Two bits of news for the two months of June and July.
Firstly, the July 2016 ECF ratings list is out and I now have my highest rating yet, of 111 (1533 Elo). Nothing special, but at least I have arrested the slide I suffered at the end of 2015. The next phase is to break out of this range of about 105 to 110 I’ve been in for the past 18 months.
Secondly, the simplification of my study plan continues. I’ve had a go at all sorts of methods this year, including measuring days active, using four or five different tactics trainers, using various methods (flashcards, databases, opening trainers) to study openings, and jumping from book to book across all topics. I started out this year simplifying how I study, and every month since January I’ve tinkered more and more.
In February I dropped Chessity, flashcards, ChessBase opening printouts, Fritz endgame training and Chess Position Trainer. I started using Chessable and expanded my ChessTempo use to include endgame training. I hinted at not adding new skills, which turned out to be a bug which I finally cornered in July – more on this later.
In April and May I added Capablanca’s best endings for endgame study and started watching endgame videos from Tiger Chess every day. I also added Kotov exercises, but dropped memorising games and chess.com’s tactics trainer.
Now back to the bug. What itched at the time has become more clear since. I enjoy structure and progression. Give me the option between a series of 10 videos on a subject (such as John Bartholomew’s Climbing the Rating Ladder series) and 10 random videos (such and John and others’ exploits in Lichess blitz tournaments) and the choice makes itself – I want the progressive, structured series. Tiger Chess offers this to some extent, in that GM Davies offers courses as part of the £5 per month fee, including strategy, endgames, analysis and members clinics. The first two certainly are progressive. However, although they are fantastic value and content, they entail mostly passive training (watching rather than doing).
To address the itch and to balance the passive training element with an active element, I’ve decided to work through Yusupov’s Chess School. This means my study plan now looks like this:
- Anki cards – work through whichever are due. I keep adding to them from my coaching session and other patterns and ideas I think are worth seeing regularly. Current size is 54 cards.
- ChessTempo – around 50 problems from my bespoke sets.
- Openings – review in ChessBase to learn lines and plans. On recommendation from a study friend, I now use Perfect Chess Trainer for learning lines while on the move. Great app.
- Yusupov – work through the book and pass 4 tests per month (24 in a book).
Mon, Thu and Sat are endgame days:
- ChessTempo – 5 problems in practice mode.
- Tiger Chess – watch a set of videos.
- Books – study from progressively more difficult books. Currently on Pandolfini’s Endgame Course, up to topic 100 of 239.
Sun, Tue and Fri:
- Manual of Chess Combinations, Vol. 1a – around 20 to 50 problems. Still on book 1a at the moment, up to problem 222 of 719.
- Openings – get my ChessBase notes on the Tiger Chess “Building an Opening Repertoire” in order. I have done it for White and for Black against e4 and will do Black against non-e4 this month. Once that is done I will only do the daily learning and practice to ensure I ingrain the lines and plans and expand on the base knowledge.
- I will then use this extra time on these days for more Yusupov study.
Here is an undertaking: other than the change explained in the last two bullets, I will not change this study plan again this year (at least). It covers everything it needs to, is spread well across openings, endgames, tactics and general, progressive improvement. I use the Yusupov books in the way he prescribes, by setting out every position on a real chessboard and not moving the pieces until I have no other option. This therefore also contributes to my chess vision, calculation and visualisation; it is proper deliberate practice.
Finally, an update on OTB play in June and July. I played six games in June, including four games in a congress where I scored -1 =2 +1 in the U145 (1788) section. In July I played eleven games, including two congresses. In one I played in the U175 (2000) section and predictably didn’t score well (-2 =2). In the other I played in the U140 (1750) section and scored 2.5/5 (-2 =1 +2) to win the grading prize.
The club season doesn’t resume until October, but I will get a few games in from two congresses in September.