, to try and do something similar. I am currently at 1900 Elo (FIDE), but have been inactive for 7 years. I am currently 25. My aim is to reach 2400 level, without sacrificing my current career 😉

    Much like you, I am also concentrating on doing small things thoroughly: currently, I am concentrating on rook endings and the symmetrical English. I find that doing only one thing throughout for days on end leads to a decrease in my attention level, hence I am alternating rook endings with openings.

    Meanwhile, I am also seeing classic games (I usually see a game every day) and flip through old magazines for games which strike me. If I see a position which catches my attention, I cut it out and paste it in a notebook: I am making notebooks with different themes (this is inspired by Andy Soltis’s suggestion in ‘Studying Chess Made Easy’, where he talks about ‘priyomes’). An average week sees me spend around 10 hours on chess: roughly broken into 3 hours on endings, 3 hours on openings and the rest on studying different games.

    I hope you do not mind my long note on my training habits: I just thought that as our endeavor was similar, my experience may be of some interest to you.

    1. Hi Mahir,

      Glad to hear I’ve motivated you to start playing/studying chess again, and the best of luck to you.

      Thanks for your thoughts. It may be that I will also find that I want to mix something else into my study time as my King’s Indian project progresses, but for the next two weeks at any rate I think I’ll stick with the KID as I’m busy painting/decorating all day which makes quite a change from the chess!

      I’d be interested to hear updates on your progress or training habits.


  3. Hi,
    Inspired by you and my own interest in learning KID, I Just bought the 2 vol book: “Attacking Chess: King’s Indian”. First part of the book is Mar del Plata, so I look forward to see your nine games.

    Even though a player at my strength (Elo 17xx), is not recommended to study openings to deeply, I still see some benefit in doing it! It helps improving my skills in analysing and annotating games, not only in KID but in general.

    How much time do you plan to spend on one game?

    1. Hi Thomas,

      I also have those two Vigorito volumes. They seem pretty good from the bits I’ve read, though I haven’t done a thorough study of them yet.

      I’m hoping that my KID project won’t just be generic opening study, but will really help me to make decisions in KID-type middlegames and even perhaps endgames if common types that arise from the KID can be identified.

      I spent close to three hours on my first guess-the-move game today, and anticipate spending a similar amount of time (or more) going over it later.


  4. hi

    i’ve just discovered your website. i hope you will succeed at your attempt to become a grandmaster. i am 36 and just started to play seriously.

    my goal is to reach Fide master level (2300 elo) before age 50.

    looks like an impossible dream for sure, like yours.

    good luck

    valery from France

    1. Hi Valery,

      Thanks for the ‘good luck’, and the very best of luck to you too. Let me know how you get on.


      1. hi

        luck will be needed for me to achieve Fide master level for sure because of my old age ! ( i am 36 and at 1600 elo level)

        please post a picture of your Grandmaster diploma here when you obtain it ! it is something you have to be proud about

        have a great day


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