Jan 2017 EDIT: See this post for a summary of my current chess plan.
In the summer of 2013, at the age of 43, I took up chess as a hobby. One of my main aims was to play a regular game at a local chess club. I knew I would have to spend some time studying chess, since I had no more than a basic grasp of the main rules. Earlier, I described how I floundered about trying to find study material and a study method. What I did in the first twelve to fifteen months just did not work.
As so often in life, it was not one thing that made the way clear, but a combination of a few.
I had stumbled across GM Nigel Davies’ chess training site, Tiger Chess. At the time I still thought the path to being a better chess player lay via studying openings and I bought GM Davies’ Building an Opening Repertoire video course. Reading forums suggests most beginners share this view. It is a view that I no longer have, but more on that later. It is ironic that my search for a killer opening repertoire, led me to a teacher who would reveal that opening study is completely overrated for anyone under Master level.
The second thing was an approach to life I had been reading and thinking about. I wanted to reduce the number of things I did, had and were involved in. Whether you want to call it minimalism, essentialism, or some other name, the principle is the same. Find the few things that matter to you, focus on them, aim to master them, and discard the rest. The more I thought about this as an approach to life, the more it became clear that I could also apply it to each aspect of my life, including chess.
The final thing is that I got the occasional good result in my over the board games. Some of the flood of information I had exposed myself to over the previous year or so had obviously stuck. My results were – and still are – inconsistent, but there were signs that I had moved on from being an absolute beginner.
These three things converged toward the end of 2014 and over the Christmas holiday I spent time thinking about how to create a new study plan for chess. It took some refining and I am sure there will be more refinements as I move along, but I believe I am on the right path now. Here is the outline of the plan, which covers the next six to twelve months.
The cornerstone of the plan is endgame study. I spend most of my chess study time on the endgame. Second is tactics. This consists of practice, practice and more practice. Third is opening study. I follow the Tiger Chess Building an Opening Repertoire course. That course unexpectedly also forms the core of the fourth aspect, strategy. I top it up with the strategy course and monthly clinic videos on the same site. The last aspect is playing – you’ll never get any rating, never mind a title, if you do not play over the board chess. I have stopped playing online, as it will expose me to the temptation to play wasteful 10 minute games. I play for a club where I get a weekly over the board game.
The plan is conventional insofar as the five aspects are probably what you would expect them to be. It may be more unconventional insofar as the weight and priority I give to each aspect. In the next few posts I will talk about each of the aspects of the plan in more detail, including my plans beyond the next six to twelve months.
I feel confident in this chess study plan, but as with all plans, it is only as good as it is used and delivered. And that is up to me to do.