The past four months have flown by in my chess improvement journey. While my rating has not dramatically increased, I feel that I have made strides in several key areas through consistent study and play. In this post, I want to reflect on some of my chess activities over the last few months and assess the progress I have made. I will cover the books I’ve read, a recent tournament result, my adventures in online blitz, learning a new opening, revisiting past goals, and more. Join me in looking back at this formative period in my chess development.
Consistency is Key
One area where I have seen real progress is in maintaining a daily study routine. Incredibly, I have studied chess in some form every single day. I don’t claim to have put in hours of hard, deliberate practice each day - some days it’s just a quick chess puzzle, playing blitz, or grinding an opening. But making sure I do something daily has helped tremendously. This consistent routine has kept my chess skills sharper. Staying engaged with chess daily, even in small ways, has energized me and made the learning process more fluid.
My Chessable streak recently passed 830 days, and I have a goal to reach 1000 consecutive days before taking a rest (end of April, 2024). On Chessable, I’ve been gradually improving my opening knowledge, but also dedicating time to endgames and calculation exercises.
I started working on Chess Steps again, which I really like. I’m currently on Step 3 - Thinking Ahead. The Thinking Ahead books in Step 2 and Step 3 are some of my favorite. It is visualization and calculation all in one. I am getting 80% right or more, which means this is probably a bit easy for me. But I’m going to finish Step 3 and then move on to Step 4.
Moving forward, my aim is to keep up this daily study streak and gradually incorporate more rigorous practice into the mix.
I haven’t really read any chess books lately. However, most books I read are somehow related to chess.
Here are some:
Book Review - The Biggest Bluff - About poker, but an interesting idea on how to become great at something like poker or chess.
Book Review - The Mental Game of Poker - On a kick with poker. Thinking about my mental game and how to work on that.
Book Review - How to Set Goals with Kaizen & Ikigai - How do I set goals? Spoiler, I still don’t know.
In September I played in the Northern Open. I played in the U1400 section. I ended with 1.5/5 with 1 win and 1 draw. Here is a quick recap of each game:
Game 1 (L): I got into a very positional place, which I’m not great at. Then I missed a threat and couldn’t catch up.
Game 2 (L): After the first game, I was mentally drained. I had almost no focus. I blundered in the opening because I played to fast, then I didn’t have the resiliency to fight back.
Game 3 (W): This was a fairly easy game, though I let my foot off the gas a bit when I felt like I was winning. My opponent missed some chances
Game 4 (L): I got fatigued in the middle game and started making mistakes. My calculation was not great.
Game 5 (D): I tried to trap a queen and blundered a rook. But I was able to fight back for a draw. This was probably my best game of the tournament even though I did not win.
I had two big takeaways from this tournament. One was the mental fatigue. I need to get better at focusing for the whole game. I know this is because I do not do long deliberate practice that pushes my mental capacity. I can also make sure I take breaks during games to refresh.
The other thing I want to improve is my overall calculation skills. Many times I found myself looking at moves but not really calculating.
Too Much Blitz?
I’ve spent a lot of time playing blitz. I do not think blitz is entirely bad, but this came at the cost of other studying I would have been doing.
I play all 5|2 on Chess.com, or occasionally 5|3 on Lichess. This is the slowest blitz time control, but about as fast as I can go. My rating goes up and down. I was hoping that by playing more I would get used to the time control and see a rating improvement, but that hasn’t been the case.
I think playing more blitz also impacted my tournament performance. I played some moves too fast, because that’s what I need to do in blitz. I think there needs to be a better balance.
One thing Blitz has been good for is working on my new opening for white. I’m working on the Reti (1. Nf3). I started with the Chessable Course and then used Chessbook to use the themes and ideas from Chessable but focus specifically on lines I think I’ll see at my level.
I really like this opening. I like being able to catch my opponents off guard. There have been a handful of games where players will just resign when they see that move. Fine in online, but they can’t do that OTB. It seems like I can get people out of book earlier. It also has a lot in common with my black openings.
I know everyone says that people at my level shouldn’t spend time on openings. I disagree. I learn new things about the middlegame with every new opening I try.
I have not been working off goals lately. I had set some [2023 Summer Goals]], and overall I did pretty well on them. I wrote about that in [July Goal Update but then after that I did not spend much thought on them.
What I did do before the tournament was to think about what I could do to make me feel successful. This was a continuation of my previous goals. I wanted to finish a Chess Steps workbook that I was on, which I did. I also wanted to play more rapid and less blitz, which went pretty well. I still need to figure out how much I should play. If I don’t play a game every day I feel like I am missing out. Finally, I wanted to make sure I was ready with my openings and endgames. I did a lot of spaced repetition practice for both of those.
I am going to do another OTB tournament in December. Here are some of the goals I have between now and then (for 1 month):
Finish learning my new opening using Chessable. Every day I review every open line for white and black in my private/custom courses.
Work on Chess Steps - Level 3 - Thinking Ahead. I want to try to do 1 page per day
Find time to play more rapid games and less blitz
Do 2 calculation puzzles every day. Ideally I’ll do more, but this is the minimum. Spend time on each puzzle before making a move.
In closing, I’m proud of the consistency I’ve built in my chess study over the past six months, even if some goals remain unfinished. Maintaining my daily routine has sharpened my skills and energized my improvement. My tournament result showed weaknesses to address but also gave invaluable experience. Online blitz is engaging but must be balanced with slower play. I’ve enriched my opening knowledge and look forward to testing my new repertoire. While progress is gradual, each day offers chances to learn. My passion for chess grows as I continue on this journey. I’m excited to see what the next six months may bring!