Another year has come and gone. Another opportunity to reflect and learn presents itself.
Although I feel I have made progress in 2015, that progress is not fully reflected in my rating yet. I started the year at ECF 97 (1428 Elo) and although the ECF’s official ratings at December 2015 won’t be out for a while, I suspect I will be around 106 (1495). In itself that may seem an acceptable outcome, but I have been on a plateau of around 1500 for most of the year.
I think there are a few reasons for this plateau. The first is that your rating is not in your control. It is an example of an outcome goal. You cannot control who your opponents will be, and if you always play against players higher rated than you, you are likely to lose more than win.
The games I have played so far this season offer a good example. I played 10 games, won three, drew one and lost six. Of the three games I won, two were against lower rated players and one against a higher rated player (1607). Of the games I lost, one player was rated lower than me at 1345; the others were all higher, ranging from 1570 (and he was a new player who has since beaten an 1800 player, so 1570 is not his correct rating) to 1900 (1570, 1615, 1758, 1840 and 1900). The draw was against a 1540.
Also, a loss in chess is zero, whether you fell to Scholar’s Mate, or had a completely winning position and lost when you blundered a piece under time pressure (as I did against the 1840). You don’t get zero for a blundered mess and 0.8 for a good effort.
So although my rating stayed the same or maybe dropped a few points over these 10 games, only 2 results were not in line with ratings; one for me, one against me. Had I played 10 players rated in the range 1450 to 1550, I suspect the outcome (in my rating) would have been different. That does not mean that I would know more about chess, or be a better players, just that my rating would be different. It is out of my control.
The second reason for the plateau is that, certainly from around April to September, I spent too much time on things not directly related to getting better at chess. That includes starting this blog, and specifically some of the types of posts (the tactics index does not add enough value to justify the time it takes, for example). There is a place for the blog (keeping track of what I do, reflecting and writing bring focus, etc.), but I need to control better how much time I devote to it; I need to focus more on improving at chess.
I have started to address my focus toward the end of the year: I have cut back on how much time I spend on the blog, I now have my opening repertoire in a format where I can effectively learn it; I started using a coach; I drastically altered my study plan. All these things are reflected in my goals for 2016, which I’ll talk about in a separate post.