A More Professional Approach

For a couple of years now I’ve been bouncing between 1750-1850 Elo.  Generally I manage to split the difference and dance around the 1800 mark, but if I’m going to break out of that I need to find a way to make that happen.

For the first four years of my return to chess I was gaining about 100 Elo per year on average.  I had wild swings of 150+ points at time, but generally everything was trending up.

The past two years, however, have been something else altogether.  So I took a step back and really looked at what I was doing in those four years, and what I’ve been doing for the past two, and did my best to evaluate the situation as a whole so I can decide where to go next.

The biggest realization that came from this exercise was realizing the main reason that I was gaining the rating I did from 2011-2015 was most likely just latent talent and had practically nothing to do with work.

What I mean by latent talent is that I hadn’t reached my full potential when I started to play as a kid.  My initial tournament career was from 1988-1992 and I was routinely gaining points during that entire time.  In fact, my last five tournaments from that time are included in my stats on the US Chess MSA page.  From November 1991 to March 1992 I went from 1461 to 1526.  I have no reason to believe that I wouldn’t have continued to grow at that pace for a while.

So when I came back to chess in 2011 there was still some room to grow on raw talent alone.  Yes, I worked to speed it along, but I didn’t necessarily have a professional enough approach to working.

If I was going to solve tactics I would often just grab a book and slouch down in a comfy chair and glance at the pages and just decide that since I thought X was the answer then X must be the answer.  No need to write things down or verify them, just take my decision as gospel.  The downside is that means that while I was probably right more often than not, there is no way to know how many of those problems I not only didn’t solve correctly but may have even reinforced bad habits with.

Lately my approach has been much more methodical.  Thanks to the Quality Chess Challenge I have focused on a much more solving heavy routine.  However, rather than simply glancing and deciding that I’m right I write everything down.  I then compare my answer to the one given, and I am very harsh on my grades.  If I got something mostly correct but not completely, then I’m considering the answer to simply be wrong.

When I take this approach I don’t sit in an overstuffed chair while I slouch and half watch TV/half solve problems.  Instead I fully commit and sit at a table where I can write.

The hope is that a professional approach will lead to professional results.  Time will tell in that arena.  In a future post I’ll lay out my plan to play in more events so that I can maximize my chance for improvement to be reflected in my rating.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

2 thoughts on “A More Professional Approach”

  1. There are sites such as chess.com and lichess that have chess problems to do and they give you a rating, and that way you can at least see how good at tactics you are compared to other people you know.

    For instance, on chess.com, I have not yet cracked a rating of 2000, while some USCF “Experts” I know have a Chess.com Tactics Trainer rating over 2300.

    On lichess, where the problems aren’t time, I almost cracked 2200, but a USCF “Expert” I know almost cracked 2600!

    Arguably, you can also see if you are getting better at tactics, by comparing your tactics rating now from that of a previous year.

  2. Legitimate point, Dean. There are some reasons I prefer books over websites (namely being able to goo back and work on the problems I solved incorrectly over and over again) but online has a lot of value as well.

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