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.
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:
- Watch and document last six Tiger Chess “Building and Opening Repertoire” videos.
- Review main lines as White in Chess Opening Wizard for first game on 30th.
- Review Silman’s Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master pp. 1 – 158
- Play first league game on 30 Sep
- Do initial post-game review on 30 Sep
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!