Plan for the new season


The new season of regular chess started last night. Despite a severe bout of rustiness (I’m sure I heard my brain squeak at one point last night) after some dormant weeks, I managed a win against a player ranked about 120 Elo points above me.

I’m happy with that start, but not with my preparation for the season. Which didn’t really exist. I found all sorts of reasons during the summer to not focus on chess. But now it is time to get the serious head on again and spend some quality time on improving.

I have slightly revamped my study approach, using two driving themes: 1) Less is More/ The One Thing, and 2) Focus on process, not outcomes.

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In relation to the first theme, I have spoken before about how I was overwhelmed with sources of study material when I first started studying chess. That led me to creating a more focused study plan, which worked really well last year. I have now tightened that even more. In short, the idea is to decide what the one thing is I should be doing right now to help me become the best chess player I can be. That leads to activities under the headings Opening, Endgame, Tactics and General which I should be doing next.

The second theme is the idea of setting not only outcome goals (I want to be the best chess player I can be), but process goals (I will study chess for 10 hours this week). I will write separately about the reasons why both types of goals have a role to play. How it translates to my current study plan is that I write down once a week all the activities (processes) that I want to complete under each of the four headings during that week. Then I use whatever time I have available for chess to study those things. This means I can immediately sit down and become productive (spend hours on purposeful practice), without having to think “What shall I study today?”.

The week ending yesterday was the first week I tried this. I have used an A5 moleskin notebook to record my study. On the left side page I write the dates the plan applies to (Week to 30 Sep in this case), with my plan for the four areas. This week it was as follows:

On the right hand page I write the date of the day I study, and what I did that day. For example on the 25th I wrote:

  • Seirawan 5 – 15
  • ChessTempo x 10
  • Silman 1 – 30

Once a week I will review what I achieved in the past week and plan for the coming week. Since where I am and what I am working on are recorded in the notebook, the transition to the following week’s plan should be a doddle.

Of course the hard and important part is still in the doing, but there is nothing like an unexpected victory to spur you on!

9 thoughts on “Plan for the new season

  • 1st October 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I like both point 1) and point 2) very much. I believe they have great value.

    In chess, quality often beats quantity, and ratings are somewhat out of our control (can’t do much about the opponent). Besides, focusing on ratings very often interferes with a sound thought process OTB. I’ve often achieved my best chess results when I completely delved into the positions.

  • 2nd October 2015 at 7:15 pm

    It’s interesting that there is this strong sense of “in season” among English players. I imagine this is because there is some sort regular season for chess leagues, yes? There is no such thing as that in America. In fact, I only know of two chess leagues in the U.S., one in Pittsburgh, which has a heritage that goes way back, and Chicago. interesting.

    Good looking plans, as you move forward.

    • 2nd October 2015 at 8:53 pm

      David, yes, there is a very prominent club season that runs from late September/ early October to around May. In London there seems to be tournaments as you know them (often called Congresses here) very often all year round, but in my region there are fewer. Still enough to get a good few extra games in though, especially since some of them take place in summer.

      • 2nd October 2015 at 10:17 pm

        Oh, wow. You mean that most (or at least half) of your play does not occur in chess tournaments? (Yes, we call them congresses, too, but it is rarer; I’m playing in the Boston Chess Congress in January, actually.)

  • 3rd October 2015 at 7:26 am

    Yes. Last season I played 40 games between late Sep and mid-July. Nine games were at two congresses, five were our end of season club championship and the rest for the regular weekly league games. If I played for a club that didn’t run its own championship, and played no congresses, my season would have ended at the end of May. One of the benefits of this system is that I never have to travel too far to play. That will change once I get the confidence to play in FIDE rated tournaments, as most of them are in London, but that is some way off.

  • 3rd October 2015 at 10:54 pm

    I like your post. I too am trying to do a bit of this less is more approach. And I also am very convinced of the value of keeping a record of our training and do so myself.

    Another technique I find valuable is a kind of mind map. In some ways this is just a set of lists on various topics.(Openings, Endgame, etc) But I often will indicate what topics I think are linked or crossover. The list will be something like “Attacking chess” and can have books or study materials I intend to use. References to openings that promote this kind of game etc.For me I feel it is very helpful to get these things down, otherwise I start to feel there is too much of a swirl of stuff in my brain, and while each individual piece might not be super important by itself, when organized this set of lists presents a decent picture of my overall view of chess at this point.

    • 4th October 2015 at 11:25 am

      It is a challenge getting a system that works. Your’s sound interesting; I’ll have a look at your blog, thanks for the link.

  • 15th October 2015 at 9:03 am

    Among good ideas I can read here, the most important is to have a clear/prepared timesheet so one can sit down and study/practice without overwhelming with various resources (internet is a mes about chess). Thanks for your commitment.

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