I have spoken about the place endgame study, tactics training, opening study and strategy play in my overall chess study plan. These aspects are aimed at preparing me to play better chess. And this may seem obvious, but I can only know if I am better at playing chess, by playing chess. Also, if your goal is to get a certain rating, or a national or FIDE title, then at some point you are going to have to put the books and tactics trainers aside, sit down opposite a real opponent, shake hands and play some over the board (OTB) chess.
Playing chess may not sound like it should be part of a study plan (just as sitting an exam is not part of studying), but I find it convenient to bundle some topics under the heading ‘Playing OTB’. The plan is more than just the aspects of study; it is the plan to become the best chess player I can possible be.
The main activity at the moment is playing a weekly OTB game. I play for a chess club which provides the opportunity to play a competitive game twice a week. There are various cups, leagues and individual tournaments on offer, with play most Wednesdays and Saturdays. At the moment I play only on Wednesdays, as I feel I can gain more from learning than playing. I aim to play Saturdays as well from next season – the season runs from around September to around May. The time control for our games is 75 minutes for the first 35 moves, then 15 more minutes for all remaining moves.
There is also the opportunity to play in various tournaments and congresses organised by clubs affiliated to the ECF. I only played in one congress last year and plan to do the same this season. They tend to be Friday evening to Sunday evening affairs, so take up a lot of time which I could be spending on study. At some point they will play a larger role, as I plan to play in FIDE rated events when the time is right. Can’t get a FIDE rating without playing in FIDE events…
A crucial activity related to OTB play is game review.
I will also make a separate post on the act of playing; the thought process that I use to decide on each move during a game. (UPDATE: Read about the thought process.)
A final ‘activity’ related to playing is not doing something. I mentioned earlier that I wasted an awful lot of time playing blitz games. In order to resist the temptation to play any more, I have decided to stop playing online altogether. This may sound like an extreme measure, but it makes sense for me. Playing chess online does not have the same pressure or consequences (real OTB rating change) as OTB chess has and I would rather use the time I have for chess at home to study and improve.