It is hard to believe that I’ve been
addicted to playing chess for a solid 2 years now. It was early February, 2021 when I started getting serious about chess. I wrote about My First Year of Chess about a year ago, so I thought it was time for another yearly recap now.
One of the big things I did this year was try to get organized and be thoughtful about what I was working on. My first year included a lot of jumping around and trying to do everything, so I wanted to be a little more thoughtful about what I worked on. I tried to come up with a plan for each month, and for the most part I stuck to that plan.
Here were all my study plans from the past year if you are interested:
September 2022 - I guess I didn’t create one this month
In addition, for most of the year I wrote down some thoughts each week about what I was doing, what was working, and what I wanted to change. This was an interesting exercise, but it got to be a bit overwhelming to make myself do it each week. I found myself so focused on results, and not on the process so I stopped writing these at the beginning of this year. I ended up writing these for over 70 weeks though and you can find them all here if you are interested.
Finally, each quarter I wrote a summary of what I was doing, my ratings, and what books I was reading. It is like this post, but more specific. You can read those here:
What I Worked On
I think the thing that worked the best for me over the past year was making sure I did some chess every day. For the past few months that looked like getting up early every day and doing tactics and opening on Chessable. My streak there is about 570 days now, which is every day since July 31, 2021. That got me to Chessable Hero status this year.
I spent a lot of time in the Spring watching videos from ChessMood. I really liked it at the time, but I found that I started getting too passive with the video format. Watching a video on tactics did not have the same impact as doing puzzles for me.
The tactics I’ve been working on the most is the Learn Chess the Right Way series on Chessable. Every day I review any open puzzles using the spaced repetition in Chessable (using these settings). Then I try to add 5 more new puzzles. Early in the year I was not great about this habit, but lately it has gotten much better. I have finished the first 4 books and I’m about 20% of the way done with the last book. I still miss tactics in games, but I’m seeing them better that I used to.
I also started working on Chess Steps again. In my first year I worked on Level 1 and had some very good results. Instead of continuing, I tried doing a number of different things. Now I’m back at it, working through Level 2. I finished the main workbook, the “plus,” and the “extra” workbooks. Now I’m working on the “thinking ahead” workbook and will do “mix” after that. I really like having a book that I write in instead of always being on the computer.
Starting in November, I joined the SayChess Accountability Group and started tracking my chess time. I did that every day from November 1 through February 12. Here is where I spent my time:
It was about 208 hours, which is an average of 2 hours per day. Of that time, I spent about 1/3 of the time on tactics, 1/3 on playing online games, and the other 1/3 on everything else.
I’ve tracked my time over a few periods in the past 2 years. This was the longest during of tracking, usually it was just a week. Tracking my time got to be more work than it was worth, always stressing about making sure I was tracking everything, so I stopped.
In March I started learning new openings. I started with ChessMood ( you can read my initial review ). I went through all the “WhiteMood” and “BlackMood” videos. I took notes in Chessbase and created my own Chessable courses. I’m still using most of the openings for white they suggested, which starts with the Scotch if I can.
I never got into the black openings from ChessMood, which was the French and Dutch. Instead, in the fall I started on Keep It Simple For Black on Chessable. I mostly just looked at the quickstarter lines and play from there. I like those openings much better.
This year I got out there and played some OTB tournament games. One of my goals this year was to play enough games to get an official (not provisional) USCF rating, which I did by playing 27 rated games.
I really enjoy the tournament experience. Being able to spend an evening or a weekend with the singular goal of playing chess is such a refreshing break from all the running around and multi-tasking I usually do.
My results were not as good as I would have liked. I ended up just under 900 USCF. For me it is really hard to play OTB. Because I only rarely get to play, I put a lot of pressure on each game. That makes me second-guess myself and play very differently from how I play online, much more defensive and risk-adverse. If I can learn to deal with the nerves and not take the games quite so seriously, I think I’ll do much better. I think that will come with experience.
Here are the recaps and games in all the tournaments I played in:
February 2022: Minnesota Open
April 2022: Chess Club
June 2022: Chess Club
June 2022: US Amateur North
September 2022: Northern Open
January 2023: 2023 Winter Open
February 2023: 2023 Minnesota Open Tournament
Here are my online rapid ratings over the past year:
Lots of peaks and valleys in this chart. I had a big jump around May, which you can read about here. The drop in July was around the time I started switching to a new opening for Black. In the last few months I have tried (as best I could) to worry less about ratings, and I’m almost surprised to look at the chart to see how I’m doing.
I heard a few people this year talking about ratings and not worrying too much about daily ups and downs. Instead, look at trends. That’s what I’ve been trying to do and here is a chart showing my trend over the past two years:
This takes the monthly average, and the green line is the rolling average over the previous 3 months. In that first graph, in early November 2022, my rating was dropping and I was starting to worry about it. But then I look at a chart like this second one and I see that, even if over days/weeks/months my rating goes up and down, the overall trend for the past 2 years has been continuing up. That really helps me remember to focus on the process and the work, and that I am seeing longer-term results. Even if on any given day I’m losing rating points.
I still spend most of my free time playing chess. I set some 2023 Goals at the beginning of the year, which I am making progress on. I’m also going to try to keep playing OTB.